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.

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Weekend links 534

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Beautiful night – moon and stars, Miyajima Shrine (1928) by Kawase Hasui.

• One announcement I’d been hoping for since last summer was the news of a second box of Tangerine Dream albums to follow the excellent In Search Of Hades collection. The latter concentrated on the first phase of the group’s Virgin recordings, up to and including Force Majeure. This October will see the release of a new set, Pilots Of Purple Twilight, which explores the rest of the Virgin period when Johannes Schmoelling had joined Froese and Franke. Among the exclusive material will be a proper release of the soundtrack for Michael Mann’s The Keep (previously a scarce limited edition), together with the complete concert from the Dominion Theatre, London. Also out in October, Dark Entries will be releasing a further collection of recordings from the recently discovered tape archive of Patrick Cowley. The new album, Some Funkettes, will comprise unreleased cover versions, one of which, I Feel Love by Donna Summer, is a cult item of mine that Cowley later refashioned into a celebrated megamix.

• “Did you know that Video Killed The Radio Star was inspired by a JG Ballard story?” asks Molly Odintz. No, I didn’t.

Casey Rae on the strange (musical) world of William S. Burroughs. Previously: Seven Souls Resouled.

• “And now we are no longer slaves”: Scott McCulloch on Pierre Guyotat’s Eden Eden Eden at fifty.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Frank Jaffe presents…Dario Argento and his world of bright coloured blood.

• At Wormwoodiana: The Serpent Calls. Mark Valentine on a mysterious musical instrument.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Long-Exposure Photographs of Torii Shrine Gates by Ronny Behnert.

• Mix of the week: mr.K’s Soundstripe vol 4 by radioShirley & mr.K.

• Rising sons: the radical photography of postwar Japan.

• The illicit 1980s nudes of Christopher Makos.

• RIP Diana Rigg.

Garden Of Eden (1971) by New Riders Of The Purple Sage | Ice Floes In Eden (1986) by Harold Budd | Eden (1988) by Talk Talk

Weekend links 301

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The Music from the Balconies (1984) by Edward Ruscha.

• At The Quietus: High-Rise director Ben Wheatley runs through his favourite films. Kudos for mentioning Elem Klimov’s Come and See (1985) among the more familiar fare, a nightmarish masterwork that everyone should watch at least once. On the same site, author Joe R. Lansdale also lists some favourite films while discussing the new TV series of his Hap and Leonard books.

Electric Hintermass (Sound Apart) by Hintermass, a track from The Apple Tree, their debut album on the Ghost Box label.

Michael Mann’s Heat: “A complex, stylistically supreme candidate for one of the most impressive films of the Nineties”.

• Despair Fatigue: David Graeber on how [political] hopelessness grew boring, and what happens next.

• Mix of the week: FACT Mix 541 by Tortoise, and Blowing Up The Workshop 56 by Eric Lanham.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: “Some books (1961–1975) that either faked ingesting LSD or did”.

• David Litvinoff again: “Was he only an opportunistic hustler?” asks David Collard.

John Carpenter’s The Thing rescored with one of the director’s Lost Themes.

Overlooked: a book by Marina Willer about the manhole covers of London.

• Pam Grossman (words) and Tin Can Forest (art) ask What is a Witch?

• A long way down: Oliver Wainwright on JG Ballard and High-Rise.

• A conversation with designer and typographer Erik Spiekermann.

• The BFI compiles a list of “The 30 Best LGBT Films of All Time“.

• Decoding the spiritual symbolism of artist Hilma af Klint.

Sabat Magazine

Heat (1983) by Soft Cell | The Heat (1985) by Peter Gabriel | Heat Miser (1994) by Massive Attack

Weekend links 294

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Painting by Alex Tavoularis.

• There are silent films, and then there is Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927), a five-and-a-half hour historical drama following the emperor’s life from boyhood to the invasion of Italy. The word “epic” is overused but Gance’s film demands the description: in addition to the recreation of huge battles and scenes from the French Revolution, cinema screening required three projectors for sequences which are either multi-screen or three times the width of the Academy ratio. The film was revived in the early 1980s after an extensive restoration by Kevin Brownlow, but Napoleon is still more talked about than seen so news of a forthcoming digital release by the BFI is very welcome indeed. The poster above is from this collection which includes more information about the film and its troubled history. Related: a trailer for a 2012 screening at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

• “His films broke with traditional production methods, having virtually no shooting script and capturing the freshness of their genesis.” RIP Jacques Rivette. In 1998 Frédéric Bonnaud talked to Rivette about the director’s cinematic likes and dislikes. Elsewhere, Jonathan Romney speculates that Rivette’s Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974) “might be the only film in which the story is dreamed by a passing cat”.

Strange Flowers‘ selects 16 books for (what’s left of) 2016. Stand-out for me is Aubrey Beardsley: A Catalogue Raisonné by Linda Gertner Zatlin which will be published in May. Two cased volumes, a total of 1104 pages, and a price tag of $300.

It’s a powerful trope, but it also risks trading one stigma for another: ‘‘Phobia’’ is now so embedded in our language that it’s easy to forget that it is a metaphor comparing bigots to the mentally ill. The comparison also has the effect of excusing those Americans—like certain presidential candidates in the 2016 race—who wield prejudices strategically. It’s not your fault if you get sick. But hating people is a choice.

Amanda Hess on how “-phobic” became a weapon in the identity wars

• Delving into the shadowy world of occult art: Priscilla Frank talks to Pam Grossman about her Language of the Birds exhibition. Related: “The occult never quite goes away,” says Kenneth Anger.

• “It was a magic day in our happy, young lives.” A proposal for a monument in Baltimore celebrating the final scene of John Waters’ Pink Flamingos.

• Mixes of the week: Wrap Up Warm Mix by Moon Wiring Club, Secret Thirteen Mix 175 by Inner8, and FACT mix 533 by Roly Porter.

• “He was less an architect than a Busby Berkeley with a penchant for Black Masses.” Jonathan Meades on Albert Speer.

• More film posters: Benjamin Lee on the compromises that have made contemporary posters “drab and uninspiring”.

• The vast and ghostly landscape of “Britain’s only desert”: photographs by Robert Walker.

Wyrd Daze, Lvl2 Issue 5, is free and brimming with the weird.

• The films of Michael Mann in 44 shots.

Laurie Anderson‘s favourite films.

Flamingo (1959) by Henry Mancini | Moon Occults The Sun (2006) by Espers | The Moon Occults Saturn at Dawn (2015) by Steve Moore

Edgar Froese, 1944–2015

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“I was a big fan of Kraftwerk, Cluster and Harmonia, and I thought the first Neu! album, in particular, was just gigantically wonderful,” admits Bowie. “Looking at that against punk, I had absolutely no doubts where the future of music was going, and for me it was coming out of Germany at that time. I also liked some of the later Can things, and there was an album that I loved by Edgar Froese, Epsilon In Malaysian Pale; it’s the most beautiful, enchanting, poignant work, quite lovely. That used to be the background music to my life when I was living in Berlin.”

David Bowie, Mojo magazine, April 1997

Epsilon In Malaysian Pale was Froese’s second solo album released in September 1975. That month David Bowie was in Los Angeles recording his Station To Station album, the opening of which features phased train sounds that are strikingly similar to those that run through the first side of the Froese album. I’ve never seen this similarity mentioned by Bowie scholars but if there was an influence it’s a good example of the degree to which Tangerine Dream infiltrated the wider culture as much as Can and Neu! (Kraftwerk remain in a league of their own.)

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All you need is Zeit. Cover painting by Edgar Froese.

The influence of Tangerine Dream’s albums on the Ohr and Virgin labels is now so widespread that it’s difficult to compile a definitive list of those who’ve either paid homage or copied the group’s trademark style of extended sequencer runs and phased chords. Offhand I could mention the Ricochet-like tracks on Coil’s Musick To Play In The Dark Volumes 1 & 2; the many moments on the early Ghost Box albums, one of which samples from Alpha Centauri; and some of Julian Cope’s more out-there recordings from the late 1990s. There’s also all the releases by a group of loosely affiliated musicians dedicated to maintaining the 70s sound of Mellotrons and bouncing sequencers; many of these I’ve yet to hear but I’ve enjoyed the albums by Node and Redshift.

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Tangerine Dream have been a continual fixture in my music listening since I was a teenager; I drew most of The Call of Cthulhu to a soundtrack of Rubycon and Jon Hassell’s Aka/Darbari/Java album. I kept up with them after they departed from Virgin then jumped ship in 1986 after Johannes Schmoelling left the group. The albums continued to proliferate in recent years to an extent that even the Freeman brothers only follow the discography (with some exasperation) up to 1990 in their redoubtable Krautrock tome The Crack in the Cosmic Egg. Navigating a late career is a tricky business for a popular musician so you can’t blame Froese for carrying on the project. Those early recordings are the important ones, and he was a crucial component in their creation.

There’s a lot of Froese and TD on YouTube. If you like the early material these are some of the better moments:

Bath Tube Session, 1969: TD in psych-freakout mode. Klaus Schulze on drums, and lots of German heads looking bemused/bored.
Ossiach Lake, 1971: Playing outdoors for the TV cameras.
Paris, 1973: Footage of the group improvising in the manner of the Atem album.
Coventry Cathedral, 1975: Tony Palmer’s film of one of the cathedral concerts which caused them to be banned by the Pope from playing in churches. The original sound on this one is lost so the YT version has edits of the Ricochet album as the soundtrack.
London, 1976: Great film of the Ricochet period. Total synth porn.
Thief, 1981: The opening scene to Michael Mann’s thriller, and one of their best soundtrack moments. In The Wire this month John Carpenter enthuses about the TD score for Sorcerer but I’ve always felt Mann’s crime drama was a better match for their sound.
Warsaw, 1983: A Polish TV recording of the concert documented on the Poland (1984) album.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Synthesizing
Tangerine Dream in Poland