Pop Montreal Day 5 | Tangerine Dream’s humdrum, old-school synth

by Stephan Boissonneault

POP Montréal is undoubtedly one of the major events of the fall for true music fans. From Wednesday, September 27 to Sunday, October 1, dozens and dozens of discoveries and acclamations of artists nestled in pop are happening in Montreal. Follow the PAN M 360 team until Sunday!

Any musician who has thought about even remotely experimenting with synthesizers to achieve some spacey sounds has to owe a lot of it to Tangerine Dream, a band that is 56 years old and somehow, still kicking. Well, a different iteration of it it is anyway.

Formed in 1967 by Edgar Froese in West Berlin, Tangerine Dream was an important project for the development of Krautrock, Kosmische Musik, and other genres that divulged into synthesizer instrumentals. Along with groups like Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream helped popularize the synthesizer—specifically the Moog series, creating long electronic soundscapes. Movies, books, and TV shows—like the popular Netflix epic, Stranger Things, all cite Tangerine Dream as an influence. Basically, it’s one of the bands that is uber important for musical history in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The band has had a rotating cast of nearly 30 members and for the last 20 years, it has been piloted by leader, Thorsten Quaeschning—who was the chosen successor of Froese after his death in 2015. A younger synth player, Paul Frick, joined three years ago, and Hoshiko Yamane also came on violin, 12 years ago. So this is the three-piece that is Tangerine Dream now and this is what we witnessed on the last day of Pop Montreal at L’Olympia, and it was … fine.

I do have to say that some movements in the ever-expanding Tangerine Dream repertoire have legs, like the 2019 “Los Santos City Map,” from the popular video game, Grand Theft Auto V. Yet most of this concert, which almost spanned two hours with no opener, kind of drifted aimlessly. I guess I like way more variation in my synth-wave than eight-minute oscillating arpeggios that are slightly changed with some cool electro violin.


There was also next to no interaction with the crowd by the band, even as some of the crowd stood and danced. They could have been playing in an empty room. The visuals also seemed kind of lacklustre; cityscapes, trains, basically video that looked like it was pulled straight from Creative Commons.

I’m sure if I had witnessed the true Tangerine Dream back in the 1970s or something, my mind would have been blown. But now, in the year 2023, there are thousands of musicians who dabble in synths whose music seems way more out there than these old Tangerine Dream tracks, that only seem to dazzle and exist based on nostalgia. A cool live show, but not one I’ll do my best to remember.

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