Readers who have never curated one of these lists may not be aware that we gurus do not always pick a topic for ourselves. Occasionally we find ourselves diving into a theme of the Landlord’s devising that would never have occurred to us. This was the situation I found myself in this week. I’ve never been much of an expert on musical scenes and labels; in fact I tend to be a little bit sceptical about them. But I had no idea how much of an education I was in for.
Before I embarked on this week’s journey, the word ‘krautrock’ was defined in my mind mostly by a hundred sneering parodies from shows like Not The Nine O’Clock News. If there was one genre-defining exemplar in my memory bank, it was probably Kraftwerk’s Showroom Dummies: a stand-in for an imagined plethora of identical tunes sung by dead-eyed Germans in a monotone.
I knew the genre had been very influential on 80s electronica and goth bands such as The Mission, although it hadn’t occurred to me that something like The Cure’s Play For Today would fit the bill too. But I had no idea of the sheer musical breadth that was thrown together into that umbrella term. For starters, I had never heard of ‘Motorik’, a ‘driving 4/4 beat’ that sounded like the vaguest musical concept imaginable until I heard it appearing in song after song, such as Faust’s neologistic epic Krautrock. For that matter, I had no idea how many monster epics there were to be listened to. It turned out that with its huge array of lengthy polyrhythmic mind trips, krautrock had as much in common with the psychedelic space rock of Hawkwind’s Master of the Universe as it did with Joy Division. Songs like Cluster’s Hollywood even seemed to show the influence of my beloved Steve Reich.
By this stage I was starting to wonder what it was all these songs had in common. Julian Cope, an artist I’ve admired for years for tracks such as Necropolis without ever considering their krautrock roots, had devoted a whole book to teasing out those connections. In the end, I had to defer to the many experts at the Bar who devoted the week to educating me. I was introduced to marvellous instrumentals like Neu’s Fur Immer. I discovered the softer side of Kraftwerk in Kometenmelodie 2. I saw the connection to both ambient chill-out pop like Stereolab’s Metronomic Underground and post-punk like Siousxie and the Banshees’ Mittageisen. I even discovered that krautrock artists had been involved with much gentler and more accessible songs like Brian Eno’s By This River.
At the week’s end, I am better informed but still not sure I could pin down exactly what krautrock actually is. All I’m sure of is it’s something to do with the Germans.
Die A-Liste Spiel-Liste: Kraftwerk zum Udo Lindenberg
Kraftwerk: Showroom Dummies
The Cure: Play For Today
Hawkwind: Master of the Universe
Julian Cope: Necropolis
Neu!: Für immer
Kraftwerk: Kometenmelodie 2
Stereolab: Metronomic Underground
Siouxsie & the Banshees: Mittageisen
Brian Eno: By This River
Udo Lindenberg: Germans
Die B-Liste Spiel-Liste - Der Fall zum David Bowie:
The Fall: I Am Damo Suzuki
Nina Hagen: New York New York
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark: Red Frame White Light
Joy Division: She's Lost Control (12in version)
DAF (Deutsche-Amerikanishe-Freundshaft): Kebabträume
Amon Düül II: Eye-Shaking King
Groep 1850: Mother No-Head
Kraan: Sarah's Ritt Durch Den Schwarzwald
Einstürzende Neubaten: NNNAAAMMM
David Sylvian: Maria
Tangerine Dream: Rubycon
Vangelis: Blade Runner End Theme
David Bowie: V-2 Schneider
Guru's Wildcard Pick:
PJ Harvey & Mick Harvey - Bonnie & Clyde.
So, did I learn anything? Tell me if this one is krautrock-like or not!
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Was ist Krautrock? Kosmische to Maschine – songs that say 'we go our own way’.The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.