The Tangs' roots were in the sprawling jams of psychedelia, and they maintained an...
Peter Marsh 2002-11-20
Along with Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream were probably the first purely electronic outfit to find commercial success with a rock audience. In an age of beanbags, beards, exotic tobacco consumption and lava lamps, albums like Phaedra, Rubycon and Stratosfear defined chillout while the Orb were still in short trousers.
The Tangs' roots were in the sprawling jams of psychedelia, and they maintained an improvisational approach even when they'd traded in their guitars and drums for banks of mellotrons and synths. While such instruments were amongst the tools of the trade for legions of ye olde prog rockers, TD weren't much interested in conventional virtuoso technique, instead opting for lengthy cosmic workouts that were often pure texture.
There's plenty of those to be had on this rather wonderful seven CD set that covers what many (me included) consider to be the band's golden period from 1974-76. Recorded in settings as exotic as Bilbao and Croydon (the same gig that produced the Ricochet album), they reveal TD as an improvising outfit, battling with the instability of their instruments and somehow constructing fragile, mysterious and often beautiful music in the process.
All the usual ingredients are there; breathy flute-like sounds, veils of mellotron-generated strings, choirs and the warm, arpeggiated throb of those unmistakable bass patterns. Edgar Froese sometimes whips out his Les Paul, which isn't always a good idea - he's no Steve Hillage, and his slightly stilted playing sometimes serves to drag the trio back to earth. It's hard to pick out highlights, but the almost two hours of the Bilbao gig ranks among some of the most gorgeous I've heard from this line-up, which is saying something. The sometimes muddy recording quality (these are boots, after all) sometimes adds to the other worldliness on display, though it's weird to hear the audience coughing and shuffling about - I thought in space no-one could hear you sneeze...