Ashra

Tropical Heat

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Manuel Göttsching made the transition to the '80s seemingly without a hitch, his 1984 album E2-E4 proving foundational for subsequent electronic dance music. However, Tropical Heat (recorded in 1985 and 1986 but not released until 1991) was a rare misstep. Accompanied by Harald Grosskopf (electronic drums) and Lutz Ulbrich (guitar, keyboards), Göttsching dabbles in new age musical tourism, infusing excruciatingly clean, synthetic rock with vapid Latin and Caribbean nuances. Unfortunately, this record supports the sort of uninformed criticism often leveled against electronically oriented music: it really is lifeless, soulless, and cold, and while Göttsching might have conceived of Tropical Heat as the soundtrack to some imaginary exotic voyage, it doesn't travel at all well beyond the mid-'80s. "Pretty Papaya" has all the charm of cruise-ship Muzak, with some faux-Hawaiian guitar thrown in; the gratuitous horn samples and synth-drum rolls on "Nights in Sweat" conjure up images of a supper-club band covering Kid Creole; and "Don't Stop the Fan" falls somewhere between limp white reggae and "La Isla Bonita." There's a faintly beautiful melody on "Monsoon," but it gets lost amid the clutter, the main culprit being Grosskopf's antiseptic synth drums, which are irritatingly omnipresent throughout the record. One of the stronger numbers, the busy and bouncy "Mosquito Dance," almost achieves one of Göttsching's signature mesmeric grooves, but after nearly nine minutes, the track ultimately fails to go anywhere, demonstrating the huge difference between hypnotic and plain repetitive. The 1980s really were the great leveler. The era's burgeoning electronic innovations allowed a new generation of artists to make catchy mainstream pop with a relatively small outlay and, often, only a modicum of talent. Nevertheless, many pioneering artists of the '70s struggled in that new environment. More a-ha than Ashra, Manuel Göttsching's uncharacteristic lapse with Tropical Heat is evidence of that.

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