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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari


Updated: Jul 6, 2019

“NIKO is a soft musical, harmonious and a very nice to hear album with a New Age scent that I will listen certainly when my senses seek a quay for appeasement”

1 The Journey Starts 8:11 2 The Arrival and Discoveries 3:20 3 The First Day (Morning and Night) 5:52 4 Dancing in the Woods 2:27 5 Mary Alone 5:54 6 Encounters 6:12 7 Friend and Enemy 2:47 8 The Cave 5:43 9 The Last Day 4:54 10 Goodbye and Back Home 12:54

Groove | GR-272 (CD 58:17)

(New Age, Oldfield style)

When he sent me this album, Frank had written; it's a whole new sound, a new style for me. And he was absolutely right! NIKO is just a name which that doesn't mean anything, as it can say everything. It can mean a moment of overwhelming sadness, like an astral journey. For Frank Dorritke, it's almost 60 minutes of dreams full of hope and happiness. Like its opposite, almost an hour of fear and sadness. And this bipolar side is extremely well felt in the first concept album of the German musician. It's a soundtrack for the mind with our imagination as a cinematographic projector. In fact, FD Project actually surfs on a movie music! The arrangements are meant for this purpose, with atmospheres sometimes folkloric and sometimes medieval reminiscent of the music of Games of Thrones, such as that of The Lord of the Ring. But even if Frank wanted to offer a unique album, it remains that the imprint of Mike Oldfield, the motor of his influences and creativity of the rocky guitarist, blows over NIKO's 10 tracks.

The Journey Starts with a strange musical alarm clock. An acoustic guitar and castanets effects adorn an introduction in ballad mode. The falling drums give a rockier impulse to an introductory track which is built on the exchanges between an acoustic six-string and a piano. Note, don't search the riffs and solos of the electric guitar! Since this instrument is totally absent on this album which has a more bucolic and acoustic vision, than electronic. The style is light with a lively rhythm. The synth is present behind this acoustic duel with chirps and some good solos. The arrangements are quite penetrating with Elvish voice effects that merge into the harmonies of the synth and its solos. The Arrival and Discoveries is an intense title with big percussions, kind of those stimulating ones for rowers in the dragon-boats, and a rain of staccatos by violins hidden in the interstices of the synth. The vision is pretty cinematic with good arrangements. Between Oldfield and Gandalf of the 90's! Each title is linked in a long mosaic of 57 minutes, and it's without knowing that we have just left The Arrival and Discoveries that The First Day (Morning and Night) clings to our ears with a slow pace which is nurtured by acoustic six-string's riffs and percussions throwers of vaporous jets. The orchestrations have an arabic scents. In short, a cute track which savors an electronic portion with a circular effect slightly stroboscopic and a bass line, perhaps the sequencer, which gurgles and croaks. The Elvish choir adds at the seraphic decor. Dancing in the Woods rooted this vision of Mike Oldfield's album with an astonishing folkloric approach that can be likened to a party in the land of Hobbits. Violin, acoustic guitar and bass drums stimulate a popular dance on a balmy summer evening in the land of Bilbo Baggins.

Soft and sentimental, Mary Alone is another ballad which drags the bindle of its light rhythm between more ambient phases. Its intro develops slowly with a synth which whistles some nice floating harmonies. The chimes that tinkle in the background are as harmonic as the synth. The percussions structure a kind of hyper-melodious up-tempo with a cello at the troll. The music embraces an ambient phase where a guitar sculpts a melody caressed by shadows of violins. And hop! The rhythm becomes again charmer and all nice after this short dream phase. Weeping violin on waves and synth swirls blown by a strange beast, Encounters hides a very electronic approach behind the catchy chords of the six-string acoustic. The sequencer sculpts a stationary rhythm which moves with the tuning of percussions, a good bass line and riffs which became catchier. The music becomes a dynamic ballad with good electronic arrangements. Friend and Enemy follows with this Oldfield's folklore vision. Violin of yesteryear and virginal choir unite lightness and harmony before the path of war opens with big percussions that thunder under the ominous shades of the synth and a burst of staccatos. It's in the medieval, genre Games of Thrones. The first 3 minutes of The Cave are drawn from the ambient territories. First, a series of jingles and a thoughtful piano. Shadows of the synth weave a dark decor with silent breezes. The piano notes encourage the mood to become more intense until the percussions get it out of its torpor, after 3 minutes. A brief, catchy ballad follows. The Last Day offers an Arab tribal vision with tam-tams which activate a stationary rhythm. The synth offers here a pleasant melody weaver of earworm with a sharpness tone. And, like the vast majority of titles in NIKO, the structure changes direction to become more intense, livelier while maintaining the very harmonious approach of the synth. The music really reflects the spirit of the title. Goodbye and Back Home ends this odyssey in our imaginations with chirping of birds and Elvish voices in a tropical setting. An acoustic guitar lays down its notes which get coil to this voice so seraphic, and this synth coming from nowhere and its dreamy song. Layers of fiddles obscure the decor with lazy flights. This introduction is in the Mike Oldfield mold and The Songs of Distant Earth. We are in New Age all that is more melodious with a subtle and catchy rhythm, like good pop without a song on it. The second part is more daring with an electronic approach nuanced by a shade of Jazz.

What to think of this NIKO from FD Project? Well, I will be honest; it's a very harmonious album that has this Oldfield's New Age soul from his Warner era albums. There is no place for Berlin School style here. No sequencer, or very little! His electric guitar is completely absent, no big thunderous solos, or heavy riffs that cut out your emotions. It's musical, harmonious and it's very nice to hear. In short, a New Age opus that I will listen certainly when my senses seek a quay for appeasement.

Sylvain Lupari (June 9th, 2019) ***½**

Available at Groove

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