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Kraut Rock

History of Electronica

Kraut Rock

'Kraut Rock' is a term which has been applied to music by German psychedelic synthesiser bands that appeared at the end of the 1960s. These groups, who had been influenced by earlier electronic avant-garde music of the twentieth century, had a fascination for the developing technology of electronic instruments and noise generators. Can, Tangerine Dream and the influential Kraftwerk are all examples of bands from this era of experimental music.

Ralf Hutter (b. 1946, Krefeld, Germany) and Florian Schneider-Esleben (b.1947, Dussedolf, Germany) met while studying improvised music at the Dusseldorf Conservatory and recorded their first album (Tone Float) in 1970. The duo (influenced by German avant-garde composers such as Karlheinz Stockhaussen) composed minimalist pieces which relied on the use of the new emerging technologies of synthesisers and tape recorders.

Hutter and Schneider-Esleben joined with Klaus Dinger and Thomas Homann to form Kraftwerk in 1970. The quartet experimented in their own homemade studio ('KlingKlang'), building their own rhythm machines and exploring the creative use of synthesisers. In 1971 they released their debut recording Kraftwerk 1. Shortly after the release Dinger and Homann left the group to form Neu, but rejoined for the group's1972 release Kraftwerk 2. The recording explored further electronic experimentation, and although the music was not well-received by the general public, it earned Kraftwerk some notoriety. Their third release Ralf and Florian (1973) further developed the electronic minimalist approach which by now had become the group's trademark.

By the time Kraftwerk released Autobahn (1974) the band had perfected the minimalist electronica/rock fusion style, and the album became highly successful, spawning the worldwide hit single 'Autobahn'. According to Rolling Stone 'the work displayed the perfect combination of electronics and rock music that would influence countless other musicians'[1].

The group's subsequent releases (Radio-Activity 1975 and Trans-Europe Express 1976) are credited with inspiring not only artists involved in the electronica genre but also those involved with hip hop - such as Afrika Bambaataa. Kraftwerk's compositions have been described as:

hypnotically minimal, obliquely rhythmic music performed solely via electronic means [which] resonates in virtually every new development to impact the contemporary pop scene of the late 20th century.[making Kraftwerk] pioneers of the electronic music form, their enduring influence cannot be overstated [2].

[1]Rolling Stone, 'Kraftwerk Biography', [Online] http://www.rollingstone.com/sections/artists/text/bio.asp?afl=&strBioType=BIO&LookUpString=910 [1999, August 28]

[2] Ultimate Band List, 'Kraftwerk - Biography', [Online] http://www.ubl.com/ubl_artist.asp?artistid=1027&p_id=P+++++4706 [1999, August 28]