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Ash Ra Tempel - Ash Ra Tempel CD (album) cover

ASH RA TEMPEL

Ash Ra Tempel

 

Krautrock

4.15 | 369 ratings

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ALotOfBottle
5 stars Manuel Göttsching was born in 1952 in West Berlin, being one of the first post-war generations in Germany. In 1960, he began to learn to play classical guitar. In the mid-60's, he became interested in rock music through artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Peter Green, and Eric Clapton. As a 15-year old schoolboy, Göttsching teamed up with Hartmut Enke, his friend and classmate, to create his first school band. 1968 was a revolutionary year in his musical development, when he met the Swiss avant-garde composer Thomas Kessler, who specialized in electronic music. In 1970, together with Enke, Wolfgang Müllerm and Volker Zibell, Göttsching founded an outfit Steeple Chase Blues Band. The same year, him, Enke, and Klaus Schulze formed Ash Ra Tempel, which many years later would prove to be one of the most influential and important bands in the history of what would later be known as krautrock or kosmische music. In March of 1971, Ash Ra Tempel recorded their eponymous debut, at Hamburg's Star Studios. The album was released three months later under the Ohr label. Manuel Göttsching recalls "The first Ash Ra Tempel was, for me, not really record production, I wanted to have it as much as possible as a kind of document. (...) We were a live band and our real strength and the power that we had and that we could show was our live performances, so I just wanted to bring this as much as possible on this record."

A calm ambient chord swell accompanied by gentle cymbal touches innocently opens "Amboss", as if mighty, grey clouds were arriving just before a tremendous thunderstorm. The atmosphere slowly builds up with guitar parts becoming more and more pronounced and self-assured. In addition, lengthy reverb and feedback tails start following the instrument's parts. The storm clouds are gradually getting closer with drums getting heavier, louder, and more dense. At one point, the instrument finally settles on an even, rapid rhythm that appears as if waiting for guitar and bass to join. The rain starts falling. Everything becomes enormous, powerful, and loud. Finally, the guitar breaks through with its solo part. In the beginning, Manuel Göttsching's playing strongly resembles that of Jimi Hendrix, not only with the tone of the instrument, but also with its use of certain riffs on the pentatonic scale. Suddenly, the popular, rocky-sounding pentatonic is substituted by more "stylish" modes, which might bring middle eastern or Egyptian (as suggested by the cover art) influences to mind. Soon after reaching its spacey climax, the guitar retreats towards drawing softer ambient textures, until the loud jam returns once again. This time it's even heavier, reaching a point when it could even be called cacophonous. The piece ends suddenly and decisively.

Contrary to "Amboss", "Traummaschine", which translates into "Dream Machine" from German, is a pastel, sedative ambient track throughout. Beginning with a dreamy, slowly progressing sonic wave, which includes high amounts of reverb and guitar feedback, it really takes its time to build up, in fact much more slowly than its predecessor. Around nine minutes into the piece, one will start noticing more guitar layers "clustering" and gradually strengthening the overall effect of Dream Machine's movement. Finally, the musical scenery is supported with Eastern-sounding hand drums. Although more powerful, the track still does not lose its dark, three-dimensional, catacomb-like atmosphere. At one point, one of the guitars participating in building the Dream Machine becomes brave enough to sing a washy, highly overdriven solo somewhere in the distant background. Suddenly, the pace slows down with the string instrument being abandoned. When the rhythm disappears completely and "Traummaschine" reclaims its ambient quality, similar to the one with which it started, the guitar once again starts its solo part, not for long, however. With the atmospherics it built, one might be tricked into thinking that a musical eruption is slowly creeping, while in reality, the Dream Machine fades into a silent territory from which it started.

With their eponymous debut album, Ash Ra Tempel is not only responsible for creating striking, spatial soundscapes, but also for what turned out to be a groundbreaking album for German rock music. Furthermore, it could be considered an important historical document, featuring Klaus Schulze on the drum stool, not long before he gave up the instrument and began, quite successfully, as we have come to know, composing and recording electronic music on his own. With its two contrasted epics, Ash Ra Tempel provides one of the most breathtaking and atmospheric musical journeys in the krautrock genre. An essential album!

ALotOfBottle | 5/5 |

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