DAVID WRIGHT & STEPHAN WHITLAN: The Reflecting Sky (2020)
“This album is a stroke of genius and offers 75 minutes of pure happiness by being audacious as very melodious”
1 Celestial Clockwork (Mizar) 6:20
2 Celestial Clockwork (Kochab) 4:55
3 Celestial Clockwork (Thuban) 7:35
4 Collide (Leptons) 8:22
5 Collide (Muons) 7:08
6 Collide (Kaons) 7:36
7 A Study In Geomancy (Lunar) 7:07
8 A Study In Geomancy (Solar) 5:16
9 As Far As The Eye Can See (East) 7:24
10 As Far As The Eye Can See (South) 4:20
11 As Far As The Eye Can See (West) 9:00
(CD/DDL 75:03) (V.F.)
(England School, Melodious, E-Rock)
An album by Stephan Whitlan and David Wright can only arouse a certain curiosity among followers of the England School. And with good reason! We are dealing with two excellent synthesists who excel in their field; EM with an experimental vision for Stephan, and the more harmonious one of David who always manages to inject a good touch of Berlin School into his works. The example of Beyond the Airwaves, Vol. 3 is the most recent. It was during rehearsals for Code Indigo concerts between 2017 and 2019 that the two new accomplices laid out the outline of what would become THE REFLECTING SKY. Between downtime, the duo improvised, composed and recorded material which featured 4 main musical themes. The two friends must had meet again in David Wright's studio in Suffolk to complete this album. And it was at the beginning of 2020 that the two English musicians entered the studio. With confinement helping, they were able to complete the album after 4 months of meticulous studio work. The result was an album that legitimately meets our expectations. Even overtaking them with a start à la Code Indigo, a fabulous detour into the world of the England School style of EM and a final as beautiful as we are entitled to expect from these two seasoned musicians who offer us in THE REFLECTING SKY, one of the solid albums of 2020, if not the best of its kind.
A bass pulsation, like a muffled beat, emerges from this warm breeze surrounded by white noises at the opening of Celestial Clockwork (Mizar). The beats intensify and awaken jinglings in a drone corridor and its white noises. The pulse quickens, as do the ambiences that stick to the rhythmic progression. Resonant chords are heard along with a series of arpeggios. The movement becomes more aerial with an ambience à la Code Indigo, if not Pink Floyd, and these keyboard chords are forming a melodious base in search of finish. The rhythm is articulated by a good bass line and a woodpecker type of percussions while layers of violins and double bass groan in the background. Without knowing it, we have entered Celestial Clockwork (Kochab)! The rhythm, still stripped of its envelope of heaviness, hobbles now. It stores more velocity in an increasingly diverse tonal fauna. There is a subtle duel between keyboards and synths, drawing an always prismatic harmony. The pace always picks up and becomes more fueled as soon as we cross the Celestial Clockwork (Thuban) milestone. More catchy than it has become since its genesis, it gradually evaporates in the mists of violins and these fragile chords in order to let our ears wander in the tonal fantasies of its finale. A long coitus with a rather satisfying climax, the Celestial Clockwork trilogy is the opening it takes for an album the caliber of THE REFLECTING SKY.
Collide comes to us with a cosmic vision in which a star shimmers brightly, a star that we also find in Celestial Clockwork. A soft flute secures our ears to the atmospheres of Collide (Leptons) where layers of honeyed voices float between the undulations and the iridescent tones of the synth lines. A bass layer covers these ambiences with its strong presence, also announcing the movement of bass sequences which structure an increasingly frenetic electronic rhythm and whose evolution doesn't interfere with the visibility of the flute and the mellotron. Collide (Muons) accentuates the pace with a breathtaking play of electronic percussions. At first, the flow sounds with chopsticks playing the tap on crystal. A bass line of resonant sequences acts like a hand in a puppet and manipulates the rhythmic destiny of this trilogy while leaving room for a synth and its misty violin solos. It's at the 5th minute that the percussions are put in big rock mode and drag the title in a furious movement which welcomes these violin solos and these harmonies of a synth which is particularly creative at this level. We are witnesses of a furious drum solo before Collide (Kaons) leads us to a fierce cosmic rock. The effects take us back to Klaus Schulze's early years while the rhythm remains as stylized as Tangerine Dream's Cold Breeze of Brighton. In a tasty electronic rock tempered by less wild percussions, the cosmic effects continue to surround the title as much as good solos by two dueling synths, which brings Collide (Kaons) towards its phase of evaporation. It's one of the most furious titles I've heard!
A Study In Geomancy (Lunar) doesn't stay frozen in an ambient sector. The sequencer forges a zigzagging line that walks in the rhythmic frames of the music. Great synth solos escape and fill this stationary rhythmic vessel which slowly spins on itself in atmospheres which now resemble to Solar Fields'. The rhythm breaks around the 4th minute, proudly displaying its typical David Wright's down-tempo. Voices mumble here, while a piano unties its notes on this soft structure whose murmurs and effects draw us towards a psybient a little too animated, but the ambient visions are there. A Study In Geomancy (Solar) borrows a harmonic texture from Frank Specht's Sebastian im Trauma. We've been in David Wright's lands for a rough 6 minutes. It's also the prelude to a finale where each layer returns with more emotion, gathering here and there the evaporated structures of THE REFLECTING SKY. Already, the dramatic effects feed the finale of A Study In Geomancy (Solar).
If it's in a deaf crash that the title ends, As Far As The Eye Can See (East) opens with the delicacy of its synthesized harmony. Cosmic effects will nourish its 21-minute territory while a first rhythmic structure advances stealthily. Everything is gracious! As much these moaning solos as these keyboard chords and bits of bohemian melodies which sometimes follow the rhythm and sometimes move away from it. But always, this synth and its sweet aerial airs! Here too, it's after having crossed the point of 4 minutes that the percussions talk to the moods to lead them in a good and slightly hopping morphic beat. Stephan Whitlan and David Wright use their imaginations by injecting all the necessary ingredients to shake up our emotionality. But the road is long and its emotional bolero is too latent. A dissonant voice invites the rhythm to have more biting in the opening of As Far As The Eye Can See (South) where the synth cries all the tears of its interstice. The percussions erect a heavy and striking wall with organic effects well inserted between the strikes. And there too the finale stretches its compassion for these weeping arpeggios and the various sound effects where we feel a David Wright torn between Walking with Ghosts and Stranger Days. Nothingness absorbs the finale, just as gives birth to As Far As The Eye Can See (West). This longest title of the album is molded in this vision that David Wright knew how to plant since the 4th minute of A Study In Geomancy (Lunar). Are there lengths? Yes, but like a good architect of the harmonies that he is, he brings nuances in the harmonies, the ambiences and the effects, like this long sequenced strobe spiral in the opening. The playing of percussions also brings its variances in the dimension of the rhythm, as in its colors, while the synth solos succeed in fooling our ears which discern guitar solos. Chords, like riffs, from guitar and / or keyboard add to this spheroidal sonic dimension which encircles the progression of As Far As The Eye Can See. And always this harmonic vision nuanced with each new turn of the synth. And it's also in the dust of serenity that it concludes this excellent trilogy of a majestic album that exceeded my expectations ... and they were great.
THE REFLECTING SKY is a stroke of genius! It's 75 minutes of music that takes up the challenge of being as ingenious as it is melodious. Each part has its place and is in its place with extremely powerful moments that make chills dance on our arms. And it's not just because it's tender! In short, there is no hesitation if you are a fan of David Wright or if you are just looking for good music that has all the strengths and no flaws. Even the lengths are beautiful! As for Stephan Whitlan, his skills on synthesizer stands out wonderfully here while his very progressive vision of EM is very well managed in this album which is certainly part of the Top 3 of David Wright's albums and my Top 5 of this year. Excellent!
Sylvain Lupari (August 12h, 2020) *****
Available at AD Music