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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

GERT EMMENS: Dark Secrets of the Urban Underground (2018)

Updated: Aug 18, 2019

“Dark Secrets of the Urban Underground definitely belongs to the best albums of Gert Emmens”

1 The Underground Labyrinth 12:11 2 A Message, Written on a Wall 11:59 3 Discovering You're not Alone 11:25 4 Dark Secrets Revealing Themselves 10:37 5 Lost in Fear 11:16 6 Run for your Life 11:22 7 Where Spirits Hide 11:05 Groove Unlimited ‎| GR-255 (CD/DDL 79:58) (V.F.) (Netherlands School)

A drizzling wind and a roar of spacecraft open up the atmospheres of The Underground Labyrinth. The sound effects are surrealistic with fascinating tonal colors (Am I hearing a train and some Tibetan felted clicking?) and synth pads that stretch their sonic auras into corkscrew reverberations. We have the feeling of being an astronaut awaking after months of cryogenics. These atmospheres numb our listening for nearly 3 minutes before a line of sequences does bounce its chords in a delicious ambient ballet. We immediately recognize the Gert Emmens signature with these chords which rub themselves with an agile alternating in order to solder them into a thin rhythmic line which gallops and undulates with their shadows dressed of chimes. Drifting with a still seductive nonchalance, this floating rhythm traces an oblong circular figure with evolutive phases and pretty shades which give a more harmonious touch to the cosmic rhythms of the Dutch musician. The soundscape is misty and cosmic nebulosity. The ballet amplifies its stationary heaviness with the arrival of these synth solos and the guitar which stretch their pains with these tones still so unique in EM played by Gert. Mixing with subtlety the electric guitar and the synths, he manages to extract the best of both worlds here with an approach which plays tricks to our ears. One thing is certain, we stay in the realm of EM with DARK SECRETS OF THE URBAN UNDERGROUND. Darker and perhaps more melancholy, this latest album from our buddy Gert respects his trademark with rhythms that float deliciously in musical panoramas unique to the one that has destabilized his audience in recent years by wanting to bring a more progressive rock vision to his electronic music. Here, there is nothing of that, except maybe the very good Run for your Life! Gert Emmens installs us comfortably in his comfort zone, which is ours by ricochet, by presenting us a beautiful album which will please his fans while possibly going to look for new ones. After an introduction of astral nebulosity (I still hear this train howling) of a little over 2 minutes, A Message, Written on a Wall offers an industrial structure cloned into a good cosmic rock. The sound envelope, one of the highlights of this album, has a strong presence. Its impact enriched irreparably a tone that vibrates my eardrums. The rhythm is heavier and slightly more fluid with its jerky pace. Covered in a layer of glass, the sequences are like a horde of horses slowly gamboling on a moonlit night. And the movement goes to a more ambient phase when apocalyptic-toned solos come and go without adding a mordant to the music. Solos that turn into spectral murmurs when the pace slows down, like those movements of ascending train on light summits filled by cosmic mist. The sequencer's looseness in Discovering You're Alone is reminiscent of Klaus Schulze's Mirage period. Cold, the ambiances surround an astral movement which jumps innocently in an approach of ambient and drifting rhythm. The drum falls down around the 4th minute, igniting a reflection of Klaus Schulze and Harald Grosskpof on a music whose winter reflections fill us with a certain rather comfortable warmth. The movement has become slower, Discovering You're Not Alone plunges into a cosmic rock structure barely heavier with solos which mix synth and guitar for the pleasure of our ears. However, it's a relatively short rock moment as Discovering You're Alone soon ran away with a long ambiospherical finale that is a bit longer than the previous two tracks. We are getting on the first phase of ambient elements of DARK SECRETS OF THE URBAN UNDERGROUND. And those of Dark Secrets Revealing Themselves overwhelm us with the deafening noises of a space shuttle in the cosmos. It's a rather dark title with dark breezes and woosh. The finale is a kind of cosmic awakening. After 2 minutes of dull hums and of metal screech worthy of a sound warehouse for scary movies, Lost in Fear follows with its ambient rhythm that flows with a certain linear velocity. It's like a passage in a tunnel soberly decorated so that we are not afraid to stroll in. Run for your Life is a powerful electronic rock, barely progressive, firmly attached by an astonishing mesh between the sequencer and the drums. I liked that a lot! Gert is huge on drums and the transition between rock and EM is done without noticing which style is on top of the other. Where Spirits Hide ends this other album by Gert Emmens on a rather ambient note. Guitar chords get hang silently in a dark universe that is raised here by a pretty nice palette of sound effects. A universe filled with arid breezes, wiish and woosh as well as suspicious noises. The moods drift as lazily as the ambient rhythms of the Dutch synthesist, while my imagination can not stop me from gluing images of the Stephen King's saga; The Dark Tower.

DARK SECRETS OF THE URBAN UNDERGROUND shows first that Gert Emmens has not changed. But do we really want him to change that much? And yet, he is still evolving! We love its floating rhythms which drift with its masses of galloping sequences and this dose of instability in the tones and its shades. And they are very present on this album. On the other hand, the sound envelope is mysterious and well cut out with a renewed richness that redefines the usual beacons of the Emmens repertoire. There are also those percussions which add a very Grosskopf dimension to this DARK SECRETS OF THE URBAN UNDERGROUND which definitely belongs to the best albums of Gert Emmens.

Sylvain Lupari (November 29th, 2018) ****¼*

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