BY ASHRA TEMPEL
By: Edgar Kogler.
The German label Manikin Records has released a series of six CDs that gather unreleased historical recording by the band Ash Ra Tempel (Ashra) and by their leader Manuel Göttsching. This collection will enthusiastically appeal to the fans of Ashra / Göttsching not only because of its historical interest but also because it contains excellent works of electronic music in the "hardest" cosmic style of the 1970s, as well as pieces of other tendencies nearer to pop that will be liked by the least cosmic sector of the followers of this band.
Many famous musicians have an archive of tapes that usually are doomed to forgetfulness. In them there are improvisations, recordings of concerts, compositions that have not been included in any album due to lack of space, and too risky pieces. In some cases, the pressure on the part of the fans and the record labels succeeds in getting a part of this material out of their dark drawers. This has happened with Manuel Göttsching / Ashra.
The main character responsible for this project has been Klaus D. Mueller, being as he is well known in the scene of electronic music as he is the manager of Klaus Schulze, and having been involved in many tasks in support of this genre since the early seventies. Mueller convinced Göttsching to allow him to search in his archive, and thus he selected the seven hours and a half of music that constitute this collection.
The history of the band, that of modern electronic music, and that of the cultural revolution that shook the world in the sixties and the seventies, are intertwined with each one of the recordings of The Private Tapes.
The members of Ash Ra Tempel were in the late sixties some young people who were making their way in music. They were eager to explore new sonic worlds, and give their lives a bearing according to their most idealistic thoughts instead of allowing themselves to be drawn by the currents of social conventionalism. Manuel Göttsching (born in 1952) went through several amateur bands of rock and blues, mostly integrated by teenagers. Klaus Schulze (born in 1947) was a percussionist of the psychedelic rock band Psy Free, and also of Tangerine Dream, the band with which he recorded their first album. Hartmut Enke, Lutz Ulbrich and other musicians related to Ash Ra Tempel played in psychedelic bands like for instance Agitation Free and Wallenstein.
In the summer of 1970, Göttsching and Enke, who were friends and had played together in several amateur bands, met Schulze, who had left Tangerine Dream after recording Electronic Meditation. The innovative musical concepts in his part seduced them, and they soon jumped from rock / blues to space rock, a prelude to the Cosmic Electronic Music. They created the band Ash Ra Tempel. Soon after, they awoke the interest of the people who were eager for new musical ideas. After several concerts, they recorded their first album in 1971, which they called Ash Ra Tempel, released by the label OHR. This very same year they went on a concert tour in Switzerland. After this, Schulze left the band to begin his solo career. Other members, more or less ephemeral, took Schulze's place. Also the singer Rosi Mueller joined the band, at that time being Göttsching's fiancée.
In 1971, Ash Ra Tempel contacted the famous American writer and philosopher Timothy Leary, known thanks to his books in favor of the ideas that characterized the hippie movement, his polemic permissive attitude with respect to LSD (which made him the visible head in the defense of its use as well as that of other hallucinogenic drugs), and his role in promoting the psychedelic culture as well as the New Age life style. Leary was very interested in the newly born Cosmic Music, and he established some relationships with some German electronic musicians. With Ash Ra Tempel he even came to collaborate in a joint album called Seven Up, signed by the band and the writer, that served as a vehicle for Leary's ideas. The circumstances in which the session that led to the recording of the album was developed were somewhat atypical. The members of ART and other collaborating musicians travelled to Switzerland, the nearest place to Germany where Leary could then be, due to his serious legal problems because of his attitude towards drugs. It has been said that during one of the recording sessions with Leary, the soda (Seven Up) that the musicians had, contained LSD, and therefore their state of mind was altered, and this was reflected in their music. Seemingly, they found the experience interesting, and they decided to use this peculiar recording as a basis for a record with Leary, which was released with the meaningful title Seven Up. Apparently, the dangerous use of LSD on the part of the members of ART, was also extended to other projects. Klaus Schulze said during an interview in 1982 that the basis of The Cosmic Jokers (a sort of macroband formed by ART and himself, among other artists) was LSD.
In 1976, after all the other members had left, Göttsching assumed all the creative work of ART and composed New Age of Earth, an album that launched him to worldwide success and that contributed together with other elements to the adoption of the term New Age to define the new musical trends that then were cropping up.
During the late seventies, Ashra resumed its band structure, with the activity of Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf, even though by then it already was obvious that Göttsching was the creative force within ART.
The seventies, that is the era gathered in The Private Tapes, was the most productive time for ART. In the eighties and the nineties, Göttsching and his band have continued to be active, releasing new albums, although with a much lesser cadence than they used to have then. Rosi Mueller lives in New York since 1983. Hartmut Enke left the music world in 1973, and took up another profession. Harald Grosskopf concentrated on his solo career and other musical collaborations.
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