Tuesday, December 13, 2016

21st Century Kosmische Musik

It seems to me that the 1960s German experimental/progressive rock music scene can be split into four basic avenues: 1) those that came out of the free or acid jazz-based rhythm and sound experiments of the so-called Düsseldorf School of Experimental or "Kosmische Musik," like Can, La Dusseldorf, Faust, Guru Guru, and Neu!; 2) those that focused on long jam sessions exploring Eastern instruments, rhythms and sounds, like Amon Düül II, Gila, and Popul Vuh; 3) those that came out of the so-called "Berlin School of Electronic Music," like Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Ashra Tempel, Manuel Göttsching, Kraftwerk, Kluster, and; 4) those that grew to try to emulate the spacey, hypnotic psychedelic rock coming out of England like Pink Floyd and Hawkwind--Grobschnitt, Eloy, Neuschwanstein. This page is going to be about the first two groups since the Berlin School became included in what we call the "Progressive Electronic" subgenre and the Pink Floyd imitators became included in the "Psychedelic/Space Rock" subgenre.
     The Kosmische Musik style of music also became known--from those listening, talking and writing about it from outside Germany (particularly in the UK)--as "Krautrock." I consider this later term one of a derogatory nature. The word "kraut" (whose literal translation is "herb" but is most often associated in our Anglo-centric world with the storable fermented cabbage dish known as "sauerkraut") is an offensive slang term used initially by foreign soldiers who were adversaries/enemies of the German nation in World War I and World War II. I am sure that the term arose from a reference to the supposed predominance of sauerkraut in the German diet and as a reference to the strong smell that sauerkraut has as well as of it's common digestive result (flatulence). Likewise, "Krautrock" is a term created and used by non-Germans (originally, mostly British) to refer to a spectrum of music coming out of Germany during the late 1960s and 1970s. I choose to use the term, "Kosmische Musik," as it is the term that some members within the German experimental music scene of the late 60s and early 70s chose to call their own new style and sound of music--and because, in my opinion, it does a much better job of trying to explain the effect and scene of the drug-induced and altered, or "cosmic," states of consciousness that the creators of these hypnotic rhythms and experimentations in electronic sounds were producing--and which they were going for.

There are many people who wonder what it is that separates Kosmische Musik (or "Krautrock") from Progressive Electronic music. After all, they both attribute their origins to the same time and same locations and they both enjoyed frequent crossings over of groups and artists between the two. Where do they differentiate?
     To my mind the difference lies in the use of more live, human played instruments during the performance of a song--as is more foundational to Krautrock music. The electronic scene relies more on computer or keyboard sequenced sounds and rhythms for its sound production. Kosmische musik is often more organic and emotional while Progressive Electronic music is more fabricated and cerebral.

While I, myself, was not particularly tuned into the music coming out of Germany in the 1960s and 70s, I was aware of it. I purchased multiple albums by Kraftwerk, Can, and Tangerine Dream. I enjoyed these albums but I felt no deep passion for the music contained therein. However, the "ambient" and "New Age" scene(s) that followed or, more correctly, that survived from the Kosmische music scene, did suck me in--especially as I came to develop a personal meditation practice and as I came to know and appreciate the phenomenon known as "entrainment" rather intimately. Today, jam bands attract me more and more; it is the more melodically successful and rhythmically hypnotic songs from today's bands that win me over--including some of the music from the bands and albums listed below.
      Though there are very few bands that continued experimenting within the domain of Kosmische Musik during the 1980s through to the Naughties, the subgenre has had a bit of a renaissance in the last 20 years--and not just from Germans. Japan's ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE has been prolifically active since the 1990s. DZYAN, ELECTRIC ORANGE and Russia's VESPERO have each had multiple releases in the last 15 years while several others in the Northern European region have had at least two releases in the past ten years. Here are some of the ones that I know and enjoy:

WESERBERGLAND Sehr Kosmisch, Ganz Progish (2017)

ELECTRIC ORANGE Morbus (2007), Volume 10 (2014),
Misophonia (2016)

Øresund Space Collective (2006)

THE SPACELORDS The Liquid Sun (2016)

CAMERA Radiate! (2012), Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide (2014)

THE SPACIOUS MIND Rotvälta (2005)


MY BROTHER THE WIND I Wash My Soul in the Stream of Infinity (2011),
Once There Was a Time When Time and Space Were One (2014)

VESPERO By the Waters of Tomorrow (2010); Lique Mekwas (2016)

SEVEN THAT SPELLS Superautobahn (2012), The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock: IO (2014)

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