Easily one of the most recognizable names in electronic music, Tangerine Dream went a long way in providing legitimacy to ambient music. And while ambient would not have been the term of choice back then, it is certainly an appropriate term now given the many directions that recorded sounds have taken. Tangerine Dream helped to establish the experience of sounds electronically woven.
Established in 1967 by Edgar Froese, who is the band’s mainstay after more than 40 years, Tangerine Dream gave their first album, Electronic Meditation in 1970 starting what would be referred to as their “Pink Years”, so-called because their first record company had a pink color element to the design of its label. From 1970 through 1973, they released four albums (Electronic Meditation, Alpha Centauri, Zeit, Atem). Each of these albums further established the band as a powerful creator of music via synthesizers.
By the arrival of Alpha Centauri, Christopher Franke, a member of the most impacting version of Tangerine Dream, had joined. By Zeit, their third album, Peter Baumann added his significant talents as well. This began the shaping of Tangerine Dream‘s most important works.
Branson’s Virgin Records signed the band, who released Phaedra (1974). In Phaedra, a significant change had taken place as the band began to use the computerized capability of the sequencer to perfect what would become a familiar sound of the band. The band would consistently release yearly installments of their music for many albums. including Rubycon, Ricochet, my personal favorite, Stratosfear, and a great many others.
By the time Peter Baumann left the band, with Tangerine Dream still in ascension mode, they were already changing. With the release of Cyclone, their first without Baumann, they introduced vocals in a well-crafted 13-minute plus song, “Cold Bent Sidewalk“. By the arrival of their next album, Force Majeure, in 1979, they were beginning to morph into what would be referred to as their Blue Years (Jive Records), and their Melrose Years (Private Music, a label owned by one-time member, Peter Baumann. Baumann would release a classic solo ambient album of his own with Romance ’76.)
After each album, the band changed a little more. I’m not sure any one band can be pointed to with such a vast evolutionary musical path.
It was inevitable that a band with the creativity that Tangerine Dream displayed time and time again, would be asked to produce a motion picture soundtrack. This venture began with William Friedkin’s magnificent cinematic remake of Clouzot’s Wages Of Fear film, Sorcerer. In the liner note of that LP, Friedkin stated that Tangerine Dream nailed the sound he wanted for the film, I believe without the benefit of seeing the movie. Within the notes, Friedkin also stated that the film and the score are inseparable. That’s power!
Over the years, Tangerine Dream would create soundtracks for Thief, Legend, Risky Business, Near Dark, Firestarter, Miracle Mile, and many others. All were challenging soundscapes to complement the film their accompanied.
Recently, Tangerine Dream also scored several pieces for the best-selling game, Grand Theft Auto V.
Still relevant? I think so.
Their insertion of many albums into the world of what is now called ambient music has been, and continues to be, a core element of this style of music.
Tangerine Dream was one of the first bands that led me to a profound love for sound-only productions, many electronically created. As such, they left a lasting impression. Often, I return to their music, generally the albums from their Virgin Years, which includes my favorite, Stratosfear.
I invite you to challenge yourself with any of the bands or artists that I introduce within the scope of this series of articles, which could be quite vast. In addition, I challenge those that like such music to comment and help to create a discussion of the bands and artists we bring up. Do not be afraid to introduce any that I might not only be interested in, but that I may like myself but haven’t thought about in years. (One such classic ambient title, which involves treated piano, is from Roger Eno, is his magnificent and brilliant Voices.)