Ulrich Schnauss is a busy guy. Not only has he released an excellent album already this year with fellow synth aficionado and Causa Sui guitarist Jonas Munk called Passage, but he’s also readying a new Tangerine Dream album called Quantum Gate, which marks the final concepts of TD founder Edgar Froese(who passed away in early 2015) and a new beginning for the Berlin School masters. You’d think that would be plenty for the year, but Schnauss seems constantly abuzz with ideas and creativity. He’s teamed up with Tangerine Dream band mate Thorsten Quaeschning and the two have made an album filled with analog synth heaven called Synthwaves. It’s a testament to the golden age of analog sounds and hazy oscillation that komische music gave us in both the pre-Watergate and post-end of the dream decade known as the 70s. It’s also a bit of a tribute to the mentor both Schnauss and Quaeschning had in Froese. The record is a heady sonic trip into the past, while keeping eyes firmly pointed to the future.
“Main Theme” feels like a proper announcement to the world of Synthwaves. It blankets you in a warm sea of analog waves and melodic, early 80s pop hooks. This track could have easily soundtracked a lost Michael Mann film. It’s the kind of song that grabs you immediately and doesn’t let go. “Rain On Dry Concrete” can’t help but feel like Tangerine Dream. TD is in Quaeschning & Schauss’ DNA. It puts me in mind of Le Parc with its bright synth structures and arpeggiated sounds. “Slow Life” crumbles into a beautiful abyss. It’s crystalline sounds and nearly 8-minute run time create an epic listen. Through headphones “Slow Life” becomes a hypnotic tome, prone to pull you from your existence and carry you into some other ethereal world. Likewise, “Cats and Dogs” paints an aural universe with oscillation and LFO frequencies. It’s playful and all-encompassing. “A Calm But Steady Flow” sounds like robotic resonance in a metallic cavern. Some kind of AI call from the center of a synthetic world. You can almost touch the square waves in the air.
Elsewhere “Thirst” recalls classic TD in the form of their Three O’Clock High score, while “Flare” has an ominous depth to it, like staring with your toes dangling into some great unknown. If you’re a fan of S U R V I V E and the Stranger Things soundtrack, this track will reach something inside you and not easily let go. “Prism” casts off into the great unknown, not really sure what will be caught. That’s the beauty of it, though. The unknown. Something just beyond the horizon.
That’s truly the beauty of Synthwaves. It’s an album of musical exploration. It casts a musical line into the ether and we sit to see what that line pulls up. Thorsten Quaeschning and Ulrich Schnauss have set out to create something exploratory but also something inviting and genuine. They’ve achieved that. I believe Edgar Froese would approve.