INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Q MAY 2015 - by Robert Levine
CAN, YOU DIG IT?
Krautrock is as influential as ever, with a new wave of bands under its spell. But it never really went away...
That hum you hear may not just be in your head: Krautrock seems to be having a bit of a comeback. In the last few months, bands such as Moon Duo, Föllakzoid and Camera have released albums that explore the spacey sounds and steady grooves that psychedelic German bands pioneered in the '70s. Interest in the original acts remains high: more classic Krautrock albums are in print than ever thanks to reissue labels like Bureau B, while last summer journalist David Stubbs published a book about the genre, Future Days: Krautrock And The Building Of Modern Germany. Even mainstream acts such as Kasabian and The Flaming Lips have been adding a motorik groove to their music.
In truth, Krautrock never really went away, partly because there's nothing else like it. Back in late-'60s Germany, art students and other hipsters viewed the dominant music styles with suspicion: traditional Schlager music was too tied to German history and blues-based rock didn't mean much to intellectually inclined Mittel-Europeans. Acts such as Can and Neu! started from the cultural equivalent of Year Zero, mixing the experimentalism of Karlheinz Stockhausen with rock instrumentation. The result was avant-garde space-rock - repetitive drones and minimalist arrangements that even stoners could love. Named by UK music critics, Krautrock went on to influence acts from David Bowie to Public Image Ltd. In the '90s, it shaped the sensibilities of "post-rock" bands such as Sterolab, Tortoise and Trans Am. A generation later, its influence can be heard again in what might be called Neue Krautrock.
Some Neue Krautrock acts explicitly acknowledge their influences: Manchester's Plank, for example, take their name from producer Konrad "Conny" Plank, while others such as Santiago's Föllakzoid nod to their Teutonic leanings with an umlaut. Like Moon Duo and Berlin's Camera, they all bring a fresh approach to the sound. Other acts, such as White Denim, Goat and Hookworms, also borrow elements of Krautrock, while Cologne band Von Spar joined Stephen Malkmus at a 2012 festival to perform Can's Ege Bamyasi LP in full. Remarkably, all this music still sounds ahead of its time - a testament to the genre's originality, as well as the talent of the newcomers. Once again, the past sounds a lot like the future.