TANGERINE DREAM (2)
THE GEAR STARTS
No doubt, Tangerine Dream is a legendary band within the electronic genre and the musical avantgarde in general. Throughout their long trajectory, they have explored unknown areas in the music world, and have contributed to create the basis for a wide variety of current trends.
"Alpha Centauri", the second release under the signature of TD, and the first one in the electronic wave, was the true start for the band. This ceased to be a mere collective of guest artists improvising without a given direction, to acquire their own identity. In this first coherent album adventure, they were also accompanied by Steve Schroyder, who soon after would leave the band, plus some other performers. Franke was centered in the synthesizer, taking care of string, wind and percussion instruments as well. Froese played the guitar, bass and organ.
With "Alpha Centauri", TD appeared leading what became a new genre: Space Music. The astronomical or science fiction references present in the titles of their works clearly state their precocious orientation. TD, however, would not be limited to this genre, to which creation contributed with their own style, but rather would encompass other trends or ideas, quite often of a very personal nature.
With the parting of Schroyder, the two members of TD decided to look for a third partner. Franke had a friend who was acquainted to Peter Baumann. This was a young keyboardist who used to play at a club in Berlin, and who, like Froese and Franke, was inspired by surrealist painting. That was the first sign that there could be a good stylistic understanding among the three of them. Froese proposed him to join the band, and after a period playing together and exchanging ideas, he became a member of the group for several years.
Their next release, "Zeit", where Baumann already appeared, advanced towards a more experimental, darker path.
"Atem" marked the transition towards a far more rhythmic structure, which since then has constituted an important element in the "TD sound".
During a stay of Peter Baumann in Nepal, Froese and Franke recorded some pieces, somewhat different from the line they were following. These were unreleased until 1986, when they appeared as an album under the name "Green Desert".
In 1973, the Rolling Stones sold a Big Modular Moog, a most bulky, sophisticated synthesizer the size of a huge wardrobe for a married couple, full of wires and connections, that arrived into Germany through the label where TD released their albums. Nobody in the studio had the faintest idea about how to make it work, and there even wasn't an instruction leaflet. Franke took charge of the task, although it cost him a lot of work to reach a sufficient proficiency with the use of the device. According to what he admitted once, he had to learn through trial and error.
Having attracted the interest of the then young label Virgin, TD recorded thir next album there, "Phaedra". This meant the international recognition of TD. A year later, the band was awarded a Golden Disc. In "Phaedra", Franke already utilized the modular synthesizer Moog. During his endless series of experiments, he had discovered uses difficult to guess with a more "rational" approach, as he states. Among other things, the Moog allowed him to build a most complex rhythmic structure based on the repetition of sequences of notes at a high speed. This structure, so typical of the music by TD, was not a chance find, but rather Froese, and specially Franke, had it in mind since several years before. The former had occasionally used the echo generated by a unit of effects to try create rhythmic patterns of a certain complexity with a bass. As for Chris, since the sixties he had been in contact with musics from different parts of the world, finding positively invaluable the effect of trance of the African tribal music from Ghana as well as the complexity of its rhythm. This had led him to try explore the hypnotic concept of rhythm by means of taped sonic loops, a rudimentary and insufficient form of sequencer. With respect to these ethnic influences that originated his revolutionary rhythmic ideas, one must take into account the fact that in those times, the ethnic musics were not accepted and difused as widely as they are now, thus being very difficult indeed to have anyone drinking from them with artistic aims. Just as Franke remembers, many people in their environment were astonished at his interest in the musical forms from other cultures. "African music? Oh! It's so primitive! You should listen to Mozart or something similar!"
As he became the expert of the band, Franke also helped Froese in his first solo album, "Aqua". Chris contributed his knowledge with the Big Modular Moog and the sequencer.
By that time, the kind of music done by TD, and the sort of instruments they used, generated all manners of mistrust in many areas of their society. For instance, soon after Franke purchased his VCS 3, the band went to give a live concert outside Berlin. As is already known, in those times of the two Germanies, Berlin was in the middle of the Eastern side, so the citizens of the free sector of the city had to go through the Communist Germany to go to other cities. On the border, the inspectors examined with the utmost attention all the instruments and luggage of the band. When they opened one case carried by Franke, they discovered the synthesizer VCS 3. Its aspect as a supersophisticated electronic device. and the absence of a musical keyboard in the box, made them believe that it could be anything but a musical instrument. When Chris told them it was that, they became angry with him believing he was laughing at them. The agents feared that the artifact could be a bomb or a device for espionage purposes. They were detained for three hours until the officers were convinced that the artifact was not what they suspected. The same happened as they left the Communist Germany on their way back.
Another remarkable event was the one that took place when TD gave a concert at a cathedral. The blasphemous attitude with the premises on the part of several of the fans, who filled the sacred place with the smoke of pot, and who made statements such as "If Jesus Christ came off his cross he would play with Tangerine Dream because they are God", caused the church authorities to decree that the band would never ever again perform within sacred ground.
(By Jorge Munnshe)
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