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KRAUTROCK

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Krautrock definition

Krautrock (also called "Kosmische musik") is a German avant-garde / experimental rock movement that emerged at the end of the 1960's. It was intended to go beyond the eccentricities developed by the wild psychedelic rock universe of the US, by giving a special emphasis to electronic treatments, sound manipulation and minimal hypnotic motifs (continuing the style of "musique concrete" and minimalist repetitive music but within a more accessible environment).

Krautrock put the emphasis on extended and ecstatic instrumental epics, neglecting the format of conventional psych-pop songs. The term Krautrock was first used by the British music press in a very derogatory way. The term rapidly found a better reputation in underground music circles and finally gained a certain popularity (thanks to the Brain-Festival Essen...)

The Krautrock movement is widely associated with notorious bands such as Popol Vuh, Amon Duul, Faust, Neu!, Ash Ra Tempel, Agitation Free, Guru Guru, etc. With their own particular artistic expression, these musical collectives provided rocking psychedelic incantations, mantra like drones, melancholic lugubrious atmospheres, long and convoluted collective improvisations, binary repetitive drum pulses, fuzz guitars, feedback, primitive electronic noises, hallucinatory ballads, and garage blues rock trips. Krautrock can be described as an anarchic, intense, acid, tellurian, nocturnal, spacey, dark and oniric "adventure" through rock music.

The most consistent years of the Krautrock scene cover a relatively short period from 1970 to 1975. After their first spontaneous, hyperactive and psychedelic efforts, the bands generally split up or declined into other musical sensibilities, more in line with mainstream rock or with ambient soundscapes.

Each region develops its particular musical scene, interpreting differently the Krautrock musical structure. For instance the Berlin school focused on "astral" synthscapes, weird electronic experimentation and acid jams (Ash Ra Tempel, Agitation Free, Mythos, The Cosmic Jokers, Kluster...), The Munich scene offered fuzzed out (Eastern) psych rock mantras with some folk accents (Popol Vuh, Amon Duul, Gila, Guru Guru, Witthuser & Westrupp...). Cologne and Dusseldorf underground scenes focused on happenings, political rock, electronics, pulsating rhythms and clean sounding Krautrock (Floh de Cologne, La Dusseldorf, Neu! Can...).

This musical cartography is correct in the absolute but naturally reveals some variations and exceptions. This intriguing and freak 'n' roll 1970's German scene enjoyed a rebirth in recent years thanks to a large number of reissues (of long lost classics) published by several independent labels (Spalax, Garden of Delights, Long Hair Music...) as a direct result of Krautrock's musical inspiration of modern post rock bands. There are actually some neo psychedelic rock bands who try to hold up Krautrock, and who notably find a major place to express themselves during the historical Burg Herzberg Festival in Germany.

Philippe Blache
December 2007



The responsibility for the psych/space, indo/raga, krautrock and prog electronic subgenres is taken by the PSIKE team,
currently consisting of
- Sheavy
- Meltdowner
- siLLy puPPy
- Rivertree



handbook

Krautrock Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Krautrock | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.20 | 251 ratings
HOSIANNA MANTRA
Popol Vuh
4.15 | 337 ratings
ASH RA TEMPEL
Ash Ra Tempel
4.10 | 408 ratings
YETI
Amon Düül II
4.24 | 105 ratings
EDGE OF TIME
Dom
4.09 | 292 ratings
TANZ DER LEMMINGE [AKA: DANCE OF THE LEMMINGS]
Amon Düül II
4.06 | 479 ratings
FUTURE DAYS
Can
4.59 | 34 ratings
EISZEIT
Gam
4.07 | 299 ratings
NEU!
Neu!
4.10 | 163 ratings
GILA - FREE ELECTRIC SOUND
Gila
4.16 | 107 ratings
LETZTE TAGE - LETZTE NÄCHTE
Popol Vuh
4.03 | 365 ratings
PHALLUS DEI
Amon Düül II
4.10 | 112 ratings
VOLUME 10
Electric Orange
4.08 | 115 ratings
SELIGPREISUNG
Popol Vuh
3.96 | 557 ratings
TAGO MAGO
Can
3.99 | 235 ratings
MALESCH
Agitation Free
4.07 | 116 ratings
KÄNGURU
Guru Guru
4.02 | 174 ratings
ELECTRIC SILENCE
Dzyan
4.43 | 31 ratings
TONY CONRAD & FAUST: OUTSIDE THE DREAM SYNDICATE
Conrad, Tony
4.02 | 126 ratings
AGUIRRE
Popol Vuh
3.99 | 160 ratings
IN DEN GÄRTEN PHARAOS
Popol Vuh

Krautrock overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Krautrock experts team

VAMPIRE STATE BUILDING
Alcatraz
4 TIMES SOUND RAZING
Silberbart
I'M GONNA TAKE YOU HOME
Ya Ho Wha 13
ARKTIS TAPES
Arktis

Latest Krautrock Music Reviews


 Ordre by ALUK TODOLO album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2011
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Ordre
Aluk Todolo Krautrock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

— First review of this album —
4 stars Sandwiched between their albums "Finsternis" and "Occult Rock," the French experimental rock act ALUK TODOLO released a few nonconventional items. Firstly they were included on the split album "On The Powers Of The Sphinx" with Nihil Nocturne, Nightbringer and Saturnialia Temple. Then there was the collaborative effort with Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand. And then there was this tiny two track EP titled ORDRE which was essentially some unreleased material from the "Descension" era and was excavated from the caverns of creativity to be resurrected onto they vinyl 10." The two tracks are simple called "Side A" and "Side B."

"Side A" sounds very much like the "Descension" album where their mesmerizing and transcendental opiate grooves combined with spooky atmospheres create nightmarish visions of cold ethereal visions of lost worlds. This track is characterized by a repetitive marching of the cymbal heavy drumbeat that works in tandem with the bass line as the guitar performs horrific distorted and mangled dissonant antics around them. As it continues the percussion becomes somewhat sloppier and erratic as some kind of buzzing sound swarms in and out while swirling ambience effervescently haunts the soundscape. Towards the end the percussion picks up speed and becomes quite solid as the no wave ostinati pummel the senses.

"Side B" continues imperceptibly with the chaos continuing in full force and continues to ratchet up the nightmarish tension with the instruments falling increasingly out of sync with one another generating true occult mystic psychological assaults as the pummeling percussive drive seems to be at war with the atmospheric swarms of sounds. ALUK TODOLO really blur the genre lines here as it sounds like a form of black metal no wave with Krautrock type psychedelia. While the earliest albums weren't very metal oriented yet, this release is actually the first one that has enough drive and distortion of the guitars to be classified as part of the metal universe.

Despite being some leftovers they seem to have gotten the royal treatment and elements of blackgaze were unleashed to steer ALUK TODOLO towards the more metal oriented "Occult Rock" sound. While they've always been on the verge of being somewhat metal, the intensity fell just short enough to actually feel like they would fit in. On ORDRE that thin grey line was crossed and there is lots of energetic noisy distortionfests at hand although the song structures are nonexisistant and simply relies on free form meandering down a torturous sonic path into oblivion. Pretty cool stuff if you like dark ambient distorted no wave with Krautrock and traces of black metal chaos.

 Aluk Todolo by ALUK TODOLO album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2007
2.69 | 4 ratings

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Aluk Todolo
Aluk Todolo Krautrock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

3 stars The debut release by ALUK TODOLO came out a year before the first full-length album in the form of this eponymous EP that contains only two tracks simply named "Side A" and "Side B." This one was only released on 7" vinyl and debuts this French experimental band's fascination with incorporating magical theories with traditional rock instrumentation to create new forms of consciousness and meditative states. Although they don't incorporate black metal into the mix quite yet, they are often associated with black metal because of members involvement in Diametregon and Vediog Savior.

"Side A" begins with a repetitive bass ostinato with cymbal action and drumbeats accompanying. The guitar takes on a post-rock type of role as it dances around the groove and creates hypnotic riffs. The track picks up steam gradually and ratchets up the tension while the cymbals and drumbeats become more powerful. In the middle there's a slow down but picks up the tempo again as the guitar becomes more frenzied and murky in the mix. It ends with some spoken dialogue by Aleister Crowley.

"Side B" is a lot more energetic than the "A" as the drums take a prominent role in fast and furious rolls while the bass while still repetitive has a more complex ostinato riff that has a touch more melody to it. The guitar floats in screechy sustained distortion mode but also has the role of extending the sound structure to include a dissonant riff while background ambience bleeds in to create a sinister sounding backdrop which is more poignant when the instruments drop out for a while and only its spooky howling is heard. The band jumps back into the groove and the guitar adds more antics and effects and i also detect a slight surf rock type of guitar riff popping in towards the end.

Not a bad start for ALUK TODOLO as this would establish their hypo-groovy mix of no wave and Krautrock. The no wave aspect is more in play at this stage with jangly dissonant guitars reminding me of early Swans but the mesmerizing repetition certainly brings Kraut classics by Neu to mind as well. This one doesn't sound much different than the first full-length album but isn't quite as dark and spooky as the following releases become.

 Voix by ALUK TODOLO album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.85 | 7 ratings

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Voix
Aluk Todolo Krautrock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars After four long years the mysterious ALUK TODOLO finally releases a followup to their attention getting breakthrough (well in the underground freakazoid's world anyway) album "Occult Rock." While the first three releases were primarily based in the bizarre world of noise and Krautrock with dark ambient and psychedelic accoutrements, the band added black metal elements on their fourth album and continues those same characteristics on their fifth album VOIX which is French for "voice" however there are no vocals on this as are there on any (unless some weird spoken gibberish counts) ALUK TODOLO album. This music lies outside the confines of language and takes the listener to some far corners of some remote corner of the sonosphere, so dark and daunting that no one has ever dared explore.

On paper VOIX sounds much like what was established on "Occult Rock," namely black metal type tremolo picking with distortion galore with a frenetic and repetitive bass and drum to infinity while the guitar has little freak out dances around the main groove. Despite that similarity something sounds a bit different on this one. Whereas on "Occult Rock" it seemed like there was no sense of melodic development and in reality a very sophisticated take on the no wave sound that emerged in the early 80s by acts such as Swans, VOIX seems to have melodic developments albeit minor compared to the energetic performances that accompany each and every note that is played. In fact i think there is a slight surf rock type of thing going on at times but it is so obfuscated and drenched in hypnotic and chaotic time signatures that it is very hard to distinguish. But the fact that there is a variation in actual notes means that this album isn't nearly as meditative and mesmerizing as previous offerings even though it is!

Another aspect that makes this different from previous albums is the fact that the drums have gained some independence. While in previous offerings it was customary for percussion to be tied to the activities of the bass guitar, here it breaks free from its constraints and acts more like a jazz drummer would do and creates complex drum rolls that create a rhythmic backbone of the droning lysergic dissonant guitar distortions that venture into pure atmospheric space that can result in extended humming sprees. All tracks bleed into each other and this is really one long sonic journey through the noise filled halls of the jittery and distortion fueled head trips of ALUK TODOLO's wildest dreams. This type of music is in effect a psychedelic black metal free form extravaganza in a universe where no song structures exist and snippets of melody come and go as they please offering not a scant trace of rhyme or reason or any predictability whatsoever.

These sounds are solely for those who love noise, chaos and cold, dark places. This "music" may contain more elements of melody that the listener can latch onto in order to have some point of reference but they are equivalent to the bio-lantern of a deep sea angler in the crushing pressures of the deepest recesses of the Mariana Trench. This is bizarre music that is equally evocative as an active listener as a passive one. Much like the mathematics of a fractal, you can zoom into the details of your temporal comfort zone or not. This is music that is equally bizarre if you fully focus upon every detail or simply sit back and shop for new shoes on your favorite internet site. There seems to be a slight step up in the evolution of ALUK TODOLO and even though it took four years, it is excellent to hear their distorted reality coming into a new phase as it gradually and reluctantly takes on more melodic aspects of music and twist and distort them into their own bizarre concoctions.

 Aluk Todolo and Der Blutharsch And The Infinite Church Of The Leading Hand: A Collaboration by ALUK TODOLO album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Aluk Todolo and Der Blutharsch And The Infinite Church Of The Leading Hand: A Collaboration
Aluk Todolo Krautrock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars As you probably figured out from the title, this is indeed a COLLABORATION album shared between the French psychedelic and experimental Krautrock band ALUK TODOLO and the newer incarnation of the Austrian industrial psychedelic neofolk band DER BLUTHARSCH that on this album makes their debut as DER BLUTHARSCH AND THE INFINITE CHURCH OF THE LEADING HAND. The result of this marriage of talents is an album that displays both bands' characteristic sounds on full display as one hypnotic lengthy track bleeds into the next.

A COLLABORATION features four tracks that are all close to the ten minute mark with each one having somewhat of its own personality. The first two tracks sound rather similar as plodding bass and drum mesmerize as they drift on into infinity while strange lysergic organs dot the ambient soundscapes and noisy guitars jangle into one distorted frenzy after another. The first two tracks are also fairly non-musical and very much utilize the no wave meets Krautrock technique of ALUK TODOLO's first two releases also they don't seem as dark and soul piercing. 
The third track takes on a different flavor as it has more of a techno groove while spoken muffled words come and go while a guitar actually musters up some musical mojo and creates a lingering solo of sorts. Track four has a much more industrial sound as a regular uptempo beat ushers in Bauhaus type guitar riffs and a rather "jingle bells" type of percussion along with the electronic beats. This track sounds the most "normal" of the four and wouldn't sound out of place on a Skinny Puppy album minus the vocals as the final two tracks actually provide melodic developments which is virtually absent on ALUK TODOLO releases.

While i'm not familiar with BLUTHARSCH, i have to say that for an ALUK TODOLO album, it seems that the collaborative effort has watered down their freak factor a few notches as the tracks have lost a bit of their edge after the extreme tripped out darkness that preceded. The atmospheric ambience is just as hypnotically blissed out but something has been somewhat sanitized in this mixture of ideas. Be that as it may, this is still a compelling journey through the bizarre reaches of the sonic universe. Cool album but falls short of the cream of the crop.

 Finsternis by ALUK TODOLO album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.40 | 5 ratings

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Finsternis
Aluk Todolo Krautrock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars Album number 2 for the bizarre French band ALUK TODOLO which continues to exist in their own strange little world between the cracks of reality that utilizes no wave and Krautrock with extra helpings of dark ambient, hypnotic grooves and sinister sound effects. The album begins with "Premier Contact" which releases a steady and mesmerizing drum and bass beat that slowly builds up tension and allows haunting guitar distortion effects to drop in and out of the scene like poltergeists crashing a party on a secret burial ground. The hypnotic groove ushers in soporific tendencies only to be awoken by jarring contrasting and nerve racking Kosmiche guitar effects that dig deep into the psyche and then never let go.

As with the first album, the combination of the repetitive bass and drums with the spastic and jittery screams of anguish from the guitar that throw a stake in the heart of any passers as the rhythm sounds like a giant goblin parading through the darkened forest to slay unicorns. While musically this could be classified as a mix of no wave, noise rock and Kosmiche Krautrock, it really develops more like post-rock with all the accoutrements of the aforementioned with spastic little bursts of metal energy now and again exploding like little volcanic releases of tension. The production allows every little sound to pierce through the soul in controlled doses and yet somehow sounds raw and organic. Some of the percussive beats turn tribal as if the astral attack has set its sight on Native American sacred sites as the tom toms repetitively commence while the frenetic chaotic swirls of distortion and ambience radiate from every direction.

This is simply freaky stuff here and one that could drive you to collapse in fear if listened to in the dark or in a cold and questionable establishment. As with the debut, this is not musical composition per se but rather a beeline into the abyss of the sonic voids of space and then subject to the physics of the vacuum left behind as the sporadic guitar distortions suddenly appear and then fade away like a comet flying through the night sky. FINSTERNIS is a noticeable improvement over "Descension," not in that it has become more sophisticated but rather it has become more startling and haunting like a galaxy of pissed off ghosts have come to attack randomly. Creepy as hell but i'm a glutton for punishment and dig this sort of torturous experience.

 Descension by ALUK TODOLO album cover Studio Album, 2007
2.95 | 9 ratings

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Descension
Aluk Todolo Krautrock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

3 stars ALUK TODOLO is one of those crafty bands that somehow just manages to fall between the cracks in the genre department with just enough characteristics of various genres but never really committing to any of them to make it clear where their allegiance is. This French band has been around since 2007 and their debut release DESCENSION is the perfect example. The trio of Antoine Hadjioannou (drums), Matthieu Canaguier (bass) and Shantidas Riedacker (guitar) took their band name from an area of islands in Indonesia and just like the scattered dots of land that emerge from the sea, so does snippets of meditative noise that rises from their hypnotic grooves.

DESCENSION is a combination of noise rock in its timbres as the jarring distortions seem utterly chaotic as they swirl around the meditative and psychedelic Krautrock type of ostinato bass that sounds like a stuck record all the while the drum lazily accompanies it. There are also ample amounts of atmospheric background ambience that builds up in violent eddies of sound and somewhat remind me of early cosmic trippers Ash Ra Tempel. The tracks are long and meditative with some like "Woodchurch" ending with wild buzzing sound effects that bleed into the next track. In fact the album almost feels like one long journey into a sonic universe where rules are thrown out the window and only rhythmic flows are constant.

While ALUK TODOLO has become famous for some of their later black metal elements that they added, on this debut they are planted firmly into the strange experimental world of noise rock with psychedelia interspersed throughout ever loose wire guitar effect and chugging bass and drumbeat march. The delivery is almost like some of the more progressive electronic artists like Coil or Throbbing Gristle only delivered with the distorted feedback of rock instrumentation. Almost like a post-rock band that wanted to be a noise rock band so became both instead. This is definitely not active music and is designed for clearing the mind and suspending any expectations. In that regard it's quite effective although perhaps a little too jarring to bring one to Rancho Relaxo and not strong enough in the song structures to initiate any kind of true musical response but certainly unique and intriguing.

3.5 rounded down

 Nibelungenlied by GERMAN OAK album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.52 | 16 ratings

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Nibelungenlied
German Oak Krautrock

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Nibelungs on heavy acids

Second release by instrumental quintet GERMAN OAK, "Niebelungenlied" (The Song of the Nibelungs in English) is a compilation of unreleased and rare material recorded between 1972 and 1976. Compared to their eponymous debut, there are things that remain constant: after WWII, "The Rhine Gold" is another "German" thematic, the cover art is once again not really attractive, the sound quality hasn't improved but the band still explores unusual sonorities.

A copycat of the self-titled opus then? Not at all. If the atmosphere is overall still sinister and psychedelic, the music is much more structured, concise, varied, emancipating from the shores of Krautrock. Shorter and less improvised, the tracks features more changes and the fuzzy guitars are heavier, resulting in somber, stoner and melancholic sonic adventures. Trippier and even more surprising than its predecessor, this second offering never loses the listener.

"The heroic deeds of Siegfried" starts with bells and a small saturated guitars passage sounding like Black Metal several years ahead! It then alternates between a slow heavy psych tune and drum solo. The stoner space-rocking "Nibelungenlied I" is powerful and devastating. This title sometimes gets as epic as HAWKWIND! The main theme of the distorted bluesy "Gunter & Brunhild" can remind the bass-line of "On the Road Again" at times. Concerning "Hagen von Tronje", this track is a dark jam in the style of the first album, while "Siegfried's death" is another heavy stoner.

However, the most surprising composition is certainly the gloomy "Dankwart, Ruediger & Hildebrand". Contrasting with the rest of the record, it simply predates Gothic rock, a few years before the emergence of the genre. Wow! "Dietrich von Bern" is melancholic and beautiful whereas "Nibelungenlied II" is a boosted-up and extended version of "Nibelungenlied I", with numerous spacey changes. This 12 minutes track is maybe the most impressive of the disc, as it can easily dispute the HAWKS's space captain insignia. A dark stoner mini-universe, a burning sonic magma exploding in multiple musical pieces! Mindblowing! Like its name suggests, "Lament" closes the record on a fine sad note.

Once again, it's a pity GERMAN OAK didn't get more success and attention. Really good compositions, original approaches, uncommon sonorities, and even some innovative ideas. Furthermore, the band evolved and explored something different on this astonishing and unique release. For all these reasons, "Niebelungenlied" is a rare black meteorite, a precious gold nugget from space that shall not be forgotten during your space rock exploration.

Contrarily to their eponymous album, we can difficulty hear the link with the thematic, except the epic breath... Nonetheless, there are no lengthy passages and the listener's interest remains constant. If GERMAN OAK's self-titled debut was an experience, this disc is an adventure to the meet Nibelungs from another planet. Don't miss it if you enjoy stoner / space rock and HAWKWIND!

 Paternoster by PATERNOSTER album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.59 | 49 ratings

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Paternoster
Paternoster Krautrock

Review by Igor91

3 stars Paternoster's lone, obscure LP has become legend over the years among record collectors. Reading reviews of this relic made me curious to listen to it on-line, and only when I came across the limited addition CD on Now-Again Records in my local record store did I decide to actually purchase this little oddity.

I have to admit that my initial response to this album after listening to it was, "what's all the fuss about?" It is an interesting concoction of psychedelia, Gothic rock, and proto-prog, but nothing mind-blowing as some seem to suggest. It's often categorized as Krautrock, as it is here on PA, but I would say that is a stretch. The vocals are "unique" and do require getting used to and the lyrics are rather silly sometimes, mediocre at best at other times. The recording is a bit low-fi, but that actually adds to its charm. The songs have some twists and turns here and there, but the pace is fairly consistent from song-to-song.

While this album has grown on me a bit after multiple listens, it still does not live up to the hype that has surrounded it all these years, at least for me. I don't regret purchasing this one, but that's mainly because I'm a bit of a collector of obscure music that is "off the beaten path," so to speak. It's worth picking up if you're into obscure and unique psychedelic proto-prog from the 70's, but if you're looking for a lost Krautrock classic as some have claimed that this is, I would give caution. 3 stars.

 Biomutanten /as Les Vampyettes) by CZUKAY, HOLGER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1980
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Biomutanten /as Les Vampyettes)
Holger Czukay Krautrock

Review by Lewian

— First review of this album —
4 stars This is a collaboration of Holger Czukay with the famous German producer Conny Planck. Both of these tracks haven't appeared on any regular album, so this single is well worth having on its own, and because it has fairly recently been re-released by Herbert Grönemeyer's Grönland Records, it should be easy to get it.

This was recorded after Holger's monumental "Movies" solo project after leaving Can. The music is fascinating; produced in 1980 there's a certain minimalist experimental new wave spin to it. Holger at the time apparently said something like he wanted to start a "horror with comfort" singles series with this, although the rest of the series didn't materialize. In any case the horror theme is very dominant. Biomutanten is about somebody being attacked by mutant monsters. There's a manipulated deep slow horror voice speaking on both tracks, both of which are carried by slow monotonous rhythmic bass and sound motifs. As usual for Holger Czukay (and Conny Planck is a congenial partner in this), the music takes its appeal from the sound alchemy woven into the horror atmosphere, which, different from "Movies" is not pieced together from short wave radio recordings but rather consists of a wealth of subtle electronoc noises, amply fitting the horror theme.

I'd have wished that more prog artists would've been able to connect with the changes of the musical landscape of the early eighties in the way in which Holger and Conny do it here; they produce something (at the time) genuinely new, having progressed away from excessive jams and other characteristics of the seventies, but the elements that they use from the new era are of an experimental leftfield nature, industrial sounds and a straight decluttered structure as a basis for creating an uneasy threatening atmosphere, rather than trying to please a record company by going commercial and easily consumable. This is fun stuff, worth 3.5 stars for the listening experience, rounded to 4 for its uniqueness.

 German Oak by GERMAN OAK album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.65 | 40 ratings

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German Oak
German Oak Krautrock

Review by Modrigue
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Krautrock inside the bunker

Let's see... A black and white cover art representing a German officer from World War I or II... Track names such as: "Airalert", "Raid Over Düsseldorf", "Swastika Rising", "The Third Reich"... Not very attractive, is it? Nonetheless, despite all this, you'd be unwise not to give this record a listen. Don't be fooled by this repelling exterior, this album is in fact one of Krautrock's best obscure gems, both figuratively and literally.

This first and eponymous release by Düsseldorf instrumental quintet GERMAN OAK features dark extended psychedelic/space rock jamming around repeated main themes. Another copycat of ASH RA TEMPEL? Well... There is a noticeable difference.... In 1972, rarely has a record sounded this dark, claustrophobic, tortured. Like SUBARACHNOID SPACE, but 25 years ahead. The music possesses an unique atmosphere, crafted by the massive usage of heavily distorted and fuzzy instruments, original sonorities, as well as unusual samples for a psychedelic record: falling bombs, air sirens, and even a short extract from a Hitler's speech! Don't worry, the German youth of the 60's-70's developed their own musical genres and built itself against and strongly rejected the values and the political orientation of the former generation. With "German Oak", the band wanted to denunciate the war atrocities and "dedicated this record to their parents which had a bad time in World War II" (as written on the sleeve note). So two opposite worlds collide: psychedelia and WWII. The approach was for sure risky, but the result is pretty interesting and original.

The disc is structured around two long krautjams. After the dark psych introduction "Airalert" appears the main title of the album. Like its title suggests, "Down In The Bunker" was actually recorded in an old WWII bunker. This is truly an unique and impressive experience, both for the musicians, who could nearly sense ghosts of the past while playing in this forgotten place, and for the listener. The ambiance is thrilling, threatening, as a sensation of suffocation, summoning spirits waiting during the bombings or fallen in combat. The drumming reminds PINK FLOYD's "Set the Controls..." at times. A bit monotonous, but easily one of the darkest Krautrock titles of the 70's! On the contrary, "Raid Over Düsseldorf" is more accessible. A lighter kraut/space rock jam with distorted instruments. the sonorities used in the ending section are quite uncommon. "1945 - Out Of The Ashes" is a organ- driven psych outro representing hope and reconstruction.

The 3 bonus tracks included on the Witch & Warlock reissue features are also worth the listen. The two first ones consist in variations around single musical patterns. "Swastika Rising" is heavy and powerful, whereas the psych rock jam "The Third Reich" opens with a short extract from a Hitler speech. More original, "Shadows Of War" is divided in two parts. The first section is almost post-rock, due to its beautiful ambient saturated keyboards, weaving impressions of desolation. Another speech makes the transition for the experimental second section composed miscellaneous sounds.

"German Oak" is an obscure little gem with a surprising thematic, a psychedelic trip into the horrific past, a descent to the abysses of war, a meeting with tortured soldier spirits. There are a few drawbacks: some lengthy passages, a little lack of variety and the poor sound quality. But all these are largely compensated by the dark atmosphere the music delivers, sinister and beautiful, enhanced by unusual sonorities and saturated instruments. Ambiance is the key.

It's a shame this record didn't received the success it deserved, certainly due to the adopted approach, too radical, and the controversial WWII concept. The band has original musical ideas and sounds for its time, that will be more structured in the their next release.

If you don't like long improvisations built around a simple main theme, this album won't change your opinion. Nonetheless, if you enjoy ASH RA TEMPEL, SUBARACHNOID SPACE and extended krautrock psychedelic jams, then "German Oak" is an essential listen! Prepare to go down for an unique sonic experience...

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Krautrock bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
A.R. & MACHINES Germany
ACHTZEHN KARAT GOLD Germany
AG A.M. Germany
AGITATION FREE Germany
AINIGMA Germany
AIR Germany
ALASKA RANGE Switzerland
ALCATRAZ Germany
ALEX ORIENTAL EXPERIENCE Germany
ALTONA (GER) Germany
ALUK TODOLO France
AMON DÜÜL Germany
AMON DÜÜL United Kingdom
AMON DÜÜL II Germany
ANIMA-SOUND Germany
ANNEXUS QUAM Germany
ANT-BEE United States
ARKTIS Germany
ASH RA TEMPEL Germany
ASHTRAY NAVIGATIONS United States
ASTERIX Germany
AVARUS Finland
AWAKE & GALLO Greece
BABA YAGA Germany
BACKNEE HORN Israel
BAD STATISTICS New Zealand
HERBERT F BAIRY Germany
BAUMSTAM Germany
BEAK> United Kingdom
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