Your inner mind having the most peaceful meltdown known to man
Tangerine Dream’s Paul Haslinger has gone introspective for ‘Exit Ghost’. The piano-based album is crammed full of gentle but carefully crafted pieces that have far more in common with Hauschka than any synth symphony. It is one of those records that rewards your ears’ attention.
Paul starts the album quite pleasantly with ‘The Faltering Sky’ but it has moments of unease that come apart perfectly with ‘Intrinsic’. The keyboard and prepared piano spin off their rotating axis both melodically and in their frequency. Awkward plinks become more common in the cogs of the piano and what used to be a brushed percussive noise is now a distorted chime. It is both creepy and enchanting – something that describes the album as a whole.
It is entirely the vibe ‘Room 3’ goes for too. The lush strings are dense and unforgiving, as is the electrical chatter in the title track that follows. ‘Valse I’ turn twists string arrangements to reverse off each note whilst synthetic monklike oohs float behind it. Each sound feels like it is synthetically trying to fill open space but everything is being vacuumed to death. Add in some weird kids playing field noise and you’ll be creeped out again. ‘August 2-22’ slowly dilapidates into a repeating flap of sound which other instruments cathartically drone over.
Paul Haslinger is able to evoke comfortable numbness with ‘Shuiyeh’. It sounds like a slow drone under an ice melt. ‘Berlin 86-11’ is far more hopeful though – almost as if we have dragged ourselves out the other side of the ice drift. It is the most outwardly melodic and peaceful of the tracks on the album and signals the tonal shift. ‘White Sun’ moves the synths towards something more shimmering and celestial as gentle piano and guitars wash over you. Even ‘Undertow’, with its pitch-bending uncertainty has hints of happiness. It is like the guts of a piano and cello are dragging you back to the first half of the album – back to the dense fog.
Narratively, Exit Ghost leaves you wondering if you did survive the pull back at all. Paul brings the final three tracks in with ever increasing scope and with its finale ‘Alcina’, we recount the melody from ‘Intrinsic’. For me, the fact that the melody stays in tune and slowly fades away means that we may well have found a stable part inside our minds to chill out with. For others, the more eerie and collapsable ‘FernDell’ that proceeds this may say otherwise. It really is up to you as the listener to make these stories up yourselves.
I must admit to not being aware of Paul Haslinger and Tangerine Dream outside of a few tracks but Exit Ghost makes me want to change this quickly. As a collection of music, it is unsettling, demanding, rewarding and cathartic. As a story told in music the album is absolutely fascinating. I think we have our first contender for classical album of the year.
Recommended track: Intrinsic
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