Tangerine Dream – “Hyperborea” (1984)

I feel about 90% certain that the first electronic album I ever bought was something by Tangerine Dream, though for the life of me I can’t remember which one. I distinctly recall buying a CD while in high school, though I don’t know if it was because of something I’d heard in a movie score, or a band citing them as a reference, or possibly even something I read in Rolling Stone. I feel like I didn’t listen to it much as I couldn’t get into it, it was so different than the standard rock that filled up the rest of my shelves.

For whatever reason, I never went back to the Tangerine Dream well again, even though I’ve gotten a lot more into electronic music over the last four or five years. When I came a cross a Japanese pressing of 1983s Hyperborea the other day at Hi-Voltage Records during their 20% off sale, however, I saw a perfect opportunity to rectify that massive aural oversight on my part and picked up this pristine copy. I’m not 100% sure why, but the Japanese pressings just seem to hold up better. The jackets are thicker and glossier, which accounts for part of it, but I suspect that the people who spend money on these imports tend to be more hardcore audiophiles/record collectors/OCD/nerds (like me) and the probably just take better care of their toys.

Sonically Hyperborea is smooth and chill, a bit spacey but with a touch of Persian influence, most notably on “No Man’s Land”. “Cinnamon Road,” the shortest of the album’s four tracks at just shy of four minutes (the next shortest clocks in at 8:31), is the oddest composition, almost sounding like a muzak cover of some kind of 1980s new wave song instead of an original tune. Like, as in it sounds really familiar, but I just can’t place it. Weird.

The entire B side is given over to the 20 minute “Sphinx Lightning,” a piece of art that feels more like a movie or a book than a song with its seemingly distinct yet related chapters, pieces that fit into part of the greater whole but vary in how they convey pacing and feeling. Sometimes slow and thoughtful, sometimes anxiety-laden, though always with a bit of a post-modern if not quite sci-fi feel. Definitely my favorite track on Hyperborea, one that can actually transport you to a different mental space.

I may need to explore this Tangerine Dream thing a little more as opportunities present themselves…