Phaedra

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In 1974 modern electronic music was born after a number of years gestating in Krautrock hell. For the record, Krautrock was a sort of cargo cult that arose in Germany in the 1970-1973 time frame when early records by Pink Floyd such as "A Saucerful of Secrets" and "Ummagumma" arrived on the Continent. Some German kids figured out you could make some far out space music by running a microphone stand up and down the strings of a guitar while it was hooked up to an tape-delay echo box, and they immediately began to record a number of albums to "document" the sound of the era, when all they were really doing was going over the same psychedelic ground "real" rock bands in the UK and America had explored in the late 1960s before moving on. So you got "Tone Float" from The Organisation, before they morphed into Kraftwerk and delivered "Kraftwerk 1", "Kraftwerk 2", and "Ralf & Florian". From Tangerine Dream you got "Electronic Meditation", "Alpha Centauri", "Zeit", and "Atem". Klaus Schulze recorded "Irrlicht" and "Cyborg" with organ before he ever laid eyes on a Moog synthesizer.

Then out of the blue, Tangerine Dream signs with Virgin records and delivers a masterpiece that completely changes electronic music forever: "Phaedra".

The first ten minutes of the title track is an experiment where Christopher Franke uses the Moog's analog control-voltage sequencer as a substitute for bass guitar. He performs this bass guitar by moving pins around on a board, which changes the pattern gradually throughout the piece, while the other guys pull out all the stops and deliver a soaring, ever-changing slab of audio that sounds so electronic. This part of the song is the first appearance of the classic Tangerine Dream sound which would define 1970's Berlin School. At about ten minutes, all this bliss ends abruptly, and we move to a non-rhythmic section whic focuses on Mellotron strings and sound effects meant to evoke barking dogs, perhaps inspired by Pink Floyd's Echoes here. Before the end it starts to get downright scary, like Halloween music.

Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares features Edgar Froese soloing on a Mellotron which is treated to slowly sweeping filter effects. It sounds a bit like a continuation of the second part of Phaedra, but more lush and liquid. The sweepy filter idea is used a lot in trance music today, but this is where it begins.

Movements of a Visionary begins with synthesized whispers, which reminds me of the soundtrack from "Friday the 13th". There's an organ drone that evokes the sensation of great velocity, and there's an underlying sequence, an octave or two higher than Tangerine Dream prefers, which suggests endless activity on a very small scale. The track would be perfect for one of those films you remember in school about the life of tiny critters on the forest floor during a rain storm.

Sequent C' is a short but memorable dirge by Peter Baumann on flute, with tape echo. Just two minutes long, but it really sticks with you. The album reached #15 in the UK. It definitely had an impact. Klaus Schulze set aside his organ drone experiments and delivered "Blackdance" in May 1974. Kraftwerk stopped screwing around and delivered "Autobahn" the following November.

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