Tangerine Dream was always considered to be a trend-setting group, but looking back on their work retrospectively, the full impact of their innovations is more than a little remarkable. Ranging from thumping techno beats to New Age meanderings to pure noise to ambient soundscapes, Tangerine Dream were not the first group to make extensive use of synthesizers and sound processing devices. But by relying almost exclusively on these devices, they became the forefathers of a whole variety of musical styles, and their impact on the music scene over the past thirty-five years has been considerable. With the release of five double CDs worth of live material ranging from '77 through '86, The Bootmoon Series
makes it is possible to look back and see just how influential the group, with personnel that varied but always under the leadership of Edgar Froese, truly was.
These releases all come from recordings made by Tangerine Dream enthusiasts and, consequently, the quality varies. They range from the pristine FM broadcast recording of Montreal - April 9th 1977 to the audience recording of Ottawa - June 20th 1986. Thanks to some careful digital cleanup, however, even the weakest recording is still crystal clear, albeit a touch distant. And with a sound quality that, at its worst, is still eminently listenable, hearing the series in chronological sequence provides a firm idea of how the band evolved during what were considered its glory years.
At the time of Montreal - April 9th 1977 Tangerine Dream, consisting of Froese, Peter Baumann and Christopher Franke, were serious risk-takers. Every show was completely improvised, with no real planning or forethought. Six extended improvisations make up this 110-minute show, and the emphasis is on atmosphere and groove. Tangerine Dream was one of the first, if not the first, to make extensive use of primitive sequencers, and used them to create pulsing, hypnotic rhythms that would not be out of place at a rave or in a house club today. That they blended these rhythms, at times, with more adventurous melodies than one would hear in a typical club today is what distinguishes them from the multitude of progeny that followed. Tangerine Dream managed, through the evolution of more lyrical pieces, to be a group that was listened to by the same people who were following Genesis, King Crimson and Gentle Giant, but like all three of these groups, they had a distinct personality.
By the time the middle three recordings took place - Aachen - January 21st 1981 , Paris - February 2nd 1981 and Sydney - February 22nd 1982 , Baumann had been replaced by Johannes Schmoeling and the group, with approximately fifteen releases to their name by this point, had ceased the more open-ended improvisations, opting instead for recreating many of their recorded works. The setlists of these three shows have much in common the twenty-minute "Force Majeur" and the shorter but no less effective "Chronozon" being high points of each set but there are enough differences to present a band that still made each performance a unique event. There's a certain drift towards more song form as well, although less so than on what was to come. And the sounds they created were somehow more organic, likely the result of improvements in synthesizer technology.
The final show, Ottawa - June 20th 1986 finds Tangerine Dream at its most structured, with eighteen songs making up the 105-minute set. Still, the group managed to dig back as far as their '76 album Stratosphere for an abbreviated version of the title track. The group was also experimenting with early sampling technology by this time; always on the cutting edge, Froese, Franke and Schmoeling continued to build on the more methodological approach that came as a result of Schmoeling's growing influence.
By the end of the '80s Tangerine Dream was to focus more on the dance rhythms that would ultimately invade dance clubs around the world. But it is important to recognize just how broad its reach truly was. The Bootmoon Series gives long-time fans a chance to relive the concert experiences that informed their musical tastes, and provide insight, to newcomers, of a band that truly altered the landscape of modern music, in ways that few can claim. The Bootmoon Series allows the interested listener to examine the development of a group, as it evolves from minimalism to trance- inducing ambient music to more fashioned instrumental song craft in the short space of ten years.
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