10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2008
The fledgling Virgin label signed two important German bands in the early 70s: Faust and Tangerine Dream. First, they released The Faust Tapes album, a collection of studio experiments and outtakes, in a Bridget Riley sleeve for only 50p (the price of a single in those days: very tempting to a schoolboy prog-rocker, I can tell you). Then along came Phaedra. Both showed aspects of so-called "krautrock" that were very different to the melodic pop of Kraftwerk, who were enjoying their 15 minutes of fame at that time courtesy of their "Autobahn" single riding high in the charts. Phaedra and TFT combined electronics (largely homemade, in Faust's case) with white noise, tape effects and elements of musique concrete, to often disconcerting and at times frightening effect. The passing years have been kind to TD and they are rightly revered as pioneers in sequencer-driven electronic music whose influence has been widely felt. Future Sound of London's "Lifeforms" in particular, and also Orbital, show an obvious debt. Chris Franke got a unique sound out of his Moog that, once sequenced up, sounded like nothing else at the time (with the exception perhaps of some of Isao Tomita's reinterpretations of Debussy), and providing the glacial minimalist rhytmns that underpin the classic TD trilogy of Phaedra, Rubycon and Ricochet. In fact, the nearest I heard was years later on the 12" mix of ex-Propaganda singer Claudia Brucken's "Kiss Like Ether": a bautiful synthesized opening with washes of mellotron only spoiled by the arrival of some rather clumpy beats.
But back to Phaedra. The title track clocks in at 17 minutes and has truly stood the test of time. What is shocking 30 years on is the sheer pace of it. Instruments and sounds come and go swiftly, all played out over Franke's sequencers and short mellotron bursts. There's an intensity and precision to it that makes me think of Pink Floyd's "On the Run" from their "Dark Side of the Moon" album the year before, where a scampering synthesiser rhythmn dominated the entire song, overlaid by a collage of odd voices and stranger sounds. But Phaedra is a more varied beast. Out of abstract and etherial sounds come mellotron and synth lines that rapidly mutate into a machine-like humming, before a classic Franke line comes through to dominate proceedings. Already by the three minute mark a crescendo is reached, with a simple stereo-panning and heavily phased mellotron theme that is quickly replaced by a bass guitar riff before Franke's main sequencer line comes in to dominate proceedings. It races ahead with more rhythms, mellotron and other effects piling on top of one another, until it spectacularly crashes and burns (intentionally, or was this the Moog going out of tune as another reviewer suggested?) around the 10 minute mark. we're then into the wind-down, starting with an eerie soundscape played on what sounds like an old Farfisa organ. Echoing electronic bird calls and lapping waves evoke some alien wildnerness, only to be replaced by a cold mellotron coda overlaid with flute and organ sounds for the final five minutes or so.
So why four stars? Next track "Mysterious semblance.." has not aged well, in my opinion. It's long (about 11 mins), saddled with a pretentious Prog title and is largely mellotron driven. In fact, it recalls the worst of that era when mellotron meant an "orchestra in a box" to many musicians and a chance to impart a quasi-classical feel to a song. Fans of Barclay James Harvest or Genesis and their "Watcher of the Skies" will probably disagree, but mellotron is best used here on the title track, peeking out of the rhythms now and then, or supplying the complete change of pace and style that marks the final third of the piece. "Visionary" is OK but unremarkable: more robust sequencer lines, but it lacks all the things that make the title track so extraordinary. But "Sequent C' is a great 3 minute coda to the album, a series of beautiful looped and overdubbed melancholic flute lines. It makes me recall "Coelacanth" from Shriekback's Oil and Gold album: gloomy, dark and brooding. All in all though, an important album and an influential one, not just to others but also to TD themselves. Elements of composition on Phaedra are re-worked to great effect on the superb "Rubycon" parts 1 and 2 the following year, where Franke's hypnotic sequencer lines were often given centre stage and allowed to dominate proceedings unhindered at times.
A gripe on the packaging though: as someone else said, where are the paintings that originally graced the gatefold sleeve? A fuller history of the band plus more photos to accompany these Virgin remasters would have been nice.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
I first heard this record in 1980 when I first started getting interested in electronic music. It struck me then as fairly unorthodox and pioneering even then, what it must have sounded like in 1973 given the sounds of the time, must have been astonishing.
Given the wave of 'ambient' releases in the eighties and nineties it can be hard to remind yourself the orginality of these soundscapes. It's also astounding to try and get your head around the difficulty of producing an album from the technology (the sheer size of the synthesizers and sequencers was awesome) at the time let alone going on tour with it.
The title track is a menacing, bubbling affair which develops structure as it progreses but never enough to produce a 'beat' as such. The second side has the beauty of 'Strand' and 'Sequent' which must have influenced a whole wave of musicians and studio engineers who heard this record.
It is the ultimate crossover record between their pre-virgin abstract development and the increasing structure of mid-70's output that was to follow.
82 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on 4 December 1999
"Phaedra" is, of course, the release that rocketed Tangerine Dream into the UK album charts for the first time, back in 1974, taking the conventional pop world by storm. TD were newly signed to Richard Branson's fledgling record company, Virgin, and this album did much to secure the future of both band and label. At the time, the general record-buying public in the UK had never heard anything like this. Brooding synthesiser sounds over complex pulsing sequencer patterns, where the intonation constantly shifted and where tunes and melodies and the other trappings of popular music were entirely absent was a concept entirely alien to the comfortable pop world of 70's Britain. The more ignorant pop critics of the day lambasted it, of course: mostly because they completely failed to understand any of it, and Tangerine Dream failed to fit into any cosy view of how 'pop' and 'rock' music was supposed be! Those people prepared to assess the music with their ears instead of by reading reviews in the music press were happy to be parted from their cash, however--much to the critics' eternal disgust!
The title track opens the disc and is the major work on it: almost 17 minutes worth of absolute perfection! Here you will find soaring Mellotron lines, hypnotic pulsating sequencer patterns and bass guitar lines, together with massive washes of synthesiser sound, quite incredible for the day, all contributing to a captivating whole. There are some amazing moments where the whole tonal centre of the work wanders most disconcertingly: apparently, some of these shifts are accidental and are the result of some frantic retuning of oscillators while the recording was still in progress! (Synths of those days responding drastically to changes in ambient temperature and tended to need constant retuning.) The result, whether intentional or not, is arranged to perfection and still sends shivers down my spine even now, 25 years on! The second half of the 'Phaedra' track is a contemplative mix of singing Mellotron, deep Moog sounds and other shimmering synthesiser voices, which at times sounds almost orchestral in its textures. Incredible!
'Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares' is a beautiful ballad for Mellotron, played over long washes of phased sound and pulsed coloured noise. Its other-worldliness harks back to earlier Tangerine Dream albums, but the delicate Mellotron tones mixed with heavy Moog voices lend it a much more polished air and confirm that Tangerine Dream were now a true musical force to be reckoned with.
'Movements of a Visionary' uses bursts of coloured noise, heavily reverberated and echoed to create an eerie introduction to a sparkling shower of VCS3 sounds, over a simple sequencer pulse. An organ line insinuates itself slowly as more sequencer pulses enter, drifting in and out of phase with each other, while the whole orchestra of sounds explores various ideas, in a way that is reminiscent of works on the earlier album "Atem". Finally, though, this track reduces to a simpler repeating pulse beneath a delicate synthesiser line, which brings it to a gentle conclusion in a way that is suggestive of a new style in TD's music. A short study ('Sequent c'') using a single synth voice then brings this whole epic disc to a close.
This release has been remastered by Simon Heyworth at Chop 'Em Out, and a very creditable job he has done, by and large. The sound leaps out of the speakers in a way it never managed from vinyl and yet remains true to the original. There are the occasional times when the mains hum inherent in the electronic instruments of those days has been exposed rather too much, but this is almost inevitable, I suppose, and it never becomes a major distraction from the beauty of the music. There are a couple of gaffs that have managed to make it through the quality control checking at Virgin, however. The most serious is that the closing minute or so of 'Phaedra' (track 1) has been mistakenly assigned to the opening of track 2 ('Mysterious Semblance...') instead! This is not too much of problem if playing the disc in its entirety, but is a nuisance if you like to programme your player to play single tracks. The other niggle is the poor proof-reading of the sleeve labelling, which has failed to catch the fact that 'Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmare' is incorrectly listed as '... at the Stand of...' in places and also, more seriously, that 'Sequent c'' (read this as 'Sequent middle C') has been nonsensically labelled as 'Sequent 'C'' throughout. All of this doesn't actually matter two hoots, of course, except that the disc is labelled "Definitive Edition", so you'd think they'd have taken a bit more care about these things, wouldn't you? (The purist in me is also saddened by the fact that the gatefold paintings by Edgar Froese that appeared in the original vinyl release have not made it into the CD sleeve liner. But then CD sleeve liners are such poor substitutes for LP jackets that I suppose this loss is inevitable! <Sigh!>)
In all fairness, I should also warn you that you only get 37 minutes of music for your money on this album, but that shouldn't stop you from buying it.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
It's not an exaggeration to say that this one particular album changed my life. I distinctly remember the first time I ever heard it as a naive seventeen year old, shortly after release and the massive effect it had on me as those ethereal sounds first coalesced between and around the speakers. I love it with a passion and play it regularly to this day, finding new aspects of the instrumentation and arrangements to enjoy each time. The sounds are spontaneous and send an icy shiver down ones back, unlike the warmer feel of the followup, the mighty "Rubycon."
Up to the release of Phaedra, I'd had an interest of popular Electronic Music, having been brought up on the likes of the original Doctor Who theme, Wendy (Walter) Carlos, Barry Gray's amazing "spacey" soundtracks and effects for Gerry Anderson's classic TV series' especially the supremely "spacey" ending music of "UFO" and, a little later, TONTO's Expanding Headband, a vintage masterpiece of an album.
None of these aforementioned records/soundtracks prepared me for the first time I heard this album. The other worldly soundscapes, those sequencer rhythms swirling and almost lost in a sea of reverb, getting in tune, building to a climax and then followed by a quieter, more meditative section, completely blew my mind. The other tracks were awesome too, if not *quite* as mind blowing as the title track, although recently I've come to appreciate their worth much more fully, especially "Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares." The final two tracks, "Movements Of A Visionary" and the awsome "Sequent c" sum up TD of this period for me, the delicate sequencing in the former track and the l-o-n-g delays on the flute on the latter final track.
One thing that comes to mind regarding this record is that it would be almost impossible to re-create this again either live, or in the studio. A couple of acts have had a go (not forgetting the awful - in my opinion - Phaedra 2005 by TD's own Edgar Froese), but NOTHING equals the original!
If you have ANY interest in electronically derived music, I'd recommend this CD without hesitation. It was a benchmark in its day and it's fair to say that all of TD's early to mid seventies output (the Peter Baumann years in fan-speak) basically created a whole new genre (not forgetting ex-band member Klaus Schulze, who was also creating lengthy soundscapes with similar instruments to different effect).
One final thing - most early LP's of this record suffered badly from the mid 1970's oil crisis, resulting in noisy LP pressings and poor quality control. The sound quality was a bit ploddy too (I've several LP copies still). The current SBM CD issue sounds very much better to me and it's now possible to play this loudly without the sound muddying up... The end of the title track has also been put at the beginning of the second track for some reason - not a problem if the album is played all the way through!
This album is so important to me, I've had several goes at re-writing this review and cannot quite get across what I wish to say. By today's standards these compositions STILL sound as fresh as if they were done last week. The sound is now better than ever, although a little "dulled" compared to the crisp, squeaky clean sounds of TD's current releases (please give "Madcaps Flaming Duty" and the "Nagasaki" series a few plays to hear what they're doing today)...
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2002
This album is definitively the best Tangerine Dream has made !!
In the late seventies I bought this album on vinyl, and in the later years replaced it yearly (because of the extensive wear of playing it often) until the advent of CD's. This album reflects the best of electronic music in all its diversity. You might see this album as the reflection of a journey. It chills, frightens, calms, surprises, sounds unearthly, sounds like home, everything we are is in there !! It is a piece of music that grabs you by the collar, tells you to sit down and do nothing except listen !!! If you give in to the music you will find a rare gift: one of the masterpieces of modern music.
If you enjoyed this album and want more check Edgar Froese's "Aqua" written by the same artist and dating from the same period (only it wasn't released until nearly a decade later). Many sequences and "soundscapes" on Aqua are very similar to "Pheadra". Other albums I can recommend are the older Tangerine Dream works or anything by Klaus Schulze.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 3 January 2015
Think this is "music"? It's not. It's cosmic dreamscapes carried on ethereal winds. Early ambient sounds, without tune, beat or rhythm. This album is to modern ambient what Genesis is to the Bible . Don't buy it if you like your music structured or tuneful - you will be disappointed.
If, however, you are looking for sounds that evoke visions of dawn breaking on far distant planets, or the slow spiral of galaxies as they drift towards the end of time, this is for you. This album has been my lifelong companion since I first heard it in my mate's bedroom in 1974, at the age of 15. I did most of my homework with it on in the background, and revised for all the exams in my life with it playing at some stage. Even at the age of 55 I still listen to it every week. It almost has a drug like quality - I can put this on and float away on a tranquil sea, and it has helped me cope with the stresses of life on many occasions.
This is not "music" in the traditional sense, but if God told me I could only ever have 1 album this would be the one I would choose. I would give it 6 stars if I could.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2013
Originally introduced to Tangerine Dream by my brother and my initial reaction was absolute horror, how could someone I always regarded as being sane possibly listen to so much repetitive dirge. However, it is after a few listens that you begin to appreciate the many subtle changes. I suppose that strikes a similar cord with many others? It was only after the passage of time that I realised how important Phaedra and also Rubicon (the follow up) are. Both of these albums are now considered essential and spend many hours in my CD player - eyes closed is the best, then just relax and let yourself 'float around'? Now it often happens that only Tangerine Dream, especially Phaedra will do. Luckily the clarity of the CD enhances the experience enormously, especially as the inevitable scratches and clicks on the quieter bits that were the bain of vinyl have gone. Many sci-fi movies since would be utterly lost without these pioneers of electronic music as would many bands/groups. Thanks Bro, for once I listened and for once I am not a numpty, but I still hate the term 'ambient music' though!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2006
This is an album i have been listening to in various formats for a good 8 years now. I don't want to sound biased ofcourse, but the sheer beauty and improvisation couldnt be more expressed than here, comprorable in its organic and untamed beauty to steeping into a Holodeck and asking for 'passion made by electronic music.'
But this all sounds rather rich, which in this case isnt the key to unlocking the beauty in this album. What must be done as best as possible, is to drop any pre-conceived ideas of what you might like leading to this because nothing will match it. Don't wack it on for the first time whilst your revving up to go out, its an experience, and worthy of your attention.
Lay back and let it send those shivers up and through your spine, electonic music never sounded this original since the radiophonic workshop, but thats another story.....
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2007
This album was sold as 'Music That Melts' when it first came out. I remember the adverts in the New Musical Express with a record that had been heated and melted. It wasn't this album that they used in the pictures though. That one had about six or seven tracks on one side, not the four tracks on two sides of Phaedra (where did I put my anorak?). I bought it within days of its release. Wow! I found myself regularly lying in a darkened bedroom being carried away on waves of sound. This is not 'ambient' music designed to be played in the background while you do something else. You should devote yourself to listening to it while it is playing. See if you get carried away too.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This was released before I was born, and although I've been a fan of "electronic" music (for want of a better classification) such as The Future Sound of London, The Orb, Orbital, Jean Michel Jarre for ages I have somehow managed to completely overlook this gem.
It is very reminiscent of lots of more recent music - or perhaps that should actually be the other way around; you can recognise in more modern compositions some of the ideas and structures demonstrated by Tangerine Dream in this album - and it feels very familiar and soothing.
I've only played it through a couple of times so far (only 37 minutes long) but I suspect that it's going to get a lot of play-time.
Definitely recommended to fans of the genre, particularly younger folk who missed out the first time around!