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Manuel Göttsching & Ashra: Classic Reissues with Bonus Material

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Manuel Göttsching is a legendary figure in the field of electronic music. During the Seventies, his band 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, he 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.

For many years, the Ashra recordings have been rarities, but those classic albums have finally been reissued on CD, some with previously unreleased material that is certain to spawn a joyous glint in the eyes of EM audiophiles everywhere.

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MANUEL GÖTTSCHING: Blackouts (CD on MGART, US distribution by Imperial Teutonic)

Originally released in 1978, this CD reissue from 2008 offers 47 minutes of entrancing electronic music.

Bouncy electronics combine with liquid guitar to produce entrancing tuneage.

The electronics serve as a lush foundation for a lot of guitars. Pleasant texturals and keyboards contribute to that foundation, often bursting forth to establish flowing sonic threads that waft like pacific breezes amid the plethora of guitar riffs.

The guitar is Göttschingís trademark instrument, and his mastery with it is unparalleled. Chords are generated, then looped to achieve a stream of extreme fluidity. On top of this, additional guitar licks are layered to create luscious embellishment, complex riffs that shimmer with spry animation. While exhibiting a distinctly cosmic sound, the lead guitar also possesses a powerful rock sensibility that is carefully kept in gentle restraint. The result is soaring melodies of crystalline elegance that glitter and cavort with bewitching charm.

These compositions are mesmerizing and enthralling, full of delicate beauty that gradually escalates to fervid passion. Overall, though, that exuberance is carefully managed and expressed as a blaze that is content to softly glow instead of becoming a blinding dazzle. Not that there arenít instances of satisfying ecstatic fervor as the songs achieve their climaxes. The musicís endearing allure is compelling without being too vehement.

This album is a classic, and itís wonderful to finally see it available on CD.

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ASHRA: Correlations--Complete (five CD set on MGART, US distribution by Imperial Teutonic)

The album was originally released in 1979; this CD set from 2008 features 294 minutes (almost five hours) of wondrous electronic music.

Ashra is: Manuel Göttsching (on guitar, sequencer, and synthesizer), Harold Grosskopf (on drums, percussion, and synthesizer), and Lutz Ulbrich (on guitar, string synthesizer, piano, and mellotron).

This compendium release includes the original album, an alternative version of the album, and three discs of powerhouse jams revealing the bandís extended explorations of the tunes in their demo stage.

The original album is a gem of extreme sonic beauty that refines a blend of dreamy electronics with rock delivery. A profusion of masterful guitars conspire with driving percussion and twinkling electronics to achieve a gripping ecstasy of mind-numbing proportion.

The guitars start off with blinding fury, describing complex riffs of attractive glory, and continue to escalate from stratospheric heights into vistas of boundless bliss. Shimmering waves of multitracked chords spill forth with determination, creating shrill zeniths of astounding beauty.

The percussion provides excellent animation with the sprightly execution of sturdy rhythms. The drums adroitly shine with snappy delivery as they maintain clever locomotion that is elegantly immersed within the vibrant mix.

The electronics are simultaneously frosty and fluid, seeping like honey through the sonic gestalt and enhancing each passage with their luster.

These compositions exemplify an evolution that served to transform electronic music for decades, proving that EM didnít need to be amorphous and delicate. Power was injected into the medium, boosting melodies with searing puissance while retaining a pleasant sense of grace.

This music has been remastered in a way that adds fabulous new luster to the tunes.

Meanwhile, the Phantasus disc offers wildly different takes on the tunes, a glistening alternative to the classic release. The differences are demonstrative and delightful. While often pruned down in density, the results are as mesmerizing as the original. New variations are offered, introducing new riffs and beats to the songs and embellishing them with novel effects.

The other three discs in this set document the genesis of Ashra's creation of the Correlations album, giving the listener a 211 minute glimpse into the generation of that music in the form of long jam sessions spanning three weeks back in 1978.

While the original album displays an excruciatingly refined musical style, the music from these jam sessions 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.

The guitars crash and wail without the enhancement of looped sequencing, belting out riffs that transcend any garage-quality one might expect from these archival tapes. The drums surge and roll with mammoth stamina, forging rhythms that propel the riffs to mythic status. The electronics are minimal, 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 smoldering with awesome appeal.

Not every track is devoid of electronics or looping guitar, though. A few pieces show this refined aspect of Ashra's performance, including a mind-staggering 39 minute version of "Pas de Trois".

Stripped of post-production gimmickry, these demos are a wonderful bridge between Ashra's slick electronic style and the gritty and passionate freeform frenzies found on old Ash Ra Tempel releases.

Rarely does one get the opportunity to hear an albumís music in all its forms, moving from raw demos to the finished album with alternative takes thrown in as an extra bonus. It is a thrilling experience--and a thoroughly entertaining one, since the versions offer such rewarding diversity.

Note: the material on the three demo discs was previously released as The Making of Ashra, a triple CD set that has been out-of-print for several years.

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ASHRA: Belle Alliance Plus (double CD on MGART, US distribution by Imperial Teutonic)

Originally released in 1980, this double CD from 2008 features the original 43 minute album plus 38 minutes of previously unreleased material.

Ashra is: Manuel Göttsching (on guitar, sequencer, synthesizer, and bass), Harold Grosskopf (on drums, percussion, and synthesizer), and Lutz Ulbrich (on guitar, keyboards, and bass).

The original release is a masterpiece wherein the electronics provide a tasty adhesive for the lively guitars and the percussive locomotion.

The guitars are numerous and luminous, generating a plethora of riffs, growling, pluckily ascending, floating. Nimble-fingered pyrotechnics effortlessly achieve dazzling pinnacles and then cavort at dizzying altitudes, delineating melodies of engaging quality. The slippery chords cascade with relentless passion, creating a surging wall of delightful euphoria.

The percussives are steadfast when thatís what suits and hyperactive when that style is whatís called for. The beats can be intricate and submerged, almost xylophonic as they inject animation from within the mix. At other times, the rhythms are forceful and prominent, with inventively crafted tempos boosting the music into high propulsion.

The electronics are a mixture of incidental vaporous atmospherics and principally energized keyboard riffs imbued with crystalline definition. Although their presence is integral to the music, the keyboards often adopt a sneaky demeanor amid the bevy of outstanding guitars. In one long track, breezy keyboards dominate, creating a celestial excursion of amiable introspection.

The compositions infuse contemporary electronics with pop sensibilities, resulting in dreamily bouncy tuneage. Many modern performers accomplish this blend, but when Belle Alliance came out in 1980, doing this was unheard of. Ashra blazed new ground with their pleasantly uptempo style, and the music retains its bewitching appeal even today.

The bonus disc offers material that takes this spry fashion in a rock direction, with urgent rhythms and crashing guitars. Powerful melodies are delivered with jocular acumen.

This stuff is guaranteed to delight diehard fans and newcomers who are just discovering this groundbreaking band.

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