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@shra Vol. 2

Ashra: @shra Vol. 2
Press Reviews

(In French, will be opened in a new window)
("Guts of Darkness", Canada, 2007)

(In Italian, will be opened in a new window)
(Movimenti Prog, Italy)

»As I switched the CD player on - I hadn't read the titles yet - and that beautiful sound of Sunrain started playing, there was a great deja vu effect of resonance which hit me like a lightning. After a few seconds I identified the well known melody which had often in the past shone to me like a Northern light; but now it was transformed into a dynamic and brilliant sensation, like a kind of recrystallization, and it made me feel like dancing. The magic tension even escalated as I felt the demanding and beating rhythm rising slowly stronger, up to the skies, and shining golden. And in such a way the astonishing collection of sonic journeys continued. The patterns of Four Guitars are more complex, starting softly, and carry one slowly up, reminding perhaps of the mysteries of far continents, like far-east landscapes, deserts, or majestic tibetian mountain chains. The dream-stimulating melody passes slowly like a mystical caravan along old spice routes.
Or was it a Fata Morgana?
Then, on mighty pulsating, hypnotic vibrations, the next picture, quite different, still unaccustomed, and later the overlaying guitars of Oasis forming their own rhythms - oh, I could be on the beach now to forget the run of time. At last, the dream journey leads to a kind of tropical drink with a mixture of coloured fruit, riding on a technoid beat and chasing synthie chords (or, once again, guitar effects?), giving a real good feeling. Of course, these fascinating compositions - variations of earlier compositions and totally new ones, which I still have to learn - are hard to describe; the direct sensual experience is necessary and surely a fine surprise. This absolutely original sound also distinguishes from many other today's productions by its emotional warmth making one feel 'at home', giving a tasteful relaxation within a cosmical storm. After all, I was quite mystified. A collection of diamonds in the sky, and to me the best sound since a long time!

In summary, Ashra, with the main role of the guitar magician Manuel Göttsching, who have been making extraordinary and variable music for more than 30 years, developing from the old days in the post-68's as pioneers of cosmic sound, over early guitar-synthesiser ambient prototypes in the late 70's, rising to exotic and tropical variations, and to the electrical ecstasy of the last productions, have succeeded in combining a spectrum of those experiences in a timeless unique art work in a fantasy-stimulating manner that you can fall in love with and might even get dependent on. Do I need to say that Ashra will surely have been the favorite music of my lifetime?«

(Volker Harth, November 2002)

»Like Baileys on ice, smooth and creamy with a bite, this ambient electronic cd has more than enough drive to keep you from drifting into oblivion. If your brain needs a serious holiday from those pesky Beta waves, this could be just the chill pill you need.«
(Derek Severs, president of www.cdbaby.com, Oktober 2002)

»Rare is the occasion when two halves merge to form an utterly nourishing whole but that’s exactly what happens here. Recorded live in Osaka and Tokyo back in early 1997, these two are two of the most addictive platters to have stumbled into my disc player in quite some time.

Composed largely by Manuel Göttsching, both serve as diverse, hypnotic breaks from the grind of standard progressive. It’s the kind of music that Robert Fripp has made in his best moments, a cross pollination of the dance beat days of Discipline-era Crimson and the mournful but compelling lines that have graced his best soundscape work. But these discs stand on their own, far above and beyond a number of releases that are presented as bold and imaginative works but prove to be only so in the minds of marketing executives. There’s an other-worldly atmosphere here, a kind of laid-back, late-night charm that leaves you in a pleasantly dumbfounded state of mind as the four members of the ensemble (Göttsching, Lutz Ulbrich, Harald Grosskopf and Steve Baltes) weave jazz and prog and chill out-inspired webs.

Volume 1 proves exciting if not a little more traditional and slightly less relaxed than Volume 2. That said, it still proves inspiring and, when followed with a healthy dose of the second album, only brings the listener to an even greater sense of inner-awareness, elevates them to an infinitely higher plane. (Really, if I haven’t said this before: you cannot separate these albums, no matter how you try.) Together they form an awesome, nighttime pastoral, an invocation to a muse that can finally bridge the mind with the soul. These are portraits of a world waking but not awake, people loving and being in love. Highlights include Sunrain, a journey between joy and sadness, Oasis, Echo Waves, Twelve Samples, and Hausaufgabe

(Courtesy of www.ytsejam.com)

»The rest of the concert following the excellent first album released sometime back, and the perfect partner to it. Here the current quartet illustrate all the facets that makes them such a unique and refreshing force on a somewhat stale European synth music scene these days and why they are genuinely the leading band of all right now in this genre. For a start you get the gorgeous synths-dominated atmospherics and melodies of the classic Sunrain, originally from New Age Of Earth, but here given added drive thanks to some solid drum work from Grobkopf. Following this comes Four Guitars, which is basically exactly that - a sort of live reprise of the flavours and sounds first presented on the Inventions For Electric Guitar album, with interweaving and flying guitars providing a flowing set of leads, rhythms and textures for oveer seventeen minutes. With two further tracks completing the album, there's not a less than magical second on the whole thing, even better than the first one.«
(Andy Garibaldi, UK)

»Near the dawning of 1997 and deep in the heart of Japan's metropolitan order and stately unity, a German four-piece would perform a set of pieces so humanly warm and hypnotically spellbinding that their magic would have been impossible to hide from the world. These electronic explorations of subtle change and progression adorned with stunning percussion and passionate guitars have been placed in the open for all interested to relish, and the beautiful trance has thus been dispersed across the entire surface of this planet in gradual increase. The band? Ashra. The magic? @shra Vol. 2.

A collection of some of the best cuts out of two enchanted Japanese concerts and a companion to @shra, this album allows the listener to become a living witness of the intimacy that these musicians convey in mysterious soundwaves, instrumental nightlife refrains, and gorgeous guitar interplay. The result is almost erotic in its warmth, and the visual images that spring magically into the air diaphanously delicious as their soundtrack glimmers with pulsing beads of light. Harald Grosskopf switches smoothly between wondrous percussion and short monumental beats, Steve Baltes grants his kindling gift of atmospherics to each composition, and Manuel Göttsching and Lutz Ulbrich weave their guitars around each other in a sparkling arrangement of shining colors and graceful emotions.

Perhaps the music of Ashra would be grotesquely filed among the growing collection of generic and utterly heartless modern electronic music by the indifferent ear, and that would represent a sin of the greatest of proportions. This transcends the youthfully greedy and commercial intent of such work, crosses over to the progressive in its essence, and acquires a poignant resonance that tunes itself to the soul of the spectator and binds him in enveloping strands of sound. The essence of techno, for instance, conforms the very pillars of Move 9 Up, but Göttsching and Ulbrich lead the piece into a myriad motifs that disappear and then resurge sporadically, leaving the track in a state of progression that is ever-changing before an orgasmic explosion takes place and an electric guitar rips through the air for the record's grand finale.

And it is thus that @shra Vol. 2 gently slides away from constraints and into a perpetual state of timelessness, allowing each of its five constituting elements to evolve slowly in their instinctive nature and become musical stories unto themselves. Even the slightly ominous nature of Hausaufgabe and the delicious mirage guitars of Oasis are but only a fragment of the gorgeous reach of this record, and they nevertheless seem colossal memory imprints of unforgettable quality. The mere surprise of the manner in which Sunrain resolves, resembling the ending grandeur of a baroque organ piece despite its simplicity and deeply shaking the listener from the comfort of expectance, is worth the album alone, and one is left to wonder: were the inhabitants of Tokyo and Osaka presented with magic itself back in 1997? They most certainly were.«

(Marcelo Silveyra, www.progfreaks.com, Mexico)

[@shra Vol. 2 - Main Page]


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