Quality: 5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 5 out of 5
Ok, let's try and assume Electronic Meditation never happened and consider this Tangerine Dream's debut. In a way it is since Edgar Froese is the only member remaining from the last album. Joining him is Chris Franke, who was hired as a drummer but would be the Dreamer to dive head first into the electronic waters and match Froese's influence in the band for the next 15 years. We also have organist Steve Schroyder who would vanish in a drug induced haze following this album.
The band's trademark sequencer patterns are still nowhere to be found here, and there is still plenty of conventional instrumentation. In fact, Alpha Centauri is very much a "space rock" album. But we do start to hear experimentation with electronics, particularly the VCS3 synth, which Pink Floyd would also use extensively (no Moogs yet though). The band was from a rock background, and didn't really know how to properly program the synth (although Brian Eno suggests that synth players throw away the manual anyway), but they still conjure up some awesome sounds here.
The band is a lot more mellow here. They occasionally whip up some noise, but it's much more controlled than on the last album, and performed with purpose. The players are actually playing off of each other here. Most of the music is minimalist, but arranged and playing with maximum effect.
Once again the band has a concept, which I think is a space voyage to a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri. Honestly, I'm not sure if that was the band's intention, but it's what I visualize and what's better than a concept conveyed completely instrumentally? There are only three tracks present here, and each of them create a ton of effective imagery. I see the album as such:
"Sunrise In The Third System" is shortly after takeoff, drifting around the earth. The organ tones have no trouble evoking an orbital sunrise. With the 13-minute long "Fly And Collision Of Cosmos Sola," we launch into hyperspace, with VCS3 patterns streaking by. Eventually we enter the Alpha Centauri system, and make a tricky landing through a turbulent atmosphere. The side long title track would be a tour of this distant planet.
Alpha Centauri is an early masterpiece by the Dream. In fact, they'd continue making stylistic changes, and never really return to this sound. There's a great mix of space rock and early avant garde electronics here in a perfect balance.
Tangerine Dream- Nebulous Dawn (includes Alpha Centauri)