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Adam Lee Davies

Revolution of Sound: Tangerine Dream – first look review

A solid docu-homage to the strung-out German synth-proggers and occasional film soundtrackers.

A packed house and a slightly muted reception greeted the Berlin Film Festival premiere of this documentary about German prog-rock/movie soundtrack giants Tangerine Dream. Intimate without being especially revealing, Revolution in Sound cleaves a little too closely to its subject at the expense of providing any real context that might put the band’s mighty achievements into proper focus.

The result veers a little too close to a hagiographical clutch of home movies and interviews in which uncomfortable questions are either not asked or edited out. It just about works on a technical and narrative level, but the killer documentary about this brilliant, weird, frustrating band remains out there. Somewhere.

Formed in Berlin in 1967 by Edgar Froese, Tangerine Dream were in many ways a Deutsche Pink Floyd – progging-out for (possibly-tortuous) hours beneath acid nightmare lightshows as flower eating hippies tripped through rainbows on their way to sci-fi tomorrows. A little out-there for German audiences, they were finally accepted in France, and later given an all-important boost by the patronage of Richard Branson’s nascent Virgin Records label.

Success followed, as did an invitation to Hollywood, where they scored soundtracks for William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, Paul Brickman’s Risky Business and Sir Ridley Scott’s Legend. Later they would provide 37 (!) hours of music for seminal video game Grand Theft Auto V – for which they were contracted to ‘upload’ five minutes of music per day.

The trouble is that all of this rise-and-plateau is almost entirely incident free. Tales of excess are at a premium, and there is none of the keening personal or romantic strife that enlivens similar docs on early-’70s greats like The Eagles or Fleetwood Mac. Or even Genesis. Various members of the band leave with little explanation and are replaced by faceless musicians who deserve better introductions.

The fact that their would-be breakthrough soundtrack for Sorcerer was hitched to a film that – due mainly to the fact that it opened the same weekend as Star Wars – was heard by virtually nobody is glossed over. A changing line-up and big-time Hollywood failure should be grist to this story’s mill, but they are edged-out in favour of comfortable footage of the band’s dotage.

Revolution of Sound is warm but not wondrous. And it never achieves the escape velocity that slingshot Tangerine Dream and their music way beyond the infinite.

Tags: Berlin Film Festival Tangerine Dream

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