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Tangerine Dream - Quantum Gate CD (album) cover


Tangerine Dream


Progressive Electronic

3.86 | 74 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Plenty of listeners and fans have no shortage of opinions about when the pioneering German electronic group Tangerine Dream apparently stopped being `the REAL Tangerine Dream', be it their first moves into more streamlined musical territory in the late Seventies, the more obviously melodic direction of the Eighties, or even when particular musicians arrived and/or left at various points throughout the fifty active years of the project. The recent continuation of the TD brand in the wake of the passing of founder and mainstay member Edgar Froese has been the latest controversy, a move that some pockets of fans have considered something of a gross insult and a kind of `blasphemy' to Mr Froese's memory and the institution that is Tangerine Dream.

It is now known that Edgar gave his blessing to the musicians that he'd been creating music with in the years just before his passing to carry on the group name, which included keyboardists Thorsten Quaeschning (something of a veteran by now at thirteen years and multiple albums under the TD banner) and Ulrich Schnauss, and violinist Hoshiko Yamane. This quartet had been preparing what was to be considered the next evolution of Tangerine Dream, dubbed by Froese as the `Quantum' era, with some early glimpses of this new beginning found on the promising `Mala Kunia' EP in late 2014, but his death soon into the new year following it initially halted the progress. After several months of uncertainty, the remaining trio commenced realising Edgar's vision of seeing this new stage of Tangerine Dream become a reality, and their first full-length disc `Quantum Gate' was released on September 29th 2017, to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the group.

The good news is that `Quantum Gate' is a superb album, one of the best to bear the Tangerine Dream name in quite some time in fact, with the current trio utilizing initial sketches, demos and fragments recorded by Edgar as a grounding and crafting a series of nine tracks around them that find a strong balance between atmospheric longer reaches, electronic explorations and more melodious compact pieces - plus a touch of dance music, so oldies and prog-snobs best approach with caution! There's a constant distinctly current sound with endless respectful nods to the vintage exploratory heritage of the group through every bit of the album, and with fairly little prominence given to electric guitar, it makes for a superb slice of intelligent modern electronica, and even the more straight-forward spots (which are actually fairly few and far between) are far weightier and more subtle than many of the tracks that have shown up on numerous TD discs since the late Eighties.

The near-fourteen minute opener `Sensing Elements' holds a series of experimental and ambient fragments a world away from commercial appeal or easier melodicism. It's essentially a multi-part suite that coasts between freeform serene electronic drifts, stronger themes driven by those classic TD chiming notes and more urgent churning programmed beats, making for a confident statement from this current trio. Each re-listen reveals a secret exciting layer and a very understated flow, and the piece will at least raise a curious eyebrow from some hold-outs of this new era of Tangerine Dream! `Roll The Seven Twice' offers nicely clacking percussive momentum and a catchy reprising searing theme whilst dipping into slinking dance beats, and `Granular Blankets' holds a more reflective soundtrack-like elegance to Hoshiko's classy violin and fleeting darker traces to its haunting piano.

Sure to be one of the more controversial moments, `It Is Time To Leave When Everyone Is Dancing' is perhaps the closest Tangerine Dream have ever come to delivering an energetic `summer dance anthem' (at least outside of their `Dream Mixes' volumes!), mind you an intelligent and tightly arranged summer dance anthem at least! It's a bouncing and joyous dance piece, revelling in the versatility that we can expect from this current T.Dream incarnation. Hoshiko's sweeping violins then emerge between `Identity Proven Matrix's strident and sparkling synth themes, and some sparse use of grumbling electric guitar briefly reminds of Pink Floyd.

Quaeschning, Schnauss and Yamane then spoil the older fans with a series of beautiful and deeply immersive epics to close out the disc. The ten-minute constantly unfolding `Non-Locality Destination' is loaded with big dramatic synth washes and bristling sequencer ripples flitting in and out, and once it hits a spot right in the middle with rumbling guitar reaches you'll almost swear Pink Floyd's `One of These Days' is hiding in there somewhere! The dreamy space-music of `Proton Bonfire' is all crystalline ringing expanses, dancing sequencers and fizzing implosions before more prominent beats propel the piece forwards with excitement, and it ultimately culminates in an uplifting refrain. `Tear Down The Grey Skies' is pure a Seventies sci-fi-flavoured soundscape with monolithic alien expanses, and nine-minute closer `Genesis Of Precious Thoughts' will likely be the favourite piece for many here. Overloaded with feverish sequencer-breaking runs and little skittering up-tempo bursts, Hoshiko's violin taking centre stage constantly soaring majestically over darker electronic pulsing, fancier ambient washes and dramatic imposing beats, meaning all three members get a final chance to leave their mark.

Whether or not you consider the disc `Tangerine Dream' is up to you (and there's sure to be some who will instantly dismiss it without hearing a second of the music), but this is evocative and smart electronica from a talented trio that constantly calls to mind moments from many eras of the group from over the last several decades, and not in the lazy derivative way that so many of the endless TD clones do. The accompanying `The Sessions 1' EP and some of the recent `Particles' set suggest the current trio are going to keep looking even deeper back into the classic vintage Dream years for fresh inspiration in the future, but for now, `Quantum Gate' is a bold and successful new start to the legacy of Tangerine Dream, and Edgar would be immensely proud of what his protégés have delivered here.

Four and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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