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5.0 out of 5 stars Synth Sublime, 12 Mar 2011
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
Peter Baumann was a member of Tangerine Dream, a German band that was amongst the pioneers in the use synthesizers to explore new soundscapes. His first solo album was titled Romance 76 and the following year he left TD for a solo career. Trans Harmonic Nights was released in 1979. Besides a modular synthesizer, drums, horns and recorders contribute to the beautiful, atmospheric sounds. THN is entirely instrumental; Baumann would later release vocal albums such as Repeat Repeat and Strangers In The Night.

Unlike the long meandering pieces that Tangerine Dream is known for, the tracks on Trans Harmonic Nights are relatively short, rhythmic and buoyant, embellished with a breathtaking array of sound effects. There is no evidence of voices in the sleeve notes thus one has to assume that in some instances the sequences resembling vocals were creating by synths, for example the title of the first track This Day appear in the mix in a form that sounds like a vocoderized voice.

A sense of loneliness and desolation permeates White Bench And Black Beach, a downtempo number with mournful synths occasionally punctuated by emphatic clusters of drumbeats. The tempo escalates on the bouncy Chasing The Dream, an inspiring tune where appealing warbling and tinkling crystalline textures weave in and out of the mix. The melodious Biking Up The Strand is even more appealing in the lilting flow of its rhythms and symphonic trajectory.

Equally tuneful, Phaseday has more of a melancholic quality as the synths approach the sound of organs and the recorder flutes achieve prominence; it also has a "mood break" in the middle where the drums cease and a spectacular variety of sound effects create a haunting interlude. What sounds like whispered vocals introduce Meridian Moorland, a gently undulating excursion that evokes visions of marshes, reeds and mists; a rhythm break leads into a series of spooky drones, further whispers and SFX before the flowing texture resumes for a brief outro.

The Third Site is a different animal altogether, with an edgy uptempo beat and almost "industrial" flavor punctuated my reverberating beeps and boings and whooshes and more of those choir-like vocal infusions. Trans Harmonic Nights concludes with the majestic Dance At Dawn where the synths approximate trumpets and which definitely contains harmonic vocal samples. Its complex arrangement includes marching beats and jungle drums and this track has a profoundly spiritual undertone, much like Nosferatu by Popol Vuh.

It would not surprise me if a band like Autechre and those 1990s purveyors of intelligent techno like Beaumont Hannant drew inspiration from this masterpiece. Although nothing compares to Trans Harmonic Nights, there are some moments of great beauty on Romance 76 and as for Baumann's vocal work, I recommend Repeat repeat (1981) for the unforgettable songs Home Sweet Home and Realtimes.
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Trans Harmonic Nights
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