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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

BODDY & MULLANEY: Smoke & Mirrors (2021)

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

To be recommended without hesitation, it belongs to my top 10 of 2021!

1 Forever 8:22

2 First Steps 7:22

3 Curve 13:05

4 Orthogenesis 16:28

5 Noise Lab (Part One) 3:58

6 The Next Step 9:18

7 Time 4:06

8 Paradigm Shift 10:07

9 Noise Lab (Part Two) 4:01

10 Vanguard 9:31

11 Run the Clock Down 8:50

(DDL 95:12) (V.F.)

(England School, EDM)

Recorded during a concert performed on November 18, 2017, at Liverpool's Capstone Theatre, SMOKE & MIRRORS is the result of an imposing wall of electronic music (EM) instruments. The Serge modular systems, VCS3 and the French Connection Ondes Martenot are at the heart of a concert largely dominated by the electronic percussions of the Elektron Digitakt Drum machine and the Korg Wavedrum, as well as the sequencer. Not to mention that Ian Boddy and Nigel Mullaney also brought their Moog keyboard each. And this phenomenal gear was not there for adornment. Oh no! The duo Boddy & Mullaney puts us in a sound journey that challenges the powers and limits of our imagination. Sound effects rethought and adapted to an EM of which the seductive powers are transcended by the art of the modular. The percussions and percussive effects, as well as those with a more percussive scope, feed a sound fauna that goes beyond what we could expect to hear. The rhythms offered by the English duo are catchy with not only various tendencies and styles, but also tones and accessories as organic as mechanical that fuel our desire to discover this majestic album of over 95 minutes. And there's no way to lose a single second of creativity in SMOKE & MIRRORS! The album is as full of it as our ears are...

Violent winds, whistling breezes and a typhoon coming from the interstices of modular synths invade the first moments of Forever. The songs of the dolphins, rigged by the Ondes Martenot, are piercing and flow with a fascinating harmonic vision in a sound mass slightly contaminated by various radiations. Purely atmospheric with a purity in the waves and zephyrs, this introductory track features the voices of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and philosopher Alan Watts floating and reciting a poem from W. H. Auden, If I Could Tell You. These voices will return on Time. After a short introduction based on twists and gurgles of machines, First Steps offers a driving rhythm with sharp, concise electronic percussion hits. The synths weave a complex harmonic thread with lines that intertwine their tunes with the addition of other percussive elements. From bare boned, I think of Bowie's Let's Dance, the rhythmic structure takes on its assurance with a bass line. Its rubbery pulses solidify a rhythm that tends to get out of hand with these randomly struck percussions. And even if undisciplined, these percussions and sequence of rhythms always break out a little more, modifying the structure and the course in order to leave the most latitude to the weeping solos of the Ondes Martenot. These waves bring nuances and contrasts to the whole of SMOKE & MIRRORS, amplifying the range of their earworms. We head towards Curve and its discreet chords tinkling in a universe that is created between our ears. Twisted threads, reverberations rolling like a holed muffler, effects of sonic contortions and contractions feed the first 3 minutes of a sound texture that flirts with the psybient. Futuristic video game effects abound here, like everywhere around the album. Then, the rhythm surprises us with a good driving momentum armed with pulsations and rubbery percussions. A keyboard unleashes frivolous arpeggios that swirl under layers of lightly orchestral haze and an ever-expanding fauna of percussive elements. Curve increases its velocity and intensity after the 6th minute. The rhythm is as driving as the melody that tinkles with the promise of itching eardrums a few memories later. The track exploits a finale common to many of the tracks performed at this concert where the rhythms just won't quit, even in the presence of multiple harmonic and abstract synth choreographies. Orthogenesis proposes a slow introduction where the synths weave lines and winds that are as nebulous as they are melodious. An opening also disturbed by claps from elsewhere. If the delicate solos are enchanting, the drones and sound effects follow the curve. It's after 5 minutes that a rhythmic framework defends its Berlin School approach in a phase which is not without recalling the interest of our friend Ian for the genre. The synth solos are harmonious and flow on a structure more and more colonized by an excellent rhythmic vision. And that too is all over SMOKE & MIRRORS, in addition of claps coming from nowhere. The sequencer guides us to a short transition phase, still animated by percussions and sequences, around the 10th minute. Enough time for Orthogenesis to regenerate in a second part closer to English electronic rock crossed with EDM.

Noise Lab (Part One) 3 is a disruptive prelude with a fast and sustained pulse that also propels The Next Step onto an EDM floor. The rhythm is powerful and whirrs between the ears as much as on the walls and floor with a palette of tones, and percussive elements, that transcends the usual psybient universe. A fluty melody rests on this sophisticated rhythmic branching that constantly seeks validation from our ears so obsessed with this imposing rhythmic capacity that they forget the textures of the spectral and lunar melody lines. The beats run out of steam when we reach the door of Time and where the chants of the interstellar whales (read Ondes Martenot) navigate in an atmospheric phase challenged by rebel percussions. A voice resurfaces to let hear a little better this poem of W. H. Auden. The first beats of Paradigm Shift create a procession where the synths moan like mermaids trying to bewitch us. A bass line makes vibrate on a rhythmic axis that resembles a good naked rock. Its mass of sound amplifies a swirl that expands in a horizontal spiral, adding a depth to Paradigm Shift that is matched only by the greed of our ears. The chants of the bewitches are interspersed by beautiful snippets of melodies pushed by arpeggios on a rhythm that slams with its metallic audacity and of which the bass line undulates more ferociously. The zephyr layers accompany the rhythmic fluidity on a distance exceeding 8 minutes, whereas the final melts in the sibylline and chthonian ambiences of Noise Lab (Part Two). Vanguard ends this concert on a more sober, balanced note. The rhythm picks up the pace with percussions fizzing in bursts of percussive pellets, while the percussions and bass-pulse sequenced are pairing to structure a pulse conducive to video game atmospheres. Explosions, machine guns and other pastiches of the genre abound in a passage that adequately reveals the imposing dimensions of this album. Run the Clock Down is the encore of this concert. Its cosmic opening unlocks on a series of pulsating bass beats where sequenced chords are grafted in a loop that refuses to unravel. Nervous, the rhythmic envelope barely survive up until the percussions structures the whole into a good electronic rock. The power of arpeggios is fascinating on this structure where I even hear Mark Shreeve's inspirations floating around like the shadow of a friend not too far from the duo Boddy & Mullaney's creative cup. The French Connection Ondes Martenot waves wail like specters searching for their bodies on a brief atmospheric passage before Run the Clock Down explodes like a big Arc's England School style. A finale worthy of a magnificent album that is available for free on DiN's Bandcamp site up until the end of December. To be recommended without hesitation, this SMOKE & MIRRORS belongs to my top 10 of 2021!

Sylvain Lupari (December 21st, 2021) *****

Available at DiN Bandcamp

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