jueves, 21 de mayo de 2009

Tangerine Dream - Atem (1973) (1996 Remastered)

The fourth album of Tangerine Dream, and the last before they would sign with Richard Branson's burgeoning Virgin Records label, Atem (meaning "Breath") ranks among their most enigmatic. The album is less static than the previous Zeit, but overall continues along the quiet, ambient pathways.

Not at the start, though. With an opening rivaling the majesty of Popol Vuh's "Aguirre," the first 5½ minutes of the title track makes you feel like you are inside a huge, ancient, Egyptian temple. The sound, defined by a repetitive motif on Froese's mellotron (the instrument's first appearance with TD) and Franke's tribal tom-toms, is an all-encompassing sanctity and awe. The percussive pace quickens to a climax, but then dissolves into a void of white light. It is after this great opening that the remainder of the track goes to minus eleven, like having been instantly teleported to the surface of an alien terrain so remote, astronomers wouldn't even bother to put it on their charts. But even while so removed, prog and Kraut fans should recognize the territory well. It is the rock-meets-electroacoustic avant garde style also explored by peers Klaus Schulze, Cluster, and early Pink Floyd: minimal, usually atonal organ mixed with unsettling electronic sounds (e.g., humming reverberation, sizzling noises, trickling). Perhaps it is "Fauni Gena" that best encapsulates the meditative and mystical feel that pervades the album, beginning with an aria of flute mellotron and proceeding along to string mellotron, all surrounded by naturalistic sounds and occasionally whispered voices. The interesting thing about this track is how organic and synthetic it manages to sound at once. Listening to it, you could imagine yourself being in the Garden of Eden, or conversely in some futuristic simulation of an aviary or rainforest. The final track, "Wahn" (German for "delusion"), splashes some cold water into the listener's face, with prehistoric vocalisms and screams that at the same time have a clear studio reverb to them, before closing out with some more tom-tom and 'tron magic.

A minus that warrants mention: similar to the other earliest Tangerine Dream albums in the Castle reissue series, though this boasts "digital remastering" done in 1996, the sound remains substandard with significant vinyl buzzing, particularly in the opening of "Atem" where it most matters. It's too bad that the band hadn't quite made it to Virgin quite yet, where the original master tapes most likely would have survived in reasonable condition. Barring the sound, this is one that most prog fans should hear and most hardcore Krautrockers probably already have. It seems to be less talked about relative to the other albums they made around this time, such as Alpha Centauri, Zeit, and Phaedra. If you want easy listening, go with Frank Sinatra. But if you want something more challenging and exploratory from this period of popular music, then Atem is an inevitability.

(C) Ground And Sky.


Edgar Froese, mellotron, guitar, voice;
Chris Franke, organ, VCS3 synth, drums, voice;
Peter Baumann, organ, VCS3 synth, piano


1. Atem — 20:24
2. Fauni Gena — 10:45
3. Circulation of Events — 5:49
4. Wahn — 4:29

Total time 41:37

Buy it:

- Amazon
- Rhapsody
- Tower Records
- Ciao (UK)
- Sanctuary Records
- Play.com
- MP3 Music Collection

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