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


Ash Ra Tempel



4.14 | 371 ratings

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4 stars In the UK, community studies indicate that one third of adults have tried illegal drugs at some point in their life. I missed the early experimentation with the role of LSD in psychotherapy, and its effects are apparently very situation and expectation dependent in any case. According to one medical dictionary, LSD can be ''used legally only for experimental purposes.'' I can think of one or two people who have ''experimented'', but I don't know how that explanation would hold up in court. The closest I've ever come to a psychedelic experience was looking at the patterns in a kaleidoscope tube, so to unlock the doors on the quest for knowledge and wisdom I have to sit with eyes closed, listen on headphones, and conjure pictures in my mind.

There are just two tracks here, both virtually structure free but by no means substance free and seemingly having the maxim that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Any in- depth analysis of the music would probably be antithetical to the experience itself, so it's probably best if readers simply listen to the tracks on YouTube. The title of the first of these is ''Amboss'' which is German for ''anvil''. Anvils have earned symbolic meaning in recent times and there are many musical examples involving these tools, including famous works by Richard Wagner. Listening to this album in the manner described above often brings on sleep, and transient false perceptions can occur at the beginning or the end of that sleep. In fact Wagner credited hypnagogic, and related, states with enhancing his own creativity.

''Amboss'' moves forward freely and grows with waves of sound, and as the piece develops it becomes powerful and unstable. There's no sense of fitting square pegs into round holes here though; everything seems very fluid and organic and not like umpteen disjointed musical suites I've heard. Images come into my head of gathering storm clouds, spreading up into the stratosphere. The picture gets hazy and there's a feeling of claustrophobia and anxiety in the music, and now I'm hurtling inexorably toward the point of no return of a black hole. According to Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher and father of existentialism, the experience of anxiety helps the individual recognise their true identity therefore I don't hold back from my imagined event horizon.

The black hole opens in my mind and I'm in the darkness, peering into the light outside through splayed fingers, and other images come into my head with ''Traummaschine''. This begins mysteriously with celestial choirs and moist sounds that produce more mental representations, ill-defined forms of aimlessly wandering lost souls. These ooze away and as the piece evolves there's a distinct feeling of isolation, which makes me think of Rama lumbering across interstellar space in its singular direction toward our sun.

Traummaschine is German for ''dream machine'', a stroboscopic flicker device that produces visual stimuli. William Grey Walter's book ''The Living Brain'' was the inspiration for the machine, and the same neurophysiologist's discoveries about electric responses in the brain brought into question the ideas of consciousness and free will. The ''viewer'' of the dream machine experiences bright, complex patterns of colour behind closed eyes, which may induce a hypnagogic state, and that notion brings this review full circle.

Henry Miller wrote that ''Music is planetary fire, an irreducible which is all sufficient; it is the slate-writing of the gods.'' Of course, he wasn't referring to Ash Ra Tempel but it's a fitting description nonetheless. If any readers are in two minds about trying this album... go on, be adventurous and take a chance.

seventhsojourn | 4/5 |


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