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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Divine Matrix Journeys (2022)

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

In short, another very nice melodious album from the English musician

1 Blue Origin 5:28

2 Fast Train to Tokyo 6:49

3 Ballooning at Dawn 5:26

4 Gliding on Thermals 5:12

5 River from Source to Sea 7:32

6 One Small Step 6:44

7 The Path Less Trodden 5:14

8 Walkabout 7:22

9 Walking in East Berlin 4:37

10 Journeys End 6:11

(CD/DDL 60:35) (V.F.)

(Melodious E-Rock, New Age)

I never refuse, nor dread, a musical appointment with Divine Matrix. For as long as I can remember, Steve Barnes' music has always had a soothing effect on my pains, as well as on my moods. And JOURNEYS is no exception with its palette of 10 tracks that are typical of the English musician's melodic talent. This new offering from the AD Music label, which is available in both manufactured CD and downloadable formats, features a collection of tracks with his unique melodious visions over easily catchy rhythms that are interspersed with more ethereal passages before being reborn with more vigor. The principle of narrative music applies on this other great album that one listens to without finding dead moments or filler. It's like listening to a New Age album on a Sunday morning by an uncertain weather. And I'm not aiming at the pejorative side of the thing, quite the contrary! JOURNEYS is made of beautiful pearls on catchy rhythms where the complex side of electronic music (EM) is put aside for a more accessible vision without necessarily being too commercial. In short, another very nice melodious album from the English musician.

This new Steve Barnes adventure starts with a Depeche Mode-like synthpop envelope that flirts with the rhythmic essences of Tangerine Dream from the 80's. Slow and circular, the rhythm is structured around a pulsating bass line and percussive elements struck on an anvil while others crumble those organic tones of rattlesnake tails. Orchestral synth layers are stuffed with celestial voices and arrangements designed to create chills. Already catchy, Blue Origin becomes even more so with the arrival of percussions and sequencer that tie this rhythm to a more jerky structure. Mindful of its tonal setting, Divine Matrix features voice sampling floating over cerulean synth pads in the opening of Train to Tokyo. A very evocative track if ever there is, she is built around a string of sequences that meanders in an ascending structure, as its heavy pulsing rhythm frames a very harmonious vision from the keyboard which weaves tasty Japanese tunes. The rotating motion of the sequencer creates a nice ethereal approach for Ballooning at Dawn which becomes one of those catchy ballads of the English musician's repertoire. We flirt with very poignant New-Age on this track imagined between the universes of Eric van der Heijden and Vangelis. Without being a great title, Gliding on Thermals has some catchy elements for the ear in its kind of pulsating synthpop ballad. If it was gusts of wind that propelled Ballooning at Dawn, it's more like lappings of spring water that awaken River from Source to Sea and its finely telegraphed rhythm structure with a series of beats designed around keyboard riffs and chords. The synth hugs the movement with a vampiric melody whose hums overlay a structure that bickers around a sequencer in spasmodic jolts mode and a sequenced bass line with a more fluid vision. A nice piano line appears shortly after the 5th minute, drawing River from Source to Sea into a more intense finale. A very good track that is well structured.

We can't anchor our hearts swaying in a good harmonic structure, nor can we tie down our feet gesticulating to a jerky bass line as well curt as an amplified throat slap in a track as uplifting as a dance for pickled zombies as One Small Step. Steve Barnes feeds our ears well on this track with organic percussive rattles and minimalist chords as enchanting as Moonbooter's dance anthems. Good stuff, especially when the beat goes off on another tangent with a strobe-like flight towards its final third. The Path Less Trodden is a good, lively ballad that stretches out its eloquence trap in an opening that hops along on a slightly strobe-like texture. As usual with DM, it is very harmonious, and the structure becomes more interesting after its 3rd minute where a melodious saxophone appears. The sequencer elaborates a sequenced ritornello for the heavenly opening of Walkabout. The flow of this carousel is a bit like Train to Tokyo with an ascending movement on Jean-Michel Jarre and/or Electronica-like percussions. And it is even more convincing when this rhythm starts to twitch violently on random percussive effects and a more lively scrolling of the sequencer. The transition phase between rhythm and ambience is also very beautiful here. In another circular structure, the keyboard weaves a melody on glass chords over the vague undulations of Walking in East Berlin, a track whose modulations add a tinge of melancholy to the music. Each Divine Matrix album has ITS pearl. And we have to wait until Journeys End to feel our arm hairs dancing with this melody to make a rock cry. A superb title which ends an album to which we listen again and again without ever wearing out the thread of our exploration, so much there are very good moments within it.

Sylvain Lupari (April 7th, 2022) *****

Available at AD Music

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