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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ash Ra Tempel: Friendship


1) Reunion; 2) Pikant; 3) Friendship.

A full-fledged collaboration between Göttsching and Klaus Schulze — so full-fledged, in fact, com­pared to Göttsching's relatively recent guest-starring on Schulze's In Blue, that the two deci­ded to go ahead and release it under the old moniker of Ash Ra Tempel. I have no reason to think of the decision as commercially-oriented — most of the people who'd care about a real reunion of the two, in 2000, would have to be either dead or such huge fans of Manuel and Klaus they'd sniff out the album even if it were credited to «Gothel and Rapunzel».

However, this does not sound much like «classic» Ash Ra Tempel. In fact, it does not sound much like the basic idea of Ash Ra Tempel, lest I be accused of requesting the gentlemen to des­cend into unabashed nostalgia. Ash Ra Tempel was a band that made solid use of electronics — the presence of an additional bass player and live drumming, in particular, was a must. Friend­ship is an electronic music record, with no bass at all and all the drumming strictly programmed, while Göttsching is overlaying his guitar lines almost in «guest» mode.

Considering that, by the year 2000, Schulze's solo career already numbered more than thirty ori­ginal al­bums (a typical bane for electronic artists), and that his most significant records had all been released in the mid-to-late Seventies, it would be imprudent to expect anything spectacular. And, rest assured, there is nothing spectacular on Friendship. It is a very long, very modest, very even collection of three rhythmic-ambient landscapes that, at best, sound nice, but we've all heard it many, many, many times before. Maybe it actually adds credit to these guys' reputation that they are not trying to replicate the tempestuous aggressive atmosphere of Ash Ra Tempel's early years, concentrating exclusively on the «pensive» side — after all, when you are in your fifties, trying to be the Mick Jagger of electronics may even look more ridiculous than simply trying to be Mick Jagger, period. But the down side of this «graceful aging» is... YAAAAWN.

'Reunion', for a merciless thirty minutes, burdens you with a soft, steady, R&B-ish percussion groove over which Schulze spreads his walls of humming noise and simple synthesizer loops, while Manuel keeps coming and going with very minimalistic playing, sometimes hardly distin­guished at all from the synthesizer backing. 'Pikant' is different only in that it is a wee bit faster; hangs continuously upon one repetitive electric organ-like loop; and has a brief interlude with Göttsching picking some rather generic Spanish guitar for us.

Only the title track may interest fans of Göttsching's playing: fabulously, it's a twenty-five minute long guitar solo, for which Schulze simply provides some atmospheric background. The first fif­teen minutes are completely rhythmless, before the electronic percussion enters to add some spice to the proceedings. Unfortunately, the solo is, at best, just «good»: melodic, yes, but restrained, and much too repetitive to build up any proper ground for catharsis. In fact, it sounds improvised — for an improvisation, it's a first-rate world-class solo, but it does not have much staying power. Plus, improvised guitar solos, in order to have any impact, should be produced differently. Dres­sing them up in sonic effects and echo does not help.

Check "Friendship" (CD) on Amazon

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