“Let's hope that this Helios will finally put the name of Divine Matrix among this list of sure names to buy Electronic Music from”
1 Helios 6:02
2 9 Planets 6:42
3 Atomic Spectra 6:36
4 Child of the Sun 9:46
5 Source of Bounty 7:50
6 Solar Wind 4:58
7 Photosynthesis 7:12
8 Tracking the Light 6:34
(CD/DDL 55:40) (V.F.)
(New Berlin School)
Divided into two parts, the title track emerges from a cosmic shower with a sequencer that timidly makes skip a line of rhythm under the circular layers of a synth and its sound effects skipping in harmony with the ambient rhythm of Helios. The first 3 minutes are enough for Steve Barnes to create a complex rhythmic core with lines of rhythms which crisscross and meander the ambiences to establish a contact leaping in circular jerks. Throughout this rhythmic sequence, the keyboard creates a nebulous melody which will spit out even more its authority as soon as Helios crosses its breaking point after the 3rd minute. This melody, as complex as its rhythmic core, remains anchored in the static strength of the title to finally be absorbed in a heavy reverberating mass. Six minutes for 4 developments! There is no need to say; the music of Divine Matrix adopts a schizophrenic turbulence patterns which seduces, but which can also confuse more than one. It's been a while since I heard music from Divine Matrix, one of the most interesting artists to emerge from AD Music. And unlike all this new wave carried by the New Age division of David Wright's label, Steve Barnes does in cosmic-electronic rock inspired by Berlin School, as shown by the many Chris Franke's sequencing patterns in his TD years. But all is not perfect in HELIOS! In a nice palette of styles, there is a lot of commentaries and / or cinematic dialogues on pure science and science fiction. Like in the following title, the strong 9 Planets.
However, the rhythm is incredibly beautiful. Structured by the sequencer and its arpeggio lines scintillating on the spot, a harmonic line makes flutter its silver wings while the rhythmic core imprisons it with several axes that create a circular pivot. A melody coming out of left field lets its chords wander like a pensive piano misleading its melancholy in a jar where hundreds of musical fireflies swirl. The intro-rhythm-melody-ambient phase principle also strikes 9 Planets. But the melody sequenced on two series of 4 keys continues to live and even amplify its presence when the music comes out of its ambient phase around the 4 minutes. Reverberating chords counterbalance this musical idyll that has gripped me since its opening. And quietly 9 Planets is attracted by the curiosity of its final where a long interrogation of almost a minute has already made me forget its opening. A title that Divine Matrix must absolutely rework, but without the texts! The off-screen voices are a little better in the introductory ambiences of Atomic Spectra which gets rid of its ethereal membrane to conclude in a good circular and static cosmic rock. The synth is great here. It injects choruses that sound like old electronic music from the Atari years while sculpting thoughts with saxophone tunes mutating into trumpeter's. And vice versa. A great title which recovers pieces of its introduction in a final where the off-screen whispers don't disturb. And we come to the jewel of HELIOS with Child of the Sun. Its introduction takes me around the Universe of Thierry Fervant and that of Tangerine Dream, more precisely with Legend. And it's a long, incredibly beautiful, sweet and inviting minimalist lunar serenade with a splendid female voice that awaits us here. I've been asking questions around but there wasn't any info the time I was writing the review. A thing that happens to often when we buy a download link from the major labels. Groove nl is doing a great job to this level. Finally, I've been told by AD Music that it's a synth voice effect sampling named Roses1401. Can you believe it? Awesome! But let's get back to Child of the Sun where this voice that tells us about in the same way Jon Anderson did in Legend. A splendid title that is just too good to go on my DoDo list in my iPad!
We take off again for new turbulent adventures with Source of Bounty. Its intro is thought into a synth line which takes place in jerks on a voice telling us about the Aztecs. A piano adorns this opening with minimalist chords which come together in a succulent lunar melody which sets ablaze a structure which has become agitated by electronic jolts. After a short ambient moment, Source of Bounty explodes in a big electronic rock set on captivating percussions and their rattlesnake effects. The synth and keyboard bring us back to those phases of electronic progressive rock that remind us of Curved Air's best moments. Then comes the 6th minute and its huge synth solos that really screwed my ears to my headphones. An excellent title my friends! Solar Wind starts with its stunning cosmic reggae. The opening reminds me of Delius (Song of Summer) by Kate Bush. Repetitive, the movement is lascivious and stores up an additional elements at each turn until it reaches a seraphic heaviness in a very New Age vision. It feels good! In a rhythm formula without beats but propelled by impulses of the synth and its prismatic melody line, Photosynthesis unveils a treasure of sound and percussive effects. Among the effects are those weird whispers that come from either a dysfunctional vocoder or it's an alien language. This heaviness in the moods evaporate, giving way to a sequencer that weaves an ascending line while the line of bass sequences instead forges the rhythmic basis of a title based on current affairs commentaries. This rhythmic and harmonic duel of the sequencer evaporates in the disorder of the effects and the silent impulses of its opening. The framework of Tracking the Light is based on a line of arpeggios which goes up and down in a spheroidal movement with a slight lack of balance. Around the veil of interstellar mist, which serves as a bed for the ambiences, electronic tones are added and generate atypical movements until a bass guitar captures the initial movement and adds a piano line to a texture that smacks of Tubular Bells, side B, in a movement that finds its transformed roots to face a finale whose intensity empties of its charm in another dialogue that distorts the landscape of the title and overshadows the excellent music from this album by Divine Matrix.
Did we miss Divine Matrix? Honestly, who had noticed this silence of almost 5 years since Cloud Surfing appeared in the fall of 2015. I had thought about Steve Barnes' music only a few times, but nothing more. However, his previous albums were particularly good New Berlin School albums. Hopefully, HELIOS will finally put Divine Matrix to its place in the contemporary EM's chessboard. And an album like HELIOS has all the arguments to do so. But the voices ... ☹
Sylvain Lupari (August 15th, 2020) *****
Available at AD Music