- How an ambient experiment became a Balearic house classic.
- In 1989, Angelino Albanese and Massimino Lippoli were relaxing and drinking beer in a Manhattan club, Nell's, when they first heard Manuel Göttsching's E2-E4. "We were totally hypnotised," they told me over Zoom. Albanese was dialling in from Venice, Lippoli calling from his home in Riccione. An original copy of Sueño Latino was visible on the wall behind him.
The story of Sueño Latino begins in 1981, when Göttsching, a founder of the beloved Krautrock band Ash Ra Tempel, recorded an hour of music to enjoy on a flight to Hamburg the next day. He was experimenting with a guitar, synthesizers, sequencers and tape decks. In just one take, he created what would become one of electronic music's most important records, E2-E4. Named after a basic chess opening, the long, loopy and psychedelic curio was released in 1984, somehow arriving both before and after its time. Though the dance floor was far from Göttsching's mind while creating it, the record became an influential precursor to Detroit techno, and was regularly spun in full by DJs like David Mancuso and Larry Levan.
When Albanese and Lippoli first heard E2-E4, their DJ minds couldn't help but imagine what adding a kick drum and bass would do to the sound. "Shazam didn't exist so I catapulted up to the console to ask for the title of the track," Lippoli recalled. "The following day, Frankie Knuckles told us about a record shop where we found the last two copies of E2-E4. We went back to Italy, and I was mixing the track live with drums every night. So, in the end, I made a DJ tool version. It was born out of a DJ's idea, not to make business or anything important, just for fun."
Everytime Lippoli played his supercharged version of E2-E4's opening segment, "Ruhige Nervosität," people would go crazy. He decided to do a proper production of it, so he went to the studio with Albanese, another DJ, Andrea Gemolotto, vocalist Carolina Damas and musicians Claudio Collino and Ricky Persi. Sueño Latino, the Italo house band, was born.
In the liner notes of a 2015 reissue of Sueño Latino, DFC label boss Giovanni Natale explains how when he received the demo, he dropped everything on his release schedule to get it out as soon as possible. He pressed up some white labels and shared the music with DJs and radio hosts, who shared his palpable excitement. A few days later, Natale received a call from a colleague telling him that Sueño Latino contained an unlicensed sample from E2-E4. Angry but determined to find a solution, he flew from Bologna to West Berlin to meet Göttsching.
"That was very bizarre," Göttsching says of hearing about Sueño Latino for the first time. "A woman from Gerig Publishing in Cologne called me and said: 'There is a cover version of your piece E2-E4 from Italy.' I say: 'But the piece is sixty minutes long.' And she: 'Yes, yes, and it's in Italian.' 'But the piece has no lyrics at all.' 'Yes, yes, they'll do that.' I said; 'I'd like to hear that first before I give my OK to it.' Giovanni Natale from the Expanded Music label stood at my door a few days later in Berlin."
Göttsching and Natale made a rudimentary agreement, and the release was allowed to continue. "They paid royalties, but not much," Göttsching said in another interview, "because in the beginning nobody knew how far it would go." Göttsching, who was not a fan of clubs himself, only realised how much the track was blowing up when DFC invited him to Rimini to make a "Winter Version" of the track with added guitar parts. Once he arrived, Göttsching heard it everywhere he went, hair salons included.
Göttsching and DFC renegotiated, and future versions were released under the name Sueño Latino with Manuel Göttsching performing E2-E4. Sueño Latino and Göttsching never met again—Natale and his DFC team were in charge of the sample usage from then on. For a few years, the proper credit for E2-E4 was often "forgotten," or DFC licensed it out to external compilations that did not credit Göttsching, but eventually he became known as the one who started it all. Now, Göttsching acknowledges Sueño Latino as a big help for his career.
Of the many tracks to sample E2-E4, such as DJ Duke's "D2-D2", Basic Channel's "Reshape" or Code 718 (AKA Danny Tenaglia) with "Equinox," Sueño Latino's is by far the most known and loved. Why? "There are other very good tracks that use this sample," Lippoli says. "But the original is still the original. When something hits, it's very difficult to do better." Irony aside, Sueño Latino were the first to popularize E2-E4 for the mainstream dance audience.
Lippoli's "Paradise Version" started everything. It's the epitome of sexy, afterhours club music, with the suggestive vocals and heavy breathing of Carolina Damas laid thick on the E2-E4 groove and toughened drums. Albanese then made the piano version and Gemolotto the dub version.
Sueño Latino was a huge hit worldwide, but particularly in Ibiza, Germany and the UK. (In Germany alone, the first edition sold over 200,000 copies in a year, and Discogs counts around 50 vinyl versions since.) Though it was a #1 record in Germany, Italy and the UK, rivalling Black Box's "Ride On Time" as the Italo anthem of the genre's finest year, DFC went bankrupt and it would be years before Sueño Latino saw any money.
The sound connected the era of rave, chill out, Balearic bliss and ecstasy. Scroll the YouTube comments of any Sueño Latino upload and you'll find stories of wide-eyed euphoria on a beach or in a field 30 years ago. It was a staple for house and Balearic DJs from the day it was released, finding its place in the laidback Café del Mar vibe of the '90s as much as it does in the terrace sets of DJs like Marco Carola today. Ten years ago, Lippoli got back in touch with Frankie Knuckles, who told him Sueño Latino hadn't left his record back in 20 years.
"For a long time there was anticipation for a follow up," Lippoli told me, "which was a source of anxiety for us." Their follow-up record, Luxuria, didn't have anywhere near the same success.
Though Sueño Latino is best known for the E2-E4 sample, not far behind is the loon birdcall, a classic sample from the sound library on the E-mu Systems Emulator II, which was widely used in '80s and '90s electronic music (see: 808 State "Pacific State") and is still popular today, even finding its way into Burial's recent release, "Dark Gethsemane."
For some, Sueño Latino will forever hold memories of ecstasy trips in bygone times. For others, it's significant as a portal into the work of Göttsching. For many, it was both, as well as being one of the most euphoric house tracks ever created. I asked if Sueño Latino ever get tired of the track. Albanese was resolute. "Impossible, impossible, impossible."
A Sueño Latino (Paradise Version)
B1 Sueño Latino (Dub Version By Cutmaster-G)
B2 Sueño Latino (A Capella)