Ash Ra Tempel: Ash Ra Tempel (Spalax)
Krautrock obscurities part 42… Or, you’ll have to find this one secondhand.
And you should. Because there's a damn sight more to that era than the
trainspotters’ ritual invocation of Can/Faust/Neu - great as those
outfits undoubtedly are.
Maybe the reason that this one’s not better known outside of
collector’s circles is that it’s neither flesh nor fowl… As a power
trio - literally, on the the original side one - this’s frequently
much closer to the Stooges end of things than most modern krautrock
fans’d probably find comfortable. In fact, Julian Cope - in one of
his most insanely lucid moments - once declared that this was none
other than thee original Psychedelic Stooges album - complete w/
vacuum cleaner? - that we’d all been sadly in need of...
Still, your average Detroithead’d certainly ignore anyone who tried to
tell him that some obscure German outfit’s first album was truly the
kind of gonzo high-energy guitar frenzy he was looking for. Or, at
least, that most of side one was…
And, with only two tracks on offer - and no vocals - there’s not much
in the way of “songs” to get in the way here. Actually, to be quite
blunt about it, there’s nothing even vaguely like a song anywhere on
this beast. The first thing starts out moody, only to rapidly drive
its way into spastic guitar overload/psych-punk territory - where it
flails around admirably, shifting gear whenever necessary, for the
rest of its twenty minute existence. The second’s much spacier -
although it does shift into a savage spazz-psych mode a couple of
times during its spaced-out existence.
Irrespective, both pieces are genuinely intense masterpieces of
free-form action - pure interplay that ranges freely from the raw to
the plangent in an entirely natural fashion. The raw’s about as
raucous as “Funhouse”, the space gunk’s just as tripped-out as you can
imagine a trio getting, and the moodier sections frequently verge upon
the heartbreakingly lonesome. Apart from that, it’s basically
You’ve just got to hear it.
One caveat…For god’s sake, whatever you do, don’t pay good money for
the vinyl reissue! Spalax, continuing a venerable French tradition
(anyone remember Eva?), manufacture their records from recycled toilet
seats - as I discovered to my cost. Definitely stick to digital in
this case - ‘cause the music’s certainly worth it…
John Henry Calvinist