TANGERINE DREAM: Tyger (1987-2012)
“Sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes harmonious and sometimes insipid, Tyger has this odor of an era which is dying of its uncertainty”
1 Tyger 5:49 2 London 14:24 3 Alchemy of the Heart 12:15 4 Smile 6:11 5 21st Century Common Man, Part One 4:49 6 21st Century Common Man, Part Two 4:03 7 Vigour 4:57 8 Tyger (single 7") 4:27 Jive Electro CHIP 47 & Esoteric Reactive EREACD 1030 (CD 61:53) (Melodic and progressive New Berlin School) (V.F.)
TYGER is TD's latest studio album with Chris Franke. This is also the last Tangerine Dream album to appear on the top 100 of the English charts. It's the swan song! This is the last waltz of the famous duo Franke and Froese who, in my opinion, are the Lennon and McCartney of EM. But unlike the Beatles, who left us a splendid album as an inheritance, Franke and Froese leaves each other in the controversy. And sowing consternation among fans of Dream with an album that uses, for a second time in all the discography of the German group, a vocalist. After the Cyclone fiasco, still denied by Edgar Froese more than 35 years later, Tangerine Dream retains the services of a R & B singer, Jocelyn Bernadette Smith, to beautify an album inspired by the English painter's poems William Blake. Far from being an artistic disaster, the album is based on the same lines as Underwater Sunlight and follows this slow bend of disappointment that has plagued fans since Tangerine Dream infuses to its music an increasingly harmonic approach that is less and less progressive and experimental. A bit as if the creation of so many soundtracks had got the better of the mythical German band.
And yet, the title-track starts pretty well this new adventure of the Dream with a delicate structure which enchants as much by its grace as its sensitivity. The chords that introduce us to Tyger tinkle like a rhyme. It's an ideal music to sing, or to narrate, in the repertoire of the Dream because of its slow and spheroidal tempo that swings into oblivion while relying on sequences floating slightly like the wings of a ballerina. It's like a carousel whose spring comes back up just before going to bed. One can easily imagine grandmother, personified by Mrs. Smith, reciting a dark poem before getting to sleep on a music near the limits of Legend. The voice of Jocelyn Bernadette Smith floats with emotion and passion (we will learn later that she was particularly shocked in the studio). It brings a thin line of heat and a seductive dimension to this lullaby a bit mephistophelic that eats a bit in the trough of Song of the Whale. Her performance on London is also good. She works out her voice as Franke seems desperately trying to make roll his sequences and percussion into the new rhythmic patterns of a Dream that is searching for itself. And that's where all is getting mixed up. The first part of London is atonic. We hear these structures of percussions and sequencers that will mold the sanitized rhythms of the Melrose years on a long movement that goes around in circles, without really leading to anything new, of original. Because if the approach remains tasty secret, the elements that surround it lack juice, depth and direction. Mrs. Smith has to cope with that as best as she can, and you can understand her anger when you hear her voice trying to get closer to the music. Stealthy and invisible, the long intro of London cooks beyond the 9 minutes point before it finally gives way to a good and too short finale where the guitar of Edgar Froese screams on sequences with clinking of glass tones that whirl in a spiral too tight.
Alchemy of the Heart reconciles us a little with the bucolic moods of the Dream. The intro is scribbled by percussions whose resonant strikes progress to awaken Paul Haslinger's sweet piano. This piano is spreading a nice melody in the wake of a sequencer whose minimalist keys of crystal recall the world of Mike Oldfield. This amazing fusion continues up until the third minute, where the rhythm ends up buzzing around percussions with more aggressive clicks. Like an abnormal ticking defying the curve of time, these percussions activate the passivity of the melodious approach that is excited by two centuries old harpsichord chords and a dark piano. Unstable and swirling in its minimalist cocoon, Alchemy of the Heart wraps itself into a complex phase that Edgar and his buzzing riffs manage to slow down and lead to layers of Mellotron with violin tears crying to the very end. It's a very nice music in the contemporary repertoire of the Dream. The musical structure of Smile is also very beautiful with its keys of sequences that jump on the shoulders of others in the breezes of a haze dusted off its drizzle. Ambient, the rhythm is floating of its spheroidal structure coated by the magnetizing voice of Jocelyn Smith who recites a poem in a prison decked with sequences of glass instead of bars. Quite dreamlike! 21st Century Common Man is another good track on TYGER, at least for its first part, which offers a galloping pace on sequences that are as agile as they are harmonious. It sounds like Jean-Michel Jarre with these percussions that slam and roar around the sequencer' agile keys and synths with synth-pop dimensions deflowered by a heavy rhythm that gradually fades on floating strata. The 2nd part breathes Melrose years at full nose. Too bad, the beginning was promising. This second life of TYGER, offered by the Reactive/Esoteric label, include 2 bonus tracks, among which the single version of Tyger and Vigour; a synth-pop that seems to pave the way for the Melrose years. I don't really like!
Sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes harmonious and sometimes tasteless, TYGER has this smell of the end of an era dying of uncertainty. Where is Franke? His sequences and percussions that always had the gift of giving another dimension to TD's music, where are they? Riding on the crumbs of Underwater Sunlight, this album offers the worst, as the best, of a Tangerine Dream's universe without this passion that has saved Underwater. We feel an absent Franke leaving his shoes to Edgar Froese and Paul Haslinger. And the result is disconcerting. With hindsight, we feel this transition that Edgar imposes to his band whose legend disappears into the years of Melrose, Miramar, TDI and Eastgate. Do you own the original? If so, you don't need this reissue of Esotreric which brings nothing new, even at the sound level. If you don't have it, it remains an honest album that follows the tangents of Underwater Sunlight but without its passion, without this desire to create something tangibly musical.
Sylvain Lupari (December 31st, 2012) *****