10 Best Tangerine Dream Albums From Number Six of 20 Icons of Echoes
On the air I said I’d pick five, but I decided to go with ten.
Phaedra and Rubycon have always been a pair for me and that pair is half of a quartet with Ricochet and Stratosfear. These are the signature Dream albums, the blueprint for every retro-space artist out there, the sound that influenced ambient, techno, and more. The classic trio of Edgar Froese, Christoph Franke and Peter Baumann found the secret of rubber band sequencer patterns discovered by Tonto’s Expanding Headband 2 years earlier. The Dream bound them in interlocking patterns, mellotron chords and synthesizer textures. Phaedra is transitional, retaining some of the avant-garde Ligeti-esque texturalism from Zeit on the mellotron drenched “Mysterious Semblance at the Strands of Nightmare,” but the title track and Rubycon, an album length composition were definitive journeys into inner space.
Tangerine Dream was an exciting live band in the 70s and half of the 80s. Listening to Logos, from 1982, you can hear why. This was the Dream working with a precision and structure that earlier works didn’t have, but they were still creating in long-form with a fair amount of improvisation. Johannes Schmoelling had been in the group for a while at this point and his influence is felt in gorgeous melodies and rhythms that have you ricocheting off your seat and between your headphone cups. This was really the truly last live recording from the group. Subsequent live albums would be more pre-programmed performances.
It’s been called their most experimental CD, but I think it’s their most thoughtful, controlled and uncontrived album. Playing with a cello quartet, it’s a journey of interwoven tones phasing through each other from acoustic to electric to something entirely new. Ambient before ambient, but owing much to Gyorgy Ligeti pieces like “Atmospheres,” synths, gliss guitar, organ and “noise generators” unfold in undulating, slow motion patterns across what was a double LP. This 1972 recording is a drone zone manifesto, and a beautifully enveloping work free of melody, rhythm and just about any other conventional music signpost.
This is one of the last long-form Dream recordings. Originally a two sided work, Tangram is a multi-movement opus sometimes sabotaged by episodic writing, but still with some haunting themes amidst the pounding sequencers and more melodic invention than most prior Dream albums.
Part of the classic quartet of albums, this was their most commercial release to date and the first album with real melodies.
The other album in the classic quartet. Ricochet was their first live album, although it was all new materiel and sounds like a studio recording. Another two-sided excursion that moves from the quietest solo piano spot to thundering sequencers from the heavens.
Goblins’ Club recalls the 80’s sound of Tangerine Dream when they were just adding more aggressive rhythms and clearly defined melodies to their fanciful spacescapes. But unlike so many of thier post-Virgin releases, this 1996 albums doesn’t bludgeon you with canned synthesizer bombast. There seems to be more exploratory fun and a more personal sound as they drop in surreal free falls in the midst of their dramatic compositions.
Something of an anomaly in that it features a drummer, Klaus Krieger, and gives the Dream a more fluid and aggressive sound, especially in the screaming side long title track.
I know that consensus opinion has it that the Private Music years sucked, and they did, except for Optical Race the first album they made for the label, owned by former Tangerine Dreamer, Peter Bauman. With just Froese and Paul Haslinger, they create dense, rhythmically charged excursions that stand up to some of their best works and hold up better than albums like Le Parc.
Finally an album that should be on the list, Epsilon in Malaysian Pale, the third solo album from Edgar Froese and a Dream album by any other measure.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))