Monday, 26 January 2015

Tangerine Dream: Oscillators to Full

The sun rises, the sun sets, and when it rises again some of us have gone. We go on. Edgar Froese has died. He was 70. He was the driving force behind Tangerine Dream, a rock band about which it is difficult to write because every facet of their being is totally at variance with the modern world.

Froese was a big, burly, bearded German man who kept the money coming in; Tangerine Dream was essentially his family business, literally so in its later days. Some people choose to spend their lives making shoes, or selling cuts of meat; Edgar Froese chose to create vast oceans of sound, and latterly weak synthesiser pop, and then muzak, and then he died. As time goes on Tangerine Dream's career will be forgotten backwards, starting with their most recent work and ending with some of their earliest, which will linger in the collective memory for a while longer. There's a lot to be said for dying young.

Tangerine Dream's latter-day music was no good, but it acted as a gateway drug for their earlier stuff, and adventuresome listeners such as you and I progressed beyond Tangerine Dream to the music of Can and Amon Duul and thence into the realms of mystery and beyond, and for that I am thankful Tangerine Dream existed.

This is an awesome photograph. Monika Froese was an avid photographer and seems to have had a camera in her hand all the time.

Edgar Froese was born in 1944 in a part of Germany that now belongs to Russia, on account of the late unpleasantness between those two countries. German kids of the 1960s were not on the whole nostalgic for the 1940s, and Froese's generation wanted to build a new world in the wreckage of the old. From my point of view the problem with Froese's generation is that they built a new world that immediately collapsed and was replaced by a newer world built by the punks a few years later, who were in turn absorbed by the postmodernists; and so the hippie communes and space-rockers and roots rockers and blues rockers and proto-new age cultists of the 1970s were like a dose of drain unblocker, they broke through the blockage but were washed away when the pipe became unblocked. That's an evocative metaphor. As a consequence Tangerine Dream's generation puts me in mind of Cassius, who killed Caligula and was sentenced to death for it, even though everybody wanted Caligula dead; he was useful in war but could not survive in peace. Thus the bearded hippies were shockingly new in their day, and shockingly out-of-date just a few years later.

In the 1970s modernism ceased to be the dominant art movement. It increasingly came to be seen as a sad sick joke, because the future it anticipated did not materialise. Progressive rock and Krautrock were fundamentally modernist art movements, and perhaps because of this they fell out of fashion within a few years and became ridiculous in the wake of punk; the sheer sonic majesty of Krautrock eventually fell back into fashion, although progressive rock has not yet followed it, and probably never will. Tangerine Dream straddled the two worlds uneasily. Although the likes of Can and Faust are nowadays mentionable in polite company, Tangerine Dream has not yet been rehabilitated. The band suffers from being too successful and well-known to champion as a forgotten underdog (Julian Cope's Krautrocksampler mostly ignores them), yet too obscure to have aroused the attention of the general public. The band charted and most music fans know the name, indeed I suspect that a lot of the mainstream only knows the name but none of the music. It's a good name, instantly recognisable, presumably borrowed from the 1967 psychedelic album by Kaleidoscope. Why Tangerine Dream? My hunch is that people in the 1960s were dazzled by tangerines, because rationing was still around and they had never seen tangerines before, and of course they didn't have colours back then, but you can't call a band just "Tangerine", and "Tangerine Cream" sounds silly and besides which there was already a band called Cream next paragraph NEXT PARAGRAPH

In the 1970s there existed musicians whose unique selling point was that they used synthesisers, and there was an audience sufficiently intrigued with this new electronic sound to put synthesiser music in the charts. The likes of Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk bridged the gap, sales-wise, between a cult and a fully-fledged religion, but of course synthesisers eventually became so common that synthesiser music as a distinct genre died off. I remember being shocked, as a kid, to learn that the newest Bryan Adams album had been mostly created with drum machines and samplers. Bryan Adams of "Everything I Do" fame. Bryan Adams' music was conventional guitar pop, but the guitars and drums and the rest of the arrangements were actually sequenced and performed with samplers. A band was hired only when he played live, and the same was true of Meatloaf, Cher, and nowadays of course all pop music is created with VST plugins. Lots of orchestral film scores are created in the same way. I knew then - this would have been the 1990s - that synthesiser music was dead. If even Bryan Adams relied on synthesisers, they were no longer special.

I want to draw a distinction between synthesiser music - the synthesiser music of the 1970s - and later musical movements that relied on electronic instruments and indeed used them exclusively. Ambient music of the 1990s was entirely synthesiser and sample-based, but it wasn't synthesiser music; it was "ambient music", nobody really cared how it had been made. The UK garage and grime and electroclash of my youth were all fundamentally electronic music styles, but the medium was transparent. The musicians might have been proud of their dual G4 Power Macintoshes and Nord Leads and multi-monitor Ableton setups and their stash of antique MC-202s and Juno 106s, but nobody listened to the music simply because it had been created with electronic instruments. People listened to the music because it had a good beat and it sounded good in the car and you could code to it etc.

And some of it sounded new and different and unlike all that had preceded it, but the future dreams of my generation were far more pragmatic and perhaps more narrow than those of the primitive people of the 1970s, who really did believe that humanity was about to break through into a new age. Instead, my generation believed that aliens were going to breed us like cattle, except that we didn't really believe it, it was just a joke; and post-9/11 it was hard to entertain dreams about the future any more. It was best not to think about the future. My generation lived for today, bought more shoes, got what we deserved.

You know, there was a time when googling for "you are the generation that bought more shoes and you get what you deserve" might have thrown up something good about that song. An article or blog post about it. Instead there are thousands of robo-generated shopping links and uploads of the song to file sharing sites like Soundcloud. Back when I worked as a writer it struck me that the internet would be the death of writing; but on further reflection it came to me that writing had always been engaged in a process of death and rebirth, and that the thing I thought of as writing was merely the tail end of the previous dominant form, and that even novels and poetry - ancient forms - had been new once. But it will be a bleak future when the internet is dominated by the likes of Imgur, which isn't even a primary aggregator. It's an aggregator of an aggregator, with a comments section deliberately designed to stifle expression by limiting commentary to a few characters. Writing has always had to struggle, writers have always had to struggle, everybody has to struggle, all of life is a struggle against a hostile environment, and the struggle makes us strong, but what became of the Spartans? They spent their days struggling and had no time to leave behind much of a legacy, and now all that remains is a cartoon.

A lot of synth music was rubbish; people listened to it because it was new. I imagine that some people listened to Tangerine Dream's music without really liking it. They listened to it because the music had whizzy space noises and you couldn't get 2001 on VHS because VHS didn't exist yet, and if you wanted to journey into space in the privacy of your own bedroom you didn't have many options in the 1970s beyond smoking a joint and listening to Rubycon. The first generation of synthesiser musicians generally solved the problem of technological irrelevance by tightening up their compositions and incorporating conventional melodies - notably Kraftwerk, who were a rotten Krautrock band but hit their stride when they discovered beats and tunes - or by transitioning to film soundtracks, which was Tangerine Dream's solution. As a soundtrack band they benefited from great timing, which is a polite way of saying that they had a very limited range. Within that range their music was effective but it has to be said that both Vangelis and Jan Hammer trounced them; outside their narrow range they had neither musical training nor much of a desire to stretch their sound. And yet their adaptation of Thomas Tallis' "Puer Narus Est Norbis" for the soundtrack of The Keep is astonishing and unlike the rest of their work, so they could push themselves when they wanted.

Tangerine Dream's Hollywood high water mark was Ridley Scott's 1985 fantasy epic Legend, which starred Tom Cruise as a weedy shepherd or something and there was a unicorn and the devil was played by Tim Curry in a giant plastic suit and the set burned down and it cost a fortune and was a flop and Mia Sara looked nice in black lipstick, yes children they did have goths in 1985, and no it wasn't the one with David Bowie, that was Labyrinth. But therein lies a tale. Scott originally commissioned Jerry Goldsmith to write music for the film. The pair had worked before, on Alien. They didn't get on, but money.

At the time Goldsmith was one of Hollywood's most respected film score composers. He had been around since the 1960s, initially working in television, before graduating to movie scores; he could write orchestral music as well as anyone, but he was willing to push himself, notably with the percussion-heavy, jarring Planet of the Apes, but also the more conventional Patton, which deftly managed to express a mixture of militarism and spirituality with such aplomb that the Academy decided to give the Oscar to Love Story instead. Orchestral soundtracks fell out of fashion in the 1970s but returned with Star Wars, and whenever John Williams was too busy the studios called on Jerry Goldsmith instead, and then James Horner and John Barry respectively. Goldsmith wrote the score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was wonderful - the score was wonderful - and it had a really cool bwaaang noise, remember? He also wrote the music for Alien, which coincidentally sounded like early Tangerine Dream, sick angel strings and devil woodwind, although as far as I can tell Goldsmith and Froese never met or interacted in any way.

Alas Jerry Goldsmith wasn't good enough for the producers of Legend. The original European release of the film had Goldsmith's score, but for the American release the producers - sensing commercial disaster - had the film trimmed down, and commissioned a new score from enter stage left Tangerine Dream. The band apparently had three weeks to record it. The edited, Tangerine Dream version of the film was most prevalent on television when I was young; it's the one I grew up with.

Tangerine Dream's score is mostly atmosphere, with a couple of pop songs and one really strong romantic theme that is repeated several times. The producers wanted a "songtrack", and so they brought in Bryan Ferry and Jon Anderson to sing a couple of numbers. The music has lots of electronic pan pipe noodling, plus the very same Emulator shakuhachi sample that went on to be a cliché later in the decade, but would have been forgiveable in 1985, and to be fair Tangerine Dream don't overuse it.

Goldsmith's score, on the other hand, is conventionally orchestral, although because he kept up to date with the latest trends it has quite a lot of synthesiser as well; unfortunately he picked an irritating electronic noise as a leitmotif for the film's villains, which was supposed to be irritating but it's still irritating. In the same year he wrote the synth-heavy, contemporary music for Rambo: First Blood Part II, and he went on to score Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Air Force One, Mulan, LA Confidential, The Mummy, the list is quite literally finite, because he died in 2004. There was a ritual whereby each year the Academy would nominate him for an Oscar, and he would turn up and watch while someone else won it, and a single calcified tear flowed from his eye. Many years from now, when Leonardo DiCapro dies and goes to heaven, Jerry Goldsmith will welcome him, and they will sit and share a drink, and cry. To be fair, those films were popular and/or good, but I can't actually remember how the music went. Perhaps in his later years Jerry Goldsmith needed some money to renovate his house, or perhaps he had lots of daughters, I don't know. Daughters are expensive.

In my opinion both scores work, and if anything Tangerine Dream's music fits the material better. It's unsubtle and bold, just like the film. I pooh-pooh the band throughout this post, but their music for Legend works in the context of the film. Scott's movie was a fairy story closer in spirit to the Brothers Grimm than Tolkien; it was shot in a studio and has an unreal, deliberately fake look, and in that respect Tangerine Dream's music complements Scott's aesthetic. I don't apologise for using semi-colons so often. My heart is fine, I'm just like this. Besides, it's a very efficient way of juxtaposing two ideas quickly. "Complements Scott's aesthetic" is really clipped and aggressive, isn't it? The kind of thing a Klingon might say. (pause). Goldsmith's score, on the other hand, is surprisingly bland and anonymous.

My theory is that Goldsmith wasn't inspired by the material, and so despite having more time and an orchestra he produced something unmemorable, whereas Tangerine Dream was having a good day. I mean, we're supposed to rate Goldsmith's score, because he was a proper composer and the studio spat on his work, but I simply can't warm to it. Tangerine Dream's "unicorn theme", for example, is syrupy, sentimental, crude, simplistic, emotionally manipulative... and it's fantastic, because all of those qualities work in the context of the film (Goldsmith's score for the same sequence is just dull). I have no doubt that Jerry Goldsmith could have destroyed Tangerine Dream on any other day, in any other arena. Post-Legend the band declined into television work, I suspect because Legend was a fiasco. Ridley Scott's career basically tanked until Thelma and Louise, six years later; Mia Sara's career was obliterated just as it began. Tom Cruise immediately went on to enormous stardom, perhaps because people completely forgot that he was in Legend. I have seen the film several times and I can't remember his performance; I remember Tim Curry, I remember the sets and the music, I can't remember a single thing about Tom Cruise in Legend. Not a single line of dialogue or... I mean, wasn't Mia Sara essentially the driving force of the plot? I'm digressing here. It would be so easy for this tiny throwaway paragraph about Legend to grow so big that it eventually takes up one-quarter of the entire post, I must trim it down.

I think the fundamental problem with Tangerine Dream's soundtrack career is that Froese had no formal musical training, and like most autodidacts he was never forced to jump the groove or write an essay explaining why his last album sucked. He trained as a sculptor, and Tangerine Dream's music has an engineered quality to it, as if a sensible craftsman had set himself the task of constructing sonic collages from technology and a pool of musical ideas.

The synthesiser and progressive rock boom of the 1970s coincided with a period in which it was fashionable for musicians to adopt elements of European romantic classical music, and the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen continued this in heavy metal during the 1980s. I have no idea why rock musicians decided to mimic romantic classical music and not, for example, the interesting modern classical music of the twentieth century. Tangerine Dream was almost unique in that their music actually did resemble the stark, alienating sound of modern classical, but because they didn't have any conceptual depth they couldn't progress, and so their career boils down to three or four solid but disconnected ideas run into the ground. On a tangent, I've always found it strange that The Beatles - a trivial silly yeah-yeah pop band - experimented with musique concrète ("Revolution #9" and parts of the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack) and sampling ("Tomorrow Never Knows", "Walrus", "All You Need is Love" etc), whereas supposedly more hardcore rock bands of the prog era wanted to channel Beethoven, and that was supposed to be progress. What was up with that?


There's a pervasive whiteness to mid-1970s synthesiser music that is very much of its time. Tangerine Dream's music is almost stereotypically white person's music, stiff and cold and grandiose, so that even though the band avoided classical stylings the very form of their sound has a classical air. The mid-70s line-up of Edgar Froese, Christopher Franke and Peter Baumann could be used as a teaching aid for non-white people in order to point out the characteristics of the white race; Froese was burly verging on overweight, Franke had stringy hair and looked as if he spent his days asleep and his nights playing Dungeons and Dragons, Peter Baumann was a stealth geek who was handsome in an effeminate way, which is creepy because you have to wonder why such a pretty man was hanging around with geeks. Was he mentally ill? Tangerine Dream's music was technically interesting and emotionless, and was aimed squarely at young white men, although the band's enveloping, formless soundscapes had a feminine quality; Phaedra and Zeit and so forth are amorphous swamps of sound, aural expressions of the classical stereotype of women as chaotic, clinging harpies whose bottomless vaginas consume the innocent flesh of young virgins. I'm not sure if a feminist reading of Tangerine Dream's music is the right way of approaching the problem of writing about the band, although I suspect it would be an entertaining journey. Phaedra was of course an adulteress who, in order to conceal her adultery, was prepared to condemn an innocent man to death. It might be that the band simply picked the name at random because it sounded mysterious, but come on (rolls eyes).

Notice how the photographs - taken by a woman - are divided into masculine squares. HAVE BEEN divided, deliberately.

Yes, but what of Tangerine Dream? Their popular legacy rests on a string of albums they released in the 1970s, running roughly from 1974's Phaedra to 1977's live double album Encore, although the cut-off is gradual. Debut album Electronic Meditation is a mess; their next three albums were recorded for German experimental label Ohr, and have an ambient sound that predates Brian Eno's ambient albums by several years. 1971's Zeit, in particular, is a double album of menacing drones, the kind of thing that might play on the tannoy of Hell's airport. It's difficult to write about Tangerine Dream's early music. It's formless and there are no lyrics and because no-one else has written about it I'm not sure what opinion I am supposed to have of it, and I'm not willing to be the first. I'm worried that I might say something embarrassing that will cause me to be disbarred from all the literary luncheons that I go to.

I want to stress that I'm not a fan of Tangerine Dream, oh God no. I ponder the band as an entomologist might ponder an extinct species of proto-cockroach. I grew up listening to the most fashionable music imaginable, and Tangerine Dream's music sounds... it sounds like something that was daring and new once, but it didn't lead to anything, and so now it's just a kind of dead end. Imagine if Thomas Koner had gone on to become a dance music DJ and you have a mental portrait of Tangerine Dream's unusually binary history.

Think of all the people who won the Turner Prize before 1993, before Brit Art got into gear. You've heard of Gilbert and George, but what about Tony Cragg and Richard Deacon? What of their work? It just doesn't mean anything today because there isn't a framework to give it meaning. We all know Damien Hirst, even if we know none of his art, but who was Tony Cragg? The same is true of Tangerine Dream's music. The music of The Beatles has meaning, because there is a framework; there are books about The Beatles, we are all familiar with their story, there are films about them, their albums are still rated, they are still written about. Tangerine Dream, on the other hand, were never written about extensively. They didn't sell enough records to dominate the media, but even huge record sales are not enough to guarantee the existence of a meaningful framework. The Electric Light Orchestra sold a huge amount of records during Tangerine Dream's heyday, but they are just as meaningless today; beyond "Wild West Hero" and the notion that they were loud and pompous, nothing remains. In contrast people still write about Richard Hell and the regulars of New York's CBGB club, because those things have a framework of meaning. And perhaps it's simply because they were good-looking and looked good in timeless leather jackets, whereas Jeff Lynne and Edgar Froese were bearded middle-aged men who did not look good whatever clothes they wore. Human beings are shallow, visual creatures, fascinated by looks and surface, and there is something universally appealing about the young punks of the late 1970s that will live on after the supposedly more substantial work of progressive rock has gone.

Zeit is one of my favourite albums. It's bleak and alien, even compared to the ambient music of the 1990s. It's uncompromisingly dedicated to its concept, and it was essentially the pinnacle of early Tangerine Dream. The point at which they got krautrock out of their system. The synthesiser musicians of the 1970s used some of the same technology, worked in the same field, and were occasionally indistinguishable from the high art of Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage, but there was a solid metal barrier separating them. Jean-Michel Jarre studied at the Conservatoire de Paris and was briefly a member of the GRM; he had an electronic opera performed at the Paris Opera, and until 1973 or so was in theory on their side of the barrier, but he rejected theory in favour of practice, and by the time of his international breakthrough with Oxygene the barrier had closed behind him.

There is an irony here. The music theorists of the mid-century produced a lot of ideas that died with them, whereas popular music of the 1960s and 1970s had a measurable and direct influence on music that followed it - not just popular music, but modern classical music, because the barrier between high and low art evaporated with postmodernism. Put another way, the idea of Stockhausen being influenced by or even working with James Brown is unthinkable, because with the exception of jazz, black music was despised as trivial folk art during the modernist period. Nowadays however modern classical musicians metaphorically crave black cock; they are gagging for it, desperate to be associated with hip-hop, and the very concept of modern classical music increasingly seems out of step with prevailing fashion. Again, this is another instance where the subject has a framework of meaning. John Cage was a terrific writer who worked hard to explain his ideas, and I don't want to suggest that I believe the likes of Klaus Schulze or Ash Ra Temple were cruelly deprived of the academic respect they had earned; and why is academic respect so important, anyway? There was nothing stopping Jean-Michel Jarre from writing at length about music. I just worry that the conventional historical narrative has blind spots, that's all.

The band remains influential to this day

On a superficial level Zeit resembles modernist classical music. It comes across as an experiment to be admired and pondered rather than a voluptuous pleasure to be enjoyed. A collection of static blocks of sound to be gazed upon as if they were exhibits in a gallery. On the other hand it has no theoretical substance, and it has a number of compromises that disqualify it from consideration as a work of serious art. The band wanted to fill a double album with drones, and they did so; then they moved on. Nonetheless I love it, and there's nothing quite like it. Brian Eno's ambient music was supposed to be soothing, and the ambient musicians of the 1990s were compromised by their desire to sell a lot of records, and "illbiet" music is too affected. Zeit is like a cancerous atom drifting through space, unimpressed with its surroundings.

Post-Zeit the Ohr label was destroyed by a mixture of drugs and lawsuits, and so Tangerine Dream signed to Britain's new Virgin label. Virgin was at least initially a progressive label for heads, but unlike Ohr it was eager to sell a lot of records. It was professionally run by Richard Branson, a normal man. Phaedra was one of the label's first dozen or so records, and reached number 15 in the UK album charts, impressive for a collection of stark electronic textures. Their next album, Rubycon, reached number twelve, and the band continued to chart until the mid-1980s.

Phaedra introduced Tangerine Dream's new sound. You know it already. A sequencer playing a simple dum-dum-dum pattern put through a delay line synced so that the sequence goes dum-dum-a-dum-a-dum-a-dum, with swooshy noises on top. Interspersed with formless jams so that the band could set up their instruments. Judging by bootlegs Tangerine Dream bought a sequencer some time in 1974 and quickly incorporated it into their live show. In those days sequencers could generally play a single, 16-step pattern; it wasn't until the 1980s that microprocessor-controlled, pattern-based sequencers became available, and as a consequence sequencing was awkward in the 1970s and of limited utility. Tangerine Dream quickly hit upon a neat way of using the sequencer to create an evolving rhythm track, and this new sound became known as the "Berlin School".

The sound became a cliché because it was so limited - it's hard to build an entire genre on a single technical trick - and in fact the band essentially took it as far as it could go on Phaedra. Rubycon is a smoother, more polished repeat of Phaedra, and from that point onwards the sequencer sound started to become repetitive. Nonetheless the band was firing on all cylinders at this point, and the run of Phaedra-Rubycon-Ricochet-Encore and the soundtrack for Sorcerer forms the bulk of their legacy. Although Phaedra was the big hit my experience of ordinary people is that they tend to have the slightly post-peak Stratosfear or Force Majeure in their record collections; two albums that had a mixture of majestic spacey ambient music and relatively conventional tunes. By Tangram (1980) the band was starting to churn out muzak, although again the cut-off is difficult to place. The likes of White Eagle and Logos (both 1982) suffer from terrible early-80s drum machines and a very dated sound. Chris Franke's drumming on the Ohr-era Atem (1973) is one of that album's high points, but the band's mid-70s albums didn't have drums, and 1980s Tangerine Dream was utterly uninterested in percussion, because the albums have perfunctory four-four drum machine patterns that sound like temporary tracks. Tangerine Dream did not dance.

At its best, Tangerine Dream's music was a mixture of brittle beauty and brute force, but the new digital synthesisers of the 1980s tended to undermine both of those qualities, and although the band had solid practical reasons for abandoning their unreliable Mellotrons and Moog Modulars it's as if they were enamoured of the theory of digital sound without pausing to listen to it critically. Their early-1980s albums have a clean, thin sound that hasn't dated very well. As a live band digital pattern sequencers essentially turned them into travelling light show with musical accompaniment. To be fair, a lot of the improvised 70s-heyday live stuff on their bootleg box sets is dross that sounds as if they were simply trying to cover up for broken equipment, and on the whole Tangerine Dream are a frustrating band. They were one of several experimental bands of the late 1960s, early 1970s that successfully managed to update and mutate their sound while remaining distinctive - Pink Floyd were probably the most successful - and they had a longer run than most, but by the 1980s they had lost their way. At their most extreme they were more extreme than Pink Floyd, but conversely when the two bands were down, Pink Floyd had more taste. Roger Waters had more taste. I suppose the modern equivalent would be someone like the Aphex Twin, or... is there a modern equivalent? Richard James just slowed down, he didn't start copying Sash. Remember Sash? "Ecuador"? Ask your parents. Modern bands have one advantage that Tangerine Dream didn't have, which is that they got to see Tangerine Dream grow old, whereas Tangerine Dream had no role models to copy. In the worlds of jazz and classical music composers typically get better with age, not worse, perhaps Froese and his chums assumed that the same would happen to them.

What will history make of Tangerine Dream? Their early music resembles the cosmic soundscapes of 2001, and the band has always been ghettoised as a nerdy act for sci-fi nerds. Lester Bangs wrote a piece about them, but he was more interested in their light show rather than the music. And what is there to say about Alpha Centauri, or their landmark gigs at the Royal Albert Hall in 1975 or their concert at Reims cathedral in 1974, which ended with hundreds of stoned hippies emptying their bladders against the stonework? Beyond the drama of peeing in a cathedral, what is there to say about music that was mostly a formless wash, without even any musical theory behind it? Eno understood that people crave meaning, and so he accompanied his tape loops and drones with exposition, and rock music writers lapped it up. Tangerine Dream have the same problem as Autechre, Squarepusher and huge chunks of the rave and electronic music I grew up with; on the whole the band let their music speak for itself, and like a firework display or a football match the music excited the spectators and then it was over. Their album art was abstract and their song titles were essentially Engrish, or Englisch given that they were German. "Fly and Collision of Comas Sola", "Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares" - did they mean "assembly"? - "Rising Runner Missed by Endless Sender" all have the form of English sentences but the style is wrong.

"Runner" was one of the band's few vocal songs, from the 1978 album Cyclone, which was a conventional hard rock album with drums and singing. I don't know why they did that. The lyrics... I mean, 1978 was late for a German prog rock album with a long instrumental track on the second side. Yes, 1980s heavy metal had room for long instrumental songs, but Froese never had the chops for 1980s metal. If we're being honest, dear reader, he wasn't a very good guitar player. Live bootlegs of the 1970s are full of his guitar solos, but he was rubbish; the solos sound like StSander's "Shreds" videos.

History, Tangerine Dream. Jean-Michel Jarre sold many more records than Tangerine Dream, and was generally pegged as a lightweight in comparison. He suffered from the same mixture of meaninglessness and critical indifference, which is faintly tragic given that he had a genuine academic background and might have been able to supply meaning if he had been so inclined, and he is now in the same position as... but the same is true of Elton John and Paul McCartney, isn't it? Remove their private lives and they would be forgotten men. Nobody listens to their new music. Perhaps it's not so much that Froese and his ilk failed to give the historians something to write about, it's simply that writers and the media in general aren't interested in music, tunes, sound. Writers are interested in the music industry, or the private lives of musicians, but not music. For writers, music is just a noise that happens in the background while they are typing away on their keyboards, just as I am currently listening to Tetsu Inoue's Yolo, or if not listening to it then at least playing it in the background.

Yolo probably means something else in Japanese, you can't blame him for that. Inoue's last album was released in 2007, and he seems to have vanished since then, or perhaps he assumed his final form. I mean, literally, nobody has heard of him since then. The sun rises, the sun sets.