Fans of Tangerine Dream who have neglected group leader Edgar Froese's solo output are really missing out on something special. Specifically, they're missing out on what are basically more Tangerine Dream albums from their most respected period!
Aqua is Froese's first solo outing, released the same year as the celebrated Phaedra, and in my view every bit as good. It contains the same sequencer driven analog synth soundscapes that became the group's trademark, as well as a few slightly more experimental touches here and there.
While the sound is similar to Phaedra in many ways, Aqua nevertheless feels like its own record, with a tone that is if anything more unified than that of its sister album. The title suggests that we're in for a watery experience, and to a certain extent that's true. The title track is basically seventeen minutes of bubbling noises with slow synth melodies layered underneath. However, on the whole I think the album sounds more airy than liquid, with a sort of high, thinness that puts one in mind of jet engines.
Indeed, the second side of the record opens with a jet engine kicking off the track NGC 891. It was on this track that Froese attempted some (not entirely successful) experiments with early surround sound. It is a very spacey track and in my opinion the more enjoyable of the two long pieces on display here.
Another track, Panorphelia, conjures up images of touring the beautiful countryside in a hovercraft, while the album ends on a slightly spooky Hammond organ workout called Upland. The record as a whole seems to me very positive and future-centric, focused on flight and exploration. It's lighter in mood than the concurrent TG releases, and reminds me of that 1950s brand of science fiction filled with unbridled optimism at the joy of new technology.
Froese seems to be reveling in that joy as he discovers the possibilities associated with synthesizers, and is having great fun making music of the future. A thoroughly enjoyable slice of vintage electronica.