10 Best Tangerine Dream Albums From Number Six of 20 Icons of Echoes

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On the air I said I’d pick five, but I decided to go with ten.

Phaedra and Rubycon have always been a pair for me and  that pair is half of a quartet with Ricochet and Stratosfear.   These are the signature Dream albums, the blueprint for every retro-space artist out there, the sound that influenced ambient, techno, and more.   The classic trio of Edgar Froese, Christoph Franke and Peter Baumann found the secret of rubber band sequencer patterns discovered by Tonto’s Expanding Headband 2 years earlier.  The Dream   bound them in  interlocking patterns, mellotron chords and synthesizer textures.    Phaedra is transitional, retaining some of the avant-garde Ligeti-esque texturalism from Zeit on the mellotron drenched “Mysterious Semblance at the Strands of Nightmare,” but the title track and Rubycon, an album length composition were definitive journeys into inner space.

Tangerine Dream was an exciting live band in the 70s and half of the 80s.  Listening to Logos, from 1982, you can hear why.  This was the Dream working with a precision and structure that earlier works didn’t have, but they were still creating in long-form with a fair amount of improvisation.  Johannes Schmoelling had been in the group for a while at this point and his influence is felt in gorgeous melodies and rhythms that have you ricocheting off your seat and between your headphone cups.  This was really the truly last live recording from the group.  Subsequent live albums would be more pre-programmed performances.

It’s been called their most experimental CD, but I think it’s their most thoughtful, controlled and uncontrived album.  Playing with a cello quartet, it’s a journey of interwoven tones phasing through each other from acoustic to electric to something entirely new.  Ambient before ambient, but owing much to Gyorgy Ligeti pieces like “Atmospheres,” synths, gliss guitar, organ and “noise generators” unfold in undulating, slow motion patterns across what was a double LP.  This 1972 recording is a drone zone manifesto, and a beautifully enveloping work free of melody, rhythm and just about any other conventional music signpost.

This is one of the last long-form Dream recordings.  Originally a two sided work, Tangram is a  multi-movement opus sometimes sabotaged by episodic writing, but still with some haunting themes amidst the pounding sequencers and more melodic invention than most prior Dream albums.

Part of the classic quartet of albums, this was their most commercial release to date and the first album with real melodies.

The other album in the classic quartet.  Ricochet was their first live album, although it was all new materiel and sounds like a studio recording.  Another two-sided excursion that moves from the quietest solo piano spot to thundering sequencers from the heavens.

8-Goblins’ Club
Goblins’ Club recalls the 80’s sound of Tangerine Dream when they were just adding more aggressive rhythms and clearly defined melodies to their fanciful spacescapes.  But unlike so many of thier post-Virgin releases, this 1996 albums doesn’t bludgeon you with canned synthesizer bombast.  There seems to be more exploratory fun and a more personal sound   as they drop in surreal free falls in the midst of their dramatic compositions.

9-Force Majeure
Something of an anomaly in that it features a drummer, Klaus Krieger, and gives the Dream a more fluid and aggressive sound, especially in the screaming side long title track.

10-Optical Race
I know that consensus opinion has it that the Private Music years sucked, and they did, except for Optical Race the first album they made for the label, owned by former Tangerine Dreamer, Peter Bauman.  With just Froese and Paul Haslinger, they create dense, rhythmically charged excursions that stand up to some of their best works and hold up better than albums like Le Parc.

Finally an album that should be on the list, Epsilon in Malaysian Pale, the third solo album from Edgar Froese and a Dream album by any other measure.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))



  1. g Says:

    I think Poland should be on this list.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Hi. I know I am late here. I would take off Optical Race (good album) or say top 11 🙂

  3. Ford Says:

    I agree, Poland deserves to be on the list. I’m amazed that it is a live album, it sounds better than most live recordings I’ve ever heard. For an album that it more than 80 minutes, there isn’t a moment where I get bored. I honestly think it is the best tangerine dream album and probably one of the best electronic albums of all time.

  4. Simon Says:

    I remember them well, but over the years my tastes changed but Rubycon was my first and my favourite..absolutely brilliant

  5. Fumbletrumpet Says:

    Err… go on then, I’ll chip in here. What about Pergamon/Quichotte ? I know the list and comments seem to lean towards the ‘lives’ (and I’d also put a case for Encore) but back when I only had a tape player in the car I’d run this one (Pergamon) over and over on a long journey. Kind of a live Tangram I guess, but different enough to stand on its own.

    On this list I don’t think I’d switch Optical for Poland (although both great), but that’s mainly because lists like this perhaps need a bit of everything and the feeling soon becomes that this very ‘studio’ band are best live. No. I’ve seen them live and they were amazing, but their ‘thing’ is surely the carefully worked, programmed studio sound ?

  6. António Says:

    “Zeit” is without a doubt one , if not their most important album, this is completely FREE music, no constraints, nothingness, as intricate and predictable as the micro/macroverse. Needless to say I´m curreentely listening to it and wondering what kind of people would do such human music … there is beauty in darkness indeed (just to cheese this up a bit more)

  7. Gary 108 Says:

    Might as well continue, I personally think Cyclone is a great often overlooked TD record. I view it as TD’s “progressive rock” record along with Force Majeure. Yes, it has vocals, but done in a way that works with their music without sounding like some “commercial sellout”.

  8. Gary 108 Says:

    The Sorcerer soundtrack certainly belongs on this list before a few of the other albums listed………

  9. Giovanni G Says:

    This list is not complete without Poland. I’m sorry, it’s inseparable for me. I keep going back to that album for some reason.. it is so magnetic. I hardly ever go back to Goblins’ Club, it just sounds so ‘watered-down’ to me compared to the majestic power and aura of Poland. Bringing in drums, vocals and piano-like sound all feed into the ‘water down’ effect. TD for me was all about electronic innovation. Nothing innovative on GC. Sorry. Just sounds like glorified ‘New Age’ music! So that album would be my vote for the one to axe from an otherwise good list.

  10. Daniel Farysej Says:

    Theif soundtrack is one of their best, especially because of the amazing Pink Floyd like guitar riffs near the end.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Great list. If I made my own list, though, I’d keep around half and trade these out:
    *Rubycon for Sorcerer Soundtrack
    *Logos for Encore
    *Zeit for Atem
    *Tangram for Hyperborea
    *Goblin Club for Poland
    *Optical Race for Firestarter Soundtrack
    *Epsilon… for The Park is Mine Soundtrack

  12. Sadhu Dude Says:

    Thanks for this list. I love Phaedra and Rubycon but have kind of got stuck there because I don’t really like the guitar playing, drum machines on later recordings, I’ll be exploring some of the others on you list an in the comments I think. I was at the Dominion gig so shall be trying that first. I also saw them at the Victoria Palace in London before that and was dissaponted, too much not that great guitar playing, certainly not compared to my other fave at the time Steve Hillage.

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