Pilots Of Purple Twilight

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1982 tour badge not included.

This arrived at last, after the usual shenanigans with Parcelforce and their blink-and-you-miss-em deliveries: 10 compact discs plus a large book that documents the final third of Tangerine Dream’s years on the Virgin label, when Johannes Schmoelling had joined to fill the gap left by Steve Jolliffe. These were all albums I bought as they were released, and I also saw the group for the first time on their 1982/83 tour, a performance from which is documented on the Logos live album. Consequently, I’ve always liked this period, and don’t regard it as lesser than the Peter Baumann years. The two phases of the group’s evolution are very different, in part because the technology they were using by 1980 was very different from the more cumbersome electronics of the 1970s: synthesizers were now polyphonic, sequencers were much more programmable, and digital synthesis had arrived. Tangerine Dream were early users of the PPG Wave, a digital synthesizer that allowed the recording and playback of sound samples. The Wave sound is prominent on all the albums from the Schmoelling period, giving the music a very different character to the earlier Moog-and-Mellotron recordings.

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Pilots Of Purple Twilight doesn’t contain as many revelations as the previous In Search Of Hades box but there are some rarities here which are either making their first appearance on CD or their first official release in any form. The Logos album was 50 minutes of a much longer set from the Dominion Theatre, London, which is now available in full on two discs. (The original Logos album appeared in the shops only five or six weeks after it was recorded, something that amazed and delighted me at the time.) The full concert had been available in the past as part of the fan-produced Tangerine Leaves bootleg series but the recording was typical of the low quality that distinguishes the Leaves discs from the superior Tangerine Tree series. By 1982 the improvisation quotient in Tangerine Dream’s live performances had diminished, so the Dominion concert provides a representative snapshot of the tour as a whole. Some of the new music—the so-called Logos suite—appeared later in the soundtrack of Michael Mann’s cult horror film, The Keep (1983), and another of the rarities here is a variant of one of several discs that have been released as The Keep soundtrack. Unfortunately for Keep enthusiasts, the disc in the Pilots box is the least interesting of the two main Keep releases, comprising a small amount of music which did appear in the film together with a much larger percentage that didn’t. Voices In The Net refers to the 1997 limited-edition release of this music as having been “tangentized” which is their term for old recordings that Edgar Froese later reworked. This pushes the music even further away from the original soundtrack recordings of 1982/82; one of the tracks, Arx Allemand, is a terrible faux-Baroque confection that even Rick Wakeman would reject as sub-standard. The new disc also omits 3 tracks from the 1997 release: Sign In The Dark, Weird Village, and Love And Destiny. There is a Keep soundtrack that features more of the actual music from the film but for that you’ll have to search torrent or bootleg sites for Tangerine Tree Volume 54.

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Edgar Froese, Chris Franke and Johannes Schmoelling performing in Perth, Australia, in February 1982. Edgar is playing a PPG Wave 2 while Johannes has a Roland keyboard, probably a Jupiter 8.

Pilots Of Purple Twilight has a more authentic exclusive in the soundtrack for The Soldier (1982), a Cold War action movie which I’ve never seen, and which I’m fairly sure I don’t want to see. With the exception of a single track that appeared on the unofficial Electronic Orgy collection, all the music here (68 minutes in total) is new to me…or newish since some of the pieces are variations on earlier recordings. Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack work in the 1980s veered from high-profile Hollywood features such as Legend and Risky Business to low-budget films like Wavelength and this dubious item. Almost all the soundtrack music has been released in some form, Wavelength included, but The Soldier was a notable gap in the catalogue. Tracks from the Risky Business soundtrack (including the ever-popular Love On A Real Train), and Tatort, a German TV series, have been added to the ends of the studio discs in the Pilots box.

Having this collection appear so close to Halloween makes me think that the releases of the two box sets should have been reversed. In Search Of Hades, which appeared in the summer of last year, represents the group during a decade when there was a great deal of Gothic gloom in their music, as the box title suggests. In addition to playing concerts in actual Gothic cathedrals (and later being forbidden by the Vatican from doing so again), there’s a doom-laden quality to many of their 70s albums which, for this listener at least, was always part of their attraction: Stratosfear, not Stratosphere. William Friedkin alludes to this quality in his note to the soundtrack for Sorcerer, where he says he would have asked the group to score The Exorcist if he’d heard them sooner. Sorcerer wasn’t a Virgin release, however, so was missing from In Search Of Hades. Pilots Of Purple Twilight likewise omits the excellent Pergamon album, a studio reworking of the concert they played in East Berlin in 1980 which was their first public performance with Johannes Schmoelling as a member. The second side of the album is occupied by a long sequencer-and-guitar precursor of Diamond Diary from the Thief soundtrack. This is as good as anything they recorded during this time, a bridge between the sequencer runs of Ricochet and the propulsive compositions they played for another Iron Curtain audience in Poland in 1984. Tangerine Dream had left Virgin by the time they made it to Warsaw, and Johannes Schmoelling left the group a year later, as did my interest in their continuing career. They are still going today despite the death of their sole remaining original member. The present incarnation is doing better than I would have expected but they run the perpetual risk of trading on past glories. In the first half of the 1980s Tangerine Dream was still pioneering to some degree, in soundtrack music and in the evolution of instrumental electronica. The twilight referred to in the title of this retrospective set signifies the end of several eras.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Synapse: The Electronic Music Magazine, 1976–1979
German gear
Edgar Froese, 1944–2015
Synthesizing
Tangerine Dream in Poland
Electronic Music Review
Tonto’s expanding frog men
A Clockwork Orange: The Complete Original Score
White Noise: Electric Storms, Radiophonics and the Delian Mode

4 thoughts on “Pilots Of Purple Twilight”

  1. Great review, but for “The Keep” you should think the other way round: the disc in this box contains the original soundtrack album that the group gave to Virgin for release in 1983 (but that Virgin did not release and shelved until now). Therefore, it is wrong to say that it “misses” 3 tracks, based on the 1997 release by TDI. It would be more exact to say that the 1997 TDI release added 3 tracks that have nothing to do with the original soundtrack album conceived by the band in 1983. Furthermore, the 1997 release was “tangentized” by Edgar Froese.
    To me, the disc in this box is the real deal, i.e. the soundtrack album as conceived by the band in 1983 and untouched (no keyboards layers or other tracks added later).

  2. Yes, that makes sense considering that everything here is billed as material recorded for Virgin. The Voices In The Net page goes into some of the tangled history of the recordings. I still prefer the Tangerine Tree Keep disc since it’s closest one to the music used in the film. I keep hoping someone might find a way to give this a proper release but then the film itself remains scarce so the wait may be a long one yet.

  3. Brought back fond memories of buying Rubycon when it first came out. I was besotted with Stockhausen at the time – I found his Gesang der Junglinge and Kontakte totally enthralling. When things like that “click” with you in your teens they stay with you!

  4. I was a little late finding Tangerine Dream since they were mainly an albums band even though Virgin kept releasing singles. Ricochet and Stratosfear were the first ones I heard when I met some metal heads circa 1979 who enjoyed those albums when they were getting stoned. So I was looking for the early albums (also Edgar Froese solo) while I was buying the newer ones.

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