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Published on Aug 17, 2008
MANUEL GÖTTSCHING : Born in 1952 of an educated middle-class family, Manuel Göttsching grew up in the strange cultural milieu of post-WWII industrial West Germany. Training at an early age in classical guitar, whose formalist rigidity he would soon abandon, he soon developed an intense fondness of the broadly appealing and unprecedented sounds of 1960's counter-culture music, rock mostly. At the age of 15, Göttsching joined with classmates Harmut Enke & Klaus Schulze in conceiving the musical collective Ash Ra Tempel. While it appears their original intention was to produce in a similar vein as much of the contemporary psychedelic rock popular among youth at the time, their aesthetic composure, methodological precision & theoretical foresight (and at such an early age) gave birth to an entirely new edifying enterprise whose roots spread across the German and international cultural landscape, a sound and aesthetic we now know as "Krautrock." What made Ash Ra Tempel so remarkably unique at the time was it's purifying effect: the ability to appropriate elements of rock, avant-garde, classical and jazz and sonically channel their most entrancing elements into the common stream of individual, collective and social release: a sort of musical ablution that testified to the dialectical sublimation of vastly eclectic traditions only conceivable in the vacant, uninhabited cultural space of a nation still hesitant to even utter the words "national identity." The personality of Göttsching, his quiet, reserved and complexly theorized approach contributed to the formulation of early landmark releases "Ash Ra Tempel" (after which Klaus Schulz left the band), "Schwingungen," and the psychedelic staple "Seven Up," featuring, among other guests, the stream-of-conscious ramblings of psychedelic godfather and pioneer, Timothy Leary.
Acting as the central anchor for a number of different collaborations throughout the mid-late 1970's and 1980's, including the establishing of his own loosely centralized group, Ashra, Göttsching established a musical form that embodied the sporadic and unmapped expanses of the subconscious territories of the mind, stretching out a specific chord structure or melody and elevating it into the domain of the indefinite, repeating and refining the notes until they no longer held isolated significance, that only in the performing, reworking and experimenting with these melodies did the actual act, the performance and the lived experience that comes before the composition of music be embedded and embodied in its form. With quintessential releases such as 'Shuttlecock' & 'e2-e4', the latter of which became a cult classic among underground dance music circles in the United States and abroad, Göttsching built a legacy of music that had a mission as much as a sound, a theory as much as a practiced expression, a definitive, sophisticated aesthetic that framed and structured the free-form expressionism of his technique. That Göttsching remains a humble shadow in the backdrop of the indulgent panache of modern musical stardom and personality cult demonstrates that the man behind the Ashra has never been much interested in the fame and fortune that comes along musical popularity. To this day, Göttsching continues to perform his psychedelic form with equal enthusiasm as the early days of his career, eager to disseminate his music to as many willing listeners as he can reach, confident that his sound wields the same unique power to the willing listener as it did close to 40 years ago.