“A bouquet of charms for the ears aware of how modular synth music can be beautiful”
1 A Joyous Return 8:00
2 To Ride a Pterodactyl 10:20
3 Race to Cosmos Redshift 7 Galaxy 7:24
4 Parisa and Miriam 6:27
5 An Owl's Dream of Me 7:44
6 Entering the Axis Mundi 7:13
7 River Boat to Atlantis 8:17
8 The Secret of 33.3 8:49
9 Blessed Under your Feet 8:10
(CD/DDL 24Bits 72:26) (V.F.)
(Modular synth music E-rhythms)
You have to well adjust your ears because there is a lot of sounds at square-inch in this new opus of Bart Hawkins which has just been released on Spotted Peccary Music. And A Joyous Return sets the tone with an opening driven by a rising synth wave and elements of percussion lost in vibrating winds, just like those tinkling chimes coming from which knows where. A bow cuts through the texture of the winds, creating a first spurt of cadenced jerks that will adorn the vast majority of the rhythmic structures in the first half of ENTERING THE AXIS MUNDI. Covered by this introduction where the celestial side shimmers in a vision of dark ambiences, this timid opening to the album's rhythms remains rather discreet with pulsating waves whose subtle tremors continuously migrate through the twirling chimes. A line of arpeggios emerges from this core around the 2 1/2-minute mark, creating a twirling a flow that glides into a harmonious vision as the rhythm finds some fluidity to turn into sound waves now pulsing like suction cups. Continuing his musical reflection on the concept of existence begun in Visions of Eden, Bart Hawkins raises its level of complexity in an album inspired by a related subject, the core of existence (axis mundi). For the American musician, modular synths are the ideal instruments to depict the core of existence where time and space are non-linear. From chaos comes clarity! We discover this principle through the evolution of an album not easily accessible to all but of an undeniable attraction if we take the trouble to hear a musical aestheticism up to the ambitions of the Oregon-based musician.
The first part of the album proposes a suite of tracks elaborated on spasmodic rhythm structures. The rich sound envelope that surrounds the 8 minutes of A Joyous Return is carefully elaborated in the other 8 chapters of ENTERING THE AXIS MUNDI. Playing electric guitar as well, Bart is scattering riffs here and there and throughout the jerky structure of To Ride a Pterodactyl, which eventually follows the path of a train rolling on a Berlin School path and under an avalanche of sound effects that are a delight to the ears. The series of curt rhythms continues with Race to Cosmos Redshift 7 Galaxy which is clearly more intense under its envelope of whistling winds, whereas Parisa and Miriam proposes a jerky structure which is cut like staccatos by an unchained violinist and its twin in shadow. An Owl's Dream of Me takes us to another level of rhythm. A rhythm that jumps more calmly in an undulatory texture that has a very strong melodic ascendancy. Bart Hawkins surprises us by inserting another ghostly rhythm line that hovers in the background of this very beautiful structure made to meditate on the best moments of our past. The title track continues this honeyed transformation of the album's rhythms by unrolling a long filament of sequences that goes in cascades in a beautiful ascending axis of a kind of rhythmic canon effect. A second rhythmic line also flows behind a setting where chimes sing in the dark, buzzing winds of a texture that brings us a little closer to Bart Hawkins' early albums. And the musician still exploits rhythmic figures in varying degrees of jerky patterns, such as in the beautiful River Boat to Atlantis. The rhythm flows in a harmonious way on an oceanic background. The movement reminds me of Tomita's cascading orchestrations in Snowflakes are Dancing. And after another melodic rhythm structure from The Secret of 33.3, which features a succession of cascading notes, Blessed Under your Feet literally takes us back into the Dark Ambient and drone-designed music zones of the American musician with an avalanche of dark and buzzing winds pushing in an intense vision of dark atmospheric music.
Like with 21 Pulse Eclipse and Visions of Eden, I needed a few listens before I fully appreciated the dimensions of ENTERING THE AXIS MUNDI. Bart Hawkins has this unique gift to make us travel on a music conceived in a complexity which is not really far from accessibility. To pass from Race to Cosmos Redshift 7 Galaxy to go to the beauties of River Boat to Atlantis is a feat that is not at the reach of all music composers. And this is what makes the strength of this album where each track is a bouquet of enchantments for the ears aware of how modular synth music can be that beautiful.
Sylvain Lupari (January 24th, 2023) ****½*
Available at Spotted Peccary Bandcamp
(NB: The texts in blue are links you can click on)