by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew
Stars Rating ****
After the relative success of Alpha Centauri, Tangerine Dream
were soon back in the studio to record their third album. The underground music
scene, now suitably impressed, waited for the band’s next move.
So Dream main man Edgar Froese did what he always did - and
again changed the line-up.
Organist Steve Schroyder was fired for freaking out once too
often. Schroyder promptly joined fellow Krautrockers Ash Ra Tempel where
freaking out was par for the course. Their ‘Seven Up’ album was an
acid-spiked cosmic trip lead by the hallucinogenic guru himself Dr. Timothy
To replace the talented Schroyder, Froese drafted in the
equally gifted Peter Baumann who had been playing organ in a band called The
Ants. The fact that he was also a fan of surrealist fine art, which was a
passion of Froese, might well have helped.
With Baumann in place on a kind of come-and-go basis, the
most stable and creative of the many Tangerine Dream line-ups was in place - and
for the next five years would take electronic music to new mind-altering
After the electronic rock-based format of the first two
albums, what came next was a total surprise. Their new opus was a double album
with one track per side. Zeit was not an album you could freak out to. It almost
seemed that nothing was happening - no thrashing drums or screaming psychedelic
guitars, just lots of strange pulsating synths and a few creepy cellos.
Zeit, which means ‘time’, was based on the strange if
somewhat pretentious philosophy that time was in fact motionless and only
existed in our own minds. To many people in the early 1970s who were listening
to the likes of Leary this was probably a perfectly rational explanation,
although some of the less than enthusiastic reviewers would have liked a bit
more rock and roll with their time.
Holed up once more in The Dierks studio in Cologne, the band
enlisted the help of a cello quartet, which included members of the medieval
folk group olderin, and the call also went out to Schroyder to join the
The first track, or movement, is the splendidly titled
‘Birth of Liquid Plejades’, an epic soundscape that slowly wakes and emerges
from the speakers as a drone of cellos. For seven minutes the quartet play a
tuneless dirge that occasionally changes and is entwined with a slowly
The cellos give way to several minutes of classic Tangerine
Dream, courtesy of the big Moog synthesizer which is played by Florian Fricke
from the group Popol Vuh. His haunting lines are backed by a somber organ which
eventually rises to take over proceedings.
The Moog was a vastly expensive piece of equipment that
resembled a small telephone exchange, and it required a serious amount of
knowledge and patience to make it work. It obviously impressed Franke as it soon
became part of his on-stage set up and he was never seen without it.
A few seconds short of 20 minutes, the piece ends with the
organ gradually fading into the ether. It’s almost as if the engineer had said
‘that’s enough’, as I am sure the musicians could have just carried on and
‘Nebulous Dawn’ sounds like it was recorded in the bowels
of some vast electrical power station. Dark slowly brooding synths fade in and
out and occasionally build in speed and volume. Then at around the six-minute
mark there is a brief snatch of the pulsating rhythms that will define so many
of their future releases. Perhaps Franke had finally got the hang of the Moog
only to lose it again before the return of the strange industrial noises that
bubble and vibrate their way through the most non-musical piece the band had yet
The usually dominant guitar playing of Froese at last makes
an appearance during the beginning of the third movement, Origin of Supernatural
Possibilities. He barely strums the strings for a few brief minutes before an
almost living synthesized pulse fills the room - this is headphone music par
excellence. It’s as if some vast primitive amoeba is crawling in the basement
trying to escape. It isn’t, of course, but if you were on acid in a Berlin
bedsit in 1972 it must have come pretty close.
The amoeba makes a couple more attempts to get out before
giving way to the almost soothing drones of the cellos or more synths, or some
ancient sound generator put through an old echo unit? Sometimes it is difficult
to tell what is making the strange ghostly noises that bring this living collage
to a close.
The album ends with the title track, which also points the
way ahead with several ideas and sounds, that both the band and Froese as a solo
artist would later use. It’s also the track during which almost nothing
changes, gentle drones gradually drift in and out punctuated by the occasional
high pitched squeal.
Zeit is where the whole of time stands still, the theory
actually sounding credible. Just as something is about to happen, it doesn’t.
Then 17 minutes have gone by and the piece is over.
As an album, Zeit can be played over and over and still never
be fully heard. It sounds slightly different every time, which is possibly the
notion Froese, Franke and Baumann had during a timeless ten days in Cologne.
The cover artwork is once again a combined Froese effort.
Edgar’s total eclipse continues his fascination with the universe, while his
wife Monique’s strangely disturbing photography always seemed to suit the mood
of the album.
Without doubt Zeit is a Krautrock master work still capable
of surprises without having to shock. The album which took the band to the edge
of international recognition, still sounds timeless 30 years on.
1. Birth Of Liquid Plejades
2. Nebulous Dawn
3. Origin Of Supernatural Probabilities
To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]