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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Tangerine Dream Tangram (1980)

A great welcoming from Johannes Schmoelling in this Tangram which is a brilliant continuity of Force Majeure

1 Tangram Set I 19:47 2 Tangram Set II 20:28

Virgin CDV 2147

(CD 40:15) (V.F.)

(Berlin School)

TANGRAM is a reflections' game that could be compared to a Chinese puzzle. But in reality it's more than that! It's the beginning of a marvelous musical epic where EM, as known at that time, was evolving towards always complex horizons, but with a much more melodious approach. Above all, it's the arrival of Johannes Schmoelling, a classical musician who will give Franke and Froese a more poetic and melodious prose. In my opinion, and my observations over the Internet, TANGRAM is the beginning of a new era with high quality albums and memorable concerts that will range from 1980, with the mega-concert of January 31(East Berlin Palast der Republik), to the Legend album in 1986. TANGRAM is also a musical puzzle with a collection of rhythms, ambient passages and melodies that merge into a mosaic of 40 minutes divided into 2 parts, for the needs of vinyl records of the time.

From the first notes, we feel that the vibe will be special. A synth whistles enchanting fluted layers whose breaths espouse the floating move of a melody that twirls and whirls with the drunkenness of a leaf refusing to flee its tree. An incantation for lycanthropes, the opening of Tangram Set One bathes in a haunting aura of mystery with the addition of another synth line. This meeting point supports a thin bass line that pulsates gently, meeting at random scattered notes of keyboards and guitars. This introduction is very oneiric and captivating to the point that we forget the latent crescendo that rises as Tangram Set One opens on sumptuous harmonious layers, a line of sequenced pulsations and drum rollings which accompany the flute of an infantryman forgotten in the decor. The rhythm boiling, Tangram Set One is flying over furious synth and guitar solos, casting a heavy and wild structure like Force Majeure before forking to a more symphonic passage, and then silence ... A silence washed down with a star rain drawn by a soft dreamy piano. We are only at the 8th minute. Things evolve constantly and the piano lays down the beginning of a superb melody that will be born from a fusion synth/piano under the eye of a noble acoustic six-string. This soft intermission leads us into the tortuous metal universe of TD. Balls of steel clash in the loss of their echoes up until a synth filled with vapor mist realigns the senses and drives the movement to the heavy melodious meanders of Tangram Set One. This synth throws chords and bits of melodies that are subdivided into a furious line of sequences, spewing the venom of its harmonies like an owl possessed by the spirit of a synthesizer. The last part whips our hearing with a great ride of sequences with split and intersecting chords which is the main support of a maelstrom of unfulfilled melodies. Jets of melodies in constant motion swirl in all directions to land in the claws of a guitar and its roars. Heavy riffs of keyboard, powerful resonant pulsations, metallic percussions and a decreasing sequence, a little like The Who's Won't get Fooled Again, complete this crazy section. It's like a big psychedelico-progressive rock, with its melodious imprint, which ends in the sweet nebulosity of a nice synth solo which singing a wonderful lullaby, and which is missing its sweet madness.

More complex and tortuous, Tangram Set Two follows almost the same modulations but with a more obscure and psychedelic approach that looks more like Force Majeure. The intro is swarmed with synth layers that intertwine and coil up in an opaque inertia. This slow intro morphic, fed of fine oscillations, awakens with heavy apocalyptic reverberations that cover a fluty synth and the solitary chords of an acoustic guitar. A powerful staccato movement follows. It gallops on a spasmodic sequence which adopts the form of a train running at high speed across plains of misplaced melodies and spectral voices. A pattern that will survive the years and that will be used more than 40 years later. Disconcerting atmospheric passages, drum rolls and a fusion of tones of aluminum getting cold are filling Tangram Set Two's diverse ambiences and phase of rhythms as well as its sweet melodious approaches. Metallic and limpid, the synths buzz with weight and harmony. Heavy and wild, the sequences are rolling like a mad train. These elements, intermingled with explosions of guitars, metallic percussions, sound effects and voices from beyond the grave make of this second portion of TANGRAM a labyrinth of sounds and music both heavy and complex. A rather convoluted and still melodious structure which continues to be renewed into loops and musical spells that have become timeless moments. Even with the arrival of Schmoelling, Tangerine Dream remains daring and remains on the lookout for the smallest disparate elements to mark its territory of unknown excesses.

In the end, TANGRAM is a superb album which bathes into a heavy dark and dramatic vibe, like two long psychotronic nightmares where werewolves and mythical beasts eat away our fantasies eroded by our greed for the unknown. It's a brilliant suite to Force Majeure where rhythms, atmospheres and melodies intertwine in a perfect symbiosis, thus explaining the perfect logic behind the choice of the title. Flanked by Schmoelling, the duo Franke and Froese arrives to new lands with a new sound and a much more melodious approach where the piano takes more space. For many fans, including myself, this is the beginning of the most beautiful period of Tangerine Dream...

Sylvain Lupari (September 9th, 2006) *****

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