Tag: Ulrich Schnauss (Page 1 of 2)

10 Years of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK – ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY RETROSPECTIVE

Paul Boddy, freelance producer, musician and writer looks back on ten years of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK.

I had known Chi Ming Lai previously via another now defunct website which I used to contribute a variety of bootleg remixes of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and DEPECHE MODE. Once we were on each other’s radars and had moved on, I was very flattered when Chi asked me to start contributing to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK.

One of the first pieces I did was an interview with ADAMSKI in 2012. Looking back, this was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’d done and completely out of my comfort zone at the time. This was primarily because a) he was a bit of a musical hero of mine as a previous band I was in had covered ‘Killer’ and b) I was faced with the proposition of trying to interview the guy over the phone and then record it using a mobile digital recorder (untried technology for me).

Despite his mobile signal dipping in and out (as he was ambling around London at the time I interviewing him) and the batteries running out on my recorder half-way through, the interview went well and I got a huge sense of achievement once the piece had been transcribed and eventually published.

The main enjoyment I get from occasionally contributing to the site is the ability to interview bands and people within the scene, Chi has kindly put some interviews my way including WANG CHUNG, SHRIEKBACK, KOSHEEN, CHICANE, WRANGLER and CREEP SHOW as well as two of my own personal favourites John Foxx and Ulrich Schnauss. Having the platform to interact with these kind of artists is mind-blowing for me, especially the ones who I have admired and in some places influenced my own musical development. My other approach and contribution to the site is tracking down (some may call this stalking!) artists via social media and approaching them with a view to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK featuring them in its ‘Missing in Action’ series.

Although a bit hit and miss as some artists don’t always respond when messaged, it has borne fruit with many artists accepting and using the opportunity to reflect and look back on their tenure in the music industry.

In terms of the people I’m most proud of ‘snagging’ in this manner are Scott Simon (OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING), Dave ‘Dee’ Harris (FASHIØN), Jerome Froese (TANGERINE DREAM) and Rob Dean (JAPAN). Because of the big interviews already done on the site by Chi, I find that this gives a lot of traction when cold approaching these kind of artists.

However, the icing on the cake was when Chi and myself spent a glorious few hours in a Liverpool Street pub with Stephen Singleton and Mark White from ABC and VICE VERSA. Getting this interview was a long process which started when Stephen contacted me in 2015 with regards to reviewing the VICE VERSA box set; this led to linking up with Mark and after a long period of negotiation and Facebook messenger chats, a face to face interview in 2019 with lots of laughter.

For me this has definitely been my highlight of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and although the transcribing of the interview was one of the longest processes I’ve done (the guys LOVED to chat!), the sense of achievement upon completion was huge.

Moving away from the artists themselves and onto electronic synth music itself, Chi and myself have quite differing tastes in music, but with enough crossover that we can still happily work together. The material I favour tends to be male-fronted, often dance-inflected and also with elements of guitars thrown into the mix (see BATTLE TAPES, MAPS, MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY and SPLEEN UNITED).

If you are a reader of the site, you won’t be surprised to hear that along with the other ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK contributors, I continue to be disappointed with the lack of decent UK based synth acts and the exposure that so many second-rate bands continue to get. For a country that has such an amazing heritage of electronic music (like DEPECHE MODE, YAZOO, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, EURYTHMICS, OMD… I can go on), why is it that there are so few acts of quality which are continuing the tradition of these incredible acts?

What grinds my gears the most is the complete lack of emphasis on quality vocals that some UK synth bands have; for many it appears that once a synth backing track has been made, the process of adding vocals is treated as an afterthought. Very little attention is paid to crucial things like tuning / character / lyrics, all traits which have made vocalists such as Alison Moyet and Annie Lennox titans in their field. Whether this will improve and we will get another CHVRCHES or MIRRORS is doubtful, but I live in hope!

Although the original music that I write and produce (J-Pop / K-Pop) isn’t the kind of thing that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK would champion, it still features a lot of electronics and I have been fortunate to have had success with some major Japanese artists including ARASHI and E-GIRLS (who covered YMO’s ‘Rydeen’).

I continue to write and produce for this market which is great fun. I continue to enjoy performing live as well in various cover bands.

Signing off, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has been a wonderful platform for me and has enabled me to interact with many of my musical heroes and also review some of their work too, long may it continue…


Text by Paul Boddy
17th March 2020

TANGERINE DREAM Live at Union Chapel

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

http://www.tangerinedream.org/

https://www.facebook.com/TANGERINEDREAM.OFFICIAL

http://www.kscopemusic.com

https://twitter.com/QTangerineDream


Text and Photos by Paul Boddy
27th April 2018

MICHAEL OAKLEY Interview

Whether he’s categorised as Synthwave or synthpop, Glaswegian singer / songwriter MICHAEL OAKLEY is one of the best new talents of have emerged within electronic pop in 2017.

Oakley’s EP ‘California’ is one of the strongest debut releases of the year, featuring a sextet of “Melancholic postcards from my heart wrapped up in synthesisers and drum machines”.

MICHAEL OAKLEY kindly chatted about his new life in Canada, growing up in Scotland and how the emergence of Synthwave as an entity of its own has allowed Oakley to find an outlet for his love of music…

So, how are you settling in Canada?

It’s good, I’ve probably settled in better now that the weather’s shifted and it’s colder! Yesterday when I was out I felt “Oh this is comfortable” and it was like 2 degrees! We had a heatwave recently where it was hotter than any of the days I’ve been in California recently and I had to stay indoors…

So to start a bit of history… tell us about how you got to where you are today…

I loved music from when I was a wee boy. The first band I really got obsessed with was NEW ORDER. As far as becoming a musician I loved picking out melodies on a keyboard, the likes of MICHAEL JACKSON, I loved his melodies, really catchy.

My father pushed me towards doing lessons which I hated, at the time you don’t see the benefit of them and did that for a couple of years, then moved more towards teaching myself as I was far more interested in synthesizers and how to make sounds and stuff.

So were you a musical family? Did you have a piano at home or was it that you were interested and like most of us started with a Casio at Christmas?

Exactly a Casio, a CT-310 that was my mother’s which was passed to me. My dad is musical and is still playing in his 70s. As I said, he pushed me towards doing lessons but I felt I would have become one of those guys stuck on a piece of paper reading music not playing and for me, I would play by ear and do my own thing with what I heard.

I started buying cheap synths, learnt how to use them and sell them on and buy something else. So one month I’d have a Yamaha DX7, sell that and get a Korg M1 or a Poly 800…

So you were getting these secondhand?

That’s right yeah, and they were really cheap, I got my Poly800 for 80 quid. The guy I got my M1 from, you could tell was selling it cos he needed the money…

We’ve all done it…

Yeah I had a full setup before I bought a laptop; I had Juno 106, Akai Samplers, a Roland XP-80 and I sold all of it in order to buy a laptop for 1500 quid that could barely run 5 instruments. In hindsight though, I’m more productive now I have everything in a computer rather than having a hardware set-up.

On a laptop, you can press ‘save’ when you are working on an idea and load up the next file immediately, whereas with hardware you have to repatch things, find sounds etc and it take 10 minutes as opposed to 10 seconds and then you’re like “Sh*t, what was it I wanted to do again…?”

It’s way easier, for me it’s finding stuff that works… initially you want to get an idea off the ground, even a 16 bar loop to get things going. It’s what DEADMAU5 does, takes a 32 bar loop and work that, extending it, dropping bits out, changing sounds

I like his stuff a lot…

Yeah he’s one of the better ones. I find a lot of modern EDM sounds the same, homogenised, generic, and formulaic. There’s not a lot of new stuff coming out of that area that catches my attention and he is one of the ones that is always interesting.

I prefer folk like ULRICH SCHNAUSS, those guys make synthesizers talk. It’s funny as this morning, I bought a software recreation of the Emulator 2 and it’s amazing that so many of my favourite artists have used that keyboard: DEPECHE MODE, TANGERINE DREAM, DAVID BOWIE, PET SHOP BOYS. I’m not really interested in new synthesizers. it’s the ones from yesteryear that I like

That moves us on to my next question nicely. You’re a bit younger than me, so your influences wouldn’t have been current bands for you…?

Absolutely, when I was getting into music it was the early 90s and I had this whole back catalogue of stuff to shift through. The first bands I got into were NEW ORDER, I was obsessed with them and PET SHOP BOYS, blown away by them. DURAN DURAN, TEARS FOR FEARS AND DEPECHE MODE. Depeche are one of the bands I listen to now and still feel the same way when I hear their music, just wow…

So was it an older sibling that had those records that got you listening to them…?

Yeah my sister had a large record collection and she had all the ‘Now’ compilations and I’d be like ‘oh right, who’s STARSHIP? Who are FOREIGNER? ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’? That’s great.’

I’d discover all these sounds… I found 80s music far more colourful and interesting than 90s music, I’ve come to appreciate a lot of that now, but at the time, I found 90s music so dull and boring and depressing.

A lot of the bands from that synth period at that time either split, went into hiatus or were less prolific because of the ‘Britpop’ backlash against technology etc?

The only band that survived during that period were Depeche and I guess bizarrely PET SHOP BOYS who have this weird ‘Art School’ vibe about them. I’m not a fan of the newer stuff but they rode it out.

Then you’ve got folk like the guy from OMD. It’s hard to believe he wrote all that ATOMIC KITTEN stuff, but that’s how he survived that period.

And OMD are back some would say now better than ever…

Exactly!

So was it always you intention to be a musician? You went to University in Glasgow?

Yeah I went to Strathclyde and did a BA in Applied Music. I did that which was my formal training, but nothing I learned on that course has benefitted me in what I’m doing now.

Was that because of the way the curriculum was put together or that the course itself wasn’t able to keep up with the technology…?

Funny you should say that, as the course wasn’t particularly catered to individuals, it was very structured and formal. The first course I went to was showing off the Yamaha digital mixer we were going to use and everyone was “Wow!!!” and 2 years later it was superseded.

I was already working as a musician and the course was geared more towards how to read notation, working on your instrument which for me was singing, I did find a benefit there as I had a great vocal coach, but apart from that I don’t remember much from it so…

So your business model is based around an online presence?

Yeah, it’s something I’ve worked on in the last year. I’ve been really surprised as when I started, I wasn’t intending to do anything with the songs, I was just making the music I loved when I was growing up.

I used to write in bands before and it’s funny as the retro thing was taboo and you could do a little bit, but had to keep what you were doing mainstream and that bored me.

The last thing I did in a band didn’t work out, so I hadn’t written for the best part of 5 years. I did a few demos which didn’t really go anywhere. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, then I discovered this wonderful scene, Synthwave music, a homage to the decade and it was the perfect opportunity to have a place the music would be accepted.

I wasn’t particularly planning to release the material, it was more I could make the music I grew up with making the sounds I love. It was just for to enjoy and that’s where all the stuff on ‘California’ came from…

…that brings us nicely to the EP. It seems to come from quite a personal place?

I came out of a long term relationship which ended quite badly and had to move back to my father’s place for a while which was quite humbling. Getting used to being on my own again, waking up daily and doing things for one person, not two. I started writing as in the previous years, I didn’t feel as though I had much to talk about. I didn’t know what I was going to say, the words came as I was making the music. The songs came from a lot of heartache but also new love, meeting someone else, all types of different love songs.

The mainstream Adult Oriented Rock sound comes from my background, when I was writing in a band… I love pop music, old school pop music, when pop was about great songwriting and musicianship. People like Elton John and Billy Joel are my songwriting heroes. If I’m looking for inspiration for songwriting, the guys I listen to are Elton john, Don McLean, Bruce Springsteen… the classic 70s song writers.

The song writing was better in the 70s but the sonic palette reached its peak in the 80s.

I agree up to a point in the 80s, it all went a bit wrong for me after about ‘87…

Absolutely! But it was all brand new. Synthesizers were out of reach for most people. Only people like Trevor Horn or Peter Gabriel could buy things like the Yamaha CS-80 or the Fairlight. Then things became affordable, couple of 1000 quid and then folk could afford it. Then you had the likes of GARY NUMAN getting hold of a Polymoog, DURAN DURAN etc… Numan suffered though at the hands of the press and his career never really recovered though he is out here on tour at the moment.

That happened to a lot of those acts. It’s interesting you mention that as one of the things I wanted to ask was if you have noticed a difference between the ‘scene’ in the UK in comparison to North America in terms of support etc

There’s a huge difference. One of the things I’m relieved about leaving the UK is that there is way more support, more grassroots encouragement. Back home, there’s a negative, glass half empty mentality, a “don’t put all your eggs in one basket mindset”…

That’s a very West Coast of Scotland / UK thing though?

Totally!

There are a lot of Scots making this style of music like COL BENNETT and FM-84, THE VAN DAMMAGE and even CHVRCHES to an extent. What is it about this style of music that attracts Scots, is it because you can see the glass is capable of being full…?

I think it’s not so much the style, it’s really more like we are writing a love letter to the 80s. We all wish this music was still being made and now with the technology available to us, we can do it and do it ‘better’ as a lot of people couldn’t afford studio time whereas now… you can buy a Windows laptop for 400 quid and instantly start recording, there’s no limitations so a lot of guys that wouldn’t have had the opportunity to express themselves can now, which is great.

I’m not long away from Glasgow but I can already start to see the differences. There’s not really any sort of a scene in Scotland or Glasgow. I don’t know if that’s symptomatic of negativity or whatever…

The last big band to come out of Glasgow were FRANZ FERDINAND, yeah CHVRCHES too… FF get played regularly in clubs here and are very popular.

I didn’t come into the world to do the 9 to 5 and go home and watch Netflix, the potential for something to maybe happen keeps me going. I see a lot of people back home that have had their spirits crushed.

It’s the same across all genres in the UK sadly, be it Prog, Punk, Metal…

Yeah, venues are closing etc. Funny you mention that though. I was in a band and one of the things that started my enthusiasm to wane was the whole pay to play thing.

It was ridiculous, I’d play a wedding on a Friday night and get paid £250 and the following night, pay that away to play my own music. It’s one of the things that is killing music. Albeit you may not get paid but when you bring folk along who will be putting money across the bar too… it’s like what the f*ck…??

It’s interesting you say it’s a lot more supportive in North America…

Most of my support comes from North America, California most ironically. Then it’s Germany, Brazil and France. I’ve been very fortunate to have the support of New Retro Wave… I’m not even an artist on their label, but every track I’ve released has been put on their station. That’s done wonders for me, without that support I wouldn’t have continued. I sent them ‘Rabbit In The Headlights’ and since then, it’s had 160K plus plays on the site which is gratifying but saddening too as that sort of exposure you would think would lead to an act breaking out.

Music has changed, in some ways for the better as the playing field is much more level for independent artists, but you can’t make a living from it. It’s madness. I know we spoke about the fact some of the big bands that you assume are doing great business their members have day jobs.

I remember one of the guys that was in a 90s boy band ended up working in Footlocker… all right I suppose boy bands aren’t real musicians but they aren’t making any money, they are expendable, part of the product, It’s all about how many units you can sell, bums on seats!

Talking of bums on seats, do you sit at the piano to write, strum on a guitar… what’s your approach?

I have a couple of ways I do it… I may sit at the piano and get a chord progression and melody down most of the time. However, it comes from when I’ve set the mood, layering various synthesizer sounds and creating I guess a world. Usually at that point I know I’m onto something especially when I get that emotional connection and the words come to me.

Usually those revolve around how I feel at the time. I will as I say sit at the piano but it’s most often the sonic landscape, the atmosphere, the mood. I approach each song almost as a standalone and each of the songs on the EP sounds different because of that. One of my biggest influences are power ballads, it’s the only genre you can get away with the cheesier lyrics as the music reflects and supports that sort of approach

So is everything done on a computer now?

It is, I have a fast MacBook, a soundcard and a couple of controller keyboards. Strangely, I have a little Korg controller which I find I work better using, as when you’re confined to just 2 octaves, it forces you to find melodies, that’s what it’s all about, finding a melody.

I’m unusual as I use Propellerhead’s Reason as my DAW, I do use Ableton too but very seldomly, that’s mostly for collaborations out here as it’s the software of choice of a lot of guys so we can bounce things back and forth.

Reason for me sounds fantastic, the in-box synths are great. I have a large sound library and the latest version supports VST so I can use standalone softsynths… so I have Sylenth, the TAL-Juno softsynth and Darklight which is a Fairlight emulation… I’m obsessed with the Fairlight. So few folk could afford a Fairlight, it was guys like Gabriel, Trevor Horn, Kate Bush now I have one!

That is interesting as your stuff doesn’t sound as though it’s all done ‘in box’. All power to your programming skills, I imagined you had a load of hardware sitting on an A-Frame in your studio…

That probably my ULRICH SCHNAUSS influence, he makes synths sound really organic. The sounds evolve and have more movement. I will try and make the sound less static.

I have a really good sound library. You need to make your own library, they can be presets but having instant access to sounds means ideas can happen right away with sounds that support them, you can change the sound later…

I layer a lot of stuff. It’s better to have melodies that compliment and counter one another. A lot of folk stuff things together, they sound alright but arrangements get cluttered. It’s better to have layers and let the track breath in and out.

I get obsessed, it’s easy to buy a softsynth and never use it. I fell out of love with for example the Arturia stuff, I gave the license away as I wasn’t using it…

Are you going out to do any live work?

I’m currently working on a live show but I don’t want to just turn up and hit play on a sequencer, I want to build something different. You can buy the record if you want to hear that. It will be with a couple of other guys. I just want to build the fan base, get more people to hear the music and get as many folk to share it which is more important to me.

A lot of the shows are getting excellent crowds. I was at THE MIDNIGHT show on Saturday at the Globe, a really prestigious venue in Los Angeles, and it was a sell-out, 1500 paying customers… sold all the merchandise which has inspired me for my own live shows.

What’s next…?

I’m working of new material but that musician insecurity of how will I do that again is kicking in… hopefully ready by summer 2018. I’m releasing an instrumental version of ‘California’ and there are a remixes in the pipeline too in time for my birthday on the 3rd January. Just keeping pushing the EP, find ways of getting folk to listen to my music

Meant to ask, what’s the day job…?

Believe it or not, I actually do sound design for companies like the Patchbay and Samplemagic, I create patches for synths and I do the occasional cover set here in bars etc at the weekend.

So do you ever when you’re doing sound design hit a patch and think, I’m keeping that one for myself?

I think of it in terms of nobody will use that sound the way I use it. I released a soundbank for Spire with a load of my own patches on there and there was a time in my life when I would have been quite egotistical and said “Hell no, they aren’t getting my sounds!” but I won’t use that sound again, so if they are willing to pay for that sound why not. You can’t be too precious!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to MICHAEL OAKLEY

‘California’ is available as a download EP in song and instrumental variants from https://michaeloakleysynthwave.bandcamp.com

A limited edition purple vinyl and cassette edition is released by Timeslave Recordings, available at https://timeslaves.bandcamp.com/album/california

https://www.michael-oakley.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MichaelOakleyOfficial

https://twitter.com/MichaelOakleySW

https://www.instagram.com/michaeloakleyofficial/


Text and Interview by Ian Ferguson
30th November 2017, updated 20th January 2018

TANGERINE DREAM Quantum Gate

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

http://www.tangerinedream.org/

https://www.facebook.com/TANGERINEDREAM.OFFICIAL

http://www.kscopemusic.com


Text by Paul Boddy
15th October 2017

QUAESCHNING & SCHNAUSS Synthwaves

Quality instrumental electronic music is often overlooked these days at the expense of vocal driven synth material.

The halcyon days, of when artists such as JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, KLAUS SCHULZE and TANGERINE DREAM were all at their peak, are all but a distant memory. However, there are still artists that are producing quality work in this vein.

‘Synthwaves’ is a collaboration between TANGERINE DREAM members Thorsten Quaeschning and Ulrich Schnauss which utilises their enviable collection of synthesizers.

Whereas solo Schnauss has a fairly identifiable “wall of sound with Shoegaze elements” aesthetic, the link-up with Quaeschning has produced a more direct and melodic sound which, in places (unsurprisingly) references the classic sound of TD.

The start-off track ‘Main Theme’ appears to be a homage to the ‘Stranger Things’ opening music, which in itself paid tribute to TD and electronic artists of the era. From the off, the track relies on a deep resonant synth bass and sequencer lines before introducing some William Orbit-style stabs and big reverberant drum sounds. In classic TD style, more layered echoed sequencer parts raise the energy level and what makes the piece sustain interest over its 8 minute length is its continually changing chord progressions and refusal to rely on a linear approach.

‘Slow Life’ starts off with a quite beautiful ambient Eno-esque acoustic piano part drenched in a long reverb before swiftly introducing another wonderfully deep bass and hooky synth sequence. Alongside a later track on the album, the ghost of the classic ‘Risky Business’ soundtrack piece ‘Love On A Real Train’ is initially recalled here, but the introduction of phased Solina strings and guitar-like textures add a further dimension.

‘Cats and Dogs’ which relies on a vintage Oberheim DMX for its drum pattern and the PROPAGANDA lyric-pinching ‘A Calm But Steady Flow’ are pleasant enough, but come across as mid-album fillers.

Where the album really hits its stride though is in the final trilogy of tracks; ‘Thirst’ is the second track to owe a debt to ‘Love on a Real Train’. Based around a Manikin Schrittmacher sequencer part, the track’s skittering percussion and additional synth layers hit a wonderful climax at 3 minutes 17 seconds when a bass synth modulates around the hypnotic synth parts.

Although over 8 minutes in length, ‘Thirst’ never outstays its welcome and for fans of the Berlin School of sequencing, is bound to be an undeniable highlight here.

‘Flare’ comes across in part as a drum-less electronic re-imagining of a ‘Disintegration’-era track by THE CURE; its huge string synth melody sounding absolutely epic and adding in a welcome musical change to the piece.

Album closer ‘Prism’ has the kind of chord progression that makes the hairs stand up on the back of the neck and ends ‘Synthwaves’ on a real high.

What’s interesting about this collaboration (and potentially exciting for the fans of the upcoming TANGERINE DREAM album) is that it must have been hugely tempting for Quaeschning and Schnauss to use the tracks here for TD. The very fact that they haven’t means that the upcoming TD release ‘Quantum Gate’ could be something very special indeed and a major justification of the continuation of the band following the passing of leader Edgar Froese.

If you are a long term fan of melodic instrumental synthesizer music and maybe haven’t been inclined to investigate what is current within this sub-genre, this album would be a fantastic place to start. It avoids a lot of the clichés of some Berlin School material and at no point does it become overly self-indulgent.

Immerse yourself in the ‘Synthwaves’ and you may never wish to surface again…

‘Synthwaves’ uses the following instrumentation and equipment:

Thorsten Quaeschning – Steinberg Cubase, Manikin Schrittmacher sequencer, Manikin Memotron, Roland Jupiter 8, Roland JD800, Dave Smith Prophet 8, ARP Solina MK2, Korg Wavestation EX, Waldorf Microwave, Moog Voyager, Eurorack Modular, Roland V Synth, Korg Z1, Korg Prophecy, Korg M1 synthesiser, Clavia Nordwave, Yamaha TG77, Roland System 1, Roland JU06, Korg MS20, Roland JP08, Roland TR-8 Rhythm Performer, Oberheim DMX, Roland Promars, Fender Starcaster, Fender Telecaster, Fender Stratocaster, Spectrasonics Omnisphere, Spectrasonics Keyscape, Screwdriver on wood and contact microphones, several boxes with contact microphones, bees in garden

Ulrich Schnauss – Steinberg Cubase and Logic Pro, Manikin Schrittmacher sequencer, Roland JD XA, Roland Jupiter 8, Roland JD-800, Oberheim OB-8, Roland System 1, Roland MKS-70, Rhodes Chroma, Waldorf Q, Microwave XT, Sonic Core SCOPE system, Ensoniq DP4


‘Synthwaves’ is released in CD, vinyl LP and download formats by Azure Vista Records, available from
https://quaeschningschnauss.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/thorsten.quaeschning

https://twitter.com/PicturePalaceQ

https://www.facebook.com/ulrichschnauss/

https://twitter.com/ulrichschnauss


Text by Paul Boddy
9th July 2017

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