What is Krautrock? A Brief History and Characteristics


Krautrock is a genre of music that emerged in West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is a broad genre of experimental rock that combines elements of psychedelic rock, avant-garde composition, and electronic music, among other eclectic sources. 

Krautrock significantly influenced the German electronic music scene in the 1970s. The term “Krautrock” is a slang word used by British music journalists to describe the unconventional music coming out of Germany at the time.

As a genre, Krautrock is known for its innovative sound, characterised by electronic instruments, unconventional rhythms, and experimental techniques. 

It was a reaction against the mainstream music of the time and sought to break free from earlier styles and cultures. Krautrock bands were fearless in terms of experimentation with new sounds and techniques, and their music was often improvisational and collaborative.

Today, Krautrock continues to influence a wide range of musical genres, from electronic music to punk rock. 

Its legacy can be heard in the music of bands like Radiohead and Sonic Youth, who have cited Krautrock as a major influence on their sound. 

Despite its relatively short lifespan, Krautrock remains an essential and influential genre of music that continues to inspire musicians around the world.

Origins of Krautrock

As a genre, Krautrock is distinguishable by its eclectic blend of musical styles and influences.


Krautrock emerged during a period of social and political upheaval in Germany. The country was still recovering from the devastation of World War II, and many young people were looking for new ways to express themselves. This made Krautrock an important outlet for creators and listeners alike.

Influenced by the counterculture movements in the United States and Britain, German musicians began experimenting with new forms of music.

One of the key influences on Krautrock was the psychedelic rock movement. Bands like The Beatles and Pink Floyd had a profound impact on German musicians, who began incorporating elements of psychedelia into their music. 

Another significant influence was the avant-garde music of composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. These composers were known for their experimental approach to music, and their ideas had a significant impact on the development of Krautrock.

Musical Characteristics

The genre is also known for its improvisational approach to music, with many Krautrock bands incorporating long, extended jams into their songs.

One of the defining features of Krautrock is its use of electronic instruments. Many bands used synthesizers and other electronic instruments to create new sounds and textures. 

This use of electronic instruments helped to define the genre and set it apart from other forms of rock music.

Another critical characteristic of Krautrock is its emphasis on rhythm. Many Krautrock bands incorporated elements of funk and jazz into their music, creating complex, polyrhythmic grooves that were unlike anything else in rock music at the time.

Key Krautrock Artists

Here are some of the key Krautrock artists that helped shape the genre:


Can is one of the most influential Krautrock bands. They were formed in Cologne in 1968 and went on to release a string of groundbreaking albums that combined elements of rock, jazz, and electronic music. 

Their music is recognisable by its repetitive rhythms, hypnotic grooves, and experimental soundscapes. Some of their most notable albums include Tago Mago, Future Days, and Ege Bamyasi.


Neu! was formed by two former members of Kraftwerk, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger. They released their debut album in 1972, which is widely regarded as a classic of the Krautrock genre. 

Their music is known for its driving rhythms, minimalist melodies, and use of electronic instruments. Some of their most notable tracks include “Hallogallo”, “Negativland”, and “Lila Engel”.


Faust is a Krautrock band that was formed in Wümme, Germany, in 1971. They are known for their experimental sound that combines elements of rock, avant-garde, and electronic music.

Faust used unconventional instruments, such as power tools and vacuum cleaners, and its use of tape loops and other sound effects. Some of their most notable albums include Faust, So Far, and The Faust Tapes.

Krautrock’s Impact on Music

Krautrock had a significant impact on music, influencing a wide range of genres and artists. In this section, I will explore how Krautrock influenced experimental music, electronic music, and post-punk.

Experimental Music

Krautrock was a genre that was not afraid to experiment with sound and structure. This experimental approach to music had a significant impact on experimental music as a whole. 

Krautrock bands like Can, Faust, and Neu! pushed the boundaries of what was possible with music, incorporating elements of avant-garde composition, free jazz, and world music into their sound. 

This experimentation paved the way for other experimental artists to explore new sounds and techniques.

Electronic Music

Krautrock was also a pioneer in the use of electronic instruments in music. Bands like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream were among the first to use synthesisers and drum machines, which would later become staples of electronic music. 

The use of electronic instruments allowed for new sounds and textures that were not possible with traditional instruments. This influence can be seen in the development of electronic music in the 80s and 90s, with the emergence of genres like techno and house.


Krautrock also had a significant impact on post-punk. Bands like Joy Division, Gang of Four, and Public Image Ltd. were heavily influenced by the minimalist and repetitive approach to music. 

This influence can be heard in the use of driving rhythms, angular guitar riffs, and the incorporation of electronic elements. The impact on post-punk helped shape alternative music’s sound in the 80s and beyond.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Krautrock’s impact on music cannot be overstated. Its experimental approach to music, use of electronic instruments, and minimalist aesthetic influenced a wide range of genres and artists, shaping the course not only of German electronic music history but of music history as a whole.

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