Before they composed the soundtracks to such varied films as Sorcerer, Thief, Risky Business, and Legend, Tangerine Dream were a bunch of long-haired machine heads from Germany, fiddling obsessively with towers of analog synths in old Gothic churches. There may have been human sacrifices involved, I can’t say for sure. (OK, I kid.) Certainly, as Atem (1973) suggests, the band smoked a lot of dope, envisioned a ton of black hole suns, and re-engineered a basket of bad vibes into cosmic vistas of electronic, medieval menace.
Cyborg (1973), by Klaus Schulze, a former drummer for the band, mines a similar vein, but is ironically far less percussive than most of the stuff Tangerine Dream did in those early “Pink Years”. The album is a series of variations on the same pulsing theta wave of minor-chord devilry, with squeals and zaps that sound like the firing of laser guns in an echo chamber. Like much of Schulze’s work in those days, Cyborg occupies three zones: the future (as signified by the synths), the past (as signified by the alternately treated and bare, classical organ), and the space in between, which bears no name, except it is timeless. All of it sounds clean and unsettling. And oh so beautiful.
Over in California, Iasos, a Greek hippie, transmogrified the space drone into whack-spiritual ambient, a sound that the Germans informed as much as Eno’s bedpan loop jobs did. Is Angelic Music (1978) New Age foolishness? Yes. But it is wondrous, too. It acts as the perfect aural backdrop to a candlelit, deep tissue massage—or a wet dream that involves unicorns, dope, angels, and rainbows, as dreamt by a love-happy goon who believes in the calming, healing power of a synthesizer-borne deity named Vista. (I’m half-serious.) On other albums, Iasos forgoes the drone-like quality of Angelic Music, which has two sidelong tracks. I don’t think he quite re-captured that same moony, dreamy feel, though. Later Iasos sounds like an imperfect imitation of his 70s work, a cashing-in on the New Age market that owes much of its musical character to his celestial bullshit.