January 28, 2015

Tangerine Dream - Zeit, 1972

Guest Post by Joel Ebner

In over twenty years of record collecting, there are only a few albums I've bought, sold, then repurchased at a later date. Of those albums, Zeit is the only album I bought twice because I'd had a complete change of heart about the music. As a teenager, the promise of Zeit (translated simply as "Time") seemed on paper to be a godsend. Its associations with German kosmische favorites Faust and Neu! and its lineage of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works II and Oval's Systemisch sent me on a mission to track down a copy. Only thing was, I found myself completely unsatisfied with the record once I'd heard it.

Saw-toothed synth patches, 8-bit samplers, and reverb-drenched guitars made sense to my 18-year-old brain. but cellos? The opening moments of the album, "Birth of Liquid Plejades"—conjured from dramatic, legato strings—were too classical, too 20th century for me to find a link to the techno-futurist ambient artists of Warp and Thrill Jockey. And I certainly wasn't given much latitude by the record's length: well over an hour of long-form, rhythmless space is a lot to ask of even the most patient and adventurous listener, and after about 20 minutes I simply couldn't make my way through composition in its entirety. For years, Zeit sat on the shelf until my senior year of college, when I sold it in a big stack of records.

I think I found a used copy of Phaedra 7 or 8 years later, giving me cause to ask whether my initial assessment of Zeit had been hasty. Upon second consideration, I was astounded. Had I changed, or had the record? Had the earth shifted under my feet? Today, in those cellos of "Plejades," I now hear tragedy, and surprise, and sadness. Subsequent album tracks which I'd once glossed over—perhaps due to their increasing atonality—unfold slowly, a nascent universe, patient yet hostile. I look at that stark record cover—is it an eclipse? a black hole?—and I see the infinite promise of the world swallowed by the inevitability of death. It's all there: the origin and the collapse, in one amazing record.

I spent this last weekend listening to Zeit after reading about Edgar Froese's passing, and have found it difficult not to hear a funeral dirge, a tacit acknowledgement by Froese some forty odd years before the fact that he will be gone someday, that we'll all be gone someday, that all the planets and the stars and space and music and possibility, it'll all be gone. But I'm still here. And though I'm not sure that it was impossible for me to recognize and relate to the themes contained in Zeit as younger man, I certainly understand them better now. It only took me a little time to figure it out.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing! Nice post!

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