ATOMS OF EDGAR

There are 40+ Tangerine Dream albums in the Vinyl Connection collection~. Apart from the obvious focus on synthesisers and electronic devices, the one thing they all have in common is Edgar Froese.

Herr Froese founded the experimental band in 1967 (more about the beginnings here) and was at the helm through many journeys: as they explored the disconcerting realms of inner/outer space in the early 70s, found a measure of success during the Virgin years of the mid-seventies, and continued into the 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 the decades; co-creators came and went, with most fans having a particular line-up they especially favour*.

Then, in January 2015, shockingly soon after playing concerts in Melbourne, Edgar Froese died. With the founder’s death, it looked as if the career of perhaps the most influential and famous electronic band ever was no more. Fans would have to content themselves with albums from recent collaborators, such as  the talented Ulrich Schnauss and twenty-first century TD member Thorsten Quaeschning^.

But this week, during a lunchtime browse in Carlton, I came across an album by Tangerine Dream. What’s this? An archival release of outtakes? Live  recordings from the last tour? A dodgy eastern European bootleg? The back cover suggested Particles is a new work. Yet some of the titles were very familiar. “Dolphin Dance” is a track on Underwater Sunlight, “White Eagle” the title track of a 1982 album, as is “Rubycon” from 1975. And what’s this? A cover of the main theme from Stranger Things? What’s next, the Dr Who music? Well, only one way to find out.

I’ll confess to a buzz of excitement as I slit the transparent seal and opened up the gatefold of a new Tangerine Dream album. Inside were photos of the musicians responsible: Ulrich Schnauss, Thorsten Quaeschning and Hoshiko Yamane. Opposite them, wearing shades and an inscrutable smile-grimace, is Edgar Froese; founder, progenitor. The three younger musicians clump together for safety in the face of the master’s weighty legacy.

Onto the turntable goes the first side. It’s an epic, a pulsing, sweeping, hypnotic journey in the grand TD tradition of Phaedra or Stratosfear. But whereas the average length of a 70s Dream-side was seventeen minutes, “4.00pm Session” clocks in at almost half-an-hour. Although it is interesting and enjoyable throughout, there is a sense of absence, of something missing; “4.00 Session” is like a well developed draft, just waiting for a little injection of magic—a flash of melody here or a piercing guitar jab there—to elevate it to greatness. Perhaps what is missing is Edgar Froese, that’s what I think as I flip the record for side two.

Two pieces here, a reworking of “Rubycon” (17:25) opening with some experimental sounds before settling into the classic analogue pulse. It’s great, if not revelatory. Then a fair dinkum cover version, the theme from “Stranger Things”. Well done, sure. But, er, why?

The second LP is a live set, recorded in concert at Schwingungen Festival+ in 2016. It is a kind of brief introduction to post-seventies Tangerine Dream, offering nicely crafted performances of a selection of TD pieces:

“Mothers of Rain” from Optical Race (1988)

“Power of the Rainbow Serpent” from Mala Kunia (2014)

“White Eagle” from the album of the same name (1982)

“Dolphin Dance” from Underwater Sunlight (1986)

“Shadow and Sun” also from Mala Kunia (2014)

It’s well done, all of it. Yet somehow you feel like you are listening to a very accomplished Tangerine Dream Tribute act. In fact, that’s the feel of the whole set. Something tentative about claiming the name; some missing adventurousness maybe. As a tribute, it’s fine, but Particles is marking time.

Schnauss, Quaeschning and Yamane have done a sterling job of creating an homage to their fallen leader, but if they want to really breathe life into the brand they need to be bold, to move out of the master’s shadow without abandoning his legacy. They need to integrate the particles of Froese’s vision with their own manifest skills. There is no doubt at all this trio is capable of that feat. Let’s hope they give it a go.

*

~  Less than 50% of the TD recorded output.

#  Jerome was a member from 1990 until 2006. His first appearance on a Tangerine Dream album, however, was as a two year old on the cover of Atem in 1973.

*  Many revere the 1971 to 1977 Froese, Franke, Baumann configuration. I’d not argue with that.

^  Their 2017 album, Synthwaves, is excellent. Read JHubner’s review here.

+  The German word Schwingungen pleasingly translates as ‘Vibrations’. It was the title of a 1972 Ash Ra Tempel album.

*

Tangerine Dream — Particles was released on CD in December 2016 (Eastgate Music) and on vinyl in June 2017 (Invisible Hands Music).

 

38 comments

  1. I, and director Michael Mann, are impressed. You do have the THIEF soundtrack in your TD stack, yes? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bet. The link in the article takes you to an earlier post on just that soundtrack.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I now remember that piece. Quite a soundtrack collection. Good one, Bruce. 👍🏼

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d wondered about this one. I hadn’t seen a tracklisting so I was going on the general excitement of something new. A post-Froese Tangerine Dream. Sounds like that’s not the case. Still, I’ll see if I can locate this one floating around in digital form and give it a go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think it is a ‘try before you buy’ recommendation, John. The first side is by far the most interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You have 40+ albums, and I’m here going “I think I’ve heard of them…” 🙂 Excellent post, though! Written from a true fan’s perspective. RIP Edgar Froese, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s it, Aaron. Tan Dream are a band where I would definitely align with the ‘Fan’ designation. I mean, I’m lucky to make one concert a year and I saw them twice in a week on their Australian tour!

      Like

  4. Goodness – more than 80 albums and I haven’t heard any of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Possibly not a big interest in 70s electronic music?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do have a Klaus Schulze solo album somewhere around the place.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Filed between Robert Schroeder and Sea And Cake, presumably.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. In Itunes it’s between Kirsty McColl and Kraftwerk.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. It’s the filing debate again! Run for your lives!

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Itunes does it by first name. I’m not pedantic enough to change everything so it’s surname first, but given a bit of spare time I wouldn’t put it past me.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Is it me, or do Germans seem to have a particular aptitude/affinity for electronica (a genre I’ve always had difficulty warming to)? As always, your writing sparkles, Bruce. It’s been several years since I saw Thief, and never would have remembered that TD did the soundtrack. A couple of (not unwelcome, I hope) non sequiturs: 1) Quaeschning would be a great name for a band and 2) here in America we have our own Tangerine Nightmare: the man in the Oval Office. Sorry, mate; it had to be said. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not you, JDB, but an accurate observation. There are, in fact, different ‘schools’ of electronic music within Germany. Froese (and early colleague–later genial competitor–Klaus Schulze) were founders of the Berlin School, which emerged from the experimental arts scene of the late sixties. Experimental musician Conrad Schnitzler was in the first recording constellation of Tan Dream. His replacements, Chris Franke, cited John Cage amongst his influences. I could bang on tediously, but the point is, there was a permeable boundary between experimental ‘art music’ and early rock experimentalists. In my fantasy all these German dudes had access to Stockhausen’s ‘Kontakte’.

      Re tangerine nightmares, when I appropriated the Blake Nebuchadnezzar meme from a church, I thought of you.

      Like

  6. They have 40+ albums? Wow. I couldn’t name one. Other than their name I know nothing about them. Complete black hole for me I’m afraid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, Jim. I have 40+ of their albums from a total of around 100. Yep, one hundred official releases.😵

      Electronic music is, perhaps, a genre that hasn’t spent a lot of time in the mainstream (other than Jean-Michel Jarre, of course). But German musicians have always been at the forefront.
      If you are interested, try streaming Stratosfear late one night after a couple of reds.

      Like

      1. Holy cow! The only other person I can think of that has 100 albums is Zappa. I’l give that album a spin. Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I went through excitement to disappointment in one article, nice. I only own the 70’s albums minus the very first and I really want a copy of Ultima Thule.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wouldn’t that be cool? I’ve never even seen a copy of Ultima Thule in the wild.

      The 70s albums (including many of the soundtracks) are the core catalogue, that’s for sure. Though I was listening to Hyperborea (1983) last night and enjoyed it greatly.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Without Edgar Froese. Even without the boss the air is not yet out. But a real Tangerine Dream album is this not just a compilation.

    Like

  9. Unfortunately that this one disappointed, Bruce. Guess the first post-Froese release was likely to be a little restrained and tentative given it’s very much a band in transition. Here’s to a bold future for them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True enough. I’d certainly give them another go – it’s a great group of musicians.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. My favourite is Ricochet …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ricochet is terrific.

      Like

  11. I did listen to Stratosfear. Dug it. I can’t say I’d be some gigantic fan and buy, say, 40 albums but I liked what I heard. Good music to write by.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL. Maybe start with just one or two and see whether your writing is easier?!

      Like

      1. Maybe if I listen to eight of them at once I’ll be done last week.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. How interesting. Maybe this is the way forward for bands, just replace deceased members the way a footie team would.

    So is this a totally official release then?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Tis indeed. The three members were part of the last TD touring band. Another side project for Ulrich Schnauss I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Bruce, you’re driving me crazy.

    With this post you’ve prompted me to give TD a proper listen. I know I can only dip my toes in the ocean of TD recordings so I was looking out for a suitable starting point. I had noted the comment about Ultima Thule being impossible to find when what should I see on Spotify? Ultima Thule, album, 1971. Huh?

    That album has 19 tracks (1 hour 52 minutes), including Ultima Thule parts 1 & 2. I’ve listened to all of it now and it’s excellent. I could listen to this all day. I probably wouldn’t get over excited about it, but my curiosity has been thoroughly piqued.

    On further investigation I find that neither Wikipedia, nor AllMusic, nor Discogs list that album. Wikipedia says Ultima Thule was a single released in 1971 but it doesn’t come from the only album released that year, Alpha Centauri. What’s going on? I’m guessing the Ultima Thule album on Spotify (also available on iTunes) is a digital-only release. Spotify actually gives the date of the album as 1971 but gives a copyright date of 2011 and the publisher Entertain Me Ltd. – not that that helps – there are no albums/compilations released in 2011 with that title according to the usual authoritative sources.

    Can you throw any light on this?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Deep Thought is working on it, Phil.
      Early results suggest an ‘unofficial’ compilation (certainly NOT from 1971). The single “Ultima Thule” was included on CD re-issues of “Alpha Centauri” (but only part 1)…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. OK Phil. Here’s the poop.

      The Ones were Edgar Froese’s pre-Tangerine beat combo. One 7″ single, the first two songs on that spotify album.
      “Oscillator Planet Concert” is an early recording, added to the 2011 re-issue CD of Alpha Centauri.
      As we know “Ultima Thule” was a non-album single by Tangerine Dream, also added to the above re-issue.
      The other two are ‘rare tracks’ from this very early period.
      The whole thing was a fan club digital release that had a limited edition vinyl version a while back and is available on CD at a reasonable price.

      Phew. 😓 

      Like

  14. A good honest review. Familiar with their work. Still haven’t been able to track down ‘Sorcerer’. It’s becoming a bit of a quest. Don’t know if you used the term where you’re at but I use to “vegitate” to this kind of music. I like it. No wonder they use it for soundtracks. Cincinnati “Vegetable” Head.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks CB. I wish I’d come up with the term vegitate – a cross between vegetate and levitate no doubt – but rest assured I’ll be using it regularly henceforth. Will I have to pay you a fee-per-use?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s under “Public Domain” so you’re cool. There is the short version “veg” like “I’m going to listen to some TG on the headphones and VEG”

        Liked by 1 person

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