Manuel Göttsching – “E2-E4” (1984 / 2016)

There are, I believe, something like 20 opening moves possible for white to play in a chess game. Sixteen of these involve pawns, the other four knights jumping over the pawn line. E2-E4 (shown left), aka the King’s Pawn Game, is arguably the strongest of these openers, moving the king’s pawn two spaces forward. The move not only opens diagonal routes out of the back rank for both the queen and king’s bishop, but it also makes a bold move to assert pressure by the pawn on the center four squares of the board. There are other very strong opening moves (most notably D2-D4), and hey, it’s just the first move, so there’s still plenty of chess left, (♠) but at the end of the day E2-E4 is an aggressive move that says, “hey man, I came to party, so let’s get it on”.

E2-E4 is also a pivotal 1984 prog/electro album by German Manuel Göttsching, a record that was an important influence on early house and techno. Lately it’s been getting a lot of props on record geek boards like Facebook’s “Now Playing,” in large part because it just got the high end vinyl re-release treatment by MG.ART, and that’s how I came to acquire my copy from Amoeba’s Hollywood location the other day. I knew as soon as I saw it that I had to buy it.

The album opens with the near-perfect groove of “Ruhige Nervosität”, a pattern I know I’ve heard before on a handful of electro tunes…. maybe early Gusgus – simple, basic, consistent. How is it possible that a man best known as a guitarist put out an seminal album in a very non-guitar genre? I don’t know. It’s not that there isn’t any guitar at all… it sneaks in at the very end of side A, after all (and the opening of side B, where he really gets into it). I wasn’t good enough at one instrument, despite my attempts at the violin and clarinet, let alone have the ability to be outstanding at one instrument and then just go off and break ground in a totally different genre. (♥) To have that level of talent would be amazing.

Technically there are nine tracks on E2-E4, but in reality it’s one long composition to my ears – there’s no stopping point other than when you have to flip the record, and side B picks up right where side A left off. It’s flat out crazy, too. Most of side A an electronic album, with just a tiny bit of guitar as it winds down, and then side B has a whole electro-flamenco vibe to it that is just awesome and gives it character. And it’s brilliant.

This is one of those albums that lives up to the hype. E2-E4. Develop your attack.

(♠) True story, I once won a game of chess in three moves playing as white, which is literally the shortest possible game. Black has to make two awful pawn moves for this to happen, and I’d actually read about this sequence before it actually presented itself to me in an actual game (♣), so it was amazing to execute it.

(♣) I literally had a chess library in high school. Still sucked at chess… but had a lot of books.

(♥) I do, however, have some pretty strong spreadsheet skills which I have parlayed into a number of divergent areas.