The Alchemy of Scarcity

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Further reflections on the passing of Edgar Froese

Edgar Froese was always a conundrum to me. How was it that the mainstay of such groundbreaking pieces as Zeit or Phaedra would evolve into producing the most insipid new-agey kitsch?

His passing made me re-listen to some of the early catalogue, and the possible key to the conundrum began dawning on me. Possible substance intake aside, the brilliance of early TD may have come from three main factors:

Technological scarcity. OK, TD always had a substantial amount of equipment, and legend goes always the cutting-edge synths, but nothing compared to the subsequent (and current) over-abundance of tricks and treats. When you have little, you’re invited to open up your ears and treasure the limited palette through listening and reflecting. And so they did. As technology evolved, TD gradually became an exercise in gadgetry. I believe Peter Baumann was wise in jumping ship early on when things started becoming a bit too cute.

The magic triangle. Early TD was an alchemical combination of three ingredients: Froese, Franke and Baumann. What I thought was TD’s gradual descent into kitsch actually has a very clear line in the departure of Baumann: the harmonious edge was lost, never to return. Interestingly, neither Franke nor Baumann ever produced any worthy material after their departure either: and this further confirms that it was about the symbiosis of the three talents rather than the work of a singular vision.

The Zeitgeist. It was just the right time, the right context. Once it evolved, the plot was lost. The Froese remakes/updates of the TD (and his own) classics decades later are possibly the most pointless, depressing pieces of musical pastiche I’ve ever encountered, further proof that the sounds without the context mean nothing at all. Perversely, Froese may have been a pioneer in this dysfunctional genre that consists of churning out loungey, fluffy variations on the History of Pop, Rock and Punk. The cute female voice whispers “love will tear us apart…” and breathes “… again…”

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