I’m in one of my “Edgar Froese is a musical genius” moods, so you’ll have to forgive me. Yesterday I was in a “Fluorescent light bulbs are a work of genius” mood. (So many geniuses, so little time.) My fancy for Froese didn’t spark out of the blue but from listening to Stuntman for several weeks now. And I’ve come to the conclusion (or crept up on the conclusion and am now poking it with a stick to test its consistency) that Stuntman is a work of natural music genius. Now you noticed the “natural,” didn’t you? That’s my way of saying that Stuntman doesn’t try any new tricks. New songs, sure, but they flow from the same creative spring that fed Force Majeure and Tangram. Like Aqua before it, Stuntman aligns with contemporary TD. It’s an extension of his musical expression at the moment rather than a departure from it. (Okay, I think I beat that point to death.) So I listen to a “Stuntman” or “Drunken Mozart in the Desert” and it’s like sneaking into the museum basement at night or hopping a fence to find a walled garden (or like buying a compact disc for fifteen bucks and sitting on my butt and listening to it, if I really wanted to embellish). As much as I like Phaedra and Rubycon, they were a little static (I thought). Beginning with Stratosfear, the band began to paint with smaller strokes and more color. Stuntman is Edgar Froese with a full paint box, a brush in each hand, replicating (with perhaps a bit less precision) the music of Force Majeure and Tangram. These songs are more than sketches from the same creative period, they’re finished paintings. And the more I listen to it, the more I see the genius in its handiwork: the sounds, the melodies, the mastery of mood, the cold nurturing bosom of analog synth wrapped tight around its electronic soul like a, well, like a fluorescent bulb.
Long before Underwater Sunlight reached our ears, Edgar Froese went on an aquatic excursion of his own, the first of several ‘70s solo albums from the primary brain behind Tangerine Dream. Aqua is as much sound as music, designed (with the benefit of an “artificial head system” developed by Gunther Brunschen) to be experienced on headphones. In such a setting (which I haven’t tried since the days of the Stax electrostatic ear speakers), it’s easy to imagine the listener fully immersed in Froese’s waterworld. If electronic meditation is your bag and Klaus Schulze your green grocer, Aqua might be what you’re thirsting after. What occurs here are soundscapes and linear journeys that suggest Tangerine Dream on a more intimate scale. Rather than three voices telling you what to watch out the window, there’s only Froese’s voice (although Chris Franke does add moog sounds on the tunneling “NGC 891”). The result may strike some as unambitious, creating individual worlds of sound rather than Phaedra’s universe. At least that’s how I felt when I used to hear this. Cluster’s “Grosses Wasser” seemed the grander water portrait, Peter Baumann’s Romance ’76 the louder declaration of independence. But Aqua didn’t need to make a big statement; after all, Froese had Tangerine Dream for that. Instead, the composer explores some avenues he might have entertained along the way, from an electronic interpretation of nature (“Aqua”) to experiments in King Crimson’s contained energy (“Panorphelia”). Phaedra and Rubycon are the better albums, but Aqua could otherwise be seen as an introspective cousin to those works. If their later albums (White Eagle et cetera) didn’t float your boat, a return to Aqua may be in order. Also recommended to anyone who was tickled pink over Meddle’s “Echoes.”