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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 indescribable…

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