Founded by the late Edgar Froese, Tangerine Dream is perhaps the premier exponent of "electronic rock" music of the "Berlin School". From their "free-rock" beginnings in the nascent "krautrock" scene to the eventual synthesizer-based trio which signed to Virgin, this German group can take significant credit in introducing synthesizer- and sequencer-based electronic music to most of the Western rock world. At the height of their success - during the mid to late 1970s - TD's spacey, pulsing music earned them a tenacious cult following. By the late Seventies, however, line-ups, and more importantly, the formula changed, tilting towards more conventional "rock" music. By the early 1980s, TD was primarily releasing influential soundtrack work, before settling into New Age content by mid-decade.
Formed in Berlin in 1967, the initial line up (on their first release Electronic Meditation) included Edgar Froese, Conrad Schnitzler (cello) and Klaus Schulze (drums). Their compositions, or rather experimental improvisations, had roots in the psychedelia of London albeit with the "krautrock" twist. Electronic Meditation is perhaps a misnomer; traditional instrumentation of organ, drums, guitar, cello, flute were hardly electronic and "freak out jamming" is the more appropriate adjective, reflecting the confluence of Twentieth Century avant-garde music. Both Schnitzler and Schulze would depart after this album, with the latter forming Ash Ra Tempel and going on to become the other major proponent of the "Berlin School". Second album, Alpha Centauri, saw the addition of long-standing member Christopher Franke replacing Schulze, while Peter Baumann would come aboard for Zeit. Although unissued until the mid-1980s, Green Desert was recorded in 1973. The core of Froese, Franke and Baumann would sign to Virgin Records in 1973, and the subsequent release Phaedra would cement their style for years to come. Understated, droning keyboard and guitar melodies intertwined with ambient washes of reverberating electronic textures, utilizing synthesizers and sequencers, was typical of the TD sound. Compositions were long, melodic, pulsing pieces. Michael Hoenig temporarily replaced Baumann for an Australian tour in 1975. One highlight of the Virgin period was Sorcerer, a soundtrack to the film of the same name. After Baumann's departure in 1978, TD experimented with the formula on Cyclone, which saw the addition of Steve Jolliffe, adding vocals and woodwinds and Klaus Krüger on drums. Force Majeure was the classic of this period. Johannes Schmölling would join for Tangram. This line-up remained stable until the mid-1980s, as the group shifted toward more rhythmic textures. The increased emphasis on sequencers and rhythm in the first half of the 1980s divided fans, as did subsequent releases which veered heavily into relatively accessible, uplifting melodies.
After a brief stint with Jive Records from 1984 to 1988, TD signed to Baumann's Private Music label and then the equally New Agey Miramar, fully embracing digital textures and seeking to distance the group from its moody, psychedelic past. Paul Haslinger replaced Schmölling in 1985, and was in turn replaced by Froese's son Jerome Froese in 1990. Franke left in 1987 over creative differences with Froese. After a mid-1990s move to Edgar Froese's own TDI Music label (later renamed Eastgate), TD's reputation as a New Age band became less appropriate—father and son experimented with more modern sounds and revisited elements of past glories—but the group's artistic direction remained fairly entrenched in melodic pop-rock territory, with an increased use of acoustic instruments, particularly on stage. With Edgar Froese's death in 2015, the band continues, but with none of its original members.