Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Edgar Froese

I was very sad last week to hear of the passing of Edgar Froese, the founding member of German electronic music pioneers, Tangerine Dream.

While I usually cite Jean Michel Jarre as a major influence on my own music, there is certainly no denying the influence of Tangerine Dream. Both artists began making ambitious and experimental electronic music around the same time, each pushing musical boundaries in their home countries. In fact, Tangerine Dream’s seminal 1974 album Phaedra does have a somewhat similar, if darker feel to Jarre’s Oxygène, which would emerge a couple of years later. 

Although I own many Tangerine Dream albums and tracks (they’ve recorded far too much to keep up with, especially in recent years), I actually know very little about the band and Froese in particular, which is a little unusual for me, as when I get into an artist’s work, I’ll usually find out much more about them beyond just the music. Yet Froese has remained somewhat enigmatic to me.

If anything, I was a bit of a latecomer to the party. I knew of their name for a long time, before ever investigating their music, which I did around 15 years ago. But I was instantly hooked. My introduction to their music was actually a 'best of' compilation on Disky Records, but that contained most of their famous works and encouraged me to go on to enjoy albums such as Exit, Phaedra, Zeit, Green Desert, Hyperborea and most recently, White Eagle.

While many people sing high praise for their early work, another generation was inspired by the albums that Tangerine Dream put out in the 1980s – I’d seen White Eagle namechecked many times, particularly by musicians producing computer game soundtracks in the late 80s and early 90s (which nicely leads me back to my previous blog!). Indeed the music on White Eagle – and countless other Tangerine Dream albums – is not unlike a computer game soundtrack; an ever-evolving soundscape forming a musical adventure of discovery and exploration.

Although an expanded band for live shows, in later years in the studio, Tangerine Dream and Edgar Froese were essentially one and the same thing – with the occasional contribution from his son Jerome and other musicians.  One particular favourite of mine is one of their lesser-known releases, Quinoa, originally a fan club release in 1992, though now readily available as a digital release. A quick discography check, and you come to realise just how many albums they’ve released – there’s always one you haven’t heard of and something new to explore. 

While their latter day music may not be as pioneering or iconic as their earlier albums, there is always an instantly recognisable Tangerine Dream sound and style – and although Froese has now departed for the great gig in the sky, that iconic sound and style will live on.

For me, the discovery of their music was yet another moment when I thought to myself: “I want to try and make music like this”. I’ll be the first to admit there’s a long way to go before reaching such a standard, but without their music, I might still just be thinking about the idea of making music rather than actually doing it. And for that, I’m grateful.

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