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26 April 2015

Edgar Froese - 'Aqua' (Virgin)

Your correspondent is not much of a Tangerine Dream fan, not really a massive fan of synthesiser records in general, with a few exceptions of course. I like retrofuturism as much as anyone else and I'm always intrigued by something that sounds novel and fucked up, but when it comes to sweeping, all-engulfing dronescapes, I generally prefer the reverberations of strings, guitars, and other acoustic instruments. This may be because I've owned a vinyl copy of Aqua for years, and this contains pretty much everything I'd want from a synth album. The title track's 17 minutes is almost enough - a slowly pulsing example of what the synthesiser is capable of. Lightweight, mid-range drones ascend and fall, and there's strange looping bubbles and gurgles overtop. The corners sound like the are infinitely expanding, making this a work of continual investigation rather than closure. The second side finds things getting a bit bouncier on 'NGC 891' and 'Upland', with more pings and pongs to go with the wet blankets. (I'm really bad at describing what synth music sounds like!) Despite being just over 45 minutes, Aqua feels long, with the two shorter pieces on each side feeling not superfluous, but like some sort of bonus track (on the original issue of the record). The liner notes suggest that side two should be listened to on headphones 'to appreciate fully the revolutionary artificial head system developed by gunther brunschen' but I didn't do this, because I'm terrible. and also cause my headphone cord isn't long enough. This is 1974, and while I've learned to mostly reject the dull narrative of rock in the 70s being all bloated cocaine music until punk came along, I can't help but feel that this must have been part of something, or at least seemed that way - it's not long after this that Eno's Discreet Music came along, and while that's a completely different beast, it certainly is within the realm of un-rock gestures. Tangerine Dream's output isn't wildly different from Aqua, at least from what I remember, but this is held together with the hand of a solo artist and that's clear throughout. I could probably learn to obsess over this record if I wanted to, but maybe that's a slippery slope to the whole genre.

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