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Tangerine Dream - Zeit CD (album) cover


Tangerine Dream


Progressive Electronic

3.65 | 386 ratings

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4 stars Some have claimed that Zeit: Largo in Four Movements is a tough album to get into, but I'd say it's a tough album to get too much of. Maybe it's the similarities between this 1971 album by Tangerine Dream and the first solo albums, from 1972 and 1973, by former TD drummer Klaus Schulze. Interestingly, Schulze's replacement, Christoph Franke, has switched almost completely to playing keyboards on Zeit, as Tangerine Dream essentially abandons rhythm for this, their third LP and first double album.

Schulze is one of my favorite artists, and as tempting as it is for me to believe that he conceived of his early work entirely on his own, Zeit makes it clear that at the very least, he and Tangerine Dream were mutually influential. Schulze left the group after its 1970 debut album, Electronic Meditation, and co-founded Ash Ra Tempel which released its self- titled debut the following year. Side Two of Ash Ra Tempel, "Traummtaschine" ("Dream Machine"), is a bridge between Tangerine Dream and Schulze's early LPs. Of course, "Traummtaschine" is not a solo effort; fellow Ash Ra Tempel member Manuel Göttsching collaborated with Schulze to create the "electronics" which distinguish the piece. Anyway, Schulze was long gone by the time Zeit was released in August 1972.

Zeit's seventy-five-minute runtime is divided into four pieces ranging in length from seventeen to twenty minutes, an artificial limit imposed by the LP format (i.e. and e.g., five fifteen-minute works would have taken the same hour and a quarter, but couldn't be distributed among four LP sides without splitting some of those pieces across LP sides). When Yes committed to the one-song-per-side double-album format for Tales from Topographic Oceans, they wound up having to elaborate a bit, padding the sides to get them to LP-side length.* Yes's desire to create a cohesive, lyrical and musical tetralogy required them to artificially balance the sides. Whether or not realizing the concept was worth the compromises is a question of taste.

But here Tangerine Dream has an advantage: the text which connects the for pieces of Zeit is as indeterminate as the mists of spacetime apparently referenced by the titles of the four movements. ("Birth of Liquid Plejades," "Nebulous Dawn," etc.). And whereas Yes intentionally differentiated the music on the four sides of Tales to accentuate (or perhaps contrive) differences among the concepts of the sides, Zeit is as close to four variations of a concept than four pieces that complete a puzzle. My edition of the album (downloaded from emusic in 2017) does not include liner notes, but judging from the many online images of LP gatefolds and CD booklets, no grand theme is claimed for Zeit. Although an overarching concept might be inferred from the movement titles or from the solar eclipse on the cover, it would be a vague one indeed; "zeit," meaning "time" in English, would just about encompass it.**

The common descriptions of the music itself - - "dark," "ambient," "dark ambient," and so on - - are pretty accurate. The "dark" label seems intended to inoculate the album against charges that it's a "new age" work, as might be assumed from the term "ambient." I'm not sure of the definition of "new age music," but Zeit is insufficiently upbeat for me to classify it as such. It is certainly ambient music, but it's also much more minimalist and much less fusion-oriented than music (pejoratively) referred to as "new age." It's certainly darker than Alpha Centauri, the group's previous effort, or than Electronic Meditation, although it's not sinister, as the term "dark" might imply; it has the fewest jarring moments among the four Tangerine Dream albums released on the Ohr label (1970-1973).

My introduction to Tangerine Dream was the 2002 anthology Journey Through a Burning Brain, the first disc of which covered the Ohr years. Once I got the four individual albums, I expected to like Zeit the least, since it was a Schulze-less double album. It's not perfect; some of the sci-fi space-invaders sound effects are a bit much; they detract from "Nebulous Dawn" and the title track. But due to its compositions and its consistency, Zeit is the best of Tangerine Dream's early LPs.


*On the other hand, the LP version of the first Tales track, "The Revealing Science of God" was reduced by two minutes to fit it the LP. Perhaps similarly, the movements of Zeit were edited to fit various audio formats; apparently the original 45-second introduction to the fourth side was excised from all releases for more than twenty years.

**the Pleiades system has existed for somewhere around 100 million years; the cover depicts an event which has happened for the past 4.5+ billion years; the nebulous dawn of our galaxy occurred well over 13 billion years ago, shortly after the beginnings of the universe - - if that's what "Origin of Supernatural Probabilities" refers to.

patrickq | 4/5 |


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