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Tangerine Dream - Underwater Sunlight CD (album) cover


Tangerine Dream


Progressive Electronic

3.72 | 185 ratings

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2 stars After getting my hands of Rubycon earlier this year, I made it my intension to further explore the work of Tangerine Dream. The first album I've been able to get a hold of since is Underwater Sunlight. Things have certainly changed in the decade between the two albums. As I am new to the band I was unaware that this is not an album from the classic line up and that it was made after thesupposedly golden "Virgin" years.

In addition the operational changes made by the band, their sound has also changed significantly. While Rubycon is a timeless masterwork, Underwater Sunlight is unmistakably the product of the 1980s. Gone are the smooth undulating rhythms and in their place you find a newer array of synthesizers, vocal sampling and wailing guitars and other "normal" instruments all wrapped up in an apparently more focused package. As a result, the album has a bit of a Pink Floyd flavour to it at times. It seems to me that these particular changes might be a result of the considerable number of film soundtracks that Tangerine Dream began to produce in the intervening time period.

I may not be entirely fair to compare Underwater Sunlight to Rubycon, a lot of time has passed between the two works. However due to the order in which I have chosen to listen to the albums, I'm bound to make the comparison. Of the two I am very much inclined towards Rubycon.

So this is a different beast in many respects. The best track on the album in my opinion is probably the lead track Song for the Whale part one. I am beginning to think that the "whale" is an intentional double entende. The guitars are present throughout. It is an engaging and adventurous track and at times does drive closer to the sonic landscapes of previous effort. The subsequent track, part two, bears little or no relation to its forbearer. It is a largely keyboard driven track with lots of cycling staccato. At its slower moments I think it best lives up the Underwater Sunlight concept. It is good at times and monotonous at others, especially during the extended guitar wailing. There is one point that I felt I was really enjoying the track only to have the unfortunate intrusion of the "chk-chk-chka" of Ferris Bueller fame barge in and level my enthusiasm. The best part of this track is likely the closing minute of so which does feel like a comparative blast from the past.

From the sprawling two parter we move into what seems like an 80s club hit of some sort, Dolphin Dance. It's defining feature is a bouncing rhythmic bass line supporting some more Floyd-esque guitar and plenty of soft 80s vintage keyboard effects. It's ok for what it is, but I wouldn't really call this terribly progressive or all that interesting. By the halfway point I already get the sense that I'm treading on old ground wish it would just move on. I think Dolphin Dance marks the nadir of Underwater Sunlight's listening experience.

Up next is Ride the Ray. The rolling repetitive bass makes a return and does give the feeling moving at high speeds. Like its predecessor it sticks pretty closely to its titular concept. It does seem repetitive at times. Musically I do like it a bit better than Dolphin Dance, but it is not a significant step up.

In spite of it's odd name and not exactly welcome use of synth drums, Scuba Scuba is possibly my pick for the next best piece after Whale part one. The drums aren't a major feature as they come in behind some spacey keyboard work which is much more the style of Tangerine Dream I know and love. If the mild cacophony of additional sounds could be stripped away from the main synth line think this would make another fantastic sparse piece in the vein of Rubycon. It has its flaws but I am certainly more in favour of it than not.

The fittingly titled Underwater Twilight is the other contender for second best track. It begins with a muffled synthesized chorus and a distorted ululating keyboard. All together it feels like something that Vangelis might have produced. As Twilight progresses, bass and drums enter the picture and eventually force the haunting elements to the back. As odd it is seems this piece may in fact be the most quintessentially 1980s of the bunch. And yet I still like it a good deal. I think the best decision was to use a keyboard as the lead rather than a guitar. It seems to fit better. There is a series of ascending and descending scales which occur in the final minute of the piece which mark its pinnacle.

As most of you may have guess Underwater Sunlight caught me off guard. I went in with what I would consider to be unrealistic expectations in hindsight. Tangerine Dream is still a fantastic group in my opinion, but Underwater Sunlight is simply not to my tastes. I would recommend this track to anyone who really likes the aesthetic of the 1980s. Otherwise it is only fit for diehard fans of the band. For anyone in my position I would suggest exploring other areas of Tangerine Dream's vast discography, before checking out Underwater Sunlight. I give it two out of five stars.

PS: Cool album cover.

R-A-N-M-A | 2/5 |


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