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Aska Temple - Omega Point Live

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Artist: Aska Temple

Album: Omega Point Live

Label: Nichts Records

Review date: Apr. 16, 2003

Set the Controls for Destination Unknown

John Ubel, aka Aska Temple, is an exceptionally active musician from Nara, Japan, whose experiments with guitar and synthesizer have been documented via his own Nichts Records CDR label. It's sometimes difficult keeping up with his activities, but it's often quite rewarding, especially when the project is in a band context. While some of his solo releases are also worthy, they occasionally fall into long-winded voyages without a clear destination in mind (particularly in the case of solo guitar recordings). When anchored by other musicians, however, Ubel tends more often to find the mark, whether it be via synthesizer excursions or guitar mayhem.

This double-CDR release, carefully packaged in a beautiful full-color mini-gatefold sleeve, is worthy of particular note, containing two intriguing live shows exploring parts one and two of "Omega Point." While I generally don't review items which are going to be really difficult for people to acquire, Aska Temple's work is interesting enough to make it worth your while, and Ubel is an active communicator. If what you read here piques your interest, I strongly recommend visiting the Aska Temple web site or sending an email and getting in touch.

The first CDR contains part one, 50 minutes recorded at the infamous Bears live house in Osaka on March 29, 2002. Ubel's synthesizer and guitar are aided by Gonzo Murakami on synth, Naomi Noguchi on drums, and Akihiko Higashiuchihara on bass. The piece opens with waves of synthesizers and pulsing bass, like three Tangerine Dream albums playing at once; very nice. A slow, dark melody enters with a buzzing edge to it, and slow, soft drums begin to anchor things somewhat. Eighteen minutes in the drums get stronger, the synths slightly less dense, and Ubel begins wailing on the guitar. Oddly, the drums remain in the background sound-wise, and sometimes even vanish into the haze, while the synth sound is the most prominent.

Ubel's guitar style is not going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's a somewhat unusual combination of free playing, metal-style hammer-ons, and heavy fuzz. When he really cuts loose is when it gets fun, as his fast, thick, slightly sloppy style is somewhere between emotionally psychedelic outbursts and metal lick abandon.

After a long stretch of guitar chaos, the synths take over again and reach for the stars, colorful planetarium-style waves of analog goodness like the 70s never went away. At the very end things get almost completely silent for a few minutes until the quiet is broken by a burst of synthesizer and guitar noise, and then it's over.

Disc two contains the second part of "Omega Point," another 38 minutes recorded at the Tokuzou club in Nagoya a month after the first disc's set. The lineup is the same here except for the lack of drums, but the effect is much the same since the drums were only occasionally audible on the first disc. The modus operandi is similar, with thick synthesizers, fuzzy tones, and chords in a more symphonic style. As the set moves forward, it gets thicker and thicker, with a really dramatic, dark atmosphere. Long, drawn-out wailing notes wind their way through the clouds; they could be either synth or guitar -- it's hard to tell. Thankfully the bass is much more audible during this set than on the first disc, and its throbbing pulse helps keep the forward momentum going nicely.

One might argue that the sets here don't go anywhere, but the destination clearly isn't the point. If you like your psychedelia wacked-out and thick, this should work for you. It's got endless stretches of layered synthesizer and tons of distorted guitar abuse, and if you lay back and just let go, you'll likely get what you're looking for. It's not as rock-oriented as most Acid Mothers Temple, and not as brain-friendly as, say, Cosmic Jokers or the aforementioned Tangerine Dream, but it lies somewhere in the same territory. You'll know if that means you should check it out. If your answer's a yes, check the web site or send an email to johnubel@mqc.biglobe.ne.jp and tell him you learned about his work from Dusted.

By Mason Jones

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