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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Cyclical Dreams: Gemstones II (2021)

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

The art of seduction goes hand in hand with the creativity of these musicians for whom art has no boundaries

1 Gradient 12 (Robert Rich) 6:58

2 Expose (Erik Wøllo) 7:28

3 Spacers (Martin Stürtzer) 7:11

4 The Child of Night (Chuck van Zyl) 13:59

5 It's Taken (Sam Prekop) 6:06

6 Estepa (Cartas de Japón) 8:02

7 Merging into the Night (Max Corbacho) 8:10

8 Much Too Late (Perge) 14:29

9 Still Untold (Sophos) 5:30

10 From the Ashes (Fritz Mayr) 8:45

11 Love One Another (Michael Brückner & Rebekkah Hilgraves) 12:29

12 Fondness (Filter-Kaffee) 6:06

(DDL 105:16) (V.F.)

(Berlin School, Ambient)

Here is finally the long-awaited GEMSTONES II from Cyclical Dreams. And be assured that the wait (11 months, not so bad) was more than worth it with this other impressive line-up of artists who offer us a walk in the gardens of electronic music inspired by the Berlin School and the ambient music styles. Beyond these styles, the Argentine label makes a breakthrough in the electronic alternative rock with the presence of Sophos and Sam Prekop. I wouldn't tell you to relax, although there are some good passages of meditative music, because we have here a most eclectic compilation where the art of seduction goes hand in hand with the creativity of these musicians for whom art has no boundaries. Except the barriers of our imagination. GEMSTONES II starts as a lion!

A sound wave awakens the first bars of Gradient 12. It contorts to offer itself to a hectic rhythm that jumps briskly under the hooting strata of a delightful Lap Steel guitar that Robert Rich caresses with his quavering hand. The pace is brisk with dryly falling sequences and riff effects that divert attention when the percussion shoves it into a more animated zone. Spectral, this guitar screams with its beams of sound that fill the panorama of Gradient 12 with music not to be listened to alone in a cemetery that one imagines wall to wall over the distance of the track. This is very good Robert Rich my friends! Erik Wøllo's Expose belongs to the category of his best tracks with a bewitching rhythm that wiggles under layers of synth-guitar. The mesh between the synth and guitar gives a dramatic texture when fused with those sibylline vocals that fill the soundscape with a passion that devours itself from within. I love the tenacious riffs behind the Norwegian musician's amazing rhythm structure. Two huge tracks of spectral ambient tribal, what de we want more? An artist that I enjoyed discovering is certainly Martin Stürtzer. And what a surprise to hear his Space Dub-Ambient style with a zest of Berlin School in Spacers. The sequencer is grandiose here by taming dozens of jumping balls that parade in single file under the pulsing bass-lines that guide the rhythm flowing like a dented snake. But the biggest surprise of this compilation is The Child of Night by Chuck van Zyl. This splendid Berlin School is set to an ascending sequencer movement that also glues a second rhythm line together with arpeggios, creating two peripheral tones that arch into a long cosmic journey with analogous 70's-80's essences. The tone, texture and the cosmic essence are gems for aficionados of the genre. Sam Prekop, an American musician living in Chicago, belongs to this generation of musicians connected to modular synths. It's Taken is built on rotating loops pecked out by percussions that sound like telegraphic writing. White noises are a guest among the spectral chants which are weaver of a solid earworm. Innocent songs on a structure of alternative e-rock that would be the delight of the DiN label. I was pleasantly surprised by Cartas de Japón's album Sequence at the End of the World. The Argentine trio does it again with Estepa. A passionate voice screams through a megaphone. Its words are lost in this astral mist of which the dusty woosshh blows forming an oscillating layer since its opening. The rhythm that surfaces after the second minute hesitates to form a sustained structure with the musical scents of a trumpet-like synth. And when it takes off, it sounds like Chris Franke at the sequencer dribbling his jumping balls in a musical texture reminiscent of Tangerine Dream's flights of fancy in Live Miles. Very good!

Max Corbacho is known for making cosmic ambient music and that's what he offers on this compilation. Merging into the Night is a quiet track that moves forward with a droning texture that implodes at times with more aggressive rumbles, drowning out that sleepy urge. The music challenges our ears with a big mass of sounds moving with a justified heaviness from which emerge long ambient chants and bright synth lines, reminding us that atmospheric music can be as interesting as sequencer-driven Electronic Music. Perge proves me wrong with Much Too Late! This track is part of the album OUT: The Sessions, released in 2020. The rhythm comes quickly with a Berlin School style sequenced structure that supports a nice synth symphony and weaves fabulous solos to give us chills to the soul. A first bridge settles just before the 5th minute, proposing these pearl nuggets which try to sew a harmonic thread, but the thread is too thin. It keeps breaking! It's ok, the posology becomes a big electronic rock à la England School with sequenced arpeggios that dance like pearls jumping in a too narrow tube and whose spasmodic gestures radiate under a sky attacked by buzzing clouds. These sonic drones burst with fury, bringing Much Too Late back to a semi-ambient structure driven by these jumping beads, and fed by more good synth solos. With its static movement, Sophos' Still Untold is right at home after the sequenced broth of Perge's track. But as he demonstrated in Enceladus, the musician from Buenos Aires likes to surprise with an avant-gardist approach. The track bursts into a splendid alternative e-rock totally unexpected with a bickering between the disjointed rhythm and the synth solos simply delicious in a crazy music of which some segments would go very well in a spy movie. Sophos, an artist to discover! All this leads us to discover the music of Fritz Mayr, an artist I hear about but never had the chance to hear. After a nebulous opening oxygenated by an indistinct voice in a vocoder, reminiscent of Neuronium, From the Ashes proposes a fluid sequenced rhythm. A well rounded and juicy rhythm that rises faster than it falls in the tradition of good Berlin School. The synth throws reverb arrows, staining a rather sober background. And as soon as the structure amplifies its speed, with a superb play of the sequencer, the musician weaves good solos which follow one another on this structure which subtly changes shape to reach a final less trouble than its opening. Love One Another, by the duo Brückner & Hilgraves, offers sweet music sewn in the style of 100 Million Miles Under the Stars. Rebekkah Hilgraves' voice recites a poem in the first segment, leaving the music drifting with those fine modulations into a pleasant Cosmos filled with sparkling, even musical stars. Like these sonic pearls that quiver in the last third of a track designed to makes us dream the ears awake. It is to the duo of Filter-Kaffee that falls the task of completing this mega compilation of sound gems. After an opening of industrial ambiences, Fondness slides towards an ambient passage where those bells still tinkle in a threatening ambience. The winds sing like frightened owls while the metallic noises continue to clash in order to infuse some out of phase harmony to this prismatic opening which reaches a tumultuous point around the 4th minute. From the winds and synths sounded in the metallic ice emerges a sequenced rhythm bouncing under warmer synth solos since the beat has settled. I find it more in the genre of Broekhuis, Keller & Schönwälder than Filter-Kaffee.

As rich in genre diversity as Gemstones, this new compilation still gives us a lot to listen to. I don't know how they did it, but the folks at Cyclical Dreams manage to pull off another tour-de-force by lining up artists who have been generous and who offer their best in another compilation full of surprises and of very good tracks. For the price, GEMSTONES II is an essential for the fans of a music that knows a new planetary expansion with this Argentinean label that doesn't stop impressing by offering works of a quality so close to the perfection, like in this compilation. Hats off Lucas Tripaldi, Pablo Bilbao and Esteban Menash!

Sylvain Lupari (September 28th, 2021) ****½*

Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp

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