Ash Ra Tempel consisted of Manuel Göttsching, (guitar), Harmut Enke (bass) and Klaus Schulze (drums). Formed during an unprecedented creative period in German rock history, their contemporaries were Can, Agitation Free and Tangerine Dream and their philosophy was, make something new, make something challenging, without resorting to copying American and English music whether it be catchy pop like The Monkees or heavier blues influenced bands like Cream and Hendrix. These English singing bands made a big impression on the youth of foreign speaking countries in the sixties despite their lyrics being in English. Some bands of course did do foreign language versions – The Beatles had Sie Liebt Dich and Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand for example and many English speaking sixties artists attempted German versions of their songs in order to break even deeper into one of the world’s largest markets. Of course it wasn’t always necessary and Voodoo Chile might not have worked too well in translation but ironically the dilemma wasn’t that English speaking groups couldn’t break through in Germany, it was that creative Germans couldn’t. Parodying Hendrix or Herman’s Hermits in German was hardly moving forward and singing in English wasn’t an option either as it wasn’t their language.
To solve this dilemma, the innovative bands made instumental music; Neu, Kraftwerk, and Popol Vuh for example, and although Kraftwerk did have some vocals and English versions, their biggest hit Autobahn was sung in German. CAN cleverly got around all this by first having an American and then Japanese singer singing in English – I wonder if CAN considered having a German singer? Or whether they wondered if Damo Suzuki might sing for them in Japanese?
Ash Ra Tempel released their first album in 1971 and it consisted of two tracks. On Side 1 Ambos 19.51 and Side 2 Traummaschine 25.31. (Amboss is German for Anvil, Traummaschine German for Dream Machine). This was a new kind of music in its day but interestingly Göttsching (credited with guitars and electronics) set Ash Ra Tempel apart from the synth innovators and blazed his own trail with his unique approach to guitar. Washes of dreamy chaos, building to high peaks and crazy effected guitars – drums and bass drop out and return for blistering crescendos. Some of the guitar madness may still be influenced by those American and English band’s jam sessions but they weren’t generally releasing them as an album with only two songs as an artistic statement and the electronics added a whole new flavour. Also no vocals – it’s truly freaky music and must have sounded even freakier in 1971.
Klaus Schulze left the line up after this album. He had been the drummer in Tangerine Dream and left them over conflicts in direction but when he left Ash Ra Tempel and embarked on his solo journey, he switched to organs and electronics and followed a similar path to Tangerine Dream anyway – he has released over 60 albums.
Harmut Enke left the band in 1973.
Ash Ra Tempel became Ashra and Manuel Göttsching made records under his own name and had many different collaborators – including the most famous psychedelic guru of them all – Timothy Leary.
On a final note, the album had beautiful artwork that opened in the middle of the front cover like shutters. It’s hard to find an original copy of this record without damage to the sleeve.