Strange Days – Tangerine Dream’s Particles Reviewed

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These are indeed strange times to be a Tangerine Dream fan; not only is the band still going strong as we approach the 2nd anniversary of founder Edgar Froese’s untimely relocation to a new cosmic address, they’re now probably garnering as much attention and critical acclaim  as they’ve had for the last 40 years, partly due to their influence on the cult Stranger Things soundtrack (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/artists/love-the-stranger-things-soundtrack-here-are-10-things-to-listen/)

Just to turn things even further on their head the band (now consisting of Ulrich Schnauss, long time member Thorsten Quaeshning and violinist Hoshiko Yamane) recently posted 2 interpretations of the Main Theme from Stranger Things on their Soundcloud page creating a relative frenzy on social media (https://soundcloud.com/tangerinedreamofficial2015/without-glitch)

All we need now is Michel Stein and Kyle Dixon (creators of the Stranger Things soundtrack) to do a cover version of that track and the world will have swallowed itself whole.

Cue Particles, a double “Cup disc” (EP in anyone else’s language) featuring the 4.00pm Session, a 29 minute improvisation recorded at the legendary Dieter Dierk’s studio, along with one of the Stranger Things pieces and 6 live tracks recorded at Schwingungen Festival in Windeck (Germany) in September 2016 spread across the 2 discs.

By far and away the most interesting track on this release is the improvisation. Whilst TD and their contemporaries (Klaus Schulze, Michael Hoeing), made their names with improvised electronic epics, these had been ditched long ago in favour of shorter structured compositions seemingly never to appear again, much to many fans disappointment. In their wake followed a whole raft of “Berlin School” artists such as Redshift, Arc, Arcane, Airsculpture, Under The Dome etc to continue the legacy and satisfy synth nerds’ thirst for those classic analogue sounds.

Consequently you would have thought a new 29 minute improvisation (their longest ever studio composition as far as I’m aware) would have been a cause for rejoicing amongst the TD community. However, it warrants just a handful of comments on the bands moribund forum and no mention at all on the very Berlin school centric EMPortal. Thank goodness therefore for the wonderful Zest Facebook group where reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

So, the question is, is it any good? Inevitably releasing a track of this nature invites comparison to the TD of the mid 70s and those that have followed in their footsteps but the big difference here is the entire composition whilst improvised has been produced on modern digital equipment, barring Yoshiko’s violin of course. Nonetheless this is a complex piece of intertwined bass throbs, mutating sequences and familiar retro synth voices all subject to constant manipulation that manages to retain a contemporary feel whilst harking back to the glory days of banks of Moogs and Mellotrons. There is more than enough ebb and flow to maintain interest throughout its near half hour duration and reward repeated listening, so the answer has to be “yes”.

As for the rest of the EP, sorry Cup Disc, the live tracks are fresh interpretations of TD staples (White Eagle, Dolphin Dance, Rubycon and Mothers of Rain) and 2 tracks from the recent Mala Kunia release. These all clearly demonstrate Ulrich’s growing influence in the band although some versions only recently appeared on the Live at the Philharmony album, so interesting but not essential for me.

Clocking in at almost an hour and half in total, most TD fans will want the complete package and certainly won’t be disappointed, but everyone with even a passing interest in classic Berlin School music, especially those fans that have abandoned the band over the years should check out the 4.00pm Session.

If this is the direction Ulrich, Thorsten and Yoshiko are going to pursue on the forthcoming album, and perhaps more intriguingly  live shows, then we’re in for some very exciting as well as potentially strange times in 2017.

Particles can be downloaded from Tangerine Dream’s online store here: https://www.ssl-id.de/edgarfroese.de/shop/products.php?p=8a551f

 

 

 

 

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