This story begins on September 9, 1952 when little Manuel Göttsching is born in post-war Berlin . At the age of eight, Göttsching began to learn classical guitar, which he did consistently over the next few years. Now good enough on the six strings, Manuel Göttsching founded their first own band together with his best friend and schoolmate Hartmut Enke in 1967 on Enke’s 15th birthday. Actually, Manuel wanted to take over the part of the drummer, but it ended with Göttsching becoming the lead singer. However, this formation did not get beyond appearances at their school. At the same time, Konrad Latte, the director of the Berlin Baroque Orchestra, founded the Electronic Beat Studio in the basement of the Nelson Mandela School, the former vocational school for hairdressers at Pfalzburger Straße 30 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf, which was developed by the Swiss music student and later avant-garde composer Thomas Kessler. was built up and managed. Most of the electronic music studios at that time were located in the academic environment. The Electronic Beat Studio took a completely different approach. There Göttsching and Enke met Kessler, whose mentor he became. Kessler introduced the local musicians to American minimal music and thus shaped the hip sound of this small scene. However, this American direction was viewed very skeptically by scholars at the time. In the beginning, the musicians learned to create so-called tape loop loops with tape recorders, learned techniques of musique concrète, but also played on the usual instruments, such as guitar, bass and drums. What Can and Kraftwerk did in Cologne and Düsseldorf saw the light of day here in Berlin as the origin of the so-called Berlin School. A nucleus of the so-called Krautrock was born. Edgar Froeses Tangerine Dream, Agitation Free with Lutz “Lüül” Ulbrich, Klaus Schulze, Günter Schickert , Cluster with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius … new musicians and bands – unknown – german … away from the Anglo-American models. Göttsching and Enke felt right at home in this world, improved their musical skills and learned a lot of new things. At the beginning of 1970, the two founded the formation Steeple Chase Blues Band with their buddies Volker Zibell and Wolfgang Müller, which did not last long.
Enke bought her used equipment from the group Pink Floyd during a trip to England in London . In the same year, Göttsching and Enke founded Ash Ra Tempel together with Klaus Schulze, the former drummer of Tangerine Dream, who had left the group shortly after the release of the first album. According to Göttsching, the band name was composed of “Ash” – the worldly, material, – “Ra” – the divine, spiritual – and the “temple“, where both met. The plan was a sound that combines these new tones with bluesy improvisations under one roof. In the circle of Berlin electronic music one met Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, who founded the Ohr Label in 1969 with the financial support of Peter Meisel, the then director of Hansa Musikverlag. Like Tangerine Dream with their debut “Electronic Meditation“, Ash Ra Tempel also found a home at Ohr and so the first album of the same name saw the light of day in 1971. Schulze soon left Ash Ra Tempel to pursue his own solo career. Her old bandmate Wolfgang Müller took over the vacant post. In the meantime, Kaiser had founded the label Kosmische Kuriere/Kosmische Musik, on which bands such as Wallenstein, Mythos or the Munich Popol Vuh cavorted. Individually or all together under the moniker Cosmic Jokers. Other eccentric fellow musicians and companions such as the two Swiss Sergius Golowin, writer, the painter and musician Walter Wegmüller or the American psychologist and drug pope Dr. Timothy Leary provided an enraptured, drug-influenced “cosmic” music. In the next three years, four more albums with their electronic music were created.
In 1974 Manuel Göttsching founded his own Roma Studio in Berlin. On his 75 album Inventions for Electric Guitars, recorded there, the name Manuel Göttsching appeared for the first time on the front next to Ash Ra Tempel. Göttsching explained much later that he considered Inventions his first solo record. With the next album New Age of Earth a new chapter begins for the band around Göttsching. He shortens the band name and henceforth operates under the name Ashra. This phase produced four very good records between 1976 and 1980. From the drug-like experiments, the sound has evolved to New Age Music. While New Age of Earth and Blackouts were recorded by Göttsching alone, he brought his old companions Lutz ” Lüül” Ulbrich and Wallenstein‘ Harald Grosskopf on board for Correlations and Belle Alliance . In this line-up Ashra toured through some European countries. In 1981 Manuel Göttsching together with his girlfriend Rosi Müller, who had already been heard on some Ash Ra temple recordings, and the fashion designer Claudia Skoda as Die Dominas , who released a 10″ inch vinyl record with three songs in March 81. One of the songs was titled “Herr Ralfi und Herr Karl” and these two gentlemen were none other than Ralf Hütter and Karl Bartos from Kraftwerk, who also designed the cover of the Dominas EP.
On December 12, 1981, Göttsching wants to record some music for his Walkman in his Roma studio, he has to fly from Berlin to Hamburg the next day. The tape machine is running, the sequencer is bubbling away some synthesizer chords. The drum machine brings the synthetic beat into play. About half an hour later, his guitar, a Gibson SG, comes into play. This goes on for a good 59 minutes, and when Göttsching listens to the tape afterwards, he is surprised to find that the almost one-hour track sounds really good. No post-processing and overdubs are necessary. The recorded piece sounds completely different from what you were used to from him so far. Göttsching doesn’t really want to release the music, he only recorded the piece to accompany his flight to Hamburg. Over the next three years, however, people to whom he played the track repeatedly approached him, asking him to publish it. Also in the tenor of these supporters is his old buddy Klaus Schulze, who released the song in 1984 on his own label Inteam in an edition of 1000 copies. Manuel Göttsching plays chess passionately and therefore he chooses a stylized chessboard with the 64 squares in brown and beige as his cover motif. A famous opening move in chess is pawn E2 on E4. This title had been haunting his head for quite some time and finally he had the right music for it. The album was titled E2–E4 and given the catalog number ID 20.004. Analogous to the opening move in chess, the album was the first to be released under its own name. The checkerboard-like squares of the cover were made as relief embossing. Although only a continuous track, the piece is listed in nine individual songs in the tracklist, all of which describe a chess game.
Two keyboard chords are repeated by the sequencer over and over a minute, electronically generated percussion rhythms from the drum computer are added. Again about a minute later a new synth pattern is added, which remains in the foreground and pushes the original into the background. So the track meanders along and changes noticeably by small adjustments on the synthesizer. The basic mood is always preserved, as if only a new window in a room is opened again and again. With your eyes closed, you can imagine an imaginary train journey. The sound of the rails remains the same, the passing landscape changes. Amazingly, the track does not get boring for a second, although the basic tenor still consists only of the two chords on the synth. After 31 minutes, the electric guitar comes into play and repeats the two chords in playful variations. A good five minutes later, the guitar breaks out of this structure and beats almost jazzy capers around the basic theme. These guitar-solo-like melodic arcs take the song to a new level. The intensity of the whole structure increases … as if the imaginary train were to take off the tracks and become an airplane. Over time, more rhythms are added, which almost have a Latin American character. The guitar capers stand out from the ground and are concisely in the foreground. The further the track goes, this flight changes more and more into a journey through an imaginary tunnel through time and space. Musical colors swirl around the listener as the surroundings outside fade into a colorless tint. After a good 55 minutes, the flight slowly starts to land, the guitar disappears and the old basic theme is back in the foreground. The plane becomes a train again, which slows down imperceptibly, until the end only the two synth chords remain and fade out. After an almost one-hour journey you have reached your destination. You almost think you are waking up from a dream and rub your eyes – trying to orient yourself where you are.
E2–E4 hardly sells at all in Germany. In 1984 the Neue Deutsche Welle has reached its zenith, who wants to hear the old Krautsound of the 70s, an instrumental piece at that. Nobody in this country is interested in this old anymore. This was not to change again until a decade later, when the excellent reputation of Krautrock was brought back to Germany from the outside, by people like the legendary BBC DJ John Peel or Julian Cope, the singer of the post-punk band The Teardrop Explodes – re-imported, so to speak. At the time of publication, the reviews were divided. Some praised the piece to the sky, others tore it up in the air. It was not until a few years later that Göttsching learned of the album’s legendary reputation, when many techno and house disc jockeys from all over the world asked him to use sequences from E2–E4 as samples for his own tracks or even to remix it completely. Göttsching is surprised because his sequences were recorded completely differently from the beats of house music.
In the following years Göttsching played again and again in different formations, partly under Ash Ra Tempel, Ashra or solo concerts and recorded records. Some of the old and new live concerts were released on DVD. In 2002 Göttsching launched his own label MG.Art. In March 2005, the contemporary music ensemble Zeitkratzer performed a part of E2–E4 together with Manuel on acoustic guitar at the Berlin Volksbühne. This recording of about 22 minutes in length was released as a maxi-CD on MG.Art. At the end of August 2006 Manuel Göttsching played at the Metamorphose Festival in Japan and performed E2 – E4 for the very first time live in its original form with electric guitar and electronics. On December 12, 2006, he performed it again on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the recording of E2–E4 at Club Berghain in his hometown Berlin. In August 2008, Göttsching headlined the prestigious music series “Wordless Music” at Lincoln Center with the US live premiere of E2-E4. In January 2015 Göttsching played solo as part of the Kraut & Drastik interview/concert series at the Münchner Kammerspiele. With the Danish band Cirklen he performed his 75 solo work Inventions for Electric Guitars live in Szczecin, Poland in April 2017.
On Sunday, December 4, 2022, Manuel Göttsching passed away peacefully at the age of 70 surrounded by his family. With him, the music world loses a cornerstone of electronic music, a pioneer and trailblazer of the Berlin School. Göttsching already developed and recorded many parts from E2–E4 on his 75 album. His works often served as a blueprint for later techno music. Many electronic musicians of the newer generation refer to Manuel Göttsching as a role model, source of ideas and inspiration for their own music. E2–E4 is immovably fixed in the electronic music cosmos as a monolith. It is to be hoped that Manuel Göttsching’s work will reach many more music enthusiasts and that E2–E4 will finally gain the status it truly deserves with the normal audience. In his honor, a memorial event will take place on Friday, February 10, 2023 at the Ufa factory in Berlin, where the Danes from Cirklen will once again perform Inventions for Electric Guitars. In addition to other musicians, Manuel’s old colleague and friend Lutz “Lüül” Ulbrich will also perform. Original vinyl first pressings in top condition now bring about 400 euros and are hard to find. A true gem for every record collection. For my part, I am very happy to have seen Manuel Göttsching live in Munich in 2015.
Manuel Göttsching – E2 – E4
1984 – Inteam – ID 20.004
A1 – Ruhige Nervosität
A2 – Gemäßigter Aufbruch
A3 – … Und Mittelspiel
A4 – Ansatz
B1 – Damen-Eleganza
B2 – Ehrenvoller Kampf
B3 – Hoheit weicht (nicht ohne Schwung)
B4 – … Und Souveränität
B5 – Remis