Originally appeared on (the now sadly defunct) VESSEL music site.

Before the inexorable acid-litmus test influence of Timothy Leary firmly took a hold of our desideratum German trio of astral inspired musical spiritualists, Ash Ra Tempel recorded one of the Krautrock cannons scared tomes; a self-titled traversing suite of absurd cosmic imbued worship. Etched in folklore, the trio of Klaus Schulze, Manuel Gottsching and Hartmut Enke embarked on a atavistic exploratory ride around the nebula, before arriving back on Earth to take up residence in a magical archaic ‘Chariots of the Gods’  like landscape, steeped in the Egyptian occult.

Formed at the dawn of the 70s, the monolithic Ash Ra outfit first set into motion when drummer, and synth pioneer, Schulze left the burgeoning Tangerine Dream to join the former Steeple Chase Blues Band pairing of vocal/guitarist Göttsching, and bass player Enke.

Their ambition was to forge a new German style grafted from improvisational blues, and a re-imagined deconstruction of the Anglo/American sound that inspired them. Because there wasn’t a public appetite for the Deutsch mother tongue, the group omitted lyrics from their songs, favouring instead a diegesis led instrumental landscape of hypnotic and barbaric extruded space-rock.

Both Schulze and Göttsching were early adopters of electronica; furnishing the Ash Ra Temple albums with subtle iridescent and seraph atmospherics by way of the ARP, Moog and Farfisa Synthorchestra – unleashing a torrent of signature echo and pools of vapourising reverb.

The skulking figure of Enke meanwhile prowled the perimeter like a predator, teasing out a sleazy bubbling bassline, or attacking his faithful Gibson bass guitar like a tortured ravenous bird of prey.

Such is the repetitive nature and hallucinate dreaminess of the compositions found on this album, that it took some pretty blinkered concentration on the part of the band, as well as a keen sense of timekeeping – although played all the way though and never looped, at times the instruments blend into one seamless, almost mechanistic, wash of un-interrupted sound.

The gatefold book of the dead redolent debut LP features two flowing oeuvres of majestic, and at times, chilling melodrama. Side one’s ’Amboss’ opus is proto Motor-city fuzz blues with soaring passages of divine inspiration, whilst the flip side’s ‘Traummaschine’ has a ghoulish heart that features a medieval antiquity tone, complete with low monk like humming and sonorous choral voices. At key moments the ever-expanding washes of hazy vistas conjure up the early works of Amon Düül II and Popol Vuh, whereas the groups blistering rock-outs channel the spirits of the MC5, Jefferson Airplane and Hendrix Experience, taking them to an even loftier level.

With the Teutonic sonic helmsman producer Conny Plank at the wheel, its no wonder that a masterpiece of transcending bravado was on the cards, his production going some way in unleashing a pyramid sized psychedelic transmitter for future generations to begin unraveling – the patriarch chronicler of Krautrock, Julian Cope, pontificates St.Pauls epistle styled tracts of celebration on this record.

Forty years later and their reappraisal is very much back in vogue with the recent re-released back catalogue of their five seminal albums from the 70s. Drinking from the electric kool-aid vessel, courtesy of the psycho-babble sage Leary, the band would reach out further beyond the calico wall, and become synonymous for their use of acid to produce ever-more tenuous and freaked out music. ‘Ash Ra Temple’, I’d like to believe, catches them at their most raw and unburdened best.


One Response to “Ash Ra Tempel ‘Ash Ra Tempel’”

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