Tuesday 10 January 2023

Tangerine Dream - Raum (2022)

Country: Germany
Style: Electronic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 25 Feb 2022
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Thorsten Quaeschning joined Tangerine Dream as long ago as 2005, he's put in as many years with them as the founder members of most groups I review at Apocalypse Later. However, he's a rather late arrival in this one, even if he's the driving musical force behind them now, inheriting that role from Edgar Froese, who formed the band in 1967 and remained with them until his death in 2015. I found Tangerine Dream in the mid eighties, probably through the Friday Rock Show, and absorbed their first couple of decades of work, with 1974's Phaedra still one of my favourite albums. I finally caught them live in 1990 and wish I'd have seen them more often than just that once.

It's fair to say that they're one of the most influential bands of all time, having a hand in virtually every subgenre of the electronic era, from rock to pop, classical to dance, from stadiums to clubs. I haven't heard anything new from them in years, though I knew they were active and continuing to build an already immense back catalogue. I've probably heard forty albums by them and I haven't scratched the surface. So I thought I should check out Raum, which was well received last year, and I found it fascinating, not least because it's built in part on recordings from Froese's archives.

It's definitely more contemporary than the Tangerine Dream I know, but not by much, even with a thoroughly modern beat kicking in early in the opener, Continuum. It appears that Froese made a conscious effort to revisit some of the band's older sounds in his later years, reversing the modern direction that his son, Jerome Froese, had helped to push while with the band during the nineties and noughties. This feels like it's both, a look back to various eras of the band's history but also to the future. It's not a nostalgia release, but it is an affirmation that this new Tangerine Dream can continue to make worthy music without forgetting its roots in the old Tangerine Dream.

It starts off more modern, clearly 21st century electronica even as it looks back. What's notable is that Continuum feels very happy and much of the album follows suit. Coming to this from the dark ambient Blut aus Nord soundscapes I reviewed yesterday, anything might seem happy but there's a strong upbeat nature to this album, whatever era it's identifying with. Portico certainly carries on from Continuum so closely that I kept missing that the track had changed. I'm used to epic long pieces of music from Tangerine Dream and this opening pair only rack up fourteen minutes. There are two compositions here longer than that on their own.

The first is In 256 Zeichen, which is older school, clearly looking back to the seventies, but with the electronic experimentations of the band's earliest years transformed into more of a world music framework. Ther'es a section that reminds of an Indonesian gamelan orchestra, even though it's flavoured with glitch eletronica. There's plenty of that in What You Should Know About Endings, a more ambient piece peppered with glitch. There are fascinating sounds here that are turned into rhythmic effects too, reminding of all things of Pink Floyd's Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.

For those who remember the eighties, when Tangerine Dream moved into a far more commercial sound and started to churn out memorable soundtracks to films, You're Always on Time hearkens back to those days. This is smooth Tangerine Dream, and Along the Canal continues in that smooth vein, softening the sound at one point with what appears to be a flute to float over some organic electronic rhythms. Both get more modern at times but feel like they were born from the eighties era of the band.

And the album wraps up with a more in depth piece in the fifteen minute title track. Sections here remind of that heyday in the seventies, after they'd moved beyond the experimental krautrock of their earliest few albums and moved into improvisational album long compositions, like Ricochet and Rubycon. I heard some Phaedra and Stratosfear here too, in the keyboard clouds and rhythms.

Unsurprisingly, given that this is my favourite era of the band, this is my favourite piece, but it's all good stuff, underlining how vibrant Tangerine Dream seem fifty-five years on from their founding and seven from the death of their central figure and final remaining early member. As unlikely as it might seem, Paul Frick, who joined as a guest in 2018, before elevating to a full-time member in 2020, never even met Edgar Froese. Hoshiko Yamane did because she joined in 2011, but Thorsten Queschning, the bandleader nowadays, only dates back six years before that, joining soon before the band's fortieth anniversary. That's surreal. Nonetheless, the future looks bright.

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