Tangerine Dream founder Edgar Froese (1944-2015) is one of the key figures in the history of ambient electronic music and was the only member of the iconic Krautrock band to stay on board the full distance, a journey that ended with his death in 2015. He was also their most prolific solo artist in the early days, releasing seven solo albums and one compilation.
country of origin:
Krautrock, Berlin-school, ambient trance, progressive rock
decades active (as solo artist):
70's - 00's
- Aqua (1974, Virgin/Caroline)
- Epsilon In Malaysian Pale (1975, Virgin/Caroline)
- Macula Transfer (1976, Virgin/Caroline)
- Stuntman (1979, Virgin/Caroline)
Reviewed by Mike G
Tangerine Dream founder Edgar Froese (1944-2015) is one of the key figures in the history of ambient electronic music and was the only member of the iconic Krautrock band to stay on board the full distance, a journey that ended with his death in 2015. He was also their most prolific solo artist in the early days, releasing seven solo albums and one compilation. That these works navigate more or less a parallel course to the changes and developments in Tangerine Dream's music of the time is no surprise. The good news is that this was Tangerine Dream's golden period (1973-83) and some of Froese's solo efforts are comparable to that band's best releases.
Aqua (1974) and Epsilon in Malaysian Pale (1975) are lush, surreal and intoxicating. Both are classic slices analogue electronica and old-school Berlin ambient. The also prove beyond doubt that Froese was one of the great mellotron technicians of his time, using its slightly otherworldly sampled string and choral sounds to brilliant effect. Aqua is the more abstract of the two. It features an abundance of weird and wonderful watery effects as per the title and the combination of said effects and Gothic organ on "Upland" is particularly eerie and effective. Epsilon In Malaysian Pale is more melodic and Froese again makes superb use of mellotron and synthesisers, this time to create a rich tropical tapestry with neo-romantic classical touches. Both albums feature those familiar bubbly pulses and rhythmic throbs of the mid-70's synth music, a reminder of what primitive sequencers sounded like before Kraftwerk introduced the world to more defined electro beats.
After Epsilon Froese quickly recorded the rather different Macula Transfer (1976). It's a marvelous record and some of it stands quite apart from the TD music of the time. Although there's now a crisper pulse and the mellotron sounds still swirl about with the expected trippiness, on two guitar-dominated tracks the riffing and keyboard stabs are cheerfully rough and raw and the end result is surprisingly powerful. As with colleague Peter Baumann's solo album Romance '76 (1976), Froese seems unafraid of the bum notes. A number of other tracks have haunting, deeply beautiful suspended strings as a backdrop with a cosmic sound that unmistakably echoes fellow Krautrocker Klaus Schulze.
The double album Ages (1977) is best avoided, suffering as it does from an excess of trite melodies and numbing repetition. On the other hand the beautifully crafted Stuntman (1979) is a full realisation of what Froese could do with great melodic writing, developed arrangements and pop-friendly synth technology. On Stuntman the mellotron is now gone and Froese is working with a mix of digital and analogue synths; the resulting sound is generally cleaner and the structures more clearly defined. "It Would Be Like Samoa" is only 10 minutes long but the skillful way its mini-episodes are fused together hints at the episodic TD epics that were just around the corner. The title track is a concise, immaculately crafted piece of ambient electro-pop with a rousing, piercing melody. The album is full of those crying synthetic melody lines so strongly associated with the Berlin-school which variously sound like a flute, a violin, or high-pitched orchestral strings.
The remaining Froese solo releases of this period are non-essential: Pinnacles (1983) has one great track ("Specific Gravity Of Smile") and lots of filler; there's also the patchy film soundtrack Kamikaze (1982) and the never-released-on-CD compilation Solo 1974-79 (1982).
After the early 80's Froese turned his attention full-time back to Tangerine Dream. Sadly, after several significant personnel losses the band succumbed to trite electro-rock cliches and new age earwash and never really recovered. His only latter-day solo album Dalinetopia (2004) is every bit as disappointing as the worst of post-80's TD.
And a word of caution: if you are new to Froese's solo work then go for the original Virgin/Caroline releases of the albums listed above and beware the post-2000 "re-issues" on the TDI label. Just as he did with some of Tangerine Dream's original recordings in later years, Froese couldn't keep from meddling with his solo legacy either. Not content to simply remaster the albums, he tinkered with past classics by needlessly overdubbing and/or re-recording. Not one of his Virgin-era solo albums is improved by the exercise and several are ruined in parts. Also note that all of the Froese solo "best-of" albums that have appeared since the 80's include tracks that have been subject to the same revisioning. You have been warned.