LIGHT FINGERED

  • They are one of my favourite groups.
  • The VC collection holds over forty of their albums.
  • Their catalogue holds some two dozen soundtrack albums, recorded between 1977 and 1999.

All good reasons for a Film [Soundtrack] Festival piece on Tangerine Dream.

Although I might wish to crow about having all the TD OST albums, in fact I have just six.

Sorcerer [1977]

Thief [1981]

Flashpoint [1984]

Firestarter [1984]

Legend [1986]

Near Dark [1988]

Each has things to recommend it and all I enjoy to varying degrees, so what to choose? One tempting option was Legend:

✔︎  Quite collectible vinyl record

✔︎  Popular Hollywood star (young Tommy Cruise)

✔︎  Includes a prog rarity (song by Jon Anderson of Yes)

✔︎  Most recent Tangerine Dream acquisition

But I don’t like Tom Cruise, so instead I’m going to rave about the album on the above list that has provided consistent pleasure for over three decades. There is nothing flash about the actual object—it is a mid-price Virgin Compact Disc with no frills, one photo, and only average digital fidelity, yet the music is energetic, engaging, and chock full of synth-y goodness. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…Thief  by Tangerine Dream.

Tangerine Dream Thief cover

Unusually, the opening track fades in, giving a sense of returning rather than beginning. ‘Beach Theme’ has a thin synth line over a steady, pacing beat. It swells until, with a gorgeous downwards swoop… Szzzooooow, a melodic theme of stately beauty enters. But it doesn’t stop there. within a minute, Edgar Froese unleashes what is without doubt Tangerine Dream’s secret weapon—his electric guitar. Here he chooses a ringing, bell-like tone that cuts through the synthesiser backing like a well-tempered blade. TD veteran Chris Franke controls the electronic percussion and for the era, it sounds damn good.

‘Dr Destructo’ leads with a drum machine plus bass, the rhythm doing a brisk march as Froese wails an echoing guitar over the top. I’d call it psychedelic techno—brilliant.

Next up is the longest piece on the album, ‘Diamond Diary’. Contrasting nicely with the pulse of the previous track, this diary is quite floaty to begin with, a drifting synth line over a vibrato drone. A fast rhythmic sequence enters, with the guitar adding slicing diamond chords over the top. But this is one restless mother of a track; a keyboard progression takes over and a classic Tangerine Dream fast electronic shuffle pulses onwards until it breaks down on an ever accelerating single note. Crossfade to more gentle synth, pensive, sustained, until shards of guitar again announce an increase in pace and urgency. This piece is a complete feature film in ten minutes, moving through moods and changes so rapidly you’re almost breathless when the final segment slows to silence.

‘Burning bar’ is a three-way between Froese, Franke, and Johannes Schmoelling. Rocking bass line, synthesiser melody, dancing sequencer. Once again there are variations in tonalities and electronic timbres that keep the ears fresh.

Schmoelling, Froese, Franke, 1980

Schmoelling, Froese, Franke, 1980

Film soundtracks commonly re-use the strongest melodies and themes and Thief is no exception. The second half opens with ‘Beach scene’ which deploys the ‘Beach theme’ theme with minor variations. The intro is three times as long, building tension quite markedly to the Szzzooooow moment mentioned earlier. Cleverly, the melody is carried by a different synth voice but the guitar part sounds very similar to my ears, except that there is a coda that slowly progresses to a fade.

Normally I skip a few songs around this point and go to the finale. But it is difficult with Thief because of the variety and invention in every track. Here is an electronic soundtrack album with no filler. None.

So, we bustle on to ‘Scrap yard’, which has a fast baritone sequence and a short, catchy melody on top; there is another tasty Froese guitar solo too. Tangerine Dream and fellow German Klaus Schulze are sometimes called the fathers of Techno, and in this track you can hear why.

Penultimate track ‘Trap feeling’ is the only piece that actually sounds like film music. Slow, evocative and a little spooky; a nice change down of mood and pace before ‘Igneous’ rocks us towards the credits. But not immediately. It opens with a brooding synth line and some percussive electronic fireworks as energy and tension build, then back off. Some strange, vaguely wolf-like cries pierce the middle distance before a final surge and fade.

If I was sequencing Thief I’d place ‘Beach scene’ at the very end, to top and tail the album with its hummable theme, but other than that minor re-arrangement, I can find no criticisms at all. The keyboard playing is dextrous and inventive; thirty fingers working synthesiser magic. It may be that here we have progressive electronic music for those not usually drawn to either genre, mainly thanks to the psychedelic leavening of Froese’s fabulous guitar flashes. In sum, an absolute cracker of an album; one of the best in a long and rich discography from Tangerine Dream.

thief-film-poster

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Want to catch up on the film soundtracks reviewed in the Film [Soundtrack] Festival?

They are all here.

We’ve had 18 posts from seven bloggers covering everything from martial arts to disco dancing, and films spanning seven decades. Stay tuned for more during the coming week.

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14 comments

  1. This is a group I keep meaning to explore – if I don’t start with Phaedra (on the 1001), Thief sounds like a good starting point too!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Either of those albums would be excellent launchpads. Good hunting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. And here’s me without any knowledge about this band. Clearly, I have some catching up to do! THANKS!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice one Bruce – I’d never heard of the film or the LP before. My TD collection starts with Alpha Centauri and ends with Phaedra – I didn’t want to be one of those socially inadequate weirdoes who is really into them, you know the type!

    I rather like ‘shards of guitar’ by the way, it has to be loads better than a ‘dollop of bass’, or a ‘bucket of beats’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joe. I suspect this one might have quite wide appeal if it was a little better known. Unprompted, my Dentist cited it as a favourite only last Friday.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mine just asks me if I’m going/have been on holiday- sounds like a top dental dude/chick.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. He’s a most interesting dude. Has a music degree as well as his dental quals.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I still haven’t picked up anything by this lot. This sounds like (yet) another great LP. Never heard of the film, though…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I don’t know the film either. Was released in a number of countries, though – I saw the posters on-line.

      Like

  5. I definitely need more Tangerine Dream. One of the best bands with a fruit in the name.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL. (Well, a smile, anyway. That’s the best I can manage the morning after).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know the feeling. Hangover without the fun stuff from the night before.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yep. That nails it.

          Like

  6. […] digital age. Froese piloted Tangerine Dream towards a rich and varied parallel life as composers of film soundtracks and even invited his progeny to join the band in 1990#. Jerome was one of many collaborators over […]

    Like

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