Atem (= breath) is the fourth album of the German electronic music group Tangerine Dream. It was their last release for the Ohr-label thus ending the era of the Pink Years. It was largely through DJ John Peel's enthusiastic championing of this 'Album of the Year 1973' that TD draw the attention of many British listeners. Although Atem got an official release in the UK on Polydor around the same time together with Alpha Centauri, the British ordered mainly copies of the group's albums through mail order companies. Rumour has it that this mail order activity caused Richard Branson to take notice of the band and signed them with his Virgin-label.
Atem has been recorded by Edgar Froese (Mellotron, organ, guitar, voice), Christopher Franke (VCS3-synthesizer, drums, percussion, organ, voice) and Peter Baumann (organ, piano, VCS3 synthesizer). Many people consider this line-up to be the most important TD-line-up ever and sometimes they even call it the 'holy trinity'. The integral sound on Atem is dark, ambient and almost one drone. The baby pictured on the cover is Jerome Froese, Edgar's son, who eventually became a band member. Just like many other TD-albums, Atem got a reissue lately. Beside the original album, remastered from TD's master tapes, this reissue includes a bonus disc as well, containing a live performance recorded at the Deutschehalle in Berlin on November 29, 1973. These recordings have never been released before. This Esoteric Reactive edition also features a lavishly illustrated booklet with a new essay.
Atem continues with the same, unusual spacey music made by synthesizers, sequencers and organs as can be heard on their three previous albums. Only now, Edgar Froese started to include Mellotrons, which he used well on the title track, Fauni Gena and Wahn. However, the music is just as unstructured as the earlier albums containing hardly anything one can call conventional music. Atem opens with the twenty-minute long title track whereon strange wind sounds can be heard before the Mellotron and the mellow drum parts join in. From time to time you can enjoy organ parts that resemble the music of Pink Floyd. However, you never get changes of tempo and everything remains mellow without hardly any change in rhythm.
The second track Fauni Gena is Edgar Froese's tour de force on the Mellotron. This track contains nothing but Mellotron and chirping birds. It's followed by Circulation Of Events that can be regarded as a sinister sounding piece due to the strange drones and electronic effects. The final track Wahn consists of yelling and screaming with startling percussion before it ends with the sound of a Mellotron. The bonus-CD contains forty minutes of very mellow live music. The album credits don't say anything about the musicians and their instruments. In many ways the music resembles the title track and the music released on Zeit (see review).
John Peel regarded Atem as being the best album recorded in 1973. I guess he didn't listen to albums as Selling England By The Pound (Genesis), Tales From Topographic Oceans (Yes), The Dark Side Of The Moon (Pink Floyd) or the eponymous debut album from Camel. In my opinion these albums are much more adventurous and musical than Atem. Maybe he considered it to be a very progressive album because this was never done before in the history of music. Who knows? That may be the reason why he named it the 'album of the year'. He succeeded since the album brought TD many fans in the UK and a record deal with Virgin Records. However, music wise I prefer the above-mentioned records for these don't contain minimal sounding music dominated by only synthesizers, sequencers, organs and a Mellotron.
** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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