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Tangerine Dream

Entry updated 2 May 2022. Tagged: Music.

German electronic music group, founded by Edgar Froese in 1967. Their line-up has changed a good deal over the years – Klaus Schulze was a member for a time – although as of 2007 the group comprises Froese and musician Thorsten Quaeschning (1963-    ). Their first release, Electronic Meditation (1970) owes much to musique concrète, using cut-and-pasted audio tape to create its effects, and although wholly instrumental (Tangerine Dream albums do not usually feature vocalists) it partakes of a fabulist musical idiom reminiscent – the longest track on the album is the Philip K Dick-like "Journey Through a Burning Brain" – of the New Wave sf the band was reading at the time. The group's second release, Alpha Centauri (1971), adopts a different style, which Froese dubbed "Komische musik": more fluid and buoyant, sonically correlative to an outward urge. The track titles ("Sunrise in the Third System", "Fly and Collision of Comas Sola", "Alpha Centuri") instruct us to read the music as a narrative of a journey through space. Zeit (1972) is a slower and more atmospheric album, a Time Travel-inspired composition that focuses on the motion of time-travelling itself rather than historical or futuristic destinations. With their fifth release Phaedra (1974) the group essayed another new style, based on programmed and sequenced electronic synthesizers, layered over with simple, primary-colour melodies and made more tonally interesting with various sound effects, prepared instruments and aural oddnesses. Three subsequent albums perfected this style: Rubycon (1975), Stratosfear (1976) and Force Majeure (1979), each construing a distinctive, organically repetitive instrumental sound, extremely though nonspecifically evocative. This was Tangerine Dream at its most musically effective: an onward-rolling series of spacious tonal atmospheres. In contrast to Kraftwerk's precise and robotic sound, Tangerine Dream were aiming at a warmer, more expansive and topographic idiom, soundtracking mysterious other worlds, throbbing and spooling-out with a stylish implacability. A large number of albums were released through the 1980s and 1990s, although the music, now channelled into shorter more commercially-minded formats, suffered a form of dilution, sometimes becoming tainted with a daffy New Age mysticism – as in the whale rhapsodies of Underwater Sunlight (1986) – or else congealing into mere background music, as in Rockoon (1992) and Mars Polaris (1999). An exception is the ambitious and intermittently powerful trilogy of albums that adapt Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy: Inferno (2002), Purgatorio (2004) and Paradiso (2006). The group's website claims that they have issued a hundred releases, not counting singles; but of this large mass of music probably only a half-dozen 1970s albums will prove enduring. [AR]


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