Exit…Stage Froese

I don’t think there’s any other band that was as prolific as Tangerine Dream. In the 70s and 80s they were dropping albums once or twice a year. Once they started doing film scores that rate of creativity and productivity increased even more. Edgar Froese and whomever was in the band with him at the time were constantly moving forward, adapting with the times(at least through the 80s.) I have these vague memories of being a kid and having this fascination with the name “Tangerine Dream”. The name evoked so many things in my childhood noggin. Something like this colorful, sweet flavor mixed with semi-consciousness. It was both mysterious and inviting.

I think the first time I actually saw the name Tangerine Dream was when I watched Firestarter for the first time. Drew Barrymore was intriguing, Keith David was a solid dad with telekinetic abilities, and George C. Scott was scary as hell. The music was this hazy calm in a sea of frightening powers and disturbing scenes. In retrospect the movie was pretty terrible, but the music was and still is amazing. It wasn’t until many years later that I bought my first Tangerine Dream LP. It was Tangram and I found it for the low, low price of $1.00. If it hadn’t been that cheap I probably wouldn’t have bought it(sorry Edgar.) Glad I did, though. I ended up loving it and it began my love of all things Tangerine Dream.

I hit up most of the mid to late 70s stuff, and the soundtrack stuff as well. I need to hit up Alpha Centauri and Zeit soon, but on a recent trip to Half Price Books I found an excellent copy of 1981s Exit. Tangerine Dream have once again grabbed my attention and adoration.

Like I said, Exit came out in 1981. They had done the score to Michael Mann’s Thief the same year so they were riding high from that exquisite piece of synth heaven. Exit is decidedly more low key than Thief. There’s a darkness on this record not heard since their work on the Sorcerer S/T. It seems to be a warning kind of album. A plea for the world to get its head out of its ass. This record is just as relevant now than it was then, me thinks.

First track “Kiew Mission” is a slow burner that has one of the few vocal tracks featured on a Tangerine Dream record. An uncredited Berlin actress chants in Russian the names of the continents of the world. It’s a protest song of sorts, as we were in the throes of a pissing match with Russia and the possibility of nuclear war was frighteningly just around the corner. For an album in Tangerine Dream’s 80s collection it’s a very sobering opener.

“Pilots of Purple Twilight” is a little more upfront but still carries with it an air of trepidation. It’s most definitely an “80s feel” kind of track, with Edgar Froese, Christopher Franke, and Johannes Schmoelling digging deep into the sound of the neon decade. It’s reminiscent of Tangram, and really foreshadows the sounds rock bands like Rush and Van Halen would pepper their future records with.

Speaking of sounds, I must share the equipment used on this album. The synths here are like the color palate of a painter. They make up what the record ultimately becomes. On Exit, the following equipment was used:

Moog Modular Synthesizer, Project Electronic Modular Synthesizer and Sequencer, Sequential Circuits Prophet-5Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, ARP OdysseyOberheimOB-X, ARP Pro/DGX, Minimoog, Elka string synth, SynclavierPPG Wave 2, PPG 360 Wave Computer, PPG 340 Wave Computer/380 Event Generator.

Just reading that list makes my palms sweat.

“Chronozon” reminds me of the opening music to some early 80s post-apocalyptic movie. You can see the protagonist driving down dusty open roads in a ’72 Nova with sheet metal attached to it and a flames coming out of the exhaust. Dilapidated vehicles and burnt out buildings pepper the side of the road as a glowing, orange sun drops into the horizon in front of him. As the song plays you can just tell this guy is going to have some great, dystopian adventures with scantily clad she-warriors and kick some serious mutant ass. At least, that’s what I see when I hear this song. Apparently it was used as the opening music for a Hungarian political show called Panorma. Who knew?

Title track “Exit” is glorious in its mournful, analog buzz. It feels like a title track. Le Matos captured this kind of magic with their Turbo Kid S/T. For my money this is where Tangerine Dream are best, wrapped inside a dense, heady melodic piece of music like this. Froese is the master of mood and this track proves that. A little side note about the song, it was used in episode 6 of Stranger Things. It’s okay, I’ll wait while you go cue it up and check it out…..Yes, episode 6……Cool, huh?

“Network 23” sports some four on the floor rhythms and wavering, hypnotic synths that lay in the air just out of reach. Strangely enough, this track sounds like Kraftwerk doing the theme for Law and Order(having just typed that I really want to hear Popol Vuh do the theme music for Barney Miller.) Anyways, this one a great, driving Berlin School slow burner.

“Remote Viewing” is classic Tangerine Dream, regardless of the decade. It’s ghostly and dark, with an almost space western vibe. Sinoia Caves has pulled these vibes for inspiration for sure, as this sound is all over the Beyond The Black Rainbow S/T. Endless black space permeates the song throughout it’s 8 minute time span. Froese, Franke, and Schmoelling let their Komische flags fly high on this excellent album closer.

It took me years to find my way to Tangerine Dream. Like, REALLY find my way to them. They were in my peripherals even as a kid(Firestarter, Legend, Near Dark, Three O’Clock High), but it’s only been the last 8 years or so that I’ve found that real connection with them. It’s like a Vulcan mind meld going on between me and the old TD. I adore the classics like Phaedra, Rubycon, Ricochet, Stratosfear, and Cyclone, but I also like these little records. Albums like Tangram, Le Parc, White Eagle, and of course Exit. They’re like these bite size versions of epic. They show that Tangerine Dream can write a concise, on-point piece of music without using up a whole album side(nothing wrong with that, though.) Exit is turning into one of my favorites.

It’s the Komische mind meld.

 

 

 

 

Dr. Destructo Strikes Again

Summer break is winding down. It hasn’t really felt like much of a summer break, honestly. Amid an early summer infestation, gutting the upstairs, and just trying to find some kind of normalcy the new school year has snuck up on us without a sound. We hit the southern hills of Brown County for a week’s length of recuperation, and just last weekend my wife took the kids to the great King’s Island in Ohio for some breakneck rollercoasters and much needed mania for a day. Me? I stayed home with the dog and did some much needed R&R. I did some weeding in the backyard early in the day. After that I did a lot of reading, some reconfiguring in the studio downstairs, and listened to some records. I also spent time with the extended cut of Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret. I highly recommend it if you can sit through over 3 hours of pretentious New Yorkers, self-centered teenagers, and adults that don’t know what the hell they’re doing with their lives. Despite that description I think it’s a new American cinematic classic.

I also watched Michael Mann’s Thief for the third time.

I bought the Criterion Collection edition of this classic Mann crime film over two years ago after I’d listened to Tangerine Dream’s excellent soundtrack. The film stars James Caan as a professional thief who decides to retire but is pulled back in for one last job. Of course you know how those kinds of stories go. They don’t go well. I loved the movie.

Even when Michael Mann makes a stinker, there’s something to love about it, whether it’s the cinematography or the soundtrack. The Keep was a turd, but it looked great and oozed mood. One thing that The Keep and Thief had in common, besides Mann himself, was Tangerine Dream. They scored Thief first for Michael Mann, and then scored The Keep. I think a lot of what went wrong for Mann’s The Keep was the fact that Paramount took his 210 minute cut and shaved it down to under 2 hours, then down to 96 minutes. They hacked it up so bad that the film had huge plot holes and the ending was even missing. Music cues were ruined as well. It ended up being an absolute mess by the end of it, to no fault of Mann as far as I can see.

Anyways, we were talking about Thief.

So the soundtrack by Tangerine Dream is pretty stellar. About a week after I had the movie in my hands I found a first pressing of the score on Discogs for well under $20. I couldn’t pass it up. It really is a classic in the Tangerine Dream discography, and as far as their soundtracks go I think it’s one of their best. Tangram showed a band that was lightening up their sound. The heady atmospheric sound excursions were becoming shorter songs with more of a melody-driven lean. Sorcerer was pretty dark, but Thief saw Froese and company heading into more of a rock sound, complete with drums and electric guitar solos. This didn’t diminish TD’s heady electronic soundscapes. To my ears it felt like they were just trying to accommodate the times and the story. Something like Firestarter benefited from a slower pace and more moody musical pieces, with Thief the rock and roll stance felt like the right feel for a tough Chicago crime story.

For me, Tangerine Dream seems to fill some musical cavern dug out by the slow migration of emotional icebergs over the course of my childhood. Things I never quite understood as a kid remained empty spaces in my head and heart until as an adult music I would rediscover seemed to fill those cavernous valleys in me. I think there needs to be a certain amount of intellectualizing in order for Tangerine Dream to connect with you on an existential level. As a kid they were a huge part of me and I didn’t even realize it. They soundtracked so much stuff that I wasn’t aware of until I was an adult looking to fill some voids of my own. Firestarter, Three O’Clock High, the short-lived TV show Street Hawk and it’s opening theme was Tangerine Dream’s “Le Parc”. Near Dark, Legend, Risky Business, The Keep,….

and of course Thief.

I sat in the family room in the basement writing this and spinning Thief, while upstairs my daughter conversed with old friends she won’t see for some time. She’s heading back to school this Friday. My son sat on the couch next to me catching up on some comic books he hadn’t read in awhile. Summer went by too quickly, as really all summers do. We’ve just got to enjoy the moments as we’re in them, I suppose. Why waste time lamenting about how quickly it goes? As long as we’re in it we can savor it. Summer break may be fading quickly, but there’s still those quiet moments to enjoy. Tangerine Dream is a great way to fill the empty spots and missing dialogue.

Dr. Destructo strikes again, thankfully.

Saturday Morning Synths

So I’m sitting in my comfy chair with a cup of dark roast at my side enjoying the glorious sounds of synthesizers on my Chromebook. It really is a perfect Saturday morning if you ask me. My oldest is home from school for a week(she’s on her spring break), we’re having a taco fiesta in honor of the boy’s birthday, and we have lots of new blu rays to enjoy over the weekend. I only have to work Monday and Tuesday then I’m off the rest of the week. The oldest and I will be heading to Fort Wayne in the later part of the week for some father/daughter time at various bookstores, records shops, and maybe an art museum. We’ll see what happens.

But right now, it’s all about synthesizers.

I’m trolling through Youtube looking up various live videos of S U R V I V E, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and the like. Started out looking for S U R V I V E. I’d really love to take the boy to go see them, but they’re not playing anywhere remotely close(SXSW, but that’s not close.) As much as I love listening to synth music, listening and watching are two different beasts. I can listen all day, but watching…well I’ve come to find out that it’s all in the presentation.

For example, check out this video from 1975 with Tangerine Dream performing at Coventry Cathedral:

Now that completely kicks my ass. Moody, weird psychedelic effects on the film, gothic shots of the church with candles lit throughout, and the guys completely lost in the music. And really, that opening shot of the modular synth open and foreboding like some monolithic sci fi device is just absolutely incredible. That’s how you perform synth music live.

Here’s another great one, Klaus Schulze peforming in Germany in 1977:

Slow panning shots of Schulze sitting surrounded by mounds of wires, keys, and what looks like a fur as he turns knobs to help make the noise of infinite space all the more brooding. I also love the tape reels running. I can only imagine how some mind-altering substances could make this experience even better, had you actually been there in that room.

Then there’s Jean Michel Jarre’s performance of Oxygene somewhere I’m not quite sure:

I’m guessing this was originally shot in 3D, as by the strange tracers surrounding everything on the video. Bonus points for that. Of course without 3D glasses you start to see double after about 10 minutes, so be warned. Still, it’s another cool video showcasing the otherworldly beauty of analog synths. Looks like the visual effects would’ve been unbelievably cool. And it’s Oxygene, so there’s that.

Hell, Jan Hammer performing “Crockett’s Theme” is even cool:

All it takes is some swaying from the player, some colored lights, and the look of confidence. I’m won over. I was never a big Hammer fan, but this is pretty damn cool.

Brian Ellis’ Reflection does some cool stuff live, too:

The video is a little wonky, but you get the gist. Lights, mood, and a little attitude goes a long way.

Then there’s S U R V I V E at Moogfest:

Four guys lined up side by side with synths in front of them, wearing their street clothes, in a room that looks like the shipping and packing area of what looks like a warehouse. No colored lights, no darkened room, no fog machines,…just four dudes staring down at keyboards with no expressions as onlookers have conversations on what looks like some nondescript afternoon. The music sounds great, it really does. But this music requires further stimulation in a live setting. It requires some fanfare, some pomp and circumstance,…hell, even a damn pantsuit would be okay.

But hey, S U R V I V E got it right here:

The video’s not the greatest, but you get it. Fog machines, colored lights, and the mystique of the analog synth. That’s more like it. It’s amazing what a little pizzazz does to the proceedings.

Anyways, this is where I’m at this morning. Time for another cup of java.

Edgar Froese: A Eulogy of Sorts

So back in the summer of 2014 I got on this Tangerine Dream kick. I mean, I’d owned a couplePhoto of TANGERINE DREAM and Edgar FROESE records of theirs since back in 2009, but I wasn’t really a fan until this past summer. My local record shop had pulled in this huge haul of used vinyl and amongst the giant catch were a few Tangerine Dream records. Two really caught my eye: Phaedra and Rubycon. I knew they were both very pivotol albums in their discography so I immediately snagged them up and took them home.

To my ears, Phaedra was the culmination of years of experimental space noise and desolate aural landscapes for Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream. It was dark, ominous, and just four tracks. Zeit seemed to be the ultimate space freakout record, and Phaedra upped the ante by honing their musical visions. After Phaedra, Rubycon wasn’t as ominous but more ambitious. Just two songs. Two musical suites. Each side felt like a dream explained in wisps and whooshes. Froese really seemed to be painting a picture with synthesizers and it was rather magnificent.

If there was a sound that would proceed what we know as classical music in some lunar colony future it was definitely what Tangerine Dream created from 1974 through 1980. This was music created for space exploration; whether the explorations took place on a spacecraft circling the fifth moon of Zandar, or during some hazy, weed-fueled Midwestern afternoon in a ranch-style home’s basement managed with some Koss headphones and a beanbag chair. Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream made some heady, dreamscape music that I found myself digging on heavily this past summer.

An interesting thing happened with Tangerine Dream. Not very often this happens, but after such an incredible musical output they not only continued to make music in the 80s they flourished. And you see, here’s where, unbeknownst to me at the time, Tangerine Dream made an indelible mark on a young J. Hubner. Risky Business, The Keep, Firestarter, Legend, Three O’Clock High, and Near Dark; these were all movies that colored my formative years heavily. Not only for what was there visually, but what was there playing through the speakers because Tangerine Dream scored every single one of those movies. As a kid I didn’t pay attention to the credits, but I knew there was something unique about the music in those films. They really carried the action and the story for me. Thirty years later I know why, but back then the music just made the film that much better for me. Over the last couple months I’ve since gone back and discovered the amazing soundtracks Tangerine Dream wrote for the films Sorcerer and Thief as well, going so far as to track down Thief on vinyl(as well as Firestarter.) That’s the great thing about a Tangerine Dream score: it’s great in the film or as a standalone LP.

How Edgar Froese informed me as a music lover didn’t really come to fruition till the last couple of years. I found myself completely drawn to very synth-heavy artists in 2013 and 2014 and I believe I have Edgar Froese to thank for that. Bands like Sinoia Caves, Jakob Skott, Boards of Canada, Bernard Szjaner, Rudiger Lorenz; as well as film composers like Clint Mansell, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and Cliff Martinez have filled up a good portion of my record collection in the last two years. Every one of those artists owe a huge debt to Mr. Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream. None of their excellent music would exist the way it does without what Froese created over the last 45 years. I mean, just listen to Cliff Martinez’ excellent Drive score. The film and the score are a homage to what Michael Mann and Tangerine Dream did in both Thief and The Keep. It’s heavy, pulsating, and ominous. It’s both slick and aloof at times. For my ears the Drive S/T is one of the best standalone film soundtracks released in the last thirty years and we have Edgar Froese to thank for that.

It seems Edgar Froese, even after Tangerine Dream died down, kept busy and kept creative. He put out albums under his own name as well as continuing the Tangerine Dream “dream”, as it were. The latest conception of the band had his own son in it up until the mid-2000s. One of my favorite synth composers, Ulrich Schnauss, was in the latest incarnation of the band.

I’d just heard yesterday that Edgar Froese passed away on January 20th, 2015 of a pulmonary embolism. He was 70 years old. It’s very sad news, indeed. We have 45 years worth of music to remember him by. I find that rather comforting.

 

 

Jakob Skott :: Taurus Rising

taurusWay back in March of this year, amongst one of the coldest and harshest Midwestern winters in recent memory I happened across this guy named Jakob Skott. He’s the co-founder and drummer of the Danish psych band Causa Sui. Not only that, but he’s the co-founder of El Paraiso Records, the record company that puts Causa Sui’s albums. Not only that, but the guy puts out amazing synth-driven, neo-futuristic records under his own name. Now, back to that harsh, cold Midwestern March. Skott released his second solo record called Amor Fati. It’s a buzzing, and frequently exhilarating listening experience filled with both hazy and jagged analog synth mixed with a cocktail of Keith Moon and Tony Williams drum-strutting. It’s an all instrumental album that seamlessly takes us on a post-apocalyptic musical journey. It’s one of the best albums of the year. Keeping his musical mojo going, Skott returned to the studio back in the summer and recorded yet another stunner of a record called Taurus Rising. While not the musical journey its predecessor was, Taurus Rising makes up for lack of narrative with serious groove and feel.

“Escape From The Keep” starts with bubbling synth, creating a tension that comes to fruition when Skott busts open the speakers with his constantly moving groove on the drums. It’s a different sound than we heard on Amor Fati. While that album had plenty of rhythm and groove, it was more about creating an atmosphere; a musical narrative telling some sci-fi tale. “Escape From The Deep” is a more visceral trip entirely. Skott distinguishes himself from the other synth-driven artists with this. He doesn’t want to let you float off into space. He wants to pull you back into the ship for the rough ride back into the atmosphere. “Sangue Verde” is pure, skronky space funk. It’s landing on some intergalactic beach and finding the natives in the middle of some freaky, sweaty procession. This track is very much in the vein of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. It’s “Watermelon Man” in outer space, baby. Or Bernie Worrell freaking the hell out with Stewart Copeland. “Pleiades” almost has a triumphant feel to it. The synths build over some great drum fills into a huge crescendo. It feels like crossing the finish line, or gleaming the proverbial cube. “Buckets Brigade” is a ten minute opus that’s part hopped-up Tangerine Dream and Zombi without all the pretense and overzealous synth noodling. It’s cool, calculated, and slick as hell. Closing track “Taurus Ascendant” harkens back to Skott’s solo debut album Doppler, with it’s flittering electronics and wavering feeling like your floating through space. Then, Skott’s drums kick in and the song truly begins ascending. It’s a quite wonderful ending to another wonderful album by Jakob Skott.

It’s not often an artist can put out two truly great albums in one year. Sure it happens, but it’s not the norm. When you’re an artist like Jakob Skott, you gotta keep the musical mojo flowing. Taurus Rising is an excellent continuation of the musical journey he started with Amor Fati. Tight, groove-filled, and rhythms that’ll make you shake your interstellar booty, this is a great companion piece to an already great musical run in 2014.

8.2 out of 10

Z :: Visions of Dune

zI have not made it a secret that I love analog synth music. Those warm, bubbling tones that permeate the air in visual greens and blues get me every time. The desolation they put my headspace in takes me to my childhood and those late nights staying up watching something I shouldn’t that I’d rented at Video World. Analog synths scored so many of the movies I grew up on; in-particular the horror and sci-fi flicks that followed and haunted me into adulthood. I think I’ve always loved the sound of analog synthesizers, but that love wasn’t reawakened until last year when the Boards of Canada vinyl reissues appeared courtesy of Warp Records. Once I’d started collecting those albums, that’s when all those feelings came back to me. I absolutely adore everyone one of their albums, but Geogaddi and Twoism in-particular hit some specific chords in my brain. I have since obsessed over the entire Boards of Canada canon and play them on a regular rotation.

For me, the analog synthesizer is a much more emoting and melancholy instrument than most others. I think it’s the fact that it’s such a desolate and lonely instrument. One person sitting behind a stack of keys with knobs, wires, faders, and buzzing machines creating these worlds all on their own. I liken it to a writer of science fiction sitting in a dark room, only lit by the light of a desk lamp as blue smoke slowly rises from an unfiltered cigarette that lays burning in an ashtray next to the typewriter. Within the paper before the red-eyed author is an amazing world filled with chromed-out buildings, rogue private dicks, neon lights, and strange creatures. All of this created by one man inside a lonely room with a bottle of something wet and brown in the desk drawer next to him.

Well, we are finally in the fall season. My favorite season. It’s a season that should be soundtracked by analog synths. Those dark, gray, overcast skies and brisk autumn breezes yearn for Moogs, modulation, and oscillation. It seems over the last few weeks that I’ve found some absolute gems in the old school synth department. Sinoia Caves’ Beyond The Black Rainbow, as well as his debut The Enchanter Persuaded are stunning works. Rudiger Lorenz’ Invisible Voices is a lost synth classic from 1983, with a sound that harkens back to Terry Riley’s A Rainbow In Curved Air, had that been recorded by Kraftwerk. All of these hint at the masterwork of John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream. I can add Z(aka Bernard Szajner) to the list of absolute gems.

I recently procured a copy of his 1979 analog synth classic Visions of Dune. This album was inspired by the Frank Herbert novel and listening to the sonic landscape of this record I can completely get that inspiration. The fact that this album existed five years prior to the David Lynch film adaptation of the book, I’m not sure why they went with Toto rather than this great album. I guess in the scheme of things this probably worked out better for Szajner, as he definitely would’ve been more well known having his music scoring a major science fiction film. But for all the wrong reasons as the film was an absolute mess. Anyways, Visions of Dune is a wonderful album. It moves from serene moments to darkness and tension. There’s a few tracks that contain drums(programmed or live, I’m not sure), and those tracks crackle and spark with some honest to Jebus heavy grooves. “Fremen” is like a heavy space funk track, much like Denmark’s Jakob Skott and his excellent Amor Fati album. “Bashar” is short but sweet with some great flanged snare as you feel like you’re falling down a worm hole. “Bashar” melts into “Thufir Hawat” and “Sardaukar” which then leads into the excellent “Bene Gesserit”, a seven minute track that owes as much to Edgar Froese as it does Frank Herbert.

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but you really must enjoy this record on some nice headphones. Not earbuds, kids. Headphones. Preferably some old school Koss that make you look like Princess Leia in Star Wars, but anything that will cover a good portion of your ears. The stereo panning and left-to-right movement is an aural smorgasbord on this album. “Ibad” moves from left to right oscillation, making you feel like your floating in space. There’s some heavily flanged vocals that sound like Trans Europe Express-era Kraftwerk. This album pops and crackles with artificial, tube-driven life.

I’ve geeked out enough. If you’re a fan of late night sci fi, Tangerine Dream, Philip K. Dick, and the absurdity of our existence in general, then I suggest you seek this album out. If your’e vinyl guy or gal, grab the vinyl version. It’s a beautifully repressed version on 180 gram vinyl(more geeking out, sorry.) I’m now a fan of Bernard Szajner. You will be, too.

Sinoia Caves : Beyond The Black Rainbow Soundtrack

btbr.lpjacketOUTstoughtonI love whims. They seem to reciprocate some of the best finds. On a whim, I picked up Breakfast of Champions at 15 years old and discovered one of the greatest writers in my time or any other time. On a whim I went on a blind date when I was 17 and found the girl I’d end up marrying and making cute kids with. On a whim I mixed chocolate and peanut butter and created one of the most revered confections in the history of confections. Wait a minute. That last one wasn’t my whim. It was H. B. Reese’s whim. But still, you get what I’m saying. Whims are what make life so much fun.

Awhile back, on a whim I clicked on an interesting picture that popped up in my social network feed. It was a movie poster for a film called Beyond The Black Rainbow. It was this strange little Canadian sci fi flick that came out back in 2010 about some institute that helped promote enlightenment through natural pharmaceuticals and other means that would ultimately turn out horribly. It was made to look like one of those classic, colorful b-movies you’d find on the back wall of your local video store back in 1983. This intrigued me. Once I saw that the soundtrack was being issued on vinyl by Death Waltz Recording Company(UK) and Jagjaguwar(US) my interest peaked further. The soundtrack was done by a band called Sinoia Caves, which is really just one guy named Jeremy Schmidt. He’s in the Canadian prog band Black Mountain and is their keyboardist. His work as Sinoia Caves is heavy synth workouts that are about creating dark moods and atmosphere. When I listened to the first song from his soundtrack, “Forever Dilating Eye”, I was floored. Heavily influenced by Phaedra-era Tangerine Dream, and John Carpenter’s synth scores, this music grabbed me by the lapels and shook the crap out of me. Well the soundtrack arrived last Saturday and it’s barely left my turntable.

I’m not sure how to properly describe this album. It is the perfect score for a film like Beyond The Black Rainbow. BTBR isn’t a movie that runs on plot, dialogue, romance, and action sequences. It’s the kind of movie that gives you as little as it can, story-wise. It throws you in the midst of this existential madness. Best intentions turned to black sludge. What it doesn’t reveal in words it makes up for it in visuals. The film has a grainy quality to it, giving it the feel of an aged b-movie classic. Something you’d often see sitting on the shelf at Video World, Video Plus, or Broadway Video back in the early 80s. You’d walk by it with its colorful and strange cover. A girl sitting limp in a white plastic chair, her hair covering her face so as not to reveal what she is. Is she alive or dead? The colors invite you to grab the box, but you don’t. Sinoia Caves recreate beautifully the visuals that overwhelm you as you watch the film. His analog synths create a feeling dread, yet also a distant pulse. Underneath the decay of a man’s once good intentions there lies the heartbeat of this girl. A girl forced to succumb to the will of another through narcotics and mind games. And as Schmidt’s synths create these walls of sonic doom there is still a humanity in there. Songs like the aforementioned “Forever Dilating Eye”, “Elena’s Sound World”, and “Run Program: Sentionauts” work as aural set pieces. They’re not just mood music. They truly help carry the film into the visual high points it reaches many times. “1966: Let The New Age Of Enlightenment Begin” is 16-minutes of bubbling dread and synth-y goodness. It’s truly a mesmerizing piece of music.

As a soundtrack this album helps to establish the cold, neo-futuristic vision the filmmaker was going for, and then some. As a standalone album it’s a masterpiece in analog synth-driven music. Sinoia Caves’ Beyond The Black Rainbow Soundtrack stands up to the best: Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter, and the film scores of Walter Rizzati, Vangelis, Wendy Carlos, and Cliff Martinez. It also elicits those warm fuzzy feelings that Boards of Canada like to make us 80s latchkey kids feel. This is an album dreams(and nightmares) are made of.

9.2 out of 10