Berlin Krautrock Exhibition Celebrates Revolutionary Genre | Exhibitions
A motley train of shaggy-haired musicians glides into the future on a hastily sketched highway, brandishing bongos, vegetables and flaming guitars.
The poster for a 1971 concert by the German-British-Swiss trio Brainticket, on display at the small Bröhan Museum in Berlin until April 24, visually encapsulates the essence of a German musical movement so forward-looking at its heyday that his home country is only now beginning to recognize his heritage.
Krautrock Posters is a belated homage to the experimental soundscapes created in the late 1960s and early 1970s by bands like Neu!, Can, Guru Guru, Amon Düül II and Kraftwerk, who channeled their classical lineup into rock music and new electronic gadgets. .
The 40 posters on display cover the scene’s roots in the counterculture moment of 1968, when some groups were mere acts of support for serious political debate; to more playful reflections on the national cultural identity of the late 1970s and early 1980s. In a poster for a Kraftwerk concert in 1975, the road to the future is a German autobahn populated by Volkswagen Beetles.
“Krautrock was a moment of emancipation for German musicians,” said curator Gerd Siekmann, who attended his first concert with the band Birth Control aged 13 in 1972. “For the first time, they freed themselves from the monotony of traditional schlager music, while freeing themselves from the simple imitation of the sounds of American or English jazz bands.
If Krautrock was a revolution, however, it also overtook much of Germany at the time and was soon half-forgotten. The Bröhan show is the first exhibition in the country dedicated specifically to a German underground music scene that was first recognized as a cohesive movement by the British music press.
“Krautrock” is not a term that can be found on one of the posters of the show, which rather announces “underground sounds”, “transcendental music” or “creative rock”. A slang word used by British and American soldiers to refer to German troops during World War II, the term originally had deprecating undertones. But it gained appreciative significance after finding serious champions in radio DJ John Peel and enthusiastic followers in musicians such as David Bowie and Brian Eno.
Most of the vintage krautrock posters that Siekmann sells through his online store these days, he said, are purchased by fans outside of Germany. The first definitive history of the movement, Krautrocksampler, was written by British writer Julian Cope in 1995.
Part of the reason, Siekmann suggested, may be that the German pioneers didn’t care too much that at the time they were writing music history. Many of the groups he contacted to build his collection simply hadn’t kept any merchandise from the era. “They were just too focused on the future rather than the present,” he said.