Allow your imagination some well-earned play…
Released by Invisible Hands Music on 26 June 2017 and reviewed by Paul H Birch
Krautrock, a now derogatory term applied to obscure legendary Germanic bands most of us will never hear. The reality then? Only two have ever mattered to the masses, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, even so Can keep jumping in because somewhere along the line they became the critics’ darlings.
Kraftwerk had mainstream appeal via media savvy, a hit single in ‘Autobahn’ followed by more excessively disco-styled electronic hits off parent albums; they now relive those experiences playing arena sized art installations featuring only one member who ever recorded with them.
Tangerine Dream founded in 1969 by Edgar Froese were part of the prevailing experimental student ethos of the times developing psychedelic music with Stockhausen precision and minimalist electronic technology. When signed to Virgin in 1970s, they became the next sure thing for the label after Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, hitting big with albums like Phaedra and Rubycon.
They moved into film scores, their creative cache side-swiped as the new wave made cheap keyboards available to the masses then got rediscovered in more recent times by Ibiza’s chilled out rave crowd at which point the media reassessed the band’s influence and allowed them mainstream credibility having previously avoided them as old hippies. Just as their place in history was restored, Edgar Froese went and died, and yet the band play on, without him. A mistake? Actually far from it.
The current line-up of Thorsten Quaeschning (keyboards and guitar), Ulrich Schnauss (keyvoard) and Hoshiko Yame (violin and cello) have put together Particles , a double album or 2 CD set if you will. The first is titled Muon and features new recordings (as such), the second is Tau and features live recordings from a festival on the 3rd September 2016 in Germany.
Muon begins with ‘4.00pm Sessions’ in vinyl terms a side long epic on its own. Does it take its title from the time they began recording this? It all sounds very mundane, grounded and business like in its title yet on listening one immediately feels cast afloat in space. A single note appears and diffuses gently in a galaxy thought dark and obsolete; more appear, clustering and teeming with life and movement where once there was silence. A pulse beats and you feel you are at the heart of something only for it to shift rhythmically and spatially: As rough analogy Kraftwerk evoked the tense frustration of the car drivers in rush hour traffic, while Tangerine Dream were more akin to the smoother ride of a train and that comfort zone is where we find ourselves musically now with the addition of a swaying dance movement as more and more effects are layered in to the work.
Undulating, shifting but ever arching forward it explores melodies and is compelling aurally. Around 11 minutes it slows down, the sounds distort and there is a momentary sense of confusion becoming a peacefully mystery seeking clues as a violin plays. At 16 minutes it feels like a helicopter taking off, at 20 more musical shapes are thrown and gently abandoning, it all building for a further eight minutes before everything begins to fad in its final sixty second period. And, do you know, I would have been happy for it to go on a little bit more.
‘Stranger Things’ is a cover tune. The main theme tune to an American TV show whose original composers are apparently been influenced by Tangerine Dream and while its brash and brisker with melodious warm beds of sound it is the least compelling of the works presented across these two CDs. Muon ends with an old Tangerine Dream classic Rubycon. Sinister like an early 70s sci-fi film’s overture it expands eerily and ominous without being imposing. Seven minutes in the pace quickens; a dance vibe becoming apparent and not present on its original, it shapes itself further and ends at just the right moment, regaining energies possibly lost by the middle track.
Polite applause greets us with CD 2’s Tau and new number ‘Mother Of Rain’ wherein a warm breeze airs over a slight Afro-beat, chilled disco motifs stirring and promising nightclub romance as opening gambit in some 80s Hollywood movie. The drum machine rhythm of ‘Power Of The Rainbow’ Serpent’ enforces a rigidity that the ensuing tune cannot quite break free of whereas ‘White Eagle’ was considered being of that nature when released on album in the early 80s but here is akin to ballet dancing freely among the clouds, treated piano sounds issuing an again altogether romantic flavour – the warm applause greeted this abridged version possibly stemming from it being used as theme tune for a German TV police procedural series.
It’s followed by ‘Dolphin Dance’ that sounds exactly as it reads. Skipping and jumping in joyous repetitive melody, beats and pulses trip into double time becomes all the more aurally addictive. ‘Shadow And Sun’ has us return to my train analogy to describe Tangerine Dream’s music. This is a long night time haul then a scouring sound about half way through clues in new melodies slowing approaching, sequencers oscillate warmly, a guitar froths only to subside before we are taken elsewhere only for it to be revealed as coda to the work as audience applause is once more heard.
If electronic soundscapes aren’t your thing then you’re never going to get beyond the first few minutes on these CDs. However, if you’re grounded but need something to take your away from the pressures of a stressful day while allowing your imagination some well earned play this does an awfully good job.
CD 1: – Muon
- 00pm Session
- Stranger Things – Main Theme
CD 2: Tau
- Mother Of Rain
- Power Of The Rainbow Serpent
- White Eagle
- Dolphin Dance
- Shadow And Sun