“Schwingungen”, released in 1972 on Ohr, is an exceptional Ash Ra Tempel record. Especially the guest-vocals by John L. make a big difference – and the record has sort of a concept or at least a leading theme to itself.
“Light: Look At Your Sun” is a dreamy blues, reminiscent of The Doors or Cream. The lyrics are fantasizing about the cosmic unity of mankind, of everything alive (or at least: the unity of like-minded brothers and sisters).
That first song is exposing the record’s leading theme and in addition to the album’s title (“Schwingungen” = “Vibrations”) “Light: Look At Your Sun” is accompanied by words (in German) on the inside of the gatefold-cover: “Was in Dir, in uns lebt, unsere Schwingungen, ist in allem: Das Paradies das Leben heißt”, which can be translated as: “What lives in you, in us, our vibrations, it is in everything: the paradise called life.” And listening to Ash Ra Tempel you are encouraged to focus on these vibes, to feel these vibes to – finally! – feel life itself/alive. John L.’s lyrics deliver the mantra to meditate to: “We are all one.”
There’s a strong and pronounced message that comes with “Schwingungen” and one might assume it wasn’t Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser but Joachim Ernst Berendt who supervised the recording-session: “Nada Brahma” – The world is sound. We are not only living in this world, we ARE this world! Therefore we ARE sound and that’s why we have to listen carefully to the sound of the outside world (and the sound within us, our inner voices) to reach out for universal harmony/a cosmic unity that was lost within the process of civilisation/modernization.
In order to achieve and maintain that harmony/unity we have to change our ways of living, because the modern daily “chaotic dance of the city ants” (meaning its citizens going to work) is out of tune to the cosmic harmonies and – for example – “the sound of cars is the music of unconsciousness/oblivion” (to quote the notes on the inside of the gatefold-cover again).
The second track “Darkness: Flowers must die” expresses some more (drug-induced) criticism on modern everyday-life that is contrasted by romantic images of nature and universal love (“I see, when I come back from my lysergic-day-dream, standing in the middle of the glass and neon forest with an unhappy name: city – flowers must die” – and the cover-artwork is displaying the utopia-in-tune with the world’s sound: a couple sitting naked in a rural atmosphere).
Of course, the critique on the “neon forest” and its dying flowers within comes as a raging psychedelic rock song. In order to get rid of an ill-fated civilisation Ash Ra Tempel rear up and break away with the help of guitars, drums, saxophone and a screaming singer leading the band to a peaceful countryside (with girlfriends along)!
Having arrived in the rural retreat it’s time to tune into the cosmic vibrations. The entire second side of “Schwingungen” is about that meditative and attentive search for peace and love and universal harmony. In addition to that peaceful vibe the music’s as meditative, airy and spaced-out as can be. “Suche & Liebe” (“Search/Quest & Love”) builds up slowly towards a blissful climax at the orgiastic end.