[Review] Peter Baumann: Romance ’76 (1976)

A solid electronic debut with classical overtones from the junior (in tenure) member of Tangerine Dream.

Kronomyth 1.0: Two sides of Peter Baumann.

As part of the Tangerine machine, it was never that clear to me what Peter Baumann brought to the band in terms of an individual artist. Outside of one song credited to him (“Sequent C’” from Phaedra), there wasn’t any place I could point to in the music of Tangerine Dream and say “Aha! That’s Peter Baumann’s influence in the band.” Maybe that’s a musical deficiency in me, or a rare show of restraint where blurting our musical facts that no one else cares about is concerned.

As the first solo album from Baumann, Romance ’76 is a unique window into what makes the young musician tick as an artist. The album is effectively split into two halves: melodic electronics (side one) and moody, quasi-classical music (side two). There are moments when the music recalls Tangerine Dream, sure, but I was equally reminded of Cluster, Kraftwerk and even Klaus Schulze. In other words, if you came into this expecting to hear Tangerine Dream lite, it’s more than that. I wouldn’t call it a stunning declaration of independence (I probably have in the past, since my enthusiasm for this album seems to wax and wane depending upon my mood, and I’ve never met a pun I could resist), but this is a well-crafted record that utilizes electronic sounds in a surprisingly melodic, direct and enjoyable way.

The opening Bicentennial Present introduces Baumann’s (seeming) affection for simple, heroic melodies and streamlined arrangements. In some ways, it anticipates the Tangerine Dream to come, whose music grew increasingly more direct and melodic with time. Romance sounds much more like Cluster than Tangerine Dream, with a toy-like approach that immediately recalled (to my mind) his production work on Cluster’s Grosses Wasser (one of the first electronic albums I owned as a youth). Phase By Phase meanders a bit in the middle, but otherwise does a nice job of showing off Baumann’s darker side while making efficacious use of electronic beeps and blips.

Baumann unveils his more serious, classical side on the second half of the album. Meadow of Infinity Part I introduces simple cellos and voices that create a Carmina Burana effect, ultimately ending in a frenzy of tribal drums. The Glass Bridge utilizes cellos, violins and bass guitar to create modern classical music. Meadow of Infinity Part II merges synthesizers, classical instruments and some clever headphone mixing for a trippy, classy ending to the album.

As I said, I tend to run hot and cold on this album. Sometimes (like today), I’m completely impressed with Bauman’s directness, economy and efficacy. On other days, usually after I’ve listened to one of Tangerine Dream’s early meisterwerks (or, worse, Baumann’s Repeat Repeat), I find Romance ’76 a bit too accessible and wish for something meatier. In either mood, however, Romance ’76 remains pleasantly complementary to the work of Tangerine Dream. There is, after all, no lack of original Tangerine Dream albums to choose from, and if Baumann had simply sought to make the same kind of music, it would have been just another TD record and, perhaps, not a very good one. Instead, Romance ’76 is a very good Peter Baumann album; probably the best he’s ever made. It may not mark the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Peter Baumann’s music, but as a dalliance you won’t do much better.

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Original LP Version

A1. Bicentennial Present (4:46)
A2. Romance (6:02)
A3. Phase by Phase (7:35)
B1. Meadow of Infinity (Part One) (5:10)
B2. The Glass Bridge (3:27)
B3. Meadow of Infinity (Part Two) (5:43)

All tracks written by Peter Baumann.

The Players

Peter Baumann (instruments, mixing) with H. Baumann (conductor on B1), members of The Philharmonic Orchestra Munich (B1). Produced by Peter Baumann; mixed by Ottmar Bergler.

The Pictures

Cover by Cooke-Key Associates London. Make up by Mary Hillman.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in September 1976 in Germany (Virgin, 28 311 XOT), the UK (Virgin, V2069), the US (Virgin, PZ-34897), France (Virgin, 2473 713) and Japan (Virgin, YX-7173-VR).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Virgin, VIP-6917).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1990 in the UK (Virgin, CDV 2069).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 2016 in the EU (Bureau B, 007589).
  4. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 2016 in the UK (Esoteric Reactive, EREACD 1034).

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