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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

ELLIS & WHITE: Unbroken Spirit (2022)

An album as surprising as unexpected that is very strong and very good

1 Incoming Electrical Storm 9:00

2 Windfall Light 10:12

3 Wave Approaching from a Great Distance 10:09

4 October Sunset 16:23

5 On the Precipice 3:51

6 Trillion Stars 6:50

7 Unbroken Spirit 5:54

(CD/DDL 62:22) (V.F.)


Apart from his Berlin School style albums involving lines of sequences interwoven into minimalist rhythms, I can't remember hearing such a dynamic style of electronic music from Paul Ellis. Produced in duo with Jared White, better known as Yarred, UNBROKEN SPIRIT is a wanted journey by Paul Ellis into the rockier areas of electronic music (EM). Having just released 3 albums of abstract, experimental and expressionist music in Panoramas CD-1, Panoramas II et The Interior Rhythms, he felt the need to explore the more upbeat side of EM and the invitation from Jared White couldn't have come at a better time. Known for a lively style of EDM inspired by artists such as Tangerine Dream and Moonbooter, he had produced a pretty interesting download album in 2020 with Multnomah. Ellis' desire combined with White's musical genre could only result in an album that is the antithesis of what the Washington State native is used to offering us. Inspired mainly by the second part of TD's Johannes Schmoelling period, UNBROKEN SPIRIT also gets a good Patrick O'Hearn-like rumbling bass line and Jean-Michel Jarre orchestrations. And to avoid any form of ambiguity regarding the rhythms, you should know that Paul Ellis himself handles the electronic percussions in the rhythm sections and plays all the guitar parts on UNBROKEN SPIRIT, an album that will surprise Paul's fans, but not those of Yarred.

The thundering percussions structure a rhythm that is already changing skin even before its 40th second. The hyper driving electronic rock rhythm of Incoming Electrical Storm reflects the spirit of the track. The percussions slam like Jerome Froese likes to do and paired with the pulsating sequences and the bass pulses, it forms a nervous rhythm that is supported by a bass line with the creeping harmonies of O'Hearn. The percussions add one layer on top of another, creating a perpetually shifting rhythm with flashes of sound reminiscent of Tangerine Dream's heyday in Le Parc. Incoming Electrical Storm takes an orchestral tangent that sounds very Jean-Michel Jarre just before the 6th minute, showing a very versatile evolution where even essences of William Orbit in his Cargo period join the orchestral dimension in the second half of this very energetic track. The falling organ layer at the opening of Windfall Light is reminiscent of Genesis' Watcher of the Sky and casts a cloudy aura over a nice acoustic guitar driven opening. Bells, and twisted streaks of synth may awaken in some of us the Legend period. From ethereal, with muffled whispers, the structure clings to a more animated vision of a bass-sequence line that gets nibbled by fascinating organic effects. Moreover, these disparate and well-concealed noises in this album are elements that arouse the curiosity of the ears in its quietest moments, like the electronic serenade aspect of this opening. And over a static rock structure, Paul Ellis layers good harmonies, solos and riff lines from an aggressive guitar that melodically rages over a bouncy electronic structure.

The creeping bass in Wave Approaching from a Great Distance reminds me of how much I loved the bassist of the England band Magazine, Barry Adamson. It gives a mystical appearance to the stream of bouncy sequences in its opening that also supports the ghostly streaks of the synth. The stage is set for a chthonian introduction that takes its time to turn into a good circular structure not too far from Berlin School and closer to an evolving dance music that is filled with thundering synth solos wailing like a guitar. Navigating between ambient transitional phases and high-energy rhythm structures, October Sunset offers an evolving structure with the same character as Windfall Light, especially in the synth solos, but with a musical voluptuousness that is unique to Paul Ellis and Jared White. And this even if some passages look like the musical variations of the Dream. A very big track that we listen again and again, always finding a trick or two that our ears have forgotten to catch. The transition phase that brings us beyond the 7th minute is one of the strong points of UNBROKEN SPIRIT. The striking percussions of On the Precipice take us back to the world of Le Parc. The structure is slower but heavier with a spasmodic sequencer backbone. Nervous rhythm lines with jumping sequences in a perfect switching cohesion and Jerome Froese's drumbeats, Trillion Stars is another energetic track with a very voracious guitar in the second part. The title-track concludes this impressive rhythmic album with a beautiful ballad that rests the ears a bit with a circular movement composed of sequences that flutter with the dragging chords of the bass line. The synth puts a delicate lunar melody between its breaths guided by nostalgia. A nice way to conclude an album as surprising as unexpected from Paul Ellis and Yarred who affix an identity of their own in an energetic and melodious album which plays however on very good memories of the 80's. Very strong and very good, hats off to you Boys!

Sylvain Lupari (March 3rd, 2022) ****½*

Available at Groove nl

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