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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Broekhuis, Keller & Schönwälder The Vlagdwedde Tapes (2022)

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

It is a truly pleasure to renew with the aesthetic signature of BKS's New Berlin School

1 Witte Wieven 9:51

2 Vlagtwedde Tape 2 17:33

3 Raindrops on the Roof 14:29

4 Westerwolde Triple 15:52

5 Am Großen Baum 13:56

(CD/DDL 71:42) (V.F.)

(Ambient New Berlin School)

It's been what, a good 3 years since Broekhuis, Keller & Schönwälder invited us to a musical feast! Purple was this last sound rendezvous. A nice and quiet album with atmospheres and twirling elements which are at the heart of THE VLAGDWEDDE TAPES, a studio album composed and recorded in the town of Vlagtwedde located in the province of Groningen in Holland. BKS goes back to his more Berlin School style by offering 5 beautiful structures with evolving rhythms not too accentuated. Well, just enough to keep our neurons awake.

It's with a wave of sounds that subdivides its color and texture, sailing between serenity and turbulence, that Witte Wieven clings to our eardrums. From warm lava orange to metallic cerulean blue, this wave crystallizes our listening while detaching a vibratory filament that pulses in a rotary motion. Finely stroboscopic, this pulsating structure is like a rhythmic breath that beats like a discrete cadenced shadow under these synth layers of which the colors and textures fluctuate according to their emotions. This duality in the textures and the chromatic colors of the synths of THE VLAGDWEDDE TAPES' universe is the main argument of seduction, including this random density of the orchestral fogs, of the ambiences in this new album of Broekhuis, Keller & Schönwälder. From orchestral fog to chthonian odes, these layers spread their spells, embracing a soulless warmth and coldness until a fluty shadow brings a dynamism that shatters Witte Wieven's tranquility on the cusp of its 8th minute with a short rhythmic phase composed of turbulent sequences that gravitate and jump in arrhythmic anarchy. Tapping on a rubbery wooden skin initiate the rhythm of Vlagtwedde Tape 2. The bouncings are resounding in a soundscape adorned with sibylline shadows whose discreet ethereal choir melts into an orchestral fog with dramatic impulses. This structure of meditative rhythm gets a little more active as soon as the first minute is passed by. Pulsating beats, followed by strangely guitar-like keyboard riffs, then structure a spheroidal rhythmic approach. Minimalist and hypnotic, this rhythm, which sounds very Ashra-like at times, evolves with a slight accentuation curve under a musical diversity of the synths, including some very good gypsy staccatos, a little after the 5th minute, and solos fragmented in short harmonic visions as well as orchestral haze. Without toying with the dark ambient style, the music breathes some of that mystical atmospheres that are proper to the ambient Berlin School style. Some tinkles pierce this fascinating rhythmic opacity around the 8th minute, calling for a short atmospheric phase before Vlagtwedde Tape 2 reactivates its rhythm in the solos of a snake-charming flute for a second phase that is definitely more intense.

Papal synth waves with a fine texture of voices in the harmonies, Raindrops on the Roof makes its fascinating cadenced ascension heard by rhythmic drops of water. This march with a beat is an element of ambient rhythm that zigzags with relatively good speed under the various textures of synths and a shadow of bass that throws a warm dramatic aura. The drops give way to arpeggios that swirl in spherical loops under the pulsations of a bass line from which the resonant rays stir up the soft power of sober but effective percussions. The rhythm lets its ambient-meditative envelope, subtly accelerating the pace in a universe filled with the sound legends of Tangerine Dream by apocalyptic trumpet blasts and the caresses of a mellotron in tune with the emotions of the vintage years. A very good track that takes us back to the golden years of Keller & Schönwälder. There is a lot of intensity in a track like Westerwolde Triple. Its opening is filled with waves and synth blasts woven into a spectral vision. The bass extends a shadow that amplifies the mystery, while pulses and tinkles of glass chopsticks invent a rhythm without drive where a decimated melody tinkles under shrill hooting. A synth traces circular siren movements, reminiscent of the dystopian worlds of Vangelis, on a path that quietly takes a more accentuated rhythmic form around the 6th minute. This rhythm is more reserved for the use of the neurons than to make our feet dance, becoming an excellent complement to a music composed with an attention to detail for angst movie atmospheres, initiated by these synth harmonies that wail and twirl like bloodthirsty fireflies in the second part of Westerwolde Triple. Composed in Detlev Keller's studios in the fall of 2021, Am Großen Baum abandons the gothic colors of the album to offer a more contemporary electronic texture. The music and its ambiences scroll down by long synth waves that form sequenced loops rolling in cascade. These loops will become a good source of spectral harmonies as the track eats its minutes. This horizontal spiral forms a magnetizing corridor where keyboard chords tinkle through the undulations of a bass line and the chants of a soulless choir. Sparse percussions crumble a latent rhythm, adorned with twirling keyboard riffs that eject bucking into a structure where organic noises add an extra element to this mosaic of sounds directed by the irregular elements of this rhythm structure.

THE VLAGDWEDDE TAPES is a return to the roots for Broekhuis, Keller & Schönwälder, who abandon their colored textures and their more lyrical signature to take the rhythmic routes of their origins. There are many elements in this album that take us back to the analog years of Tangerine Dream, as well as the early years of Keller & Schönwälder. These elements are found in the synths and mellotron, as Bas Broekhuis continues to develop his ingenuity through rhythmic concepts that stand out in a clever mesh of sequencer and electronic percussion. A very good album where it is a pleasure to renew with the music of another Berlin trio which, in its own way, has stamped the very beautiful universe of electronic music with its very aesthetic signature.

Sylvain Lupari (January 17th, 2023) ****½*

Available on Manikin Bandcamp

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