Recorded: January 1971 at Dierks Studio (Cologne)
Released: March 1971 on the Ohr label
Cover: Monika Froese
Composers: Edgar Froese, Chris Franke and Steve Schroyder
Musicians: Edgar Froese, Chris Franke, Steve Schroyder, Udo Dennebourg and Roland Paulyck
Instruments: guitar, organ, bass, echo machines, drums, percussion, flute, zither, piano, VCS3, voice, synthesiser, iron stick, coffee machine
I brought all my Stockhausen and Ligeti records to Edgar, and taught him that there was more to music than Hendrix and Floyd - Chris Franke
Sunrise in the Third System (04:21)
Fly and Collision of Comas Sola (13:23)
Alpha Centauri (22:04)
Background: The first Tangerine Dream album to feature Christopher Franke; he will stick around for another 17 years. Froese sacked Schroyder after the recording for "totally freaking out" but he'll invite him back later. The band also released a single called Ultima Thule in 1971 and its guitar riff is hinted at throughout the track Fly and Collision of Comas Sola. The British DJ John Peel voted Alpha Centauri the best import album of 1971.
Elsewhere: The track Alpha Centauri was remixed in 1995 where it appeared on the albums Book of Dreams, The Dream Roots Collection and i-Box. The entire album can also be found on the Nebulous Dawn retrospective.
My Review: The second album from Tangerine Dream (and their first recording to be conceived for public consumption) begins with Sunrise in the Third System, a Floydian dirge that pits a sorrowful organ against an oscillating VCS3 that hurls itself across the speakers like an annoying smoke alarm. On the plus side, it's mercifully short.
Fly and Collision of Comas Sola features the first bona fide melody from the group. The guitar riff even made its way to a single (Ultima Thule, released the same year) and by the time we reach the final stretch there's a proper psychedelic jam that you can actually tap your feet and hum along to. Some impressive drumming from Franke coupled with a melancholic flute and some chugging guitar manages to rise above the vaguely irritating presence of the VCS3 to deliver a shockingly conventional rock track. It even manages to hint at the repetitive, sequenced sound that will soon become the band's trademark, only this time it is produced with traditional rock instruments.
The 22 minute title track is, on the other hand, a bit of a chore. It begins, as did most of the band's output during this period, with a sprawling drone. I say 'begins' but in truth it stays like like this for the pretty much the entire running time.
There is the odd diversion - Froese's guitar pops up for a bit, as do some incredibly erratic flute solos - but on the whole it is probably impossible to fully appreciate this 'musical journey' unless you are out of your mind on hallucinogenic drugs or piloting a spacecraft through a black hole. It's easy to see how the group became associated with 'space music' and 'cosmic rock' with this offering, and if you are into meandering soundscapes and you love nothing more than a good electronic shriek, then this could be the album for you.
Live: In 1971 the group performed three concerts in Germany (Berlin, Frankfurt and Aachen) and one in Ossiach, Austria.
Watch: Here we see the band playing near Ossiach Lake in the summer of 1971. I don't know about you, but I keep expecting Roger Waters and Syd Barrett to jump out from behind the trees:
We had borrowed a VCS3 synth. Unfortunately, none of us knew how it worked, and we only had one and a half days to figure out the most important functions - Edgar Froese
Rate Your Music - Oh my, a flute! And a drum solo!
Prog Archives - the group took their foot of the gas slightly and produced this slightly mellower follow-up with heavy sci-fi leanings.
Ground and Sky - Successfully atmospheric, but like all of the albums they made back then, not an easy listen.
Pitchfork - when Froese's brand new VCS3 synthesizer makes with the siren calls, the outer limits are within reach.