ASH RA TEMPEL: GIN ROSÉ AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL (2000)
1) Eine Pikante Variante.
I think that the following is going to be quite close to a thoroughly objective recommendation: Do not go for this one before hearing Friendship, and only go for this one if you found something in Friendship that I failed to find. And even then, do not make the mistake of paying for it. Under any conditions, this album should count as a free bonus.
As the album title states, this is a live recording from the «reunited» Ash Ra Tempel (Göttsching and Schulze), made on April 2, 2000. After a brief announcement reminding us that they are playing together for the first time in thirty years (an implicit apology for ticket pricing?), the duo revs up their tape machines, straddles their keyboards and guitars, and goes on to play a non-stop single track for a bleeding sixty-nine minutes — yes, no track separation whatsoever, although, fourty minutes into the playing, they do actually make a stop for a few seconds.
'Eine Pikante Variante' is not exactly Friendship Live: most of the themes seem to crop up from time to time (especially 'Pikant' itself, with its memorable simplistic synth loop), but they are shuffled and mixed with other themes that are either new or stem from older Ash Ra Tempel or solo Göttsching/Schulze work and which, frankly, I do not care at all to track down. But the overall vibe is exactly the same as on Friendship. Burbling ambient keyboards and moody trance guitar played over drum machines. For sixty-nine minutes.
Actually, the initial build-up is done masterfully. First, setting the scene up with «astral» blurps and bleeps, then slowly moving on to grumbling earthquakes, then subtly establishing an ambient synthesizer backdrop, then moving on to minimalistic guitar flourishes and light percussion tapping, finally, by the twenty-minute mark, going all out with loud rhythms and moderately aggressive keyboard solos. But as it gets as good as it ever gets, for the next fourty minutes it's all rolling downhill. I can only hope they did play something else that night, or else I, for one, would be demanding my money back.
Biggest disappointment: Göttsching's final solo, his typical trademark on Ashra epics, lasts for something like three or four minutes out of sixty-nine. If that is not reason enough for a thumbs down, I do not know what is.
Check "Gin Rose" (CD) at Amazon