On paper, some albums don't work. Then again music does transcend and bi-pass rational thought, so in theory, theories are just that - theories.
And yet, the story behind this album is more remarkable than most. An hour long, one tracked instrumental, the style is roving proto-house and proto-techno suite made by an ex-krautrocker, based on the concept of a particularly intense chess game. Outrageous, truly outrageous. It deserved to fail and slip into the annals of music history, but somehow it didn't and today it stands out as one of the most progressive and one of the most innovative works of the entire of the 1980's.
Manuel Gottsching was to many, the guitarist of influential krautrock group Ash Ra Tempel (and later, the more electronic Ashra), a massively successful German experimental group in their own right, blazing the trail with their own brand of guitar heavy, groovy space rock. Manuel left, and in any other case, would have sank without trace - relegated to the embarrassing duty of producing his imitators more successful releases. That didn't happen, and obviously today we are left with this relic, a perfectly preserved photograph of the moment house music was born kicking and screaming, where modern electronica begins, and where Kraftwerk's influence came back on itself and exploded.
E2-E4 is bizarre, as it is not the average one track instrumental album. In it's sixty minutes it demands absolute attention and continuously rewards the listener throughout. If it's not the mobile, trainlike synthesizer and light drumbeats (Aphex Twin was paying attention), it's the faintly audible sound of machines turning themselves on and off, it is such a style of music that doesn't impose itself, and that is indeed the beauty of it, it's lack of blaringly obvious synthesizer, brash and cacophonous drums, loses out to the more whispered, intense and crescendo building technique that has to this day survived and remained so damn influential.
Kraftwerk did indeed do all this before, in fact, ten years before, but their focus was not on rhythm or groove, but the dehumanization of music. Gottsching's masterstroke lies in it being clearly dehumanized, choosing to ignore this, instead focusing on the more ambient and isolated aspects of Kraftwerk's music, yet making it listenable, groovy and ultimately, extremely danceable.
Throughout Manuel introduces a new instrument, which plays it's vital part and quietly leaves, constantly being ironed over by his wholly formed and complete layer and swathe of synth. Indeed, there is guitar in this album, but it sounds more like stray electricity jumping from cables and is soon eradicated by the ruthlessly efficient robotic synthesizer.
Why is this album so influential" A lot of reasons. It certainly didn't invent electronic music, and it certainly didn't even popularize it. What it did do, in the same way that Silver Apples molded electronics with rock music, was produce a new genre of music which helped popularize electronica as we know it, it made it a genre of it's own accord, a genre which sounds as if it is without a master, without a similar sound and above all, which crow-barred it's way into clubs throughout the world. This album is the start of dance music, forget synth-pop or early electronics, this is still danceable and funky today, and that's it's beauty, it's timeless and absolutely fully formed sound is both appealing and terrifying in it's perfection.