Tangerine Dream: Raum Album Review
Tangerine Dream is a vast elemental force, an electronic music group whose bombastic synthesizer soundscapes overpower the conciseness of pop convention. Wherever you look, Tangerine Dream operate on a massive scale: they’ve released over 100 albums since forming in Germany in 1967, surround themselves with prodigious racks of synths on stage, and their songs regularly exceed the 20-minute mark. They are, in many ways, the Grateful Dead of electronic music: a hippie band of brothers, eternal and somehow still themselves, their music an ever-expanding ray of cosmic light.
Even the death of founding member Edgar Froese in 2015 couldn’t stop a band as enduring as Tangerine Dream. Raum is the band’s second album since Froese’s passing, and it’s present in both spirit and sound. According to Thorsten Quaeschning, who has been with Tangerine Dream since 2005, Froese and his wife Bianca planned for the band to continue after his death, and Raum was produced with access to Froese’s Cubase arrangements and tape archive of recordings from 1977 to 2013.
Like the dead, Tangerine Dream was once innovators, a sort of proto-Kraftwerk best enjoyed semi-horizontally ensconced in a beanbag chair. Their first studio album, 1970s electronic meditationfeatured odd sounds found among more conventional rock instruments, and 1971s Alpha Centauri leave – three years before Kraftwerk Highway—Tangerine Dream is getting into electronic instrumentation. In the late 70s and early 80s, their sound became smoother and more cinematic, with movie soundtracks like Wizard, Thiefand even Risky business. Raum doesn’t really break down barriers, but that wasn’t intended either. After the 2014 Phaedra Farewell tour, Froese decided the band should return to the formula of synths, sequencers and electric violin that Tangerine Dream used in the 70s and 80s, “not copying it but recreating that style with the current technology,” Quaeschning said.
RaumThe 15-minute title track, in particular, is a throwback to the all-knowing 1972 vibe. Zeit, a shimmering Moog bassline summoning synth sweeps as powerful as rocket fuel, slowly tapering into Hoshiko Yamane’s sleek, dreamy electric violin drones, before the Moog returns to guide the listener home him. Tangerine Dream are the grand masters of space and melody, and “Raum” shows them at their architectural best, their work as lavish as a cloud castle.
“You’re Always On Time” makes up for its low eight-minute runtime with one of the strongest melodies on the album, a mournful synthesizer riff that’s just unpredictable enough to keep it from sinking into the dark. parody, while “Along the Canal” combines a dark chord sequence with a synth effect that crackles like rain down a gutter, a blend of form and function so epic it could paint the Grand Canyon in blue. By contrast, the opening “Continuum” seems almost hemmed in by percussive conventions, its rather narrow drum machine rhythms unworthy of the sprawl of synth they timidly attempt to rally. And “In 256 Zeichen” scatters its melodic ideas too much; the gigantic stretch of the song is an indulgence that soon grates.
For a band as endlessly prolific as Tangerine Dream, it’s hard to say that Raum is by no means essential; it’s essentially a recreation of past glories that never quite reaches those heights. As part of the Tangerine Dream continuum, however, Raum satisfied: its unabashed drift and scale pay homage to a world where music is immense, ubiquitous and endless.