Inventions for echo guitars


I thought about calling this one A Young Person’s Guide to Echo Guitar but that would only end up attracting people expecting a tutorial of some kind. It’s not really a guide either, more an overview of a musical idiom whose predominant feature is guitar played through analogue or digital echo machines, often without additional instrumentation. I have a predilection for this kind of thing, something I was thinking about recently when listening to Michael Brook’s Cobalt Blue album.


A Watkins Copicat as seen (and used) in Berberian Sound Studio.

This is also another example of technology inspiring the development of new forms of music. Echoed guitar dates back to the early days of rock’n’roll but it was the advent of echo machines like the Watkins Copicat that made it possible for guitarists to produce rich clusters of sound without any other instrumentation. The Copicat was portable and could be activated with a foot pedal, making it perfect for guitar players. These machines aren’t always credited in album notes but I’d guess that one or two of the earlier recordings on this list have been made using Copicats. (John Martyn, however, preferred an Echoplex.) As for the more recent examples, one reason to write this piece is to fish for suggestions of things I may have missed. I’m sure I put a Bandcamp discovery in one of the weekend lists that involved quantities of echo guitar but I’m going to have to trawl back through old posts to find it.


Echo (1972) by Achim Reichel and Machines

Achim Reichel is an odd character in German music. In the 1960s he was a singer and guitarist in a popular Beatles-like band, The Rattles, followed by a stint with a short-lived psychedelic outfit, Wonderland; by the 1980s he was a very successful German pop artist. For a few years in the 1970s, however, he recorded a handful of albums which in later years he seems to have found embarrassing despite their being regarded now as highlights of the so-called Krautrock era. Echo is the most adventurous of these, a double album which used to be a frustrating item, being praised by those who heard it while also being very difficult to find. The two discs contain four suites that fill each side, the first one opening with long stretches of echo-guitar which soon establish the mood of the album with their unpredictable evolution. Echo as a whole is a succession of unexpected swerves and musical detours, taking in orchestral arrangements, field recordings, snatches of song, heavy rock, and (regrettably) a long stretch of glossolalic jabbering that tests the listener’s patience. I forgive the latter when the rest of the album is so good. The guitar sound that Reichel developed here became a recurrent feature of his music for the next two years, especially in live performances.

Reichel’s popularity has overshadowed his earlier recordings to an extent that Echo wasn’t given an official reissue until 2017 when he relented to persistent requests and put together a 10-disc CD set, The Art Of German Psychedelic 1970–74. This is too much Reichel for the casual listener but if you can bear his occasional lurches into Steppenwolf-style psych-rock there’s a great deal of excellent music in the collection. Among the exclusive offerings is a superb live performance of kosmische improvisation from 1973, also an entire disc of unaccompanied echo-guitar recordings.



Wilburn Burchette Opens The Seven Gates Of Transcendental Consciousness (1972)

Many of Wilburn Burchette’s albums would be suitable here but I chose this one because I like the title and it has the grooviest cover. Burchette’s subtitle—“A Transcendental Ballet For The Mind Of God”—suggests something more overtly cosmic than the music itself which is less freeform than Achim Reichel. This is also the first self-released album in a list which coincidentally contains several such releases.

Opens the Seven Gates of Transcendental Consciousness


Inventions For Electric Guitar (1974) by Ash Ra Tempel/Manuel Göttsching

Cult album time. This one was labeled as the sixth release by Ash Ra Tempel but it’s really the first solo album by Manuel Göttsching, in which he used multi-track recording together with copious echo and other effects to create something that sounds more like the synthesizer music of 1974 than anything made with guitars. The cover art fixes the album in a specific time but the music itself is timeless. In 2010 he performed the album in its entirety at a Japanese music festival, assisted by three other guitarists: Steve Hillage, Elliott Sharp and Zhang Shouwang. If there’s a complete video of this concert I’ve yet to see it but there is this extract showing the musicians playing Pluralis.

Echo Waves

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Music beyond time: Jenzeits


Where Monday’s post was about the cosmic music of the 1970s, this one concerns something in the same zone that’s more contemporary. Chad Davis is an American musician who likes to compartmentalise his activities as separate projects with different names. Jenzeits is Davis in kosmische mode, drawing heavily on the Berlin School of electronica and similar music of the 1970s, with a name that collides Jenseits, a title from Join Inn, the fourth album by Ash Ra Tempel, with Zeit, the third album by Tangerine Dream. (“Jenseits” is the German word for beyond, while “zeit” means time, so “Jenzeits” might be taken as a pun meaning “beyond time”. German speakers, however, may see this less as a pun than simply poor use of their language.)

There’s been a lot of Berlin-School pastiching going on over the past few years, the mid-70s albums by Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze being very popular among the period imitators. I’m always referring to Redshift and Node as my favourite exponents in this idiom. Chad Davis is obviously inspired by the same albums but my attention was caught on a first hearing by his homages to the music that Manuel Göttsching was making under the Ash Ra Tempel/Ashra name during the same period, especially Le Berceau De Cristal, New Age Of Earth, and (to a lesser extent) Blackouts. Göttsching was always primarily a guitar player, but by the mid-70s he was combining his guitar work with sequencers and synthesizers to create instrumental electronic music with a different texture to his keyboard-based contemporaries. New Age Of Earth has a hippyish title that might be off-putting to curious listeners but it’s long been one of my favourite electronic albums, with a unique atmosphere that I wish Göttsching had pursued a little further. (The title in German on the back of the original French release is Neuzeit der Erde, literally “New Time of Earth”. Zeit again.) The album’s unique qualities are a product of its blend of processed guitar, keyboards and electronic rhythms, the latter being created by the EKO Computerhythm, an early programmable drum machine which could also be used to trigger other instruments to create sequencer patterns.


New Age Of Earth (1976). Design by Peter Butschkow.

I can’t say for certain whether Davis had this music or instrumentation in mind when recording his third Jenzeits album, Jenzeits Cosmic Orbits, but the similarities were enough to make me want to hear more. One of the frustrations of electronic music historically has been the way the evolution of technology has dictated its form. Tangerine Dream’s music changed according to the instrumentation they had available at any given time; new equipment meant new sounds and musical possibilities very different to the ones the group had been exploring a couple of years before. This doesn’t happen to the same degree with other musicians, especially guitarists who are often happy to play the same battered instrument for years on end. For a listener, the technical evolution of electronic music has often left behind abandoned areas or unexplored avenues. In this respect, the music of Jenzeits is less a series of pastiches than an attempt to further some of these explorations.

There are 12 Jenzeits releases to date, all of which are available on Bandcamp. Some of the earlier ones have also appeared on vinyl and cassette. If a CD box of the entire Jenzeits catalogue appeared I’d buy it in a second but I doubt this will happen any time soon. For the curious, Jenzeits Volume 1 is a good place to start. The last Jenzeits release was in 2020 which suggests we’ve seen the end of this particular project. For those who’d like more (and I still do), an earlier Chad Davis project, Romannis Mötte, ventured into similar territory.


Jenzeits Cosmic Universe (2017).


Jenzeits Cosmic Lifeforms (2017).


Jenzeits Cosmic Orbits (2017).


Jenzeits Volume 1 (2018).

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Weekend links 710

Menace (1974) by Ivan Tovar.

• “I find myself going back to Early Water more and more in recent years. It should be better known.” B. Sirota reviewing the one-off musical collaboration between Michael Hoenig and Manuel Göttsching. (Previously.) It should indeed be better known.

• At Unquiet Things: “Come for the cosmic awe, stay for the skeletons in spacesuits”; S. Elizabeth talks to Adam Rowe about the science-fiction art of the 1970s.

• “The architectural style wars have started all over again.” Owen Hatherley on the unending debate between traditionalists and modernists.

• At Public Domain Review: Clear Shadows (1867), a book of Japanese silhouette portraits by Ochiai Yoshiiku.

• New music: Flux Gourmet Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Various Artists, and Volta by Loula Yorke.

• Meta machine mantras: Steve Barker on the birth of the Buddha Machine.

Cosmohedron, a short animated film by Duncan Hatch.

• Mix of the week: isolatedmix 125 by Sa Pa.

Chelsea Wolfe’s favourite music.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Mirrorers.

A Silhouette Of A Man And A Wasp (1995) by Add N To (X) | A Silhouette Approaches (2005) by Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd | Silhouette (2015) by Julia Holter

Early Water


Good to have this rare album reissued at last. A surprise too, as I only spotted it by chance at I still haven’t seen it mentioned as a news item in any of the expected places.

Early Water is a one-off collaboration between Michael Hoenig and the late Manuel Göttsching, a recording of an improvised rehearsal session from 1976 which was shelved until the pair decided to release a CD in 1995. The album has been out of print since 1997 so the reissue is very welcome, especially when secondhand discs had become stupidly expensive. It’s also being released for the first time on vinyl although doing this requires splitting its one long track into two parts.

This is one of those albums that might be better known if it hadn’t been so hard to find. Musically, it’s a like a heavier forerunner of Göttsching’s E2-E4: 45 minutes of Hoenig’s keyboards and undulating sequencer rhythms over which Göttsching’s guitar weaves its patterns. The sequencers and synthesizers are of the type familiar from Tangerine Dream’s Rubycon and many Klaus Schulze albums from the same decade; the “Berlin School”, in other words, although it’s also the school of “Let’s switch on the machines and see what happens”. Göttsching’s guitar had already imitated synthesizers and sequencers on Inventions For Electric Guitar, while a later release, New Age Of Earth (which was mixed by Michael Hoenig) blends guitar and keyboards to create as good an electronic album as anything else being produced in the mid-70s. The guitar on Early Water is treated in a similar manner to complement the keyboards, and for the most part stays low in the mix. There’s a lot of soloing here but no histrionics. This isn’t a rock album.


E2-E4 brought Göttsching’s music to a wider audience but Michael Hoenig remains known mostly to soundtrack collectors, synth-heads or German music obsessives. Prior to going solo in 1977 he was keyboard player in the excellent Agitation Free, a group I always recommend to anyone getting deeper into the German music of the 1970s. He was also a member of Tangerine Dream for a few weeks in 1975, filling in for Peter Baumann after the latter abruptly left the group during an international tour. It’s tempting to wonder how Tangerine Dream might have evolved if Hoenig had been a permanent member for the rest of the decade. We would have been spared the mis-steps of the Cyclone album for a start. What we got instead was Hoenig’s own incursion into Tangerine Dream territory with his first solo album, Departure From The Northern Wasteland, in 1977. Early Water doesn’t warrant the journalistic cliché of “lost classic” but that term might well be applied to Hoenig’s little-known debut, one of the few albums that bears favourable comparison to Tangerine Dream’s output in the mid-1970s. It’s also an album that’s long overdue a reissue. How about it, Bureau B?

Note: I bought my CD from the Juno Records store on eBay. Bleep and a few other places have the CD and vinyl both listed as double-disc releases with no further information supplied. I’m fairly sure this is an error.

• Further reading: Synapse magazine, Vol. 2, No. 5 [PDF], features a lengthy interview with Michael Hoenig in which he discusses his time in Agitation Free, his work with Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream, and the composition of Departure From The Northern Wasteland. His reference to “the Berlin school of electronic music” during the interview may be the first appearance in print of that label.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Manuel Göttsching, 1952–2022
Cosmic music and cosmic horror

Weekend links 653


The Snow Queen (1916) by Harry Clarke.

• “…blogging remains my favourite format precisely because the writing so rarely feels like labour. Liberated from the need to pitch an idea or wield credentials, blogging—for a professional writer—frees you up to address topics outside your perceived expertise. It feels like a leisure activity because it’s leisurely—a ramble across fields of culture and knowledge, during which you sneak short cuts and trespass into areas you are not meant to go. A post doesn’t have to have a destination, a point. You can bundle or concatenate several different topics, push into adjacency things that don’t obviously or naturally belong together—like oddments inside a Cornell box. You can start somewhere and end up somewhere completely different, without any obligation to tie things up neatly.” Simon Reynolds reflecting on 20 years of the blogging thing, and neatly summarising the attractions of the medium. For some of us, anyway…

• At Smithsonian Magazine: “Structural colour was first documented in the 17th century, in peacock feathers, but it is only since the invention of the electron microscope, in the 1930s, that we have known how it works.” Tomas Weber on Andrew Parker’s nanotechnology developments which are creating some of the brightest hues in the world.

• “Bring back the Cailleach, beloved Scottish goddess of winter, shaking out the snow on the land. Bring back Mother Holda, with her wild geese and her snowflakes landing on the tongue like a gift from the sky…” Yvonne Aburrow would like to see the festival of Yule returned to its anarchic origins.

Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, an extract from a recent audience-less concert by Ryuichi Sakamoto which he says is liable to be his last.

• At Unquiet Things: S. Elizabeth posts some of the pictures that couldn’t be fitted into The Art of Darkness.

• Mix of the week: A Tribute to Manuel Göttsching by Low Light Mixes.

• It’s the end of December so it must be time for Alan Bennett’s diary.

• RIP Mike Hodges.

Vale Berfrois.

Snow (1985) by Takashi Toyoda | Snowfall (2000) by Haruomi Hosono | Snowfall (2005) by Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd