In light of the 1990s post-rock scene and the often clear links back to Krautrock of all stripes, Ash Ra Tempel's monster debut album stands as being both astonishingly prescient and just flat out good, a logical extension of the space-jam-freakout ethos into rarified realms. Featuring the original trio of Enke, Gottsching and Schulze, Ash Ra Tempel consists of only two side-long tracks, both of which are gripping examples of technical ability mixed with rock power. If more progressive music was like it, there wouldn't be as many continuing complaints about that genre as a whole. "Amboss" contains the more upfront explosions of sound, though it mixes in restraint as much as crunch. Starting with Gottsching's extended guitar notes and Schulze's cymbals, it begins with a slow, ominous build that is equally haunting, as mysterious as the cryptic artwork of temples and figures found on the inside. Quick, rumbling drums slowly fade up some minutes in, with more crashing guitar mixing in with the previous tones, creating a disorienting drone experience. The active jam then takes over the rest of the song at the point, the three going off just as they want to (Gottsching's soloing in particular is fantastic) before all coming back together for an explosive, shuddering series of climaxes. "Traummaschine," in marked contrast, is a quieter affair, with Gottsching's deep drones setting and continuing the tone throughout. Fading in bit by bit, the guitars are accompanied by equally mesmerizing keyboards from Schulze, creating something that calls to mind everything from Eno's ambient works to Lull's doom-laden soundscapes and, after more distinct guitar pluckings start to surface, Flying Saucer Attack's rural psychedelia. Halfway through, soft percussion blends with the music to create a gentle but persistent intensity, cue for a series of shifts between calmer and more active sections, but all kept more restrained than on "Amboss."
Ash Ra Tempel Review
by Ned Raggett
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