First some historical perspective. During the Seventies, Manuel Göttsching's Ash Ra Tempel created impassioned jam sessions of guitar, bass and drums that were fundamental explorations into soundscapes that shed the limitations of rock'n'roll, producing music that was mesmerizing, psychedelic and compelling. In the late Seventies, Göttsching forged an integral bridge between that genre and the fledgling field of electronic music (with heavy emphasis on the precursors of trance) with his looping sequenced guitar stylings under the name Ashra.
ASHRA: The Making of (triple CD on MG.ART)
This triple CD from 2002 documents the genesis of Ashra's creation of their "Correlations" CD from 1979, and features 211 minutes of material that affords the listener a glimpse into the generation of that music in the form of long jam sessions spanning three weeks back in 1978. This period also saw the band settle into the Göttsching/Ulbrich/Grosskopf line-up.
While the "Correlations" CD itself displays an excruciatingly refined musical style, the music on "The Making of" affords a more intimate take on the evolution of those songs, with grippingly powerful long sets, raw and full of unbridled energy. So tight is their unity, it is quite difficult to believe that these tracks are exploratory voyages into these melodies. The music flows with unparalleled liquidity, exploring sonic turf that would inevitably become a milestone in the history of electronic music.
The guitars crash and wail without the enhancement of looped sequencing, belting out riffs that transcend any garage-quality inherent in these archival tapes. The drums surge and roll with mammoth stamina, forging rhythms that propel the riffs to stratospheric altitudes. There are few electronics, leaving these jam sessions to stand as naked and glorious templates. Falling into a smooth and engaging groove, the music is relentless with fury and glistening with awesome appeal.
Not every track is devoid of electronics or looping guitar, though. A few pieces example this refined aspect of Ashra's performance, including a mind-staggering 39 minute version of "Pas de Trois". Although possessing much of the overall feel and recognizable flair of the songs found on "Correlations", only two of those pieces appear (in mutated form) on "The Making of".
Stripped of post-production gimmickry, this music is a wonderful fusion of Ashra's slick electronic style with the gritty and passionate freeform frenzies found on old Ash Ra Tempel releases.
ASHRA: @shra Vol. 1 (CD on MG.ART)
In February 1998, Ashra traveled to Japan to perform a series of concerts featuring a band line-up of Manuel Göttsching, Lutz Ulbrich, Harold Grosskopf, and Steve Baltes.
Volume 1 features 68 minutes of these live performances, including the songs: "Echo Waves", "Twelve Samples", "Timbuktu", and "Neimand Lacht Rückwärts".
Get ready for a dazzling experience, drenched with ricochet guitar and lavish sequencing and serpentine electronics and hypnotic drumming. With the presence of numerous guitars, numerous riffs are generated and allowed to evolve into enormous constructions that intertwine with each other like the mating of cosmic forces of nature, producing magnificent sonic tapestries that lift the spirit and mind with their spiraling conduct. Sinuous keyboard threads wind through this expanding region of looping guitars, generating a lattice of support harmonics like a delicate spiderweb decorated with moisture in the morning sunlight. The commanding drums act like a filter for that marvelous sunlight, flickering the illumination with intricate rhythms that bestow authority to the fluid trance.
While retaining the songs' signature hooks, these performances enhance those familiar melodies with modern sensibilities and clever treatments. All fingers are nimble and fueled by divine inspiration.
This incredible live CD was originally released in 1998, and has been reissued in 2002 due to its relentless popularity.
ASHRA: @shra Vol. 2 (CD on MG.ART)
In response to the overwhelming enthusiasm with which the public received "@shra Volume 1", there comes the 2002 release of "@shra Volume 2", featuring 59 more minutes of music from the band's 1997 tour of Japan. Included are: "Sunrain", "Four Guitars", "Hausaufgabe", "Oasis", and "Move 9 Up".
Keyboards dance like snowflakes in a joyous windstorm, chiming with crystalline reverberations. The drums whirl with motivated tempos, injecting the hypnotizing melodies with surprise punctuation and energetic emphasis. Amid all this blaze the guitars, resplendent and robust. Employing heavy sequencing and complex loop manipulation, the guitars transform from conventional instruments into an unearthly thing of beauty, bouncing between the audience's lobes with jovial notes that are laced with aqueous behavior. Riffs are elongated and expertly mutated, producing grander riffs that glisten and undulate as they pursue chords into enigmatic melodies.
Fear not, for there are passages in which the guitars wail like tortured beasts, unfurling interstellar pyrotechnic qualities that steal the audience's breath with their majestic grandeur.
No finer example exists of trance music achieving multiple crescendos and peaks of ultimate sonic rapture.
The passion quotient is rather high here, delivering ecstasy with each instant while mesmerizing the listener with utopian versions of these tunes.
|Entire page © 2002 Matt Howarth.
All rights reserved.
|Webpage design by|