The Ship of Theseus. Trigger’s Broom. Sugababes. All examples of one of the oldest concepts in Western philosophy – if something has had all its original components replaced, does it remain fundamentally the same object? It’s a topic which has often perplexed music fans – when does the band you fell in love with cease being that band? There are so many examples of singers or songwriters departing and bands deciding to carry on that you can probably list ten without thinking too hard. But what happens when the entire line-up is replaced over time? Does that make the current iteration merely a tribute act, or does it indicate that a band’s identity is more about the name than the musicians who record under it?
It probably helps if a group keep their profiles low and let the music do the talking with a light show to keep people entertained in concert; people go and see Tangerine Dream, not the musicians playing. Tangerine Dream was very much Edgar Froese’s band – he was the founder and only continual member until his unexpected death in 2015. But even though he has physically departed, his spirit is still present on Raum. The music here builds on recordings from Froese’s tape archive and his Cubase arrangements, then composed and recorded during the pandemic. Social distancing meant musicians sent files rather than evolving the work during live takes. The results respect the work of Froese, but the arrangements are fuller than we might expect because of this approach to recording.
Tangerine Dream have recorded a lot of albums since their inception in 1967, but it’s probably their run from Zeit to Stratosfear that has proved the most influential. Consequently, a lot of electronic producers have a TD element to their music, whether it is the analogue synths or a tendency towards cosmic epics. So Raum is not only dealing with a sizable back catalogue but also a bunch of records that occupy a similar territory. Thankfully, this is a task that Tangerine Dream are more than capable of dealing with. The dedication to side-long tracks hasn’t changed with “In 256 Zeichen” opening with those distinctive burbling synths, gradually adding drums, and putting a spotlight on Hoshiko Yamane’s violin before opening out into epic chords to bring it home. It’s a great opening track – which it is on vinyl but not digital or CD, where it has been placed third in the order.
If the track sequencing seems a little weird – and it’s easily fixable with a little programming or playlisting – then that’s one of the few things that count against Raum. The familiar font on the cover (which has reappeared on occasion since 1979) and the blurred Super 8 image tie into the ‘old’ Tangerine Dream. There’s a sense that the group’s legacy continues to be respected on Raum, the second post-Froese album. But the musicians are not just going to retread the old TD but add their own personalities to the arrangements. The result is how you imagine Edgar Froese would want Tangerine Dream to be – a little bit of the old mixed with a little of the new. So… if something has had all its original components replaced, does it remain fundamentally the same? For Tangerine Dream and Raum, the answer is yes. (Jeremy Bye)