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Class ?

Main Category: Mood Music
Also applicable: Avantgarde
Starting Period: The Artsy/Rootsy Years
Also active in: The Interim Years



Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of an Ash Ra Tempel fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Ash Ra Tempel fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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Postponed until the page is more comprehensive.



Year Of Release: 1973
Overall rating = 9

Late night jam session by a bunch of avantgardists. Boy, what a hangover...

Best song: FREAK'N'ROLL

Track listing: 1) Freak'N'Roll; 2) Jenseits.

I realize that Join Inn is not the best way to be introduced to the wonders of the Kosmische Rock of Germany's second-trippiest band (the first one, of course, was Tangerine Dream), but unfortunately this is the way I was introduced to their music, and we'll just have to deal with it. While this is a regular Ash Ra Tempel release, it's a little odd because most of the music on here was recorded after Manuel Goettsching and Hartmut Enke spent an entire day working on a side project with lots of other musicians. Then they kinda went into an artistic state of affairs, you know how it happens, and stayed up late at night together with former band member Klaus Schulze and Manuel's girlfriend that goes by the name of Rosi (and looks pretty beautiful and Gothic in a Teutonic kind of way in the inner sleeve) to commit their inspiration to tape. So anybody who'd want to slam Join Inn for ugliness, idleness and simplicity will be in a stupid position. The best argument is "why did they agree to release it?", but even that one can be beat with a "this is specially intended for diehard fans" response.

So I'll try to evade strong expressions here: I give the record a pretty low (but not too low) rating, and that's that. Otherwise, it's just two jams. Well, actually, only the track that occupies the first side can be called a "jam". If 'Freak'n'Roll' actually reminds me of anything, that'd probably be the live performances of Cream: a power trio that goes off in all directions, where each member is trying to prove his total independence from the others. Goettsching keeps pumping the wah-wah pedal and gives off all kinds of jazzy solos, sometimes favouring blues intonations, sometimes Eastern ones, sometimes just freaking out. Enke displays his best Bruce-style bass chops, never playing a straight bass rhythm, always improvising and finding new clues every five seconds. And Schulze bashes out all kinds of convoluted rhythms and polyrhythms. The only difference from Cream is that Cream would play it dirtier - Bruce would put up some fuzz, Clapton would throw in some distortion, and Baker would just kick the bass drum two times where Schulze only kicks it once, and he would never stay away from the cymbals while Schulze sometimes does. Add some dirtiness, and you could easily paste this stuff into the middle of 'Spoonful' and nobody'd notice.

It's a cool jam, though, as far as technique is concerned. I like it when their improvisation occasionally carries them over to the point where the whole band just goes mad, especially that moment right near the beginning, at about 2:20 into the song when Manuel gets wilder and wilder and Klaus seems to be deliberating on whether he should follow or he shouldn't follow and then he finally makes his decision and starts playing faster and faster and Enke follows them and Goettsching decides it's time to speed up and bring it all up to the boiling point and then he leads the band higher and higher and they all produce a hell of a noise and then it all kinda falls apart and nothing like that ever happens afterwards because the moment of musical orgasm has already passed and you know it takes time to gather your forces after the first orgasm, right?

The second part, called 'Jenseits', couldn't be further away from Cream, though. This time it's a piece of cosmic ambient meditation, notably better than anything Tangerine Dream had earlier performed on Zeit, but not much better. Enke and Goettsching are just about absent here (although I do hear a steady bassline here and there and maybe some of the sounds I take for synths are actually guitar-made), and the scene belongs to Schulze. He hauls out the organs and synthesizers and builds up an atmosphere; actually, I remember reading somewhere that on certain spots on the track he even plays synthesized drums, but you sure couldn't tell. Anyway, this is just music to relax to. Rosi, the girl, adds some impromptu wordings throughout the first half of the track; I can't make out the German words, but that's hardly important - you're only supposed to pay attention to the soothing, but dark sounds of her voice and that's that. It's not Nico or anything, although the mood is definitely Gothic. It's also good news that the mood of the track isn't 'disrupted': it flows along just like any ambient music is supposed to flow. Which makes me wonder - whoever it was who said Brian Eno invented ambient? This is just as ambient-ish as anything Eno would record (not to mention that it's actually prettier than, say, Music For Airports), and maybe more. Eno was still letting out the warm jets at the time. Not that I have anything against Eno - he's a great composer, innovator, and populariser, but let's get our originality priorities straight. (Not that I'm implying Ash Ra Tempel invented ambient, but this is the earliest pure ambient track I've heard, without traces of industrial-schmindustrial or anything like that).

In any case, Join Inn was just a little 'divertissement', so don't you make my mistake and don't get acquainted with the band through this album. But on a cold dark night when there's nothing like a game of Russian roulette to cheer up your spirit and your trusty board of nails had gotten rusty, Join Inn is truly one excellent way to drive away the gruesome thoughts of everyday routine and petty common problems. Just turn on, tune in, you know the rest.



Year Of Release: 1973
Overall rating = 9

Krautrock for minimalist amateurs.

Best song: BRING ME UP

Track listing: 1) Laughter Loving; 2) Day Dream; 3) Schizo; 4) Cosmic Tango; 5) Interplay Of Forces; 6) The Fairy Dance; 7) Bring Me Up.

Fuck! Only the second Ash Ra Tempel album I've heard, and yet another throwaway. The lineup here is completely different, but it doesn't matter all that much, because, apart from those rare cases when Klaus Schulze makes the grade, the only important Ashra member is Goettsching, and he's definitely here, backed up - this time - by Dieter Dirks on bass and Harald Grosskopf on drums. As is obvious from both the title and the album sleeve, however, Rosi Mueller is present on here again, and her contributions actually matter much more, since not only does she sing (or, at least, laugh) on every single track, she even contributes some lyrics for three of them.

Not that I feel like there's been a lot of songwriting here. The "band" is still in full throttle jam mode, only unlike concurrent Can or Amon Düül II jams, the ones on Starring Rosi are surprisingly simple for an experimental Krautrock band. Actually, 'jam' is not quite the right word here, since most of the tracks are heavily overdubbed (Goettsching is credited for guitar, vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, piano, Mellotron, congas, and synthesizer - and I suppose he brought the popcorn in, too); but even with all the multi-instrumentalism going on, this all looks very stripped down, almost minimalist in nature. And really, "minimalism" isn't quite the right association for that brand of Krautrock which had nothing to do with abstractionist Kraftwerk synth blasts or atmospheric Tangerine Dream synth loops, which does make Starring Rosi a bit weird in comparison with other German music at the time.

Not to mention that the stylistics is strange, too. 'Laughter Loving' starts out in a predictable atmospheric way, with several fits of Rosi's laughter echoing across the studio in an "astral" manner, but almost immediately it gets transformed into a friggin' seven minute country-rock jam a la Allman Brothers Band, and I'm being serious: it's seven minutes of an experimental Teutonic dude playing Duane Allman, or, at the very least, Dicky Betts. Add a prominent organ and a second drummer somewhere in the mix and you can chug this straight into the middle of 'Mountain Jam'. I was so dang surprised and caught off guard I didn't even have enough time to be offended - and by the second time, it was too late, because these guys already had my sympathies. (Not for sounding like second-rate Duane Allman, you understand - rather for trying out something I would be least expecting of them).

As the proceedings get more "normal" (according to Krautrock standarts, that is - according to everybody else's, they get less normal) and surprises become more scarce, so does the record turn out to be more a disjoint collection of moods and nice, but thoroughly unfinished, ideas rather than something cohesive and impressive. 'Day Dream' milks one simple acoustic pattern and one trance-like folksy vocal melody (structured as a spoken call by Rosi and a chanted echoey background response from Goettsching) for five minutes, and is about as dated as it is minimalist, being as yawn-inducing over its five minutes as the Velvet Underground's 'Sister Ray' can be over its seventeen. And 'Interplay Of Forces' starts out as an atmospheric cosmic jam which simply does not have the technical potential to live up to Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd, let alone Amon Düül II (whose Tanz Der Lemminge almost singlehandedly eliminated the need for further sonic panoramas like these two years before), after which it mutates into yet another country-rock guitar "jam", albeit a little more on the 'rock' side this time than on the 'country' one. Nice, but... why???

So if I have to have at least a few well-placed bets on this package, the money's all on the shorter numbers. 'Schizo' is prime astral rock with excellent trippy overdubs, the only song on here that actually tries to create a wall of sound and effectively does it by juxtaposing spooky wah-wah guitars, wishy-washy Mellotrons, phased percussion, and gently floating "fallen angel"-type vocal harmonies, and it has the sense to stop just as it's about to become tedious. 'Cosmic Tango' only really has the wild echo on Rosi's voice to justify its name (although musically it is close to a tango), but, strange enough, that's all it really takes. It's weird how Goettsching's guitar on here sounds exactly a la typical San Francisco acid wank style, but since this particular track displays no signs of folk rock influence, it's more of a curious stylistic merger than a lame copycat exercise. It cooks!

Even so, the only real "melodies" on the album can be found on the pretty, inobtrusive 'Fairy Dance', a charming acoustic/Mellotron instrumental which, once again, lives up to its name and makes me experience visions of the Grimm brothers dancing around a huge pagan bonfire somewhere in a wild Bavarian forest; and on 'Bring Me Up', an uneasy piece of "mystical blues" with a whole LOTTA overdubs (I'm really good at describing this album, aren't I?) and Goettsching even throwing in a few Spanish guitar phrases for good measure, unless I'm much mistaken. He's a classy guitarist, no doubt about it; put in somebody less versatile and the impression would be ZIP.

But please don't tell me it was not intended to be a throwaway, fill-up-the-time recording session, the same way Join Inn was, because really and truly, this is the kind of material you're usually getting on anthologies and archive releases and rarity comps and other packages that only crazy people like me waste their money on. There's not a moment on here that's truly/openly offensive, but neither is there a truly great moment to live, die, and go to Hell for. Thus, I can really only recommend it for diehard fans of Manuel Goettsching and/or German guitar virtuosos of the early Seventies in general. Or, at best, for those who love having album sleeves with enigmatically looking German beauties on them. In which case I presume you already have all the Nico albums, don't you?


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