Summer 2007 A4 40 pages
GARDEN OF DELIGHTS: Emma Myldenberger, Joy Unlimited
photocopy reprint (last 5 copies)
Example article extract
People have often asked me why I've not yet done a Tangerine Dream article in my Audion Deutsch-Rock series. I guess I was waiting until I was properly able to focus on a defined era. For that I was awaiting an official release featuring the notorious Ultima Thule single. After all that's the namesake of our shop. Well, now it is available in the budget priced triple CD set of their early albums NEBULOUS DAWN, as is the early pre-Tangerine Dream single by The Ones. Only an odd few compilation tracks remain obscure. And, with the WDR television films broadcast last year a lot of the guesswork about their early history was (in part) answered. So, I decided to do this article, covering what I'd call the "classic era" of Tangerine Dream - the first decade.
The early days
Like many long-running Krautrock acts, Tangerine Dream history focuses around one person - the guitarist (and multi-instrumental talent) Edgar Froese. "Viking" Froese, as he was known in his youth due to his stark Nordic features, was born 6th June 1944 in East Prussia (a now non-existent part of north-east Germany partly absorbed by Poland and Russia). In the early-1960's he moved to Berlin as an art student, and then also got involved in the roots of the beat scene. After a 4 year course at the Berlin Hochschule der bildenden Kuenste, studying art and photography (where he met who was to become his wife: Monique), Edgar gradually became a key figure on the scene forming the psychedelic pop band The Ones in 1967. The band featured Mick Auerbach, Edgar Froese, and lead singer Charlie Prince, along with Detlef and Wilfried (whose surnames seem lost), and an unknown sixth member. Their sole single Lady Greengrass / Love Of Mine was quite a groundbreaker and still one of the few such singles of the era that still has a fresh originality to it. For want of a better word it was "progressive" and not straight pop, and predates a lot of what you would think of as influences. The lyrics were also a little risqué for the time. It would have been banned from air-play by the BBC, I guess! An excellent light piece of psychedelia with the spirit of Syd Barrett and The Electric Prunes, I've now listened to it so many times that I can virtually sing the lyrics in my head.
But Edgar was never one to follow a scene, and as lots of other young Berlin bands tried to cash-in on the new psychedelic pop scene, he disbanded The Ones and had a major rethink.
Birth of the dream
It's been said that Edgar got the name Tangerine Dream by mis-hearing the lyrics of the Beatles' Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds "tangerine trees and marmalade skies" as "tangerine dreams and marshmallow skies" which may or may not be true, as Edgar has more recently denied this. Certainly there was some Beatles influence in his former band The Ones, but Tangerine Dream would mostly take their inspiration from the early Pink Floyd, adopting an avant-garde experimental twist on the genre, gradually developing a unique niche. In the two years prior to their debut album Edgar was the only common factor. A lot of this era is not that well documented. The first known line-up featured: the free-jazz musician Volker Hombach (saxophone, flute, viola), Swedish free-jazz drummer Sven Ake Johansson, with Kurt Herkenberg (on bass), and Edgar Froese (guitar). What this incarnation was like we will probably never know. Some reports quote it as a weirder twist on Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive, songs still featured for a while apparently, but were replaced ever more so by free jamming, tape experiments and the likes. Also in the ranks during these early years were: one Lanse Hapshash who took over as drummer for a while, and also there was English multi-instrumentalist Steve Jolliffe (of Steamhammer). Documentation of this can be found in the "Kraut & Rüben" documentary series broadcast by WDR TV last year. In one film Edgar is seen with a room full of tape machines, seemingly all routing the same tape as a massive delay experiment, with Edgar getting the most unfathomable sounds out of his guitar. Another film has was looks like Steve Jolliffe and an unknown black drummer, playing a more fusion-spiced music. There is also one "Happy Dieter" on bass, documented in the film "Jamboree bei Hofe" (from 1969). The WDR broadcast centres on the "Bath Tube Session" a film of Tangerine Dream - the freak-out rock trio - with Klaus Schulze on drums, and Edgar sizzling on guitar as only he can.
I guess most people would give up after so much coming and going. Yet, throughout this era Edgar Froese continued to push on. And eventually such persistence paid-off. Reputedly Tangerine Dream were the first Berlin underground band to get a record contract. The band at this time (late-1969) was: Edgar Froese (guitars, organ, piano, broken glass), with ex-Psy Free: Klaus Schulze (drums, whip, metal rods), and founder of the Zodiac Club: Conny Schnitzler (cello, violin, guitar).
ELECTRONIC MEDITATION, expressed in its title the idea of a new electronic music, though apart from electronic gadgetry like effects pedals and delays, the instrumentation used was basically that of a rock group. The cover featured enigmatic texts about Burning Brains, Birth, Death and such-like - all seemingly implying it was some sort of concept album. I guess they were just trying to be as enigmatic as possible. Apt really, when the music on the record amounted to pure enigma! Okay, it was rock in one sense, but it was also "cosmic" and very weird. Extraordinary in its invention and daring, the album opens with Geburt (Genesis) a raw intensive melange of bowed bass and guitar sounds rumble, cascade and scuttle around, like some free-jazz band almost overdosing on acid. Unidentifiable sounds kerrang, stab and sizzle, boldly leaving their mark on the senses. Guest Thomas Keyserling (apparently drafted-in on flute to play the Steve Jolliffe parts) flutters and warbles with his instrument against free fills and half formed rhythms by Klaus. Another guest: Jimmy Jackson (I assume it's him) then enters on thick swirling drunken organ, with the second track Reise Durch Ein Brennendes Gehirn (Journey Through A Burning Brain) seamlessly segueing like a lamentful Saucerful Of Secrets theme leading into a heady deranged freak-out. Gently at first, it keeps threatening to break out, until it eventually does, going into flurries of mad overdrive, before the eventual swell - which is one those pieces still sends shivers down my spine. Edgar's guitar here is extraordinary - it is almost literally brain burning stuff. The calm organ and flute coda ends the side perfectly, with some light and welcome relief. The second side of the LP opens with Kalter Rauch (Cold Smoke) starting with a quiet modulated organ tone, joined by bowed cello, and occasional abrupt stabs of frenzied guitar and drums. Not just bordering on the avant-garde, this amounts to pure unclassifiable innovation. The only things I can think of close to this are the Wired album, and some parts of the recently issued Eruption LP. Holding such a restrained focus wasn't the actual mode of Tangerine Dream at this time though, and Klaus soon enters on the drums in his inimitable style, as the organ swirls ever more majestically. A lull, diversion, unidentifiable crackle, and then another mad freak-out, topped with Edgar's guitar in full frenzy mode and wailing feedback. At 10:40 it cuts to heavy breathing for a moment, switching into Asche Zu Asche (Ashes To Ashes) which returns to the free-rock mode but more densely at a lower level, akin (I suppose) to the more twisted dense parts of Embyo's OPAL. Another seamless move, and another track, the finalé Auferstehung (Resurrection) mysteriously looms with a backwards voice speaking over an organ pulse/tone, before returning the mood to how the album starts. As indicated by the cover, the cycle begins again. In all, one of the finest examples of underground psychedelic rock in overdrive!
A diversion of thought here for a moment. I recall when Steve and I went to see Klaus Schulze play at The Venue in London (September 1982) the pub nearby was full of Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream fans. When we came to the subject of the favourite TD album I recall most were surprised that ELECTRONIC MEDITATION was a firm favourite! Some exclaimed that they actually hated it! I bet it still challenges people today, and for me it's still remarkable vital and fresh, and hundreds of listens down the line it still sets the aural senses alight!
Even before the release of the album Klaus and Conrad had left the band and gone on to other projects. Conrad Schnitzler also had the band Kluster (who later continued as Cluster without him). Klaus then went on to form Ash Ra Tempel with ex-members of the Steeple Chase Bluesband. Both Klaus and Conrad also worked with Agitation Free members in the Eruption supersession project, and have since established themselves as highly prolific soloists. Also, during this period, several drummers passed through the ranks, and for a while they "borrowed" Agitation Free's drummer Chris Franke (born 6/4/1952, in Berlin), who eventually joined Tangerine Dream.
The cosmic era
So, with no one in common, except for Edgar, the second Tangerine Dream LP was quite different. I know Edgar doesn't like the term for some reason, but ALPHA CENTAURI was the start of Tangerine Dream's outer space "cosmic" phase. The cover imagery and the music conjured up the feel of deep space, whether that be the cosmos: outer space, the inner mind, or whatever hallucinogen was order of the day! Chris Franke had brought his knowledge of working with electronics from Agitation Free, becoming much more than just a drummer, with his zither cum primitive "proto" synthesizers, and Steve Schroyder added his massively processed organ. ALPHA CENTAURI opens with the gentle but majestic Sunrise In The Third System. A vague sizzle of amplifier buzz, resonant plucks on a pianoharp, swirly Floydian organ and glissando guitar, and a few notes of echoey flute (from guest Udo Dennebourg). It's four minutes almost act as an introduction to the much bigger Fly And Collision Of Comas Sola, a track that bears a heavy debt to Pink Floyd's A Saucerful of Secrets track, though here the elements are in reverse, with the introduction being spacey, adding organ to the fore, building up into an intense frenzy of drums. The second side featured just one track Alpha Centauri itself, their longest studio work put on record at over 22 minutes. Swathed in reverb, strange bowed tones, shimmering modulated organ, flute, etc., it looms with a growing tension, joined by electronic warbles and filtered twitters. Actually the flute dominates the foreground for a while, surprising for a guest. As it all gets majestic it's as though we've entered a huge resonant church as the organ plays, and a voice mutters obscure words in German, joined by a chorus of wordless harmony vocals. It's almost spiritual - cosmic in a different sense again!
Article by Alan Freeman
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