As the New York Times so aptly observed this weekend, eerie '80s synths score are synonymous with the German experimental electronic music group Tangerine Dream. And yet, the group and their sinister and moody but anonymous modulations were never celebrated as loudly in that era (or since) compared to the works of other '80s synth-heavy composers like Harold Faltermeyer ("Top Gun," "Fletch," "Beverly Hills Cop"), John Carpenter ("Escape from New York," "The Thing"), Vangelis ("Chariots of Fire," "Blade Runner") and even Giorgio Moroder ("Scarface," "Cat People").
The cinephile-friendly arthouse BAMCinematek tries to right that wrong this week in Brooklyn with their retrospective series centered around the atmospheric and ambient scores written and performed by Tangerine Dream. And so to help celebrate the undervalued composers we give you five of their best scores. Make sure to head to BAM this week if you're in the New York area (and hurry, this run is almost over), and if you can't, we encourage you to track down these films and scores.
1. "Sorcerer" (1977)
Perhaps the biggest gap in BAM's retrospective is William Friedkin's equally underrated remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot's "The Wages of Fear," but the reasons for that should be obvious (though in case you don't know there's an entire lawsuit brewing over the film which you can read about here). Throbbing and pulsating with ominous synth dread, to truly appreciate Tangerine Dream's score one needs to view the score in the context of the film, but it is a rather awesome piece of music regardless that krautrock fans and afficionados of bands like Cluster and Harmonia will love. Extra points go to William Friedkin who helped usher in this unusual and inspired type of music into film scores, arguably doing so first and on a massive scale with his horror blockbuster "The Exorcist," which used similarly dissonant and instrumental music from Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells album (the theme can be heard here) and music by Jonny Greenwood fave Krzysztof Penderecki. In fact, Friedkin had originally wanted Tangerine Dream to score "The Exorcist." “I’d never seen anything like that,” he told the NYT of seeing the band live in the 1970s. “They played one long piece of music that sounded like a combination of Jimi Hendrix and Stockhausen. The whole notion of the film I later made came that evening. I started to see the images of the movie that ultimately became ‘Sorcerer.’ ”
2. "Legend" (1985)
Everyone probably remembers Ridely Scott's "Legend" for its grand, mythical villains, Tom Cruise and musically, for its closing original song by the great Bryan Ferry (trivia: it's an unused song meant for Roxy Music's last album, Avalon). But its gauzy, faerie-like ethereal textures are due, at least in part, thanks to the aerial sheen provided by Tangerine Dream. "Loved By The Sun" is a vocal version of Tangerine Dream's "Unicorn Theme" with lyrics written and sung by Jon Anderson of Yes.