CULT CLASSIC: ASHRA-CORRELATIONS.

Cult Classic: Ashra-Correlations.

When Manuel Göttsching released Inventions For Electric Guitar in 1975, this was meant to be the start of a new chapter in his career. Inventions For Electric Guitar was meant to be Manuel Göttsching’s debut solo album. Some eagle eyed record buyers weren’t so sure about that.

Atop the album cover to Inventions For Electric Guitar’s album were the words Ash Ra Tempel VI in small print. This muddied the waters somewhat. Did this mean that Inventions For Electric Guitar was the sixth album by Ash Ra Tempel? Maybe Manuel Göttsching had been talked into releasing one more Ash Ra Tempel album and this was the band’s swan-song? Some record buyers weren’t convinced.

If that was the case, why put Manuel Göttsching’s name on the album cover? Maybe this was paving the way for his solo career? The debate and confusion continued.

Nowadays, though, Inventions For Electric Guitar is regarded as Manuel Göttsching’s debut album. It seemed that the addition of Ash Ra Tempel VI was part of Ohr Records’ marketing campaign. Ash Ra Tempel was already a relatively well known ‘brand name’ within German music. So if record buyers didn’t recognise Manuel Göttsching’s name, there was every chance they would recognise  Ash Ra Tempel. Inventions For Electric Guitar was indeed, a new chapter for him. 

This new chapter continued in 1976. So did the confusion. The first place that Manuel Göttsching released his sophomore solo album New Age Of Earth, was in France. Again,  the album bore the Ash Ra Tempel name. However, despite bearing the Ash Ra Tempel name, New Age Of Earth was a solo album. Manuel Göttsching had composed, played all the instruments and produced New Age Of Earth at his Studio Roma in Berlin. It seemed that the continued use of the Ash Ra Tempel name was proving problematic.

So when Manuel Göttsching signed to Virgin Records in the spring of 1977, he decided to dispense with the Ash Ra Tempel name. However, rather than release his solo albums as Manuel Göttsching, he made the decision to release them as Ashra. The first album to feature the Ashra name was New Age Of Earth. This added to the confusion.

Now there were two different versions of New Age Of Earth available. The French version bore the name Ash Ra Tempel, and the British version was credited to Ashra. However, Ashra were about to play a flying visit to Britain to promote the New Age Of Earth.

Ashra arrived in Britain in August 1977, not long after the release of New Age Of Earth. The purpose of the visit was twofold.  There was the usual round of promotion meeting and gland-handling that accompanied the release of any album. Considering New Age Of Earth was Ashra’s debut for Virgin Records in Britain, there was more promotion than usual. Part of this was the second reason for the visit to London, a concert.

This was no ordinary concert. Ashra were going to play a concert at the Open-Air Theatre in Regents Park. This would mark the debut of Ashra. For Ashra, this was a high profile concert. So Manuel Göttsching brought with him, a couple of his musical friends. 

To accompany him, Manuel Göttsching had brought along Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf. They would accompany him when he took to the stage at the Open-Air Theatre in Regents Park. This would introduce the world to Ashra, and hopefully, put an end to the confusion. After this, Ashra had to return home. Manuel Göttsching had a new album to record. 

Under the terms of his recording contract, Ashra had to begin work on his new album almost immediately. So on his return to Berlin, Manuel Göttsching began work on his next solo album. Recording began at Manuel Göttsching’s own Studio Roma in September 1977. He wrote and record a total of six tracks. They became Blackouts, his third solo album. It would be released by Virgin Records in 1978.  

Before that, Ashra were due to fly out to Japan in late 1977. Despite being a solo artist, Manuel Göttsching decided to enlist the help of a couple of his musical friends for the Japanese tour. For the forthcoming Japanese tour, Manuel Göttsching was joined  by Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf. They became the expanded lineup of Ashra.

With the newly expanded lineup of Ashra in tow, Manuel Göttsching embarked upon the Japanese tour. It proved a huge success, with the new lineup of winning friends across Japan. After the success of the Japanese tour, Manuel Göttsching returned home, and his thoughts turned to his next album.

By then, the next Ashra album had been recorded, and Blackouts would be released in 1978, Manuel Göttsching couldn’t afford to rest on his laurels. He would need to begin work on the followup early in 1978. Most people expected it to be a solo album. After all, Manuel Göttsching had embarked upon a solo album in 1975. Since then, his star was in the ascendancy. His first two album Inventions For An Electric Guitar and New Age Of Earth were received to critical acclaim and furthered Manuel Göttsching’s reputation as a pioneer and and of the leading lights of German music. So why change what was a winning formula?

Despite this,  Manuel Göttsching was beginning to think that the next Ashra album wouldn’t be a solo album. Especially given how well the trio had played during the Japanese tour. Maybe the trio should reunite for the next Ashra album. Eventually,  Manuel Göttsching decided to ask Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf to join him for the recording of his next album. That album would become Correlations, which was recently reissued as the Correlation Complete five disc box set.

Correlations.

When Manuel Göttsching decided to ask Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf to join him for the recording of the next Ashra album, the pair agreed. For Lutz Ulbrich this was just like the old days, when he and Manuel Göttsching were both members of Ash Ra Tempel. The pair had recorded and released five albums between 1971 and 1973. Correlations was the first time they had recorded together for five years.

Before the record sessions began, Manuel Göttsching began rehearsing. For the rehearsals, he took Ashra to the old Ufa film studios in Berlin. Manuel Göttsching had managed to book one of the large rooms. This the other members of Ashra thought, was the perfect place to rehearse. This was just as well, it would be their second home for three weeks.

Before the rehearsals could begin, Ashra began to setup their instruments and equipment. The other thing he brought along was his trusty old Revox A77 mono tape recorder.

With the equipment setup, Manuel Göttsching pressed play as Ashra began to jam. That was all they did for the next three weeks. These lengthy sessions were recorded and would eventuality form the basis for the album.

After the rehearsals, the framework for some of the album. in place. Eventually, eight tracks were composed. Ice Train, Morgana Da Capo and Pas De Trois were written by the three members of Ashra. Manuel Göttsching wrote Oasis, Bamboo Sands and Phantasus. The other track on the album was Springtime. These tracks were recorded at three studios.

After the rehearsals, Ashra began work on the the album. Much of the recording took place at Erd-Studios, in Berlin with Ashra taking charge of production. Ashra brought along an array of traditional and modern equipment. This included Lutz Ulbrich’s guitar, synth strings, piano and mellotron. Drummer and percussionist Harald Grosskopf also brought along his synths. Manuel Göttsching came armed with an array electric guitars and synths. He also took charge of sequencing parts of Correlations. The recording took time, but eventually, Ashra completed the album.

With the album recorded and mixed, Ashra were ready to let executives at Virgin Records hear the new album. This new album, Ashra planned to call Phantasus. 

When Ashra played Phantasus to the executives at Virgin Records, they weren’t impressed by the album. It wasn’t quite there yet they felt. There was still work to be done on the album.

For the three members of Ashra, this was a huge blow. They had spent months recording the album. However, Ashra seemed to be on the right road. They didn’t to rerecord the entire album. Some parts of the album had to be rerecorded.

Over the next weeks and months, the members of Ashra locked themselves away in the studio to salvage the album. Gradually, the album began to take shape. One track, Springtime didn’t make it onto to what became Correlations. Instead, it was replaced by Oasis, a Manuel Göttsching composition. Once the rerecording was complete, Manuel Göttsching handed the tapes over to the three engineers who had been chosen to remix the album.

Two studios and three engineers were used to remix Phantasus. Remixing took place at Audio Studio, in Berlin and at Panne-Paulsen Studio, in Frankfurt. The three engineers that were used were Udo Arndt, Eberhard Panne and Mick Glossop. He who ended up receiving a credit as co-producer. For Ashra, the decision to remix Phantasus was an expensive one, but one that paid off.

Phantasus which was renamed as Correlations, was a genre classic in waiting. When it was eventually released in 1979, critical acclaim would accompany the release of Correlations.

It was a genre-melting album where Ashra married elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, funk, jazz, Krautrock, post rock, progressive rock and rock.The result was an album where Ashra, now a fully fledged band, moved towards a much more rock oriented sound. This should’ve brought Ashra to the attention of a much wider audience.

Until then, Ashra had slipped under the musical radar, both at home and abroad. That was the case with the majority of the Krautrock and Berlin School bands and artists. While Ashra were by no means selling vast amounts of albums, they were more popular than many of their contemporaries. Ashra had also released several classic albums.

Correlations was just the latest. It marked another turning point in the chameleon like career of Manuel Göttsching. He had continually reinvented his music since the earliest days of Ash Ra Tempel. That had been the case since he Manuel Göttsching as a solo career. Now though, he was back as a member of a band, Ashra. 

Their career had gotten off to a false start when they were Virgin Records rejected the original version of Phantasus. Maybe that was for the best? Ashra had returned with a stonewall classic album Correlations.

Correlations was the latest classic album from Ashra, which had been reinvented as a trio for Correlations. This was a new chapter in the career of Manuel Göttsching, as Ashra’s music moved towards a much more rock oriented sound. Forever the musical chameleon, Manuel Göttsching continued to reinvent his music, to ensure that it stayed relevant His determination to reinvent his music paid off, and the result was another innovative, genre-melting album, Correlations.

With his new band, Ashra created a genre-melting album where they married elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, funk, jazz, Krautrock, post rock, progressive rock and rock. The resultant album, Correlations became a genre classic album, and introduced Ashra to a much wider audience than previously. Sadly, still Ashra weren’t enjoying the commercial success and critical acclaim their music deserved despite the quality of music on Correlations. Some forty years after its release, Correlations is regarded as a cult classic and the perfect introduction to Ashra, who are a truly groundbreaking band and one of the most important in modern German musical history.

Cult Classic: Ashra-Correlations.

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