Monday, November 2, 2009


Tangerine Dream/1974

Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Tangerine Dream. To explore strange new sound waves. To boldly go where no Teutonic techno band has gone before. Before we plunge deeper into the void, be advised that the use of the term “techno” here isn’t meant to conjure up today’s burbling, beat-happy young purveyors. The three Kraut Rockers who made up Tangerine Dream were, in fact, pioneers of electronic music back in the dark age of electronic instrumentation. Unlike today’s synthesizers, small enough to pretty much carry around in your back pocket, these guys wrestled with synthesizers that were big, clunky ol’ contraptions – the earliest models towering over the musician like the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Many almost required a gray-haired scientist in a white lab coat and thick, black-rimmed glasses, standing on stage, holding a clip board with scientific, electronic data and instructing the often stoned-out-of-his-mind musician as to which patch chord to plug into which oscillator. The oscillator would then…well, oscillate. Which, in turn, would create an electronic sound that could be manipulated – stretched, squeezed, squashed and even (on the rare occasion) made to stay in tune with the rest of the band. After several albums already orbiting the musical cosmos of the early ‘70s, Tangerine Dream launched Phaedra, the perfect spaced-out soundtrack to a mind-excursion across the universe. With sequencers set to full-thruster mode, the music jettisons itself into your brain with subtle, constant rhythmic pulsations – gradually building layer upon layer of even more electronic sound washes. Before you know it, with headphones firmly in place, you’re lost in space, gliding past the rings of Saturn, merrily waving to ET as you fly by, while nervously glancing over your shoulder expecting to see William Shatner show up at any moment. By the time the wavering waveforms and moaning mellotrons gently deposit you back down on Earth (and you’re done kissing the ground), there’s no doubt you have just experienced the ultimate headphone trip. BTW, don’t panic if the headphones are still smoking, they just need a couple minutes to cool down after re-entry. Tangerine Dream, with succeeding lineups, would go on to cement their reputation as ‘80s movie soundtrack specialists (for better or worse) and have never stopped churning out their Germanic brand of electronic music to this very day. Beam me up, Scotty.

Essential Tracks: “Phaedra” “Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares”

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