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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

BALTES&ERBE: A Four Stories Live Session (2021)

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

4 Stories has just what is needed to arouse curiosity and ignite the love of EM

1 Gradient 17:37

2 Sepia 17:04

3 Polyaural 17:10

4 Ultra 16:31

(DDL 58:58) (V.F.)

(Indie Electronica Berlin School)

It was during this last summer that Steve Baltes and Stefan Erbe performed a live streaming event for LSB Cologne. And let's say it right away, this FOUR STORIES was not conceived in the easy way, unlike its predecessor A-11! In ambiences heavily enveloping the openings, as well as the finales, the duo Baltes & Erbe leaves its comfort zone to flirt with a more industrial approach that envelops the 4 structures of this album. Two of these structures, Sepia and Ultra belong to the first album of the duo, S-thetic². While the two others are taken from the album Electric Garden. Except for Ultra, each track is based on deeper introductions and finales. Similar rhythmic frameworks? Not really! Like the intros, the structures of rhythms are more thorough with a tonal decoration amplified by this industrial vision which is more present here than in the aforementioned albums. The rhythms merge between Electronica and Berlin School and are surrounded by a plethora of industrial noises as metallic as heterogeneous and even sometimes ectoplasmic. The duo, whose synergy is always at its peak, gives us an earful with a very avant-garde flair for the enormous possibilities of industrial electronic music.

The introduction of Gradient serves to adjust the instruments and warm up the ambiences with a dull hum that escapes delicate scarlet filaments, percussive noises and a piano line seeking for its melody. The orchestrations invite themselves as well as drops of water solidified in the industrial art. We feel the intensity gradually biting this processional ambient opening that lets a first rhythm structure slip after the 7th minute. Metallic percussions jump on its ambient membrane, biting the discrete spasmodic movement of the sequencer. One minute later, the percussion harpoons the Gradient structure in symbiosis with a good pulsating bass line. The rhythm that emerges is a tasty downtempo with orchestral layers and metallic percussive effects. From minute to minute, the track displays its constancy in the intensity of the emotions it provides by letting go of a beautiful melodious piano line. She is fading into this ferocity that continues to eat away at the envelope of this track that melts into a slow finale whose atmospheric vision is seduced by this taste of metal expiring its last metallurgical breaths. The opening of Sepia reminds me of a big balloon that fans itself after consuming the remains of a disused factory. All in a steel blue and/or apoplectic red sound, its industrial panorama starts to live painfully at the edge of its 7th minute. The rhythm muffled in a sphere filled with iodine and ether dust makes flow a series of sequenced beats. Gothic chants and industrial murmurs simmer in the background, as one feels the rhythm expand as much as its ability to move Sepia into a pattern as sonically static and powerful as Gradient. Percussions, a pulsating bass line, vuvuzela horn-like screams forged in steel and ululations of a mechanical beast are just some of the many sonic elements that fill its final third. A finale conceived in a violence hardly charred that its ashes make reborn a machinery of which the mechanical voices remain the last masters.

The second part of this streaming concert is by far the most easy to tame. Stemming from the dust of the Sepia finale, Polyaural offers an opening of more electronic than mechanized atmospheres. A rhythmic structure can be heard emerging some 30 seconds into the 3rd minute. The sequenced movement goes up and down like in a good Berlin School propelled by Jean-Michel Jarre material. Indeed, the only thing missing is the Chinese chopsticks to authentically identify this structure with the one the French synthesist offered in China in 1981 with the title Arpegiator which we find on The Concerts in China. The movement remains even more seductive in this approach with ectoplasmic voices flying over it, as well as layers of industrial mist when non-orchestral. Quietly, Polyaural crosses the time barrier to face an electro-magnetic storm just before the 10th minute. A phase fueled by percussion effects evaporating at each blow in a metallic cloud while the philharmonic synth layers flow in opposition, giving this false impression of slowing down the pace. A great track that ends like any good Berlin School! The only track that doesn't break the 17-minute mark, Ultra offers an atmospheric structure, with more organic than metallic tones, that drifts into the tranquility of Cosmos. A piano extends its delicacy under a philharmonic arch where metallic rods tinkle in the breezes of the orchestrations. A rhythm line sculpted in rubber becomes the possession of the sequencer after the 5th minute. Its coming and going enchants a gypsy violin as well as the piano trying to exorcise the ambiences. A bass line, mistaking itself for a voice, mimics the sequenced rhythm, creating a soft, dubious murmur on this hypnotic movement that samplings and voice effects, including a cosmic cantatrice, wrap in an unreal shroud. These percussions dying in a metallic cloud come back to make a detour on this title whose final goes swaying ​to death becomes a memory that gets lost in mechanized clouds.

Offered as it is, without any overdubs or other added effects, A FOUR STORIES LIVE SESSION is an album that navigates between the different phases of contemporary EM. The first part is strongly enhanced by this industrial psybient approach that covers the music with a coating of metallic particles. A pleasure for the ears! The second half is more traditional, offering a quality Berlin School with a slight zest of audacity. Just what is needed to arouse the curiosity and ignite the love of electronic music. In short, a great album from Steve Baltes & Stefan Erbe offered only in download format.

Sylvain Lupari (October 4th, 2021) *****

Available at BaltesErbe Bandcamp

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