If you appreciate electronic music in any of its permutations, then you owe a debt of thanks to Edgar Froese.
The pioneering keyboardist, guitarist and composer, who died last week at age 70 from a pulmonary embolism in Vienna, spent the last 48 years at the helm of Tangerine Dream. The German ensemble helped redefine the use of synthesizers in contemporary music by initially crafting an orchestrated keyboard sound of its own and then adhering it to the times.
Members came and went – roughly 20 players in all, including the keyboardist’s son Jerome Froese – with the elder Froese remaining the band’s only mainstay member.
Initially, though, Tangerine Dream was viewed as a by-product of the German-born, industrial-tinged progressive music known as krautrock. But it was in the ‘70s and early ‘80s that Froese’s finest works were created – 1974’s majestically serene Phaedra, 1975’s wildly tense soundtrack to Sorcerer, 1981’s sleek but darkly percolating Exit and 1985’s globally inspired Le Parc.
A personal favorite remains 1988’s Livemiles, a pairing of two 20 minute concert suites that stand as some of the most exact, emotive and exquisitely textured music the band ever created. It also marked the end of an era. From that point on, Tangerine Dream became a streamlined enterprise that catered more to the beats, grooves and rhythmic designs that would be fleshed out further by a new generation of artists that ushered in ambient, trance and a wholly redefined electronic soundscape. That music, however, aimed less for the mind and imagination and more for the dance floor.
So would there be a Daft Punk today without the music Froese devoted nearly five decades to? Possibly. But its sense of modern pop pageantry would be far less captivating without the synthesized roads first paved by one of electronic music’s foremost dreamers.