Alpha Lyra Sailing Over the Sea (2023)
Updated: Aug 7
“Alpha Lyra's ultimate work”
1 Leaving to Dream 15:38
2 A Beautiful Escape 18:01
3 Draw me a Cloud... (in the shadow of the sun) 13:42
4 Sailing Over the Sea 18:21
(CD/DDL 65:43) (V.F.)
(Berlin School Ambient)
Oh, I've been listening to some great music lately. I'm cutting back on the number of reviews I write, so I'm choosing albums that deserve to be talked about. Like this one! Alpha Lyra's latest album. And it's quite an album! Inspired by a plane trip over the Atlantic Ocean, Christian Piednoir brilliantly sets to music the aerial landscapes of his flight to England. From endless banks of clouds split by sunny rays, the French musician-synthesist composes a music where our senses easily connect to his visions. We float above these clouds in moods reminiscent of the world of Klaus Schulze. Our ears see the rays of sun, as the sedentary dances of cumulus clouds filling with opacity. Contrary to what a title like SAILING OVER THE SEA might suggest, the music on Alpha Lyra's 11th album surfs on the excellent Full Colours album released 2 years ago. There are rhythms, but in a fascinating dimension that sticks to the reality of seeing the sky and its padded decor from the air. In short, a superb album that starts slowly, as if a plane is climbing in the skies.
Leaving to Dream kicks off this musical journey with a reverberating wave where purr other synth layers with almost lyrically twisting. The synth dominates this purely atmospheric opening, with beautiful lunar orchestrations and banks of mist as dense as those cumulus clouds that accumulate mass as they pass through different aerial levels. We hear more translucent filaments, a little as if the ear was hearing those rays of light between the clouds, and discreet threads of voice in this mix of reverberation and celestial purity. Palpitations secretly swarm in the back of this tonal decor. They leap up more and more, spreading their colors and monetizing their hold on these banks of misty orchestration, where layers of vocals and translucent stripes still filter through, along with solos that appear timidly as the track progresses. The rhythm is ambient, no matter how jerky it may be, and dances lightly, making short spirals that twirl upside down in this setting where we float and drift like if we were in a glider. A Beautiful Escape emerges from the silence with graceful, buzzing synth waves that fight for darkness and its opposite. Woosshh drift along until a tone blending flute and voice emerges around the 3-minute mark. This is the signal for the sequencer to untie an ascending rhythm line. The sequences are lightly paced and follow a spiral structure that takes us back to Schulze's Body Love period. The rhythm is swept along by powerful woosshh, giving it a rapid progression where shimmering chords tinkle in symbiosis with the rhythmic ascent of the music. Aside from the various fog and wind effects, the synth puts in some beautiful solos that whistle and sing throughout the 6 minutes of this first rhythmic phase. A cloud of humming, a little like a plane flying high into the night, puts an end to this rhythm. It is discreetly reborn around the 9th minute. Its tonality is different, and so is its spiral movement, giving rise to a good modulation in its circular axis, where its mirror effect is more enveloping, more scintillating. The synth solos are also very beautiful and the acuity more poignant.
Draw me a Cloud... (in the shadow of the sun) highlights some very nice synth harmonies with striking solos that weave over an imaginary lake that make shimmering limpid arpeggios. Percussions dance and tinkle between our ears some 20 seconds into the 2nd minute. Although the rhythm is neuron-driving, it remains a prop for the synth that weaves these huge sedentary clouds, and for the keyboard that tinkles a melody as evasive as evanescent. Voices lurk in these clouds, regularly making their hums heard, lending a texture of tenebrous mist to the ambience of SAILING OVER THE SEA's shortest track. Quietly, the percussions take over the destiny of Draw me a Cloud... (in the shadow of the sun). Inspired by Schulze's talents as a percussionist, Alpha Lyra drums a circular rhythm that imposes its presence until the sequencer lets us hear the shimmer of its twirling sequences. A second line from the sequencer, chords more in a bass timbre, invite themselves in, creating a more tangible spiral that swirls into a splendid structure of ambient celestial rhythm. The texture of the tribal tam-tams reappears around the 8th minute, momentarily giving more tone to the rhythm which evaporates completely in its ethereal finale that the track embraces around the 11th minute. When I said I felt like I was in a glider, it's a bit this state of grace that the opening of the title track provides. A good 6-minute introduction before the sequencer alternates the shimmer of its sequences in a finely circular rhythm structure. The mist layers continue to exploit the atmospheric side of the track with their elegiac thrusts that hum as much as sing the music. Moments that fill our souls with chills. The rhythm! It remains ambient in nature with a second sequencer movement weaving a dormant shadow before evaporating in these musical clouds drawn by the magic of synth and mellotron. It returns in another form at around the 10-minute mark, only to evaporate again and return once more. In short, the sequencer remains active, creating rhythmic links that come and go in ambient appearances and nuanced hues for a finale as celestial as sibylline. It's like if we were flying high above the clouds.
With its analog tonality flirting with more contemporary textures and a musical essence that slightly transcends the poetry of Full Colours, SAILING OVER THE SEA is Alpha Lyra's ultimate work. I seized it from the very first listen! The album's musical dimension overwhelms us as soon as the first breaths of Leaving to Dream grab our attention. The rest is magic! From track to track, onomatopoeia of amazement and contemplation join the music for a delightful 66 minutes of pure aural bliss. Beautiful music that combines modern meditative moods with rhythms that remind us how far ahead of his time Schulze was.
Sylvain Lupari (July 31st, 2023) *****
Available at Alpha Lyra Music
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