Saturday, 28 March 2009

Live at Mt. Fuji: Something old, something new....

Although Manuel Göttsching had toured Japan as part of Ashra in 1997, his first solo performance in the Land of the Rising Sun was at the Anoyo Prism Festival, Mount Fuji. Thankfully that concert, which took place on 29th April 2006 was captured and released on CD almost a year later by MG Art as Live at Mt. Fuji.

The concert is book ended by two classic Göttsching compositions, Sunrain and Shuttlecock, both of which present fascinating variations on their studio counterparts, taking the listener on a familiar yet refreshingly new journey. The original tracks have both been rebuilt from scratch, using contemporary technology for a gleaming, clean digital finish.

Sunrain, a strong contender for the title of Manuel Göttsching’s signature tune has a contemporary trance feel in this new reading. Sure, the rumbling bass line and irreplaceable, underlying flickering keyboard part are there but with this is new streamlined version the gentle sounds of the EKO Computerhythm drum machine have been replaced with a refined techno beat. The original 1976 composition formed a bridge between classical minimalism and the transcendent trance music of the future long before the classic E2-E4 was improvised. In this version, which is double the length of the original, Göttsching reclaims the genre he invented but in his own way and with his unique musical identity firmly intact. Overall the results prove to be mesmerising.

The slow, brooding, latin flavoured Saint & Sinner, which first appeared on the fine Concert for Murnau CD appears next in re-worked form. Whilst that project was entirely guitar free, this reading of the track is a showcase for a masterful laid-back electric blues workout, the notes flowing from Manuel’s Stratocaster like gentle, cooling drops of rain. Fans of Manuel’s work will instantly recognise his style here in another piece of music confirming his status one of the great guitar players.

Trunky Groove, a new recording exclusive to this CD, is simply beyond comparison. To attempt to compare the crisp, multiple layers of meticulously programmed rhythms here with drum and bass or any other musical genre would do this unique fifteen minute piece a grave disservice.

A light synthesizer drone presents a slightly ominous tone for this musical cityscape and, as the varied rhythmic sounds stutter and tumble deliciously, organ-style synth chords pave the way for a howling, dissonant tremolo heavy guitar solo. Funky rhythm guitar chords lead back to the organ sounds and finally the stripped down rhythms and drone take the piece to a close. If this description sounds strange then so is the music but it is also never less than fascinating. A full album of material in this style would certainly be a welcome addition to the Manuel Göttsching discography.

A medley of music featured in different form on the 2005 CD release Die Mulde (recorded 1997) follows. The slow moving cloud formations suggested by the melancholic title track flow into Die Spiegel, which echoes the works of minimalist composer Terry Riley with its cyclical patterns of notes. This really does seem like the aural equivalent of watching a waterfall: layered sequencers present a hypnotising, silvery, seamless liquid flow of sound. Despite the overridingly pastoral feel of Die Mulde, the final part, Zerfluss finds a gentle factory-machine drum pattern beneath thoughtful, wistful synth chords in a composition as reflective and mysterious as life itself. A playful glockenspiel keyboard voice tiptoes across the music and is finally joined by an awesome, soulful extended Göttsching guitar solo, an element not featured on the original version.

As mentioned previously, the last offering on this 72-minute CD is a new take on the 1977 classic Shuttlecock, first recorded for the album Blackouts. Here the familiar tight, multiple, interlocking clusters of guitar notes are traded in for a fast, trance inducing sequencer line and soft rhythm, over which Göttsching plays a breathtaking guitar solo. Slowly evolving patterns of notes flood from his nimble fingers, funky, electronically treated rhythm guitar chords blend in and out of the mix, and then this fresh treatment draws to a close with a blistering distorted lead guitar solo. An entrancing, extended re-imagining, this serves as a powerful reminder of the musician responsible for Inventions for Electric Guitar and E2-E4, two of the most important albums in the history of popular music.

Curious, uninitiated fans of top quality instrumental music will be thrilled to discover the diverse showcase for Manuel Göttsching’s far-ranging talents found on Live at Mt. Fuji. Existing fans, on the other hand, will certainly not be disappointed with these imaginative contemporary re-workings of classics, presented alongside a great new track. A highly recommended CD.

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