Sunday, 9 June 2013

Manuel Göttsching Book lives!

Firstly, if you follow this blog thank you for your patience. I know it hasn't been updated for quite a while but here is some fresh information for you: 

Before we go any further, I'd like to wish Manuel Göttsching, Harald Grosskopf and Steve Baltes good luck with their forthcoming Ashra show next Saturday (15th June 2013) at UFA Fabrik in Berlin. Have a great time, guys! For the concert flyer with information (in German) see here:  

You can also see some information about the concert (in English) at the UFA Fabrik site here:

I would love to be at the show but as my wife and I are busy saving for a house right now the trek to Berlin isn't going to be possible this time. However, I was at Ashra's show at UFA last summer and all I can say is if you have a chance to see the band live do it. They are superb!
In other news the book is currently being proofread by a friend before I start exploring publication options. Will it be available as a traditional paper book or an e-book of some description? I'm not entirely sure yet. It all depends on what opportunities are out there. We shall see. Before I sent the book to my friend I neatened it up and in doing this decided to trim down the section about the making of the Ashra album Correlations a little, as I felt it was too long. As a way of thanking you for patiently waiting for the blog to be updated I'm including a section that has been cut out of the book below. This is about Phantasus, an early version of what became Correlations. Admittedly this is only going to appeal to the hardcore fan of Manuel Göttsching/Ashra but I know there are plenty of you out there. Hope you enjoy! More news on the book soon, I promise!
Ashra – Phantasus (Recorded: 1978 Released: 2008)

Having produced three solo albums in as many years, with the only diversions coming in the form of projects working as a part of a duo, it is perhaps of little surprise that being part of a band again would require a short period of acclimatisation for Manuel Göttsching. Phantasus, an early, shelved mix of Correlations, finally released from the archive 30 years after it was recorded, is clearly the result of this period of transition. In an interview during the same period as the release of the Correlations Complete boxed set, Göttsching stated: “I got the idea of including the first mix we had made, so it's the same titles, but they sound different, more spacey, more reverb and guitars, like an electronic band that uses rock elements, while the Virgin release sounds like a rock band that uses electronic sounds.”

Essentially this sums up the differences between Phantasus and the subsequent mixes of the tracks that grace the Correlations album. The former tends to suggest a collection of recordings from the period of the Berlin School with musicians brought in to augment solo ideas, whilst the latter generally backgrounds sequencer patterns, allowing for the more expansive sounds of a band playing together. Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf are in the picture with the Phantasus mixes, albeit far less prominently than they would be by the time the Correlations project was complete.

In its original mix Ice Train opens with a bleeping sequencer pattern and features a far more conservative drum track than that which would later be re-recorded. The Phantasus version seems to place the emphasis on Grosskopf’s bass drum work rather than the rest of his kit, the rhythms modestly blending with the pulsing electronics. The later Correlations version, on the other hand, veers much closer to a rock sound, emphasising the sounds of a full kit. Bubbling electronic sounds, recalling the cosmic elements of New Age of Earth and Blackouts would be taken out of the mix by the time a second version was completed in favour of chilly Mellotron string sounds and some slashing, staccato rhythm guitar work. With a running time extended by two minutes the Correlations opener is more of a showcase for a band performance whilst the end of the track ratchets up the tension considerably, with favourable results. Phantasus presents a fascinating glimpse of an alternate work that was once considered the finished product and this version of Ice Train now seems like a work in progress - a stepping-stone on the way towards the completed piece.

The title track of the Phantasus album, ultimately selected as the Correlations closer appears as the second offering here. The sound is denser and the instruments are clustered together more closely than they would be after Mick Glossop’s spacious mix and whilst the running time is a minute longer than it would be in the version pressed to vinyl in 1979 this track seems to have undergone less obvious changes than the bulk of the other material. The same can be said of Bamboo Sands, which features one alternate guitar part during the solo section but is otherwise instrumentally similar to the second version, even if the sound levels of the mix differ. Springtime (later retitled as Oasis for Correlations) simply differs because it has an alternate, more prominent electronic rhythm than the finished Virgin version.

In its first incarnation Club Cannibal is introduced by high register synthesiser parts, with the rhythm guitar taking a little longer to kick in than is the case with the Correlations version. The tempo on the Phantasus mix is noticeably slower than that on the Correlations cut and the earlier mix lacks the autumnal Mellotron string voice, the clever trickling torrent of electronic sounds and most notably the heavy synth bass that would feature in the later redux effort. This is one of the more obviously reworked tracks and whilst the ideas here are not as developed as they would subsequently be the slower tempo provides a powerful alternative to the Virgin Records release. The first mix of Morgana da Capo is also devoid of the Mellotron string sounds that would be selected for inclusion by the end of the Mick Glossop sessions. With less reverb applied to the drum track and guitars a little further back in the mix than they would be on the glossy, and at times soft focus Correlations album, this earlier version seems a little closer to the style of Göttsching’s previous solo albums.

Phantasus closes with the penultimate Correlations track Pas de Trois. The tempo here is slightly faster than that with which many Ashra fans will be accustomed. In this early mix the sequencer appears to be foregrounded, once again serving to emphasise the electronic Berlin School elements of the music. In placing an increased focus on rhythm guitars and bongos, some of which appear to have been added to the mix during the Mick Glossop sessions, the Correlations cut would further emphasise the African elements of the music. On the evidence presented by the Phantasus version, the drum track and solo guitar work also appear to have later been re-recorded with the dramatic waves of synthesiser sound during the closing moments replaced by jangly, melodic guitar. Pas de Trois is one of the tracks that would be most radically remixed during Glossop’s time with the band.