[Review] Tangerine Dream: Tangram (1980)

With Johannes Schmoelling as the new third wheel, the Dream embarks on one of its smoothest journeys yet.

Kronomyth 13.0: A work of pieces.

With the addition of keyboardist Johannes Schmoelling, Tangerine Dream adopted a more melodic and accessible sound on Tangram. The fluidity of movement and integral nature of the sequencer patterns are carry-overs from Force Majeure, but Schmoelling’s presence adds an element of delicacy and intimacy that stands in marked contrast to the alien and foreboding landscapes of the previous decade.

The title track takes its name from a Chinese puzzle that requires a square to be divided into five triangles, a smaller square and a rhomboid, which are then shifted to create different shapes. This subject is ideally suited to the band’s sonic construction by degrees, allowing Edgar Froese and Schmoelling to move their music around Christopher Franke’s sequencers and resolve various musical “problems.”

Despite many familiar elements–disembodied voices that recall Carmina Burana, percussive echoes that serve as segues to new sections, flute-like keyboards–Tangram represents a further shift away from progressive rock toward the economically evocative language more recently popularized by Kraftwerk and Vangelis. Froese’s guitar eschews the heroics of past efforts for a screechier style that will sound familiar to fans of Adrian Belew. Sets 1 and 2 move with the buoyancy and technical sheen first revealed on “Force Majeure,” though they never reach its sublime heights, instead aspiring to loveliness and grandeur (a further link to Vangelis, whose fans will discover in Tangram an accessible entry point). Those who thought their earlier work too ethereal may find Tangram the most succinct and substantial work in their catalog.

Original LP Version

A1. Tangram Set 1 (19:47)
B1. Tangram Set 2 (20:28)

Composed by Chris Franke, Edgar Froese and Johannes Schmoelling.

The Players

Chris Franke (keyboards, electronic percussions), Edgar Froese (keyboards, guitars), Johannes Schmoelling (keyboards). Produced by Chris Franke and Edgar Froese; mix engineered by Eduard Meyer.

The Pictures

Sleeve design by Monique Froese.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in May 1980 in Germany and the Netherlands (Virgin, 202 169 320), the UK (Virgin, V2147), the US (Virgin International, VI/VIC 2147), Canada (Virgin, VL 2205), Italy (Virgin, VIL 12154) and Japan (Virgin, VIP-6957). Reached #36 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the UK (Virgin, OVED 112).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the UK (Virgin, CDV 2147) with blue cover variation.
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1991 in the US (Caroline, 1805).
  4. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 1995 in the UK (Virgin, TAND11) and the Netherlands (Virgin, 840 263-2).

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