GALACTIC UNDERGROUND: (2017)
“That's got to be one of the finest album in 2017. It's definitely on my Top 10 for that year”
1 Destination Unknown 7:31
2 Sky Ripped 10:48 3 Emerging 5:30 4 Mirage (featuring Robert Rich) 7:31 5 Oblivion 5:42 6 Burning (featuring Roksana Vikaluk) 5:12 7 Solitary Waves (featuring Erik Wøllo) 5:33 8 Blooming (featuring Roksana Vikaluk) 6:22 9 Photons Colliding 12:34 10 Leaving 2:49 11 The Helium Well 10:44
(Ambient, soft beats & Berlin School)
You remember Venja? I had reviewed his album Shapeshifter, released on SynGate some 2 years ago, which had made a good impression in my ears. Well Venja turned into Galactic Underground and signs now his music on the Belgian label; Wool-E Tapes. GU is a first album that walks a little on the paths of Shapeshifter, but with an even more atmospheric vision and especially darker. But not black to the point of visiting satanic landscapes. Black as in the unknown and the mystery of an astral universe. And surfing on his vast experience, Johan Geens enriches his sonic textures with elements which converge on a sweet intensity developing subtly but gradually in order to reach a point of no return with the sublime Photons Colliding. And not to do things by halves, the Belgian musician invited renowned artists to join his Galactic Underground project to polish up his musical visions, so that the influences of those latter, in particular Robert Rich, inspire textures as unique as those which propel this vast electronic symphony beyond the intergalactic's underground.
Following a storm of black winds and tones stemming from uncountable possibilities of a synthesizer, Destination Unknown spreads sound arcs which pile-up and melt themselves to float quietly with a subtle intensity in this ambient movement decorated of ill-assorted tones. Although very quiet, the accentuation of the synth lines converges towards an intense orchestral finale which depicts quite well the emotive progression of GU. Sky Ripped arises from the harmonious resonances of Destination Unknown. A ballet of synth waves is undulating like shadow puppet from a lantern flame on a wall of acrylic stucco. Waves of cymbals emphasizes the intensity of this ballet which isolates itself in wild plains where the hooting of coyotes, wolves and other night-predators divert all impression of non-movement or minimalism of a structure which reorients its vision with a very good sequence of rhythm took in the spirit of England School, Arc/Redshift, which drives this great track towards a finale softens by a concert of Aeolus and of his sibylline Angels. Emerging follows with a more intense approach. If a first ear detects a more celestial lunar décor with bipbips and NASA voices, the synth injects sound waves which break out like a growing anger which will go intensifying. This cinematographic decor eases its heaviness to dissolve it in a heap of hot breezes. Mirage begins with a sound panorama decorated with the noises of an insectivorous fauna. This organic crowd meets its more carnivorous elements, like a night in the Californian deserts. We think of these deserts because of this closeness between the elements of Mirage and those of Steve Roach. And it's no-one else than Robert Rich who is on percussions. He recorded at home his works on percussions and bring the lunar atmospheres towards these phases of tribal rhythms which fill his musical port-folio decorated of 1 000 marvels. The atmospheres of Oblivion are in narrow concordance with the vision of its title; black, intimidating and intriguing. Like a door on oblivion!
We go in the second phase of GU where Roksana, who I discovered on Spyra's Requiem album, and Erik Wollo come to enrich the vibes already rather rich in this new chapter in Johan Geens' career. Burning and Blooming are 2 titles where the very beautiful voice of Roksana Vikaluk adds its full of volatility with a wide range of feelings for celestial chants. No rhythm here and that's not necessary! Behind a sonic part filled of reverberations, Burning explodes of its Gothic chants with a splendid of which voice the intonations clear out the hairs of my arms. Roksana recites a Scandinavian poem that only an organ can accompany at the level of emotional intensity. Lyrical and very good! One would say Dead Can Dance, because of this heavy heap of continuous reverberations, and Klaus Schulze together with Lisa Gerrard. And this comparison is even more obvious with the very ethereal Blooming. That's got to be one of the most beautiful connection of a voice to a synth that I heard so far. Inserted between these 2 titles, "Solitary Waves" stays in this very aerial envelope of GU with Erik Wollo's soft guitar which floats between layers of voices orchestrated by a synth which also sculptures these synth layers and waves with a so soft seraphic flavor. We really are in the quieter core of this album and Photons Colliding comes like a wake-up call for our neurons numbed by so much celestial influence with a wonderful organic and rhythmic approach which takes place in a hallucinating sound decoration. It's Steve Roach and Robert Rich combined in a very Berlin School vision. Awesome! It's the pinnacle of GU which ends in the circadian beatings of Leaving and these cosmonauts' atmospheres adrift. The label Wool-E Tapes offers its releases as much in digital format as in manufactured CD. And the artwork of GU, as well as its introductory panel of the CD, would be elements which would charm the vision as much as our ears with this brilliant music to all points of view. An additional title is offered on the site Bandcamp of Wool-E Tapes. The organic atmospheres of The Helium Well add really nothing more to the wealth of this excellent album. The intensity is there, as well as these wide synth layers more seraphic which swallow the rather threatening advance of the reverberations breathing this darker side in the universe of GU. An outstanding sonic germ which is part of my Top 10 of 2017!
Sylvain Lupari (March 3rd, 2018) *****
Available at Wool-E Discs Bandcamp