Edgar Froese’s Electronic Aqua at 50

Aqua-the Solo Debut of Tangerine Dream's Edgar Froese, at 50

Edgar Froese - AquaIn the winter of 1973 into 1974, Edgar Froese, the founder of Tangerine Dream, sculpted the sound of his debut solo album, Aqua. It was recorded at just about the same time as Tangerine Dream’s breakthrough album, Phaedra. Unlike Phaedra, which was recorded at the Manor Studios in Oxfordshire England, this was created in Froese’s West Berlin studio. This is a time when the Berlin Wall still surrounded the city, separating it from its eastern half and the rest of Western Germany. It was released in June of 1974, four months after Phaedra.

Aqua sounded like Tangerine Dream, and it didn’t. The title track is a 17-minute excursion of pure electronic abstraction.  it opens with water running from a faucet in Froese’s apartment and evolves into aquatic bubbles, spirals of electronic current, and washes of electronic waves. It was experimental joy, carving space with sound. It would sit comfortably next to works by avant-garde composer Morton Subotnick. Other tracks like “Panorphelia” and “Upland”, evince a sound that seems to predate Phaedra with droning mellotron and church like organ.  “NGC 891” would be the most reconizably “Tangerein Dream” track on the album. It’s named after a spiral galaxy about 30 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. It’s another long epic, nearly 15 minutes and has the sound of the Dream, maybe because the Dream’s Christoph Franke played Moog synthesizer on it. There’s one of those rhythmic sequencer patterns that marked the Dream’s recordings and more melodic development in the lead lines.

Recorded with a binaural headset, something that was very novel in 1973, it has a spatial, immersive sound although most reports on the album indicate that only a few sound effects like a jet plane and road traffic were recorded binaurally. Like the title track, “NGC 891” begins in abstraction, but an oboe like synth melody emerges that leads into the sequencer section and off we go.

Aqua features one of Monique Froese’s beautiful covers looking like electric blue ice crystals. A gatefold sleeve, it’s one of those album covers you’d sit on your lap and look at while being enveloped in the sound.

Aqua was released by Virgin Records 50 years ago this month. Although it isn’t even Froese’s best album, let alone as good as his work with Tangerine Dream, it still sounds like the future. Interestingly, Froese does not mention Aqua, nor, I think any of his other solo albums in his autobiography, Tangerine Dream: Force Majeure.

Froese would record seven solo albums and one sound track across his lifetime with Tangerine Dream. He died on January 20, 2015. He was only 70. He would’ve been 80 this year on June 6. We remember Aqua tonight June 12, 2024 on Echoes.

Read 10 Tangerine Dream albums to Blow Your Mind
Hear our Tangerine Dream Documentary.
Hear Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra at 50

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