Archive for the ‘Stratosfear’ Tag

Tangerine Dream SACDs (five different ones)

I like having playback gear that is revealing, but not annoyingly revealing. I like hearing recordings where people think they are getting away with something: Chatter they think the band will drowned out or performance and mixing mistakes they think no one will notice. While this small stuff may be just that, it is (in part) what makes recordings human.

And that is one of the things I like so much about the vintage TD releases: They are quite human. Talking about TD and their Human Condition reminds me of a shitty, pseudo-pithy review in the Rolling Stone Record Guide (The original Red book) of one of the TD records on Virgin. It went something like, “Music for people who want to grow up to be a synthesizer.” If whoever wrote that review is reading this… Eat Paste. Not only are you wrong, you are not especially good at it. I’ll cop low, and simply invoke Lester Bangs’ name here. He’s swingin’ somewhere out near the L-5 point and pissing on your head, you just have the feeling confused with… Cosmic Rain. Back on the beam…

As the 1960s came to a close (and musically imploded), TD unleashed their debut, the first of the four records on the Ohr label that make up the “Pink” years. TD’s four years at Ohr had them progress from Electronic Music Art Brut to sprawling, side-long Inner-Space Music epics.

The fourth release, Atem, got a lot of exposure thanks to John Peel making it his pick for Record Of The Year. That lead to Virgin Records signing TD to a five-year contract, bringing the Pink Years to a close. One thing that continued into the Virgin era was some stability: Atem was the debut of the classic, Froese/Franke/Baumann line-up.

About a year ago, the first four Virgin releases (Phaedra, Rubycon, Ricochet, Stratosfear) were re-released in Japan as Super Hard Material Super Audio Compact Disc (SHM-SACD). Since they are Japanese imports, expect to pay about USD$35 per disc (plus shipping). Also, these are not hybrid discs: They will work only with an SACD player. And so…

Phaedra shows TD crawling out of the primordial soup, and starting to walk upright. Sequencer driven, there is a lot more structure and direction, and a lot less “sprawl” than previously. That said, the structure is both dense and thick in places. It indeed sounds like 1974.

Rubycon was a huge step forward, both sonically and materially. A cornerstone record, one can hear the group gain further understanding of the things they are creating, and thus better control of their sequencers and other instruments. There are parts of Rubycon that TD continued to refer back to and explore (and lift), as much as a decade later. Rubycon was the record that really put them on the map, and deservedly so. However, the beginning of Side 2 is still tedious…

Ricochet is their first live album and something of a step back. Compiled from UK and France shows in ’75, it has been referred to as “plodding” by some. I would have to disagree, and suspect that view comes from comparing it to the the previous release (Rubycon). That comparison lacks context: With a live gig they are limited to the gear at hand, without the benefit of studio support to help add controlled layers of… stuff.

Stratosfear is easily the sonic superior of the lot. Compositionally, I think it is the weakest of the four. I don’t have a problem with the move to less-than-side-long-epics, but they do have to be done well.

Stratosfear is indeed music they needed to make. It is a huge, evolutionary step forward that shows TD getting the equipment further sorted out. While Stratosfear lays the groundwork for the remainder of their stay at Virgin Records, listening to it, it plays as merely a stepping stone to future greatness. Simply, I just don’t find it all that compelling.

In the title, I refer to “five different ones.” In 2001, Virgin Records re-issued Rubycon on SACD. I managed to track one down a few years later via mail order from Canada, and at the original price. The 2001 release is also a single layer disc, so, it will not work with a regular CD player.

The comparison of the two re-issues is one of subtleties. Of the two, the 2001 release definitely sounds more analog.  Any problems strike me as the result of a more “hands off” mastering approach then vs. now. In other words, we hear old mistakes, not new ones.

The 2015 release has a little more detail, and when A-Bd with the 2001, it sounds like a veil has been lifted. But, it also sounds a tad juiced. Specifically, like a little compression has been added, along with a few instances of levels running a little too hot. Also, it sounds like some tape damage has crept in over the ensuing 15 years.

If you don’t have both versions of Rubycon to compare, you will probably be happy with either one. In comparison, the 2001 release is the better of the two. However, I wouldn’t spend more than what the current issue costs to secure one.

(and so)

To put them in some sort of best-to-worst ranking, and because context can be everything…

Sonically: Stratosfear, Rubycon, Ricochet, Phaedra

As a record collector / casual fan: Rubycon, Ricochet, Phaedra, Stratosfear

As more of a bog-standard TD fan: Rubycon, Stratosfear, Ricochet, Phaedra

My preference: Phaedra and Ricochet (tied), then Rubycon. Phaedra and Ricochet are two of my favorite TD records. I only bought this SACD of Stratosfear to review it.