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Tangerine Dream - Underwater Sunlight CD (album) cover

UNDERWATER SUNLIGHT

Tangerine Dream

 

Progressive Electronic

3.79 | 180 ratings

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TCat
3 stars After 28 albums, what is it about the 29th studio album by Tangerine Dream that sets it apart from the many others that came before it (and after for that matter)? The biggest thing is that this is the first album that Paul Haslinger would be involved in. Paul would become a regular member of the group for 5 years in which 15 albums would be released. That's an impressive chunk of discography for that amount of time. Paul had been classically trained at the Vienna Academy of Music and the University of Vienna during which time he became a session musician. Tangerine Dream was his first really big break. This album sees the introduction of his influence and experiments with just how his influence was going to be integrated into TD's sound.

The album 'Underwater Sunlight' is obviously centered around music influenced by marine life. The band typically made their albums based around a certain topic and created the music around that. Paul also brought a more standardized songwriting approach compared to what was used earlier by the band.

The first side of the album is devoted to a 2 part suite called 'Song of the Whale'. The first part is called 'From Dawn . . .'. After a free style atmospheric introduction, the track picks up a melody in a keyboard style sound which is contrasted by an airy vocal sounding effect produced electronically creating a counter melody. A fast moving arpeggio style background moves things forward. Around 3 minutes, an echoing guitar solo provided by Edgar Forese takes over for a short while, then things go electronic for a little while longer. At 4:30, a loud crashing effect signals the beginning of an intense guitar solo with the arpeggio pattern continuing in the background. The guitar stays at the fore until the 7 minute mark where things calm down until the arpeggio builds again, ending the track on a loud orchestral hit.

The second part is called ' . . . to Dusk', and we can really hear the newcomer's influence here. This one begins with a nice piano solo by Paul. This goes on until the 2 minute mark where atmospheric synths come in and start to take over. The music gets a placid atmosphere and eventually, a harp effect fades in. Again, synthesized vocal effects are used. At 4:30, a rhythm is established and a synth takes the melody and builds on it. We enter into a more structured sound as we also move into an accessible, almost commercial sound as things intensify, similar to a new age feel. Another guitar driven melody comes in at 6 minutes, but at 7 minutes, everything takes a more atmospheric turn. Again there is another build and the guitar pushes this forward. There are a few times when the track threatens to push beyond the new age realm, but never really does. Things fade at the last minute and we sink into an electronic drone.

The next half of the album consists of tracks that stay around the 5 minute mark. 'Dolphin Dance' is the first of these, and this starts right off with an up tempo electronically produced rhythm and a synth led melody with a harpsichord sounding effect. Orchestration is good here as it ushers in a guitar solo then it returns to a 2nd melody with the synth and guitars taking turns. The beat is very 80's influenced and continues on throughout the track.

'Ride on the Ray' has a definite 80's style keyboard beginning, and a more mid-tempo rhythm. It is driven by a clavichord style melody. Once again, a guitar solo begins, thus falling into the same pattern as the previous track. The syth effects in this one are at least richer than the previous track, but the sound of the era is quite prevalent making things sound a little dated. 'Scuba Scuba' is a bit darker sounding, but pretty much follows the established pattern that has now been laid out by the previous tracks, maybe a little less melodic.

Finally, the last track 'Underwater Twilight' has some cool effects that make it sound like a muted synth with some vocalized electronic effects. This track is more ambient and less new age like. An electronic rhythm does form, but it is not as annoying as the last few tracks. The keyboards play a melody based on a chordal pattern. There is even some room for experimentation here, but not much. It is a better track, but a little too late.

Paul's influence is pretty obvious on this album and would dictate the route the band was going to pursue for a while. The more accessible sound of the 80s would become more prominent as TD sought to expand it's fanbase during a time when new age and new wave were popular. The album isn't bad, but it does sound dated, and, of course, I miss the more experimental era of the band. The use of more guitar solos is great at first, but when things fall into the pattern of having to have a predictable guitar solo in each track, it soon gets old. There are better TD albums out there, but at least the first half is decent on this album, and the 2nd half is quite run-of-the-mill.

TCat | 3/5 |

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