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Tangerine Dream: Rockface

As with any band that can boast a thirty-five year career (and counting), Tangerine Dream has spawned a legion of imitators and thrice as many critics, and has undergone more stylistic overhauls than arguably any other classic musical act. From the raspy, acidic, experimental psych-rock of Electronic Meditation to legendary spacemusic records like Zeit and Green Desert and the promulgation of the "Berlin School" format with Phaedra and Rubycon, every Dream release then and since sounded nearly like a different band, at least until 1980. Stratosfear, Cyclone and Force Majeure (the 1976-79 records) can even be legitimately referred to as full-blown prog rock with nary a mention of the tags "proto–" and "fringe–." With quite a few lineup changes to boot, the German group also had a penchant for the latest and greatest advances in synthesizer technology throughout the '70s & '80s — a facet that listeners came to expect as much as relish — at least until a temporary impasse before the advent of "virtual analog" synths.

The turn of the decade would see the group enter its most famous phase with the melodic "cine-rock" style encountered on landmark albums like Tangram, Exit, Le Parc, and Underwater Sunlight. 1980-85 member Johannes Schmoelling was replaced by a twenty-six year-old Austrian named Paul Haslinger who was similarly conservatory-trained, in 1986; after two more albums, Christoph Franke (who joined in 1971) made his exit after sixteen years of duty, and was almost as quickly replaced by another West Berliner, Ralf Wadephul. Coincidentally, both Edgar Froese (sole remaining founder since album #2) and Wadephul patronized the same hairdresser — which led to an opportunity for the latter compatriot, however brief it was to be. The unique, short-lived incarnation of Froese, Haslinger and Wadephul released Optical Race in 1988; though it didn't escape the shadow cast by the dreaded "new age" umbrella, the album was moderately successful for one of its ilk, thanks to adequate promotion by Private Music, the label founded by (as if by synchronicity) Peter Baumann, himself a member of Tangerine Dream from 1973-77. Another tour of America (one of the last) commenced, and sixteen years and many bootlegs later, Edgar Froese has finally issued an official unabridged memento, called Rockface—Live in Berkeley/San Francisco 1988.

Remastered by Edgar's son and partner in the band, Jerome, Rockface epitomizes the concept of overdue. Taken from the San Francisco/Berkeley show (it was really one concert), the setlist is intact and complete, including the encore of "Alexander Square" which wasn't played at every stop. A major bonus of every TD tour was the assurance of new/non-album material popping up in various places, such as "Parabola," a pre-album debut of "After The Call" from the [1989] soundtrack of Miracle Mile, and revamped excerpts of the title suites from Phaedra and Logos. Fans weren't sure what to expect with this new version of a Franke-less Dream; gone was Franke's huge modular setup that had occupied stage center since the mid-'70s. While Froese, Wadephul and Haslinger still played several keyboards apiece (with rackmount sounds switched remotely), the concert was primarily "orchestrated" by six Atari computers, two apiece to a player's rig. The stage design was semi-futuristic with greys and blacks provided by the cloaked backdrop, elevated platforms for Haslinger and Wadephul, and symmetrically-ordered sets of faux-piping that rested vertically at the front.

In all, the setlist proved to be a great and varied one, injecting a good deal of variety into the seatwarmers' veins with new material, Haslinger's classical interludes (a first), and the tandem guitar portion with Haslinger's rhythm to Edgar's lead (ditto). The foreboding cadence and haunting choirs of "Mothers Of Rain" segue directly into the percussive-laden "After The Call," the amplified pluck of a DX-bass cutting shapes in the air. Tyger is represented by a completely wordless version of the title track, and "Alchemy Of The Heart," both warm melodic numbers that gradually take full shape. Haslinger steps out for the first piano number, "Papyrus," and the set shifts into high gear by transporting the audience back to 1973 with the ethereal undulations of "Phaedra," one of the band's watermarks. The hi-fi sonic carousel continues with a chunk of "Livemiles" and a souped-up "Logos" (specifically, a segment used in the film, The Keep) — though it's much more digital-sounding than its predecessor, only an extra snare loop is added and none of the magic is lost. CD1 is capped by a new long piece called "Parabola," over eleven minutes. One of the highlights of the tour (and never to show up on an album), "Parabola" incorporates most, if not all, facets of TD's style with special regard to Haslinger's presence. The mood darkens somewhat as the track progresses and culminates

On to CD2: "Table Bay" is nothing more than a short bridge between "Parabola" and the extended improvisation, "Nomad's Scale," the dual guitar showcase. Froese expertly rips it up, adequately channeling Hendrix (his original inspiration for picking up a guitar), down to the tone and phrasing — a swell rockin' ten minutes. A blitz for the new album resumes with "Cat Scan," "Atlas Eyes," "Ghazal," and the stately "Marakesh," the opener from Optical Race. Encores feature [the extended single version of] "Alexander Square" (which hasn't aged too well); a second piano outing in "The Silent League"; the underrated "Canyon Voices"; and finally, the title track of Optical Race, which, truthfully speaking, was the groups's most formulaic, poppy and trite serving of tunecrafting, to date (for the time).

While Rockface is certainly a must for any T-fan, a huge jeer — nay, a colossal, Godzilla-sized jeer — must be vented toward Edgar and TDI for choosing to make this available through as few outlets as humanly possible (and none in America, to boot). Available for purchase through only TDI's online shop (no secure server), Groove Records in the Netherlands (has a secure server), and who knows which other two or three Euro outlets, not only is this rather inconvenient for non-Europeans (considering the shipping costs), but the wait is a long one. Expect at least one month (if not six to eight weeks) to receive this little booger in your mailbox, even if you paid for faster shipping. I can imagine few greater deterrents to anyone waiting to order future similarly-marketed items.


— Disc One — {55:41}
1. Mothers Of Rain
2. After The Call
3. Tyger
4. Alchemy Of The Heart
5. Papyrus
6. Phaedra '88
7. Live Miles
8. Logos '88
9. Parabola

— Disc Two — {51:55}
1. Table Bay
2. Nomad's Scale
3. Cat Scan
4. Atlas Eyes
5. Marakesh
6. Eden's Gate
7. Ghazal

8. Alexander Square
9. The Silent League
10. Canyon Voices
11. Optical Race

Total time: 107:36

Added: July 19th 2004
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: Tangerine Dream Dot Org (Official Site)
Hits: 5666
Language: english

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