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  • Writer's pictureThom Holmes

Not Tangerine Dream

Transcendent Imitations of the Legendary German Electronic Music Group

Tangerine Dream. The legendary German group that released its first recording in 1970 and soon forged an identity in electronic music based on the use of synthesizers and a host of sequencing devices. They provided a mesmerizing foundation of soothing, sonic journeys. Not exactly progressive rock because the music was more about a blend of instruments than about solos. Tangerine Dream has released more than 100 official studio or live albums, 20 soundtracks and they continue to make music despite with a new and evolving lineup. Through the years, their music has been remarkably consistency. Electronic Meditation in 1970 was more psychedelic, using tape sounds and organs. With a change in band members, the group took a more electronic turn. Their next three albums, Alpha Centauri in 1971, Ziet in 1972, and Atem in 1973 explored the sounds of the quirky EMS VCS3 and the Mellotron. By 1974 and the album Phaedra, they had acquired a Moog Modular synthesizer and sequencers. Their familiar sound of repetitive, interlocking rhythms and tone patterns took shape during this time.

Some former members of Tangerine Dream left the group to follow their own paths, chief among them being Klaus Schulze, Peter Baumann, Conrad Schnitzler, and Christopher Franke. But the influence of Tangerine Dream went even further in that there were many other artists who sought to emulate that sound.

So, what we know about imitation is that it is considered the best form of flattery. However, rarely does imitation also succeed in being original itself.

In this episode I hoped to rectify that by playing of the music of other artists who were influenced by Tangerine Dream and also tried to make their own identity. These artists were largely German, although at least one Brit and two American artists immersed themselves in the sequencer world of transcendental electronic music in the mold of Tangerine Dream.

What is the Tangerine Dream style of electronic music? I think it comes down to three essential characteristics that have remained consistent over the years. The first is Patience to let things happen. No Tangerine Dream song is hurried or forced. Second is the gradualness of all musical transitions. By the end of a Tangerine Dream piece you might notice that the music has changed quite dramatically from where it began, but you don’t remember the changes taking place. Third is that egos are not allowed to rise above the overall fabric of sound, making Tangerine Dream very different that progressive rock and fusion jazz, both of which contain many of the same electronic instruments but were driven by personal expression.

Tracks in this podcast:

  1. You, Future Pasts, 1983

  2. Earth Star, Jets Sets, (Atomic Fallouts, Flash To Ash), 1981

  3. Mythos, Quasar, 1980

  4. Claude Larson, Zenith 1980

  5. Richard Wahnfried, Charming the Wind 1979

  6. Steve Hillage, Four Ever Rainbow 1979

  7. Lauri Paisley, A Figment of Reality, 1987

  8. Nightcrawlers, Tanzwut 1984

Nightcrawlers: Peter Gulch, Tom Gulch, Dave Lunt

For the Archive Mix:

Tangerine Dream, Central Park 1985

Hermann, Power of Speech 1987

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Electronic and Experimental Music

Notes on the development and continuing history of electronic music, its creators, and the technology.

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