The 20 Best Krautrock Albums

If you like krautrock, check out our picks for the best krautrock albums of all time.


2. Yatha Sidhra - A Meditation Mass

Brain Records was known as one of the main German labels pushing the krautrock sound in the 1970s, supporting classics like NEU!, Guru Guru, and Popol Vuh. One of its lesser known successes was the singular Yatha Sidhra, a short-lived psychedelic folk band of the brothers’ Fichter, guitarist Matthias Icolai, and floutists Peter Elbrecht.

Lacking obvious traits of the genre like the motorik beat or endless repetition, their only album, A Meditation Mass, is really just one seamless 40-minute otherworldly session interweaving smoked out flutes with South Asian fusion. While the first half floats you through peaceful skies and good vibes, the second half finds the band letting loose in short bursts, taking care to avoid muddling the meditative groundwork of the former 20-minutes. The production was handled by an underdog of the scene, Achim Reichel, who infused the instrumentation with enough spacey atmospherics to soothe the soul.

3. Svper - Pegasvs

Formerly known as Pegasvs, this Barcelona band was recently forced change their name due to the existence of a 1980s Barcelona metal band named Pegasvs. With only two members playing only two synthesizers and a drum machine while sharing vocal duties, Svper appropriates the motorik drumbeat out of necessity, lending a driving force to their abstract Balearic pop music.

Though they lift explicitly from NEU! in “Atlántico,” Svper's brand of krautpop lies closer to Stereolab in both composition and sound. Pegasvs also often utilizes piercing synthetic wails amidst pounding drums and murmuring basslines to construct distant spaces, drawing throughlines between their definite and distinct pop songs and the Berlin School's abstract synth workouts. This is krautrock in the 20th century, as picky about its influences as its ancestors were of their source material.

4. GÄA - Auf der Bahn zum Uranus

An obscurity from the mid-1970s, not much is known about GÄA, though a few recordings by the band were unearthed and released in the late 1990s.The only album released during the band’s lifetime, Auf der Bahn zum Uranus wasn’t particularly groundbreaking or surprising; it’s simply a collection of really good straightforward psychedelic rock with fitting cosmological imagery. While the album can be more adventurous than contemporary krautrock, exemplified by the bossa nova-themed “Bossa Rustical,” the majority of the songs are well written blues-rockers. The funky “Mutter Erde” struts an unassailable guitar riff, and the self-titled closing track “GÄA” is a highlight for even more impeccable guitar work.

5. Gila - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

More recognized for their self-titled debut, Gila underwent a radical transformation before the recording of their sophomore album. While their first album is your more typical straightforward spacey progressive rock affair, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee presents an array of delightfully radiant folk music. The drastic change in sound can be attributed to the departure of everyone in the band but frontman Conny Veit in 1972 and the addition of Daniel Fichelscher and Florian Fricke, both of Popol Vuh fame. Conny Veit himself had spent some time playing for Fricke’s band, which lead to the more “worldly” production on Bury My Heart. From the brilliant melodies of “This Morning” to the acoustic glow of the instrumental “Young Coyote,” Gila’s second album stands out as an exemplar of folk-based krautrock.

6. Beak> - Beak>

Who would’ve thought Portishead’s Geoff Barrow would form a krautrock group in an age of music that’s evolved way past Germany in the '70s? The decision to adopt the style may seem unusual, but it does make more sense considering Portishead’s experimental 2008 LP Third and Barrow’s subsequent proclamation of his love for Can’s totemic Ege Bamyasi.

Beak> gives a reinvigorated twist on krautrock by avoiding relying too much on the genre's stereotypical motorik drumbeat. The mesmerizing repetition à la Can is certainly present, but the band chooses to focus more on electronic experimentation and ghostly crooning, resulting in sparse, bleary songs like “Pill” and “The Cornubia.” The loose psychedelic guitar noodling complements the production’s shiftless feel, providing a revitalized version of krautrock for the post-millenial era.

7. Xhol Caravan - Electrip

Imagine an alternate universe where avant-garde saxophonist Albert Ayler moved to Germany and joined up with a rock band. Chances are, the world you're imagining sounds somewhat like Xhol Caravan's sophomore LP Electrip. Among a sea of similarly focused jazz-rock kraut groups, Xhol Caravan distinguished themselves with their sense of humor, opening Electrip with a toilet flush.

Xhol Caravan was the second incarnation of psychedelic bands centered around the trio of saxophonists Tim Belbe and Hansi Fischer and drummer Gilbert “Skip” van Wyck III, evolving from the pure psychedelic soul they released under their first moniker Soul Caravan. Electrip is the perfect marriage of their earlier R&B-based music and their more jazzy prog rock freakouts, with a Zappa-esque sense of humour to boot. The band jumps from carnival timbres to Arabic shouting to hard rock jams while maintaining a fine balance between the absurd and the expected.

8. Nekropolis - Music aus dem Scattenreich

With a name like Nekropolis, you might guess that the Munich-based band played brooding metallic music, and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. Though a bit late to the krautrock scene, Peter Frohmader, the electronic musician behind the moniker, crafted his own brand of murky kraut-metal with his 1981 release Musik aus dem Schattenreich. While retaining the psychedelic-jam approach of his predecessors, this album more prominently boasts coupled with thumping, sludgy bass grooves.

Truly visionary, Musik aus dem Schattenreich predates most landmark releases in the field later called 'dark ambient' and sits on the cusp of the outbreak of 1980s traditional doom metal. Tracks like the diabolical “Unendliche Qual” and the eight-minute foray into the occult “Krypta” are testaments to Frohmader’s foresight.

9. Harmonia & Eno - Tracks and Traces

Harmonia had begun to explore the subtle movements of babbling synths way back in 1971, but with Tracks and Traces, things got sublime. Aided by ambient music godhead Brian Eno, who decamped to the rural Germany home of Cluster's Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Möbius for 11 days, the trio that makes up the core of Harmonia dove into striking new territory with the clean lines that make up this 1976 record.

Michael Rother, also famously of Kraftwerk and NEU!, makes his presence strongly felt, reducing clutter and smoothing edges, making for an ambient record that still drives ahead forward, refusing to succumb to the bleariness that marks so much of the genre.

10. Stereolab - Peng!

A large selection of the Too Pure Records stable in the early '90s drew from the omnivorous krautrock community 20 years before it, but no one band has more successfully married motorik beats to pop song structures than Stereolab did on their 1992 debut Peng! Scratchy organ parts compete for space with chiming electric guitars and Laetitia Sadier's dulcet, subdued vocalizations.

"Peng! 33"'s assertion that "beautiful things are happening in the world" is as heartwarming as kraut ever gets, heartwarming enough that Iron & Wine would cover that song just over a decade later. The record sulks in places, but mostly Sadier and co. created the sunniest, and catchiest record that's ever been reliant on the rhythm and repetition of krautrock.

11. La Düsseldorf - Viva

The second album of the Klaus Dinger’s often overlooked post-NEU! band is an expansive undertaking, with songs ranging from what could be mistaken for NEU! outtakes to anthemic electronic glam rock. La Düsseldorf found relative success throughout their existence but have been eclipsed in recent times by NEU!’s ubiquitous reputation.

Released three years after the demise of NEU!, Viva is very much the product of Klaus Dinger bringing his sound to a more catchy context, displayed most evidently by the glittery, synth-packed “Geld.” Though half of the songs hit below the three-minute mark, the main course of the record is the 20-minute extravaganza, “Cha Cha 2000,” resembling a German motorik version of Bruce Springsteen, complete with piano breakdown and consequential climax.

12. Manuel Göttsching - E2-E4

The genius behind seminal krautrock band Ash Ra Tempel and progenitor of the bleary Berlin School movement also produced arguably one of the first techno albums in way back in the early '80s. That record, 1981's E2-E4 is really just one sprawling minimalist hour-long composition, slowly morphing though retaining the same pulsing synths throughout its duration.

Prior to E2-E4, Göttsching and other krautrock veterans, such as Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, had developed their signature sounds through synth-driven music, but given that all previous experimentation was focused on building swooping interstellar atmospheres, E2-E4 proved particularly groundbreaking for its willingness to be outwardly danceable and trance-inducing.

13. Bröselmaschine - Bröselmaschine

From their 1969 origins in Duisburg, Germany, Bröselmaschine began engaging with the psychedelic throughline that marks so many of the more progressively minded krautrock bands. But rather than rely on watery electric guitars and reverb-laden vocals, founders Peter Bursch and Willi Kissmer pushed their band toward cavernous, labyrinthine folk compositions, which their 1971 self-titled debut has in spades. Reliant largely on plaintive acoustic guitar strumming, Bröselmaschine sounds decades ahead of its time. Though there's no concrete evidence that Devendra Banhart and all the rest of those early aughts freak folkies were taking in '70s German prog records, the Duisburg quartet at least anticipated the craze of acid-addled acoustic music.

14. Kraftwerk - Ralf & Florian

The legendary Kraftwerk experienced several rebirths throughout their existence. Beginning with their first two self-titled albums, Kraftwerk started as genuine electronic krautrockers experimenting with song structure and sound manipulation to conceptual ambient soundscapers to synth-pop superstars and champions of the motorik.

Ralf & Florian sees Kraftwerk in a transitional phase, bridging the gap between their earlier electronic rock excursions to their subsequent release Autobahn. The result is angelic ambience; the songs are tight and never overstay their welcome yet still manage to present a charming extravagance. Even the mellifluous 14-minute "Ananas Symphonie" is endowed with a playful drive that keeps drawing your attention to each stirring synth sweep. Released in 1973, Ralf & Florian predicts a legion of ambient-minded kraut records that would come in the following decade.

15. Cluster - Cluster & Eno

The two men at the core of Cluster, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Möebius collaborated with Brian Eno a year earlier on Harmonia's dubby delight Tracks and Traces, but their 1977 work Cluster & Eno eclipses most anything else that the trio ever worked on, both solo and apart.

Plaintive piano pricks deflate buoyant synth lines lending the whole record a timeless melancholy that would later be explored by the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Christian Fennesz. Organic instrumentation collides with soul-sucking synth lines, making an LP that hints at life and then highlights the inherent vacancy behind it. Eno's solo ambient work focused on the uplifting aspects of the genre, but Cluster & Eno sounds like giving up.

16. Tangerine Dream - Phaedra

As part of the Berlin School of electronic music the fractured minds behind Tangerine Dream have spent the better part of the last four decades creating, shaping and breaking what we now call ambient music. Though former member Klaus Schulze has had a greater touch on the legion of bedroom bound synth explorers, Tangerine Dream announced weird and warbly arpeggiated synthesizer exercises to the masses via their host of immensely popular film scores.

Phaedra, however, was the ever-shifting Berlin group's most immediately endearing effort across their entire expansive discography. Full of synth lines both saccharine and cimmerian, Phaedra highlights in a few short movements the band's ability to pull on the tension between the sublime and terrifying. They'd do so again later on a number of scores for horror films, but here Phaedra teases out the inherent uncanniness of digitally composed music, and the beauty that lies just on the other side of that valley.

17. Popol Vuh - Aguirre

The sestet behind Popol Vuh made a name for themselves solely on the back of their alternately triumphant and terrifying prog rock records, but they have Werner Herzog to thank for bringing them to the masses. Leaving behind the wild rhythms of records past, the group scored Herzog's film Aguirre: The Wrath of God in 1972 with a haunting, but dynamic mix of choral vocals, distant electric guitars, and choked-out wind instruments.

Two tracks from that score form the centerpiece of their seventh album Aguirre, which largely explores similar territories, but edges on the exultant rather than the mournful. The rest of the record largely follows in the same vein, creating one of the most otherworldly LPs to be classified under the krautrock banner.

18. Faust - Faust IV

The Wümme six-piece that makes up Faust started their career by driving people away. Both their self-titled debut and its followup Faust So Far were dissonant collisions between guitar drones and adderall-addled art-rock with as much prickly distortion as there were welcoming melodies. There's a lot to like, but it's all buried under this aggressive haze of sonic experimentation.

The band's fourth record, aptly titled Faust IV, strips back a large portion of this intentional obscurity and reveals (lo and behold) there are actually some engaging songs hiding behind their boundary pushing tendencies. But this isn't the traditional tale of experimentally minded dudes going pop. No here Faust strikes a balance, as evidenced on album opener "Jennifer." Sliding back and forth between affected guitar loops and welcoming vocal croons, Faust found a way to simultaneously exist in both worlds.

19. Klaus Schulze - Mirage

If only for his brief stints in Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel, Klaus Schulze would already be a major player in the disparate krautrock community, but his host of solo LPs and spacey soundtracks set up the foundation for a whole separate genre of music that would come after. Though fellow scene traveller Brian Eno is often credited with coining the term "ambient music" (and with applying it for practical purposes) Schulze's glacial synth pieces spawned a whole generation of knob twiddlers.

His 1977 LP Mirage is a monumental achievement in his expansive discography. Distilling both the terror and the placidity that marks different corners of his work Schulze crafted two side-long tracks that rely on nothing more than a handful of synthesizers to create an anti-matter echo of the gleeful psychedelia his peers played around with.

20. NEU! - NEU!

While much of krautrock's inward gaze focused on blurring lines and roughing up the edges of it's expansive instrumentation, a handful of bands focused instead on the beauty in symmetry. This was rarely done better than on NEU!'s self-titled debut. Formed by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother after they split from Kraftwerk, NEU!'s trademark motorik drumbeat lent a striking cleanness to their whole discography, but their debut showed the mind-expanding nature of clinical repetition.

Often rhythmically and harmonically static, these compositions drill their fractious guitar parts straight through the sensual part of the brain into the mathematically. You don't so much hear Neu! so much as you subconsciously count and calculate it. Listen to "Hallogallo" a few times in a row and see if that snare drum doesn't supplant your body's internal clock.

21. Can - Ege Bamyasi

After a string of consistently stellar albums, the fourth studio album by the paragon (and the exception of krautrock) was both their funkiest and their most concise offering, with enough groove easing out of the rhythm section to match George Clinton. Probably the most enduring and memorable krautrock band, Can was also the most identifiably unique, with a knack for funk and a habit of stumbling into extended sonic experimentations more gnarled and serpentine than their peers.

Though Damo Suzuki’s rambling and Holger Czukay’s sneaky bass lines are in rare form, the real star of Ege Bamyasi is drummer Jaki Liebezeit and his mechanical grooving, which would later resonate in hip hop, offering early breaks for b-boys (as well as a sample for Kanye's "Drunk and Hot Girls." Without the 10-minute sound exploration “Soup,” the only remnant of Can’s previous album Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi would easily be Can's most palatable release, but as it stands, it remains both challenging and endearing and the preeminent document of a fruitful time for experimentation in pop music.