Manuel Göttsching’s ‘E2-E4’

I’ve been re-reading and reviewing quite a lot of stuff that’s quite central to the way I think about music, art, culture, etc. Following a deep delve into Luigi Russolo and the Futurists I somehow made my way to overhauling what I knew (or thought I knew) about electronic music in Germany. Following a brief mention in David Stubbs’ superb Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany, I chased down this wonderful piece of music which, unbeknown to me, I already sort of knew (see below).

Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4 is just so good on so many levels. The same two chords for nearly an hour. No explicit melody to speak of. Sequenced. Improvised. Technological and synthetic but wholly organic. Ambient but great to dance to. It even has a long guitar solo, and, man, I can’t tell you how far I would usually go to avoid one of those. But the track just feels great.

The icing on the cake for me is this, taken from the sleeve notes:

At the end of 1981, when I came back from a long tour (with Klaus Schultze) I still felt ‘in a concert mood’ for a few days and so one evening I gave a ‘Manuel Göttsching solo concert’ in my studio, just for myself. I luckily had the reflex to press the red ‘record’ button on the tape machine.

[…]

When I listened to the recording afterwards, I was somewhat confused. The music flowed in total balance and even after listening again and again I couldn’t distinguish any flaws or breaks. There weren’t even any of the usual technical glitches such as crackling, dropouts, distortion, or abrupt level changes.

Nothing was too loud or too quiet. Over the years I’d made many session recordings in my studio, but none of them had produced such a perfect and rounded result over this duration and breadth. I found it almost uncanny. And a problem.

After my last release […] I had resolved to produce a new solo LP. I had envisaged an all-encompassing composition for which I had planned a whole year from the development to the finished production. I had already developed a whole range of themes, but they were all loose ends of pieces: the greater overall work was still a long way off.

And here I was with a finished, faultless recording, which I had written, played, and produced within the space of one evening.

What a great story. Any musician would figuratively give their left arms to have this type of wonderful experience. To be in the zone. Not consciously creating, just creating. Letting it just come pouring out. So satisfying, so sweet…

And the reason I already sort of knew it, one of my favourite dance tracks from (ahem) “back in the day”:

Respect.

3 thoughts on “Manuel Göttsching’s ‘E2-E4’

  1. [And the reason I already sort of knew it, one of my favourite dance tracks from (ahem) “back in the day”]

    So, you actually remember the tunes they were playing “back in the day”? For some reason, my memory is foggy! 😉 Oi, btw, what’s wrong with guitar solos? That’s rich coming from someone who plays the clarinet… Great article though. What a tune this is.

  2. PH

    Nothing wrong with guitar solos per se. But I do have deep reservations about the idea of the ‘solo’ as a musical device and, let’s face it, in rock’n’roll there are thousands and thousands and thousands of dull/cliched guitar solos. To be fair, the same could be said about saxophone solos in jazz (say).

  3. I was just pulling your leg really 😉 I wholeheartedly agree about the overabundance of dull solos that are thoughtlessly laid over song sections – It’s as if the composer/band had no other idea of what should go there. I’m glad that solos are no longer a requirement for rock’n’roll. However, when done the right way, a solo can be beautiful and meaningful. There has to be melodic development, tension etc. though. Lots of folks can rip around scales/arpeggios to create exotic, far out harmony, but it tends to leave me cold. Frank Zappa, always sent a shiver down the spine, but he was much more than just a great guitarist.

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