West German Underground – A Brief History of Krautrock

krautrock band

Sauerkraut (literally “sour herb” or “sour leaf”) is a salty cabbage dish from Germany that’s really quite delicious. It’s often eaten with mashed potatoes and ham or sausages. From this popular cabbage dish, the term “kraut” arose as a slang word for a German person, usually in a derogatory sense.

The term “Deutsch-Rock” (German Rock) was used until 1973 for the rock groups coming out of West Germany.

But in the early 1970s, the British music magazine known as Melody Maker coined the term “krautrock”.

It was first used more to ridicule or make fun of the bands, but as krautrock caught on in Britain the term lost any negative or mocking connotations it once had, though many German “krautrock” bands still rejected the name.

It is thought that krautrock was more of a British phenomenon that focused on how the music was received in Britain, rather than how the West German music scene felt about the music.

Characteristics of Krautrock

Krautrock may sometimes be referred to as “Kosmische Musik” (meaning Cosmic Music), which suits its sound in my opinion, because there are aspects of this music that feel otherworldly, like they can’t have been composed here on Earth by other humans.

There are elements of the unexpected – it is unpredictable, slightly strange, a little bit out there. I think it’s also interesting to note that the word “komisch” means strange in German, which is not a far cry from “kosmische”.  You could always call the music space-y, and that would fit as well.

night sky

But what does Krautrock mean, musically speaking?  It is, essentially, a genre of experimental rock which pulls from psychedelic rock, funk, jazz, avant-garde, and electronic music.

It arose from West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The genre deliberately tries to distance itself from the American rhythm and blues genre and instead draws on German influences, while still keeping a distinct rock rhythm.

A band member of the popular krautrock band Faust stated that they tried to forget everything typical of the rock and roll genre, including the three-cord pattern and the usual lyrics. They wanted something totally different.

Here’s a little taste of Faust…

Krautrock is a very experimental genre, breaking out of old, tried-and-true habits and delving into the untouched, the unthought of, the new and strange.

A 4/4 rhythm known as “motorik” is common of the krautrock genre. Motorik means “motor skills” in German. This drum pattern was pioneered by Jaki Liebezeit, drummer of the popular krautrock band Can, and was also used early on by the band Neu!.

The motorik 4/4 beat was later used by many other krautrock bands.

Early Beginnings

In the 1960’s, the hippie movement and political activism that was rampant in North America and Europe demanded a new type of music.

Avant-garde music was emerging, droning on with ambient synthesizers and other psychedelic sounds. This genre of music largely inspired the krautrock movement.

In 1968 in the city of Essen, a rock festival took place, and this was one of the first places that krautrock was performed and heard.

From here on, the krautrock genre took hold and many bands began producing music with this spacey, ambient and electronic sound.

A Closer Look at the Pioneering Bands

Let’s take a look at Can, one of the pioneering bands of krautrock. Can was formed by two students of the famous and praised composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Stockhausen was called one of the most influential and also controversial composers of the 20th century. He was well educated in music, having attend the University of Cologne and the University of Bonn.

He was known for his influential compositions, his work with electronic music and his theories.


Evidently, his students learned a lot from his unique teachings, and went on to form the krautrock band Can, which was using techniques that were, at the time, very new and unheard of.

It is one thing to see a new genre of music after it has been invented and think, “that doesn’t seem so hard to come up with, the idea was sitting right in front of them”, but it is another thing entirely to create a new genre from thin air.

Of course, Can was not the only band pioneering the krautrock genre, but they certainly had a big hand in it.

Can band photo

For a super detailed history of Can, go here

Can was formed in 1968 in Cologne. The band mainly consisted of four members: Holger Czukay on bass and Irmin Schmidt on keyboard (the two members who studied under Stockhausen and formed the band), Jaki Liebezeit on drums (from whom the motorik beat originated) and Michael Karoli on guitar.

The group did not have one permanent singer, but rather many temporary ones.

Tago Mago album cover

Schmidt, the band’s keyboardist, had been heavily influenced by avant-garde musicians such as Terry Riley, Steve Reich and La Monte Young on a trip he took to New York.

From this, he began to see the new and different possibilities of rock music. In 1968 the band released their first album “Monster Movie” with vocals by Malcolm Mooney.

Then in 1971, they released another revolutionary and unconventional album, “Tago Mago” with vocals by Damo Suzuki. “Tago Mago” was a very influential album, featuring great tracks such as the dreamy “Paperhouse” and the hypnotic “Oh Yeah”.  Have a listen to the song “Paperhouse” below.


Another band that helped lay the groundwork for krautrock was the band Neu! (meaning “New”).

If you’re wondering why the band was named “new!”, it was inspired by the rise of advertising in the bigger German cities at the time, and “new” was one of the most powerful words for selling different things to the public.

Neu! was formed in 1971 in Düsseldorf by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother. Dinger and Rother were two former members of the popular band Kraftwerk in its earliest days, but left to start Neu!.

Although Neu! had less commercial success than Can, it was still a pioneer of krautrock and inspired many punk, rock and electronic bands in the years that followed.

The band’s first album, entitled “Neu!”, was released in 1972 and sold 30 000 copies, which was not very much when compared to mainstream competitors, but a decent amount when considered that they were an underground, off-beat band.

This album has come to be praised by many big names in music such as David Bowie, Brian Eno and Iggy Pop. Songs like “Hallogallo” demonstrated the quintessential motorik beat.

During the production of their second album, Neu! 2, Rother and Dinger began to run out of money. Therefore, on the second side of their album, they simply remixed and played with their already recorded single “Super”, sometimes slowing it down, sometimes speeding it up, and manipulating it in other ways.

The song “Super 16”, one of the manipulated versions of the original song, was used in Quentin Tarantino’s movie Kill Bill Volume 1.

The duo Dinger and Rother were quite different from each other. In their third album, “Neu! ‘75”, they decided to each pursue their own personal style, making half the album a solo album for Dinger, and half the album a solo album for Rother.

This album is seen as a very diverse krautrock album. After its release, the duo split up and went their separate ways.


As mentioned before, Dinger and Rother were originally in the band Kraftwerk in its early days, before leaving to form Neu!. Kraftwerk was another influential band of electronic music.

It was formed in Düsseldorf in 1970 by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider. The band experimented with krautrock in its early days, featuring instruments such as the synthesizer, drum machines and self-made instruments.

Kraftwerk really helped to popularize the lesser-known krautrock genre and make it available to a wider audience.


They released three albums in the early 1970s: “Kraftwerk” in 1970, “Kraftwerk 2” in 1972 and “Ralf und Florian” in 1973. They performed as a duo during the years of 1972-1973, as their lineup was not steady.

In 1974, they had commercial success with their hit album “Autobahn”, which they were able to tour with the financial help of Phonogram Inc.

After this tour, they began working on their next album which was released in October of 1975, entitled “Radio-Aktivität”, or “Radio-Activity” in English. Kraftwerk is still active in 2018, working on new projects.

You can listen to the album “Autobahn” below.


Lastly, we’ll take a look at Faust, who we gave a sample of near the top of the article.

Faust is a band named after the protagonist of a classic German tale. Faust was a popular band that was formed in 1971 in Wümme. Faust paved the way for many other krautrock bands. Although their debut album had poor sales, it did attract a small but loyal fan base, and was praised for its innovation. Their second album, “So Far”, did better than the first and was one of the albums that made krautrock accessible internationally. Here is the title track from that album.

Some other notable krautrock bands include Tangerine Dream, Embryo, Cosmic Jokers and Cluster, among many others.

The Influence of Krautrock

Krautrock had a considerable influence on many genres, including electronic, post-punk, rock and British new wave. A notable musician who was inspired by the krautrock scene was David Bowie.

Bowie, who began living in Berlin in 1976, later created the “Berlin Trilogy”, a sequence of three albums, “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger” as a tribute to the music scene he experienced in Berlin, which included krautrock and kosmiche musik.


Krautrock, while it may have been named so as a mockery at first, has actually become a highly influential and fascinating genre. It features cosmic, dreamy and ambient sounds and often uses the 4/4 motorik rhythm.

I think the krautrock genre is commendable in its non-conformity and innovation of the rock genre.

Downtempo – A Guide to the Great Artists and Their Best Songs and Albums

Right in the middle of the 20th century, the music started to change. And as the technology progressed, it seemed that, somehow, the music just followed.

And along with it also came the culture, fusing into one and delivering a whole experience. The period from the 1970’s to the end of the 1990’s was crucial, as so many different genres appeared.

What was previously thought impossible, or that was just unimaginable – it all suddenly came to life during this period.


The one particular musical style that we’re interested in here is downtempo. This is actually a subgenre of electronic music, and it emerged sometime in the late 1980’s and the early 1990s’.

Of course, the exact lines are kind of blurry, but we’ll take some time to explain a few things about this style and find out more about some of the most important artists. So let’s get into it.

What is Downtempo Music?

So what is exactly downtempo music? Downtempo is a killer subgenre of electronic music, with little to no vocals and simple beats. It’s pretty laid back, just like ambient music, but it also has a beat you can groove to, unlike conventional ambient music.

Okay, look – that is kind of a lie. At the bottom of the article we have included several of the best downtempo artists and some of them include vocals, but for the sake of this brief introduction to the genre, and to help familiarize you with it, let’s go ahead and say that most downtempo music uses soft vocals for audible texture but not so much to tell a story.

We can kind of refer to it as ambient music with its own flavor, or a mix of ambient and EDM or trance. Some would maybe think of it as trip hop, but it’s still a bit of a different genre. We’ll get to that soon.

Partygoers, ravers, and clubbers will be familiar with this genre, as well as DJs, of course.

The music is a lot more chill than others in the electronica genre. Seasoned DJs will leave downtempo to the end of the set when the party draws to a close.

downtempo music

This music is also played in side-rooms of clubs or designated “take five” areas. The beats are slower and super groovy, perfect for a break from dancing or wrapping up a party.

Most clubgoers, whether they recognize and know downtempo or not, will automatically get the signal from this type of music that it’s late into the night.

If you’ve ever seen Portlandia, the theme song is a prime example of downtempo music with a chill beat that is easy to listen to and very enjoyable. There are some vocals but they’re airy and non-dominant.

Non-dominance is a good way to define downtempo. It’s got elements of ambient music and serves listeners the same way: it can be enjoyed either as a focal point or be ignored while still providing an atmosphere. It neither overpowers nor disappears.

It’s a beautiful genre for summer driving. You’ll also often hear downtempo in lounges. It’s great for a casual hangout with friends or any time you need to relax.


So where does the genre come from? To explain it, we’ll need to go way back to the old days. It all started with the synthesizer.

This instrument became more affordable to people in the late 1960s – early 1970’s and so musicians, being the experimental and curious artists that they are, ever-searching for the perfect tool for self-expression, fell in love with it.

We had the beginnings of ambient music in the 1970s.

Electronic music as we know it today really came into huge popularity in the early 1990s. The club scene brought in all kinds of new genres after the electronica ruled the sound systems everywhere because it didn’t require a live band and provided dancing crowds with non-stop movement to inspire their dancing.

It was obvious new experimentation with the synthesizer, which at the time had only been around for a couple of decades. There was plenty left to explore on that instrument with so many options.

Downtempo is usually played on a synthesizer as well as a drum machine and a few other things. Electronica is typically faster paced, and so downtempo was created not as an antithesis but simply as an alternative for lounge areas and chill-out rooms at festivals and nightclubs.

Dancers could go into these rooms and sit for a while, taking a break from the intense energy of the dancefloor and enjoying a drink. You’ll also notice somewhat of a hypnotizing element to downtempo, the same way electronica brings you in and holds you.

If we go digging a little deeper, we can see that the genre originated on Ibiza, which is a Mediterranean island that’s well known for its nightlife and electronic music. Tourists from all over the world come to Ibiza as a destination for this type of holiday. And downtempo music blends perfectly with the laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle and the beautiful scenery.

DJs have always known how to read a crowd (or, they should) and know how to bring up the energy and bring it down. On the island of Ibiza, where they party ’till sunrise, the DJs start playing downtempo to bring the crowd down after a full night of partying.

Here’s a “Best of Ibiza” chillout downtempo playlist if you want to feel a little bit of that vibe for a while.

Like we mentioned above, and downtempo is sometimes referred to as trip hop, taking elements from hip hop, drum and bass, and ambient music.

These are then combined together and played over a slower tempo. These days the music also incorporates more melodic instrumentals. However, no matter all the comparisons between downtempo and trip hop, these are still two distinct genres.

They take elements from one another, but they are still not the same thing. But quite often, you’ll see the genres interlapping, with many artists covering both in their body of work. This is, for instance, the case with Portishead. But we’ll explain it all below.

The genre has been around for about three decades now. Of course, it also saw its evolution over the years, especially during the 2000s and 2010s.

Some have even referred to it as “downtempo pop,” which is somewhat of an umbrella term for laidback music with slow tempos, mellow beats, and vintage-oriented synths.

Yes, the exact genre definitions are kind of loose, which is not uncommon for many different music styles. But the true lovers of downtempo know what we’re talking about and have more “feel” over the more precise definition of the genre.

The Artists

Now that we are familiar with the genre, let’s have a listen, shall we?

After some lurking and weighing, we dug up some of the best downtempo artists out there. Some were around for the advent of the genre and helped shape it, and some others showed up along the way and furthered the genre’s popularity by keeping it alive.

Of course, the genre has so many different great artists, but we can’t really have them all in one brief guide. The choice was not easy, but here’s the list that we came up with.

Thievery Corporation

Thievery Corporation has been around since 1995. This electronic duo has opened for Paul McCartney and worked with artists such as David Byrne and Wayne Coyne.

They bring an overtly political message with their music and actions, performing at the Operation Ceasefire concert and supporting human rights and the World Food Programme.

Visit the Thievery Corporation official website


Flume is a younger artist, born in 1991 and has been making music since 2004. He has risen to popularity rather fast, having remixed several famous songs by artists like Lorde and selling 40 000 tickets for his first national tour.

He is from Australia and his work incorporates many electronic elements from hip hop to dub. Here is his self-titled debut album.

Visit Flume’s official website

Blue Sky Black Death

Another duo on our list, Blue Sky Black Death hails from San Francisco, California. They produce their music with a drum machine, sampler, keyboard, synth, and guitar. They’ve been on the scene since 2003.

The phrase “blue sky black death” is a skydiving phrase alluding to beauty and death. They got their start making beats to rap over but soon gave up rapping to pursue producing. Below you can hear their third full-length album, Noir.

Visit the Blue Sky Black Death Bandcamp page

Kruder & Dorfmeister

Kruder & Dorfmeister get automatic points from us for their G-Stoned cover, which resembles the famous Bookends cover by American duo Simon & Garfunkel.

Peter Kruder & Richard Dorfmeister comprise this Austrian duo and have been making music together since 1993. They got their start playing big festivals and were instantly loved by the audience.

They have gone on to tour the world and continue producing music to this day. They’ve also put out their own solo albums and albums under aliases. They have at least 9 studio-recorded albums available.

Here is their first album, G-Stoned.

Check out the Kruder and Dorfmeister Facebook page

Samantha James

Samantha James stands out from others on our list for her vocal style. Many downtempo artists are producers and rarely feature vocals in their work. Rather the vocals are presented as a soft ambiance over the beat.

Samantha’s singing is incredibly soulful and gives a whole new life to this style of music. Coming from Los Angeles, she became involved with the underground dance scene there as a teenager.

She has been making music of her own since 2007. Her first single, Rise, was an instant hit in 2006 and she has since toured the world with her wonderful blend of electronic and soul music.

She has two full-length albums and has reached #1 on the US dance charts.

Listen to her first album, Rise, here:

Check out Samantha James on Om Records

Helicopter Girl

Helicopter Girl is a Scottish musician and has been active since 1993. She gives downtempo a unique spin incorporating elements from several genres, including dance music, indie pop, and jazz.

Helicopter Girl is widely revered for her vocal style and the lyrics offer a listening experience that speaks utter truth. Straight badass. You’ve just got to give a listen and experience this for yourself.

We’ve included a link to her video for Glove Compartment but we also recommend listening to her song Angel City.

Glove Compartment is mysterious and fateful; Angel City is rockier than everything else on this list, but the vocals are cool, calm and sultry, chilling you right out with icy proclamations.

Check out Helicopter Girl on Dharma Records


Portishead are one of the better-known artists on this list. They remind us of Helicopter Girl a bit – with their infusions of other genres like indie rock laid on top of downtempo – and a bit of sex appeal.

This is music you can throw on for driving or grooving out at home and works just as well in a lounge setting. Portishead has been around since 1991, taking a brief hiatus from 1999 through 2005. They took up music again after the break.

They’re an English band, well known in this genre because they were one of its pioneers. Despite their dislike for press coverage, their music has been successful internationally.

There is no exact definition of their musical styles though, and you’ll find many different descriptions of their work. For instance, Rolling Stone magazine referred to them as Gothic hip-hop.

They’ve been around so long making this kind of music that they have been played in all kinds of underground clubs and gothic scenes. They’re considered to be one of the originators of trip hop music, but they’ve also pioneered downtempo at the same time.

However you define them, it’s pretty clear that their creative style was revolutionary. And even to this day, they still remain one of the most important artists of these genres, despite not being as active as they were back in the 1990s.

Visit the Portishead website here


Now going over to something more contemporary, we have Emancipator. Based in Portland, Oregon, he goes by the name of Douglas Appling.

He officially started his work back in 2006, releasing his debut album “Soon It Will Be Cold Enough” when he was only 19 years old. As of 2020, he has released 6 albums, 2 EPs, and 2 remix albums.

Making music for the sheer love of it, Emancipator also started his own label and has even formed his band Emancipator Ensemble that plays live with him.

Overall, Emancipator’s music is different compared to many of the artists we mentioned here. The further you go in his discography, you stumble upon a lot of different elements.

It’s a pretty thin line between trip hop and downtempo. Nonetheless, Emancipator is one at the frontier of this genre, pushing it into new territories.

Released in 2020, the “Mountain Of Memory” album is a great example of how he respects the old style while also adding in new elements to it. It’s really interesting how he also blends some elements of world music in there.

Check out Emancipator’s website here


Coming from San Francisco, California, Scott Hansen started his music career back in the early 2000s. The first album under his name Tycho came out in 2006, and was titled “Past Is Prologue.”

The most exciting part is that he’s such a versatile musician, and he relies on a lot of “conventional” old school analog approaches. At the same time, he’s also a guitar player, which is the instrument that he adds to his music.

In addition, you’ll also find a lot of ambient sounds in his music, including random dialogues and even sounds of weather.

After releasing his debut, he became known among the lovers of both electronic and post-rock music. Many have also compared him with artists like DJ Shadow and Boards of Canada.

He first started performing all on his own, combining both analog and digital instruments and gears during live shows.

When things got more complex, he hired his own band. Now, he has 6 studio albums in total, with “Simulcast” coming out in 2020.

Visit Tycho’s website here

Boards of Canada

Of course, it’s impossible to avoid mentioning Boards of Canada on this list. This duo, consisting of brother Marcus Eoin and Michael Sandison, has been active since 1986.

Although starting very young, it took them a while to actually release their official music. In 1995, they launched their debut EP “Twoism.” Between then and now, they have released a total of 6 EPs and 4 full-length studio albums.

Although regarded as part of the downtempo and electronic music movements, Boards of Canada added their own unique elements to their work.

Somewhat mournful and melancholic, their songs offer a different perspective on the genre. You’ll also hear a lot of psychedelic elements, ambient music, and even a genre referred to IDM, or “intelligent dance music.”

To explain it simply, their music instantly induces nostalgia, as if there’s some magic surrounding it. If you feel like going into downtempo, Boards of Canada are a good choice.

Visit Boards of Canada’s Bleep entry here

Alright, that’s all for now guys!  If you think we missed anyone or have any comments, leave them below.  Until next time!

Can (Band) History, Some Analysis, and Discography

History of Can (as in the band)

Founders and the artistic core of the band Can were the keyboard player Irmin Schmidt and the bassist Holger Czukay. Both had studied composition with Karlheinz Stockhausen at the Musikhochschule in Cologne .

can german band

In early 1968, they gathered together musicians with contrasting musical backgrounds, forming an experimental musical collective.

David C. Johnson was, at that time, a lecturer for electronic music. Free jazz came from the drummer Jaki Liebezeit, who had previously worked with Manfred Schoof.

Guitarist Michael Karoli still sought musical identity. At first, the band called themselves Inner Space. From a concert of June 1968, the singles Agilok & Blubbo (July 1968) and Kamasutra (November 1968) were released.

From 1968, the band first rehearsed at Nörvenich Castle, where they met in June 1968 for a jam session with the personnel of Karoli, Czukay, Schmidt, Liebeszeit and Johnson.

They were supplemented by Manfred “Manni” Löhne (vocals, percussion, flute).

This jam session was published in 1984 as the bootleg Prehistoric Future, which was published in limited editions of 2,000 copies and contained samples of the student unrest at the Sorbonne in Paris.

From 1968 to 1973

In November, 1968, Can recorded the soundtrack to the Kinofilm, Kama Sutra – Completion of Love, which came out on June 5, 1969 in theaters.

The first LP Monster Movie was created on July 25, 1969 in Nörvenich Castle and includes spontaneous compositions.

Only 500 copies of the first edition were sold in two weeks. From the end of the year, the band renounced the “The” in their name and now called themselves simply Can.

monster movie the can

At concerts, Malcolm Mooney was also struck by these performances in a negative way. On the advice of his psychiatrist he returned a little later to the United States, due to Can’s avante-garde-ness getting the better of him.

This was followed by the LPs Soundtracks (recorded from November 1969 to August 1970) and Tago Mago (November 1970 to February 1971), also recorded in Nörvenich.

Soundtracks included a compilation of film music from the last five films, for which Can was responsible as composer.


Between 1971 and 1978, eight studio albums were created. The first LP from the new recording studio was Ege Bamyasi (December 1971 to June 1972), followed by Future Days (released in August 1973).

At the suggestion of Conny Plank, René Tinner took over the role of sound engineer from 1973 onwards, and in 1978 he continued the studio as a CAN studio.

In September 1973, Damo Suzuki left the band.

From 1974 to 1977

The LP Future Days Limited Edition (1974) was only planned with an edition of 15,000 copies, but was expanded to the Unlimited Edition in 1976 and contained unpublished titles.

This was followed by the LPs Soon Over Babaluma (August 1974), Landed (February to April 1975).

The double-LP Unlimited Edition (March 1976) was an extended version of the LP Limited Edition and included recordings between September 1968 and September 1974, Flow Motion (June 1976) and Saw Delight (January 1977).

From 1978 onwards

After the sessions on LP Can in February 1978, the group eventually broke up. In the same year, Karoli left the band. In 1980, Schmidt moved with his family to Provence.

Subsequent performances took place under the name Can Solo-Projects with individual former band members.

On 18 June 2012, the CD Can – The Lost Tapes was released with missing recordings of about 30 hours of playing time. They were found when the Can studio “Inner Space” was disbanded in November 2007 and re-built in Gronau (Westf.)

By the Rock’n’popmuseum. Jaki love died on 22 January 2017 at the age of 78 years at a lung inflammation. On September 5, 2017, Holger Czukay was found dead in his home in Weilerswist.

can the lost tapes

Movie Music – Spoon – Singles

To a larger audience, the band became known through film music, such as Tom Toelle’s television movie The Million Play, broadcast on 18 October 1970. On the LP Can Soundtracks, titles from the films Girls with Violence (Germany’s premiere on 19 February 1970), Deadlock (October 15, 1970) and Cream – Schwabing Report (August 27, 1971).

As of September 24, 1975, the Crimean Eurogang ran with the Can-Single Hunters and Collectors (from LP Landed ).

The single I Want More (from the LP Flow Motion ) came in August 1976 in the British charts down to 26th place, the only British chart listing the group.


The band was very well known in Great Britain despite the restrained sales figures. The first tour through England took place as of April 28, 1972, beginning in London and ending on May 8, 1972 in Colchester; Since then, they have regularly appeared here.

An extensive tour of England started on 16 February 1973 and ended only after four weeks on 18 March 1973. On 9 August 1971 they were at the Beat-Club in front of the cameras.

Can gave on 3 February 1972 a concert in the sold out Cologne sports hall, which was recorded by the WDR television and broadcast on 25 September 1975 in WDR 3. The last performance took place in May 1977 in Portugal.

Some Analysis As Promised

Can put into their live playing the nature of the interplay and in the production method experimental accents, which deviated significantly from the conventional rock music. Repetitive passages, strong improvisational passages in jazz rock and free jazz became their hallmark.

Can was neither a commercial rock band nor a formation attributable to the mainstream of rock music. The music style of the band did not fit into the marketing scheme of most record companies, so the group initially found it hard to find a record company. This was the reason why the band had to change the record label so often.

Only in May 1975 did they receive a record contract with EMI, Can’s recording habits led to the accumulation of unpublished recordings, which then came to the market only years later. In 2003, Can received the German music award Echo for lifetime achievement.

From the outset, Can was beyond the tradition of rock ‘n’ roll , due to the fact that two of their musicians (Czukay and Schmidt) came from the classical music scene around Karlheinz Stockhausen.

A colleague from Stockhausen, the composer, flutist and live electronicsian David Johnson, was one of the founders of Can.

The only one who could have had experience in rock music at the time of the founding was the young guitarist Karoli, who had already played in different beat groups. In addition, the drummer Liebezeit, who had previously occupied himself with jazz and for a time with free jazz (for example, in the quintet by Manfred Schoof), brought a further contrast into the “musical community” which mainly focused on the opening days improvised music.

Another influence, which shaped all members of the formation, was world music and folklore from all parts of the world.

In the course of their work new influences such as disco, but also technical innovations were added, whereby their sound picture gradually changed.

These constant changes and the peculiar views of collaboration in the collective led to changes of occupation, although the core was always preserved.

Their decisive contribution to the history of music lies in the fact that, like hardly any other band, they developed an aesthetics of repetitive sound compositions independent of the classical song structure.

Influence on other bands

On his album Graduation (2007, Roc-A-Fella Records ) Kanye West uses a sample from Sing Swan Song for Drunk and Hot Girls.

The experiment composer Karlheinz Essl created with Father Earth, the 2007 on its publication SNDT®X, a tribute to Can, which refers to Mother Sky from the LP Soundtracks.

In an interview with The Quietus of 2011, Geoff Barrow of Portishead describes the enormous influence of Can on his creative work: “Can are my favourite and most inspirational band ever, I think. I heard this in the early nineties on the radio, thinking they were the best new band ever. Melodically, sonically and rhythmically this is experimentation with songs.”

Stephen Malkmus, the former singer and guitarist of Pavement, who worked with this band as well as with the Jicks an intensive Can reception, together with members of the band Von Spar 2012, covered the entire Can album Ege Bamyasi at the Cologne Weekend Festival and released the recording 2013 as Can’s Ege Bamyasi.

In June 2015, the magazine Rolling Stone chose the album Future Days in the top eight of the 50 best progressive rock albums of all time.





  • August 1969 Monster Movie
  • September 1970 Soundtracks
  • February 1971 Tago Mago Double LP
  • June 1972 Ege Bamyasi
  • August 1973 Future Days
  • November 1974 Soon Over Babaluma
  • September 1975 Landed
  • October 1976 Flow Motion
  • March 1977 Saw Delight
  • July 1978 Out of Reach
  • July 1979 Can Re-release Inner Space
  • September 1989 Rite Time


  • July, 1968 Agilok & Blubbo / Camera Song
  • November 1968 Kama Sutra / I’m Hiding My Nightingale
  • December 1969 Soul Desert / She Brings The Rain
  • December 1971 Spoon / Shikako Maru Ten
  • 1972 I’m So Green / Mushroom
  • 1972 Vitamin C / I’m So Green
  • August 1973 Moonshake / Future Days
  • 1974 Dizzy Dizzy / Splash
  • September 1975 Hunters & Collectors / Vernal Equinox
  • August 1976 I Want More / … And More
  • 1976 Silent Night / Cascade Waltz
  • January 1977 Do not Say No / Return
  • January 1978 Can-Can / Can Be
  • August 1990 Hoolah Hoolah (double-mix) / Hoolah Hoolah (sun electric mix)

Compilations and Live Recordings

  • 1974 limited edition Collection of rarities 1968-1974
  • March 1976 Unlimited Edition Collection of rarities 1968-1974
  • 1976 opener Compilation of LP material 1972-1974
  • 1978 Cannibalism Compilation of LP material 1969-1974
  • 1981 Delay 1968 Collection of rarities and outtakes 1968
  • 1984 Prehistoric Future The very first session at Nörvenich Castle June 1968
  • 1993 Anthology Compilation of LP and soundtrack material 1968-1991
  • 1995 The Peel Sessions Collection of BBC recordings 1973-1976
  • 1997 Radio Waves Rarities and live recordings
  • 1997 Sacrilege Tribute double album with remixes and covers
  • 1999 Can Live Collection of live recordings 1972-1977
  • June 2012 The Lost Tapes Unpublished studio and live recordings 1968-1977
  • 2017 The Singles compilation


  • Mother Sky Berlin (Waldbühne, 1971)
  • University of Essex (Colchester, May 8, 1972)
  • Horror Trip in the Paper House (Cologne, February 3, 1973)
  • Live at Paris Olympia (Paris, 1973)
  • Live at Sussex University (Brighton, November 1975)
  • Live at Stuttgart (October 31, 1975)
  • Live at Hanover (November 4, 1976)
  • London and Grenoble Live (1976)
  • Germany 1976 Vol. 1 (Hanover, April 11, 1976)
  • Great Britain 1977 Vol. 2 (Aston, March 4, 1977)
  • Radio Waves (Sonic Records, 1997): Live recordings and rarities 1969-1972
  • Zhengzheng Rikang (2006, recordings from 1968/1969)


  • Hermann Haring: Rock from Germany / West – From the Rattles to Nena: Two decades of Heimatklang. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1984
  • Pascal Bussy / Andy Hall: The Can Book. SAF Publishing, 1989
  • Hildegard Schmidt / Wolfkampmann: Can Box: Book. Medium Music Books, 1998
  • Julian Cope : Krautrocksampler. One Head’s Guide to the Great Cosmic Music. Werner Pieper’s Media Experiments, 1996
  • Robert von Zahn: Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay, Jaki Love time: CAN. DuMont, Cologne 2006
  • Wagner, Christoph (2013): Sound of revolt: the magical years of the West German music underground, Mainz and others: Schott.
  • Alexander Simmeth: Krautrock transnational. The Re-invention of Pop Music in the FRG, 1968-1978, Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2016, ISBN 978-3-8376-3424-2