Ashra - Belle Alliance / Belle Alliance Plus. 1980 Germany (archival)

Belle Alliance is the second and final album by the trio of Gottsching, Ulbrich, and Grosskopf. There are many similarities to their previous effort Correlations, though there are some exceptions to be noted. 'Screamer' is very much rooted in the New Wave 80s sound, but with some fine psychedelic guitar soloing providing a great contrast of styles. 'Boomerang' tries for a reggae sound, with mixed results, but once again the guitar saves the day. 'Aerogen' gives one an idea of what happens when sequencer based electronic meets a power trio. 'Sausalito' could also be considered an instrumental progressive rock track, similar to maybe fellow countrymen Rousseau. 'Code Blue' goes deep into electronic space, not that dissimilar to Klaus Schulze's late 70s works. 'Mistral' takes us back to the glorious spacey electronics + guitar of the Blackouts album, and is just gorgeous. Overall an excellent, and diverse, album from veterans who were still exploring music in an exciting way. Unfortunately this album concluded the Virgin era for Ashra, as well as the trio itself.

Reviewing the second half separately, since it includes an extra disc of entirely new material. This would be the "Plus" part. There are only 3 tracks here, of which two make up the majority. 'Flying Turtles' is 11:25, whereas Voices of Heddernheim comes in at a whopping 24:21 ('Urscreamer' is 2:38 for reference). So basically what we have here is the jamming sessions that made up Belle Alliance - though it must be said both of these tracks are entirely unique. With a certain amount of editing, these 2 would have made a splendid addition to the original LP. Perhaps to be expected, the guitar is more psychedelic here, recalling Gottsching's and Ulbrich's Krautrock past. Personally speaking, I wouldn't want to own this album on CD without this extra disc, which was first introduced on Gottsching's own label in 2008.

Personal collection
LP: 1980 Virgin
CD: 2008 Arcangelo (Japan) as Belle Alliance Plus

The gatefold mini-LP styled CD is a 2 disc set that includes a full album's worth of material recorded from the same session. Inside the gatefold are photos of all 3 in the studio while recording. I first picked up the LP in the mid 1980s in my initial discovery of Ashra.

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