The documentary ‘Revolution of Sound. Tangerine Dream’ kicks off with an introduction to a group of young German musicians who were as inspired by the space age of the 1960s, with its rocket launches and visions of the future, as they were by their own heartbeat, on which founding member Edgar Froese also based compositions.
Formed in Berlin in 1967, Tangerine Dream were a Pink Floyd-esque act – progging out for hours beneath acid nightmare lightshows as flower-eating hippies tripped through rainbows on their way to sci-fi tomorrows. A little too strange for German audiences, they were finally accepted in France, and later given an all-important boost by the patronage of Richard Branson’s fledgling Virgin Records label.
This association produced albums that further explored synthesizers and sequencers, including the UK top 20 albums Phaedra (1974) and Rubycon (1975). Most of ‘Revolution of Sound. Tangerine Dream’ focuses on the band’s rebirth as a profound influence on the development of electronic music styles such as new age and electronic dance music.
Aided by the mighty Moog, Froese (and various band members) revolutionised popular music. Preferring to visualise moods rather than create clearly structured songs and citing the influence of Surrealist artist Salvador Dali, Froese’s explorations took him into the worlds of classical, new and film music. Tangerine Dream’s recorded output has since been prolific, having released over one hundred albums, including sixty film scores.
In her first feature length documentary, Margarete Kreuzer has assembled a blend of amateur footage, interviews with band members, relatives, friends and film directors such as Jean-Michel Jarre, Michael Mann and Paul Brickman to create a comprehensive portrait of Tangerine Dream as artistic pioneers.
The directors discuss their intensive collaborations with Froese that produced some of the most unusual synth-based soundtracks of the 1980s, for films such as Brickman’s ‘Risky Business’ (1983), Mann’s ‘Thief’ (1981) and ‘The Keep’ (1983) as well as William Friedkin’s ‘Sorcerer’ (1977), Mark L. Lester’s 'Firestarter’ (1984), Sir Ridley Scott’s ‘Legend’ (1985), Phil Joanou’s ‘Three O'Clock High’ (1987), and Kathryn Bigelow’s 'Near Dark' (1987). From the late 1990s into the 2000s, Tangerine Dream continued to explore other styles of instrumental music and electronica. Later they would provide 37 hours of music for the seminal video game 'Grand Theft Auto V'. In 2016, the hit Netflix show ‘Stranger Things’ used three Tangerine Dream tracks in its soundtrack.
The directors discuss their intensive collaborations with Froese that produced some of the most unusual synth-based soundtracks of the 1980s.
Unfortunately, as interesting as it all is, this music documentary is lacking a key ingredient of the genre: drama. There is none of the larger-than-life personal or romantic strife that enlivens similar docs, with no explanation given for the many changes in the band’s line-up throughout the years. This is likely due to the fact that Edgar Froese passed away suddenly in 2015, with this documentary intended as a tribute to the man’s significant legacy rather than an incisive look at the inner-workings of the band.
Still, while ‘Revolution of Sound. Tangerine Dream’ is less engaging than it could have been, it is still fascinating viewing, particularly for film and music buffs.