Peter Baumann is best known for being a member of the classic line-up of TANGERINE DREAM.

Joining in 1971, together with Edgar Froese and Christopher Franke, the trio produced a run of imperial albums released on Virgin Records including ‘Phaedra’, ‘Rubycon’, ‘Ricochet’ and ‘Stratosfear’ which exemplified The Berlin School, a sub-genre of otherworldly electronic music whose other exponents also included Klaus Schulze, Manuel Göttsching and Florian Fricke.

Baumann’s father was a composer and conductor, so it was almost a given that he would take an interest in music and he began playing organ in covers bands. A chance meeting with Christopher Franke at an EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER concert in Berlin led to an invitation to replace Steve Schroyder in TANGERINE DREAM.

With Edgar Froese having already released his first solo album ‘Aqua’ in 1974, it was suggested by Virgin Records that Baumann could follow suit. Already thinking ahead on his own terms, he had commissioned the Berlin-based electronics company Project Elektronik to build a customised modular synthesizer system which used toggle switches rather than cables to enable faster re-routing during live performance; its controller keyboard was designed by Wolfgang Palm, later to found PPG who would become known for their Wave series of synthesizers.

Photo by Jerome Froese

Written in the baking Summer of 1976, ‘Romance ‘76’ comprised of two contrasting suites. In the first half, ‘Bicentennial Present’ showcased strong synth lines and hypnotic rhythmic backbones in a move towards melody away from the cerebral soundscapes of ‘Phaedra’ and ‘Rubycon’; Baumann can even be heard chuckling to himself while performing it. Sparse heartwarming sequencer passages provided a fitting backdrop to ‘Romance’ while ‘Phase By Phase’ continued with the minimal template albeit in a more bubbly fashion and adding church bells!

The second half was more experimental and organic featuring female vocals and the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir conducted by Peter’s father Herbert in Munich. With cello, violins and choirs, ‘Meadow of Infinity (Part One)’ was eerie, dramatic and off the beaten track using electronics only for effects, before segueing into ‘The Glass Bridge’ which brought percussion and woodwinds into the equation before returning back for the ominous Part Two reprise of ‘Meadow of Infinity’ where electronics returned alongside the sombre orchestrations.

But all was not happy within the TANGERINE DREAM camp. Baumann’s confidence had increased to the point that his sharp contributions on the Project Elektronik system during live shows were now outshining Franke’s Moog. Creative and musical tensions were at a high during the trio’s two US tours in 1977. After completing work on the subsequent live double album ‘Encore’, Peter Baumann left TANGERINE DREAM.

Baumann began producing other artists such as Italian artist Leda on her album ‘Welcome To Joyland’ and applied his sequenced knowhow into a more song-based format. The record featured a combination of throbbing electronics and high pitched vocals in acknowledgement of ‘I Feel Love’ which had been signalling the future of pop. Although at the time he felt ‘Welcome To Joyland’ was “too commercial”, it had a profound effect on Baumann and the development of his aesthetic.

As a result, 1979’s ‘Trans Harmonic Nights’ was something of an interim record, mostly comprising of shorter instrumental compositions using mysterious melodies and occasional vocoder textures pointing halfway towards conventional pop vocal phrasing. To open, ‘This Day’ brought in guitar and vocoder alongside drones and sequences. Wolfgang Thierfeldt provided drums on ‘White Bench & Black Beach’ in another sign of adopting less experimental considerations while its strident synthlines recalled Vangelis.

Using harpsichord, ‘Chasing The Dream’ offered mediaeval resonances before pacey pulses took hold on the climax while with vocodered vocals, ‘Biking Up the Strand’ sprang a surprise as a bouncy waltz. ‘Phaseday’ though was perhaps more of what was expected from Baumann as ‘Meridian Moorland’ piped along stridently in a more abstract manner. The fabulous ‘The Third Site’ presented pacey barrage of electronics with spikey overtones nut an even bigger surprise came with a real flugel horn from Bernhard Jobski to accompany the percussive mantra and folk-like overtures of ‘Dance at Dawn’.

Today, ‘Trans Harmonic Nights’ remains something of an underrated electronic gem that clearly connected to TANGERINE DREAM before the start of Baumann’s adventure in pop with ‘Repeat Repeat’. Throwing in his lot with the-then burgeoning Neue Deutsche Welle movement, the album was recorded in New York and at Compass Point Studios in The Bahamas.

Signalling a complete departure from TANGERINE DREAM, it was co-produced by Robert Palmer, fresh from the critical acclaim for his more synth and art funk driven 1980 album ‘Clues’. Using musicians such as keyboardist Carsten Bohn, guitarists Ritchie Fliegler and John Tropea, and drummer Mike Dawe, the ‘Repeat Repeat’ title song was a quirky commentary on popular culture that could have come straight off ‘Clues’.

Listening closely to his then-Virgin Records label mates, ‘Home Sweet Home’ offered a detached cross between SPARKS and MAGAZINE while ‘Deccadance’ sounded as if aliens had landed in a Weimar Cabaret. More guitar driven, ‘Real Times’ continued Baumann’s Russell Mael impression but also recalled Eno’s ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’ era.

As its title suggested, ‘Brain Damage’ was mad and fun while with its reggae inflections, ‘Kinky Dinky’ was a homage to CAN. Declaring “I love money, I love cars, I love TV too”, the detached ‘Daytime Logic’ was an absorbing rhythmic excursion that almost funked! Meanwhile, ‘Playland Pleasure’ was totally SPARKS and what the Mael Brothers might have sounded like had they adopted the synths but not gone disco with Giorgio Moroder. With some neo-flamenco drama but without the acoustic guitars, ‘What is Your Use’ made its presence felt both percussively and synthetically to close.

Enjoyable but very much of its time, the conclusive overview of ‘Repeat Repeat’ is that Robert Palmer was able to realise some of his more synthesized ambitions that were not able to be put in place for ‘Clues’. For Baumann, he got to play the pop star although ultimately he was not able to come up with anything quite as memorable and anthemic as say Peter Schilling with ‘Major Tom’ or Nena with ’99 Luftballons’. Whatever, this album was a shock to TANGERINE DREAM fans and an even bigger surprise was to come.

Ending his tenure with Virgin Records, Peter Baumann caught the attention of Arista Records whose founder Clive Davis had signed Barry Manilow and would later give Whitney Houston her first record contract. The resultant Italo and Europop flavoured album ‘Strangers In The Night’ included an electronic disco cover of the title song made famous by Frank Sinatra and confused TANGERINE DREAM fans even more!

Baumann retried from composing but remained in music, founding his successful Private Music label in 1984 which was later bought by BMG in 1994. Among the roster were notable names including Andy Summers, Ravi Shankar, Carlos Alomar, Suzanne Ciani, Yanni and TANGERINE DREAM.

Although Peter Baumann briefly rejoined TANGERINE DREAM in 2015 and released The Berlin School inspired ‘Machines Of Desire’ in 2016 on Bureau B, in 2019 he launched his new project NEULAND with another former member of TANGERINE DREAM, Paul Haslinger; with seemingly no further activity on the NEULAND front, Baumann continues his work for The Baumann Institute which he founded in 2009 “dedicated to exploring the nature of awareness and its relationship to human health and well-being.”

What ‘Phase By Phase’ captures is a fascinating period in which Peter Baumann never rested on his laurels and took creative risks. Because of the gaps running decades in his back catalogue, his contribution to electronic music is perhaps underrated, especially within the family tree of the band with whom he made his name. This new boxed set should help put things right.

‘Phase By Phase – The Virgin Albums’ is released as a 3CD box set on 7 June 2024, available from

Text by Chi Ming Lai
29 May 2024