BATTERYDEAD: Shades (2013)
“Shades is quite a revelation where the New Berlin School style floats in the vapors of delicious psybients”
1 Sepia 4:42 2 Universatiles 3:25 3 Stratosphere 4:21 4 Halflight 7:11 5 Gymnopedie 5:11 6 Missed Opportunities 7:14 7 Autumn Days 5:42 8 New Roads 6:05 9 Liquid Light 8:27 10 Mitternacht 7:53 11 Glistening Lights 6:20 12 Sunset Shades 4:37 13 Blaue Stunde 4:09 SynGate | CD-r BD03
(CD-r 75:17) (V.F.) (Mixture of down-tempo, chill out and psybient)
Christian Ahlers has always been very clear. The purpose of his BatteryDead project is to make an EM quite gentle which will inspire tranquillity while making our feet stamp of a desire to dance on synth-pop and chill out. After the very strong Sands of Deception, which has received a very good welcome, and from criticisms and at the level of sales, the German synthesist comes again with SHADES; a more hard-hitting album where the rhythms of electronic dance collide with sonic settings closer to the psybient music which reminds me enormously the ambient rhythms and the lunar ambiences of Solar Fields.
And this begins with Sepia and its arpeggios which float into a hesitating rhythmic shape. Little by little, these arpeggios switch forms and turn into sequenced keys which resound and swirl weakly in a lascivious stroboscopic whirlwind. A muffled bass line rumbles while the slow rhythm grows heavy with good percussions of which every blow disrupts the strand of sequences in order to forge fragments of melodies which peck at Sepia of fine harmonious nibbles. It's a track with an ambiguous structure of rhythm and with sparkles of melody, just like Glistening Lights while that Universatiles is closer to synth-pop with a heavy pulsatory rhythm. Stratosphere is the first very catchy track with another heavy pulsatory rhythm, slower this time, which beats the pace in an electronic fauna closer to the New Berlin School movement. The cosmic ambiences and the ethereal melodies adorn this leaden rhythm which holds onto a fascinating fauna of percussions and segments of serpentine sequences which forge a polyrhythmic face which accepts the caresses of a lunar synth 'n' mellotron. This is quite a very good track which leads us to the intriguing ambiospherical and ambiosonic intro of Halflight which, of its organic sonic elements, regurgitates a rhythm of tribal dance with heavy tom-toms of which the fury gets lost in oblivion. Trying to categorize the rhythms and ambiances of SHADES is a bit difficult so much BatteryDead is feeding and drinking of so many styles of EM.
Let's take Gymnopedie and its delicate arpeggios which cavort innocently at the opening. Another line crosses these frivolous chords, while that percussions, line of heavy bass and hatched riffs wrap the innocence of arpeggios, now became harmonious sequences, of a stroboscopic coat. The whole thing gives a morphic down-tempo boosted of a psybient sonic setting, a little like in Sunset Shades which is curter and jerkier with a very robotic approach. Let's say that our ears got one's money's worth! I quite liked it. As I liked Missed Opportunities which, after an ambiosonic intro, is pounding of an ambient rhythm abundantly watered of a melody to breezes of glasses. This rhythm evolves, passing from its ambient phase to hammer our ears with a fusion of percussions, sequences and effects of organic rhythm. I'm hearing Jean-Michel Jarre just like in Blaue Stunde, written with Andreas Treder (Trance4Mate), whose loud pulsatory rhythm welcomes a soft electronic ballad. And the more we move forward and the more we are seduced. Autumn Days presents a good curt and lively rhythm. A rhythm beat up by keen percussions and decorated by a suave melody which rolls in loops around a string of sequences which hiccup in the vapors of another melody filled by spectral aromas. It's rather catchy and the melody swallows our feelings. After its slow intro, New Roads hatches out in our ears with a heavy and slow rhythm which roam in the interstices of a vicious bass line and to percussions with curt knocks. It's a soft mix of funk and lounge, very lively with sinuous bends of which the slow undulations shake the sparkling arpeggios which shiver among electronic chirpings. BatteryDead has never been so close of Solar Fields. Following a lunar intro à la Pink Floyd (I hear some scents of Wish You Were Here), Liquid Light unfolds its jolts which quaver in a rhythmic mosaic surrounded by its cosmic envelope. Written with Andreas Schwabedissen, Mitternacht is a very beautiful cosmic slow dance quite poignant with Vangelis vapors of synth in which cry in mists of Orion and all around a delicious acoustic guitar.
This 3rd album from BatteryDead is quite a revelation. Christian Ahlers goes away from a certain zone of comfort by borrowing a more audacious artistic approach where melodies, which are always very present, get dressed of ambiences as much complex as ethereal and where the New Berlin School style floats in the vapors of delicious psybient. A nice surprise!
Sylvain Lupari (January 6th, 2013) ***½**
Available at SynGate