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”:
To kick the New Year off, here’s a New You promo video dating from (gulp!) 1987. I’ve had this sitting around for ages, most obviously in need of a serviceable audio track: as you’ll be able to see time has taken its toll.
Marie Malone: vocals.
Paul Hazel: guitar, keyboards, percussion.
David Westmore: bass.
Ian Cleverley: drums, vibraphone.
[There was also a whole bunch of people playing acoustic guitar in the choruses. Can’t remember who exactly…]
Video filmed and edited by David Stonestreet.
The New You logo and backdrops designed by the Bleach Boys.
Video transferred from VHS tape. The original audio track has been replaced with a recording from the 45rpm single: one pass of noise reduction has been applied.
Song written by Willson/Hazel/Malone.
Produced by Paul Hazel.
Engineered by Martin ‘Crazy’ Pavey.
Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Willson I’ve been listening to this a lot recently: one day at work I had it on repeat all afternoon. A highly alluring mixture of cheesy drum sounds and ear-shredding synth, of cool repetition and crazed improvisation. The end result verges on the avant garde…
So, real musical rhythm comes when you listen to the note that’s been played before you, and you know when and where to place your note—and you listen to the note that comes after! This is how ensembles swing […] It’s really all about listening and having a strong enough understanding of where the beat is. You can intentionally pull on the fabric of time, pushing at the edge of the tempo. This could be achieved even harmonically: Ron Carter was a very good example, the way he played with Miles; that’s what he would do: push the pitch of a note, and depending on where he placed it—and the way Tony Williams responded—this all contributes to creating a lot of surface tension. And it is tension that requires resolution of some sort: tension – release – tension – release… Almost like a heartbeat! This is why poetic music is ultimately more satisfying than marching bands or disco, because in most of that music there’s no syncopation, it’s just (beating on the table: beat – beat – beat – beat). There’s not a whole lot there beside the pounding pulse. Music requires a steady beat, but it also needs flexibility. Time awareness is not about trying to play like a metronome.
I like [playing musics] that have a lot more mystery, and are not so—what’s the word?—so obvious or arranged. I like what we don’t say, that’s more interesting to me. So it’s almost anti-drumming in that context. Which again takes us back to the whole time-awareness thing. It’s what you don’t play that makes everything else work. If you play everything, supply every bit of information, there’s nothing left for the imagination of the audience! You’re playing a musical form of pornography at that point, right?