Monday, June 24, 2013

Ashra - Blackouts (1978 germany, inspiring progressive experimental space rock)

 Right from the beginning of Track One 77 Slightly Delayed you just know that this is going to be something special, Manuel wastes no time in setting up a great syncopated backing. Then the guitar comes in - and what guitar! Clean, precise and wonderfully effected. OK, yes I am a fan and have been for over twenty years. So its a joy to pull this album from the shelves in order to write this review.
Manuel manages to mesh his rhythm and lead playing so well, the rhythm being one of those classic and perfect sounds. This isn't one of those guitar improv work-outs, the listener is left in no doubt that Manuel meant to play every note he played.
Track Two Midnight On Mars, ah - my favourite ASHRA track EVER. It's "Midnight on Mars" and I'm there right alongside him. Again Manuel sets up the lead line perfectly with his mix of synths, drum machine (wasn't it the classic EKO Rhythm Computer?) and wicked guitar. This particular melody has lived in my brain since the first moment I heard it, twenty plus years ago. In fact, everyone.  I've ever played this track to has commented on it. Manuel should be praised for creating one of the most sublime guitar moments ever to be recorded. I think I'm gushing here. Still what the hell, this track is worth it.
Track Three Don’t Trust The Kids isn't letting up, a bass sequence brings in the piece. This is soon joined by subtle percussion and a very well-crafted rhythm guitar. Manuel certainly gets an amazing rhythmic feel. The lead line isn't far behind, this time two guitars playing in harmony. I've never been really sure whether or not that's a guitar synth. It's the right time for the early Roland GR500 and I believe Edgar Froese was using one at about this time as well.
The lead is given over to a nicely distorting guitar, again Manuel really means every note he's playing. A superb bit of programming moves the whole piece into double-time, and Track Four Blackouts. He isn't even breaking into a sweat, this is fantastic guitar.
Track Five Shuttle Cock again shows off the rhythm playing and what a groove he sets up. The piece just lopes along with some great interplay between the guitars and the sequencers.
Track Six Lotus Part I-IV continues the lesson in setting up a groove, Manuel actually gets a bit discordant here for a while before pulling it all back for the typical ASHRA sound, namely babbling sequencers, the minimum of percussion and smartly effected arpeggios. This track shows his ability to generate a flowing piece of music that takes the listener with it, wherever the end of the journey may be.
The Bottom Line: Buy it, buy it, buy it. Couldn't be clearer really, could it? Beware there is a subliminal message hidden in that last sentence.
The wording on the old LP sums it up quite nicely really, "Manuel Göttsching plays Sequencer, Keyboards and a lot of Guitar". He sure does.
by Andy Bloyce
1. 77 Slightly Delayed - 6:40
2. Midnight On Mars - 6:51
3. Don't Trust The Kids - 3:16
4. Blackouts - 4:38
5. Shuttle Cock - 8:27
6. Lotus-Part I - IV - 17:05
All compositions by Manuel Göttsching.

*Manuel Göttsching - Guitar, Keyboards, Sequencer

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