DIGITAL HORIZONS: Logical Step (2020)
“There is no doubt in my mind Justin Ludford is incredibly talented and the 10 tracks of this album tend to prove it”
1 The Herd 7:24
2 Irrational Leap 9:29
3 Race With Time 6:39
4 Urban Desert 10:26
5 Caught in the Storm 16:19
6 The Long Lost Story 6:23
7 Watching From Canaveral 10:17
8 Regenerate 10:50
9 Logical Step 16:09
10 Going Astral 7:14
(DDL 101:48) (V.F.)
(E-Rock, Cinematographic Themes)
There's a lot of music on this latest Digital Horizons album! More than 100 minutes for 10 structures, 2 of which reach sixteen minutes, in a setting where the EM gets in tune with ambient music for high-tension films strongly influenced by the Flashpoint period of Tangerine Dream, but in a darker context. Let's say a crossing between Near Dark, just for the ambiences, and Flashpoint for the rubbery texture of the sequencer. Except for a few tracks, the rhythms are slow and the ambience structures are particularly interesting, some are not too slow, in an album made to be heard knowing what to expect from it. Otherwise, we stay on the lookout for rhythms that take too long to form, some are even too ephemeral, in ambiences all the same successful. And for ambient music, I find that the synth is stingy with solos. This is the great weakness of this album which all in all remains quite interesting.
The Herd immediately whets our appetite with its fluid rhythm, not quite circular, where the sequencer structures a peaceful ascending line in an ambience swept by the circular ray of the synth. A good and sober start that goes through a phase of contradictions where the elements get mixed and / or liquefied before returning to their original form. Even if the movement of Irrational Leap is slow and stationary, the way that Digital Horizons imposes a prismatic texture in its circle of ambiences brings it a dramatic intensity which makes it an important element in the course of LOGICAL STEP. Here, a harmonica struggles to create its melody, being satisfied with arid and murky breaths which merge into vaporous orchestrations. An invisible finger activates its second phase with a reverberating ray. The sequencer activates its static rhythm which will flutter in these murky resonances vibrating here and there, while the violins and the sequencer never stop flirting together. Besides, the second part of this title illuminates our ears with a radiant presence of the sequenced arpeggios, creating a luminous ambient rhythm which reminds me of Erik Wollo. It's with a morning ringing that Race With Time gently sculpts a rhythmic ascent submerged by imposing ringing of bells. These tinkles, some of which escape from my headphones, fix an unfinished symphony when the race stops halfway, while other tones restart this race modeled on the intro-rhythm-rest pattern. The second part is always the most intense with these belfries sounding ever louder on a structure energized by good slamming percussions. A great track here! After having been emptied its water, Urban Desert undertakes a bizarre staggering walk under the dismal breaths of a synth still possessed by this spirit of terror. It's a slow track with a scary vibe, like if we walk along a hallway oozing gruesome stories in a moonless night. The synth injects a series of layers which undulate with such a slowness that one could write above. Rises and falls in a structure of horrific stress, the sequencer follows the murky movement of the oscillations. The ambiences gather around a synth with symphonic calls, like TD in their 77 tour, thus giving a second wind, too short for my tastes, in a particularly good electronic rock. Always too short according to my tastes! Caught in the Storm catches our attention with a panoply of noises that play on the array of two atmospheric dimensions. It's a long ambient process where Digital Horizons exploits atmospheres with limpid chords which are lost in the abyss of these atmospheres. Dissolved violin pads fade, while these chords still continue to exist. This introduction stretches like if it was the title up until the sequencer activates the crank for a fluttering rhythmic structure after the 10th minute. A second turn of the crank, and the kicks become more aggressive in a burst that surprises us around the 14 minutes but Caught in the Storm will always remain a passive title throughout its 16 minutes. I found it a bit long and I would have preferred Justin to use more this texture of rhythm.
The Long Lost Story is a good electronic rock with a sequencer and its elastic bass sequences and especially its Flashpoint mode. The synth is particularly good with copper harmonies and lines a little sharper, but it's still very musical. And I still have that damn feeling of hearing bits of harmonica! This is not the first time and I find this element particularly attractive in LOGICAL STEP. But let's go back to The Long Lost Story which is a good filmic rock with a nice tom-tom from the sequencer. The movement dissolves little by little in a meditative phase with voices hummed by a synth. The keyboard dominates the moods, letting its shimmering chords simmer in the shadow of the weeping violins. Indeed, there is a harmonica! The rhythm is reborn 2 minutes before the end of the structure in a much more attractive framework, in particular because of the percussions. A prismatic air floats over the field teeming of organic steps from Watching From Canaveral. This sinister opening creeps up to the 3rd minute when the rhythm, skipping like a rock without being a rock, extends its stationary membrane which allows the sequences to skip in a rhythmic illusion well used by an imperfect strobe corridor. But in the end, it becomes a real good catchy electronic rock. There is a strange atmosphere around Regenerate and its introductory procession that leads us to a passage where the contrasts in tonal colors and dissonance displays its sonic disturbances around a sequence that pulsates without wanting to guide the structure for a sustained rhythm. Intriguing, this is atmospheric music for a high-tension movie. The long title-track is the most interesting of the lot with its very Chris Franke envelope, like The Soldier, on an evolving structure. The rhythm is constantly gaining ground to arrive at a more fluid structure adorned with good percussive effects. The finale is the highlight of this long album where Going Astral, and this after an introduction with a weeping synth, takes us into these soft and seductive rhythms that make me think more of the Alpha Wave Movement (strange isn't it?) than of Tangerine Dream.
There is no doubt in my mind Justin Ludford is incredibly talented! The 10 structures of LOGICAL STEP are there to prove it. As I said in the introduction, the lack of solos is what does more harm to these structures, some of which have unjustified lengths. But for the asking price, there is a way to carve out a perfect 60 minutes album, so telling me that Digital Horizons is an excellent storyteller who sometimes gets lost in his good and long stories ...
Sylvain Lupari (August 8th, 2020) ***¾**
Available at Digital Horizons Bandcamp