Tangerine Dream – Raum
Would it be amiss to refer to Tangerine Dream as a legacy act? For all accounts, the German electronic outfit is more an institution than a band. They’ve seen an ever evolving roster of artists form part of the core group since Edgar Froese founded it in 1967, with Froese being the only mainstay until his death in 2015. Since their inception they’ve spanned over the electronic music sphere with a vast catalogue some 100 albums deep, evolving from early synth-infused krautrock to sweeping, cosmic electronic soundscapes. Best known for the latter, often bordering on twenty minute spacey odysseys, Tangerine Dream established themselves as pioneers of the synthesiser, pre-dating Kraftwerk who would later be credited to pushing this sound into the mainstream. But even with their shifting faces, at some point Tangerine Dream eschewed innovation in favour of settling into themselves and their sound. Raum, their second album of new music since Froese’s passing, is very much an album located in this comfort zone. Rather than proposing the sound of the future as they once did, instead Tangerine Dream are memorialising the sound of the past that they and Froese pioneered.
The idea of memorialisation feels inherent to Raum. In creating the album, the band had access to Froese’s entire archive of tape recordings and arrangements and this spectral presence can be felt across the album. Perhaps more so than 2017’s Quantum Gate, Raum finds Tangerine Dream preoccupied with their own history. It’s unsurprising that Raum should be preceded by a collection of re-recordings and retrospective compilations, and the approach the band took in the late 70’s and 80’s seems to be Raum’s primary inspiration. The album’s titular track, which sits as its finale, is most reminiscent of seminal entries like Phaedra or the film score work that Tangerine Dream found recognition for in the 1970’s. The fifteen minute opus phases through chapters of cosmic sci-fi synths into a throbbing modular bassline, ending with cinematic strings. In 256 Zeichen attempts something similar, but it’s near twenty minute runtime is ultimately unnecessary and the track starts to meander rather than engross. This sort of indulgence is regular on Raum, with Tangerine Dream relishing in their past signatures sometimes to the detriment of the whole body of work. They are more successful at recreating the emotive, encapsulating glory of their soundtracks on tracks like You’re Always On Time, one of Raum’s standouts with its wistful synth refrain and dubby, pattering bass guitar chords. What You Should Know About Endings gurgles with a strange, percussive bubble that peters in and out of the propulsive Moog chords around it, while on the gorgeously pensive Along The Canal, Tangerine Dream literally make their synths talk about their feelings. On these stronger offerings, the band manages to hone in on what has been their greatest skill; building musical landscapes that are easy to get swept up in.
Raum functions as a sort of epitaph in the Tangerine Dream catalogue. It’s not groundbreaking, nor does it push the band into any sort of new space. At this point in their legacy, perhaps innovation is unnecessary. If anyone has earned indulgence, it’s them. More than anything, Raum is a reminder of the essential place Tangerine Dream holds in the history of electronic music. It may require some backstory to access or understand the album’s intent, but it’s a history worth learning.
Tangerine Dream are currently on tour in the UK. You can find tickets here. See the music video for the title track from Raum below.
Follow Tangerine Dream