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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

BRENDAN POLLARD: Isolated Passages (2020)

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

There are no gaps, nor sloppy moments within the 77 minutes of Isolated Passages which is a pure marvel of sequencer-based Berlin School

1 Sun 11:03

2 Flow in 3 25:01

3 Flow part 1 13:22

4 Inability Capability 12:24

5 Journey 7:48

6 Section from "For Max" 7:30

7 Extracts from all tracks 2:46

(CD/DDL 77:21) (V.F.)

(Berlin School)

It's not every day that a new Brendan Pollard album is presented to us. ISOLATED PASSAGES, like isolated passages on different digital platforms from October 2018 to April 2006, links almost 15 years between Live in Concert 2006 and this last album of the England synthesist. In the meantime, he has knotted his visions and his instincts with artists like Free System Projekt, Javi Canovas, Adrian Dolente and Michael (Hashtronaut) Daniel. From 2009 to 2013, three splendid albums were produced during these years: Two Roads, Mind out of Time and Time out of Mind. ISOLATED PASSAGES is built around 5 long titles inspired by the exploratory-improvised model of the Berlin School. Each track comes from a performance in concert and/or in studio and favors structures of minimalist and hypnotic rhythms of a good Berlin School washed down with superb synth and/or Mellotron solos. Aficionados of a genre sealed in the 70's, Brendan Pollard loads our ears to the rim and prepares his comeback with 5 excellent albums in 2020.

Performed during a concert on Facebook in March 2020, starts this Brendan's comeback album with panache! A huge fluty breath from the Mellotron chants over heavy pulses full of radioactive juice, reminding us the Peter Baumann's period of the Dream. Brendan Pollard does not lose everything to keep his audience awake with a sequencer which dribbles its jumping marbles on this procession always amplified by the resonances of the sequenced pulsations whose shadows are imitated by metallic slams. Graciously, Sun begins its exile to the territories of the Berlin School with kicks skilfully braided by the sequencer. This stationary rhythm migrates with slow oscillatory movements, at the structural level, but with a good flow at the level of the sequencer which keeps our neurons alert. Now, as Brendan Pollard is one of the most beautiful contemporary architects in vintage structures, he infuses this electronic rhythm with those intrinsic lines of the genre with layers of Mellotron, synth solos, some of which are mixed with the wandering vocals of this Mellotron, as well as rhythm lines that come from all sides, enriching Sun's backdrop with a depth rarely found elsewhere except with Arc which holds all the wealth in terms of equipment that Brendan possesses. An excellent track that starts off ISOLATED PASSAGES quite well. Flow in 3 comes from another performance on Facebook which is very recent, on April 5th. A shimmering river of arpeggios sings like electronic gulls above the arrivals of the massive waves that border England. A sly reverberation and fragile vocals from the Mellotron adorn this opening until the 4-minute bridge, when the sequencer releases its rhythm line which lacks a jumping key. In doing so, the movement gets uneven, spasmodic and relies on this line of bass pulsations while being covered with this sublime Mellotron and its misty breezes. Percussive effects embrace a rhythm section that flirts with Sun's, but with a more sibylline presence in the choir voices. And like a musical butterfly, Flow in 3 goes to its mutation around 11 minutes. To get there, he had to soften its convulsive finery in order to slip its keys which enter in a period of transition to come out immediately with a more fluid movement. The oscillations come quickly! In a balanced alternation, the sequencer spits out its jumping balls which follow a course with fine nuances in its design under a horde of Mellotron lines. And still, these percussions with the tinkling of brushed metal follow the curve of the bass pulsations. They remain the framework rhythmic of this long track which inherits a last mutation, more linear, before sinking under the gas and the flutes of a chthonic phase. It's 36 minutes of pure Berlin School that BP has just stuck in our ears.

Flow part 1 presents an alternate vision that was sculpted in studio the very next day. Its opening is woven into a heavy layer of reverberations where a mini choir is hiding and singing of chthonic odes. The organ is rich in its dark presence and everything is smoother in terms of sound while the rhythm settles around the 5th minute. The nuances of the first version are better defined here as you can feel the rubbery effect of the rhythm a little better. The percussive effects are also better defined. In fact, it's like taking the first 11 minutes of Flow in 3 and enriching them with good synth solos and misty waves from the Mellotron and its oneiric flute. I never found Flow in 3 too long, but I admit that this version is significantly better than these first 11 minutes. Performed and recorded in studio in October 2018, Inability Capability is in mode ambient rhythm from the start. A slow rhythm, borrowed from the sketch of Flow part 1, which constantly increases its velocity to reach a more catchy movement for the neurons and the tapping fingers. A fluttering line of sequences is embedded in this second momentum under the caresses of a humming mist of the Mellotron and its fluty chants. And always these felted and gassed percussions of its echo accompany it in its breathlessness. Recorded during the same evening, Journey also uses the rousing effect of these percussions on a lively movement of the sequencer. Tied between a sequenced bass line with fluid oscillations and a bass line that follows the bend, the rhythm also appropriates a bank of percussive elements that come and go within this oblong undulatory movement. Pure electronic rhythm that my ears never tire of hearing. Section from "For Max" offers a nice opening on mellotron followed by a slow pulsating rhythm and these percussive effects which echo to the slow pulsations. The sequencer dribbles its keys into the vapors of a beautiful fluty chant while another rhythm line injects the sequencer's magic potion whereas a Middle Eastern flute charms our senses.

As you just read, there are no gaps, nor sloppy moments within the 77 minutes of ISOLATED PASSAGES that I finally discovered in December 2020, with the release of Isolated Passages Two. Previously I had succumbed to the charms of Prologue, Diffuser - The Rehearsal and Live and More; 3 great albums of a Berlin School revived for ears unbelieving. ISOLATED PASSAGES from Brendan Pollard puts into our ears 5 splendid tracks, all in rhythms, that will charm the most recalcitrant fans of this wonderful universe of the 70's from Tangerine Dream. Offered only in download or in CD-R, it’s nearly perfection!

Sylvain Lupari (December 27th, 2020) ****½*

Available at Brendan Pollard Bandcamp

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