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Tangerine Dream - Mala Kunia CD (album) cover


Tangerine Dream


Progressive Electronic

3.18 | 9 ratings

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3 stars Released by electronic pioneers Tangerine Dream to coincide with the recent live performances at the Melbourne Town Hall in Australia on November 16th 2014, `Mala Kunia' is the first studio work to feature a new line-up for the project. Still comprised of founding member Edgar Froese on keyboards/guitar, Thorsten Quaeschning on keyboards and Hoshiko Yamane on violin/cello from the previous line-up, the band now boasts the addition of highly regarded German electronic musician Ulrich Schnauss on keyboards, an artist of great variety in tune with both vintage and modern styles. Although hardly essential, this 52 minute album hints at possibilities this new version of Tangerine Dream may go on to produce once they are more established and settled in, with a few moments drifting rather close to excellence.

The title `Mala Kunia' is derived from the name of two Aboriginal tribes who, according to Aboriginal mythology, lived ages ago around Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. The Mala tribe lived on the sunny side, the Kunia on the shady side of the rock, and this is contrasted in the way the music on the disc frequently balances light and shade to great success.

Despite moments of lovely drifting backwards effects, tip-toeing electric piano footsteps and Froese's chiming synth melodies, there's not too much to distinguish lead track `Shadow and Sun' from endless other more anonymous sounding Tangerine Dream pieces. But it all sounds perfectly lovely, especially on repeated listens, balancing lighter flights of optimism with quite nicely driving guitar growls. A never-ending optimistic electronic loop is punctuated by shimmering effects and groaning synth lines that reach for the heavens in `Madagaskunia', the more dramatic `Madagasmaia' is a slow-build mix of pulsing beats, tribal percussion and successfully grand pretty themes full of joy and freedom...and is that a hint of the barest Mellotron wisps of TD old buried in there?

A nice Pink Floyd flavour (similar in moments to their recent release `The Endless River') floats through both `Beyond Ularu' and `Vision of the Blue Birds'. The former is surreal and hazy, with unobtrusive metallic percussion clicks under soothing yet striking synth washes. The latter piece, the longest on the album at almost nine minutes, contains the most colour and variety. An unhurried sonic collage of shimmering synth drones, a variety of pattering beats, atmospheric guitar interjections and ethereal electronics, many moments throughout it ripples with brooding power, and it's deeply surreal and full of ancient mystery. More old-world meets the new with `Snake Men's Dance at Dawn', blending modern slinking electronics and reassuring cinematic synth themes with cooing chants and beats that sound like stones thundering together. Closer `Power of the Rainbow Serpent' is the highlight of the album, full of climactic power and mellow grace. Slithering dark electronic grooves, Hoshiko's serene cello piercing through the heart of the beast, fanciful synth themes and welcome uneasy flourishes take flight, and this piece is the one that hints at the exciting potential of this new Dream line-up the most.

Froese boasts that this new period in Tangerine Dream's long-running history shall be known as The Quantum Years, and that it will deliver `some adventurous music in a different aural landscape.' In comparison to many of the 90's onwards Tangerine Dream albums that had a plastic, shallow sound, there's definitely traces of a freshness and vitality seeping back in, and the positivity throughout is reassuring and quite grand in moments. This one probably works best as a pleasing and undistracting background listen, where it's undemanding and dreamy melodies can take hold. But there's definitely signs of life in the progressive-electronic institution that is Tangerine Dream, and `Mala Kunia' will appeal to both longtime T'Dream collectors, and likely be extra appealing to Australian fans due to the theme and the recent concerts.

Three stars...but the best is likely yet to come from this exciting new vision of Tangerine Dream.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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