‘Particles’ is the latest double album release by TANGERINE DREAM and contains a diverse mixture of new material, reinterpretations of older tracks from their extensive back catalogue and a version of the ‘Stranger Things’ TV theme which fairly recently caught the Zeitgeist for many synth fans.
The album which originally came out at the end of last year has been re-issued by the Invisible Hands label and is available on vinyl, CD and download. A minority of long-term fans questioned the legitimacy of the band continuing after the passing of Edgar Froese in 2015, but it was the original leader’s request that remaining members Thorsten Quaeschning, Ulrich Schnauss and Hoshiko Yamane continue his vision for the group even in his absence. Although only containing seven tracks, the first ‘4.00pm Session’ sees a welcome return of a 30 minute epic improvised piece which in places harks back to the glory days of the classic Froese / Franke / Baumann era.
Interestingly, the band recorded this track in the Dierks-Studios in Pulheim where some 45 years previously they had conceived the album ‘Alpha Centauri’. After a short atmospheric introduction, a hypnotic sequencer part with Memotron flutes enters before the track lifts in dynamic with individual synth parts being filtered and poking through the mix. Around the 12 minute mark the track breaks down with growling Moog bass and Yamane’s haunting violin gliding over the top. The only criticism of ‘4.00pm Session’ is that some of the sequencer parts are a little on the thin side and lack the analogue depth of the ‘classic’ era TD ones; this aside, the track more than makes up for the ill-advised integration of almost muzak-style elements into the band a few years ago.
This return to a more improvisational and electronic approach was something that Froese wanted with the Quantum Era for the band and it’s clear that things are in safe hands with the current trio of Quaeschning, Schnauss and Yamane.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last couple of years, you would have been well aware of the massive impact of S.U.R.V.I.V.E.’s electronic soundtrack to the Netflix series ‘Stranger Things’. Taking inspiration from the original film soundtracks of pioneers such as JOHN CARPENTER, the huge exposure of the program has done TANGERINE DREAM no harm at all in re-awakening the popularity of analogue-style electronica, and in homage, the band has re-created their own interpretation here. Where it mainly differs to the original is in featuring a much more multi-layered sequencer approach and also a tempo change midway through.
Fans of the Froese / Franke / Schmoelling era of TD will absolutely LOVE this; and by resisting the temptation to go too self-indulgent on the piece, has meant that you will surely want to hit the “repeat” button once you’ve heard the track through for the first time. ‘Rubycon’ will need no introduction to many, the track featured on the 2nd album TANGERINE DREAM released for the Virgin label back in 1975 and along with ‘Phaedra’ and ‘Ricochet’, became a defining moment for instrumental electronic music. The version featured here was recorded in Windeck and has polarised some fans; the original version had a deeply unsettling and otherworldly start to it, whereas here, some of the intro sounds here are less organic and maybe a little too PINK FLOYD-ish, especially the lead brass synth sound.
However, when the sequencer and Memotron lead combo hits at seven minutes the track takes off and does sound absolutely superb; the echoed bass part underpins the piece beautifully and the slightly overdriven electric piano floats over the top with added analogue strings. There are subtle additions to the piece with extra background sequencing, but aside from some misgivings about the intro, overall this is a highlight here.
The second disc (if you have the CD) features live recordings of 4 tracks; ‘Mothers of Rain’ dates back to the Paul Haslinger / Edgar Froese era and ‘Power of the Rainbow Serpent’ is a Quaeschning composition from the album ‘Mala Kunia’. ‘White Eagle’ has always been a TD fan favourite and the version here retains most elements from the original, although the bell-like lead melody has been replaced with a violin one from Yamane that takes a little adjusting to, but does work in the overall context of the track.
‘Dolphin Dance’ from the ‘Underwater Sunlight’ album is the most uptempo and percussive-driven piece here, still retaining its cyclical bass part, it’s a welcome gear shift in energy level. ‘Shadow and Sun’ was composed by Ulrich Schnauss with Froese, and again originally featured on the ‘Maia Kunia’ album. Prompting a few “woops!” and some clapping from the audience, the track returns ‘Particles’ back to a more reflective ending. Halfway through the piece, it goes on an arpeggiator-driven detour with more (slightly out of time) clapping, before an epic pad-heavy climax brings ‘Shadow and Sun’ to its conclusion.
For many TANGERINE DREAM fans, this album will act as a brilliant ‘holding’ piece until their new album ‘Quantum Gate’ is released in September. The updates of older material in ‘Particles’ have in the main been approached respectfully / sensitively and the mix of old and new is surprisingly cohesive.
With respected synthesist Ulrich Schnauss now fully integrated into the band, there is now some genuine excitement at the prospect of more new material from TANGERINE DREAM, and despite misgivings as to how the band would continue without their legendary leader, ‘Particles’ ably demonstrates that this hugely important act shows every sign of continuing to flourish. Highly recommended.
‘Particles’ is released as a double vinyl LP by Invisible Hands Music available from https://shop-invisiblehands.co.uk/collections/tangerine-dream and still available as a double CD via Eastgate
Text by Paul Boddy
28th June 2017