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Ash Ra Tempel - Schwingungen CD (album) cover


Ash Ra Tempel



3.74 | 198 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Ash Ra Tempel's second album is sometimes regarded as a step down from the Götterdämmerung space rock of the band's 1971 debut. The absence of Klaus Schulze (trading his drum kit for keyboards on his first solo album) and the addition of vocals, vibes and saxophone suggest a more earthbound experience the second time around.

But don't be lulled into a false sense of security, something the album itself almost seems to encourage. Instead of going for the immediate chokehold like the first LP, the music on "Schwingungen" sneaks up behind the unwary listener and slowly inserts the Krautrock equivalent of a red-hot needle through the base of your skull, right between the ears and directly into your Third Eye.

After the album-length tension and release of the earlier effort, Manuel Göttsching and crew had to rekindle their creative energies from scratch. Thus the slowly building psychedelic blues at the top of the album, introducing the unique vocal talents of Manfred Brüch, alias John L, also known as 'The Hippy King of Berlin', and the only singer I've ever heard employ the flower power platitude "We are all One" and make it sound like the last strangled gasp of a condemned man swinging beneath the gallows.

And that's during a song optimistically titled "Light: Look at Your Sun". Just wait for the flipside of the sentiment, "Darkness: Flowers Must Die", when Herr Brüch descends into what sounds like a primitive trance-state of apocalyptic horror. His ranting is completely unintelligible, which might be a blessing in disguise: the lyrics evoke a level of pessimism far ahead of their time in Aquarian Age 1972.

On the side-long title track Göttsching dials back the dystopian madness to present a more serene but no less powerful vision, with the music slowly drifting through an interstellar cloud of vibraphones and pulsating electronics toward a majestic coda. Too bad the actual structure and mood of the song are so heavily in debt to PINK FLOYD's "Saucerful of Secrets", almost to the level of outright plagiarism. And like the Floyd, Göttsching would find it a difficult melody to walk away from, recycling the same empyrean chords during the "7- Up" album sessions, and later in the COSMIC JOKERS rip-off "Gilles Zeitschiff" (the latter without Göttsching's permission).

A final word about the enigmatic John L. It may or may not be worth mentioning that he was notorious for dancing naked on stage with his genitals slathered in paint, or that he was sacked from his previous band (AGITATION FREE, prior to their first album) for excessive drug use: a noteworthy accomplishment in counter-culture Germany.

I only mention these colorful details to ease the misgivings of any fan who might see the laughably amateur cover art and imagine Göttsching pulled his punches for this album. It might in fact be one of Krautrock's more extreme musical journeys, from a band at the time already too near the abyss.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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