Over time the form of bands change, in terms of age, maturity, sound and in some instances the band lineup. Changes like these are often gradual and slow, with each album another small step on the pathway to a new identity. At times they are rapid and shocking alterations that occur in a bands midlife crisis. Not many bands typify change better than Tangerine Dream. Over their three decades in the music business, they have produced beautiful ambient music suited to meditation, space themed electronic music, dozens of movie soundtracks and captivating art rock. Out of the many albums in Tangerine Dreams catalogue, none symbolize change better than Cyclone
In 1978 the highly regarded trio of Peter Baumann, Edgar Froese and Christopher Franke split up, with Baumann leaving to pursue a solo career. Perhaps it was due to Baumann's departure that the remaining duo decided a new direction was in order. Cyclone
is quite notably the first Tangerine Dream album to feature lyrics and vocals. Their move towards more vocal based tracks hurt their reputation in the eyes of loyal fans, who unsurprisingly criticized Cyclone
heavily. Another trend that started with Cyclone
was their use of rock music's signature string instrument, the guitar. As such Cyclone
often feels more like psychedelic rock, similar to Pink Floyd, rather than experimental trance-inducing electronic music. The essence of Tangerine Dream remains in Cyclone
, it just takes on a new guise.
Three tracks do not sound like much for a full-length album, but Tangerine Dream certainly does pack a ton into the 38 minute album. Each track on Cyclone
has its own clear and defined identity. Because of this, the album does not flow together like some of Tangerine Dreams prior albums; but when listened to minor details like these do not detract away from the experience.
Immediately the change in Tangerine Dream's sound is evident. The intro to Bent Cold Sidewalk
features processed electronic vocals. Although they sound quite eerie and set a precedent for the album, the fact that they are hard to understand kills the message of the strangely pensive lyrics. 'When I talk to the trees, O'great trees who have learned to speak slowly. I know that they believe that they have an answer. Then I walk in the city where I cannot hear it.' For a band that has never really delved into the world of lyrics before, Tangerine Dream do show a strange knack for lyric writing. The lyrics in Bent Cold Sidewalk
are quite deep with meaning, and cover Tangerine Dreams usual themes of time, space and the world around us.
The vocals for Cyclone
were provided by Steve Jolliffe, a British man. Unfortunately, the vocals do not mesh well with the music itself. Jolliffe shows little tact in his vocals, often just boldly pronouncing the lyrics into the microphone. Up until about 4:30 into the piece, Tangerine Dream show no signs of their deft ability to give each track its own little world. Bent Cold Sidewalk
sounds more like a b-grade Pink Floyd rip-off . At 4 minutes 30 seconds in however, the song slowly warms up to a combination of old and new. Piercing violin notes come in underneath a fluctuating piano arpeggio, whilst flute noises slowly envelope the song. Eerie half whispered vocals spring up 'there are dangers hidden, trust in that language,' as the song slowly flows down a ghoulish path. Nonsensical shouting intrudes on the rambling whispers, with powerful words of 'I die to fight!!' repeated in amongst harsh grunts. The song slowly fades out, reverting back to a more distorted version of the piano arpeggio found earlier in the song. The transition feels like a mellowing slow-down, and ends up back where the song started with the b-grade psychedelic rock verse. The song may suit a cyclical path; however it is disappointing to end in what can only be described as a disappointing attempt at psychedelic rock.
The aggressive sound found in Bent Cold Sidewalk
returns in Rising Runner Missed by Endless Sender
. The song is not a goliath like its two sister tracks at only 5 minutes long, which is relatively short for Tangerine Dream. Unfortunately, the song never really develops in the 5 minutes. Rising Runner
is basically the same pattern repeated over and over again, an arpeggio that only varies in its key. The aggressive vocals provided by Steve Jolliffe do not add anything to the song, other than a slight distraction from the rhythmic percussion and shifting arpeggios. Rising Runner
feels like tunes out of the early 90s Sega Genesis motorbike game, Road Rash; which certainly isn't a compliment.
The third song in the triplet is Madrigal Meridian
. Right from the beginning it sounds more like the patient ambient Tangerine Dream, who allow songs to flow and develop naturally; rather than force a change of identity. Madrigal Meridian
slowly creeps in with a variety of artificial noises, sounding like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock horror film. Another stunning transition transforms the song into a strangely addictive keyboard arpeggio with organs belting in the background. The transition between electronic and unnatural beeps to a rhythmic keyboard and organ harmony is seamless, and done to perfection as is usual with Tangerine Dream transitions. The song has a driving beat to it, which is quite dissimilar to previous Tangerine Dream works. However that old Tangerine Dream sound is not lost, which helps to provide an intoxicating sound. Unlike Rising Runner
which felt repetitive very quickly, Madrigal Meridian
avoids this with a constant flow of subtle changes. At around 10 minutes 40 in, the song melody changes to distorted psychedelic guitar, which make a brief showing until their fade out at 12 minutes and 30 seconds in. The percussive rhythm and consistent organ never change, with different highly unique melodies appearing on top of them. The song ends in quite an unusual fashion with a number of instruments (electric guitar, moog synthesizer, Asian Lyre, etc) playing separate melodies, which Tangerine Dream creatively harmonize together. It does not have the same sort of compositional genius that other Tangerine Dream classics share, however it is an interesting piece with some highly enjoyable moments.
was a stepping stone for Tangerine Dream, into a whole new world of guitar-based psychedelic rock. It took Tangerine Dream several albums to perfect their ambient space fuelled electronic music, likewise Tangerine Dream certainly didn't get it right on their first proper attempt at psychedelic rock. Cyclone
is nowhere near the level albums like Phaedra
set for Tangerine Dream. Cyclone
lacks a proper sense of direction, occasionally finding a superb mix of old and new; yet at times falling back on repetitive melodies piled on top of unusually aggressive percussive rhythms. The vocals were for the most part misused by Tangerine Dream. Steve Jolliffe's harsh and largely unvaried vocals do not mesh with the songs. Often they feel like an interruption in the midst of a build up, a giant let down really. Despite its shortcomings, Cyclone
offers a unique experience, at a turning point for Tangerine Dream. For anybody interested in the musical path of Tangerine Dream, Cyclone
is a must. Those looking for a repeat of Phaedra
's mesmerising ambient adventure will be sorely disappointed. Those looking for another Pink Floyd on the music wall should avoid this, as it will only end in frustration. It is by no means a bad album, it is just an album with a sore ass from sitting on the fence the whole time.