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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

CHRIS RUSSELL: Elliptical (2020)

Chris Russell brings back his bundle and his dark ideas to Exosphere by presenting his most musical album on this label to date

1 Sea of Serenity 7:38

2 Volkov 8:00

3 Tycho Crater 9:59

4 Byrgius 7:25

5 Elliptical 7:27

6 Sea of Clouds 12:47

7 Milne 7:20

(DDL 60:41) (V.F.)

(Dark Ambient)

There are pearls that shine on the rising layer that makes radiate Sea of Serenity with its good union between seraphism and neurasthenia. These pearls are the strings of an acoustic guitar that Chris Russell plucks with a loving aggressiveness in a turmoil that will grow endlessly in the smooth labyrinths of ELLIPTICAL. I imagine the musician, his hair in battle against the acidic breezes, leaning his body on his six-string while trying to extract the most beautiful romances which will be lost in the winds and the roars to wither in a final made for his musings. Like an elliptical poem that dissolves without ending, Sea of Serenity is the opening of an album that seeks its balance between musicality and fragility. The style always remains in Dark Ambient, except that this time streaks weaken these huge sibylline layers to reveal a tenderness more exposed on ELLIPTICAL, while those six-string riffs, ringings and other tones lost in this new adventure give moments of unexpected life on these adrift carcasses. Thus, Chris Russell brings back his bundle and his dark ideas to Exosphere by presenting his most musical album to date on the Californian label. Available only in downloadable 24-bit format, this latest album offers 7 tracks whose structures are quietly formed in a system of oval sound masses that are born from these noises made by space shuttles, in a cinema near you, when they move at the height of our ears. This time around, these structures are alive with related tones which are totally independent of their innards.

Take Volkov! Its opening sparkles with a series of pulses of a linear movement where the iridescent breaths of reverberating arcs agglutinate. We have the Russell of Spotted Peccary on this track where the buzzing no longer has that color of silence. Its second part pours towards a darker side with layers that ripple up to the secret door of the Elves' sacred mountains. There where is born this moment of tenderness stolen from the whiteness of these clouds which give life to the peaks. Our minds are always floating in these new tonal colors of Chris Russell. Even Tycho Crater manages to immerse us in a nice aquatic environment with translucent layers that are propelled by underwater currents. The music and atmospheres on this track are reminiscent of M'Oceans' moments, a classic album by Michael Stearns. Meanwhile, Tycho Crater continues its descent into the oceans where ringing bells are muffled by the vibrations of this moving mass of sound.

Byrgius takes us back to the dark settings of the American musician's works on Exosphere. The slicks are formed by masses of air current which agglutinate like mudslides in slow motion. Flying drones inject a dose of paranoia with jets of whispers, as circular rays slowly sweep the horizons with a growing veil of dread. I wouldn't sleep on such a title, while the title-track exploits a rise of menacing masses to which claws of streaks cling which plow the black surface of Elliptical in order to extract its iridescent matter. Sea of Clouds deploys its intensity from the ashes of the previous title. The layers intersect their choreographic frolics in the twilight of night falling on the clouds. It's also true to say that we are in the heart of a cluster of clouds, but we are talking about black clouds flirting with the winds. Bluish streaks sink their sonorous darts, leaving marks when they slip quietly in this atmospheric panorama that could delay sleep, because Sea of Clouds remains intense. After the silent breezes, the secret impulses which guide Milne bring it again in aquatic areas with impulses of amphibians, advancing with slightly more fluidity, which propel this sound mass out of the totally dark areas of Chris Russell's repertoire. Each movement is followed by a small village concerto for bells of all sizes and tone which is transported from one village to another, always testifying to this new duality between musicality and fragility, between seraphic and sibylline which gives all this luster to this other nice album by Chris Russell.

Sylvain Lupari (September 3rd, 2020) ****¼*

Available at Exosphere Bandcamp

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