Tangerine Dream ‘The Official Bootleg Series Volume Two’ (Reactive / Cherry Red)

Definitive live high watermarks from the kosmiche big time

Though possibly not the place to introduce the unacquainted, this striking collection shouldn’t be dismissed as one of those “for die-hards only” releases such is the depth of wondrous cosmic immersion on offer. It follows last year’s equally fine first volume, which features a recording of the band’s much-lauded 1974 Reims Cathedral performance, and this offering is just as impressive, which, for bootlegs especially, seems incredible. Crucially, there’s an abundance of the kind of extemporised unexpectedness that only the best live experiences can serve, which is reason in itself to indulge in this amply proportioned four-CD, booklet and essay-embellished set.

Taken from a couple of live appearances – Paris, March 1978 at the Palais des Congres and January 1980’s East Berlin performance at the Palast der Republik – these are two concert recordings considered to be among the finest bootlegs around. And it’s easy to see why, even on the first listen, conveying as they do the apt cavernousness of the venues and high recording quality. You’ll wish you could’ve been there, cross-legged and suitably fortified for the occasions.

Unfairly dismissed by some as too proggy, possibly because of the huge international success they enjoyed from the mid-70s onwards, and their vague associations with the kind of self-indulgent keyboard symphonies of lesser bands that hastened the welcome onset of punk, Tangerine Dream are perhaps less readily namechecked as contemporaries like Kraftwerk, Can and Neu!, but they have been as equally extraordinary in their influence. Just consider the line-up for a start, Edgar Froese, Chris Franke and Peter Baumann aside, in an early incarnation it included Zodiak Arts Lab co-founder Conrad Schnitzler as well as the great Klaus Schulze.

The opening salvo from Paris showcases much of what makes Tangerine Dream and their renowned live performances so special. Deep, slow-forming electronic experiments drift hither and thither in the cathedral-like space, but then coalesce into solid, astonishingly contemporary-sounding, brilliantly percussion-led structures. But then these sonic visions dissipate dream-like into thin air, like weightless ambient abstractions of true beauty.

The Paris appearance is also noteworthy for its short-lived line-up, which as well as the ever-present Froese and long-time member and ex-Agitation Free drummer Chris Franke, featured English multi-instrumentalist Steve Jolliffe and exceptional Berlin percussionist Klaus Krieger. Live recordings of this incarnation are rare and there’s a palpable distinctiveness to the performance too; more propulsive perhaps, but also at times astonishingly, multifacetedly proto. An early sequence even calls to mind both Fuck Buttons and The Prodigy within just a few startling minutes.

The behind-the-iron-curtain East Berlin outing, where Froese and Franke were joined by classical organist and gifted sound engineer Johannes Schmoelling, is a full and un-edited transcendental delight. Sections of it formed the basis of the 1986 Virgin release ‘Pergamon’; as bright and nebulous a star in the vast TG cosmos as any.

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