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Friday 5 July 2024

Ultima Thule

In classical and Medieval literature Thule was a distant place, a place beyond the borders of the known world. To the Romans Thule was the most northerly location known to them- Orkney possibly, or Shetland. By the late Middle Ages Thule was Greenland or Iceland. Ultima Thule is beyond there. On 1st January 2019 NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew by an object known as Ultima Thule, a lump of rock that floats in the Kuiper Belt, the farthest object in the solar system, a piece of rock now renamed 486958 Arrokoth. I'm not sure the renaming is an improvement but Ultima Thule is now somewhere else, I suppose, even further away. 

In 1972 Tangerine Dream released a 7" single called Ultima Thule, an instrumental track split into two parts, one either side of the record. For this single the group were not fully electronic, and the track is not sonically in the same place as the group were when they made the pioneering kosmische of 1974's Phaedra and 1975's Rubycon. Edgar Froese's group has had over twenty members of the decades. In 1972 they consisted of Froese on audio generators and gliss guitar, Christopher Franke on keys, cymbals and analogue synth and Peter Baumann on organ, vibraphone and another analogue synth. Zeit, also out in 1972 but sometime after Ultima Thule, is slow-ish, atmospheric space music with cellos and Florian Fricke from Popul Voh guesting on Moog. Before Ultima Thule in 1971 they made Alpha Centauri with keys, organ and flute, dark, open ended space music. 

Ultima Thule Part 1

Ultima Thule doesn't really sit in with any of these, although the questing, experimental, space music tags all fit. Ultima Thule is loud, led by punching, tumbling drums, aggressive and overdriven guitar riffs, loud psychedelia with kosmische organs pushing through in the mix. There may be a mellotron in there too. While the 7" single may not seem to be the place to find Tangerine Dream, it's obvious really that this track needed a separate release from what came either side of it, to mark it out as different from the music on Alpha Centauri and Zeit. Your Krautrock/ Kosmische folder is not complete without it. 

It's a little strange that I've got several albums by Tangerine Dream and this is the first time they've appeared at Bagging Area. It's always good to find artists I haven't written about before, to add another name as a label and to keep moving things forwards. I don't know at the time of writing the scale of the Tory defeat at yesterday's general election. I wrote this post in advance and have taken a reasoned gamble that they lost and have my fingers crossed they lost heavily. In which case today is a new dawn, a Tory government free country. There were times it felt like Tory rule would never end. I'm sure a lot of you, like me, find a lot to celebrate in the fact that it's over, they've gone. Something to savour, for a few days at least.

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