Posted January 17, 2008 in Life • Tags:

I’m listening to Tangerine Dream’s latest album, Madcap’s Flaming Duty and I am pleasantly surprised to admit that it’s the best thing I’ve heard from them in almost twenty years.

I’ve been a fan since about 1982, when a friend taped me a copy of Logos (I was in eighth grade!) but it wasn’t until about 1992 that I began investigating them some more, beginning with the amazing Poland and Le Parc. As a child of the eighties, it’s not surprising that their 80′s work pleases me the most, with its heavy synth and strong melodies. Well, around 1995 I started investigating some more and eventually collected most of their mid-seventies work too, including such favorites as Phaedra and Stratosphear. Actually, I was inspired to collect their earlier material after listening to the box set Tangents, which collects a great deal of their work from the early 70′s to the late 80′s and remixes it all into my favorite late 80′s sound of theirs. It’s fascinating to compare the originals with the re-recordings.

Around this time, I received from a friend a couple albums that he didn’t like, including Melrose and Rockoon, and I have to say, I didn’t like the new direction the band was taking (and to this day I still don’t like these albums, or much of the output I’ve heard from the 90′s at all). Guitars are heavily emphasized, which is a bit jarring, but most importantly, there’s a specific keyboard sound that grates on my ears to the point where I can’t listen any more. It’s a kind of tinkly, pounding keyboard sound that reminds me more of crappy 80′s New Age than anything else. And it’s present on virtually every song TD put out in the 90′s.

So between 1995 or so and the present (2008) I’ve contented myself with collecting as much of the output from the late 60′s to the late 80′s as I could while studiously avoiding anything after 1990. Until I came across this newest album, Madcap’s Flaming Duty. There are two things that set this album apart: vocals (!) and the wonderful absence of that cheap-sounding New Age keyboard.

First, the vocals. Vocals are something that TD seems to flirt with about once every ten years, to almost universal condemnation. I haven’t actually heard any of the albums with vocals yet, I guess because that’s not what I turn to TD for. So on a whim I gave this new album a listen, not knowing what to expect, and to my surprise the vocals are extremely pleasing–a strong, melodic male voice that complements the music perfectly.

And what lovely music it is. It varies from classic TD synth-driven sounds to a more ambient, beat-heavy sound. Overall, the pace of the songs is more languid than in the (recent) past, with lovely melodies that unfold over six to eight minutes, reminding me of (for example) the wonderful For Against album Coalesced. I’m greatly looking forward to exploring this, in my mind the greatest TD release in 18 years, much more.

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