There were two turning points for West Berlin art student-turned-rock guitarist Edgar Froese. The first was working with – and writing music for – Salvador Dali. The second was a support slot on Jimi Hendrix‘s 1967 tour of Germany.
These events inspired a desire to create new music, and synthesizers gave him the tools. The result was Tangerine Dream – pioneers of Krautrock, and once described by American critic Lester Bangs as sounding like “silt sleeping on the ocean floor”.
Core members over the years have included Froese and Chris Franke as well as Peter Baumann, who went on to start the Private Music label. The band also later added Jerome Froese, Edgar’s son, whose photos as a baby can be found in the artwork to their early albums.
Over 25 years or so, the Tangerine Dream sound moved from the droning nightmares of Zeit, to the mesmerising sequencer-based Rubycon and Ricochet in the 70s, to the sparkling high-tech rock of the 80s. In recent years, they moved toward shorter, song-based pieces that seem superficial and predictable compared to their early work.
Their Virgin Records debut, Phaedra (1974), was a commercial and stylistic landmark. The band used Moog and sequencers for the first time, enabling their vast instrumental soundscapes to be composed rather than improvised.
Phaedra cracked the UK Top 20 and made #196 in America.
Their 1975 Rubycon album is the zenith of the band’s exploration of ever-shifting synthesized textures and rhythmic layers, with sounds adrift in endless space or echoing through vast subterranean caverns. And when the sequenced four-note basslines kick in, there is a vivid sensation of movement, sometimes floating upwards through deep water, sometimes hurled across the galaxy . . .
By the mid-70s, though, lead-boffin Froese had signed to Virgin and was turning out blippy electronic abstraction at a phenomenal rate, releasing 13 albums in a decade.
A cult phenomenon for decades, Tangerine Dream gained wider recognition when the group’s music attracted the interest of film director William Friedkin, which resulted in their score to the film Sorcerer and the beginning of a large number of soundtracks.
Their music for the Tom Cruise film, Risky Business (1983), probably attracted the most attention.
Edgar Froese passed away on 20 January 2015 after suffering a pulmonary embolism. He was 70.
Keyboards, guitar, bass
Hans Jochen Brune