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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

ARCANE: Alterstill (2001)

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

Long tracks that allow Paul to explore his ideas thoroughly, we can only be winners!

1 Alterstill I 7:20

2 Alterstill II 10:54

3 Alterstill III 6:06

4 Alterstill IV 10:14

5 Alterstill V 15:30

(DDL 50:04) (V.F.)

(Melodious sequencer-based EM)

Arcane is an independent musical project from the career of Paul Lawler who writes musical scores for the BBC and other projects. Released in 2001, ALTERSTILL was riding the wave of success that his first two CDs, Gather Darkness and Future Wreck, had achieved. Distributed independently by Lawler Music, the production of the CD-R was on a short scale so that the title was quickly sold out. Synth Music Direct took over the production and distribution of ALTERSTILL which is now available, still in CD-R format, on the New Harmony catalog. At the time of uploading this review on Synth &, the album is available for download on Paul Lawler's Bandcamp site. Drawing on influences from Tangerine Dream, Encore to Logos period, ALTERSTILL offers a mix of tracks played live at the Jodrell Bank, for Alterstill II and Alterstill III, at the Mount Festival for the long Alterstill V. Alterstill I and Alterstill IV were written during recording sessions. The result is another solid and lively album that leaves little room for long ambient quests and takes only from the Berlin School style those dynamic sequenced impulses which are supported by solid percussions and rich symphonic-like synths, creating a dystopian universe unique to Arcane's music.

Alterstill I and Alterstill III are dynamically melodic. And the melody is not sacrificed for a lack of rhythm. No! It's melting in the ear, slightly progressive and very animated, especially Alterstill III which could make and be the greatest hit in any compilation. A big synthesized refrain that dances over nervous lines and good percussions playing. Imagine a song where the lyrics are replaced by synth chords. Here it is identical! Paul Lawler manages to harmonize, without words, a very melodic song with verses and choruses. The whole seasoned with sumptuous deviations of synth's coming and going. A bit like a guitar that insists too much, without falling into the traps of redundant solos. An excellent track that makes you tap your foot and nod your head. A good moment in EM, all genres included. Alterstill IV is another track with a powerful languorous rhythm that opts for a full speed rhythm. Alterstill II and Alterstill V are more exploratory tracks with a sulphurous use of synths which blow mellotron flutes. The rhythms are evasive, and their sinuosities are absorbed by ethereal strata which do not sink in an interminable atmospheric coma.

Long tracks that allow Paul Lawler to explore his ideas thoroughly and that progress on good polyrhythmic patterns, ALTERSTILL is a very good album of contemporary EM. More in rock mode than ballad or ambient, Arcane doesn't neglect the melodies that he pairs with some very good synth solos, and which are supported by these unsuspected tangents of rhythms. Alterstill III alone will hook you, and this without lessening the impact of the other tracks. An album to own!

Sylvain Lupari (December 4th, 2006) *****

Available at Paul Lawler Bandcamp

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