The burning brain behind Tangerine Dream, Edgar Froese was inspired to make music after attending a Pink Floyd concert. The early TD recordings were collaborative in nature, with Froese as the de facto leader and primary architect. Not surprisingly, his solo music tends to parallel whatever musical phase the Dream is undergoing at the time: amorphous space music (Aqua), concise electronic vignettes (Stuntman), et cetera. At their best, the recordings of Froese stand alongside the “official” TD albums of the age and should be included in any serious collection of Tangerine Dream’s music.
In the 1980s, Froese focused more of his energies on running the TD brand and less on making solo albums, since the band and the man had become synonymous at that point. He did release a new album, Dalinetopia, in 2005. Froese passed away in 2015 and leaves behind a recorded legacy that is a monument to one of the greatest musical pioneers and composers of the 20th century.
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.”
He flung open the gates. The warm glory of afternoon sunlight made him start and blink his eyes. “Oh, roof!” he repeated in a voice of rapture. He was as though suddenly and joyfully awakened from a dark annihilating stupor. “Roof!” – Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
Kronomyth 2.0: EPSILON ENLIGHTENED. Edgar Froese’s second album continues in the classic vein of Rubycon, Ricochet and Stratosfear. It features two side-long tone poems that employ many of the same musical elements: flute-like synthesizers, sequencer-based journeys, a dynamic use of light and dark sounds and moments of both unnatural beauty and heroic discovery. The earlier Aqua had been a darker, stationary study of sound and, in the opening moments of “Ypsilon In Malaysian Pale,” it seemed that Froese might repeat the exercise. But that fear is quickly dispelled as warm, luminous sounds emerge as if pure sunlight itself, illuminating Froese’s enchanting adventure in nature (inspired, it would seem, by Froese’s recent travels in Malaysia). In fact, Froese appears to place himself in the music, as the flute-like synthesizer wonders at the world around it, shifting from foot traveler to train passenger (my internal musing, not the author’s). Effectively divided into halves, “Yspilon In Malaysian Pale” feels like the better parts of Phaedra (part one) and Rubycon (part two) fused together. The second musical travelogue, “Maroubra Bay” (presumably inspired by the Australian bay of the same name), is initially a much darker piece. That darkness soon gives way, however, to a fascinating—almost mesmerizing—journey through an imagined undersea world (again, my imagination). Froese selects from a slightly different palette of sounds, at times inviting comparison to Vangelis (Heaven and Hell in particular). “Maroubra Bay” culminates in a kind of quasi-religious experience at the end (I have the speculative impression of being in a cathedral-cave), then fades slowly as Ypsilon’s dreamworld slips away. Ypsilon In Malaysian Pale is far from a pale imitation of Tangerine Dream, but a full-blooded brother to Rubycon and Ricochet that displays a mastery of electronic sound on a grand, almost-classical scale. Heartily recommended to anyone who enjoyed the journey from Phaedra through Tangram and is looking for an undiscovered destination of equal beauty.
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.