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Tangerine Dream - Alpha Centauri CD (album) cover

ALPHA CENTAURI

Tangerine Dream

 

Progressive Electronic

3.55 | 352 ratings

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Bonnek
Special Collaborator
Prog Metal Team
3 stars 1970 was again a turbulent year for Tangerine Dream. A new drummer had to be found after Schulze's exit and later on in the year also organist Conrad Schitzler left to form Kluster. But chances were turning for Froese when meeting with Chris Franke, only 17 at the time but already an established name as a jazz drummer in the original line-up of Agitation Free. The organist seat however remained problematic. One Steve Schroyder joined for the recording of 'Alpha Centauri' in January 1971 but due to his erratic behavior he had already left again by the time the album was released in March 1971. Also one Udo Dennebourg (flute) and Roland Paulyck (synth) joined for the recording session but never toured with TD.

'Alpha Centauri' marks the real start of Tangerine Dream's foray into electronic music; it covers a lot of new ground and is therefore a very representative album of their so-called 'Pink Years'. Pink? Pink must be the very last color that comes to mind when trying to describe this music; besides pitch black I'm rather seeing 'dark fiendish green' and 'sickly violet'. But no, 'Pink Years' simply refers to their Ohr label which sported a pink ear ('Ohr' in German) as the label's symbol.

'Sunrise in the Third System' - We kick off with a wonderful piece for organ, it resembles the track 'Genesis' from their previous album but now with organ and electronic effects in the lead. This time properly recorded onto a state of art 8-track in Dieter Dirks studios in Cologne. Legend has it they spent 3 weeks perfecting the sound of the organ, it's an anecdote that demonstrates how TD's history is intertwined with the development (and sometimes 'taming') of new instruments and pieces of equipment.

'Fly and Collision of Comas Sola' - One of the new toys for the boys was the VCS3 synth that features prominently here. The spirit of Pink Floyd is still strong and just like the second track of the debut, the 'Celestial Voices' part of A Saucerful of Secrets' again forms the basis for a gradually intensifying piece with thundering drums and solo flute. Is this post-rock 20 years before someone thought of that word? I think it is. This is one of my favorites from their 'Pink' era.

'Alpha Centauri' - If the first half of the album was an electronic perfection of their free-form rock past, the next 22 minutes will take us into the future, and while we're there, also into deep alien space. When Chris Franke joined TD, he didn't just bring his skills as a drummer along but also introduced Froese to contemporary composers like Ligeti and Stockhausen. The next album 'Zeit' would fully indulge in those influences but they are already felt strongly here. In fact the entire first 18 minutes are very vanguard, with free-form flute playin dueling against atonal noise from the VCS3 and other sounds processed through modulators, oscillators and echo boxes. What makes it attractive is that after 18 minutes of chromatic discord we are rewarded with 4 minutes of harmonic relief when a celestial choir of voices joins the Hammond organ for a grand finale. Still, it's a difficult piece to get into, fascinating but not exactly appealing.

'Oszillator Planet Concert' - In June 1971, Tangerine Dream performed on the Ossiach festival in Austria, a 10 day festival concentrating on world music but also featuring TD, Weather Report and headlined by Pink Floyd. Only 10 minutes from the TD gig have been released and feature on the 2011 Esoteric reissue of 'Alpha Centauri'. By that time Peter Baumann had already joined so for fans this historic recording is worth checking out. The music is very much in the vein of 'Zeit'

'Ultima Thule parts 1 and 2' - In August 1971 TD released this single, taking them on an interesting trip back to psychedelic rock. It's like a last nod to Pink Floyd's 'Umma Gumma' before they would venture into the bleak emptiness of 'Zeit'. The tracks were previously released on a 2008 compilation and they make for an interesting addition on the 2011 Esoteric reissue. If only to demonstrate how the band was still experimenting with different styles and approaches.

As with 'Zeit' and 'Atem', it will take some patience and indulgence from the listener in order to connect with this trip of eerie sounds, dissonance and spooky atmospheres. The groove and melody that made later Tangerine Dream albums popular is still absent so don't be surprised if it takes you 20 years - if ever - to get it, but in places this is sure a stunning work. 3,5 stars.

Bonnek | 3/5 |

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