CHRIS FRANKE: Pacific Coast Highway (1991)
Updated: May 10, 2020
“Pay yourself a treat if you are into New Age. Because it's a good album for those who love New Age”
1 Black Garden View 4:53
2 Mountain Heights 3:27
3 Lontano Mystery 5:07
4 Big Sur Romance 2:20
5 Driving Into Blue 3:05
6 Purple Waves 5:10
7 Malibu Avenue 4:25
8 Cinnamon City Cliff 3:28
9 Wheels On Beach Park 4:51
10 Sunset Destination 1:33
11 Crystal Tree 4:32
12 Electric Becomes Eclectic 3:41
Private Music – 01005 82094 2
(CD 46:30) (V.F.)
(New Age, cinema, Esay Listening)
Finally, a first chronicle on Chris Franke's music on SynthSequences. As much in its Blog edition as the current edition. And why was it so long? Well, I would say that Chris' works, except for Klemania, are of a simplicity which is light years from what the brilliant engineer and percussionist used to be associated with. We're almost talking about New Age here, in fact it's New Age! And it's good to put things in context. For many, his departure from Tangerine Dream coincided with the more commercial vision of its music, such as created in the albums Optical Race, Lily on the Beach and Melrose. Well, these people, it was my case, received a whole shower of cold water when the reality of PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY caught up with us. This resolutely commercial album was a bitter disappointment for those who hoped for something more solid and electronic, of the Klemania genre which will appear 2 years later. And unlike an album of the genre of Le Parc, which has disappointed at its released, PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY doesn't have these ingredients that hooked us each time we listen it, without really understanding why we didn't like it at the beginning. A disappointing album which somewhat undoes this perception of marketing of the Tangerine Dream universe by Edgar Froese. Because if we can give one thing to this first solo album of Chris Franke, it's that never TD nor Edgar will have give an album as commercial as this PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY to the American media, nor to these people of commercial radio. Unlike this album which made the morning delights of the inhabitants of Los Angeles.
It's with an acoustic guitar, at the very least it sounds as such, that Black Garden View opens the new beginnings in composition of the new Chris Franke's album. These chords dance to a sympathetic synth shade while drifting towards more electronic tones to finally drift in this place where the rhythm no longer exists, even for these harmonious ballads. This melody lost in the pandemonium of rhythms in powder is torn with its forms and in various instrumentations with a slight hint of intensity at the end of its breath. At the time, and at this point in the album, I remember saying to myself; the best is coming. Although this long series of short titles started to scare me. I believed it with these guitar riffs and the falling arpeggios of Mountain Heights which brought me to the edge of Song of the Whale, Part One: From Dawn ... that we find in Underwater Sunlight. But no! Lontano Mystery reminds me of this new Chris Frank order with another ballad, this time the bass supports a rhythm, where the metallophone flute and arpeggios court in a New Age texture. Big Sur Romance is another rhythmless ballad sat on a piano with lines of sound effects that spin like streaks of winter powder. Driving Into Blue is a pure Muzak ballad played by a playful piano that could play endlessly on an Easy Listening radio station. Tell you my disappointment ... Phew!
Purple Waves brings me back a little with its ambient melody which seems to come from the sessions of Le Parc. It's really nice and above all very musical. Malibu Avenue is of the same genre, but with a greater sense of composition and an electronic approach that demonstrates all the talent of Chris Franke. The percussions and the arrangements also bring a greater dose of emotions, while this light melody on modified carbon which plays in the background becomes just as effective. Cinnamon City Cliff's very orchestral vision is a taste of an album that will define CF as the monarch of the New Age movement; The Celestine Prophecy. Wheels On Beach Park is in the same mold as Black Garden View. Maybe even livelier and sunnier. That makes music for the soap in the afternoon, while the short Sunset Destination is an extension of its acoustic introduction. Crystal Tree remains a good melody. The kind of thing that captures its title well in a nice choreography of dancing arpeggios in the shade of assorted flutes. Electric Becomes Eclectic is based on an ambient texture with a synth and its chants which vibrate in absolute darkness. There is just a synth here and its crystal clear echo.
This largely explains why I hadn't started a series of reviews on Chris Franke's solo albums. As much on my Blog as on this site. In the musical genre that prevails on this site, there is little to recommend in the universe of Chris. Certainly, The London Concert and Klemania are beautiful albums of the Berlin School genre. There are also some great soundtracks. I will speak to you again in the months and years to come. PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY can be found almost everywhere today. As much on CD, the prices are still reasonable, as well as streaming in versions remixed for these platforms. Pay yourself a treat, for those who like the genre. Because it's a good album for those who love New Age…
Sylvain Lupari (May 7th, 2020) *****