History of Electronic Music (Part 8)
European electronic music including Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder.
The European Scene
When the German Music Invasion began at the end of the sixties, breaking the Anglo-American stranglehold, it was spearheaded by a handful of groups, amongst them Amon Düül II, Can, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk. This new German music was diverse, exploring many new and often startling areas. At home they were supported by a huge and highly active back-up featuring such talent as Ash Ra Tempel, Agitation Free, Embryo and Neu.
Tangerine Dream probably epitomised more than any other group German electronic music in the late sixties-early seventies. Their founder, Edgar Froese, a trained artist and sculptor, entered music professionally in 1965. Influenced by British rock and roll, he formed a group called The Ones. After playing in Cadaques, North Eastern Spain, he met Salvador Dali and spent much time with him. The Ones did a concert in his villa, making music to go with his Christ Statue as well as working on a television film about Dali with the French producer J. C. Averty. This episode and Froese's increasing exposure to contemporary electronic music led him to break away from the limitations presented by a conventional rock band. With the break up of The Ones in 1967 he was in a position to form Tangerine Dream, a name he devised from the influential Sgt. Pepper album.
Initially Tangerine Dream were definitely a rock band, though often fluctuating inside and outside convention. Their first gig was in Berlin in January 1968 following four months solid rehearsal. The line up featured Edgar Froese - lead guitar, Volker Hombach - flute and violin, Lanse Hapshash - drums, Kurt Herkenberg - bass.
The student uprisings of that year were instrumental in determining the band's direction, demanding as they did a total break from the past. Songs that were structured were considered bourgeois! This philosophy led to free music, and Tangerine Dream often played five or six hours a night at the Zodiac Club in Berlin.
Despite its strong underground following this particular version of Tangerine Dream was not a commercial success and they split up in 1969. Two other formations were tried unsuccessfully, although the fourth version was successful and led to a recording deal with Ohr Musik. The line-up of Edgar Froese, Klaus Schulze (drums) and Conrad Schnitzler (cello, violin and flute) made an experimental tape which was released by Ohr in 1970 as Electronic Meditation1. Schulze then left, making way for one of the best young jazz drummers in Germany, Christoph Franke. Franke was formerly with Agitation Free, a seminal group on the German scene. He had studied with the Strasbourg Percussion Ensemble and had done a six month experimental course in which equal numbers of musicians and theatrical people discussed the relationship between music and the modern theatre. This line-up with Steve Schroyder (who replaced Schnitzler) recorded Alpha Centauri which was their first vaguely commercial success in Germany. Despite its success, Steve Schroyder left to be replaced by Peter Baumann. Peter had been playing organ with a rock outfit called The Ants. This line up became the most stable and went on to record for the next six years.
1972 saw Tangerine Dream recording Zeit their most experimental album to date. Zeit - largo in four movements - had a number of guest musicians on it; Steve Schroyder returned to play organ, Florian Fricke from the group Popol Vuh played Moog on one track, and there were four cello players. It was however the successor Atem that gave them the recognition they deserved outside Germany. British radio disc-jockey, John Peel, chose Atem as his album of the year. In early 1974 Phaedra their first international release on Virgin records, with whom they had recently signed, reached a vast number of people as a result of John Peel. Once again he was the only person playing the album on the radio. His airplay and enthusiasm led to its appearance in the Top Ten albums in Britain, although Tangerine Dream had neither played nor given press interviews in Britain. Phaedra's success led inevitably to UK concert appearances. The first of these in London introduced the British to Tangerine Dream's tradition of performing totally improvised music in almost darkness, without acknowledging the audience. They did use, on some occasions, a unique video synthesiser and a quadraphonic sound system, enveloping the audience in a total audio-visual environment. Tangerine Dream became established as a strange phenomenon on the international music scene, their records selling well and even going 'gold' in Australia.
The need to transform their performance into an 'event' rather than a concert led them to play in some unusual venues, among them Rheims Cathedral, which was later to be reconsecrated as a result of a 'lack of respect', a Roman amphitheatre in Southern France, Coventry Cathedral and two concerts at London's Albert Hall.
Years of extensive touring and the release of Rubycon and Ricochet - the latter partly recorded live - established Tangerine Dream as the German electronic band. William Friedkin, director of 'The French Connection' and 'The Exorcist' had become a fan of their music. He proposed that they make the soundtrack for his next film. It was no ordinary soundtrack; he had them make it before the film was shot. He then shot the film in direct relationship to the music.
During 1977, Steve Jolliffe who had left an earlier Tangerine Dream to join Steamhammer contacted Edgar with a view to rejoining. He had not been idle since leaving and had written much music for film as well as learning animation and super-imposition techniques.
Another new member, Klaus Krieger, an old friend of Froese, was interested in sculpture as well as drumming. These combined interests led to the building of his own unique drum set. This line-up released Cyclone in 1978; it included vocals written and sung by Steve Jolliffe. This experiment was not repeated and Force Majeur was a more traditional Tangerine Dream album than its predecessor. Their album releases since then have been less than inspired, but the recently reviewed Exit LP (E&MM, January 1982) is somewhat of an improvement showing their continued and innovative production of electronic music.
Tangerine Dream's personnel, both past and present, have produced many excellent and varied albums, the most prolific of these being original Tangerine Dream drummer, Klaus Schulze. His recording, Irrlicht - Quadrophonic Symphony for Orchestra and Electronic Machines2 - represents the culmination of ideas developed with his original band, Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream. Whilst it has a very slow pulse rate and as such demands careful listening in a near perfect environment, it is extremely rewarding. Klaus Schulze uses a dense velvet sound base as a foundation for this work; from this base emerge vibrant solo voices. A series of electronic sounds manifest themselves only to disappear a few moments later. It is typical of his work although several of his other albums are easier to assimilate on first hearing, for example, the music from Lasse Braun's film 'Body Love'3, 'Picture Music'4, or 'Blackdance'5.
Founder member of Tangerine Dream, Edgar Froese, has also released several solo albums, amongst them one of the first to use the 'artificial head' method of recording. This method produces 'out of head' sounds when listened to on headphones. Entitled Aqua6, it consists of just four tracks. The opening track 'ngc 891' characterises much of his work, slow pulses, gradual timbral transformation and layers of sound superimposed. The stratification of sonorous elements produces a transformation from monophonic to polyphonic textures, ornamented by tape echo and filter sweeps. It bears little resemblance to rock music other than the inclusion of an extended bass sequencer ostinato, indeed it could be considered a 'classical' electronic composition.
Former member, Peter Baumann, has three solo albums to his credit, the latest of these being Repeat Repeat. Baumann's solo projects are much more aligned with the mainstream of pop/rock music, so it is no surprise that he has now left Tangerine Dream to pursue a solo career.
Whilst it would be true to say that Tangerine Dream's music is for the head, their contemporaries, Kraftwerk, have gone on to produce electro-dance music, particularly towards the end of the seventies.
Apart from being the first pioneers of synthesised rock music, Kraftwerk became the first German group to top the British singles chart. With a song entitled 'The Model' at number one in Britain they finally realised their quest to produce a hit with an all-electronic orchestra. Ralf and Florian who lead the group first met in Dusseldorf in 1968 and have worked together ever since. Working with producer Conrad Plank, they broke away from their original band 'Organisation' to form Kraftwerk - literally 'power plant', a reflection on their industrial background.
The first album Kraftwerk7 released in 1972, sounds fairly conventional by today's standards, but it was their third album which started them on the road to being the most successful German electronic band. An edited version of the title track 'Autobahn' just failed to reach the top ten in 1975. Autobahn8 was an electronic reconstruction of a trip down a motorway. Over a solid rhythm, its production and 'catchyness' appealed to a large number of the record buying public. Shortly afterwards the group changed record labels, moving to Capitol/EMI from Vertigo. They had a minor hit again in 1978 with 'Neon Lights', a track from their most successful album up to that time, The Man Machine9.
During the group's career they have explored technology more than any other group, having developed a stage set more akin to a studio and using computer controlled equipment to a greater extent than any other band. The last album released by them, Computer World10, featured a pocket calculator as a sound source. The tour to promote the album's sales proved without a doubt that Kraftwerk are capable of touring and releasing albums as much or as little as they wish in the future - as the least conventional electronic band of all, just about all electro-dance bands owe them a debt of inspiration.
Kraftwerk's determination to produce electronic dance music was to some degree pre-empted by fellow German, Giorgio Moroder. Working in Munich at his disco 'factory', he produced some of the most popular electronic music, 'Euro Disco'. Donna Summer's I Feel Love with its electronic, trance inducing beat, released in 1977, led to Moroder enjoying more than a little success in this field of music. He released a succession of albums in this genre and has also been called upon to produce soundtracks, the most notable being for 'Midnight Express' and more recently 'Cat People'.
Giorgio Moroder undoubtedly popularised the use of the synthesiser/sequencer in music and was to some degree responsible for the extended version of 12" singles soon to become known as a Disco 12. Love to Love You Baby was notorious at the time (1976) for Donna Summer's orgasmic groans over the top of Giorgio's insistent 4/4 beat lasting some 16 minutes. The 'Disco Version' often made use of musical drama and instrumental texture rather than vocal personality or complexity. Euro Disco, rather than lengthen conventional pop-songs, began structuring long compositions to fill entire album sides with music which ebbed and flowed in one beat-driven but melodically different cut. At times light and 'poppy', sometimes dramatic and cold, often as minimalist as the avant garde, Euro Disco freed disco music from its desire to cannibalize the past and develop new forms, for example in Cerrone's Supernature, Giorgio Moroder's E = MC2 and Donna Summer's MacArthur Park Suite. The German electronic music scene has had a huge effect on pop music in general, and disco music in particular.
1. Electronic Meditation, Import.
2. Irrlicht Quadraphonic Symphony for Orchestra. Ariola 27582ET (Brain 1077).
3. Body Love. ILPS 9510-A.
4. Picture Music. Brain 1067.
5. Blackdance. Caroline CA20031, Del.
6. Aqua. Brain 0060. 404.
7. Kraftwerk. Vertigo 6641 077.
8. Autobahn. Mercury SRM-1-3704.
9. ManMachine. EST-11728.
10. Computer World. EMC-3370.
Feature by Derek Pierce
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