Album Reviews

Tangerine Dream: The Official Bootleg Series, Volume Two (Esoteric Recordings)

tangerine dream

Part Two of Tangerine Dream’s remastering and reissuing choice live concerts rolls on, and this latest set picks up nicely where Part One left off. For this outing, the two shows follow chronologically from the first volume; the first two discs of The Official Bootleg Series Volume Two capture a performance in Paris in 1978, while the second captures a live performance in East Berlin at the beginning of 1980. While musically similar in nature—long passages of synth-minded space rock and ambient bliss-out divided not into songs but into sets—both shows mark an interesting time in the band’s existence.

The first set, recorded at the Palais de Congres, Paris, on March 6, 1978, superficially sounds like Tangerine Dream in its prime—and it is, mostly. Its long-flowing passages of sound are simply otherworldly, offering its listeners pure sonic bliss, enhanced by an American laser-show team. But all was not well behind the scenes; the five piece band weren’t completely satisfied with this show or the rest of the tour. Leader Edgar Froese felt that the band was simply going through the motions; their music, not particularly innovative or interesting. Furthermore, creative conflicts within the band would soon find the four piece stripped down to a trio.

Listening to their performance from the Palast der Republic in East Berlin, it’s obvious that something new is coming. The performance is much warmer than earlier live shows, yet it’s noticeably colder and more detached. There’s a reason for this: this performance is one of the first for the band to perform almost completely on digital instrumentation. Suddenly, what was once jamming-minded stoner space rock had suddenly become something quite different—this was the sound of the future, a future that Froese had imagined but never quite realized…until now.

This early show at the beginning of 1980 would prove to be the group’s entryway into a new decade, wherein their sound would become even more digital-minded. As they realized their potential in newer ways thanks to growing technological advances, it would also be a time of upheaval; many of the band’s older fans would abandon them, because of their sudden interest in the detached sound of digital recording and a growing fascination with soundtrack work—a format that would lead them away from the live stage and into a fully functioning studio project. That some of this work was their best to date was irrelevant; often fans would conflate the poor quality of the films they scored with the quality of Tangerine Dream’s work, which was often the only high point of said film! 

Still, one can’t fault Froese for wanting to follow up on all the leaps and bounds technology had to offer, and The Official Bootleg Series, Volume Two serves as an interesting document of a great band in transition, getting ready to morph into something truly special.

The Official Bootleg Series, Volume Two is available now via Esoteric Recordings.

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