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Best of Tangerine Dream:
Tangent & Horizon

Wherein we hear the breathtaking fruits of the West Berlin-based band’s impactful live performance behind the Iron Curtain in Warsaw, Poland.

▶︎ Stream Tangent on YouTube

▶︎ Stream Horizon on YouTube

For the 8th & 9th entries of “The Best of Tangerine Dream”, I’d like to talk about Poland. Both the country, and my favorite live album by Tangerine Dream. (Incredibly, all of the music on this 2CD-length live album was new compositions…nothing from past-released studio albums!)

Now I’ve never been to Poland, nor eastern Europe at all. And in 1983 when TD performed behind the Iron Curtain in Soviet-allied Warsaw, I was 11 months old. But my understanding is that it was rather a big deal at the time (having Western musicians performing in the East). Poland was in the process of becoming increasingly liberal and skeptical of the Communist regime, due to the continuing economic hardships of the region, and though Mikhail Gorbachev’s rise to power a couple of years later would help stem the tide for a time, their eventual liberation from Soviet influence was inevitable.

It’s against this swirling political backdrop that we listen to the harsh, militaristic strains of the opening of Tangent. I honestly can’t say for sure if some of the aggressiveness of musical selections on Poland was pure creative happenstance or actually intentional, but it definitely feels “of its time”.

This is “cold war” music through and through…brooding and apocolyptic at times, but punctuated with moments of heart-wrenching beauty and grace. Take the 6:16 mark on Tangent, where a movement filled with disturbing sound effects and a menacing mechanical-sounding bass line suddenly opens up with the introduction of a fluttering, reed-like pad playing delicious chords that tug at the heartstrings. This is a whole mood right here.

Later on in the track, we hear hear a rousing anthem with synth leads, catchy TR-808 percussion, and multiple interlocking sequences that really show off Tangerine Dream’s absolute mastery of this genre. It’s arguable that, post Poland, TD would never again reach these heights in terms of the heady 80s-style fusion of Berlin School-prog rock-synth pop. This is simply brilliant stuff.

And then we come to Horizon, perhaps my favorite composition of the album. Admittedly, it starts out very strange. When I first bought the compliation CD The Blue Years in the late 90s featuring an excerpt from Horizon, my parents didn’t like it. Weird atonal drones reminiscent of earlier 70s work eventually give way to more pleasing tones, only to be suddenly taken over by stabbing chirp sounds that frankly are annoying. But this unsettling sonic landscape only serves to set the stage for the slow buildup of one of my favorite Tangerine Dream sequences of all time. Around the 5:30 mark, that classic bass line kicks in and a string of goosebumps moments ensue. Several mindgasms later as warm melancholic string pads and a heralding bugle-like melody prepare the way, we get a couple of all-too-brief guest appearances of a Schmoelling-esque soaring synth lead…and all I can do is succumb.

Sadly, the rest of Horizon—though taking some stylistic cues from Tangerine Dream’s excellent 1981 soundtrack for Thief—doesn’t live up to the sheer heights of this initial half. But nevertheless, Horizon remains a top favorite of mine across the TD catalog.

Notable remixes/re-recordings: Jerome Froese’s Scope of Mind on the wonderful Dream Mixes V, and Horizon (2019), Pt. 1 + Horizon (2019), Pt. 2 on Recurring Dreams recorded by Thorsten “Q” and Ulrich Schnauss.

Coming up next in the series: Stratosfear.

/// October 25, 2022 ///