Edgar Froese, the influential pioneer behind the group Tangerine Dream passed away January 20 at age 70. I had the rare opportunity to see him and the band perform at the Yes sponsored Cruise to the Edge show in April 2014, and while saddened at his passing am happy to report on his lifetime of achievement on full display last year.
Somehow during these last forty years collecting all manner of progressive rock, I’ve not ended up owning many Tangerine Dream albums, even though they recorded over 100 studio and live records, along with more than 60 film scores. However, I’ve been aware of them and their influence on any number of other bands, and on entire musical movements including krautrock, ambient (often dark, as with Zeit) and electronic (dance, trance). Much of their work is improvisational around minimalist arrangements, often not bound to traditional song structure. Some has much in common with contemporary classical music, and all driven by electronic keyboards and percussion. Almost all of it is instrumental, though some 12-19th century poetry and a few vocal tracks found their way into the work.
When I think of Tangerine Dream, what stands out is their pioneering use of tape loops and analog sequencers – forming the basis for long compositions that allow for improvisation on guitar, keys, winds and other instruments atop the repeated phrases. Their music had the power to capture complex emotions, deftly used for instance in the cult classic film Sorcerer.
What we witnessed in concert last year was a band still at the peak of their powers delivering a set of sequencer laden electronic music that held tight the audience’s attention. The stage overflowed with spectacular waves of sequenced and synthesized sound, punctuated by inclusion of winding electronic guitar and violin leads, winds, and percussion. Colorful lighting including the use of lasers, which they had deployed in groundbreaking ways in the 1970’s and ‘80’s, were still on display making the whole experience at times serene, at others exciting, and throughout very dreamy and surreal. Edgar said a few words, but let the music do the talking.
Edgar leaves behind a huge body of work, having been massively influential in the world of music. I hear his voice in so many bands, from Daft Punk to Radiohead – from Paul van Dyk to Porcupine Tree and Steve Wilson. He will be missed, but will live on via this vast catalog and it’s admirers.