GERT EMMENS: On the Edge of Nowhere (2022)
“Soft rhythms on evolutive sequenced lines, hazy moods and synth solos. You need more?”
1 Secrets of the Wasteland 16:25
2 The Danger of Mesmerizing Nostalgia 14:05
3 On the Edge of Nowhere 12:13
4 Nowhere to Hide 12:16
5 Overlooked Consequences of Near-Death Experiences 16:35
6 At the End of the Track 5:34
(CD/DDL 77:11) (V.F.)
(Ambient Berlin School)
I think I've written this before, but I'll do it again; Gert Emmens is like that old friend who comes to visit us once a year. Each of his visits is marked by a good story, almost always the same, that we like to hear again. It's comforting and he has a way of telling it that always makes it a good story to hear. ON THE EDGE OF NOWHERE is a new story. Not that it's a concept album! The title and front cover of the album are inspired by a photo taken during Gert's daily jogging sessions in a quiet park dominated by small streams and ponds. But these soft rhythms over metamorphic sequenced lines, hazy atmospheres and synth solos all have that feeling of having been déjà-heard on the Dutch synthesist's previous albums.
After a brief, nebulous introduction, Secrets of the Wasteland comes to life with a soft rhythm that rises and falls in the glow of another rhythm line crafted in the stationary shimmer of flickering, vividly fluttering arpeggios. Nasal keyboard pads settle on this two-phase rhythm with a delicate metallic sound, while synth solos coo with that trumpet's tone having-a-cold that is unique to the Emmens universe. Electronic percussion join the pads just before the 3 minute mark, giving a cadenced tone to this rhythm designed to receive its dose of charming solos blown with the dexterity of a saxophonist. The musical envelope is very rich on this floating rhythm structure that loses most of its attributes, except the ascending sequence line, a little after the 5th minute. Anesthetizing layers greet this first mutation of Secrets of the Wasteland as it enters its transitional phase with waves and shadows shrouded in reverberating radiation. Evasive hooting are then heard, a little before a line of bass-sequences comes out of this fog nearly 4 minutes later. This line is dense. Compact with tightly packed keys one to the other, it unleashes a more spasmodic movement that seems to run after its breath in a silky setting filled with orchestral haze. Another line invites itself, digging its nest in the shadow of the spasms to redefine its ascending pattern. Layers of absent voices and percussive rattles add to this new rhythmic momentum that still remains floating, even with a slight revival of dynamism. Thus is Secrets of the Wasteland made and thus will be made the other structures of ON THE EDGE OF NOWHERE...well, almost.
The sequencer in The Danger of Mesmerizing Nostalgia is imbued with a fascinating nostalgia made even more obvious with the whining synth solos. Initially less dark, the rhythm sequence is swallowed by a 2nd one that brings this gloomy complexion to Gert Emmens' evolving rhythms. Playing on these nuances, the rhythm explores these two phases to finally evolve towards a livelier rhythm in a splendid refuge for the numerous synth solos. After an atmospheric phase, The Danger of Mesmerizing Nostalgia is reborn with a luminous rhythm and especially with a Jazzy approach from the synth solos. The sequencer evolves here in rhythmic as well as harmonic mode to finally take the shape of a very good floating structure which brings us to an ambient finale. After 80 seconds of an introduction that wonderfully depicts the front cover of ON THE EDGE OF NOWHERE, the title-track lays down a first line of bouncy sequences that is quickly imitated by a bass-sequence line. This pairing makes for a nice cohesion in a vision of a shadow walking stealthily underneath synth lines that loop for a secondary rhythm. One thing leads to another and On the Edge of Nowhere turns into a good progressive electronic rock when Gert starts playing drums and the synth solos rain down with the skill of very good jazz players. Nowhere to Hide also offers a jerky structure, more in the shape of a train than a jogger, that moves with intensity. The pace is supported by a combination of sequences and chords falling curtly into harmonic keyboard riffs. The structure becomes more fluid after the 5th minute, running freely through a surreal setting that Gert must have taken from one of his nightmares. I like the feeling of hearing a long organ track, giving this slightly chthonian look to a very good Berlin School that fades out 4 minutes before the finale without having received its dose of solos. The opening of Overlooked Consequences of Near-Death Experiences is as nebulous as the ones that introduced us to the mystical universe of Tangerine Dream in Phaedra's time. A line of soft and dreamy sequences comes out of it to drag its oscillating keys between the multiple laments of a morose synth. Lamentations that stretch into fine points of weeping melodies in a first part that remains under the sign of mysticism and mystery. The alternating movement of the sequencer is now flowing and undulates fiercely until this short transition phase, around the 8th minute, where Overlooked Consequences of Near-Death Experiences emerges with its two-beat sequence in this lunar haze where the scents of ether doze the rhythms of friend Gert. And if you like his sequences, At the End of the Track is specially designed for this purpose where you can admire Gert Emmens' skill with the sequencer. Sequences, only sequences!
Slightly complex and easy to tame, ON THE EDGE OF NOWHERE is a nice visit from our friend Gert Emmens who tells us another of his known stories with barely felt modifications. There are few surprises! We don't care because he is such a good storyteller that we never see the minutes pass and every bit of forgotten story finds its way back to our attention the next time we listen this fresh told story. That's how you catch the Gert Emmens' bitten!
Sylvain Lupari (February 24th, 2022) *****
Available at Groove NL