Tangerine Dream have released a lot of albums. The German electronic pioneers were so prolific that nobody quite knows how many LPs there are, though it’s thought to be around 160, all told. So where to start? There’s a rule of thumb that if it was made during their years signed to Virgin, then it’s probably pretty good. But even then, that’s a lot of catalogue stretching from 1973 to 1983 to get through, including nine studio records, two live albums, three soundtracks, three ambient solo adventures from Peter Baumann and another mind bending seven solo albums from Froese. Well okay, six solo albums, and a soundtrack. Let’s take a look at the latter.
It’s little wonder the soundtrack for the cult German film ‘Kamikaze 1989’ got buried in this wealth of material. It’s assumed by many to be a prelude to the well received ‘Pinnacles’ in 1983, though conceptually those records are very different. ‘Pinnacles’ is cold and synthetic, whereas ‘Kamikaze 1989’ is hard-boiled and noir-ish in a ‘Blade Runner’ kind of way. I can’t be certain having never seen the film, though stills from the back sleeve of the record of Rainer Werner Fassbinder dressed like he’s heading to a ‘Tiger King’ fancy dress party in 2049 would suggest so.
The film itself holds a peculiar distinction in being the last picture Fassbinder made, and that’s him on the cover, sweaty and bloated and weeks away from death, holding a handgun and dressed like a proto-cybergoth, although unusually he wasn’t the director this time. Fassbinder like Froese was wildly prolific, making 43 feature films plus the gloriously cumbersome ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ – a 14-part landmark in German television – all in a 23-year period up until his death in 1982. In fact he was staying at the flat of Wolf Gremm, the director of ‘Kamikaze 1989’, when he died from an overdose of cocaine and barbiturates aged just 37.
One of the main reasons I haven’t seen the film is that it’s pretty rare and will set you back £85 on eBay and that’s the version without English subtitles. Thankfully the soundtrack is less expensive, and less elusive, though only slightly. I found my copy in a south London record shop, an LP that previously belonged to Mixmaster Morris, according to the bloke behind the counter. It’s an eye catching cover of the legendary auteur and what’s inside doesn’t disappoint either. ‘Videophonic’ bounds along propelled by the most ancient drum machine known to man, fed through a boingy, flangey delay, with triumphant Vangelis-like synths washing over the spiky soundscape. ‘Police Disco’ is alacritous and space-agey, driven by a sequencer with wild splashes of atmospheric synth. ‘Snake Bath’ is ethereal and moody and far less ominous than its title suggests.
So let’s ask one more time: where to start with Tangerine Dream? This solo album by Froese, made at the conclusion of their imperial phase, would be as good a place as any to hop on and work backwards from. It may even inspire a deep dive into the New German Cinema madness of RWF. In his case, start with ‘Fear Eats The Soul’ or ‘The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant’, and if you manage to track down a copy of ‘Kamikaze 1989’ with English subtitles then make sure you let me know.