Both as a founding member of the Krautrock group Ash Ra Tempel and through his later solo work, Manuel Göttsching was among the true innovators of the musical aesthetic later dubbed electronica, with his 1984 release E2-E4 remaining a seminal building block in the subsequent development of styles ranging from techno to house to contemporary ambient music. Born in 1952 and raised in West Berlin, Göttsching gave up his classical music training at the age of 14 to begin performing with a variety of local groups, eventually turning to electronics and improvisational techniques. In 1970 he formed Ash Ra Tempel with ex-Tangerine Dream drummer Klaus Schulze and schoolmate Harmut Enke; the group was quickly signed by the Berlin-based OHR label, issuing their self-titled debut LP the following year.
As electronics began making a bigger and bigger impact on the German music scene, Ash Ra Tempel emerged at the vanguard of the new technology, acquiring new equipment with seemingly each passing performance; after 1972′s Schwingungen, the group even played live in Switzerland with Dr. Timothy Leary, a collaboration which yielded 1973′s Seven Up. By the following year both Schulze and Enke had left the group, however, with Göttsching forging ahead as a solo artist now working simply as Ashra; around this same time he issued Inventions for Electric Guitar, a groundbreaking soundscape which greatly furthered his experiments with electronics. Subsequent releases including 1977′s New Age of Earth continued his guitar manipulations; during the middle of the decade, he also played in the group the Cosmic Jokers.
Göttsching and Schulze reteamed in late 1981 for an improvisational tour; at the end of their run they agreed to soon hook up again to appear in Hamburg. The day before he left Göttsching sat down in his studio to create a piece of music to listen to on the airplane; the end result was a 58-minute experimental piece dubbed E2-E4, a collage of treated guitar lines, icily atmospheric synths, and cutting-edge beats. Never intending for the track to see the light of day, he did not issue it until 1984, the first of his albums to appear under his own name. E2-E4 soon became a major favorite on the underground club circuit, where it was regularly spun in sets featuring New Order and other key innovators of the moment despite its creator’s admission that it was never created with dance audiences in mind.
In 1989 Göttsching was contacted by a group of Italian DJs wishing to release a remix of E2-E4; he agreed, even traveling to Italy to play guitar on the track. Retitled due to licensing restrictions, it appeared as an eponymous release credited to Sueño Latino, going on to become a worldwide club smash which eventually topped the U.K. dance charts. Ironically, it sold more copies than all of Göttsching’s previous recordings combined. That same year, he also resurrected the Ashra name to release the LP Walkin' the Desert, his first collection of new music in some time. In the years to follow, Göttsching continued working on new Ashra material, also taking on a variety of outside projects like composing music for fashion shows. E2-E4 also remained an electronica touchstone, sampled by artists including Junior Vasquez and Carl Craig. In 2007, Universal released the CD/DVD Live at Mt. Fuji. Göttsching died on December 4, 2022. ~ Jason Ankeny