BALTES&ERBE: S-Thetic² (2015)
“A mixture of Electronica perfumed by the essences of both Berlin School poles...”
1 Chromium 10:42 2 Into the Blue 5:05 3 S-thetic 12:14 4 Eclipse Lunaire 6:29 5 Sepia 14:00 6 Liquid Buildings 8:42 7 Ultra 16:02 8 Exit-s 2:36 Erbe Music CO 921-1
(CD/DDL 75:55) (EDM, Berlin School) (V.F.)
You remember this wonderful album of Steve Baltes, Bochum Sky, released in the end of 2014? That's a superb album which interweaved marvellously, both at the level of rhythms and ambiences, the essences of Berlin School, no matter the ages, in a kind of lunar Electronica. It's in this place, in this time that S-THETIC² quietly took root. Sound of Sky is a series of concerts organized by Stefan Erbe, a kind of German Jean-Michel Jarre, whose main purpose is to promote both axes, ambient and rhythmic, of the modern Electronic Music. Being a man very well established in the circle, and with around 25 albums to his credit, Stefan Erbe enjoys a fame that helps him to set up good programming for these evenings at the Bochum Planetarium and also to develop good friendships with musicians who have flirted with legends. After the success of Bochum Sky, remember that he was playing with Baltes, Stefan Erbe and Steve Baltes took a rain ticket for another rendezvous at an evening of Sound of Sky. This time, it was the one of December 2014. S-THETIC², a naming which fits like a glove to the music of this album, is the condensed fruit, one has eliminated the ambiospherical phases of the concert as well as the noises of the crowd, of yet another great album from this duet who brings the EM towards levels where the cosmic Electronica transcends the limits of the contemporaneousness. It's a mixture of techno, robbed of these symbolic and oh how much useless tsitt-tsitt, of synth-pop, perfumed of its allegorical assets, where the EM of a Berliner style adorns itself with its most beautiful interstellar trumps. As for me, this is the road that Jean Michel Jarre should have taken!
The duet weaves a lunar decoration simply charming from the opening of Chromium. Whoosh and whiish travel between the ears, metamorphosing into some enormous lapping which crash on the banks of a slender astral synth line. A celestial Harp drops notes which swirl like misty pearls while other more twinkling pearls are dragging around like stars uncertain of their rhythmic trajectories. Our senses are under the charms in front of this dense and rich sonic envelope when some percussions shake them with lively knocks that shape a rhythm as slow as heavy where are parading lines of sequences in the contrasting rhythmic harmonies. There are also mists. Their transparency let filter thin lines of voices which get lost in our illusions. A good down-tempo flavored by all the lunar ingredients possible; Chromium is only the beginning of a charm story between our ears and the music of S-THETIC². Ethereal voices spread their perfumes over the sequenced harmonies while other livelier keys wriggle with more velocity, urging pulsations to bring out the until then hypnotic rhythm of Chromium outside its minimalist frame. What strikes the most in this album are those structure of polyphase rhythms built by a plethora sequenced lines, as harmonious as rhythmic, which crawl and coil up with astral capers in the shadow of the percussions' resonances and in the metronomic booms-booms which flirt with a techno deprived of its artifices. The ambiences are rich with a lot of mystic mists, ambient synth pads, sighs of celestial violins and lost voices which enrich the disparities of a structure of rhythm. A nice and creative structure that flirts between the diapasons of a Teutonic dance music or of a melodious New Berlin School. Except that Into the Blue aims straight to the point with a structure of synth-pop chewed on by the linear pulsations of an Electronica enraged by this desire to bring the house down, but also charmed by a sequenced melody which draws the parallel between techno and a gentle ballad.
The long title-track plunges us into a very spatial introduction with synth lines that interlace themselves in an absolute void. Residues of stars sparkle in slow orchestral layers. Laconic pulsations emerge from this cosmic nothingness, forging an ambient rhythm at which metallic percussions peck to wake it up. That my friends, is simply delicious! It reminds me the best of Jerome Froese in Dream Mixes 3. The rhythm is slow but deliciously magnetizing. Percussions click and flutter around from almost everywhere, pulling allegorical tinkling in their furrows. Lines of sequences wind up these ambiences' scales with heavy stroboscopic movements. Voices of a lost astronaut are echoing with the coolness of the space. And the synth pads structure an ambient cosmic landscape simply anesthetizing. This is cosmic Electronica at its best, which little by little gets out of its morphic envelope in order to awaken its last 4 minutes of a very lively technoïd approach. This segment does very Stefan Erbe. Lunar Eclipse follows a little the same pattern of melody eater of eardrums that Into the Blue. The melody from the stream of sequences is intrusive. Little by little, the rhythm gets loosen of its lunar envelope to hatch out into a good Electronica which hesitates to overlap between two forms of rhythm, either a down-tempo or a mid-tempo. And always there is this rich shield of tones and of cosmic landscapes, fed this time by beautiful dreamy solos, that encircle rhythms and melodies. Jarre would be jealous here! I'm speaking about Jean-Michel Jarre? Sepia pulls us in his corridors of Magnetic Fields' industrial and cosmic ambiences. The gestation of the ambiances approaches the 5th minutes before that our ears perceive adequately the muted elastic jumps of the pulsations that will lead Sepia towards an unexpected cosmic tribal rhythm. My ears, more than conquered, attack then the muffled pulsations, the heavy beatings and the rebel sequences of the strong techno that is Liquid Buildings. It's more than just techno. It's a DJ thing who add all the ingredients of rhythms and of stroboscopic electronic effects for a wild cosmic dance. There is certainly a brief ambiospherical moment, just to make the synths coo, but Liquid Buildings continues to sink between our ears with its heavy and powerful rhythm. Alone, this track would have irritated me. But in its context, it democratizes the techno genre to the imbecile power by measuring its just part between the ambient and the kind of Electronica. Ultra is the perfect example of this principle with its long ambiospherical approach from where emerges a delicate phase of rhythm, structured by a good and sober thin line of sequences that breathes of its cosmic oxygen. As the minutes pass by, Ultra and its fiercely cosmic ambiences drift towards the short Exit-s that ends this wonderful sonic story of S-THETIC² with a structure of rhythm as much soft than very melancholic. This is another one of the numerous hidden aspects of this splendid album which at each listening reveals a sonic secret that explains all of its charms. Seductive and astonishing! Never the cosmos will have sound so musical as in S-THETIC²; an album that deserves all its qualifiers.
Sylvain Lupari (August 7th, 2015) ****½*
Available at Stefan Erbe Music