[Review] Tangerine Dream: Stratosfear (1976)

One of the group’s more overtly proggy efforts that continues to find them refining the formula of Phaedra.

Kronomyth 8.0: Fear and tremolo.

Tangerine Dream, which enjoyed an association with the progressive rock movement because of shared ideals, actually began to sound like a progressive rock band on Stratosfear. The Big Sleep in Search of Hades, for example, utilizes the same pastoral feel as King Crimson’s early work before yielding to Rubycon’s electronic space imagery. The sequencers are still present, though here accelerated and placed on an equal footing with the surrounding music, mixed with guitars that recall Pink Floyd and synthesizer melodies that share the directness of Vangelis or Cluster.

The opening title track, Stratosfear, remains one of their most accessible works to date, forsaking their typically amorphous introductions for concrete electronic music. 3AM at the Border of the Marsh from Okefenokee favors synthesizers that share the rich tones of a marimba, resulting in a bubbling mix of melody and texture. Invisible Limits marches out of the mist to feature perky sequencer patterns and a violin-sounding guitar that owes some debt to the pioneering work of Robert Fripp.

By treating the sequencers as a third instrument rather than an electronic foundation, Stratosfear builds on the softer moments of Ricochet to create a suprisingly warm and immediate album. The cyclical nature of the arrangements gives the impression of individual songs rather than a single, epic tone poem and, despite its title, Stratosfear isn’t nearly as eerie as previous albums. The brisk pacing and accessible melodies would continue to play a prominent role in their subsequent work, notably on Force Majeure and Tangram. Stratosfear would be the last studio album from the trio of Peter Baumann, Chris Franke and Edgar Froese, and many rank it with the best from this fruitful period.

Original elpee version

A1. Stratosfear (10:04)
A2. The Big Sleep In Search of Hades (4:45)
B1. 3AM At The Border of the Marsh From Okefenokee (8:10)
B2. Invisible Limits (11:40)

All tracks composed by Chris Franke, Edgar Froese and Peter Baumann.

The Players

Peter Baumann (Moog synthesizer, Project electronic rhythm computer, Fender E Piano, mellotron), Chris Franke (Moog synthesizer, organ, percussion, loop mellotron, harpsichord), Edgar Froese (mellotron, Moog synthesizer, twelve and six string guitar, grand piano, bass guitar, mouth organ). Produced by Tangerine Dream; engineered by Otto.

The Pictures

Cover by Cooke-Key Associates. Inside cover photograph by Monique Froese.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in November 1976 in Germany (Virgin, 28 146 XOT), the UK (Virgin, V/TCV 2068), the US (Virgin, PZ/PZT 34427), France (Virgin, 2473 721) and Japan (Virgin, VIP-4152) with gatefold cover; reached #39 on the UK charts and #158 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in March 1984 in the US (Virgin International, VI/VIC 2068).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1985 in the UK (Virgin, OVED 70).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in 1988 in the US (Virgin, 91010-2/4).
  4. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1995 in Germany (Virgin, 840 065) and the UK (Virgin, TAND8).
  5. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on July 23, 1996 in the US (Virgin, CDV 2068).
  6. Re-released on super high material compact disc on February 25, 2015 in Japan (Virgin, UICY-76989).
  7. Re-released on platinum SHMCD on February 25, 2015 in Japan (Virgin, UICY-40133).

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