I plan to post a bigger tribute to Manuel Göttsching at the weekend, but I’ve been driving around with this track on loop for the last couple of days, and figured that it deserved a few words of its own…
E2-E4 is an experiment in Steve Reich-ian minimalism. A one-man Music For 18 Musicians, created with a staggering array of 13 synths and sequencers, plus an electric guitar. Recorded in a single take, yeah, but not an improvisation, rather a composition with a definite beginning, middle, and end. It’s a seminal study in phase and delay. Hugely hypnotic, hallucinogenic even, it emits ridiculously warm, reassuring, good, good, vibes. Gradually opening you up to a higher, elevated, state of mind. A perfect prescription of musical medicine. This is “house” before house existed. Influencing both the blissed-out Balearic of Sueno Latino and Basic Channel’s dynamic dub techno. These pioneering progeny themselves landmarks, launching genres of their own. It is, without a doubt, one of the most important and inspirational pieces of electronic music ever made.
The melody slowly emerging, from a maze of gently dancing patterns and pulses. Rippling above percussion, that sounds like struck water-filled vessels, and smartly snapping, rigid, snares. These increasingly frantic flickering frequencies climaxing in totally euphoric high-pitched tones. The rhythm evolving, revolving, subliminally, beneath a terrific 20-minute solo, that repeats and refines phrases on the fly. A virtuoso display of anti-rock riffing. The picking and strumming in places in complete harmony with, almost hidden by, the computerized keys. I remember reading in an interview, somewhere, that Manuel’s progressive plan was to play anything but the blues. However, there are echoes of Peter Green’s genius in the miraculous microtones and nubile notes. Stealing snatches of Spanish sketches, flamenco, before each element, each layer, falls away to a final fade.
*The Orb’s Alex Paterson once accused me of being obsessed with E2 E4. Upstairs at Acid House club, Land Of Oz, I’d heard him, and Jimmy Cauty, mix sound effects and field recordings in and out of it for hours, so when, decades later, I interviewed Alex, I was full of questions about where he’d first heard it, where he bought his copy, etcetera, etcetera…basically boring him stiff. Truth is, the title of this particular piece of Manuel Göttsching’s music held special, personal, significance. Something that I`d convinced myself wasn’t coincidence. I had no idea then that it’s actually a chess move. My first chunk of proper research – back when I had a real job – was investigating a family of proteins referred to as “Erb-B”. This is a group of related enzymes called tyrosine kinases. Using what was then known as “reverse genetics”, we, and others, had shown that inappropriate activation of these proteins played a role in the development of cancer. We`d also shown that by “turning them off” we could slow, or stop, cancer cell growth. This was a kind of “proof-of-principle” paradigm that argued small molecules could be designed to target aberrant cell signaling pathways, and be used as anti-cancer drugs. At the time – what feels like 100 years ago now – this was cutting edge stuff. Our primary focus was Erb-B, or simply “E”, 2. One of the things that I remain most proud of is that we developed a breast cancer treatment that made it to the clinic. Toward the end of my tenure I was trying to improve drug selectivity, with the aim of reducing toxicity. I was working on the importance of interactions between E2… and E4.
Manuel Göttsching, thank you for the music. Rest In Peace.
2 thoughts on “An Ode To E2-E4 ”
Thanks Adam. I hadn’t thought about those days for a long while. When I posted the piece I kinda hoped that maybe a few of my old colleagues might stubble upon it. I hold (nearly : ) all of those folks in very high regard.