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Tangerine Dream - Stratosfear CD (album) cover


Tangerine Dream


Progressive Electronic

3.94 | 506 ratings

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4 stars Well -- here's an important album from my past, that I still enjoy today. German keyboard trio Tangerine Dream released STRATOSFEAR in 1976, and I was immediately compelled to buy it. I was attracted by the "far out" cover art, and was already a confirmed TD fan thanks to their fine prior releases PHAEDRA, RUBYCON, and RICOCHET. What I discovered upon first listen a few hours later (when in the appropriate "state of mind," no doubt!) certainly did not disappoint. STRATOSFEAR was the last studio album from the definitive 70s lineup of Franke, Froese and Baumann (Baumann was destined to depart following 1977's live ENCORE), and it's easily one of the best of a great set.

As with its excellent predecessors, STRATOSFEAR is genuine "music that melts." If you want bombastic, grandiose prog, with vocals, bass, crashing drums and soaring lead, don't come looking here! As with the bulk of the band's early output, this disc is composed of much more subtle stuff. You won't be blown away, but you may well gently drift away to the outer limits of "inner space," contemplating either the stately, slow-motion ballet of the planets as they drift past your mind's eye, or the siren call of the chocolate chip cookies in the cupboard.

After the lava lamp is warmed up and doing its thing, the sweet smell of incense permeates the room, and you push "play," the oddly (but appropriately) spelled title cut slowly builds into what is perhaps the most dynamic of TD's early pieces. The rhythmic, insistent keys impart an air of growing menace, and the inclusion of synthetic percussion keeps things moving and interesting, and sets the stage for Froese's lead, before the gentle, spacey close. Very "Lovecraftian" -- try it with a scary novel!

"The Big Sleep in Search of Hades," is a solid shorter number that explores some dark, "underworldly" terrain with the atmospheric use of mellotron, synth flute, and harpsichord.

Things remain eerie for "3 AM at the Border of the Marsh From Okefenokee." As its rather unwieldy title suggests, this eight-minute track takes us to the moonlit, mist-shrouded shores of the storied Florida swamp, replete with bubbling marsh gases, weird animal sounds, and a haunted harmonica somewhere in the murky distance. Er, snakes and gators sleep at night, don't they? Shiver!

The final cut, "Invisible Limits," is also the longest (nearly twelve minutes) and strongest. You'll want the headphones for this one, because after a slow -- at times soothing -- introduction, and some restrained lead guitar, the keyboards start to dance from ear to ear with some great stereo effects, before matters get decidedly spooky again. The hopeful light of dawn awaits, however, in a lovely closing section of piano and "flute" that delivers you once more into safe, familiar surroundings. Now, how about those cookies? Is it too late to order a pizza?

If there's a place in your prog collection for some meditative, other-worldly electronic music, and the old lava lamp and headphones are still in working order, you can't go wrong with this one. STRATOSFEAR is a crucial slice of classic Tangerine Dream, and a must for any true fan of the band's heyday.

Peter | 4/5 |


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