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"Alpha Centauri" was John Peel's recommended Import of the Year in 1971: an accolade that was partly responsible for Tangerine Dream's subsequent signing with Richard Branson's Virgin Records. The TD line-up at this time was Edgar Froese, Christoph Franke (his first appearance) and Steve Schroyder (his last), with guest performers Udo Dennebourg (flute and voice) and Roland Paulyck (synthesiser). This remastered release on CD provides a whole new perspective on music that is as refreshing today as the day it was released, with nuances of the original now rescued from the obscurity of the muddy old black vinyl pressing.
If you're unfamiliar with Tangerine Dream's early "Kosmische Musik" period, then this disc may come as something as a shock. It is, however, a good place to start an exploration of their early music. Apart from being their first real release ("Electronic Meditation" was only ever intended to be a demo tape!), it also contains an excellent cross-section of the styles of playing which characterised TD's early years, having meditative pieces with long drawn out organ chords over gurgling VCS3 oscillators, flighty flute lines woven through Christoph Franke's jazzy, often improvised drumming and, of course, a general other- or out-of-this-worldliness pervading everything.
'Sunrise in the Third System' is a short (4 mins) opener, which sets the scene for the music to follow. Gradually swelling organ chords build beneath a simple guitar line while rising synthesiser wails and a dancing flute part before coming to a gentle climax and descending rapidly again into silence. 'Fly and Collision of Comas Sola' is a longer (13 mins) epic, with more soaring, cosmic synthesiser sounds and organ chords over Froese's guitar strummings eventually being drowned out by a veritable battle between guest flautist, Udo Dennebourg, and Franke's increasingly frantic drumming--a true masterpiece!
The main work on the disc is the 22 minute title-track, which is a long meditative piece, featuring some fascinating dialogue between flute, electric guitar, organ, various warbling electronic devices (mostly spacey-type VCS3 settings but also including such non-musical sources as coffee machine) and finally human voice, in the form of wordless chant and (heavily processed) spoken words--the only time, as far as I'm aware, that German 'lyrics' have appeared in a Tangerine Dream work! (No translation is given, I'm afraid!) This is a beautiful track, an exquisite precursor to the follow-up album, "Zeit".
As I mentioned earlier, this release has been remastered, allegedly from the original master tapes in TD's own Eastgate Studios. Be warned, however, that these tapes sound to be in a pretty dire state and one of the problems inherent in such remasterings is that as well as some details of the music being clearer, many of the defects become more exposed too! The opening moments of the disc, for example, have some appalling amplifier hum laid bare for all to hear and there are other moments throughout the disc when the original tapes sound to have saturated quite badly. That said, the sheer brilliance of this music soon drives such technical shortcomings from mind. (It helps to play the disc at a quieter level than normal too.) The only really annoying feature of the remastering is the mess that has been made of the very end of the 'Fly and Collision of Comas Sola', where some 45 seconds of material missing from the old vinyl pressings has been reinstated--including, unfortunately, the final abrupt stopping of the tape while the musicians were still playing! Instead of the gradual fade-out to silence of the original release, we now have a horribly ragged hiatus for which, I think, the engineer should be sacked. How it got past Froese I will never understand.
Personally, I would have liked some longer silences between the tracks, too: all we get are a couple of seconds--just not enough between tracks of this intensity! I was disappointed too that half of the original record sleeve art-work as well as the original sleeve-notes, such as they were, have not made it into this production, either. All in all, then, I feel that there are sufficient niggles for me to dock an entire star from my rating of this disc. Bear in mind, too, that in common with most records of this vintage, this disc contains rather less than 40 minutes of music. I personally don't think that should put you off, of course, so go on, treat yourself!
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on 22 September 2002
It should be oberved that, whatever the shortcomings of the remastering detailed elsewhere, this issue also includes a bonus track: Ultima Thule part 1. This is a fairly rare track which finds the band on the cusp between the OHR period (Electronic Meditation through to Atem) and the subsequent Virgin period (Phaedra onwards). It was released as a single with the above track as the A-side. The B-side has still to surface but may well appear on one of the other OHR period reissues from the some company. Watch out for it!
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on 14 May 2009
'Alpha Centauri' is Tangerine Dream's second album, following on from 1970s 'Electronic Meditation'.
This album isn't too far removed from the improvised, free form music of the debut, but whereas 'Electronic Meditation' is quite wild and raw, 'Alpha Centauri' has a slightly mellow feel at times, and the sound is much better. Also the semi conceptual nature of the album gives it some focus, conjuring up the mental image of a spaceship in trouble a la '2001- A Space Odyssey'.
Opening track 'Sunrise In The Third System' actually creates the soundscape of a sunrise in space quite effectively, beginning with droplets of sound, growing into a nice, chilled out, atmospheric piece of music.
'Fly And Collision Of Comas Sola' starts off slowly and quietly before steadily building in volume, drama and a sense of panic as the flute and Chris Franke's drums get more and more erratic. The track ends rather suddenly. This is either because it represents the collision of the 'spaceship' or simply because the band members had taken the track as far as it could go and decided to stop playing.
The sprawling title track, like the previous two has a low key start and is a real slow burner. It amounts to nothing much more than an experiment in sound and effects. It's a trippy track, which although not a thing of beauty by any stretch, at least creates a spooky atmosphere of deep space.
Like the debut, 'Alpha Centauri' is not the most palletable kind of music you will ever hear in your life. It's challenging music, which like 'Electronic Meditation' often calls to mind the improvised instrumental sections of early Pink Floyd.
The remastered version of the album includes the quite excellent 'Ultima Thule Part 1'. It's Tangerine Dream at their rockiest with loads of guitar and mellotron sounds, underpinned with some top drumming. It's a short track which provides a little indicator as to the direction the band would eventually head in. Cracking stuff.
'Alpha Centauri' is a ground breaking work as far as experimentation with different sounds and atmospheres goes. It's also the album that attracted legendary DJ John Peel's affection, enabling Tangerine Dream to get valuable airplay and exposure here in the UK, which ultimately led to a growing underground fanbase at the time. It shifted 20,000 copies which is no mean feat for a record of this nature.
Having said all that, I would still advise first time listeners to pursue the bands music from 'Phaedra' onwards before dipping into this stuff.
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on 4 July 2011
But if you are a leftover from the seventies, and you like Tangerine Dream, this is a seminal album. Experimental, but on the cusp of the authentic TD sound emerging. There is a spine-tingling intensity of sound and a latent energy which makes for stunning listening.
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on 29 April 2009
Being a suspicious, insular British Islander, it doesn't take much to get my irrational xenophobic alarm bells ringing - particularly when it comes to the most horrific and muddy concept in the collective modern world: continental Europeans making music.

A dire thought, no? They're so boring; is there anything worse (apart from all that garlic and horse on toast) than (save me Father, save me!) Euro Stadium Rock?

Zonked out 80's Mullet prog played at Utrecht University or New Age Musique slumber-fests at the Hamburg Hippodrome - this is the kind of shameless thing they do across mainland Europe on a regular basis.
Sensible Brits shun them like lepers - positive racism I call it.

Anyway, Tangerine Dream - a Dutch 4-piece that seem intent,
superficially anyway, of propagating another art-form that those Euro-Centrics (!) are obsessed with crucifying: experimental music.

This is a terrible idea. This is why Hitler was so quick off the mark; he couldn't bear the thought of a mad Luxembourgian hitting a dustbin lid with a cheese and calling it 'art' or a garishly costumed Spaniard torturing and slowly killing semi-placid, semi-drugged farm-animals and calling it 'sport', so he set out with all due haste and virtue to save us all from it.

French synth-duo Tangerine Dream: sirens wail and bells ring and it's all rather jolly.
A surprise. Medals at the ready.

They mix an original brew; sure it clanks and clangs like the best of 'em but there's vitally, a sense of humour at work; a humorous, faux-pretentious racket a million kilometres away from your usually stark, po-faced, wildly over-pompous Euro experimentation.

I'm pleasantly astonished to find a Belgian solo artist with so much double-bubble as Tangerine Dream. 'Alpha Centauri' (and get the others: 'Sunrise in the Third System', 'Fly and Collision of Comas Sola', and the 'bonus' track: 'Ultima Thule Part 1 - the 'single' version (!!) - confirm the anomaly - a chortle party to be had by all), is almost pop. A melodious honesty leavens the hissing row, and believe me, if I thought for a second they were anywhere approaching serious, it would be one flaming, acrimonious star for Tangerine Dream.

But in truth (and I know some of their subsequent albums are atrocious) Swedish quintets rarely make a sound as engaging as 'Alpha Centauri' - so I'm (secretly) pretty chuffed that the combined hostilities of the blitzin' Luftwaffe and the razin' Royal Air Force managed to miss their respective parents houses while they were laying waste to everywhere from the Mediterranean Basin to the Bosporus.
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on 1 June 2015
I have this on vinyl and wanted a Cd copy
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