THE REVOLUTION OF ELECTRONICS
Chapter 4: THE SEVENTIES: THE ELECTRONIC REVOLUTION IN MOTION (Second Part: 1976-79)
By: Jorge Munnshe
After a year of confinement within their studio, KRAFTWERK produce their RADIO ACTIVITY on March 1976, which gets a great success. The Techno wave continues to gain adepts quite fast.
1976 is a year with great impacts. ALBEDO 0:39 by VANGELIS becomes highly successful as well. Together with the technological jump since HEAVEN AND HELL, he gives a spectacular turn at a musical level. On the other hand, the biblical themes give way to other more technological ones. This is an album intended as a homage to the astronauts of the Apollo programme, where he uses recordings of this kind on the Moon as a soundtrack for one of the themes. The rest of the pieces is a sort of music eminently electronic indeed with a maddening rhythm and overwhelming percussion, although there also are relaxed, greatly peaceful passages. This same year, VANGELIS also composes the movie soundtrack for the television documentary series LA FETE SAUVAGE, devoted to the wild life in the African continent. In this soundtrack he wisely mixes synthesizers and jungle recordings together with native chants and songs.
ASHRA TEMPEL, with a totally renovated air, records NEW AGE OF EARTH, which becomes one of the most emotional symphonies to the cosmos.
The new LP by KLAUS SCHULZE, MOONDAWN, presents a new evolutive step with a greater musicality. One side is rhythmic and the other one contains beautiful relaxing music with siren songs and marine backgrounds. Likewise, SCHULZE composes the movie soundtrack for an erotic film called BODY LOVE, thus proving that the music done with synthesizers need not be relegated to strange things or science-fiction, but rather it is merely music, its style depending on the one imposed by the author and not on the instruments.
TANGERINE DREAM abandon their almost totally improvised system to create music, and lock themselves into a studio to compose. The result is the archifamous STRATOSFEAR, that so insistently sounds in discotheques, advertising, documentaries, radio tunes... It is a kind of music equally sophisticated yet one that has abandoned the most abstract shades from other LPs by this band in order to concentrate on precise melodies and rhythms, which can even be hummed. On the other hand, EDGAR FROESE releases his solo album MACULA TRANSFER.
The new generation of electronic musicians, most numerous than the first one, already is adult enough to stop being pupils and become professional musicians. Some of the most noteworthy ones are MICHAEL STEARNS, ROBERT SCHROEDER, JOEL FAJERMAN, THIERRY FERVANT, KITARO, the band NEURONIUM and JEAN MICHEL JARRE. The first one to reach fame is the latter. OXYGENE, his first album, reaches incredible heights in popularity, finding its place at the same level as the works of the already established masters, who on the other hand are entering their golden eras.
1977 begins. The electronic revolution within the music is bigger and bigger, and the new styles spread everywhere.
Techno with KRAFTWERK achieves a boom hardly imaginable seven years before: TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS conquers the top ten lists. Numerous Techno bands and authors appear. Such works as for instance VOYAGE, by BRIAN BENNET, will be widely played at discotheques during the next years. TIM BLAKE, BONEY M, ALAN PARSON, ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, among others, place themselves on the front line of success.
TANGERINE DREAM engage on a series of tours throughout the United States with unprecedented success, recording the double LP ENCORE. They also compose the movie soundtrack for the thriller SORCERER. During the summer, EDGAR FROESE composes what will be his double album AGES, released in 1978, an excellent work. By late 1978, PETER BAUMANN leaves the band.
VANGELIS releases his SPIRAL, a successful album on the same musical line as ALBEDO 0:39, and furthermore, IGNACIO, of a clearly Greek inspiration.
KLAUS SCHULZE, who releases his MIRAGE, tours the United States and Europe with great success.
ASHRA TEMPEL records his BLACKOUTS, on the line of NEW AGE OF EARTH yet aimed at a wider audience.
A new band, then completely unknown, release their first album a year after their birth. The album is QUASAR 2C361; and the band is NEURONIUM, led by MICHEL HUYGEN.
In 1978 MASANORI TAKASHI (KITARO) releases ASTRAL VOYAGE. The ex-member of the FAR EASTERN FAMILY BAND, a symphonic Rock band with great prestige both within and without Japan, arrives at electronic music via mysticism. Shortly he will ascend to stardom and will prove that technology and spirituality are not incompatible with respect to music, as stated according to the viewpoints of the purists of classical instruments.
The NEW AGE movement in the United States becomes stronger, especially in California. There is a wealth of electronic composers, such as BERNARD XOLOTL, IASOS, CYRILLE VERDEAUX, or the duo EMERALD WEB.
After BAUMANN leaves, TANGERINE DREAM enter a phase of instability. STEVE JOLLIFFE and KLAUS KRIEGER act as provisional members to record CYCLONE in January. The attempt to make a commercial work makes them sing for the first time ever.
NEURONIUM records VUELO QUIMICO, which surpasses the success of their previous work, and which in Great Britain will come to be regarded as a masterpiece of electronic music. The talents of the second wave rise fast.
VANGELIS registers a period of a most instense activity. To his works BEAUBOURG and CHINA, one must add ODES with IRENE PAPAS as a solo singer. He abandons the RCA and a compilatory LP appears, THE BEST OF VANGELIS. He also begins to work on the movie soundtrack of the television documentary series OPERA SAUVAGE.
INCANTATIONS, by MIKE OLDFIELD, projects new patterns for what is to become the electronic music of the 1980s. This double LP will be one of the most popular music works ever released.
KLAUS SCHULZE reaches his stellar moments, reflected in his double LP "X", his tenth work since that far-away, enigmatic IRRLICHT. Each piece is devoted to a classical composer.
With CORRELATIONS, ASHRA TEMPEL continues to develop towards a kind of music album that will be profusely spread in the musical scene of the late 1980s. In this time, MANUEL GOTTSCHING shares an album with KLAUS SCHULZE; and ROSI MUELLER, GOTTSCHING's wife, releases another one with different collaborations by German musicians and a cover designed by KRAFTWERK.
Great success is achieved by JEAN MICHEL JARRE with his EQUINOXE after two years of silence. This is electronic music with cosmic passages together with others more on the line of Techno, yet in both cases, of a careful composition which besides connects with the audience. No wonder, JARRE and this kind of music would be called to star great concerts in the future with over a million people attending.
Synthesizer music quickly becomes the most dominant form in the musical panorama. The movie soundtrack of MIDNIGHT EXPRESS becomes a massive success. JOHN FOXX, known thanks to his participation in ULTRAVOX, is revealed as a true genius. BRIAN ENO achieves an unexpected success as well. SUZANNE CIANI floods the television screens with electronic music through her popular melodies for advertising spots (I am not going to mention any given makes, yet I can state that very famous pieces we may remember are hers). In this moment electronic music no longer is a laboratory product aimed at mere minorities, but a Better form of musical expression. Perhaps the most widely spread trend of electronic music, Techno-Pop, nowadays fully integrated in our society, was definitively established in the late 1970s. The analysis of these bands and characters would need a whole article per se, therefore here we will exclusively concentrate on the narrative of the musical electronic revolution at a global level and in its most noteworthy craftsmen.
In 1979, with the composition of the extensive movie soundtrack for OPERA SAUVAGE (of whose approximately three hours only 40 minutes would be released), VANGELIS is creating one of his top works: hymns that move the listener, melodies with a splendorous texture, cosmic epics, and such humane, warm pieces as had never been registered in synthesized music ever before. Moreover, he begins a fruitful collaboration with JON ANDERSON, which will be seen in a series of beautiful albums, of which the first one is SHORT STORIES. These will be tangible proof that true beauty can result from the combination of the human voice and synthesizers, and that will serve those who criticise electronic music right. KITARO, who sees his international path approach, releases the excellente work OASIS. KLAUS SCHULZE achieves one of his most impressive compositions on side A of DUNE, whereas on side B he adds a singer to a long rhythmic theme. EDGAR FROESE releases STUNTMAN, a wonderful work where there is proof that the problems faced by TANGERINE DREAM are not due to a lack of talent on the part of their leader.
Even so, not all goes well. This is a specially vulnerable moment for electronic music. ASHRA TEMPEL, almost exclusively devoted to innovative Pop music, releases BELLE ALIANCE and enters a semi-retirement. TANGERINE DREAM go through a highly unstable period, with chronic recruits and leaves on their ranks. Momentarily reduced to a duo, formed by FROESE and FRANKE, they reflect on the new path for T.D. for the 1980s. Since this moment, they abandon their peculiar avantgarde, risky style, to begin a painful conversion towards a more commercial type of music. POPOL VUH end up turning towards religious music. PETER BAUMANN abandons his native Germany and settles in the United States to make Pop music. Other pioneering bands dissolve or enter a lethargy that states their lack of new ideas. On the other hand, the members of the second wave have to face a number of difficulties, as for instance happens to NEURONIUM, who find themselves hindered for a whole year because certain elements within Spanish EMI do not agree with their style.
Previous Page (Articles/News)