“I've had my share of thrills discovering the multiple charms of this album”
1 Dinoflagellates 6:34
2 Anglerfish 5:08
3 Fireflies 7:34
4 Waitomo Caves 7:30
5 Moon Jellies 6:48
6 Milky Seas 7:54
7 Photophore 6:14
8 Strange Creatures 6:20
9 The Beauty in Things 7:06
10 Fungi 7:26
(CD Digipack/DDL 68:34) (V.F.)
I was looking forward to hearing some new Divine Matrix music. His last album, Sequencer Drift, had left me a bit disappointed. It must be said that trying to surpass his excellent Journeys album was no mean feat. And does BIOLUMINESCENCE live up to my expectations? Steve Barnes offers here an atmospheric album inspired by creatures and organisms living in the oceans that emit luminous energies. It's nearly 69 minutes of ambient music, both oceanic and organic, imbued with a nocturnal texture where the ocean's fauna shines with its thousand lights. BIOLUMINESCENCE is best discovered by listening it more than once. Always melodious in his approach, Steve Barnes makes his synths sing with tunes ranging from tender and nostalgic to very dark. His arrangements are poignant, and the composer possesses the art of giving his music the vision of his titles. That's why some of the tracks hook you right from the first. On the second listen, we discover other little gems, and the third confirms that we're listening to a beautiful album where the essences of Steve Roach and Michael Stearns fill our ears with that melodious signature unique to Divine Matrix.
It's like a flute from a boat. We are on the water, exploring the seabed with microscopic eyes. Water lapping are colliding in a passive dance, where whistles and chirps are lost in the dew of sound that is the slightly buzzing slickness which undulates lazily through the opening of Dinoflagellates. Then comes a synthesizer chant. The timbre is solemn, and yet moving. Emotion screws us to our headphones with this sibylline melody that increases its passionate flame by surfing between astral undulations. There's silent agitation here, like the sudden and unpredictable movements of the Dinoflagellates. You can hear them moving between the tunes of the synth, the lappings of the water and the undulating shadow that serves as the foundation for this very good title that is Dinoflagellates. It sounds like Michael Stearns from the M'Ocean era. Anglerfish also features synthesizer airs that float and roll around in a murky ambient texture, somewhat reflecting the habitat of these bony fish. The chant is of the invasive kind, with two tones, one limpid and the other darker, rippling through a backdrop where underwater shimmers sparkle with both bluish and whitish rays. A bass extends a few sighs here and there, adding even more dark nuances to the track. A rising shadow also buzzes in to introduce Fireflies. We remain in the same musical hues, with a sequencer here sculpting an astral procession that rises above sumptuous orchestral arrangements and layers of seraphic voices and/or oceanic mermaid's. The movement is deliciously hypnotic, with just enough nuance to perceive a slight fluctuation in the spherical ritornello. Arpeggios begin to chime, sculpting an evasive melody that follows the march of the sequencer to melt into the synth harmonies. The flora, the soundscapes of the track, is filled with arpeggios and effects that shimmer throughout Fireflies' procession, including some good organic effects that sound like a form of communication between fireflies. These first 3 tracks are a wonderful invitation to discover this new musical odyssey from Divine Matrix. Waitomo Caves flows quietly, like a slow progress through the passages of this glowworm grotto in New Zealand. The panorama is flooded by the passage of shooting elements, like woosshh and waasshh, whistling through orchestral arrangements and over layers of seraphic voices. Arpeggios (or guitar chords) hatch here and there, weaving a vague melody that rests on a rather discreet bass. It reminds me of some very melancholy Darshan Ambient. Everything is in suspension in this track. The music reflects this tranquil voyage in a boat, where the luminosity of the larvae illuminates subterranean skies in emerald hues, like cobalt blue.
Moon Jellies is a crepuscular track that evolves like the slow propulsions of these night jellyfish. The timbre is dark, almost guttural, with slow orchestrations, like some slow bow rubs on a cello, emerging from a more purified opening. Elements of percussion and arpeggios tinkle here and there, reflecting the changing luminosity of these gelatinous animals. A bass shadow creeps into the background, and the synth weaves a vampiric melody that extends its veil of bewitchment with a sibylline tone. A sonic eddy changes the track's dynamics around the 4-minute mark, initiating a more aggressive impulse with percussive elements and arpeggios whose shimmer drowns in layers of underwater voices. An Asian melody emerges, played by the sensitivity of a synth that morphs into a Chinese violin. Steve likes to play with the degree of emotion he can extract from his compositions. Like the fascinating, otherworldly bugles in Milky Seas that weave orchestral layers sliding towards the abyss. In an atmospheric track devoid of rhythmic resources, apart from a few guitar riffs in search of structure that hint at a melody to be finished, the music depicts the darkness of the abyssal depths while radiating the whitish color that gives these milky seas their translucent texture. If the sea has its ghosts, they're here! Photophore is the most agitated track on BIOLUMINESCENCE. Rubbery beats make resound a structure of ambient rhythm which the sequencer surpasses with frenetic flickering motion. The sequences have a luminous timbre, giving vivid reflections to this stationary rhythm. Synth layers with ectoplasmic timbres, voice layers, organic elements and various electronic effects complete the decor. A track that sounds a lot like Steve Roach! The world of Strange Creatures is revealed through sound effects that are sucked in by pulses of suction cups. Chords attempt to create an aquatic procession in a setting filled of sound effects which are melting themselves to dark synth waves that quaver in their slow undulations. Apart from these waves, the synth weaves almost apocalyptic trumpet chants. The Beauty in Things is of the same dimension as the beautiful Dinoflagellates. The arrangements are hyper poignant, and a cadenced melody emerges from its abyss around the 4-minute mark. Pure delight! And for the soul, and for the ears. Fungi is an atmospheric track built around multi-lines of synths with contrasting oceanic colors. Its slow rhythm is structured by swirling currents, and a delicate shimmering melody emerges. Layers of mermaid voices and of orchestrations complete its decor. The track evolves in changing phases, even heading towards a good Berlin School before being swallowed up by a buzzing mass of sound.
So, does BIOLUMINESCENCE live up to my expectations? Absolutely! Although Divine Matrix has moved away from its melodious electronic rock style, it retains the emotional cachet that gives its music such depth. Whether rhythmic or ambient. I've had my share of chills discovering the many charms of this album which has those little pearls that keep us coming back for more.
Sylvain Lupari (November 21st, 2023) ****¼*
Available at AD Music
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