The Worm Up Festival organised by Ponderosa music and art is an alternative one with artists picked for their uniqueness and eclecticism, each concert within the confines of the delightful Teatro dal Verme in the heart of Milan. Tonight is the turn of Tangerine Dream.

The Pioneering German electronic band formed about 57 years ago by the genial Edgar Froese is still a fully functioning unit, still relevant and progressive as it was back in the late sixties. Edgar who sadly passed away in 2015, cared for and kept nourished all that was TD, collaborating with various musicians, right up to his death and indeed made sure the band would continue having incorporated and nurtured the present band members so as to continue to capture and cultivate the spirit and essence of the music of Tangerine Dream.
Now under the leadership of Thorsten Quaeschning ( musical director, guitarist, synthesiser, drums) who has been in the band since 2005, along with violinist Hoshiko Yamane and Paul Frick ( sequencer, piano, looper), this close knit unit has been developing and expanding on many eclectic styles related to electronica, paramount to the conception of the band. Their latest album “Raum” released in 2022 is a most satisfying album, an ode to the past but with a foot in the future. With over 100 albums released since the band’s conception, the scale and presence of their body of work is both remarkable and and unprecedented in pop history.

They take their places onstage and Thorsten says a few words before preceedings begin, thanking the organisers of the festival for setting them up in this theatre with its superb sound system as you ( the public) he says, will discover, and with a warm round of applause the band take us into their world.

It is a world where music has a direct rapport with the mind and soul unlike that of rock/rap or pop which penetrates one’s limbs, body and heart. The way their songs are molded is by the creation of melodies,continuously laid upon each other, united with different rhythms and soundbeats. They play mainly songs from the early 70’s to early 80’s or from the latter part of their catalogue, written by the present band members. The Berlin sound which they were instrumental in creating by innovation, exploration and exponential use of synthesizers greatly influenced Bowie and Eno in the 70’s, was instrumental for 80’s euro pop and tonight it’s apparent that popular bands like Radiohead, Prefab Sprout, early Simple Minds and Talk Talk I would suggest, all have inflections of the Tangerine Dream sound. Songs like “Phaedra”, “Betrayal( Sorcerer Theme)”, “White Eagle” are just a delight. It’s not mechanical either as Thorsten and Paul are playing and sequencing, in the moment, gradually building up the songs. Like a chess match with an opening, a middle game and an end game there is structure, calculation, and inspiration on the board; Hoshiko adding deft touches of soundscape with her violin and guitar pedal effects.

I personally really like the new material too with its new age ambient feel that is popular today. The highlight for me is the couplet, “Love on a Real Train” where Thorsten actually plays a rock star synth solo and “Continuum” which is astonishing in its ability to build and build. Around me I notice quite a few people with eyes closed which normally, say in a Wimbledon crowd is not a good sign and does not look flattering, but in this case it is absolute mental relaxation, a meditative state.
The encore is a sort of improv called “Session” which is haunting and brooding and simply marvelous. Maybe it’s an aging thing but I find music without words more than comforting of late, almost a liberation. Tangerine Dream is this long term project that just goes on and on. The gift that keeps on giving.