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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

ARJEN SCHAT: Manifolds (2020)

An album with all the attributes to appeal to lovers of long, slowly evolving structures and of this enchanting Berlin School

1 Immersion 25:09

2 Eversion 26:10

3 Submersion 24:51

(DDL 76:11) (V.F.)

((New) Berlin School)

Finally, the EM of Arjen Schat crosses the Atlantic side with a first album on Synphaera Records. MANIFOLDS is the 39th album of the Dutch musician, confirming the stranglehold of this homeland on the Berlin School genre with much more dynamism. So much so, that I ended up tagging the genre, polarized by artists such as Ron Boots, Gert Emmens and Free System Project, the Netherlands School. Arjen Schat is also part of this generation of artists who put their ideas on a keyboard, thus producing music at a rate exceeding a production of one CD per month. There are good ideas, just as there are too many. With its 3 long rather minimalist structures in rotary forms comparable to vertical receptacles where a multitude of chords and effects grow and graft, as well as rather timid solos, and where the perfumes of Robert Schroeder can be inserted with those from Software and Tangerine Dream, MANIFOLDS is part of the good ideas of Arjen Schat and of the great discoveries from the American label.

It's with a line of snoring, buzzing allied to electronic-cosmic tones that Immersion invades my listening room. This line is detached by fragmenting into several filaments which as soon as they appear are coated with a fine texture of reverberations. Lazily, they drift to follow sinuous paths which meet or intertwine very close to this sound core which turns like a receptacle in weightlessness under the chants of the stars. This idle opening crumbles the first 5 minutes of Immersion which clings to a rhythmic line oscillating with a certain vigor in a setting that has hardly changed except for its rhythm whose oscillations marry rodeo movements which skip poetically on another oscillating structure of a sequencer. These two rhythmic allies thus add depth to what develops like a good cosmic electronic rock where invisible grooves always evacuate the torrent of their reverberations. Arjen Schat's solos get in around the 11th minute. Musical, they float on this rhythmic structure of the sequencer which has just added its 3rd line with limpid keys, like if played on a glass xylophone. Synth solos sing in greater numbers near the 13th minute. This minimalist structure serves the cause of Immersion well, whose smooth arrival of percussions stimulates its rotating speed while the synthesists' fingers multiply synth solos flowing like musical silk between my ears. And even if the chain breaks and the impression that the track gets derailed, the increasing speed giving it a zigzagging and spasmodic allure, the musicality in the solos and the fusion of all its rhythmic elements bring us towards a delicious 5 minutes of pure electronic magic. I found that we are closer to Indra on this track than to the territories of Klaus Schulze.

It's on a bed of reverberations and modulations of a bass line with rumbling ambitions that Eversion offers itself to my ears. You know how I like sounds? It's therefore with attractive sound effects, hopping from one ear or from one speaker to another, that the gyrating rhythm begins to woo my listening. Soft synth pads adorn the background, while a line of the sequencer unleashes its stealthily frolicking keys, like cat and mouse, while still the sound effects leap and burst in my ears, which remain greedy and large open. Gradually, Eversion dresses up in EM nobilities while synth solos accumulate on this structure where the undulating playing of the bass is confronted with a jerky rhythm. These two extremes confronting each other on a horizontal line create the perfect environment for this second title of MANIFOLDS to unfold like Immersion but with more biting in its rhythm, well supported by an army of arpeggios, percussive clicks and sequences in a structure that bears these influences of Robert Schroeder at the level of organic tones, including this Funk bass that snoozes and purrs, as well as synth solos with the particular signature of the Dutch synthesist. The winds whipping our eardrums announce the arrival of Submersion coming from Cosmos. There's like an effect of a machine on a life support whereas the waves and mists intensify with graceful twist-curled solos. The level of music flirts with an industrial zone as the sequencer gradually releases keys that taste like Tangerine Dream in their harmonic devotion. Here again, elastic chords attempt to create a harmonic climate in an introduction filled with metallic colors. The impression I have is a bit like this core in Immersion where everything that comes out multiplies to come back and anchor itself to the sound core and start again… Finally, you see the genre. And all this hubbub manages to merge into a cohesive approach in a splendid New Berlin School filled with whiny synth solos. And like on the first two titles of MANIFOLDS, Submersion turns a little bit faster by storing percussive effects and percussions which propel slightly more this core which never ceases to suck and eject sounds into another dimension. Kind of like the idea behind this concept of MANIFOLDS.

An album with all the attributes to appeal to lovers of long, slowly evolving structures and of this Berlin School reduced to more mechanical proportions à la Software years, Arjen Schat's MANIFOLDS is a very good invitation card to discover his universe of nearly 40 albums. For the Synphaera Records label, this is another great take, after K. Markov's, in order to introduce a wider audience to all the beauties and subtleties of the (New) Berlin School genre.

Sylvain Lupari (March 25th, 2021) *****

Available at Synphaera Bandcamp

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