Tangerine Dream: The Pink And Virgin Years

The early seventies were a fertile period for progressively inclined musicians, with music being pushed into new frontiers, not just with new technology and production techniques, but with a mind-set about how that equipment could be used to create new sound.

The music scene in Berlin was no exception, with the development of “Krautrock”, or more respectfully, “Kosmische Musik”. This was a genre that drew on sources such as psychedelic rock, minimalism, the avant-garde, and electronically created music, blending it all in one melting pot and seeing what the results produced.

It was out of this scene that the fledgling Tangerine Dream was created by founder member Edgar Froese, a musician fascinated by technology and inspired to create his own custom-made instruments and merge the sounds with tape recordings and loops. It might sound primitive now but this was the beginning of sequencer technology which has now become the bedrock of electronic and dance music.

Froese quickly entered into collaborations like-minded musicians, and within the space of four years created four remarkable albums, which are collectively known as “The Pink Years”. (A word play on the record label Ohr, which displayed a pink ear as its logo.)

A quick scan of the credits across these four albums reveals the wealth of creative talent with early contributions from the likes of Klaus Schulze, Florian Fricke (Popol Vuh), both of whom who went on to create their own impressive musical legacies, along with sound engineer Dieter Dierks (who later had success producing the Scorpions).

The debut album Electronic Meditation was released in 1970, and is very much a collection of improvised and spontaneous pieces, based around traditional instruments like guitars and drums, with the organ almost relegated to the background to provide ambience and atmosphere. The results are not so far removed from the sort of music that Pink Floyd was experimenting with on their Ummagumma album, but the arrangements are less structured and melodic.

Alpha Centauri, which followed in 1971, saw the arrival of Chris Franke, who would become part of the seminal line-up of TD, with the organ and embryonic synthesisers becoming more prominent in the sound. The arrangements sound a little more structured, but are still full of improvisation and experimentation, and this album might be considered a bridge between the original Kosmische Musik sound and the more ambient music that would follow.

Zeit is very much the definition of “cosmic music”, spread across four lengthy pieces, each running for around 20 minutes. It feels like a lot to absorb, but in fact as soon as the opening cello notes strike up, the listener is drawn into a zone where time becomes meaningless and motionless. The emphasis is on atmosphere and ambience, with little or no rhythm, and no discernible melody, and yet it’s an incredibly absorbing listening experience. Crudely put, it’s like experiencing a space odyssey in your own mind.

The album that followed, Atem, often feels sidelined by comparison, as the music moved towards more recognisable melodies and sequenced patterns. However, for me it’s as rewarding as the previous albums, as it shows the band continuing to progress and redefine their sound. The spacey “out there” feel of Zeit is still present, but you can feel the sound moving closer to the tempos and rhythmic oscillations that would define the following year’s landmark album Phaedra – their first for the Virgin label, and the beginning of a golden period for the trio’s creativity.

The Pink Years set has been exhaustively issued and reissued over the years, but the current record label Esoteric has seen fit to reissue the set again, in a clamshell box with LP style replica cardboard covers for each cd. In terms of packaging it’s disappointingly bare-bones, with no inner sleeves or liner notes, and merely a fold-out poster.


The chief narrative above is credited to fellow WP blog Moments In Transition and author  

You would need to have pretty much an entire afternoon at your disposal to absorb this mix in its entirety, At just a few seconds over two and three quarter hours it showcases the seventies output and of the mixing, made using Virtual DJ, I think that it does represent a complete journey; Zeit into Atem and Rubycon into Stratosfear worked particularly well. Here is the set menu:

Alpha Centauri
Ricochet (Part 2)
Rubycon (Part 1)
Madrigal Meridian
Cloudburst Flight
Tangram (Set 1)