While it didn’t make more than a ripple in the commercial waters of 1970s American popular music, the subgenre known as 'krautrock' would exert a significant influence on the music that followed in its wake. A wildly diverse array of bands based in what was then West Germany created compelling, innovative music that would inspire a generation of musicians across the globe. And 1972 was a banner year for krautrock. These five albums helped lay a foundation for the style.
Neu! – Neu!
The insistent “motorik” character of Neu! is among the group’s most distinguishing features. Few bands have done so much with so little. Working closely with legendary producer Conny Plank, the duo of Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother created proto-punk that was equal parts powerful, hypnotic and innovative.
Kraftwerk – Kraftwerk 2
Emerging out of an avant garde/experimental outfit called Organisation, Kraftwerk (see in the photo above) evolved into a leader in synthesizer-based music. But on their hard-to-find early releases, the duo (Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider-Esleben) didn’t use any synths. Their first two albums feature electric guitar, organ, piano, flute, xylophone and violin. But the music’s moody, ambient character hints at the direction they’d pursue on 1974’s groundbreaking Autobahn LP.
Cluster – Cluster II
Like Neu! and Kraftwerk, the 1972 lineup of Cluster (orignally Kliuster) was a duo, this time featuring electronica pioneers Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius. And like those outfits, Cluster worked with producer Conny Plank to help realize their musical concepts. Space rock, new age and ambient music all owe a major debt to the soaring, sweeping textures of Cluster.
Amon Düül II – Wolf City
This pioneering rock band came out of the hippie communes of the late 1960s, splitting away from the art commune band Amon Düül (hence the “II”). Slightly more musically conventional, Amon Düül II was still wildly eclectic, making hard rock with strong elements of psychedelia. The long list of musicians that came and went form the band’s ranks contributed to its stylistic variety. The group’s fourth album, Wolf City was the latest in an impressive run of stellar releases that balanced melody with relentless experimentation.
Can – Ege Bamyasi
As odd as the music from Can tended to be – combining funk and avant garde textures and featuring a Japanese lead singer who vocalized more than sang – a track from their third studio album gained hit single status. “Spoon” catapulted Can into the big leagues… in Germany, anyway. Their influence can be heard in modern-day groups like Flaming Lips, among others.