Private Music, 1988
also by Tangerine Dream:
In the late 1980s lots of musicians discovered the computer-based digital sequencer. I remember my own efforts with the Atari ST and C-Lab Notator - while it's a powerful tool it can sometimes make people lazy. When you rely on loops, quantizing and cut-and-pasting sequences of notes, music-making can be turned into a process of manufacturing instead of an art.
This indicates the direction Tangerine Dream were heading on their album "Optical Race". Most of it sounds like the kind of muzak that TV channels used to play in the old days when they closed down after midnight, or music for daytime TV shows on interior decorating. Even so, this kind of music is fine to listen to, or put on in the background, if you want something anodyne and mechanical to get work done to, or to smooth out a jumbled brain. It's not irritating, just bland.
Their pure synth instrumentals contain snatches of good melodies, but they don't really do anything exciting with them, or build up any tension or dynamics. Listen to the awkwardly stiff drum fill that leads into the full-band section of "Ghazal (A Love Song)". The tunes sometimes excuse their cheesy arrangements, such as the bouncy game-show style "Optical Race". When the beats are turned off there's even the occasional bit of warmth, such as the broad Gilmour-era-Floyd style ballad "Sun Gate". "Turning Off The Wheel" (sic) works fairly well as a mechanical piece of one-chord hypnotism.
However, I'd recommend Vangelis's "Direct" as an alternative from the digital era with much more warmth and feeling.
December 15, 2004