Tangerine Dream has since its foundation 55 years ago reaped the benefits of its ever evolving lineup, with regular infusions of new blood entering in tandem with developments in technology and shifts in musical style. Though founding member Edgar Froese passed away in 2015, Thorsten Quaeschning and Hoshiko Yamane have been in Tangerine Dream’s ranks for enough years that they shouldn’t be faulted for daring to carry on the band’s distinguished legacy; with Paul Frick having joined in 2020, the trio went about crafting this Raum album as a continuation of the themes initially presented on the Probe 6-8 EP.
Given the group’s pedigree as a pioneering entity in exploratory electronics, often employing an expansive, progressive, and appropriately cinematic approach that made the group a household name in movie soundtracks, the seven tracks on Raum ultimately offer few surprises. Besides the expectations inherent in even uttering the band’s name, there is also the consideration of the album being inspired by material created by Froese before his death; as such, the aural washes of pads and percolating layers of arpeggiated synths that adorn virtually every track are trademark Tangerine Dream, leaving Quaeschning, Yamane, and Frick plenty of space to add their own flavors.
For instance, as the 19 minutes of “In 256 Zeichen” traverse through these familiar tones, the steely sound of Yamane’s electric strings enter to provide a lushly organic accompaniment to the synthetic bedrock, a light electronic beat waxing and waning in the mix along with the ambient orchestrations, making for a stream of audio consciousness that even in long stretches of monotony never fail to ensnare the listener. The spacious and trickling echoes atop a sustained bass drone and ostinato violins bears a quality akin to mid-to-late ‘90s IDM in “You’re Always On Time,” its synth melodies offering up an irresistible theme most synthwave acts struggle to capture, while the subtle distortions and atonal harmonies amid bouncy arpeggios on “What You Should Know About Endings” has a distinct late ‘70s/early ‘80s vibe.
Created in the midst of the lockdowns, there is the added quality of spontaneity inherent in Raum, each track going through phases of sonic discovery and revelation that has been part of Tangerine Dream’s lasting appeal for over half a century. Some might argue that no present or future lineup will ever quite measure up to band’s initial impact… but after 55 years, do they need to? Perhaps it’s enough that Quaeschning, Yamane, and Frick have with this album done well to at least live up to the spirit of the history they are now and forever a part of.