Shortly before he passed away in 2015, Edgar Froese announced his forthcoming autobiography Tangerine Dream Force Majeure. By 2014, the group he created, shaped and steered across five kosmische decades had morphed into a strange simulation of its pioneering analogue self. Yet a legion of TD fans followed Froese and his group’s incarnations through to the very end. The documentary Revolution Of Sound is in some ways a realisation of that unfinished autobiography. The sole narrative voice in the film is Froese’s own. His voiced memories are enhanced by reams of amateur footage Froese and his family shot when Tangerine Dream broke into the international touring market following their success on Virgin Records with Phaedra (1974) and Rubycon (1975).
With its chest-thumping title, Revolution In Sound falls prey to the same grandiosity of any cultural artefact aligning itself with revolutionary ideals and aesthetics. Yet in doing so it strangely captures the group’s conundrum. Froese describes most of his ventures as groundbreaking, emboldened perhaps by Salvador Dali’s praise of their sacrilegious sound. Having first seen them live in Melbourne in 1975, I would proffer a different view: they were too trippy to bear rock energy in the 70s; too anodyne to reflect new wave modalities in the 80s; and too slick and stagey to effect irony in the 90s. That said, Tangerine Dream were always the real thing and always sounded that way. Watching Revolution and listening to passages from their vast catalogue threaded (sometimes a bit randomly) across Froese’s home movies made me realise how strong and distinctive their sound always was. I have long cherished much of their output: from the austere electronic navel-gazing of Zeit (1972) and Atem (1973), to the warm Venusian bubbling of Phaedra and Rubycon, to their Los Angeles asphalt digi-scores for films like Sorcerer (1977), Thief (1981), The Keep (1983), Firestarter (1984), Legend (1986), Near Dark (1988) and Miracle Mile (1989). Revolution skates through these phases, bracketed by interviews with Froese’s son Jerome, ex-member Peter Baumann, Jean Michel Jarre and director Michael Mann. An extensive array of live concert footage is also included, from some zeitgeisty freak rock by Froese at West Berlin’s Zodiak Free Arts Lab circa 1969 through to a somewhat pompous expanded TD ensemble for a 2013 New York concert of their music from Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V.