Manuel Gottsching, September 1952 – December 2022
Sad news as the electronic music world learns of the passing of Manuel Gottsching earlier in this month
Gottsching was an innovator of the Berlin scene, initially a guitarist playing in blues bands. When then drummer Klaus Schulze left Tangerine Dream, he teamed up with Gottsching and bassist Hartmut Enke to form Ash Ra Tempel, a psychedelic improvising rock band. Gottsching and other members also found themselves on the Cosmic Couriers/Cosmic Jokers recordings of long, improvised jam sessions.
As members fell away from Ash Ra Tempel, Gottsching recorded a more or less solo album “Starring Rosi,” and then an innovative multitracked all guitar album “Inventions for Electric Guitar,” making his guitar patterns sound like the analog sequencers that were only just becoming available at the time.
Becoming fascinated with the sound of synthesizers, he picked up an arsenal that today would be vastly expensive if not unobtainable – a Farfisa Syntorchestra for string chords, an ARP Odyssey and Sequencer, an EMS Synthi A for abstract sounds, and a rare Eko ComputeRhythm, a drum machine programmed from punch cards. With these he created “New Age of Earth” and signed for the album as simply Ashra to Virgin Records, alongside Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream.
Though “New Age Of Earth” has a warm, fuzzy sound, the following “Blackouts” was clear and precise, with guitar overlaying much of the sequencer work. After this album Gottsching expanded to a band line-up, again with guitarist Lutz Ulbrich and original drummer Harald Grosskopf, for a series of more conventionally melodic albums such as “Belle Alliance,” and later to techno-oriented performances with synthesist Steve Baltes.
After the Virgin deal, Gottsching had found himself at a loose end, though with stacks of equipment including the dual manual (original) Prophet 10. With this he recorded a long improvisation to play on road trips, and it was a couple of years before Klaus Schulze released this on his Innovative Communication label as “E2-E4” (the typical opening moves in chess notation). The repetitive, minimalist album was picked up particularly in the USA because it could easily be sampled and overdubbed, and eventually became an ambient techno hit as “Sueño Latino.”
Gottsching’s later work for independent movies, art happenings, and even fashion shows had less impact, and recently he had taken to playing concerts mostly of the early material. A planned performance of “New Age of Earth” in its entirety in London was postponed due to lockdown and never rescheduled.
Following the deaths of Edgar Froese, Klaus Schulze, and Vangelis, the passing of Manuel Gottsching marks the end of a sparkling career for another of electronic music’s true innovators.