Tangerine Dream
Rubycon


5.0
classic

Review

by Stephen Gore USER (43 Reviews)
July 21st, 2008 | 43 replies


Release Date: 1975 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Switch off the lights. Lie down. Close your eyes. Dream on…

Although never really a psychedelic outfit, Tangerine Dream are bizarrely sometimes mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Iron Butterfly instead of their more natural partners, Kraftwerk. Doubtless, many experimental members of the late 60s and early 70s counterculture would have considered a Tangerine Dream album to be the perfect soundtrack to their chemical novas, but the commercial and creative zenith reached in the mid 70s was largely due to the new, experimental equipment they invested in; this was a band making the music of the future. These strange new sounds hit the masses hard with Phaedra; it was only right that the Greek should be followed by the Roman - Rubycon, and well named it is too, the Rubicon being the river crossed by Julius Caesar that symbolically declared war; the ‘point of no return’. Rubycon’s portentous, swirling mass of paranoid emotion and freefalling trips through space and time are a million miles away from the safety of psychedelic rock.

Part 1

It opens gently enough, in a cold, dark room. An eerie echo shudders, a muffled bell-like sound bongs here and there undecidedly, and delicate watery effects twinkle through the emptiness. Where is this? There is an almost tangible sense of unease pervading the air; the feeling is tense, yet blank, almost sterile. A keyboard pitches a hint of a melody higher, and higher. But then a choral surge rises up, the clouds part, the light shines through. Wherever you were before, you have now reached a place of peace. A flock of gulls soars overhead, and the mellotron kicks in. Synthetic shimmers lap the shore, subtle percussive bubbles spatter the speakers. This beach, this mountain-top, this place in the clouds; it glows with purity, with aerial freedom, with evocation. You feel the warmth of the sun. All is well.

And then, without warning, the wind lets up, the waters recede, the harmony evaporates. Skittering rattles precede an ominous low murmur; warm, electric, dark. What will emerge? A sequencer line builds up tempo, like a terrible rising fire, and suddenly it doesn’t seem as safe anymore. Pacy, dramatic, it burrows its way into your mind. Here and there, a synth line tries to ride over it all, strange, blank, empty echoes attempt to interrupt, whispers of vague melodies strain to be set free, but the relentless rhythm throbs away insistently, and the other effects can only play second fiddle. The sound is of urgency, maybe the thrill of the chase, or the sound of a slow build-up of power, confirmed when a sudden static buzz penetrates the rhythm from out of nowhere, and a prepared piano abruptly CRASHES ferociously out into the world, dissipating into a grandiose echo and some tribal, bone-clanking percussion. The tension is still there, inexorably pulsing along; the pace desperate, paranoid, urgent. But it’s a false lull; the low murmurs of male voices wailing in haunting unison herald the foreboding buzz again, and the cataclysmic off-key CRASH sounds again; a momentary breath, and then a third and final wave of discordant hellish sound SMASHES down. The sequencer line finally starts to lose some of its intense heat as metallic thumps and echoes clang dully, accompanied by clicks of hollow, wooden percussion, and finally those tense shimmers are earthed and melt away into nothingness. Breathless, you close your eyes. Whatever it was, it’s over.

Part 2

Or is it? An ominous hum signals the beginning of part two, developing into a low, melancholy, wretched siren, the droning buzz of the synthesisers only adding to the doleful feeling of enemy planes flying over a black sky. The stifling fear, the dry uneasiness; all the prelude. Before you felt only the excitement of tension; now you develop a sense of utter dread as the despairing moans of the souls of the dead rise up out of the mire, and a bead of hot sweat runs down the back of your neck, as if you were standing at the gates of hell. Wherever this is, wherever you imagine it to be, it’s a lonely, desolate place. You can feel the heat of the flames. Subliminal despair reigns supreme.

Uneasily, a Moog takes a few uncertain steps away from the doomy choir, and then another determined rhythm pewts confidently in, stuttering along repetitively; a bassline builds into a heartbeat, airy synths take off, and the shimmers of light return. Before you were in the depths of the earth; now, you’re flying through space, eyeing the cosmos, shooting through the void. Galaxies, quasars, stars; all rush by in a second. You can travel anywhere; you can do anything. Sharp, pulsing pewts and squeals afford a brief glimpse of the future - the near-literal out-of-this-world synthetic effects that would feature so prominently in many melody lines from then on. But the light-speed pace climaxes into an ear-splittingly high-pitched screech, and eventually dissipates, descends, and dissolves. In water.
Opening your eyes, you’re on the beach again, the waves lapping your feet. Unnerving, uneasy buzzes and delicate shimmers beg the question; are you safe at last? Have you survived the journey through chilling, empty rooms, outran the pursuer, dodged your enemies, emerged from the bowels of hell, survived your interstellar trip through space? Improbably, a flute solo has the answer - Peter Baumann ending your trip with the purest of sounds; gently, organically, and conclusively. Was it all a dream?

* * * * *

Of course, that’s only one interpretation. The multitude of layered sounds allows the listener to use his own imagination to come up with a meaning for it all, if indeed there’s one to be had. With just as much sonic complexity and texture as Phaedra, the sole advantage that Rubycon has over its sublime, drifting predecessor is a stronger sense of passion; a relentless urgency that fools you into thinking that the album is a short, sharp, flash in the pan, though the 34 minutes here is a very tidy and quality-assuring sum enough (in those vinyl times). Neither album lacks beauty or feeling, but though this is widely viewed as Tangerine Dream’s second-best album, in reality it comes down to personal choice - which is more important to you: aesthetic perfection (Phaedra) or emotive depth (Rubycon)?
Naturally, this won’t appeal to everyone. There are rhythms, but no beats; notes, but few melodies. The formlessness of the music is part of the charm, as is the suffocating, claustrophobic darkness punctuated by faint glimmers of light. Edgar Froese’s reversed guitars, Baumann’s flute and prepared pianos are all in there, carefully tucked away amongst the mellotrons, all conjuring up the feeling of the Rubicon - the life and death, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. What’s it all about? That’s the beauty of Tangerine Dream. It means whatever you want it to mean.



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user ratings (130)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
foreverendeared
July 21st 2008


14678 Comments


absolutely breathtaking review

rasputin
July 21st 2008


14550 Comments


Very good review

Shadowskos
July 21st 2008


352 Comments


Damn good review, you deserve a pos' from me. I will check this album out when I have time.

ClearTheLane
July 21st 2008


990 Comments


Brilliant review. I only have Phaedra and it's pretty good..
Does this have the same kind of sound?

jrowa001
July 21st 2008


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

excellent review! glad to see a Tangerine Dream fan. this isnt my fav release by them but it def is a good one. keep up the good reviews, maybe pop out some more TD ones

Willie
Moderator
July 22nd 2008


16049 Comments


Great review. I've tried to really get into these guys, but so far they don't have any lasting influence on me.

Digging: Skrew - Universal Immolation

Kaleid
July 22nd 2008


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks all.
@ Willie - If you've heard this and Phaedra and can't quite get into it then it's probably just not for you. You could maybe try their later stuff - tends to be a bit more accessible. Seven Letters from Tibet is superb

astrel
July 22nd 2008


2614 Comments


I am listening to Rubycon part 1 and I desperately need this album. This review was written exceptionally well, I might add.

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
July 26th 2008


4927 Comments


Hey so you asked me to go over your reviews, so here it is:

Avoid saying terms like dead-in-the-water and whistle-while-you-work (The Beautiful South review among others). You use it too frequently and it becomes cheesy. Your grammar could use some work (along with most people) especially with semi-colon use and when to end a sentence. As far as the details of your writing, I suggest to cut out a lot of ‘track-by-track’ details. Sometimes (depending on the genre) it is better to give an overall sound of a few tracks and relate them to a similar band in the genre in order to be more concise. You use too many semi-colons and hyphens. And my biggest piece of advice is…

Review something that people care about. Your last 8 reviews dating back to 2007 have garnered 44 comments. Reviewing new, popular releases will allow you to get better than ample feedback. Otherwise, your reviews are pretty good. Keep it up.This Message Edited On 07.26.08

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
July 26th 2008


15743 Comments


you're mad bored dude

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

taylormemer
July 26th 2008


4917 Comments


While I like what you've done here Ryan, I must ask - what is wrong with reviewing music that people apparently don't care about?

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
July 26th 2008


15743 Comments


i think ryan's point is that people will be far less ample to comment and offer constructive criticism

taylormemer
July 26th 2008


4917 Comments


I was thinking maybe that's what he meant, but I wasn't sure...

foreverendeared
July 26th 2008


14678 Comments


unless he's really concerned about his internet popularity i don't see anything negative about reviewing something obscure. i hope he continues reviewing less popular releases as i absolutely loved this review

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
July 26th 2008


4927 Comments


you're mad bored dude

It doesn't take me long to do this. I'm taking a short break from reviewing and Kalied asked me to do this.
While I like what you've done here Ryan, I must ask - what is wrong with reviewing music that people apparently don't care about?

[quote=answer]i think ryan's point is that people will be far less ample to comment and offer constructive criticism[/quote]



Mikesn
Emeritus
July 26th 2008


3709 Comments


Can you review my reviews plz

As for Tangerine Dream, I really liked Phaedra, so I'll check this out.

Digging: Grimes - Visions

Kaleid
July 26th 2008


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hi. First off, props to Ryan for starting up this mini-project, I think it's a good idea, and could potentially be very useful to many contributing reviewers who may perhaps be too comfortable, and have fallen into the trap of producing samey reviews with little variation.

'Whistle-while-you-work', mad hyphen/semicolon usage - couldn't agree more, trying to stop that, I use them a little too much.
TBTs - I did this a lot in many early reviews, granted, but I've all but eradicated it now. It's still very easy to write a TBT by stealth, though.

[quote="IsItLuck"]Review something that people care about. Your last 8 reviews dating back to 2007 have garnered 44 comments. Reviewing new, popular releases will allow you to get better than ample feedback.[/quote]


My main gripe, although I recognise that I don't exactly go out of my way to review the latest Opeth release. Metal (and Indie) are covered by probably 75% of users. I do listen to these things, it's just that people tend to beat me to it in terms of reviewing (and they're generally more concise). I'm not concerned with acclaim, just criticism. I get where you're coming from; it's not going to come by the bucketload from reviewing 70s albums all the time, sadly. Thanks for the advice.

@ Mike
If you liked Phaedra, you'll love thisThis Message Edited On 08.27.08

MrKite
July 26th 2008


5020 Comments


kinda pissed that i forgot to buy this today
i`m definitely looking for it tomorrow before anything else

OhAliceMonster
January 25th 2010


1455 Comments


excellent review n_n

BigHans
January 25th 2010


26454 Comments


The only thing I've heard from these guys was the stuff they supplied as the soundtrack for the Tom Cruise vehicle 'Risky Business."



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