Tangerine Dreams work has always been high in meaning and sub-text. Their studio albums have often focused on space and the world around us, with albums like Phaedra
, Alpha Centurai
all creating their own unique subconscious worlds. In the 90s Tangerine Dream somewhat lost sight of those intricate themes, opting for less complex melodies and insistent percussive beats. Unfortunately their decade long experiment didn't produce many aces with only a few notable albums like Transsiberia
. However the turn of the century in the Gregorian calendar brought about a whole new level of spiritualism for Tangerine Dream and an escape from driving percussion. Albums such as Mota Atma
(Atma meaning the spirit and Mota referring to the Indian spiritual leader Pujya Mota), Inferno
all have heavy new-age spiritualistic leanings. [i]Inferno and Puragtori
are based purely on the 14th century epic literary piece, la Divina Commedia
by Italian poet Dante Alighieri.
Although Tangerine Dream have professed to hate the term new-age; The Seven Letters From Tibet
could be easily considered under this broad term. The entire album centres on the number 7 and the spirituality involving it. The theosophical idea of the septenary (which claims that the universe is ordered by the number seven) can be found ingrained throughout this album. The Seven Letters From Tibet
contains seven songs, which are named after the seven colours of the rainbow (Although yellow and violet are referred to as Gold and purple). The other half of the song names refers to the Septenary idea that human nature consists of seven principles; the physical body - blood, the phantom body - breath, the life principle - heart, the desire form - land, the ordinary mind which attaches itself to desire - pearl, the spiritual soul - clouds and the one with absolute - all curtains. It is easy to draw readings from the music and the album itself; however Tangerine Dream does not try to force any ideals onto the listener, venerating the themes in a subtle style that allows listeners to draw their own conclusions.
Structurally The Seven Letters From Tibet
most closely resembles typical Classical music, with the album separated into different movements that all contribute to the same theme. However neither the instruments nor the sound can be classified as Classical. The two primary instruments used are the keyboards of Edgar Froese and his son Jerome Froese with a mix of other sampled sounds, mostly orthodox Asian flutes and string instruments. Percussion is practically a no-show on The Seven Letters From Tibet
with only brief and smothered appearances made. This only adds to the overall meditative effect. At times The Seven Letters From Tibet
tries to soothe the listener with ethereal washes, sonorous keyboard notes that sound like choral voices and delicate Asian string instruments, as perfected in The Orange Breath
. Yet at times the album is quite dense in sound, with much deeper overcast tones like in the opening Red Blood Connection
The album delves into a very mystical and fantasy like feel later on in The Green Land
and The Golden Heart
. Yet somehow that touching atmospheric sound is not lost. A piano solo is enshrouded in the middle of The Green Land
in a simple but earnest form accompanied by dreamlike synthesized voices. Tangerine Dreams perfection of transitions shines through in The Green Land
and The Blue Pearl
, with the music flowing down to its end like a river down to the ocean.
It could be contested that The Seven Letters From Tibet
is highly pretentious, only offering its full experience to those of a certain intelligence. Of course this could be said of most Tangerine Dream albums, and the passionate few from both sides of the fence will not change their opinions based on The Seven Letters From Tibet
For those looking for an experience similar to Phaedra
, none of the songs really compare on their own to its otherworldly journey. The Indigo Clouds
comes close though, starting out with a clear tribal feel with hushed tribal drums and forest like echoes. This is then broken up by sharp clashes and a heightened sense of alert. The discord slowly fades back into a meditative state using soothing choral voices and euphoric washes harmonized together. As a whole, The Seven Letters From Tibet
at its top spot, producing its own unique world that inevitably falls just short of Phaedra
's spontaneous genius.
The Seven Letters From Tibet
is easily one of Tangerine Dreams most powerful albums, both emotionally and spiritually. Like many other Tangerine Dream albums, The Seven Letters From Tibet
is a magnificent meditative experience, blending natural and digital sounds together to produce a soft but well defined journey. There is quite clearly a spiritual element to The Seven Letters From Tibet
. However the spiritual message is not forced upon the listener. But rather the listener is given the freedom to interpret the music as they wish. The Seven Letters From Tibet
was a complete u-turn on the formula that Tangerine Dream had fallen into, making it the shining light at the end of a desolate 90s tunnel.