Saturday, 5 June 2010

Manuel Gottsching live in Paris - June 2010

La Geode, a strikingly modern piece of of architecture is situated at La Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Paris. A large spherical structure, it's exterior covered with mirrored, tessellated triangular panels it is a beautiful venue and the right choice for a special show. It is 34 years since Manuel Gottsching last appeared in Paris in a solo capacity and that performance at the Bataclan partially found a release on The Private Tapes, a 6 CD limited edition archival collection, now long out-of-print. The first soundcheck for this event lasted four hours, finishing at 4:00 am the previous morning. As the interior of La Geode is a cinema by day the second soundcheck will involve setting up the equipment from scratch: not an ordinary pre-concert ritual. This second session is more about checking sound levels and that the instruments are all working than it is full run-throughs of tracks. The intense rhythms and drone of Trunky Groove hammers out of the amplifiers, stopping and starting in bursts, as Manuel and his sound engineer Markus assemble and adjust a network of wires. It strikes this writer how cumbersome a soundcheck would have been in 1976, the last time Gottsching played a solo concert in this city, the equipment then infinitely more laborious to assemble and temperamental. A clang of guitar with a few hints of lead playing, a spell testing the keyboard and the soundcheck concludes.

90 minutes later the sun is setting, reflected in the myriad mirrored panels that comprise the exterior of La Geode. The Cite des Sciences and it's grounds are bathed in a soft orange glow. Bois de Soleil indeed. The atmosphere is electric, as the old and the young gather outside the building. The setlist is still a mystery and therein lies part of the anticipation and excitement.

After a visual spectacular from Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), featuring a steadily building ambient accompaniment to a film chronicling the evolution of life from the Big Bang to advanced sea creatures it is Manuel Gottsching's turn to take to the stage.

The set opens with the powerful, tumbling rhythms of Trunky Groove in a version different to that featured on the Live at Mt. Fuji CD. Instead of the previous offbeat guitars the keyboard is the chosen tool for exploration here.

Following the intense opener Gottsching steps up to the microphone to make a heartfelt dedication to his mother-in-law, who sadly recently passed away. This tender tribute, which included an expression of regret about the passage of time finds its way into the next musical offering: a guitar oriented version of the title track from the Die Mulde album. This is where Gottsching's guitar playing is really allowed to take flight and what begins as melancholic soars towards transcendence.
Shuttle Cock, an exercise in tight, cyclical guitar overdubbing on the Blackouts album is here a techno infused slice of minimalism, over which Gottsching plays lightning fast hypnotic patterns of notes. A reminder of the man behind Inventions for Electric Guitar, this is perhaps the most entrancing and breathtaking part of the whole set.

A second offering from Blackouts, Midnight on Mars takes advantage of the cavernous acoustics and watching Gottsching playing melodic flurries of notes whilst framed by the atmospherically lit, skeletal interior of La Geode I find myself momentarily wondering whether Jimi Hendrix might have explored similar musical terrain had he stuck around.

Manuel's new version of Deep Distance (inspired by DJ/producer/musician Joe Claussell's earlier remix of the New Age of Earth track) is rhythmically heavy and in some respects not a million miles away from the pounding Born Slippy by Underworld. Some keyboard parts, comparable with the studio version float above the strong pulse and some fine, extended guitar work rounds things off. After a standing ovation Gottsching returns to Die Mulde for the final section of the piece, Zerfluss. An upbeat and joyous conclusion to the earlier performance of the title track, this offering provides the show with a neat bookend.

Well over 3 decades since the Paris Bataclan show of 1976 this concert in a suitably spectacular venue offered evidence that Manuel Gottsching is still relevant and still capable of producing cutting edge sounds. Some of the music may have been familiar but the arrangements were utterly contemporary and utterly convincing. This gentle and modest man is still making spellbindingly powerful music.