Hailing from Berlin, Tangerine Dream were a pioneering force in electronic music during the 70s; their explorations into experimental and ambient paving the way for many artists to follow.
The Zodiac Free Arts Lab in Berlin was the space where the group first came together, performing regularly as a house band. Although they went through many iterations, the core members included founder Edgar Froese and frequent collaborators Christopher Franke and Peter Baumann, who weaved together various styles and influences from ambient and synth escapades to prog and folk.
In April the band announced that Universal had remastered a deluxe box set of original recordings in stereo entitled In Search Of Hades, that includes the albums Phaedra, Rubycon, Ricochet, Stratosfear, Encore, Cyclone and Force Majeure, as well as a series of outtakes and three full concerts. Originally released on Virgin Recordings, all these original compositions were recorded between the years of 1973 and 1979 and represent a definitive period of the band's history.
One of the core members Peter Baumann takes us through some of the tracks on the recently remastered recordings...
We recorded this in oxford in the Manor recording studio - we were there for about three weeks total. Phaeadra was the first album that we recorded there - we were always improvising and that improvisation was from A - Z, which means that not only did we sit together and improvise the music but also the recording process, the mixing process, there wasn’t always structure to it. Sometimes we would record something that was right on and sometimes it was manipulated quite a bit.
Now with Phaedra there was a very unique way of how it came about… We’d worked a couple of days in the studio and recorded some sketches, and then I was sitting in the control room and Christoph was playing and checking out something on the Moog sequencer and we just looked at each other and said this sounds great, so we recorded it, Christoph was unaware that we were already recording it.
We were using some parts that were recorded before and we used those parts for the intro to Phaedra and we manipulated it quite a bit with delays and echoes and different outboard equipment to give it this real spacious sound. In general Phaedra as a piece was kind of a dream-like trip, you can hear a couple of kids playing on a playground which gets louder and that was kind of waking up from that journey, that music was supposed to inspire. It was a non-conceptional journey that would shift and land on a deserted planet if you will; an emotional journey into unknown territories.
There were some elements we overdubbed after getting the basic chords together, we tried out different sounds, they were elements that we treated heavily during the recording and afterwards as well, that was basically the whole framework for Phaedra…
A lot of people have said that they are listening to it when they drive in the car, hopefully they haven’t inhaled anything while they are doing that. We always felt that the music was for individuals, very personal music, and also for listening with headphones or in a dark room. It's certainly not something that's a real public event when listening to this song.
That was mostly Edgar. He got into the studio early and he started to make some sketches and then we worked on that together. The mood again is very similar, the whole time it was always an adventure into sonic landscapes and moods that were transcending the daily grind of life. It was a little bit of an expansion beyond the everyday.
The common element with the tracks was space, the further out the better, starting at late night with a beautiful moon, it was music that was transcending planet earth. We liked water and the desert, because there were no man made buildings, we liked these austere kind of environments.
Moments of Visionary
This was made at a time where we were travelling a lot to concerts and listening to a lot of music in the car, “classic electronic” music from musicians like Stockhausen, that’s always filtered into what kind of music we wanted to do. A lot of tracks were also inspired by new instruments we had. We had a classic moog, we had the Arp 2600, then the Mellotron. We were making custom tapes for the mellotron which was really quite influential, we got close to the company and we gave them recordings and it was kind of the first sampler if you want. We would record any kinds of noises or strange instruments that weren’t normally available and they would put them into the Mellotron for us, so that was a big inspiration as well.
That was the only track that we ever did that didn’t have any synthesizers on it. We needed another track for the album and I stayed up one night and recorded a flute that was a baritone flute and that particular track was influenced very much by the timing of the delays so I was playing against myself, I would play a phrase and then I would hear the phrase and then play another phrase against it.
I don’t have them separated in my head but all in all they certainly fit in that period of time. They did a fantastic job mastering all the tracks, I was very pleased with how well they had mastered them.
As far as the outtakes are concerned I wouldn't have been embarrassed if they were part of Phaedra as well. What I especially liked, I think it was the first outtake, was that it didn’t have any rhythms to it, it was just the pads and the Mellotron. I liked the sparseness. It’s amazing that with little instrumentation you can create such a rich sound and that really happened on that particular outtake. This is true for all the outtakes, in those days I mean we just had a 16 track machine to begin with and when we improvised we all had our station. You know usually most of these outtakes and the first tracks we laid down were always just complete tracks so one from Edgar, one from Christoph and one from myself, and it’s actually quite remarkable how much can be accomplished from those three major tracks, and they were all stereo so it was in fact six tracks.
It was the second record we did for Virgin and that was actually a more developed track than we usually had. We played in the studio and then the main seed developed, and in a different session Edgar played the guitar and we thought oh that could fit together. It was a piece that was not played in one go, it was basically different sections that we edited in the studio together.
Stratosphere was actually very influenced by our live playing. In those days during the recording of it, which happened in Germany, we played live a lot, so it came out of several long sessions in a studio in Berlin. There were some sections that we filled in afterwards but that was pretty much one piece. There were two overdubs that were interesting: one of them I was with Edgar in the mixing room and Christoph was playing and checking out some new sounds, and I said to Edgar hey this could fit perfectly into the track, so we had the sound engineer record it without Christoph even being aware of it. With the second, we couldn’t get one particular section right and we were tired and Christoph and Edgar wanted to go to dinner, so I said I’ll stay in the studio and for a couple of hours I worked on this particular solo for Stratosphere, they came back and enjoyed it and said yep, done.
Ricochet (Pt. 1 and 2)
Ricochet is one of my favourite tracks. We were travelling on tour with a four track machine and we recorded every concert and both sides came from a live concert. We just took particular sections and added some things to it and deleted some other tracks, but the basis for both sides came from a four track machine that recorded live. You can hear that some things are a bit out of time, you know they were half played with a sequencer and there are some things that are a little bit out of tune, but I don’t mind it, I think it gives the whole track a great character.
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