One of the most influential figures in German rock music, Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream, has died. Froese, who was 70, suffered a pulmonary embolism and died in Vienna on Tuesday, Tangerine Dream announced on their Facebook page.
Froese founded Tangerine Dream in Berlin in 1967 and was the only constant member. Early in their career the group were associated with the scene known in the UK as “krautrock”, and their debut album was comprised of tape collages.
But as they developed they had little in common with the “motorik” sound of Neu! and Harmonia, the challenging experimentalism of Faust or the free-flowing improvisations of Can. Instead they developed a spacey, synth-driven sound that was profoundly influential on electronic and ambient music.
Tangerine Dream released more than 100 albums and wrote music for numerous movies including Tom Cruise’s breakthrough 1983 film Risky Business and Legend.
The band enjoyed a break when it caught the attention of John Peel, who named their 1973 album Atem as his album of the year and were soon signed by the then-upstart Virgin label of Richard Branson.
Virgin Records gave Tangerine Dream free rein in the studio and the result was 1974’s Phaedra, which became one of electronica’s seminal works.
The album pushed the limits of the era’s sequencer technology to create a psychedelic atmosphere that some critics likened to space travel.
Despite Tangerine Dream’s influence on electronic music, Froese himself shied away from the label. “We’ve never ever created ‘electronic music’,” he told the Quietus in 2010. “Such music emphasises the intellect and is normally produced as a pure studio event. Working with synthesisers is a completely different approach to electrified music. We’re open to all kinds of modern music developments and wouldn’t be interested in the locked up situation you’re into while working in a musical ivory tower. Of course, I love the guitar a lot, Motown stuff as well as modern progressive rock music. Finally it’s all a crossover within all musical landscapes and if you’ve never stopped learning from others, you have always creative inputs for your own work.”
His son Jerome Froese, who later joined him in the band, said that his father died unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism while in Vienna on Tuesday.
“Edgar once said, ‘There is no death, there is just a change of our cosmic address.’ Edgar, this is a little comfort to us,” a statement from the band said.
Froese was born in 1944 in Tilsit, East Prussia – now the Russian city of Sovetsk – and has described growing up in a cosmopolitan post-war German cultural sphere in which he felt little attachment to national identity.
Froese studied art in West Berlin but his formative experience came in 1967 when he was invited to perform with an earlier band in Spain at the villa of the painter Salvador Dali, one of his heroes, and became convinced to take his music in a similarly surreal direction.
In an interview years later, Froese said that Dali taught him that “nearly everything is possible in art as long as you have a strong belief in what you’re doing.”
“His philosophy of being as original and authentic as possible had touched me very intensively at that time,” Froese told the British online magazine The Quietus.
While Tangerine Dream’s airy, free-flowing sound gave birth to the trance scene, Germany in the same era produced a separate school of electronica in Dusseldorf where Kraftwerk took a starkly different approach – a tight, robotic sound that experimented with how far the human dimension could be removed from music.
Asked afterward in a German radio interview why he pursued the electronic sound, Froese said that he simply could not measure up to the rock and blues artists in the English-speaking world.
“We had this typical German groove, which was terrible,” he said. “They were better by far. They had all their heritage, and that mentality behind them.”
Electronic equipment, however, offered a “completely new opportunity,” he said.
Froese was the only consistent member of Tangerine Dream and remained prolific.
The band released more than 100 albums and wrote music for numerous movies including Tom Cruise’s breakthrough 1983 film “Risky Business.”
This article was written by Guardian music, for theguardian.com on Friday 23rd January 2015 22.27 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010