Force Majeure - Tangerine Dream - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #42

Tangerine Dream is probably one of the most uncool bands I’ve ever admitted to liking. Couple of German dudes messing around with some early analog synthesizers and electronic instruments whose music sounds like outtakes from a Pink Floyd album or the soundtrack for Blade Runner? Not exactly music for a house party. But they’re a band I’d enthusiastically insist all of my friends should listen to because Tangerine Dream, at least in their 70’s period, were forerunners, pioneers and visionaries.

 Force Majeure is their final album of this productive 70’s period, a period where they experienced notable chart success in the UK, relatively large sales and critical appraisal from no less than John Peel for their futuristic sound. Force Majeure is perhaps the epitome of their aesthetic, a culmination of all of their previous ideas and condensed into 40 minutes of pure genius. You want long synthesizer workouts? You got them. Distorted, prog rock-like guitar solos? Check. But it’s more than just little pockets of ideas, it’s their whole take on the music. Force Majeure stretches the limits, pushes the boundaries of what music can be. This is music that doesn’t know where it’s going and doesn’t care about the destination: the point is the journey. That search for enlightenment and the experiences along the way is what keeps this music ever pulsating onwards. Sure, it’s precomposed stuff; the guys didn’t just sit down in the studio one day, bang on a synth for a couple of hours and hey presto, there’s your album, but like I say, it’s the experience that it seeks to convey to us that life is all one big adventure. This is cosmic music folks, psychedelic music, to link in nicely with my fellow compatriot on this blog, this is music in search of space. [Gold star! –Ed.]

 The title track, a vast, 18-minute suite of a few linked movements, exemplifies the restless and soul-baring enlightenment they wish to seek. Beginning as an exercise in hushed minor keys and eerie sound effects, the synths come in like a drape, gently folding over the existing components till soon it’s all we hear. The ambient washes persist for a few minutes until the track takes a turn towards the space rock side of things; in come drums and guitar, launching the track upwards like the huge rocket boosters on a space shuttle, driving it with a furious velocity before falling off and letting the track take its course from there. It ends as it started, in contemplative ambience and a synth-driven, eerie exploration of the empty space. The following track is somewhat more standard fare, with Edgar Froese taking an impressive distorted guitar solo over the electronics, blurring the lines between electronics and instruments, between progressive rock and ambient music.

 The final track once again shows a seamless blending of electronic and progressive rock music. Edgar Froese’s electric guitar once again has a solo spot, not virtuosic as such, but driving the song into an intense but beautiful introduction before regressing and letting the electronics come through. Whiffs of Tangerine Dream’s older, sequencer-driven compositions start to emerge, with a pulsating rhythmic beat being laid down as the synthesizers timidly explore the space, improvising, searching… flittering drum fills and distorted sound effects pervade the space as the piece gets darker and darker, drifting further into that cosmic minefield.
 
Admittedly synthesizers probably sound a little dated now, but Tangerine Dream’s futuristic vision is no less impressive now than it ever was. The thing is that you just don’t get music like this made to the same extent anymore. This sort of searching, indefinite attitude is quite alien to us in our own world where everything must be certain and set in stone. If it doesn’t have an obvious point, something that jumps out us so we can say, “I see what they’re trying to do there,” we don’t have any interest. In our sound-byte era of Twitter and Google search, we don’t have the patience to sit through an album that professes not only to explore the unknown, but not to care what the outcome of this exploration is, if any. We need answers and we need them now! But let’s face it, the mysteries of life are always going to remain that – a mystery. Force Majeure allows us not only to accept this, but to enjoy the unknown and to accept that it’s the exploration of life – not just the results – that makes life so interesting and so beautiful.


Words - Adam
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