Ashra

New Age of Earth

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This title is more prophetic than most -- though thankfully, New Age of Earth isn't quite as bathetic as any number of releases on Windham Hill; by this point, Gottsching was well into his electronic phase, the jam freakouts of the earliest albums replaced by a clean, crisp electronic bed. Unlike the rigorous pulse of fellow Krautrock pioneers Kraftwerk, though, Gottsching generally favored a more consciously playful and simply beautiful approach, aiming to create pleasant music to just enjoy and relax with. If not as serious and avant-garde as other artists, Gottsching was still coming up with the goods, so quite why his later albums have been generally ignored in comparison remains a mystery. Opening track "Sunrain" sounds like it could be a soundtrack for a non-narrative documentary on just that, or at least some sequence of nature photography; bright and sparkling, the synths and drum machines blend together nicely. "Ocean of Tenderness" has a similar sense of film accompaniment -- it has a gentle, minimal flow of keyboard shading, electronic chirps deep in the mix, and a soft lead melody that carefully unwinds throughout the lengthy track, with a low-key bass pulse appearing a few minutes in as contrast. "Deep Distance" lives up to the title nicely, combining sweetly spaced-out drones with minimal percussion that sounds like raindrops as much as anything else as lead melodies slowly come to the fore. "Nightdust," which takes up the original second side of the album, captures the original psych-jam feeling of Ash Ra Tempel. A lengthy Gottsching guitar solo, heavily processed and extremely trebly, begins the piece over a series of soft synth shadings, leading to a marvelous composition with chilly, spectral keyboards and, later, deep electronic pulses and more straightforward guitar. It's a spectacular performance, showing that even on his own, Gottsching's fire was still burning, although aimed in other directions.

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