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Tangerine Dream - Optical Race CD (album) cover

OPTICAL RACE

Tangerine Dream

 

Progressive Electronic

2.55 | 68 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
2 stars There was a time when no other band on earth sounded like Tangerine Dream. But this 1988 album could have been made by anyone: a testament perhaps to their influence on popular culture, but also a sad reflection of the steady decline of this once pioneering outfit.

Blame the technology more than the talent. Ringleader Edgar Froese found a sympathetic accomplice in newcomer Paul Haslinger, recruited to fill the gap left by the unexpected defection of Froese's longtime partner, Chris Franke. But it was difficult in the 1980s to endow the latest digital equipment with any genuine character or personality. The state of the art in the 1980s insisted that music be programmed rather than played, and the result was that just about everything from that era sounded distressingly similar.

There are, thankfully, at least a few bright spots worth highlighting here. The album opens with several tracks sporting an almost exotic North African ambience: "Marakesh", "Atlas Eyes", and the evocative "Twin Soul Tribe". And it's possible to discern a lingering echo of that old, experimental Krautrock spirit, trying to break free of its glossy digital straightjacket in "Turning Off the Wheel" (the hypnotic monotony of the one-chord rhythms are faintly reminiscent of early CLUSTER, circa "Sowiesoso").

Too bad the rest of the album is so superficial, divided between upbeat but distinctly uncool dance floor grooves (as in the title track, and "Cat Scan") and the sort of saccharine ballads ("Sun Gate") unsuited to such an impersonal electronic production (this was, remember, still a few sessions prior to the fortuitous addition of Linda Spa, whose saxophone would warm the band's icy technological aura considerably). Heck, even the cover art here resembles a generic, pre-packaged corporate logo.

The final analysis can perhaps be left to Chinese philosopher Lao Tse, quoted in the CD booklet."The visible creates a work in form--the invisible defines its worth." The problem is there's not much here that isn't entirely visible. What you hear is what you get: another not unpleasant but utterly anonymous package of ersatz soundtrack fodder by the remnants of a group still searching for the rudder it lost years before.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |

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