Tangerine Dream & Brian May: Starmus: Sonic Universe

Veteran synth pioneers and Queen guitarist converge live.

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On the face of it, Tangerine Dream and Brian May seem like odd collaborators. Queen were all about the aggrandisation of humans, champions and saviours of the universe; Tangerine Dream, at their 70s dark, ambient best, gloomily depicted space as a guitarless, starless black mass, vastly indifferent to humanity.

Brian May turns out to have a penchant for cosmology, however, while Tangerine Dream have long been a commercial rather than fearsome proposition. And so they worked together perfectly congenially on this live album, recorded at the 2011 Starmus festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight.

Opener Supernova does offer some chilling, authentic sounds of acoustic pressure waves from stars, courtesy of Professor Garik Israelian, event founder. However, the over-consolingly familiar chimes of May’s guitar soon bring us back down to earth. Tangerine Dream, too, go through well-worn gears – chattering synths, solemn sheet waves of synth that once struck awe but nowadays sound like the stuff of 1970s son et lumiere shows and old sci-fi soundtracks, a musical area long-since over-colonised.

May and TD do, however, join forces for an odd, extended version of We Will Rock You, on which Froese and co struggle with, but eventually get into, its stomping spirit.

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.