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EDGAR FROESE: Aqua (1974)

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

“Aqua is a work of creation that has opened many doors to the sound exploration and to the parameters in a fusion between abstract and harmony”

1 Aqua 16:58  2 Panorphelia 9:38  3 NGC 891 13:49  4 Upland 6:35 Virgin CDV2016 (CD 47:57) (V.F.) (Ambient vintage Berlin School)

It's through a damn flu filled with a Neanderthal virus that I undertook a series of reviews (March 2009) about the solo works of one of the most important figures in contemporary EM who is also the founder of Tangerine Dream; Edgar W. Froese. And credit where credit's due, I begin with the very enigmatic AQUA. Abstracted musical universe and rich sound structures, here what depicts quite well the impression that leaves this first solo album by Edgar Froese. The icy blue of the artwork with a brightness of ice, more coordinated than the musical art itself, announces an album in a very Berlin style for this progressive electronic period where the music is in hiding behind innovative ideas that are the privilege of the solitary creators of a Berlin scene which tries to surpass the British invasion of progressive music. That's where bloomed so many interesting names like Schulze, Gottsching, Schneider, Fricke and Froese. This dear Edgar who will become one of the most interesting character in contemporary EM. I remember my first contacts with the cold and very hermetic world of the title-track. I discover the music of TD on the late with albums like Tangram, Thief and White Eagle. We are in 1984 and Risky Business, the movie, works pretty good here with the performance Rebecca De Mornay and her sweet little face. I hardly digested Phaedra (which I will consider as a masterpiece after a few years of Black Metal) that my friend decides to make me swallow AQUA. Oh...that the first gulps were in lack of thirst. But docilely, my ears get formed to the wonderful universe of the minimalist music (Mike Oldfield and Tubular Bells), prog and folk (Genesis and Selling England by the Pound or the brilliant Ghost by The Strawbs) and progressive electronic music in cleanly spoken, Jean-Michel Jarre and his Oxygene in 1976, Vangelis and Spiral in 1977 and Synergy's Cords also in 1977. It's a little through this mishash of sounds and noises that I finished to pierce the mysterious beauty of EM and the world of Tangerine Dream.

I know, it's a long prelude to properly speak about this album. But one doesn't love AQUA who wants or who would like to. Because Edgar's first solo album was a bit outside the boundaries and pushed even farther the limits of the auditive explorations. Recorded at Froese's apartment with a homemade technology, which consisted in getting diverse sound sources from earphones installed on the ears of a model, Aqua begins in a water sonic fauna with fine rhythmic modulations which survive in a stagnant swamp and where sound planktons merge with the abyssal beauty of a terminal phase. There is something there to close our eyes and dream. To imagine this perplex and atonal ode with some great green smoke coming out of a big joint. Some strings of sound effects follow one another in a pond with undulations create by knocks of reams or by pure whim of a poet without verses. This is a strange music, in a strange universe that continues with Panorphelia and its sequenced structure pulsing on a good wandering Mellotron. And the Mellotron on AQUA is quite exquisite. It's the cornerstone of this album. Hypnotic, soft but heavy Panorphelia kisses the frontiers of Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares. With NGC 891, one plunges back in the underground universe of sound effects where the rural traffic is melting into the noises of jet planes on an intro that is late to adopt the superb imposing presence of Chris Franke on the big Moog Modular. This is an excellent track which grows with efficiency and which has to nothing envy to Pink Floyd's On the Run, although less violent but strangely more elaborate. As for me, it's Edgar's first power rhythmic track. Upland ends with huge church organ and its circular layers which captures all sound forms of energy, a little bit like a hurricane chaser. I like this fusion of ecclesiastical organ in a context of sound modernity. Very experimental, but not really musical, Upland depicts marvellously AQUA and the complexity of sound researches from Mr. Froese.

AQUA isn't really what I could named a harmonious, nor melodious album. It's a work of creation that has opened many doors to the sound exploration and to the parameters of fusion between the abstract and the harmony, for a more musical creativity in the years which followed this fascinating album. I eventually ended to find it kind of nice. It's a form of communication between the abstract and the perceptive beauty of an author who has a creative and audacious imagination. You will understand why it took me some time to finally enjoy this first solo work of dear Edgar. And if you can put your hands on the first version from Virgin, grab it. Avoid if possible this tangentized version that Edgar released over the last years. And mostly the Aqua 2005 version. Although the Virgin Years seems quite good.

Sylvain Lupari (March 1st, 2009) ***½**

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