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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

TANGERINE DREAM: Quinoa (1992-2009)

“Not what I would describe as a stroke of genius, Quinoa stays all the same a very honest album in those years”

1 Voxel Ux 12:01 2 Quinoa 28:27 3 Lhasa 9:49 Membran 232644

(CD 50:17) (V.F.) (Zen Music, Electronic Rock, New Berlin School)

Here's an album that has caused a lot of ink to flow. Some fans will say; the album of betrayal! And I remember very well the reaction of two friends when they realized that QUINOA was no longer an exclusive title for members of the Tangerine Dream fan club. But the world of Dreams; from the founder to management and marketing, being at the same time the prerogative of commercialism, and especially of the systematic blindness of a legion of unconditional fans who drank of this music, whatever the tastes, had the free hand to exploit their music for all purposes and their fans because the end justifies the means. Thus, the first raison d'être of QUINOA will be lost in two reissues which will forever destroy its sentimental value. Chronologically, this album appeared on radars in 1992 on a very obscure German label. Pressed in 1,000 copies, it flirted with the 30-minute mark and was intended for members and future members of the Tangerine Dream fan club. The few remaining CDs were sold during the concert tour in Germany in 1997. In the summer of 1998, the management of Tangerine Dream reissued this QUINOA on their new label Tangerine Dream International. This new edition included two bonus titles: Voxel Ux, which was originally composed for the winner of a contest for the TD official website in 1996, and Lhasa, an ambient title which will be the first movement of the Tibetan Dream cycle and which was going to know its outcome with the album The Seven Letters From Tibet. And finally, QUINOA was going to be reborn in 2009 with a new envelope during the mega release of some sixty albums in digipack of CDs in digipack format from the German label Membran. If we follow the story, the fan club members and the contest winner were fooled. What about music?

First, let's talk about Quinoa, the title-track which turns out to be a good reflection of Tangerine Dream's steps between the 80's to 90's. Sober the intro is agitated by this sound structure which personifies the entity of the Dream of the 90's; beat machine, synth with enveloping layers but absent soul and whose thin charms are drowned in the breaths of a very ethereal sax and vocalizations so mechanical that they are tasteless and boring. Around the 6th minute Froese and Co released what is called a bridge; a suspended musical segment which serves as passages between two evolutive phases. This 2nd phase (8:40) livens up the movement with an electronic rock style that will be exploited with a little more bite on 220 Volts Live (Two Bunch Palms). And so scrolls the 28 minutes of Quinoa. From honeyed structures (almost ambient) to more dynamics, the Froese father-and-son tandem shows that it can build long musical structures which are only the shade of the great works of yesteryear. Yet the potential is there; ambivalent structures, heavy rhythms and good sequencing attempts a la Franke-style movements. But everything is sanitized by synth strata out of emotion, breaths of a sax which are only sampled on repetitive movements and rhythm machines which show the immaturity of Jerome who strikes where he does should not and who does not hit where it should be. And yet the past of Dream catches up with Quinoa with synths with philharmonic tones (sometimes you would think you feel the breaths of Rubycon) on passages with heavy batteries a la Franke. But it all falls flat because we have the amazing (and tiring) feeling that our ears are swimming between Optical Race, Melrose and Rockoon sessions. It's not really bad, nor really good. But it's cold and empty. A bit like quick work when with a little more time (of passion?) Quinoa could easily have become a turning point in this father / son edition of Tangerine Dream. We get tired of it quite easily, especially after hearing Two Bunch Palms on 220 Volts Live, but it's a nice effort by Edgar and Jerome who ultimately sign here a fairly decent work in the repertoire of the TDI years.

After the hesitant introduction molded by the tinkling of a delicate artificial piano, Voxel Ux delves into the electronic tumult of Rockoon and Goblins Club with raging guitars in an approach all the same less electronic rock. The tempo becomes more dramatic with an increased intensity of the chords which continually dither between pure and hard rhythm and melancholy. A nice duality that breathes what the Dream has offered since its Melrose years. It's good and well done, but it's also very mechanical and without really artistic depth since everything you hear there has already passed through the furrows of works after the Melrose years and before Tyranny of Beauty. Except that it remains a fairly interesting title in terms of modulations and permutations of structures, without forgetting that the bass line is quite solid. A good title! Lhasa is a good ambient title which will serve as a springboard for Seven Letters from Tibet. A very New Age title with a synth play and sober layers that command a period of meditation.

Taken over and redistributed by the Membran label, QUINOA is Tangerine Dream's transitional album par excellence, of Edgar and Jerome Froese years. A nice album, I have to be honest, which just can't be compared in any way to what the Dream has offered many times, but which is clearly more musical than Rockoon and other musical perplexities of the Melrose and Seattle years. I liked it, but it seems to me that with a little more emotion QUINOA would have been much more incisive, more sharp. Instead, we have an album that looks much more like a collage of structures already chewed a few times, but from which Edgar would have extracted the best roots. And sometimes, too much is like not enough!

Sylvain Lupari (August 23rd, 2010) ***½**

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