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Tangerine Dream - Nebulous Dawn (The Early Years) CD (album) cover


Tangerine Dream


Progressive Electronic

4.09 | 18 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Considered separately, each of Tangerine Dream's earliest four albums would probably merit something between two stars (for the hardcore fans-only "Electronic Meditation") and four (or possibly five, for the seminal ambient breakthrough of "Zeit"). But put them all together, complete and unabridged, with a pair of rare singles and an attractive, informative booklet, and the package suddenly becomes an indispensable summary of the most difficult and experimental era in the band's long, ongoing history.

The challenge for newcomers is to separate the music collected here (and yes: it is music, despite what you may have read elsewhere) from the group's more accessible sequencer- driven albums like "Stratosfear" and "Tangram". This was Tangerine Dream at their low- tech, primitive best, when the band was strictly an underground Krautrock cult ensemble, and not the slick, futuristic trio that helped re-shape mainstream electronic music a few short years later.

A thumbnail synopsis of the box set contents:

Disc One includes the first two TD albums: "Electronic Meditation" (the groovy New Age title is really a joke) and the more assertively kosmische "Alpha Centauri", recorded in 1970 and 1971, respectively. Tangerine Dream at this embryonic stage was still a free-rock garage band, heavily in debt (like so many groups at the time) to early PINK FLOYD: the freak-out jam of "Journey Through a Burning Brain", from the debut album, lifts its melody almost verbatim from the title track to Floyd's "Saucerful of Secrets".

The legendary line-up for that first album (Edgar Froese, Conrad Schnitzler, and Klaus Schulze) was like a Krautrock Dream Team, and here they were breaking rules that hadn't even been written yet. The album itself is really just a clutch of barely enhanced rehearsal tapes, never intended for release until submitted to Ohr Records by a forward-thinking sound engineer, while Edgar Froese was out of the country!

The transitional "Alpha Centauri" saw the arrival of longtime TD collaborator Chris Franke, and the first, tentative exploration of early synthesizer technology. Froese admits in the CD booklet that no one in the band had any clue what to do with their new equipment except twirl knobs back and forth, and the album as a result is very much an extension of their crude debut effort, again trying to capture in musical terms the same visual abstraction of a Salvador Dali canvas (one of Froese's acknowledged influences).

It was during the 1972 recording of "Zeit" that the new trio of Froese, Franke, and Peter Baumann threw caution to the wind and abandoned any pretense to being a rock band with discernible rock music instrumentation. The album contains some of the most haunting sounds ever captured on tape: less Space Rock than the soundtrack to a religious liturgy from some intergalactic abyss, almost completely liberated from the terrestrial straitjackets of rhythm and melody. It takes a brave pair of ears to navigate the entire original double LP in one sitting, but the four sides of vinyl fit snugly onto a single CD, comprising Disc Two of this set.

The epiphany of "Zeit" was further refined in the achievement of "Atem", released in 1973. It was, without a doubt, the most well-balanced of the group's early atonal efforts, and the one that paved the way for their worldwide success with "Phaedra" the following year. "Atem", in all its inscrutable glory, can be heard on Disc Three here, alongside the rare (and entirely atypical) 1972 "Ultima Thule" single. The A-side is an unexpected Space Rock guitar thrash, sounding not unlike a lost HAWKWIND jam; Part Two is a more haunting Krautrock soundscape showcasing the band's earliest use of a Mellotron, with Chris Franke's pounding tom-toms setting an agitated pace.

Filling out Disc Three, and included strictly for historic interest (or for comic relief, after nearly three hours of uneasy listening) are both sides of a now ultra-rare Summer of Love single ("Lady Greengrass" / "Love of Mine") released by the bubblegum psychedelic pop band THE ONES, featuring a young, pre-TD Edgar Froese on lead guitar. The stock hippy imagery is a hoot ("she lifts her dress and / floats to dreamland / makes love to the sky...") But as dopey as these songs are they still deserve to be heard, if only to help listeners gauge the almost unfathomable distance Edgar Froese would travel toward his next musical incarnation.

That historical context is a part of what makes this collection so invaluable, and fans of later Tangerine Dream will need exactly that sort of perspective when approaching this earliest chapter of TD history. They should also be warned to approach it with extreme caution, and with a completely open mind. But they need to approach it, no matter the consequences, and this comprehensive one-stop set makes it an easy leap into the void.

Neu!mann | 5/5 |


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