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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ash Ra Tempel: Join Inn


1) Freak 'n' Roll; 2) Jenseits.

This is the first Ash Ra Tempel album I'd heard, many years ago, at a time when satisfying all your desires in chronological order was nowhere near as easy as today — and it is nice to realize, now, how much of a right impression it gave me of the band. Because it may not be as ground­breaking as the self-titled debut, but it is every bit as impressive: a conscious and successful at­tempt, after the last couple of decidedly mixed efforts, to recapture everything that was so mind-cracking about Ash Ra in the first place.

To that purpose, Klaus Schulze returns to the fold once again, contributing drums and electronics just like in the good old days. Also like in the good old days, the album's two long pieces are neat­ly split into one dynamic and one static side, brutally kicking ass for 19 minutes and then subtly soothing it for 24 more. Unlike the good old days, side B also has one more human addition: Rosi Müller, contributing dreamy spoken sibyl-style vocals. But I wouldn't say this harms the procee­dings in any way. How can a pretty girl with a sweet/stern voice be harmful? We're not talking of a Yoko Ono here.

Not that either side truly attempted to be a clone of its correlate on Ash Ra Tempel. For starters, 'Freak'n'Roll' is a bit less psychotic than 'Amboss'. With its out-of-nowhere fade-in, it sounds like a no-beginning, no-end extract from a much larger improvisation, which must have been much less pre-planned than 'Amboss', and thus, has a more live feel to it. Göttsching's guitar is generally higher in the mix, sharper and bluesier, and the rhythm section of Schulze and Enke is more interested in exploring all the possible polyrhythmic combinations than in raising hell. In short, if 'Amboss', with certain reservations, could be said to be the Krautrock equivalent of a vo­calless jam by The Who, 'Freak'n'Roll' is closer in feel to the psychedelic improvs of Cream circa 1967 — just add some keyboards.

The lengthier 'Jenseits', meanwhile, is different from 'Träummaschine' because it invokes a so­lemn mourning atmosphere, almost something like a cosmic requiem — great funebral music for an important alien chief, who bravely gave up his life, trying to protect his people from de­tri­mental radio waves conveying Osmonds and Bay City Rollers hits into open space. Schulze is re­sponsible for most of the sound on the track, playing organ and «synthi A», with Göttsching ad­ding drone-like guitar that has also been processed to receive a more keyboardish sound. The re­sults can be classified as ambient — there are very few well-noticeable transitions, mostly having to do with shift of emphasis from one instrument to another — and this gives one a great opportu­nity to bitch about the length, but why should we? Had they cut it down by five or six minutes, they still wouldn't be using that space up to replace it with anything different, because that would ruin the concept. If you think 24 minutes takes us off limits, no one prevents you from fading the track out after 20 or 15 of them.

All of which literally translates into this: Join Inn comes across as a slightly less psychedelic, slightly more pure-musical experience. Free-form, muscular improvisation on one side and a so­lemn mess in the Gothic Cathedral of Krautrock on the other, with each member of the band fully up to the task and cooking. Thumbs up.

Check "Join Inn" (CD) on Amazon

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