Listen to any band over the last decade that might loosely term themselves psychedelic – and a great deal who also wouldn’t fit that label – and it’s hard to imagine their existence without Michael Rother. The radical music that came out of 1970’s Germany was an attempt to invent a new sonic future from a generation ashamed of their forebears but uninterested in aping American sounds. The influence of Krautrock, to which Rother was utterly central, would start with a whisper and change the world – Bowie, Eno, Joy Division, the Fall, Depeche Mode, Sonic Youth, Stereolab, the Horrors, Tame Impala. Not bad.
The influence of Krautrock, to which Rother was utterly central, would start with a whisper and change the world
The most pure iteration of Krautrock comes down to Michael Rother’s ecstatic guitar drone and drummer Klaus Dinger’s motorik beat – a utopian vision sketched out across three albums with Neu!. After Neu!, Michael Rother would then form Harmonia, who would record two completely seminal albums that followed the Neu! template of visionary German music. Thankfully, the solo albums that Rother released in the late 70’s and early 80’s have also undergone a reappraisal – you can hear Rother then reaching for something that’s commonly expressed in neoclassical music now.
From the generation of those Krautrock musicians, with the exception of CAN’s Damo Suzuki, Rother is almost the last man standing – the only musician from that era still performing that music. This is, however, no exercise in nostalgia – Rother’s band features musicians such as La Dussledorf’s Hans Lampe, and they not only powerfully evoke the source material but modernise and intensify those records’ vision onstage. Songs such as ‘E-Musik’ are radically reworked, likewise ‘Hallogollo’ – perhaps the definitive German electronic recording – which is transformed, but still instantly and urgently recognisable for what it is. Rother, a quiet and understated presence onstage, changed the world and deserves this victory lap.