Produced and recorded in 2001 by Baltes at Mission Control and Heilhecker at Phonoroid Studio
Steve Baltes -keyboards, sampler|
- Blue Lake [19:48]
- Crazy Snake [7:30]
- White Deer Skin Dance [14:24]
- The Long Walk [12:43]
Harald Grosskopf - keyboards, drums, percussion
Axel Manrico Heilhecker - guitar
Track 3 contains a sample by Manuel Göttsching.
Harald Grosskopf is a legendary drummer who was among the first (if not the first) to play
drum together with sequencers. He was a regular guest on albums by Klaus Schulze in the
second half of the seventies. After he’d joined Ashra, the band headed more into a rock
direction, never forgetting their electronic roots.
Steve Baltes became a member of Ashra
in the nineties. His electronics gave the pioneers a modern approach. Axel Manrico Heilhecker is considered on of Germany’s leading guitarists. They already work together as Sunya Beat (Harald and Axel) and N-Tribe (Harald and Steve).
"Four Times Three" (4x3) is released under their own names.
The four tracks on "Four Times Three" all have traces of the great classic Ashra albums.
This means pumping sequences, great percussion- and drum parts, fine electronic atmospheres and some excellent guitar playing. In Ashra this is the job for Manuel Goettsching. He is also a little present on "Four Times Three" because a sequence of him is used in "Crazy Snake".
"The Long Walk" shows a darker side of the trio.
For all Ashra-fans and those who are into rhythmic electronic music, "Four Times Three" is an absolute must-have.
2004. Press Information
First released on Manikin label in 2001 and rereleased by Groove in 2004, Viermal Drei (4x3) from Grosskopf, Balts, Heilhecker, is no more and no less an extension of Ashra’s works, but with a more industrial touch, always binding itself within psychedelic approach on a fine technoïde structure. A great album which contains 4 extremely interesting titles.
A desert wind which is transformed into a hoarse apocalyptic siren opens Blue Lake. An acid lake with heavy and metallic waves which hem in a prehistoric atmosphere, although this very progressive mood. A forgotten world. An industrialized universe which hops on nervous sequences, in a sea of squeezed stratas which crisscross an increasing and neurotic rhythmic.
Harald Grosskopf's percussions draw an atmosphere of carnival, while slowly; the loops of Axel Manrico Heilhecker guitar merge with this carnivalesque rhythm under the hot breaths of a discreet, but very effective, synth. This musical set up makes us forget the rhythmic progress of Blue Lake forget, so much ears are invaded by an inconceivable sound troop. A vicious progress, under guitar loops à la Ashra and percussions more and more frenzied whose tom-tom beneath the striations of a guitar in deep heat. Still, we only are at the 8th minute point. Minutes which increase constantly under an intense musical influx where guitars and percussions are in the front-scene. Grosskopf takes the control and beats the skins of its drum furiously under a hiccoughing guitar and an apocalyptic synth, announcing a rhythmic fracture under a solo of percussions …before the tempo explodes in a soft techno movement à la Juno Reactor, under an avalanche of striations, coming as much from the synth as the six strings. A guitar that roars and shoots magnificent solos, below a frenetic rhythm. Blue Lake is a magnificent opening, as sublime as Echo Waves and Niemand Lacht from Ashra in Japan or Sauce Hollandaise.
Crazy Snake starts without ambiguity. A strange rhythm, without movement but noisy, with metallic percussions flickering under a static and booming guitar. Suddenly the rhythm shapes under a fuzzy guitar which hems under a storm of industrial sound percussions and effects. A heavy title, less technoïd but more fluid than Blue Lake, which soaks in a surrealist atmosphere. Very good and especially very audacious. I like this metallic frog which caws in this musical shanty town.
A fine low pulsation opens White Deer Skin Dance's tempo. Striation of guitar and synth brood the progression of this track which borrows a nervous rhythm under guitar jerky chords. Less laborious than Blue Lake, White Deer Skin Dance remains very interesting; wild rhythm, bordering techno atmospheres, under a psychedelic industrial sound fauna. The work of Grosskopf is splendid and takes all its immoderation in the 2nd part. Another very good title that gets closer to subdivided paces of Blue Lake.
The Long Walk is a more static title which begins in a paralyzed atmosphere where the guttural singing exercises are molding to metallic thunders. The wind there is dark and lightning stream beneath a deaf increasing pulsation and strata of a misty guitar which floats as a ether perfume in a magnetic desert. In middle course, the piece livens up with a heavy slowness, under strident guitar loops, fastened to percussions which run lazily on a musical structure more " psychoprogresive " than electronic.
Viermal Drei (4x3) of Grosskopf, Balts, Heilhecker is a splendid album filled of composite tones which lean on wild and indefinite rhythms. Hard and pure rhythms, with a technoïd approach which made the delights of Sauce Hollandaise and the 2 Ashra albums in Japan. A loud, musical and rhythmic album that I recommend without hesitations.
2009. Sylvain Lupari / Guts Of Darkness
Baltes, Grosskopf and Heilhecker with this album offer us a powerful sample of what they are capable of doing.
This release has a style approaching the Synth-Pop trends, and more specifically, Trance music. There even are certain psychedelic touches in the passages nearest to Rock. The four long themes are basically upbeat, with cybernetic rhythms, percussion, and unreal environments.
2004. Pascual Jurado
Steve Baltes, Harald Grosskopf and Axel Manrico Heilhecker have released an album of vital rhythmic music, near to Trance, Synth-Pop and Psychedelic Rock. The style of the four themes included in this release also contains stylistic traits that remind the listener of Ash Ra Tempel, a band that has made Baltes and Grosskopf well known for their creativity and strength.
Edgar Kogler / Spain
This 54 minute CD from 2004 features an excellent dose of energetic electronic music.
While Baltes has gained a reputation for his keyboard work with Ashra during the band's tours in the late Nineties, Grosskopf has become a German legend for his drumming which has graced the recordings of Klaus Schulze, Ashra, and numerous others. A sample by Manuel Göttsching (Ashra's leader and guitarist extraordinary) is featured in the third track.
If you're expecting a strong Ashra/Schulze sound with this music, you'd be relatively correct in that assumption. Ricocheting guitar notes looping into infinity, sinuous E-perc that mounts in passion with every moment, a wall of versatile electronics--all these factors are present in profusion, and delightfully so.
The guitar is very Göttschingesque, ringing from stage to heaven and back again with nimble fingered riffs that are cycled back on themselves faster than casual detection can glean. Add in some searing sustain chords that resound with nearly painful accord (normally these heights would be referred to as space guitar, but this time these peaks possess a very human touch, so we'll forego the "space" allusions).
The percussion is luxurious and complex. With quasi-normal sounding drums rolling a tempo, electronic bongos are adding sensual (but untribal) rhythms. Lurking at the edges of some of these percussive impacts are fuzzy coatings that shroud the beats with a forest-like quality. Then punctuate it all with deep bass drums, lending an immense stature to the music.
The electronics are not to be overlooked in this hyperactive mix. Keyboards bloop and swoon, delivering riffs that ooze through the fleeting spaces between beats.
Scorning the use of sampled instruments to give the keyboards a varied palette, the keyboards that spill forth in this music are odd and unnatural: synthetic creations that evoke spiritual presence or giant machines eclipsing the sky.
The result is a tasty undercurrent of weirdness pulsating behind the twin walls of hyper-percussions and flaming guitars.
Despite its obvious Ashra sound, this music bestows a striking variation to Ashra's aerial technique in that Baltes/Grosskopf/Heilhecker deliver an earthier dose of this style of electronic music.
Their dynamic take is quite icy at points.
2005. Matt Howarth / Sonic Curiosity
This CD is a 2004 reissue of a 2001 release. Here’s what I said then:
"Having been associated with the likes of Ashra and Klaus Schulze, these three guys decided to venture out on their own and see what they could come up with. The result forms a highly successful outing of four long jam sessions of electric guitars, aggressive rhythms, and electronic loops and samples. It’s like Berlin school mixed with rock and maybe even the sensibilities of long freeform jazz, at least in terms of the way the musicians just open it up and play off of each other, feeling the musical moment.
Though I’ve heard Baltes has a penchant for precision, the result feels spontaneous and visceral. The emphasis is on long tracks that captivate with hypnotic beats and circular musical patterns that repeat into infinity.
"Blue Lake" sounds like an Ashra track with pumped-up drums.
"Crazy Snake" mixes lots of beats and samples into a more concentrated burst of energy.
"White Deer Skin Dance" makes very good use of a Manuel Göttsching sample, the end result being even more Ashra-like than "Blue Lake".
Finally, the disc hits its peak with "The Long Walk" as strong electric guitar plays to powerful but slightly more restrained rhythms, and rhythmic structure gives way to texture and sonic exploration. Great stuff."
In retrospect, I think this falls more into the good-but-not-great category. The beat is a little too insistent on "Blue Snake" and "White Deer Skin Dance", although the energy is good and when it hits me just right that can be fun.
But "Crazy Snake" is mostly annoying, a hodgepodge of noise that never settles down.
"The Long Walk" remains my favorite, but Ashra fans will probably like it the least, as it is the most abstract and least Ashra-like.
Phil Derby / Electroambient Space
Malgré les similitudes équivoques, ce n’est pas le nouvel album d’Ashra. Bien sûr, Grosskopf et Baltes sont de nouveau présents mais point de Goettsching. Par contre, les guitares sont l’oeuvre d’Axel Manrico Heilhecker, l’un des guitaristes phares de la scène allemande. le résultat est à la hauteur des attentes. Tout en marchant sur les traces d’Ashra, les séquences asphyxiantes, les batteries et percussions époustouflantes, les atmosphères électroniques et les excellentes parties de six corde laissent pantois.
Les fans d’Ozric Tentacles ne devraient pas non plus restés indifférents, tout comme les adeptes de l’école de Berlin.
Prog-résiste / France
4 + 3 = 7: numero misterioso e magico.
4 x 3 = 12. 2 + 1 = 3: numero perfetto.
Con la numerologia potremmo andare avanti all'infinito, lo stesso infinito che il trio tedesco scatena con la sua musica ipnotica e ossessiva.
Un trio delle meraviglie, ci viene da dire. Harald Grosskopf, batterista ormai leggendario, collaboratore di Klaus Schulze prima e degli Ashra dopo. Steve Baltes, "live electronics wizard", anch'egli in forza agli Ashra negli ultimi anni.
Axel Manrico Heilhecker, sfrontato chitarrista. I tre si mescolano a piacimento, come il gioco delle tre carte: Harald è il jolly, che ha collaborato con Steve nel progetto N-Tribe e con Axel in quello Sunya Beat. Era ora che unissero le forze per una band comune.
Eccoli qui, 4 volte tre: lo sforzo di ognuno di loro è quadruplicato, tanto da realizzare un disco che sintetizza bene l'apporto di ogni membro. Il lavoro fu inciso nel 2001 ma solo tre anni dopo l'olandese Groove Unlimited ha deciso di rimetterlo in giro. Saggia scelta.
Inutile dire che i seguaci degli Ashra saranno pienamente soddisfatti: suoni, colori, cavalcate al galoppo nell'infinità del cosmo, tutto ricorda le scorribande di Manuel Gottsching. E tanto per scomodarlo un po' di più la sequenza loop di "White Deer Snake" è la sua...
"Blue Lake" apre le danze con un trip vorticoso, difficile sfuggirne. E' un insieme di tessiture che si contorce su di sè: Grosskopf parte con il suo drumming impervio, Axel gli dà man forte per poi affrancarsi ed entrare in circolo sui tappeti sonori di Baltes.
La Groove, nell'immancabile dicitura "file under", colloca l'album nella sezione "Rhythmic". Parola omnicomprensiva ma l'aspetto ritmico è in effetti quello che maggiormente risalta nell'opera. Baltes e Grosskopf sono una coppia formidabile, una macchina sonora "house" che scuoterebbe le mura della discoteca più tosta. Prendete "Crazy snake" e passatelo al dj di turno: sudore assicurato in disco...
Heilhecker da parte sua aggiunge spezie suggestive, svisate rock, lamenti blues. Se lassù fa freddo hanno proprio di che riscaldarsi.
E se la Foresta Nera è il luogo ideale per i viandanti solitari, "The Long Walk" è proprio la migliore colonna sonora: il lungo brano mostra infatti il lato inedito del trio, quello legato all'ambient visionario e surreale, talvolta claustrofobico, talatra profondamente evocativo.
Ovviamente il difetto di questo kraut rock è la ripetitività: basta ascoltare questi dischi senza particolari pretese apprezzando anzi l'interplay strumentale, la capacità di catturare l'ascoltatore, che si ritrova come una mosca nella perfetta ragnatela.
2005. Donato Zoppo
So we effectively have half of the current Ashra line up plus Axel Manrico Heilhecker.
They open with a barrage of noises all going together to conjure up images of a rather violent area of space or maybe water as the track is curiously titled 'Blue Lake'. A sequence emerges from the depths and the track starts to acquire more structure. The drums then come in and we get into a superb groove. The volume steadily increases building the excitement all the time.
Some Gottsching style guitar is added and its pure bliss. The effect is almost hallucinatory. And just listen to those fantastic drums when they get in full flow! Actually I played this after a couple of beers and it felt more like I had had six. This is a wonderful track, it is impossible to overstate how good it is and it's the closest we get on the album to the Ashra sound (a little like a turbo charged 'Inventions' actually).
'Crazy Snake' is well named as the track does thrash around a little and there is a sort of rattling sound in it. The rhythms and guitar are all rather intense - given the right substances and played under the flashing lights of a club setting it could sound awesome but to most customers I think it would be a little too heavy.
'White Deer Skin Dance' begins with a slow sequence over which a dreamy guitar line is played. Actually they do credit a sample from Manuel on this track - probably from 'E2 E4'. This sample plays a prominent part in the whole track. Another sequence is added and this again could be an Ashra track until the heavy dance beat is introduced. This beat might put some people off who would otherwise have liked the track but others will think that it enhances it. Initially I wasn't too keen but actually after a few plays I hardly seemed to notice it any more. What is certainly unavoidable is the second dance beat that comes in during the last five minutes. Could have sub titled this track 'Boy Racer' as it just reminded me of seventeen year old boys in their hot hatches bombing round the city streets with their car hi-fi's (worth more than the car) pumped up to max. What an old bugger I am!
'The Long Walk' is very atmospheric, made up of a collage of dark sounds and effects. Even though its atmospheric however it doesn't stop it being rather dramatic with many a crash and other abrasive sound. It isn't until the last third of the track that any real rhythmic content is deployed and even then it is all rather manic as is the guitar that accompanies it.
It's weird but I really liked it.