With the passing of founder member Edgar Froese and new members Ulrich Schnauss and Hoshiko Yamane now fully established, the new look TANGERINE DREAM is now an entirely different beast to the one which played its last London show at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire back in 2014.
The fact that tonight’s show was sold out and the following one was close to capacity showed that there was a huge weight of expectation with these two long-awaited London dates at Union Chapel. For those familiar with the beginnings of the band, having a church as a venue harked back to TANGERINE DREAM’s early gigs, many of which took place in cathedrals.
This was referred to when Froese’s widow Bianca Froese-Aquaye introduced the band. She talked about the band’s now-infamous Reims cathedral gig in France where TD fans left the venue in such an appalling state that it resulted in the band being barred by the Pope from playing any more Catholic venues. She jokingly mentioned that she hoped that wouldn’t happen tonight…
The band opened with a version of ‘Monolight’ from the 1977 album ‘Encore’ and wasted no time in settling into the trademark interlocked sequencer parts that TANGERINE DREAM are now rightly famous for.
The stage set-up was Thorsten Quaeschning on the left with an enviable mixture of kit (including a Moog Voyager, Manikin Schrittmacher Sequencers and Memotron), Ulrich Schnauss on the right on additional synths / sequencer and centrally positioned on violin and Ableton duties Hoshiko Yamane. ‘Betrayal’ from the 1977 ‘Sorcerer’ soundtrack followed and it was obvious that the band weren’t going to be afraid to dip into their quite considerable back catalogue of 150+ albums and counting!
‘Kiew Mission’ was up next from the ‘Exit’ album and the welcome inclusion of ‘Dolphin Dance’ from ‘Underwater Sunlight’ added in some welcome percussive elements with a beefed-up drum pattern upping the energy level of the gig.
One of the criticisms made of the previous London gig was that the visual elements on the projection backdrop were akin to a dodgy Windows 95 screensaver, thankfully those on show tonight were much improved and provided a stronger visual accompaniment to the music along with some dramatic shafts of lights which illuminated the wonderfully ornate Union Chapel venue.
Newer material in the form of the awkwardly titled ‘It Is Time To Leave When Everyone’s Dancing’ and ‘Roll The Seven Twice’ (with its ‘Age Of Love’-style trancey sequencer part) were also represented, but the biggest reception was firstly reserved for ‘White Eagle’. Started with ethereal/filtered pads by Schnauss on his Roland JD-XA, the track’s haunting sequencer pattern and TR808 style percussion gave way to the haunting melody line counterpointed by Yamane’s violin work.
‘Stratosfear’ sounded absolutely immense, still possessing one of THE iconic synth melodies, this version did the original version total justice and a wonderful ‘edited highlights’ version of the twenty minute plus ‘Horizon’ from the live ‘Poland’ album followed. What impressed about the ‘Horizon’ version was that the wonderful rolling Chris Franke bass sequence was kept intact and cut through the PA system superbly.
To climax the evening the band performed what is now come to be known as a ‘session’; an improvised piece in the spirit of TANGERINE DREAM’s early gigs. Although a bit meandering in places, it was hard not to be transfixed watching electronic music being created pretty much on the fly in an era when it is far too easy to rely on backing tracks and let your computer do all the work for you!
It is really heartbreaking that Froese is not around to see how his band has evolved so much in such a short time, the impact of Schnauss joining can’t be underestimated too. He appears to have a really strong understanding and sensitivity towards TANGERINE DREAM’s back catalogue and being a self-confessed fan before joining, has helped mould and shape (alongside Quaeschning and Yamane) a setlist which plays to the band’s strengths whilst not being afraid to subtly update certain elements.
The main criticisms that would be levelled at tonight’s show are that Quaeschning’s guitar was virtually inaudible during most of the gig and Yamane still feels woefully under-utilised; she is obviously a really gifted musician and even for her sake, it would be great if she could be given more involvement in the set.
Tonight’s show was a fitting tribute to Edgar Froese, there will still be those that argue that “this isn’t Tangerine Dream without him!”, but it was his wish that the act continued on and the line-up now is plainly not just trading on past glories.
The band are creating new material which is arguably the best that has been produced in years and the return of the ‘sessions’ based improvising is helping to reclaim some of the ground lost when the band featured sax and live percussion, which to many felt at odds with the original TANGERINE DREAM ethos.
Hopefully the rapturous reception that they received tonight will prompt a full-on UK tour as this is a show which demands to be seen and has comfortably shown that the band is still a force (majeure) to be reckoned with…
‘Quantum Gate’ is released in CD, double vinyl LP and download formats by KScope
In terms of his importance in regards to the timeline of electronic music, JOHN CARPENTER often gets overlooked in favour of the usual suspects like KRAFTWERK, DEPECHE MODE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE et al.
Carpenter was unique in that as well as directing his movies, he usually scored them too and in his canon has a huge range of influential works, ranging from the proto-slasher ‘Halloween’ to the pre-CGI horror-fest remake ‘The Thing’ and the unique and prescient political commentary ‘They Live’.
Rather than running chronologically, ‘Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998’ chooses to open with the theme to the Lovecraftian psychological horror film ‘In The Mouth of Madness’; unashamedly owing a huge debt to METALLICA’s ‘Enter Sandman’, the track is not typical of Carpenter’s most well-known soundtrack material, but still showcases a huge musical diversity at work.
‘Assault on Precinct 13’ features one of THE great synth basslines, latterly re-worked by BOMB THE BASS on their 1998 hit ‘Megablast’ and also re-interpreted by UK synthesist Mark Shreeve, it still sounds an utterly brilliant and minimalist electro track. Lesser known themes such as the ones to ‘The Fog’ and ‘Prince of Darkness’ are both paired-down atmospheric pieces which evoke a sense of menace and whilst the films they accompanied were not Carpenter’s strongest works, they still hold up as standalone pieces of music.
It could be argued that the theme to ‘Escape From New York’ almost single-handedly invented the Synthwave genre; with its TANGERINE DREAM influenced synth brass motif and unique chord progression, Carpenter and collaborator Alan Howarth were some of the first musicians to use a Linn Drum Computer on the original soundtrack and it’s hard to imagine films like ‘Drive’ sounding the same without their influence.
There is very little left to say about the iconic ‘Halloween’ theme, except that the version here remains relatively faithful to the original with the exception of an added prominent 4/4 kick drum and a more Moog-like bass sound. Equipment and budgetary limitations had a huge influence on the Carpenter sound, often resulting in a paired down minimalist feel with sometimes only a skittering hi-hat providing the only percussion; ‘Halloween’ remains a classic example of this.
The theme to Carpenter’s version of ‘The Thing’ was intriguing because composer ENNIO MORRICONE was drafted in to provide the score and the music he came up with sounded exactly the kind of motif that one would imagine the director conceiving.
Unrelentingly dark, the music fitted the gloomy all hope is lost theme to the film, one of which took several years to gain appreciation.
At the time ‘The Thing’ was a box office flop and resulted in Carpenter being dropped from directorial duties on ‘Firestarter’ film adaptation.
Although ‘They Live’ remains one of Carpenter’s most original movies, its blues-inflected soundtrack is not one of his strongest and this re-recorded version still sounds at odds with the illuminati-themed film.
The closing track to the album sees a re-work of the theme to the Stephen King-penned ‘Christine’ with Carpenter returning to the director’s chair for a promo video which has nods to both ‘Drive’ and ‘The Thing’.
For a director that had admittedly lost his film-making mojo a long time ago, it was a logical, yet genius move to for him to revisit his musical back catalogue both here and with his live shows over the last few years.
When the orchestral score was the norm, both JOHN CARPENTER and TANGERINE DREAM showed that electronic music could work in a film soundtrack context and ‘Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998’ reinforces how influential the man is and helps to cement his place in electronic music history.
Purists would argue that it would have been essential to have copies of the original versions here as well, but this is a minor quibble when the interpretations here remain faithful and act as a wonderful reminder of what a superb back catalogue of music JOHN CARPENTER has produced.
JOHN CARPENTER tours the UK in 2018, dates include: London Eventim Apollo (16th October), Newcastle Tyne Theatre (18th October), Glasgow Barrowlands (19th October), Manchester Albert Hall (21st October)
The world found itself in a rather antagonistic and divisive state this year, as if none of the lessons from the 20th Century’s noted conflicts and stand-offs had been learnt.
Subtle political messages came with several releases; honorary Berliner Mark Reeder used the former divided city as symbolism to warn of the dangers of isolationism on his collaborative album ‘Mauerstadt’. Meanwhile noted Francophile Chris Payne issued the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS EP ‘Direct Lines’ with its poignant warning of nuclear apocalypse in its title song. The message was to unite and through music as one of the best platforms.
After a slow start to 2017, there was a bumper crop of new music from a number of established artists. NINE INCH NAILS and Gary Numan refound their mojo with their respective ‘Add Violence’ and ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ releases, with the latter recording his best body of work since his imperial heyday.
But the first quarter of the year was hamstrung by the anticipation for the 14th DEPECHE MODE long player ‘Spirit’, with other labels and artists aware that much of their potential audience’s hard earned disposable income was being directed towards the Basildon combo’s impending album and world tour.
Yet again, reaction levels seemed strangely muted as ‘Spirit’ was another creative disappointment, despite its angry politicised demeanour.
Rumours abounded that the band cut the album’s scheduled recording sessions by 4 weeks. This inherent “that’ll do” attitude continued on the ‘Global Spirit’ jaunt when the band insulted their loyal audience by doing nothing more than plonking an arena show into a stadium for the summer outdoor leg.
Despite protestations from some Devotees of their dissatisfaction with this open-air presentation, they were content to be short-changed again as they excitedly flocked to the second set of European arena dates with the generally expressed excuse that “it will be so much better indoors”.
By this Autumn sojourn, only three songs from ‘Spirit’ were left in the set, thus indicating that the dire record had no longevity and was something of a lemon.
Suspicions were finally confirmed at the ‘Mute: A Visual Document’ Q&A featuring Daniel Miller and Anton Corbijn, when the esteemed photographer and visual director confessed he did not like the album which he did the artwork for… see, it’s not just ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK 😉
Devotees are quick to say all criticism of DEPECHE MODE is unfair, but the band can’t help but make themselves easy targets time and time again. But why should the band care? The cash is coming, the cash is coming…
The Wirral lads demonstrated what the word spirit actually meant on their opus ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, while the former class mate of Messrs Gore and Fletcher demonstrated what a soulful, blues-influenced electronic record should sound like with ‘Other’.
As Tony Hadley departed SPANDAU BALLET and Midge Ure got all ‘Orchestrated’ in the wake of ULTRAVOX’s demise, the ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ album directed by Rusty Egan, to which they contributed, became a physical reality in 2017.
Now if DM plonked an arena show into the world’s stadiums, KRAFTWERK put a huge show into a theatre. The publicity stunt of 2012, when Tate Modern’s online ticket system broke down due to demand for their eight album live residency, did its job when the Kling Klang Quartett sold out an extensive UK tour for their 3D concert spectacular.
No less impressive, SOULWAX wowed audiences with their spectacular percussion heavy ‘From Deewee’ show and gave a big lesson to DEPECHE MODE as to how to actually use live drums correctly within an electronic context.
Mute Artists were busy with releases from ERASURE, LAIBACH and ADULT. but it was GOLDFRAPP’s ‘Silver Eye’ that stole the show from that stable. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM returned after seven years with their ‘American Dream’ and it was worth the wait, with the most consistent and electronic record that James Murphy’s ensemble has delivered in their career.
2017 was a year that saw acts who were part of the sine wave of Synth Britannia but unable to sustain or attain mainstream success like BLUE ZOO, B-MOVIE, FIAT LUX and WHITE DOOR welcomed back as heroes, with their talent belatedly recognised.
Across the Baltic Sea, Finnish producer Jori Hulkkonen released his 20th album ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ while nearby in Russia, a duo named VEiiLA showcased an unusual hybrid of techno, opera and synthpop and ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY offered a ‘❤’.
One of the year’s discussion points was whether Synthwave was just synthpop dressed with sunglasses and neon signs but whatever, Stateside based Scots but Michael Oakley and FM-84 made a good impression with their retro-flavoured electronic tunes.
It wasn’t all about the expats and in a territory as big as North America, there came a number of up-and-coming home grown electronic artists with LOST IN STARS, PARALLELS, PATTERN LANGUAGE, SPACEPRODIGI, COMPUTER MAGIC and BATTLE TAPES all gaining traction. Meanwhile, Canada’s PURITY RING infuriated some of their fanbase by working with KATY PERRY on three tracks for her album ‘Witness’. AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s new singles only policy was paying dividends and the Electro Mix of ‘Rhythm + Control’, which featured the promising newcomer NYXX, was one of the best tracks of 2017. South American wasn’t left out either and representation came via Argentina’s COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO.
Female solo artists had strong presence in 2017 as FEVER RAY made an unexpected return, ZOLA JESUS produced her best work to date in ‘Okovi’ and Hannah Peel embarked on an ambitious synth / brass ‘Journey to Cassiopeia’. Meanwhile, SARAH P. asked ‘Who Am I’ and MARNIE found ‘Strange Words & Weird Wars’ as ANI GLASS and NINA both continued on their promising developmental path.
Respectively, Ireland and Scotland did their bit, with TINY MAGNETIC PETS and their aural mix of SAINT ETIENNE and KRAFTWERK successfully touring with OMD in support of their excellent second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’, while formed out of the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL, RAINLAND wowed audiences opening for ASSEMBLAGE 23.
Despite getting a positive response, both iEUROPEAN and SOL FLARE parted ways while on the opposite side of the coin, Belgian passengers METROLAND celebrated five years in the business with the lavish ‘12×12’ boxed set
Overall in 2017, it was artists of a more mature disposition who held their heads high and delivered, as some newer acts went out of their way to test the patience of audiences by drowning them in sleep while coming over like TRAVIS on VSTs.
With dominance of media by the three major labels, recognition was tricky with new quality traditional synthpop not generally be championed by the mainstream press. With Spotify now 20% owned by those three majors, casual listeners to the Swedish streaming platform were literally told what to like, as with commercial radio playlists.
It is without doubt that streaming and downloading has created a far less knowledgeable music audience than in previous eras, so Rusty Egan’s recent online petition to request platforms to display songwriting and production credits was timely; credit where credit is due as they say…
While ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK does not dismiss Spotify totally and sees it as another tool, it should not be considered the be all and end all, in the same way vinyl is not the saviour of the music industry and in physics terms, cannot handle the same dynamic range as CD.
Music is not as emotionally valued as it was before… that’s not being old and nostalgic, that is reality. It can still be enjoyed with or without a physical purchase, but for artists to be motivated to produce work that can connect and be treasured, that is another matter entirely.
However, many acts proved that with Bandcamp, the record company middle man can be eliminated. It is therefore up to the listener to be more astute, to make more effort and to make informed choices. And maybe that listener has to seek out reliable independent media for guidance.
However, as with the shake-up within the music industry over the last ten years, that can only be a good thing for the true synthpop enthusiast. And as it comes close to completing its 8th year on the web, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK maintains its position of not actually promoting new acts or supporting any scene, but merely to write about the music it likes and occasionally stuff it doesn’t… people can make their own mind up about whether to invest money or time in albums or gigs.
Yes, things ARE harder for the listener and the musician, but the effort is worthwhile 😉
2017 has been a stellar year for electronic music releases, from the latest high charting works by OMD and GARY NUMAN through to the collaboration between TANGERINE DREAM members Ulrich Schnauss and Thorsten Quaeschning on ‘Synthwaves’.
With founder member Edgar Froese’s passing in 2015, his intention was for the band to continue with his vision, in this case compositions based upon quantum physics. So Froese himself has writing credits on all but one of the tracks on this latest release ‘Quantum Gate’.
With Hoshiko Yamane completing the trio, it was left to the remaining TANGERINE DREAM members to complete the musical sketches left behind by the founding father of the band. This in itself would be a daunting enough task to do justice to the pieces, plus there additionally lingers the factor that there are some that would argue that without Froese, the band should be laid to rest.
Where other acts who lost their leader like QUEEN have doggedly soldiered on by using different vocalists, at least there is a certain anonymity associated with instrumental electronic music which means that there isn’t quite that awkward comparison when a new front person tries to emulate the sound of a departed former member.
‘Synthwaves’ was a superbly produced piece of instrumental electronica, but with its release date being relatively close to that of the latest TD album, it was never going to escape direct comparison with ‘Quantum Gate’. On initial listening, ‘Quantum Gate’ floats over the listener and in many places lacks the directness and strong musical themes present on ‘Synthwaves’, but with multiple listens, the complexity of the pieces start to reveal elements that the listener may have missed first time around.
The epic 13 minute plus ‘Sensing Elements’ is a challenging opener, the first 5 minutes bombards the listener with multiple melodies and rapidly changing chord progressions and it’s only around the six minute mark when a classic hypnotic TD bass sequencer part starts to emerge that the track begins to lift-off and take shape. Around the 9 minute mark, additional Berlin School-style higher sequencer parts raise the dynamics until the piece reaches a melodic and satisfying conclusion.
In comparison, ‘Roll The Seven Twice’ is far more direct proposition, with a bass sequence which recalls the trance-tastic JAM & SPOON remix of the trance classic ‘Age Of Love’, the track also features an anthemic synth chord lead part which provides the first hook on ‘Quantum Gate’. Latterly throwing in some 4/4 drums and a descending musical variation, ‘Roll The Seven Twice’ provides ample evidence that Froese’s legacy really is in safe hands here.
With its pulsing bassline and electronic white noise percussion, ‘Granular Blankets’ starts off eerily reminiscent of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Barrel Of A Gun’ before showcasing the Ulrich Schnauss influence on the band with his Shoegazing wall of sound aesthetic. The oddly titled ‘It Is Time To Leave When Everyone Is Dancing’ starts developing into (shock horror!) a bit of dance-oriented stormer before changing tack halfway through with a new beat pattern and a hyper-catchy bassline.
‘Identity Proven Matrix’ features the sitar-like texture which graced ‘No-Man’s Land’ from the 1983 album ‘Hyperborea’ and at approximately 5 minutes in length, doesn’t waste any time in showcasing its strong orchestral string melodies and chord progressions.
Out of all the tracks on ‘Quantum Gate’, ‘Identify Proven Matrix’ is the most Johannes Schmoelling-era sounding TANGERINE DREAM track here. The attention to detail with the interlocking resonant synth is superb – a rolling Christophe Franke-style sequencer part is utilised later in a piece which will delight fans of the band’s mid-period purple patch.
With an analogue string synth intro, ‘Tear Down The Grey Skies’ unintentionally starts off like BON JOVI’s hair metal anthem ‘Living on a Prayer’, but a superb interlocking sequencer part soon helps to completely banish that distasteful comparison! A climbing Jarre-like melody adds the icing on the musical cake and provides ‘Quantum Gate’ with another strong highlight.
Closing track ‘Genesis of Precious Thoughts’ (could there be a more TANGERINE DREAM-sounding title?) progressively builds with an energy rush of interlocking sequencers before breaking down to just piano and Hoshiko Yamane’s plaintive violin. The intricate drum programming on the remaining 5 minutes is truly stunning and completely wipes away the memory of some of the muzak-style forays into live percussion which for some blighted the band during the noughties.
With a running time of 70 minutes in length and an unpredictable musical complexity throughout, there is little in the way of instant gratification here. We live in musical times where song intros are being shortened due to people’s attention spans reducing and Spotify payout rules so in that context ‘Quantum Gate’ provides a refreshing, but challenging listen.
Ultimately this release proves that it was the right decision for TANGERINE DREAM to continue and somewhere at a different cosmic address, Edgar Froese will be looking down, safe in the knowledge that his musical legacy is being carefully protected.
‘Quantum Gate’ is released in CD, double vinyl LP and download formats by KScope
‘Zeitgeber’ is the debut album by DREAM CONTROL, a cosmic journey through audio and time over ten compositions and improvisations of varying length and tempo.
Comprising of Zeus B Held, legendary producer and keyboardist with BIRTH CONTROL and one-time TANGERINE DREAM member Steve Schroyder, the pair have united to construct their own musical adventure based on chosen planetary or molecular tunings which differ from the usual concert pitch.
The concept is known as Die Kosmische Oktave, or “Cosmic Octave”; discovered by Swiss mathematician and musicologist Hans Cousto, it states a link between different kinds of periodically occurring natural phenomena, such as the orbit of the planets, the weather, colours, rhythms and tones, thus affirming a harmony between life and the cycles of the cosmos, rhythms, sounds, colours and atoms.
Held said: “After I experienced the difference to the standard concert pitch, I was happy to do the entire ‘Zeitgeber’ album with this method. And yes, you can hear the difference”.
So each track on ‘Zeitgeber’ has been constructed and tuned to a particular planet’s unique parameters and characteristics. The end result is a largely uptempo electronic record that could potentially satisfy the ears of proggers and the feet of clubbers.
Opening track ‘Eyes & Ears’ begins with an organ-led run that will keep any lover of early German kosmische music happy before it kicks in at a pumping 127.6 BPM with abstract vocoder and enigmatic vocals from Anne Zeides. Things get even faster on ‘Time Out’ at 132.4 BPM, a bubbling thrust of robotic escapism before things take a breather on ‘Go Forward…’
Then things speed up again with ‘To Tomoro’, a frantic burst of progressive trance that clocks in at a mighty 138 BPM and could be mistaken for a collaboration between Jean-Michel Jarre and Ferry Corsten. Continuing with the transient dance vibe but at 127.6 BPM, ‘Frozen Boumme’ adds piano while a fabulous barrage of spacey sequences provide a hypnotic effect.
The superb ‘Kant Can Dance’ comes from Held’s ‘Logic Of Coincidence’ project and is almost pop music compared to what has already been appeared. Bolstered by the throat singing of Kolja Simon, vocal overtones of Felix Mönnich and the return of Anne Zeides, it comes over like an artier Giorgio Moroder in outer space. Utilising a similar palette of sounds, ‘Tomaga’ also throws in some ivory tinkling in a classical style for an unusual blend of aural cultures.
Throughout ‘Zeitgeber’, there is some superb keyboard playing by Held and Schroyder to provide a human counterpoint to all the tightly programmed sequences and beats, something that is particularly well showcased on a brilliant housey cover of ‘Gamma Ray’ featuring some soulful vocals from Tami Williams. It’s a touching tribute by Held to his former band BIRTH CONTROL and in particular, his late colleagues Bruno Frenzel and Bernd Noske.
Reaching the sub-15 minute barrier, both ‘Doors Of Perception’ and ‘Blick Aus Meinem Fenster’ will satisfy enthusiasts of TANGERINE DREAM with their almost spiritual drifts into sound sculpture. They could in fact make up an album on their own and this highlights what could be the one of criticism of ‘Zeitgeber’, that it is perhaps overlong and attempts to fit too much into one body of work? With an abridged six track vinyl edition planned, it will be interesting as to how that is realised.
Certainly ‘Zeitbeger’ could probably do with being shorter but as far as quality and concept go, the debut from DREAM CONTROL is up there in a year which has seen impressive albums by German artists such as QUAESCHNING & SCHNAUSS, RHEINGOLD, DJ HELL and 2RAUMWOHNUNG.