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Tangerine Dream - Tangram CD (album) cover

TANGRAM

Tangerine Dream

 

Progressive Electronic

3.83 | 202 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars This was the album that prompted many longtime fans (myself included) to jump ship when it first appeared in 1980, overreacting perhaps to a fresh new sound from a band trying hard to adjust their music to fit a rapidly changing market. All ancient history now, but I was curious: given a chance to hear the album again for the first time in more than 25 years, how well would it stand up to a quarter century of hindsight?

Better than expected, actually, and it even improves with subsequent playing. Of course the shock of hearing genuine melodies from a group previously known for their album-length improvisations has long since worn off, but in retrospect the new approach shouldn't have been much of a surprise. The band's early, influential years had already ended with the departure of PETER BAUMANN in 1977, and their next two albums (the controversial "Cyclone" and the aptly titled "Force Majeure", both featuring an actual flesh-and-blood drummer and the former adding a vocalist as well) paved a clear path toward the more earthbound explorations of the reconfigured 1980s trio.

At least the new album marked a welcome return to strictly electronic instrumentation (no more drummers, thank you very much), and despite its more user-friendly, episodic structure is still arranged in two long suites, each one filling an entire side of the original vinyl. On the other hand, there's little sense of the otherworldly mystery or majesty that made their embryonic efforts so uncanny. The music here, pleasant as it is, sounds instead not dissimilar to any other synthesizer band of the same era, with the platinum- selling albums by JEAN-MICHEL JARRE ("Oxygene", "Equinoxe") looming large as an obvious influence.

The more atmospheric (and minor key) interludes work best, like the section beginning 12-minutes into "Set One" when newcomer Johannes Schmoelling sits back and allows old pros Edgar Froese and Chris Franke to fire up the sequencers and work their magic for several exhilarating, rhythmic minutes. Likewise evocative is the latter half of "Set Two", in particular the atonal collage near the end of the track, briefly recalling the discordant choirs of Gyorgy Ligeti on the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi classic "2001: A Space Odyssey".

At its best, you might say the album succeeded in meeting the dumbed-down commercial demands of the new decade head on, with some occasionally gutsy and at times even muscular new music. But at its worst the same music often comes across (especially today) as somewhat trite and superficial, reflecting a once state-of-the-art but now all too dated electronic aesthetic.

Either way its a valuable artifact, offering a fascinating portrait of a pioneering band in transition, taking uncertain aim at the more mainstream musical targets that would (sadly, to some) define just about every Tangerine Dream album for decades to come.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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