The true pioneers of electronic music, Tangerine Dream has endured over the past few decades with a couple dozen releases. Now, the band has gone back to the archives and released a limited 18 disc set that includes 2 Blu-rays featuring all new surround mixes by Steven Wilson. This collection focuses on the albums that have remained classics of the genre and were recorded for Virgin Records between 1973 and 1979. The collection titled “In Search of Hades: The Virgin Recordings 1973 – 1979” is undeniably the definitive works by Tangerine Dream from this period, boasting newly remastered versions of the albums Phaedra, Rubycon, Ricochet, Stratosfear, Encore, Cyclone and Force Majeure, each transferred from the original first-generation master tapes. However, here at Hi-Res Edition it is the all-new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mixes of Phaedra and Ricochet by Steven Wilson that are the cream to this crop. Unfortunately, the remaining studio albums original multi-tracks no longer exist, leaving those albums on CD’s in the stereo and lossless resolution domain.
Among the 16 CD’s, eight contain previously unreleased material, three which are full London concerts: the Victoria Palace Theatre in 1974, The Rainbow Theatre in 1974 and Royal Albert Hall in 1975. Plus, another super bonus is the previously unreleased full soundtrack for a theatrical play titled Oedipus Tyrannus, recorded in July 1974 and remixed in both 5.1 surround sound and stereo by Steven Wilson. Digging deeper into the box fans will find two CD’s of previously unreleased outtakes from the Phaedra sessions at The Manor Studios, Oxfordshire in November 1973, and the surviving 35-minute live recording from Coventry Cathedral in October 1975.
When looking at the box set as a whole, the abundance of unexpected and previously unreleased content compensates for any deficiencies. In fact, the box set was postponed from its original release date due to the continual discovery of additional new material.
The two Blu-ray discs feature the 5.1 mixes of Phaedra, Oedipus Tyrannus and Ricochet, each in DTS Master Audio and LPCM 96kHz / 24-bit 5.1 surround along with LPCM 96kHz / 24-bit stereo streams of the full albums. Plus the second Blu-ray contains a 1976 German TV performance and BBC Old Grey Whistle Test broadcast of Tangerine Dream at Coventry Cathedral. Of course, keeping in super deluxe box set form, “In Search of Hades” is lavishly packaged with a hardback book featuring new liner notes and rare photographs plus memorabilia.
It is important to first note that the remasters of the original seven albums across the various CD’s do sound terrific. The overall sound is warmer, more open, and has a better balance of volume levels. The improvements are subtle but welcome, with the individual notes and little background embellishments now more clearly audible. Ben Wiseman has done an outstanding job, and the dynamic range is wider than earlier releases, plus the top end is a little brighter end the bass digs noticeably deeper at the bottom end, all of which provides an overall analog warmth on these digital discs.
Now taking a seat in the sweet spot, the 5.1 surround mixes are awesomely immersive and well-balanced, providing a natural spread of sound without focusing strongly in any given corner. Wilson truly knows how to wrap a listener in audio ecstasy, and these albums are pure listening bliss in the multi-channel domain. The new material is equally impressive, with the Oedipus Tyrannus score being particularly noteworthy for its evocative similarity to Lygeti's score in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I found this score to be especially powerful and certainly think it will appeal to fans of the band’s earlier albums Zeit and Atem. Not only will listeners get plenty of ear candy, but one can also zone out to the animation of the album covers on their monitors, extending one’s immersive experience.
Back to the CD’s and digging in deeper, the box set contains a plethora of additional engaging material, including outtakes from the Phaedra recording sessions that showcase fascinating alternative variations on the music that eventually became the iconic album. These pieces of music are substantial and offer an authentic insight into the equipment and sound signatures used, featuring lots of mellotron and oscillators. Additionally, the bonus tracks on the seven core albums are interesting, with the extended introduction to Rubycon being particularly noteworthy.
The three concerts included in the set are also impressive, with much of the material being improvised and showcasing unheard pieces. Certainly, considering the era, the audio quality is very good, despite occasional tape dropouts or equipment malfunctions. While the bonus material on the second Blu-ray may not be something one will go back to, the German TV documentary includes interesting interview footage and Monica Froese's photography work for the album covers. Likewise, the Coventry Cathedral concert is also less engaging.
For those who may not want to extensively explore Tangerine Dream, the original seven albums are also available as standalone CD reissues. These individual CDs feature the same track listing as the corresponding album in the Hades box set, so those with a limited budget can still enjoy some of the stereo remixes and bonus tracks in addition to the remastered main album tracks. I am sure there are also some immersive listeners who wish the Blu-rays were offered as a standalone product, but sorry to say, they are not.
The comprehensive nature of this box set truly lives up to its promise of providing a definitive collection of Tangerine Dream's classic period. With a vast amount of material to delve into, it's likely that many fans will find themselves returning to it repeatedly for years to come. The set is a true testament to the loyalty and patience of long-term fans, who are finally rewarded with a collection that does justice to the original albums and provides insight into the group's creative process and evolution over this six-year period.
Without a second thought, I totally feel it was worth the wait for this massive box set, and I absolutely believe fans of Tangerine Dream will not be disappointed.
Released June 21, 2019.
16 CD's and 2 Blu-rays, containing DTS Master Audio & LPCM 96kHz / 24bit 5.1 surround mixes, along with LPCM 96kHz / 24-bit original stereo mixes, video content, a plethera of bonuses and seven remastered albums across multiple CDs.