The death of Ash Ra Tempel founder Manuel Göttsching at the age of 70 prompted artists both old and new to praise his contribution to electronic music, most notably encapsulated in his 1981 composition E2-E4 (scroll down to listen to it in full).
Recorded in one take on 12 December 1981, and named after an opening move in chess, E2-E4 brought the minimalism of Philip Glass and Terry Reilly into the synthesiser age, with Göttsching layering pattern atop pattern to create one of the first digital masterpieces.
Having been rinsed at Paradise Garage, E2-E4 became hugely influential on the Balearic scene of the mid to late 80s, but it’s immortality was ensured with the release of Sueño Latino in 1989, which forever embedded the track into the pantheon of chill out classics.
But as Göttsching himself told The Guardian in 2013, the influence of E2-E4 on a generation of ravers was somewhat baffling to him.
“When I found out E2-E4 was played in clubs, I couldn’t imagine people dancing to it,” he told the paper. “There’s not a strong bass drum and the rhythm is very subtle. I took ideas from dance music, but my composing goes more into the minimalist style of Steve Reich, Philip Glass. It could be played with an orchestra.”
Initial reviews, as he explained, were almost entirely negative, with one German critic calling it “complete ‘muzak’ and said that I’d missed every development in electronic music and I didn’t know anything.”
Some 25 years after recording E2-E4, Göttsching performed the piece in its entirely for the first time at the Metamorphose festival in Japan on 26 August 2006, prompting ecstatic emotion from those present (having been present at Kraftwerk‘s first ever gig in Ireland in 2004 I can vouch for the power of electronic music’s originators to bring out the tears).
CDs and DVDs of the performance command a tidy sum on Discogs these days, while there are also a fair few ropey YouTube videos out there – camera phones weren’t much cop back in the mid-2000s, even in Japan.
In closing, as a ‘year zero’ for minimal techno, E2-E4 is everything – could we have had Ricardo Villalobos, Basic Channel or even The Orb without its ethereal majesty? I think not.
RIP Manuel Göttsching, 9 September 1952 – 4 December 2022.