The story of the embryonic Ash Ra Tempel started in Berlin 1967 when school friends Manuel Gottsching and Hartmut Enke decided to form a blues band together. Gottsching had lessons in classical guitar for five years, while Enke just was starting to play bass. Other youngsters drifted in and out of the band, which was playing versions of then current pop hits for school parties, etc. Already as a 15 year old boy, Gottsching was beginning to experiment with fuzz, wah-wah and echo effects, in the wake of psychedelia. In an interview I did with him in December 1989, Gottsching admitted that Pink Floyd's innovative experimentation was a huge influence at that time. With Volker Zibell (harmonica) and Wolfgang Muller (drums), Enke & Gottsching appeared live on German TV early in 1970 as Steeple Chase Blues Band. This formation was, however, short-lived. Zibell now lives in Norway and has recorded with several Norwegian new wave bands.
Enke & Gottsching studied experimental composition at avant-garde composer Thomas Kessler's studio in Berlin. There they met another eager student named Klaus Schulze, who then played drums as well as experimenting with strange tape loops and effects. He had just quit Tangerine Dream, and they soon found out that they shared musical ideas. Together they formed the first Ash Ra Tempel line-up in August 1970, and soon begun to play live.
Their self-titled first work was recorded early March 1971 (with the late Konrad Plank engineering). It was released on Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser's legendary Ohr label in a most beautiful gimmick cover. The front side of it could be opened up in the middle (like the Dr. Z album released on Vertigo the same year), symbolising a double temple door. This was designed by a friend of the group that later also did the cover for Schwingungen. The first album included just two extended tracks, sounding close to their raw and sometimes really WILD live shows at the time. "Amboss" is a kind of teutonic "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" without the keyboards. It starts off calm and soft, but gradually increases to a furious, fuzzy acid guitar nightmare. "Traummaschine" is, in sharp contrast, a floating, dreamy track, just as the title implies. This diversion between the first and second album sides became a trade mark for several later albums. It was a highly impressive start. Their strength was their ability to make the most unearthly sounds in the usually very limited guitar, bass and drums trio format.
In September 1971 Klaus Schulze decided to leave. His artistic ambitions far exceeded the task of being just a drummer in the band. Six months later, Irrlicht would start off his impressive solo career. Wolfgang Muller from the Steeple Chase Blues band took his place.
Ash Ra Tempel's second album Schwingungen was released in the Summer of 1972. This is a more structured work, but still very much based on long, instrumental improvisations. Side one included vocals by John L., a previous member of Agitation Free. He was fired from this group in 1968 because of general freak-out and the quite significant fact that he couldn't sing! The lyrics contained some common hippie philosophy about going back to the country and leave the cities behind:
"I see, when I come back from my lysergic day-dream,
Standing in the middle of the glass and neon forest
with an unhappy name: City
Flowers must die!
And I feel that I die too with a dusty flower
A lost God in the dust of the city
Flowers must die!"
(From "Flowers Must Die")
The instrumental side was filled by the title track, divided into subtitles "Suche" and "Liebe". The first part is dominated by soft vibes and electronics, while the conclusion is very much like Pink Floyd in their Saucerful phase, with celestial choral voices and slow chord progressions.
Wolfgang Muller quit shortly after this album and Ash Ra Tempel were now expanded with the addition of Micky Duwe, Steve Schroder and Dietmar Burmeister. Schroder had been a member of Tangerine Dream (at the time of Alpha Centauri), but had been fired, as Edgar Froese thought of him as 'freaking totally out'. If this really was the case, Ash Ra Tempel at that time certainly would be a more fitting place for him! The first recording by the new line-up was the track "Gedanken", recorded in the Summer of 1972 for the Ohr sampler Kosmische Musik. Due to a technical mistake in the recording process, it was a mono recording. This sampler also included a Schulze track not released elsewhere, and has become quite valuable nowadays.
A.R.T. met the famed American acid guru and author of "Turn Out, Turn In, Drop Out", Dr. Timothy Leary, in Switzerland. Leary was living there in exile after being thrown out of USA by the authorities. It was decided to record a concept album dealing with Leary's theories about the seven levels of human consciousness. The group made a rough musical score, and then travelled to Bern (Leary was denied a residence permit in Berlin!) to record it. Some reasonably freaky guests also took part in the studio recordings. The resulting album Seven Up is one that the acid heads can't live without; indeed many people consider it as their best (I don't). It's certainly their most psychedelic! Leary's vocal performances are comparable to John L.'s previous attempts on Schwingungen. The album included seven tracks - one to describe each level of consciousness, but each side (subtitled as "Space" and "Time") run continuously. The acid-blues rocker "Downtown" starts off the album, "Power Drive" sounds very close to Hawkwind's space rock, "Right Hand Lover" is boogie blues with numerous spacey sound effects, while "Velvet Genes" closed side one with a reprise of "Downtown". As on their previous albums, side two was more subdued and dream-like in style. It featured wordless, high pitched vocals, strange electronic effects and new variations on the "Saucerful of Secrets" organ chord sequence. A brave album, indeed! Seven Up was the first release on Kaiser's brand new label Kosmische Courier. In reality, this was just a renamed relaunch of the Ohr label. All Ohr artists that were still alive and recording, would eventually appear on KM, the exception being Tangerine Dream, whose leader Edgar Froese simply refused to be associated with Kaiser's "cosmic circus" (in Froese's words). The reason for this resurrection was the need to promote Kaiser's visions and cosmic message. Part of his 'cosmic' philosophy was: 'we humans are all a big family!' - it sounds like the usual hippie ideology to me, but perhaps the real message has been lost by the passing years...
While recording Seven Up in Switzerland, Ash Ra Tempel also met a local 'underground' figure: the painter and artist Walter Wegmuller. It was soon decided to make another great concept album, this time about the Tarot. Both Gottsching and Enke played lead guitars on the Tarot sessions, recorded in December 1972. On this occasion, they were also temporarily re-united with Schulze, now totally occupied by experimenting with electronics. But this double set didn't become (as first proposed) just an A.R.T. & Wegmuller project. Three members from Wallenstein, namely Jurgen Dollase (keyboards). Jerry Berkers (bass) and Harold Grosskopf (drums) along with Walter Westrupp (ace, guitar, known for his albums with Bernd Witthuser) also contributed, resulting in a rich, full and versatile sound. Walter Wegmuller composed all the lyrics and painted a brand new Tarot card set for the occasion, which was included in the lavish German double album package. For more information about this project, consult the Wegmuller entry. During breaks in the Tarot recordings, the original Ash Ra Tempel trio (Gottsching, Enke & Schulze) recorded the fourth album Join Inn in just hours. Contained therein were two lengthy improvisations! "Freak'n'Roll", a showcase for Gottsching's talented, bluesy up-beat improvisations and "Jenseits" (meaning 'beyond'), dominated by Schulze's freshly developed synthetic sound painting techniques. This track had spoken lyrics read by Rosi Muller, Gottsching's long time girl-friend and new part time member of the group. Join Inn was a pleasant enough recording, but brought no new landmarks for Ash Ra Tempel.
This line-up also performed live. Some gigs in France at the beginning of 1973 were however very erratic, as Hartmut Enke tended to increasingly do very strange things on stage. Manuel Gottsching: 'we were in the middle of a number when he suddenly stopped playing. After the gig, when I and Klaus asked him why he stopped playing, he said that it was all too beautiful so he just couldn't play'. He got very involved in the Timothy Leary philosophy...' Enke obviously had to quit Ash Ra Tempel. Attempts to assemble his own group came to nothing and his musical career was finished.
When Schulze left to continue his solo career, Gottsching was suddenly left alone in the group. He now participated in the extensive Cosmic Jokers jam sessions. Kaiser had rented a studio for four months (February to May 1973) where all the musicians, according to rumours, lived partly on a diet of marijuana and LSD. Between the endless parties, several hours of music also were recorded. Involved this time were basically the same musicians as on the Tarot sessions: Gottsching, Schulze, Dollase, Grosskopf, Dieter Dierks (bass) and Rosi Muller, Gille Lettmann, Brian Barritt, Lizz Elliott & David (all occasional voices). Kaiser and Gille Lettmann later edited the vast amounts of material, and released three albums under the pro-forma group name (Cosmic Jokers) in 1974. Some additional material was also used on the KM samplers Sci Fi Party and Gilles Zeitschiff. All these releases were made without the knowledge or permission of the musicians involved. Schulze nowadays dismisses those recordings as 'awful', bill on the other hand Gottsching still regards them as 'pleasant recordings'.
After all the freaky jam sessions of the previous years, none of the musicians involved was presumably able to tell which group he or she was really working with! It was time to re-group. Gottsching formed a new, loose Ash Ra Tempel line-up with his session friends Dieter Dierks (engineering), Harald Grosskopf and Rosi Muller. The resulting album Starring Rosi was a big surprise. Gone were all those freaky jams. A more melodious, harmonic and accessible style now dominated. "Laughter Loving" sounds like an improved "Freak'n'Roll", "Day-dream" is a most beautiful meditative ballad, "Schizo" a melancholic fragile guitar number, "Cosmic Tango" a little joke (or a side-kick to Kaiser?). The only long track, "Interplay of Forces", does sound closer to the older Ash Ra Tempel style, complete with vibes. "The Fairy Dance" was a strange little ditty for acoustic guitar and mellotron. "Bring Me Up" represented the first time G�ttsching experimented with funky rock (later he would repeat this on Correlations). In many ways, this quite successful album (artistically) was a turning point that gave Gottsching the confidence to start his solo career, keeping the Ash Ra Tempel name.
Gottsching's own Studio Roma was ready for use in 1974, and all alone he recorded the all time classic Inventions For Electric Guitar (which was exactly what it was!). It was recorded on a primitive TEAC four track player, but used all its possibilities to make a unique album, featuring guitar as the one and only instrument. Tape loops were recorded at different speeds and treated with echo effects. This gave the impression that synthesizer sequencers had been used - it was actually a minimalistic sequencer album without a sequencer in sight! The recordings were complex and took a long time to complete. It was even more difficult to recreate these sounds live. Just a few gigs were played with the helping hands of Lutz Ulbrich (guitars, keyboards), previously a member of Agitation Free. Together they also made some soundtrack music in 1975 - for the film "Le Berceau De Cristal", directed by Philippe Carrel. The title track was at long last released on an Edelton sampler in 1990.
The next Ash Ra Tempel album, New Age Of Earth, was first released in France (where the group had its largest following) by Polydor in late 1976. However, when British Virgin released the album world-wide with a different cover in March 1977, the extracted name Ashra was used. After Inventions... Manuel was 'fed-up' with guitars for a little while and released a very keyboard-dominated album. This was another great musical triumph: Manuel now pioneered the 'new age' genre with his harmonic and meditative synthetic music. Strongest of all was "Ocean of Tenderness", a floating world of swelling electronic waves and pulses (and even some distant guitars). The 22 minute long "Nightdust" recalled Klaus Schulze's 'picture music' at the time of Timewind.
Under the leadership of Manuel Gottsching, Ash Ra Tempel have been among the most important bands of the Berlin electronic rock scene.
Light and Darkness:
Light: Look at your Sun 06:34
Darkness: Flowers must die 12:22
Suche & Liebe 19:23
Manuel Gűttsching (guitar)
Hartmut Enke (bass)
Wolfgang Mueller (drums)
John L (vocals, jew harp, percusssion)
Matthias Wehler (alto sax)
Uli Popp (bongos)
Action: 10% discount coupon for Depositfiles Gold accounts for 6 months and 1 year periods. The coupon is very simple in usage: you enter it on the Gold account payment page and after the prices are recalculated can buy an account with the discount. Your coupon: vkanhlm5uqib3uugw6aqifkcudbnzqej
Oldish Psych & Prog offers progressive psychedelic rock music mp3 lossless downloads