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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

AKIKAZE: Solstice (2017)

“With its multiple sonic looks; Solstice is an album that we savor at any time of the day”

1 Jacob's Ladders 7:18

2 Halo 17:06

3 Autumn Mist 5:16

4 Solstice Part 1 17:26

5 Solstice Part 2 13:03

6 Northern Light 19:20

(CD 79:43) (V.F.) (Berlin School)

In my distant memories, I think that I have heard the music of Akikaze. In fact, I had a friend who spoke well of him and he even lent me a CD, I believe that it was In High Places, so that I discover the music of the Dutch musician. I didn't hook on it. And, listening to this SOLSTICE and to its structures in continual movement, I don't understand why and how I missed it. This album totally took me by surprise. And, in order to remain calm, I took the time to well listening this last opus of Akikaze of which main lines were presented to the E-Live festival in October 2015 (Gert Emmens played even the percussions on it). Verdict? There are no doubts! I well and truly discovered another small pearl in the vast ocean of EM. For a reason I ignore, I had associated the name of Akikaze, which means autumn wind in Japanese, to a Kitaro style of New Age. Moreover, the German label SynGate has reissued some of his albums on its Bandcamp platform at the end of 2015 in a silence that let lingering a doubt regarding on the artistic direction of Pepijn Courant, the man behind Akikaze. And then came this SOLSTICE on Lambert Ringlage's label, a record label that specializes in the Berlin School style with a lot of harmonies and which is known to produce good artists and mostly some great EM.

Twisted effects that break in a wave of continuous sounds fill a rather festive introduction of Jacob's Ladders. A line of sequences, with a harmonic tone that is reminiscent of the good movements from Eddie Jobson's very poetic and iconic album Theme of Secrets, makes roll its keys which skip in circular movements. The nuances and indentations of the movement give a harmonic nobility that will seduce, from different angles, throughout this album. The harmonies flow like the grace of a ballet which personifies a dance of swans while in the background the splinters of whispers remain sifted by the tenacity of a shaded veil. Minimalist and circular, the main movement stretches its charms up until a line of bass sequences jostles them with a lively movement and its aura of tension that makes drumming of our fingers. Layers of voices bewitch this brief change of direction before a third change of music skin brings Jacob's Ladders to a more ethereal phase with acoustic guitar chords dreaming in sibylline synth pads. Three changes of direction within 7 minutes? We must get used to it because SOLSTICE is far from being done in homogeneity. Halo begins with a duel between accordion, flute and harp. The harp comes out winner and weaves a splendid melody that we would like that she lasts forever. Voices are humming behind a new association between the harp and the acoustic six-strings. It's like a small concert of angels in the new Eden that gets lost in the 3rd minute with a spheroidal movement of the sequencer where keyboard chords are added. A keyboard that adds other chords, with more crystalline shadows, and attracts us to the lands of Berlin School with good effects and a gradation in the rhythm that remains always ambient. The synth extends beautiful harmonies and good solos while that surprising, and very unexpected, percussive effects are invited in this moving canvas that constantly seeks to thwart the hearing with modifications that slightly detour the axis of Halo without denying its gender or its destination. Autumn Mist is a very Vangelis melody in a Berlin School vision. It's quite good!

Written for the E-Live festival, the title-track is the cornerstone of this album. The first 6 minutes of Solstice Part 1 are a beautiful moment of romance with an acoustic guitar which condemns its melody to roam in foggy layers which turn into rather striking arrangements. A spiral line of sequences injects a circular rhythm which is strongly snatched by very good percussions. The movement becomes then a good phase of progressive electronic rock with a swarm of melodies which survives and which charms despite the severity of the percussions' strikes. While my ears get more and more excited, Akikaze unwinds its solos unique to the vintage years with forms and colors as so creative than in the 70's. Some very nice music which will throws a little of shade on Solstice Part 2 and its path weaved in the continuity. Here the first 6 minutes are forged in melancholy with a delicate flute and its fragile bucolic chant. Lively sequences flicker and solidify a motionless rhythmic pattern after 6 minutes, forging a more electronic rhythm, in spite of the percussions, which seduces just as much with a very good synth and the way Akikaze is using it. Because of its very changeable nature, and its numerous arrangements drawn in the 60 other minutes of SOLSTICE, Northern Light requested me more than one listening in order to find satisfaction between my ears. With hesitating pulsations in an organic sound envelope and carousels of sequences glittering on the spot, the introduction is tinted with an approach sewn in mystery. A first moving line of sequences emerges after 120 seconds. The rhythm becomes fluid with a race which oscillates cheerfully in layers of voices in the shape of riffs. Another movement of bass-sequences runs like the one in Jacob's Ladders while a 3rd one cements a more harmonious approach. These 3 layers alternate between the phases of steady rhythm, of ambiences and of harmonies in an ascending movement which coats itself of a soft sibylline choir and of nightmarish organ layers. A first bridge built in ambient elements appears around the 7th minute, bringing Northern Light on a path sculptured by sequences which move on tiptoe. Some very nice orchestrations throw a dose of passion on the harmonies became hoarser and on sequences became less uncertain. Slowly, the universe of Northern Light falls over again but this time towards a more harmonious race. The synth displays its more discreet charms whereas always glitters this swarm of sequences which goes and comes discreetly. The layers of organ are more chthonian and the rhythm which follows is more ambient, leading the fates of Northern Light being consumed by a lullaby as much morphic as so very oneiric.

Layers of rhythms which crisscross and follow each other in an electronic decoration which allies the retro and the new Berlin School, and synths, especially synths, which weave good solos as charming as the melodies in a soundscape not too much fill nor too colorless, Akikaze succeeds his entrance on Spheric Music in a remarkable way. With its multiple sound looks; SOLSTICE is an album that we savor at any time of the day. We wish for beautiful melodies on light rhythms, SOLSTICE is here! We wish for strong stuff coated of magic solos; SOLSTICE is here again! We seek for complexity which flows such as fluid without abrasive; SOLSTICE is always there. And without being aware of it, we move from a phase to another one without being too much disoriented, nor with regrets. A very beautiful album my friends …

Sylvain Lupari (October 16th, 2017) *****

Available at Spheric Music and at CD Baby

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