Dick’s Picks: A German LP from 1970 made using a Revox Tape Recorder and some primitive electronics – what’s not to like says Dick…..
The classic line-up of Tangerine Dream (Edgar Froese, Christopher Frank, Peter Baumann) achieved huge success in the mid 1970’s as part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Records, best known for their epic side long album suites, filled with undulating, arpeggio synth workouts and early adoption of the sequencer – all in all, highly regarded electronica that had one foot in the ‘new age’, not a term favoured by the band.
Rewind to the late ’60s however and Germany was in a state of flux, the generation born after the war were tired of being ‘ashamed’ of their nationality, they sought new ways of reclaiming a national identity through art, music and film – in music this meant a totally ‘free’ approach, a music that eschewed the cliches of U.S. and U.K. rock/pop, out went 12 bar blues and verse, chorus,verse, boy meets girl and in came a new music that combined elements of modern classical, the avant garde, free jazz and electronics. The original incarnation of Tangerine Dream were but one small part of this hotbed of newly emerging creative talent. Band founder Edgar Froese performed (as did many other key Krautrock acts) at the infamous Zodiak Free Arts Lab in what was then West Berlin.
Originally released in 1970 on the legendary Ohr label the debut album was something of a Krautrock tour-de-force, featuring contributions from, not just Froese, but fellow cosmic travellers Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schintzler. Similar to Kraftwerk’s early releases the record makes the best of the limited sonic resources available, so no banks of warmly arrpegiated synths here, instead expect treated acoustic instruments, ‘found sound’ (look out for broken glass, burning parchment and even dried peas being shaken in a sieve!) and liberal use of collage throughout, made possible by those shiny new Revox Tape Recorders.
The album opens with ‘Gerbus’ (Genesis), after the initial restrained opening an atonal, scratching sound emerges leaving you the listener under no illusion – James Taylor this most certainly ain’t! More proof that you’re not in for an easy aural ride comes in the shape of second track, the thirteen minute brain-fryer (quite literally) that is Reise Durch Ein Brennendes Gehirn (Journey Through A Burning Brain). There are definite shades of Syd era Floyd with the guitars fret-board given a once-over, punctuated by moments of almost silence before the funereal organ sound emerges towards the end – Nurse, bring me the pills….
Taken out of context it’s easy to see to the record as possibly self-indulgent and definitely tune-free, however, listened from beginning to end, the record, like so many other German releases from the period, has one eye on the future, extended track length, the use of the studio as musical instrument and the desire to create something not attempted within the ‘rock/pop’ canon were all central to the album – the result was as Dick says, “a difficult listen, but also a key release in the formative years of electronica” – Right On!!!
What do you think of the LP – godawful racket or a superior slice of proto-electronica?
Find more Tangerine Dream at eil.com