Quaeschning & Schnauss: Synthwaves
Azure Vista Records

Had Hoshiko Yamane been involved, Synthwaves could have been issued as a Tangerine Dream release, given that Thorsten Quaeschning, Ulrich Schnauss, and Yamane compose the outfit's current lineup in the wake of founder Edgar Froese's 2015 passing. As it is, Synthwaves sees Quaeschning and Ulrich Schnauss teaming up for an eight-track excursion whose contents are often reminiscent of the parent group. Recorded during two weeks in Berlin, the recording lands the listener squarely within Tangerine Dream territory from its first moment, with layers of vintage synthesizers and motorik drum machine beats giving “Main Theme” a pristine sheen that might well have you thinking of early group releases like Stratosfear, Force Majeure, and the Thief soundtrack.

Memorable touches often differentiate one track from another and help recommend the release: both “Rain On Dry Concrete” and “Flare” less evoke Tangerine Dream than The Pat Metheny Group by including whistling synth textures similar to the sonorities Lyle Mays often added to the group's material. Though “Slow Life” opens in gentle ambient mode with reverb-drenched piano at the forefront, it gradually develops into an exercise in kosmische dazzle rich in entrancing synthetic washes, bass pulses, and analog sequencer patterns. “Flare” dazzles too, in this case by bewitching the listener with blissed-out psychedelia. Other tracks, on the other hand, present vintage riffs on the TD sound: oceanic waves of interlocking synth patterns blaze, sparkle, and pulsate throughout “Thirst” and “Prism,” each a deep exercise in interstellar overdrive if there ever was one. Inviting the comparison further, some pieces appear to thread guitar playing into their arrangements, much as Froese did on many a TD recording.

Admittedly, Synthwaves won't win any awards for originality or innovation; what largely compensates for that, however, is the high quality of the production, with Quaeschning and Schnauss having created a remarkable and consistently beguiling collection of which they can be proud. Each richly polyrhythmic setting is an elaborately considered composition that pays homage to the past while at the same time sounding thoroughly contemporary.

July 2017