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Mr.Cox reviews - Edgar W. Froese: Aqua, 2005. 9/10

reviews - edgar froeseOprettet af Jacob Pertou tir, september 02, 2008 16:39
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The sound of water, a strange synth sound and some digital percussion. This sums up the ingredients of Edgar W. Froese's reworking of the first minutes of his first solo album "Aqua" from 1974, released in 2005. One can be happy about this update or one can be angry about what Froese did to the originals. I belong to those TD fans who don't know much of Froese's solo records at all, especially as most of them somehow must be considered as rarities. I never listened to these original recordings, so the qualities of the "Aqua" remake lie in something completely different to me, in Froese's ability to combine the vintage synth, mellotron and organ sound with modern drumming and samples.
A wonderful example is the striking bass synth line that flows through the whole title track. "Aqua" remains almost untouched in its essence, with smooth organ drones (reminiscent of TD's "Atem"), bubbling synthesizers (like those on "Phaedra") and some mellotron solos on top. Everything one can admire in TD's music of the middle 70's is there, the only exception being the additional recordings on top of it all. The drumming and modern synth sounds add a trance-like quality to the whole track that fits quite well. In fact as I listened to the preview snippet on TD's homepage I just knew I had to get this CD as soon as possible! Moreover I consider it the best idea about this re-recording that Froese added modern drum sounds instead of recreating a rhythm track as it may have been played in the 70's; there is a sense of adventure in this step. In the last minutes of this 17 minutes long piece some echoed guitar sounds take over, the kind of sound Froese played on TD's "Zeit" album in 1972. And suddenly the muted drum sound in the background doesn't matter at all, it just fades away, returns and fades again, as if to mirror the swirling guitar excursion. The sound of water flowing into Edgar Froese's bathtub closes the track the same way it began.
"Panorphelia" is up next with modern synth chords and a bubbling sequencer motiv in the background. Here the reworking seems to be rather inconspicious, classic mellotron and synthesizer melodies can be heard. But above it all you can also recognize some tones that can also be found on recent TD releases and must have been added to the original. This composition is purely meditative, not too different of classic TD tracks like "Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares". What melodies are concerned it is much more interesting than "Aqua" in fact, at the same time the complete lack of percussion makes it the perfect counterpart to the opening track. The coda seems to be a complete new recording added, including these synth carpets Froese is so fond of.
The sound of a starting plane announces "NGC 891", a recording on which Chris Franke came on board to add Moog synthesizer. Soft digital synths and traffic noise glide in, once more Froese creates a peaceful mood, just the same way as on TD tracks like "Rubycon Part 1". After almost two minutes a soft sequencer sets in. Now we're on familiar mid-70's TD ground, somehow minimalistic, yet very rich at the same time. Here almost no further reworking is audible (except for some modern synth washes in the background). The music goes through various phasing effects, even the sequencer disappears at one point. Different synth and mellotron sounds create a kind of irresistable interplay, it's not until the sixth minute when some newly added synths begin to creep in more prominently. But to my ears this composition is very close to perfection; with the additional harsh synth melody beginning after seven minutes the track reaches a special height. Then a completely new coda with harmonic synth chords is added and the track closes.
A bubbling sequencer sound and a hymnical organ, that's the way "Upland" creeps in, a track that doesn't seem to have been remixed at all. The prominent organ sound always reminds me of Popol Vuh's classic "Vuh", harmonic and melodic but also somehow scary. Like on the two previous tracks the rhythm is build up by various sequenced synthesizer tones, but it remains in the background throughout, just setting the scene for the organ solo. After five and a half minutes the sequencer and organ gradually disappear, making room for some sections recorded backwards (I guess these are short piano sections, but I'm not sure about that). This coda is even more scary than the organ solo.
As a kind of bonus track "Upland Dawn" is added to the first four tracks. Slowed down bell sounds, the "Upland" sequencer and organ plus some modern percussion samples are in the foreground. Then a steady drum beat sets in, much more aggressive than the drums on "Aqua". Soon the original composition is forgotten completely and a new synth melody begins, including some samples sounding a bit like electric guitar chords. This is a radical remix that almost feels out of place on this CD and to my taste the new melody line is too simple for its own good. This recording wouldn't be out of place on "The Dream Mixes" (that was recorded around the same time as this "Upland" remix, by the way).
Well, everyone who loves the original "Aqua" may be irritated by these remixed recordings. But in my opinion this CD is just fantastic, mixing many elements from the early and mid-70's with the technological possiblities of the new millennium. And yes, I still love the drums on "Aqua".
Without knowing the original album there is a lot to be discovered here. And in the case you want your 70's Froese sound unaltered you can buy a copy of the original "Aqua" on CD, it's still widely available. I really enjoy the complete Froese CD collection of 2005 and "Aqua" is no exception.

By Mr.Cox