From Melody Maker, October 8, 1994. Orange Appeal - 25 years of ambient pioneers Tangerine Dream Ask Aphex Twin or FSOL or any of the current crop of ambient artists to draw up a list of their biggest influences and almost all of them will place Tangerine Dream somewhere close to the top. The gloriously fluid soundscapes of TDs Tangents shows why. It's difficult to believe that some of the tracks are 20 years old. "We were the first people to use synths and sequencers, but we never actually thought of ourselves as ahead of our time," laughs Edgar Froese who formed TD in 1968 and continues to lead the German group to this day. "We had a vision to create sounds which were original and different, and that's all there was to it. It's kind of strange to now be seen as an inspiration for so many young bands." Lifting their name from the Beatle's Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, TD made their initial mark with a string of now legendary performances in the underground clubs in Germany in the late sixties. Their improvised sets lasted anything up to 6 hours. The combination of Froeses guitar bursts with repetitive percussion and electronic FX heard on the band's first two LPs, "Electronic Meditation" and "Alpha Centauri", confirmed their status as one of Europe's heaviest and most innovative space-rock outfits. Froese worked with a variety of different musicians in the early days of the band, including Klaus Schulze. By late 1971, however, Froese had been joined by Chris Franke and Peter Baumann in what is widely recognised as the classic TD line-up. The trio started working more and more with synths for their next LPs, "Zeit" and "Atem", the latter revealing the sparse sound for which the band are best known. John Peel called it his favourite album of 1973. "'Atem' was like the beginning of an adventure," notes Froese. "For the next few years, we were constantly improving and experimenting and, although it wasn't perfect - we didn't always make great music - it was a period which brought me richer experiences than any other." TD signed to the then fledgling Virgin imprint at the end of 1973 and, over the next couple of years, released 3 of their most famous albums, "Phaedra", "Rubycon" and "Ricochet". "Phaedra" and "Rubycon", a fluid suite divided into 2 parts, both reached the UK top 20. Both recordings, however, were beset by major problems at the Manor Studios near Oxford. "We recorded 'Rubycon' at the time of the Oil Crisis, when there were daily power cuts across Europe," recalls Froese. "We kept having to shut everything down and sit around in candlelight. But, at the same time, that gave us a very special atmosphere to work in. To me, there an almost magical feeling about those early Virgin albums." "Ricochet" was a live LP pieced together from some 40 or 50 hours of music recorded in 1975. A lot of the group's gigs during this period took place at unusual venues, including a Roman amphitheatre in the south of France and York Minster. They also performed at Rheims Cathedral, an evening which Froese remembers none too fondly. "The cathedral held around 2000 people, but the promoter managed to squeeze 5000 in. It was a terrible situation. People couldn't move, they couldn't get out, and because there were no toilets inside, everybody had to piss up against the walls. You can imagine the mess by the end of the concert. What's more, we got the blame for it. Even the Pope stepped in. He banned us from playing every Catholic church in the world." Baumann left TD in 1977, shortly after the release of "Encore", another live set. He subsequently moved to New York, where he launched a solo career and set up the Private Music imprint, and was replaced by Steve Jolliffe, an English musician who had played alongside Froese during the early days. By now, however, the group's otherworldly epics were at odds with the punk revolution, and the only album this line-up recorded, "Cyclone", met with vitriolic reviews in the UK. "I understood the criticism at that time, but it wasn't anything new for us," notes Froese. "As far back as I can recall some people have thought we're geniuses and others have dismissed us as a bunch of dumb knob- twiddlers. So what? I think it's fair to respect all opinions." Despite the band's temporary rejection in the UK, they remained a big draw in America, where one gig prompted Lester Bangs to pen an article entitled "I saw God And/Or TD". At the beginning of 1980, they also achieved the honour of becoming the very first Western group to play live in East Berlin. The gig, which marked the debut of Johannes Scmoelling, was recorded by an East German radio station and some the highlights later appeared on vinyl under the title of "Quichotte". Schmoelling gelled with Froese and Franke nearly as well as Baumann had and, despite the more overtly melodic thrusts of "Tangram" and"Exit", the new trio occasionally matched the ingenious swirl of "Rubycon". The live "Logos" is a particularly recommended album dating from this period. As is "Hyperborea", which was issued in 1983, and was the group's final original recording for Virgin. TD spent the next 6 years or so on Jive records. During this period, they switched from analogue to digital equipment and used sampling for the first time with "Le Parc", their debut studio album for the imprint. However, despite a couple of albums of note, especially "Tyger", which was inspired by the poetry of William Blake, many of the group's old fans dismissed the Jive material as too commercial. "We suddenly had a new range of technological sounds at our disposal and, to me, the experiment was starting all over again," says Froese. "Maybe others didn't see it that way." The second half of the 80s was also marked by further upheavals in the group's line-up. Schmoelling departed for a solo career at the end of 1985, to be replaced by classically-trained Paul Haslinger. 3 years on, Froeses long-time partner, Franke, also left. He now lives in America, where he has recorded several film soundtracks. "We both felt it was time for us to move on in different directions. It was a totally amicable split. But I must say that Franke and I had always had a curious relationship. We didn't have much to do with each other on a personal level. We worked together 17 years but, throughout all that time, we met privately on just one occasion." [description of Tangents - 9 months to compile btw] Now a duo, in which Froese is partnered by his son the band's most recent albums have been released on a variety of different labels, including Baumann's Private Music imprint. The latest in TOTT which came out in the US last year and has just been released in the UK via Coast To Coast/Zabo, and another is being recorded as you read. Including soundtracks and compilations, it will be something like TD's 70th official album. "I believe that only maybe 5% of what we can do with music is known at the moment," concludes Froese, who has just celebrated his 50th birthday. "There are so many interesting ways in which we can use sound to describe the world and ourselves, the hopes, the fears, the ups and downs. That's why I keep going. Every day that I go into the studio, it feels like it's the first" Special thanks to Jason Hopkins from Voyager, the TD/electronic music magazine. For more info about Voyager send SAE to 1 Craighill Road, Knighton, Leicester, LE2 3FA, U.K.