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


Ash Ra Tempel



4.13 | 394 ratings

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4 stars There must have been something in the air above Germany in 1971 (besides, presumably, a lot of residual LSD). Consider some of the music released that year: definitive albums by CAN ("Tago Mago") and AMON DÜÜL II ("Tanz der Lemminge"); debut efforts from CLUSTER and FAUST; key recordings by TANGERINE DREAM (playing synthesizers for the first time on "Alpha Centauri") and Florian Fricke (playing synthesizers for the last time on the POPOL VUH album "In den Gärten Pharaos"); and the initial studio collaboration of Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother under the bold orange brand name of NEU!

And in June of that annum mirabilis came the now legendary first album from Krautrock's ultimate power trio of ASH RA TEMPEL, an acid rock masterpiece from its trippy Egyptian cover art and calligraphy to the inner sleeve quotation of Allen Ginsberg's visionary beatnik poem "Howl", and finally to the music itself: 45-minutes of non-stop cosmic power chords and interstellar jamming.

The line-up alone is the stuff of myth: guitarist Manuel Göttsching, at his most raw and untethered; ex-Tangerine Dreamer Klaus Schulze, playing drums with a ferocity never to be heard on his strictly synthesized forthcoming solo albums; and Hartmut Enke, handling the bass guitar with surprising nuance (either that, or his instrument is just too low in the mix). Add the intuitive touch of producer Conny Plank (one of Krautrock's founding fathers) and the result is an album able to make a stoner out of even the squarest establishment stooge.

The drifting ambient chords introducing "Amboss", the first of two side-long instrumental exercises here, set an ominous mood for the album. But it's an uneasy calm before the Beaufort Scale 12 electronic storm to follow: a loud, fast, and nearly twenty-minute long Jimi Hendrix-inspired one-chord guitar improvisation, captured in what sounds like a single spontaneous take, with no cosmetic gloss to soften the blow.

"Amboss" translates, appropriately, as "Anvil", but it's on the flipside of the album, during the 25-minute "Traummaschine" ("Dream Machine") where Ash Ra Tempel really shines, albeit with a dark fluorescent energy barely rising above the background radiation of deepest space. If "Amboss" was the guitar apocalypse of German underground rock, then "Traummaschine" represents its post-doomsday resolution, rising gradually out of the ruins in a steady but ecstatic mantra. (A quick note: it's probably not possible to evoke the otherworldly majesty of this music without sounding a little like Julian Cope.)

"Traummaschine" in the end achieves a sort of grace, if not quite peace, finally drifting away toward an unsettled, dreamless sleep.

It's true the album has a primitive, lo-fi aura around it, and deliberately so, giving the music a dated time-capsule quality when heard today. But this was heady and refreshing stuff for 1971, in retrospect exposing the filthy underbelly of the Summer of Love. Keep in mind it was recorded only twenty-five years after the horrors of Nazi Germany, still fresh in the collective memory of even those musicians too young to have experienced it firsthand. The rage and shame of an entire generation can be heard within its grooves, and still resonate nearly forty years later.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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