Peter Baumann

Exactly who did what in the pioneering electronic band Tangerine Dream during its various 70's and 80's incarnations has always been something of a mystery, except perhaps to other electronic musicians. Given that member Peter Baumann's first solo album Romance '76 (1976) is one of the classic albums of Berlin-school ambient, his contribution to TD must have been been significant.

artist:
Peter Baumann

country of origin:
Germany

style(s):
Krautrock, Berlin-school, ambient trance, ambient pop, synthpop, neoclassical

decades active:
70's - 80's, then 10's

essential releases:

  • Romance '76 (1976, Virgin)
  • Trans Harmonic Nights (1979, Virgin)
  • Machines of Desire (2016, Bureau B)

Reviewed by Mike G

Peter Baumann was among of the "Holy Five" core members of pioneering German band Tangerine Dream during its various 70's and 80's incarnations, alongside Edgar Froese, Chris Franke, Johannes Schmoelling and Paul Haslinger. Exactly who did what in the band in the early days has always been something of a mystery, except perhaps to other electronic musicians. Given that Baumann's first solo album Romance '76 (1976) is one of the classic albums of Berlin-school ambient, his contribution to TD must have been been significant.

Chris Franke admired Baumann's talent, if not his ambition, telling music journalist Mark Prendergast many years later:

"Peter was a very smart person. But we always wondered if he was a musician by deep heart. He could play music but could do other things too. Myself and Edgar were born for music and we had to do music. Peter played the game with us, and for a long time understood exactly what we were up to, so we shared a lot of musical experiences. Peter's speciality was in conceiving the music - we discussed it, and then we played it. He knew that great music not only comes from virtuosity, but also from the mental state. That concept was very important to us, because we were making free-form music. But Peter always had a desire to go further on. He dreamt about a life that was more chic and yuppie-oriented, while myself and Edgar were more interested in being down-to-earth and continuing along the path."

Romance '76 actually came out a year before he left the band but it remains his solo masterwork, a sparser variation of the sequenced electronics heard on his former band's Stratosfear (1976) album. It's a perfect snapshot of mid-70s' sequencer-driven electronica. The melodies are seductive and shadowy and there's a certain looseness - bum notes and all - that's rare in the genre. Most impressive of all is the two-part “Meadow Of Infinity”. Part One features dramatic flourishes from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, while Part Two develops one of the most extraordinary and eerily beautiful melodies from the Mellotron keyboard that's ever been committed to record.

Baumann's second album Trans Harmonic Nights (1979) is more pop-orientated than Romance '76 but remains an utterly charming slice of early ambient pop, with a sprinkling of acoustic instruments including live drums thrown into the mix. It's a good deal more minimalist in its arrangements and use of loops than Tangerine Dream's music of the same period, making it quite distinct from the classic Berlin-school sound.

After the 1970's only two more solo albums appeared, both released in the early 80's. They opt for a crisp, mainstream synthpop sound ala Kraftwerk but are not especially distinctive examples of a style that was by that stage flooding the market in Europe and the UK. Baumann's solo musical career then effectively ended. He later moved to the USA where he founded the slick new age/adult alternative label Private Music, catching the wave of new age music's transition from underground ambience to often bland but lucrative instrumental pop and jazz. In the 2000's Baumann retired from the music business altogether, reinventing himself has a business guru and motivational speaker.

Then - after a ridiculously long sabbatical of 33 years - Baumann suddenly returned to recording with Machines of Desire (2016). And the news is good, because the same peculiar qualities that made his two 70’s solo albums distinctive from the rest of his bandmates can be heard in abundance once again. It's dark-edged, sparse, dynamic ambient pop-rock, with classical Romantic flourishes and a keen ear for minimalist repetition. On a sad note, some of the music started life as a planned collaboration with TD founder Edgar Froese just before the latter’s sudden death in early 2015.  Machines of Desire is released on the Bureau B label, keeper of the current Krautrock flame (e.g. Düsseldorf band Kreidler), and also a curator of many archival delights.

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