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Tangerine Dream

Arguably Germany’s finest “Kraut-rock” export (above the likes of KRAFTWERK, CAN and AMON DUUL II), Berlin-based TANGERINE DREAM have excelled in their musical vision to develop art-rock into a powerful, electronic trip. The brainchild of EDGAR FROESE, the evolving ‘Dream were purveyors of innovative prog-rock, separated only by their British counterparts’ need for lyrics. At the peak of their trance-inducing sojourn upon British shores in the mid-70s, classic chart albums such as “Phaedra”, “Rubycon” and the live “Ricochet” were ahead of their time, although critics saw them as a rewind and embodiment of the PINK FLOYD/GRATEFUL DEAD generation.
Formed in September 1967 by the aforementioned graphic designer Edgar Froese (originally their guitarist), his composition for the inauguration of Salvador Dali’s “Christ” statue in 1967 was “misunderstood”, even as his personal friendship with Dali seemed to confer some artistic gravitas upon the young musician. Later that year, Froese began to assemble musicians to perform with him as TANGERINE DREAM, taking the moniker from lyrics used in the BEATLES classic, “Lucy In The Sky…”. The man just as quickly dissembled them and began again, eventually settling upon Klaus Schulze (drums) and Conrad Schnitzler (experimental electronics) to record the promising but non-melodramatic, ELECTRONIC MEDITATION (1970) {*5}, in a private studio. Froese was indeed surprised when the session brought his group (including Joseph Beuys) a recording contract, especially since the members had almost immediately parted ways, SCHULZE for marriage (and a subsequent solo career), Schnitzler for want of proper musicianship.
The guitarist quickly recruited drummer Christopher Franke, a tender 17 year-old, and organist Steve Schroyder. Their largely improvisational live performances set the tone for the recordings to come; second album ALPHA CENTAURI (1971) {*5}, featuring a 22 minute-long title track and others in a detached, space-age theme.
Schroyder was shortly replaced by Peter Baumann, and the “classic” TD line-up was established. No sooner was this line-up in place however, than Froese strove to destabilise it, demanding his startled cohorts to abandon their instruments in favour of untested and therefore artistically exciting electronics. This proclamation belied the financial necessity of selling their “staid” equipment in order to afford a synthesizer.
Their third album – a double – ZEIT (1972) {*4} saw Froese, Franke, Baumann and guest Florian Fricke (of fellow German prog-sters, POPOL VUH) all on synthesizers. The German public were curiously unmoved by their innovations, improvisations and er… lack of vowel “movements” (all four sides of them), raining food upon them in one early live excursion. You’d have to be in the “Moog” – so to speak.
Their fourth album ATEM (1973) {*6} – also issued on Polydor Germany but heavily imported – was similarly received in their homeland, although the persistent patronage of Radio One DJ John Peel (and tracks such as the avant-scat, `Wahn’) led them to a decade-long contract with Richard Branson’s fledgling Virgin Records; then home to MIKE OLDFIELD’s “Tubular Bells”. Dissatisfied with the German media and the music industry’s lack of plaudits for their progressive rock music, Froese briefly relocated to London, sensing correctly that international success lay ahead. He then spent the advance for their first Virgin album, PHAEDRA (1974) {*10} on a Moog synthesiser, once owned by a rich but technologically regressive MICK JAGGER. The UK Top 20 success and the critical appreciation for the LP encouraged TD to plough further into new ambient territory, discovering picturesque, electronic waves of sound, rhythmically haunting and repetitive; the bouncy 17-minute title track was as a prime example, the exquisite and atmospheric `Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares’ and the pulsating, ear-popping `Movements Of A Visionary’, quantum leaps in a robotic age ready to step into the future.
Baumann departed briefly to be replaced by Michael Hoenig, before returning for RUBYCON (1975) {*9}. Accused of taking the OLDFIELD/Virgin route of side-long parts, or playing to a symphonic soundscape the territory of PINK FLOYD, the album nevertheless performed well in the head-phone bedsit of college undergraduates and the more astute rock fan.
TD continued to split critics, internationally now, confounding some with their seemingly aimless and pretentious soundscapes, while others lauded their innovation, as their Laserium Light Show broke new ground in the live arena. The idea brought about concert album, RICOCHET (1975) {*9} – live in Liverpool, Coventry and Yorkminster Cathedrals – wondrous events, again split over two sides/parts; it bounced and exploded from one eardrum to another waiting for that perfect crescendo of sound.
Their next studio effort, STRATOSFEAR (1976) {*8}, saw them bring a more rhythmic structure and conventional instrumentation to their experimentalism (example `The Big Sleep In Search Of Hades’ and the title track), which, in turn, brought them to the attention of “The Exorcist” film director, William Friedkin, who gave them their first major film scoring commission for “Wages Of Fear”.
Their score for the movie, re-titled SORCERER (1977) {*7}, was indeed a success, and paved the way for more Hollywood work. TD’s relative lack of vocals and a tangible rhythm section, allied with an emphasis on mood and atmosphere, were immediately a good match for scoring a film. This LP found them delivering shorter tracks, and more of them, the juggernaut theme of the movie shines through on `Betrayal’, `Grind’ and `Rain Forest’ – eerie electronica at its most grounded.
The solo-bound BAUMANN left due to “artistic differences” at the end of 1977, and an obligatory double-live outing ENCORE (1977) {*6} – featuring four fresh side-long cues – was no “Ricochet”, despite having twice its time-length; Peter’s vacancy was filled forthwith by drummer Klaus Krieger.
English multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Steve Jolliffe joined for their 11th album, CYCLONE (1978) {*5}, but departed after the more mainstream album was deemed a failure (the attempt at vocals, rare for TD, had not helped); he also clashed with Froese over future plans.
FORCE MAJEURE (1979) {*8} was a critical success, turning back the clock to psychedelic times through its three unremitting but soothing numbers; Krieger would no longer be a full-time member after its release. Johannes Schmoelling, a trained pianist, joined the group, forming what would be the next stable line-up, beginning with TANGRAM (1980) {*6}, a record critically mauled, but a hit commercially and with new age fans nevertheless.
It was with the OST to Michael Mann’s THIEF (1981) {*6} that TD’s scoring career really took off, the trio merging pulsating electronic beats and piercing guitar work from start to finish. Opener, `Beach Theme’, creates an easy, horizontal mood, before `Dr. Destructo’ bounces eerily between both ear sockets. Third track and longest piece by far (at nearly 11 minutes!), `Diamond Diary’, harked back to the TANGERINE DREAM of old.
Their productivity continued unabated with the release of studio albums EXIT (1981) {*6} and WHITE EAGLE (1982) {*5}, while the FROESE solo “Kamikaze 1989” (1982), continued in the soundtrack vogue. FROESE had already produced a raft of solo LPs, including “Aqua” (1974), “Epsilon In Malaysian Pale” (1975), “Macula Transfer” (1976), “Ages” (1978) and “Stuntman” (1979).
Group albums, RISKY BUSINESS (1983 with various artists) {*4}, WAVELENGTH (1984) {*5}, and the much-bootlegged album from another Michael Mann film THE KEEP (1983) {*3}, kept their busy movie schedule going. Symbolically enough, the expiration of their contract from Virgin (after the Top 50 set, HYPERBOREA (1983) {*5}) saw a definitive change in emphasis away from live performances, and towards fully embracing their burgeoning Hollywood career, continuing in earnest with MCA-issued FIRESTARTER (1984) {*6}.
Not forgetting live sets LOGOS – LIVE (1982) {*4} and POLAND (1984) {*6}, two more scores for FLASHPOINT (1985) {*4} and HEARTBREAKERS (1985) (*5}, came before there was a real reckoning, when the producers of LEGEND (1985) {*6} decided that Jerry Goldsmith’s traditional style score was too old fashioned, opting instead for Froese’s cutting-edge synthesisers. This, in retrospect was the peak of TD’s Hollywood career, although some consider the theme from quintessentially mid-80s TV show, “Streethawk”, as an alternative highlight. Incredibly during this period, TD found time to produce more studio albums such as LE PARC (1985) {*5} (from which the “Streethawk” theme was extracted) as well as two lesser known scores for THE PARK IS MINE (1985) {*4} and “Vision Quest” (1985).
The strain of such rampant creativity led to the departure of Schmoelling; replaced by Paul Haslinger in 1985. More scores, for “City Of Shadows” (1986) and ZONING (1986) {*3} preceded studio album, UNDERWATER SUNLIGHT (1986) {*5}, which saw a new wave of critical appreciation for its more melodic content. Soundtracks for THREE O’CLOCK HIGH (1987) {*4} – alongside composer Sylvester Levay – and vampire horror flick NEAR DARK (1987) {*6}, maintained their winning streak, the latter remaining a cult favourite to this day; LIVEMILES (1987) {*5} continued the saga of freshly-scribed concert sets.
1987 also saw TD scoring two TV movies, “Tonight’s The Night” and DEADLY CARE {*3}, while the score for SHY PEOPLE (1987) {*5}, saw the group work with female vocalists, a trend that continued with William Blake-inspired studio album TYGER (1988) (*5}.
The score for video CANYON DREAMS (1988) {*6} was the last before Franke departed, another casualty of the superhuman workload. Following the addition of Ralph Wadephul, TD provided music for TV movie DEAD SOLID PERFECT (1988) {*4}, then studio album OPTICAL RACE (1988) {*5} was the first of four albums that TD released on old member Baumann’s label, Private Music; after Wadephul’s speedy departure, they released the score for MIRACLE MILE (1989) {*5}, and studio albums LILY ON THE BEACH (1989) {*4} and MELROSE (1990) {*5}. With yet more scores, for CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (1989) {*5} and DESTINATION BERLIN (1989) {*4}, TD’s work defined the law of diminishing returns. Note that several scores weren’t released until a few years after the corresponding films were premiered.
Froese’s son Jerome joined as a full-time member in 1990 for the aforementioned “Melrose”, after which Haslinger left to pursue his own solo film composing career. From this point, the Froese’s were the only full-time members of TD, but they would continue to collaborate with other musicians on each project. Music for Japanese TV show “Mandala” (1990), was so obscure that TD may not have heard it themselves, while the score for THE MAN INSIDE (1991) {*3} was indistinguishable from that of a bland workout video.
The 1990s saw a merciful decrease in TD scores, which reflected both a steady decline in quality and relevance, as they began to concentrate on studio albums, including the Grammy-nominated ROCKOON (1992) {*6}, plus 220 VOLT LIVE (1993) {*5}, TURN OF THE TIDES (1994) {*6}, TYRANNY OF BEAUTY (1995) {*6}, GOBLIN’S CLUB (1996) {*6}, TOURNADO (1997) {*4}, AMBIENT MONKEYS (1998) {*4}, TRANS SIBERIA (1999) {*4}, MARS POLARIS (1999) {*7} and THE SEVEN LETTERS FROM TIBET (2000) {*4}, while the influence of the younger Froese gave them a veneer of modernity.
Documentary soundtracks for OASIS (1997) {*4}, WHAT A BLAST: ARCHITECTURE IN MOTION (1998) {*5}, GREAT WALL OF CHINA (1999) {*5} and the unissued German flick, MOTA ATMA (2003) {*6}, have been well received by hardcore fans, if largely ignored by everybody else, while Edgar Froese has satisfied his tireless muse by “translating” Dante’s INFERNO (2002) {*6}, into a series of predictably grandiose church concerts and albums.
By now, TANGERINE DREAM’s reputation as the godfathers of “new age” music meant they’d been increasingly marginalised by the mainstream press – although their mid-70s work was still well regarded – and, as always, work continues apace. There was a definite shift towards greatness again, when Froese and his son Jerome returned to form on 2005’s JEANNE D’ARC {*6}. Thorsten Quaeschning (keyboards) duly superseded Jerome – like his father, taking time for a solo career; wind-player Linda Spa (on duty 1991-96 + 2005-2014), Iris Camaa and Bernhard Beibl were also aboard on future releases.
Keeping up with Froese and Co was indeed a hard task, even for the long-time initiated, but if one were to pick from a nightmarish array of fresh, live and retro releases, one could at least keep apace via the SYD BARRETT tribute, MADCAP’S FLAMING DUTY 2007) {*6} – introducing newcomer vocalist Christian Hausl; FINNEGAN’S WAKE {*6} (2011) and Edgar Allan’s Poe’s THE ISLAND OF THE FAY (2010) {*7} – another two in the “Eastgate’s Sonic Poems” series.
What constituted a fresh TD release was always up for discussion for fans and hangers-on alike, and when the half’n’half BOOSTER (2007-2012) series I-V, confusion was again rife. With a release schedule that could pick the pockets of even their staunchest fanbase, one would have to scrawl precariously through their post-millennium CDs, and at German import prices not exactly giving the average-wage earner a leg-up, one can only rely on decent reviews. If one was to choose three of the most enjoyable if not innovative, then one could go no wrong with volumes one and two in the “Five Atomic Seasons” series, SPRINGTIME IN NAGASAKI (2007) {*7} and SUMMER IN NAGASAKI (2007) {*7}, plus 2008’s PURPLE DILUVIAL {*7}. And er… at all costs avoid the ill-conceived UNDER COVER – CHAPTER ONE (2010) {*3}; just as it depicts, a TD electro-karaoke run-through of the likes of `Hotel California’, `Everybody Hurts’, `Space Oddity’, `Wish You Were Here’, `Suzanne’, etc.
With various personnel changes that saw Edgar, Thorsten, live members Bernhard, Linda and Iris joined by studio/live companion Hoshiko Yamane, several sets surfaced between the years 2012 to 2014. Once again, Froese was emptying the pockets of his most ardent fans, and with a series of multi-CD albums flooding the market, including revisits to previous haunts (SORCERER 2014 and PHAEDRA 2014 – THE CONCERTS {both *6}), the retro aspect of the group was still underlined. Next to prominent German-only studio outings such as LOST IN STRINGS – VOLUME 1 (2013) {*5}, FRANZ KAFKA – THE CASTLE (2013) {*5} and CHANDRA – THE PHANTOM FERRY PART II (2014) {*6}, the cheeky collaboration with QUEEN icon BRIAN MAY (recorded in 2011), STARMUS – SONIC UNIVERSE (2013) {*4} seemed a tad irrelevant.
With a series of “Sonic Poems” then behind them, TANGERINE DREAM (i.e. Froese, Quaeschning, Yamane and new keyboardist Ulrich Schnauss), the “Quantum Years” phase was underway late 2014 through MALA KUNIA {*7} and the live SUPERNORMAL – THE AUSTRALIAN CONCERTS (2015) {*7}. Sadly, at the age of 70, continental prog-rock kingpin EDGAR FROESE died of a pulmonary embolism on 20th January 2015.
One would think that “discographer’s nightmare” TANGERINE DREAM would have perished as well. Not so, as Edgar’s bequeathed legacy lived on through remaining Thorsten Quaeschning, Ulrich Schnauss and Hoshiko Yamane. And just as prolific, give or take the odd backtrack into archival material, the trio duly unveiled Froese in-spirit recordings, kicking off with “mini-set”, QUANTUM KEY (2015) {*6}, featuring the subliminal `Genesis Of Precious Thoughts’.
Subsequent concert piece, LIVE AT PHILHARMONY SZCZECIN-POLAND 2016 {*6}, tested the trio further; taking in vintage gems such as `Rubycon’, `Ricochet’, `Grind’ and others. In no time at all, PARTICLES (2016) {*6} – a split re-works and live-in-concert double-set – kept Edgar’s soundscape vision ticking over nicely.
2017 and 2018’s live THE SESSIONS I {*6} – comprising two fresh cues, `Blue Arctic Danube’ and `Gladiatorial Dragon’ – and THE SESSIONS II {*6} – adding a further pair, `Tulip Rush’ and `The Floating Dutchman’ – straddled their only non-Eastgate dispatch for London’s Kscope imprint, QUANTUM GATE (2017) {*8}; their most buoyant and rhythmic recording for years,. Displaying an unearthly resemblance to the TANGERINE DREAM of old, the residual trio (styled musical sketches left by Froese) mapped out the past, present and future on the likes of `Sensing Elements’, `Roll The Seven Twice’, `Granular Blankets’, `It’s Time To Leave When Everyone Is Dancing’ and much more besides.
SESSIONS III (2018) {*6} and SESSIONS IV (2018) {*6} continued the Dream’s modular manoeuvres.
© MC Strong 1994-2008/GRD-MCS/SW-LCS // rev-up MCS Nov2012-Jun2019

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