The pioneering German musician Manuel Göttsching sadly passed away peacefully on 4th December 2022 aged 70.

During a career spanning over five decades, he released over 30 albums in a variety of guises, working with the likes of Conny Plank, Harald Grosskopf, Lutz Ulbrich and the late Klaus Schulze who died earlier this year. His website simply said in tribute: “When your fingers touched the strings of a guitar, the world stood still. May it stands still and bring you back to us whenever we hear you play. The void he leaves behind we want to fill with his music and loving memories.”

Having studied classical guitar from an early age but with ambitions to be a drummer, Göttsching began his recorded career with Klaus Schulze in ASH RA TEMPEL; their self-titled album in 1971 was engineered by Conny Plank and seeded from sessions of free-form improvising. Comprising of just one track per side of vinyl, the building eerie atmospheres of ‘Traummaschine’ and the noisier rock of ‘Amboss’, the record was hailed as a Kosmiche landmark.

After Schulze departed, Göttsching continued ASH RA TEMPEL with other musicians and collaborated with psychedelic advocate and acid guru Timothy Leary on ‘Seven Up’ in 1972. But it was obvious that the Berlin-based multi-instrumentalist felt restricted by the band format, as evidenced by a solo record ‘Inventions For Electric Guitar’ which was billed as the sixth ASH RA TEMPEL album.

Signing to Virgin Records in 1977 who also had other German acts like FAUST and TANGERINE DEAM on their roster, he shortened the moniker to ASHRA and released what many consider to be his first masterpiece ‘New Age Of Earth’.

Exploring more progressive instrumental territory, Göttsching used an Eko Rhythm Computer, ARP Odyssey and his signature keyboard, a Farfisa Synthorchestra to compliment his meditative transient six string style that was for texture as much as it was for melody. The wonderful 20 minute ‘Nightdust’ and the gently percussive ‘Sunrain’ were just two of the jewels on this beautiful treasure trove of a record while ‘Ocean Of Tenderness’ captured a glorious widescreen ambience.

While Göttsching continued solo on 1978’s worthy follow-up ‘Blackouts’, he expanded the line-up of ASHRA to include drumming synthesist Harald Grosskopf and guitarist Lutz Ulbrich on the next two Virgin albums ‘Correlations’ and the more rock and vocal-led ‘Belle Alliance’. In a 2020 interview with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, Harald Grosskopf remembered: “We never talked about commercial intentions. Our main interest was having fun and producing something original. I liked the freedom of not thinking about whom we could reach or sell to what we had made. The combination of the three of us simply made it what it was. Everybody had ideas and had the chance to put them into the album. Manuel played a very melodic guitar. In those days, maybe Carlos Santana was a bit of an influence on him.”

Göttsching’s next masterpiece came almost by accident; having reunited with Klaus Schulze for a concert tour and returned home, he decided to improvise an extended piece based around an understated Prophet 10 sequence as something to listen to on his recently purchased Walkman for an upcoming flight. Influenced by minimalist trailblazers Steve Reich and Philip Glass, the end result was the hour long ‘E2-E4’ which was eventually released in 1984.

Using a gentle but hypnotic backbone and an extended guitar solo in the second half, despite press criticisms on its initial release that it was inconsequential muzak, ‘E2-E4’ became an influence in the development of Balearic house and ambient techno, so much so that it was sampled for the club track ‘Sueño Latino’ in 1989 which was a favourite at New York’s Paradise Garage. Manuel Göttsching also composed music for fashion designers such as Claudia Skoda and Wolfgang Joop as well as theatre productions like ‘Dracula’ while continuing to perform live; an ASHRA band reunion in Japan with Harald Grosskopf and Lutz Ulbrich resulted in the release of two live documents in 1998.

Previously unreleased archive recordings such as the wonderful ‘Dream & Desire’ collection and the six volume series ‘The Private Tapes’ would also attract interest. 2000 saw Manuel Göttsching and Klaus Schulze return as ASH RA TEMPEL to play the Royal Festival Hall in London for Julian Cope’s Cornucopea Festival and release an album ‘Friendship’. A few years later, there were live performances of ‘E2-E4’ including one at the esteemed Berlin techno club Berghain in 2006 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of its recording. In 2013, Göttsching returned to London to perform at Oval Space with deep house producer Henrik Schwarz.

Manuel Göttsching appeared live as recently as September 2022 performing with Hans-Joachim Roedelius of CLUSTER at the Zodiak festival in Berlin.

Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th December 2022