I was overjoyed to hear that Peter Baumann was stepping back behind the keyboards to record a new album after so many years. Most people know Baumann for being part of the classic line-up that produced huge galactic-sounding Tangerine Dream albums such as Phaedra and Rubycon during the mid Seventies. And its seems that the death of Tangs founder member Edgar Froese in January 2015 was the catalyst for Baumann to work on Machines Of Desire.A whoosh from the cold edge of space introduces “The Blue Dream”. A bass drone creeps in, then a steady pounding bass drum beat. Choir voices hover over the top and play a haunting melody. This opening sounds like a spacecraft docking sequence from some sci-fi movie. Then the sequencer hits in and it’s sublime, real shivers down the spine stuff. It’s when Baumann starts riffing as the track progresses that there’s this touch of Tangerine Dream that sort of sneaks in when you least expect it. “Searching In Vain” is a more brooding track, with thunderous Oberheim-sounding chords under a melody that’s almost as light as air. This is the soundtrack for the Voyager craft hurtling towards the unknown alone within the cosmos, one that makes you feel uneasy about your own place in the universe, but also comforts you in some strange way. “Valley of the Gods” starts with a wonderful lush synth sound and brings in Middle Eastern lead lines over its forceful rhythm. The tune scatters around and at one point even reminds me of something from Tin Drum-era Japan. It feels like you have to chase after its melody, but can’t quite catch it in your grasp. Jittering sequencers introduce “Echoes in the Cave”, which then moves into an almost minimalist gear with a steady beat and a high-pitched lead line. It’s here that Baumann almost strays in to John Foxx territory; but when the warm bass riff kicks in, you are transported back to much earlier time in human history where our story was told on paintings on fire-lit walls.
“Ordinary Wonder” has a grand out-there opening and the kind of sound that Astropilot would go crazy for. The lead line drifts over the top of these sonic solar waves in a breezy fashion and leaves you, the listener, time for your mind to meander around the bigger questions of life. “Crossing The Abyss” begins with clattering bell-like synth sounds, and we are transported to the dark realms of the universe. When the tune kicks in, it almost scuttles around the feet of the rhythm that underpins it, and by the end the music descends in a downwards spiral.“Dancing In The Dark” has a chirpy melody that lifts the album to a higher plane. The sequencer chatters underneath as chords swell and fall like ocean waves. It sings into the night sky and ruminates about the transience of life. Here again, Baumann seems to overtly be tapping his TD past as parts of the track remind me of Stratosfear. The final track on Machines Of Desire is “Dust to Dust”, which has beautiful choir sounds and a kind of Mellotron string backing that harks back to the Tang’s tours from 1976. It has that strange, eerie atmosphere that feels disquieting in some ways. When the lead synth line comes in, it sounds strangely similar in tone to one of Edgar’s guitar runs. I have no idea if this was intentional or not. The album ends with breath-like sound that slowly vanishes against a ticking clock beat.
The album as a whole has a fairly melancholic air to it, but any new Peter Baumann music after 33 years is always going to be worth listening to. Machines Of Desire slowly seeps into your skin and then makes you realise just how much we have missed his compositional work in the intervening years. Apparently, this looks like the start of a new recording phase for Baumann, one I’m certainly looking forward to hearing more of.