Perfect Sound Forever

EDGAR FROESE TRIBUTE


PART II
(April 2015)


Kosmische fans that we are, we're still reeling a bit from the passing of Tangerine Dream mainstay Edgar Froese this past Jaunary at age 70. For our last issue, we had a round of tributes from composer and former TG band-mate Klaus Schulze and Michael Rother (Neu!) along with PSF writers Jim Allen, Gary Gomes and Mark S. Tucker. Here, we have two more distinguished PSF writers toasting Herr Froese along with another 'krautrock' legend, singer/guitarist Lutz Ulbrich aka Lüül of Agitation Free and Ash Ra Tempel.



Movements of a Visionary - Ten Great Edgar Froese Tracks
by Gary Bearman

Like Florian Fricke in Popol Vuh, or Robert Fripp in King Crimson, Edgar Froese was the only member of Tangerine Dream to remain throughout every era of their long career.

Electronic music had a lot of pioneers that are still known today; Varese, Theremin, Hammond, Stockhausen, Cage, etc. It can be easily argued, however, that no one did more to move electronic music more into the mainstream than Edgar Froese. Belonging to a group that made almost exclusively instrumental electronic music, Tangerine Dream enjoyed relatively enormous success and popularity, bringing forth revolutionary sounds and sonic landscapes that had never been heard before.

Froese did a tremendous amount to push the technological aspect forward, using the advances from his early solo albums to finance improved and custom electronics, keyboards and synthesizers for Tangerine Dream. The fact that his solo albums were as brilliant as the music of his main gig was an added bonus.

Here I've focused on 10 of my favorite tracks from Tangerine Dream and Edgar Froese's best period. While their music beyond the early 80's was still pretty cool (the one time I got to see them live in 1988 was a fantastic experience), they started to lose their edginess and crept closer to a more new age vibe.

All the tracks below come from albums that are highly recommended. One caution is that in more recent years, Froese started releasing reworked versions of these albums to lesser effect, you should always seek out the originals.


"Journey Through A Burning Brain" (12:26) - from Electronic Meditation (1970)

Tangerine Dream's first album is unique in their discography. The lineup was a one-off, with Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schnitzler, both electronic musical gurus themselves, going on to fruitful solo careers of their own immediately afterwards.

As far as electronics goes, it contains only some primitive electronics and sound effects, and instead focuses more on drums, guitar, stringed instruments, organ and other studio trickery. It's essentially experimental Krautrock that bears very little resemblance to the sound the band would become famous for, but it also happens to be a brilliant early space rock album, with no track better than the lengthy" Journey Through A Burning Brain."

The song starts with some angular guitar sounds and various sound effects before being taken over by a series of descending organ chords that drive the song along uneasily, creating a deep and dark vibe of traveling through the lonely depths of space. Notes start to bend, the organ gets louder, and then more traditional drums and guitar enters the fray in a frenzied Ash Ra Tempel kind of way. Eventually, the song reverts back to a series of organ chords accompanied by flute, but never quite returns to earth.


"Ultima Thule Part 1 & 2" (7:48) – from the single Ultima Thule (1971)

"Ultima Thule Part 1 & 2" are side one and two of an odd single by the band. Part 1 uses some of the track "Fly and Collision of Coma Sola" from their 2nd album Alpha Centauri, but played much faster and heavier. It starts with intense rapid fire guitar riffing and then moves into a heavy rock groove. Organ sounds break through carrying a sparse melody, with frenetic drumming moving the song along at light speed.

Part 2 travels into deepest, darkest space, starting slowly as some tasty horn mellotron sounds enter, later joined by some effective drumming. Things intensify as primitive electronics enter, and the song gets faster and faster before eventually dissolving into an atmospheric mist. Both songs are somewhat crude, but show an intensity and youthful exuberance they would never touch again in quite the same way.


"Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares" (9:55) – from Phaedra (1974)

Phaedra was somewhat of a revelation for Tangerine Dream, it being the first album to use the sequencers that would give them their signature sound. "Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares," however, was almost all Froese, and is a mesmerizing, entrancing, dark and beautiful mellotron piece. The keys on a mellotron cued tapes that took pre-recorded orchestral and choral sounds, and bending and extending the notes to give a very full and dramatic feel to a piece of music.

Even though the mellotron was hugely popular in progressive rock at the time, rarely had it been used almost exclusively and so decadently in a long instrumental track. "Mysterious Semblance" is overflowing in extended sweeping notes that wash over you, as other electronics occasionally gurgle over the top, before finally overtaking the mellotron near the end of the track. It's a deeply beautiful, atmospheric track that really sticks with you, played expertly on an electronic instrument that was notoriously difficult to use.



"Aqua" (16:58) - from Aqua (1974)

Released only four months after Phaedra, Edgar Froese's solo debut is a miraculous piece of work, and the sidelong title track "Aqua" is stunning. It starts with the sound of water, before quickly being overtaken by rapidly played keyboard notes that simulates a bubbling fountain. Percussive elements, keyboard washes and deep drones float on top of and below the surface. More actual water sounds break through and weave in and out of the rest of the track.

The whole piece is very textured and layered, with ambient and sundry electronic sounds continually shimmering through; evoking water, chirping insects, ringing bells, planes flying overhead and dark whispers. Mysterious and chilling voices arise from the deep towards the end. This is music that touches into both the netherworld and the heavens, only skimming the surface of the earth, and is undoubtedly the work of a master of his craft.


"Epsilon in Malaysian Pale" (16:26) - from Epsilon in Malaysian Pale (1975)

From Froese's second album comes the eponymous track from Epsilon in Malaysian Pale. We start with the sounds of creatures of the forest and a distant train before the mighty mellotron comes to the fore. Here he makes excellent use of mellotron flute sounds to create a more melodic feel then you usually hear from the instrument, with darker sounds adding texture underneath.

Other electronics come into play, but are used sparingly. It's a simpler piece than "Aqua," but prettier. This is the kind of atmospheric electronic composition that many would try and duplicate for decades, but rarely with this kind of success, and again shows Froese not only as master of the mellotron, but of creating beautiful, hypnotic electronic music that feeds the soul.


"Stratosfear" (10:04) - from Stratosfear (1976)

Stratosfear was another breakthrough album for Tangerine Dream from their best lineup of Edgar Froese, Christopher Franke and Peter Baumann. Opening with a gentle electric guitar sound, sequencers quickly enter the mix and move the track along as other keyboards carry the melodies. After a while, Froese comes in with some sparing use of electric guitar just to add texture and feel. The sonic palette is in constant motion, with stops and starts and a bevy of electronic sounds and melodies weaving in and out of the mix.

What made Tangerine Dream so unique and revolutionary was having three musicians play essentially the same instruments all at once, but since keyboards and synthesizers are so diverse, and this group of musicians so inventive, the three of them playing different electronic parts all at the same time creates a deeply layered and rich sonic tapestry of delight.


"Force Majeure" (18:17) - from Force Majeure (1979)

Force Majeure was another push forward for the band, and this time Tangerine Dream consisted solely of Edgar Froese and Chris Franke, with some studio assistance on drums and cello. The track starts with an ominous pulse and a beckoning whistle, ultimately revealing an expansive dreamy landscape. A piano eventually enters in, and is soon accompanied by drums and Froese's electric guitar to create one of their most iconic melodies (part of which was featured in the popular 1983 movie Risky Business), with occasional flourishes of acoustic guitar.

Besides being a synthesizer genius, Froese is also an excellent guitar player, and every time he breaks the thing out is a treat. Instead of really showing off, which he doubtlessly could do, he goes for a more melodic and soulful David Gilmour-like feel. The song continues with more dramatic changes, and this is one of their more rocking, propulsive affairs, interspersed with somewhat more mellow sections; a train moving along the tracks, alien whispers, spacecraft ascending and descending, instances of more beautiful electric guitar and sections of pure electronic nirvana. The song never loses its creativity and innovation, and it's a true marvel of composition that isn't afraid to break out of pure electronics by adding in more traditional rock elements.


"Thru Metamorphic Rocks" (14:30) - from Force Majeure (1979)

From the same album, "Through Metamorphic Rocks" starts with some gentle guitar harmonics, joined in almost immediately with keyboards and drums. An electronic industrial sound periodically wafts through that indeed sounds like moving through rocks or earth, and then the electric guitar comes in to bring the song and the listener into ecstatic heights.

This eventually dissolves into an electronic landscape that leaves no doubt why Tangerine Dream made so many movie soundtracks. These dynamic melodies and rhythms could accompany any number of events; a chase scene, a ship traversing unknown sectors of space, a journey through the underworld or indeed lava bursting forth and forming volcanic glass. It's a song of great beauty and mystery.



"Drunken Mozart in the Desert" (9:53) - from Stuntman (1979)

"Drunken Mozart in the Desert" is from Froese's 5th solo album. From the beginning, you can hear that the equipment has evolved, but hasn't entered into the cheesiness that was the hallmark of a lot of the ‘80's use of keyboards.

Starting off with some quirky synthesized sounds weaving in and out of the mix, sometimes sounding like the electronic version of opening up a piano and playing with the strings, it settles into keyboards that emulate the sound of a cello, with several layers of synth melodies superimposed on top. The whole thing has a very beautiful, if very stilted, feel to it. The song eventually morphs into a supremely beautiful melody somehow reminiscent of the composers of yesteryear, but with obviously a far more modern feel.


"Mojave Plan" (20:06) - from White Eagle (1982)

By the time of 1982's White Eagle, Peter Baumann had been replaced by Johannes Schmoelling in Tangerine Dream. Again, there's a noticeable difference in the advancement of electronic sounds, and electronic drum machines and sounds have come into play, but are used wisely.

"Mojave Plan" takes up the entirety of side one and starts with a slightly creepy vibe. Serial killers lurk around corners, or perhaps it's something wonderful, but you just don't know. The intensity is turned up, and then one of the main musical theme comes in, which is the melodic and complex multi-dimensional keyboard work we've come to expect from the band. Rhythmic elements pop up from time to time, and what sounds like an electric guitar, but played with a synthesizer.

At the midpoint, the song dissolves into ocean waves and then a solid percussive groove accompanied by keyboards. The sounds of dozens of voices ushers in yet another funky section where they make excellent use of sequencers and synthesized strings that ends the track in dramatic fashion. This is a great song to drive to, as its sonic landscapes will accentuate your travels in the unique way that only Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream can provide.




21 Shorts on Edgar Froese, The Sound of Melting Clocks, and Tangerine Dream
by Benjamin Malkin

  1. A beautiful dreamscape to be closer to "the color of sound" (from Mark Prendergast's The Ambient Century, Pg. 288) Like Kandinsky's shapes jump & play, bass moog sequencers, mellotron, VCS3, interweaving w/one another in space.

  2. Seventy three to Eighty three the going got good: Tangerine Dream, while boring visually, emitted the most magnificent sounds.

  3. "THE FINAL FRONTIER: The Analogue Synth Gods of the 1970's" Simon Reynolds wrote. He nailed this epoch, while pointing out most of them (Klaus Schulze, Vangelis, Tomita, Jarre), rode solo through the cosmos but Tangerine Dream were a band. Chemistry was something Froese could not achieve alone. Franke + Bauman + Froese's electronic circus ringmaster = new. Band dynamics, a sound wholly synth.

  4. No vocals, no drums, Phaedra to Stratosphere, the crown jewel Rubycon.

  5. How this weird experimental instrumental music managed to sell millions of albums is unbelievable. Only in the seventies!

  6. Not until they lost the drums, sequencers for rhythms, ~lift off.

  7. "In our "old days," the so-called analog age, we did improvise 99 percent of our music for more than 10 years. But that's over." - Edgar Froese (from SF Weekly article by Dave Pehling)

  8. He started this band / vision. His kid in the art. Often his wife's. Edgar the one who kept the experiment alive forty eight years

  9. Here was a great guitarist who made his best work not on guitar- though he was a guitarist first, the first four Virgin albums were largely guitar free.

  10. The Pink Years (TG's releases on Ohr Records) were a necessary evil to get to Virgin Years.

  11. Music moves through time. Tangerine Dream: the sound of melting clocks. "By his twenties he was playing bluesy guitar and even visited arch-Surrealist Salvador Dali in his Catalonian home on several occasions. There Froese was struck by Dali's 'melting images' and felt the painterly technique could be applied to music." - from Mark Prendergast's The Ambient Century, Pg. 286

  12. Going all electronic set them free. The music just took off. By limiting themselves their music opened up inimitably.

  13. Go back and forth on YouTube between Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians and Tangerine Dreams Love On a Real Train: connect.

  14. Love On a Real Train makes machines sound emotional where words fail.

  15. Very much people playing instruments live. The instruments were electronic but The Dream played them live, thus the soul in the machine.

  16. Star Trek Voyager, Deep Space 9, & The Next Generation should live in Ricochet (Franke later composed the music for Babylon Five, which is very close).

  17. Tangerine Dream echo minimalists like Reich. What they did organically, Tangerine Dream did electronically.

  18. Logos Blue, twenty minutes into Logos Live: perfect fantasy synth. My Lord of the Rings: Hand it to Johannes Schmoelling, Bauman's replacement.

  19. Tangerine Dream's digital film soundtracks made the eighties eerie.

  20. Froese solo more pastoral, Sunday morning in the garden on the ledge of the city. His Father was killed by the Nazis. See Epsilon in Malaysian Pale

  21. Kicked open the door to exploration of the aural minds eye warp drive space/fantasy rock sun setting in synth majesty. Truly one of the greats, like Spock, Froese says "Goodbye Earth / Hello Stars."


My Top 10 Edgar Froese songs (9 from Tangerine Dream & 1 solo):

1) "Rubycon - Pt. 1" (from Rubycon)

2) "Love On a Real Train" (from the Soundtrack to Risky Business)

3) "Ricochet - Pt. 1" (from Ricochet)

4) Excerpts from "Rubycon" 7" (Side Two)

5) "Stratosphere" (from Stratosphere)

6) "Phaedra" (from Phaedra)

7) "Ricochet - Pt. 2" (from Ricochet)

8) "Logos Blue" (from Logos Live)

9) "Epsilon in Malaysian Pale" (from Epsilon in Malaysian Pale [from the lone Edgar Froese album here])

10) "Thru Metamorphic Rocks" (from Force Majeure)




INTERVIEW WITH LUTZ ULBRICH

PSF: Around when did you first meet with Edgar?  What were your impressions of him?

LU: I remember going to a Tangerine Dream concert together with Christopher Franke- must have been 1967 or 68, somewhere in Berlin, I think it was a kind of school party. We were pretty impressed by his guitar play(ing) and with how much energy he was trying to find new sounds on his guitar and with the music they were playing. The really were ahead of us. But I cannot recall that we spoke to each other at that day.


PSF: What did you think of his work with Tangerine Dream?

LU: I always thought that Edgar was a real explorer in sounds and new technology. He believed in Tangerine Dream music even (if) people did not understand what it was all about. To go this way consequently was a thing I admired a lot. He also had a deeper understanding and philosophy behind it.


PSF: When was the last time you remember seeing him?

LU: (It) must have been some years ago at an exhibition of Anne Hoenig in Berlin. He was happy to see me again and shouted out “Lüül, you had been the avant-garde of the avant-garde back in the days!“ I felt a bit proud to hear him say this.


PSF: Do you have any other memories of spending time with Edgar?

LU: All these meetings are very long ago, back in the seventies and even sixties. But I was not so close with Edgar that I have special memories. But we made some trips together or met at concerts like Cathedrale of Reims in 74. 

One scene I remember. Back in the days, we often organized concerts together and often at the Alte TU Mensa. It was quite common that people tried to get in for free gathering in groups and (were) attacking the door. I see Edgar all by himself behind the door and putting all his massive body against the door to keep them out! I think no one came in.


PSF: Do you think his work with Tangerine Dream had any effect on your work in Agitation Free?

LU: Yes of course. We all heard each other’s music, especially Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream. I do not remember something special but as I said, I admired Tangerine Dream’s courage to explore new fields of music, music one had not heard before. That was what we all were trying to do and I think Tangerine Dream (did) in particular. 

There is one incident I find interesting. Edgar was always searching for musicians and some of them did not stay long in the band. There was a time - it must have been in the sixties - where he asked Fame (bassist Michael Gunter), Christopher (Franke, who was in Agitation Free at the time) and me to join him as Tangerine Dream. But we were too much into our own band that we declined his offer.

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