BALTES & ERBE: Electric Garden (2017)
“The expectations were very high for a suite to S-thetic² and this Electric Garden meet those pretty solid with another mixture of Ashra rhythms trapped in great synth designs and melodies”
1 Cold Flowers 9:56 2 Violed 5:47 3 Gradient 10:10 4 The Element of Gold 5:04 5 Liquid Plants 5:08 6 Electric Garden 9:52 7 Clicker 4:10 8 Polyaural 6:58 9 Only one Step 3:12 10 Basic Lifeform (The Universe in your Hand) 17:48 Erbe Music
(CD/DDL 78:04) (V.F.)
(Electronica a la Berlin School sauce)
S-thetic² had took the small and always very wonderful universe of EM in 2015. The fusion between the styles charmingly opposite of Baltes&Erbe was in perfect balance. And the soft flavors of Steve Baltes' wonderful album Bochum Sky, appeared in 2014, which were roaming on this album have embalmed S-thetic² of a sound and musical veil as dense as profoundly seducing for the ears eager for a fauna of multicolored sounds. So, the bar was very high for Steve Baltes and Stefan Erbe. And they knew it! Therefore, ELECTRIC GARDEN needed to be dissociated from it a little to have its own identity. And it ended very successfully! Less hard-hitting than S-thetic², ELECTRIC GARDEN stages these dislocated rhythms that Ashra put down in our ears during the period of Blackouts. Rhythms which serve as support for some delicious dance of arpeggios which reminds me the very beautiful harmonious era of Jean-Michel Jarre in Arpeggiator. And all in all, this album ends to be a very good one of ambient trance and rhythm where this skillful mixture of Jarre and Ashra is as much improbable as highly fascinating.
A wave waltzing of its brilliant blue sings like a metallic rooster in order to make lift the charmingly undulatory rhythm of Cold Flowers. Another synth line, more musical, adds its sibylline flavor while the arpeggios oscillate gently and trace a sequenced harmony which takes its tonus with the arrival of percussions. The rhythm hatches in its convulsive form, hiccupping in symbiosis with the dance of the melodic arpeggios. If Steve Baltes' percussions are mesmerizing, the synth layers that Steve Erbe piles add a very ethereal depth, with subtle effects in the decoration, to this kind of flaccid Groove which makes drum our fingers and roll our neck. The armature of charm of the duet is spread with the same sound chemistry as in S-thetic². Cold Flowers fades in the intro of Violed and of its long line of rhythm syncopated by a curt movement of the sequencer. The keys skip with ferocity in this linear membrane where get grafted keyboards chords which sound just like some singular riffs of rock. And the magic operates. Still here, the synth layers perfume the imagination with good effects. Effects not too numerous but well enough measured to charm the listening. Very minimalist, the structure evolves by showing a good intensity to collide a clearly more livened up phase where the sounds parade like in a stroboscopic kaleidoscope. The ambiospherical side is more present here than in S-thetic². Consequently, it's by an immense veil of floating tones that begins Gradient. This cosmic introduction is adorned with beautiful fluty lines which try to charm a long wall of interstellar whispers. The effect is as rich as we would imagine to be inside a space shuttle. There are many cosmic elements here which shine in an ethereal tranquility where also shine some lost chords. Percussive noises get in where these chords try to create a melody which will come with a kind of cosmic Groove around the 6th minute. The rhythm is circular and rather lively with good effects of percussions and sequences which hiccough like a dislocated membrane. The Element of Gold proposes a more mesmerizing rhythmic structure with a very dance approach which is hammered by good percussions. As a kind of techno for fed zombies, this rhythm offers a languor in its charm which is stressed by a really beautiful melodious approach as much lighthearted than a ballerina dressed all in white who floats in cosmos. I want to hear it again!
Percussive jingles and a line of droning bass, Liquid Plants progresses between two poles. If the rhythm begins its bend, a bit funky but full of Groove jolting, with slamming percussions and full of resonant charms, the synth spreads this constant meshing between sibylline and ethereal lines while plotting effects which hang onto well enough to this harmonious fusion. A static rhythm certainly, but dangerously enchanting. And always these percussive effects which are the equivalent of the numerous sound effects! Speaking of Groove, the title-track is good enough to be eaten! A suave, lascivious, rhythm, which is pecked by these metallic elytrons and nibbled by chords which fall with weak resonances. Statics and in evolutionary mode, ELECTRIC GARDEN increases a little the pace which goes by hastier bounds. The synths are sublime with ectoplasmic layers which wrap us with a surprising veil of sound charms. I love the playing of Steve Baltes but I have to admit that the synth layers from Steve Erbe are totally seductive. And we are not at the end of our charms here, because Clicker, which bears very well its name, offers a very nerve-racking structure with arpeggios which flicker with fluidity in a gloomy atmosphere. Short and effective! Polyaural moves on with a beautiful linear structure which spreads a great oscillating dance of arpeggios under a din of hammering percussions. I cannot refrain from thinking of Jean-Michel Jarre and his Arpeggiator here, but in a more ambient, in a more static version too. This feeling of going deep into the universe of Jarre is more and more perceptible with Only one Step which flirts with a kind of Electronica and a very nice melody hung on to the end of its specter. Basic Lifeform (The Universe in your Hand) ends what will become the next musical act for Baltes&Erbe next tour with an ambiospherical approach decorated with tones as dissimilar as seductive, including soft percussive effects, to say the least for its first 5 minutes. Afterward, a structure of minimalist rhythm, decorated with very Tangerine Dream effects of the Sorcerer years, frees its loops which roll and unroll beneath a pattern of synth layers always so divided between meditation and mysteries. Basic Lifeform (The Universe in your Hand) falls then in a universe of dance, but not too much, which possesses all the savors of Ashra.
Here we are! The adventure of ELECTRIC GARDEN comes to an end here and so with a long conclusion which let's glimpse a more than interesting 3rd part. I quite enjoyed this universe of dance peeled to its most elementary charms and where the synths dominate like in the good old days. Baltes&Erbe are like 2 fingers in a hand. They complement each other impressively with another great album which distances itself by its very stylized signature. We could not ask better and hope better after the very majestic S-thetic².
Sylvain Lupari (May 24th, 2017) *****
Available at Stefan Erbe Music