GERT EMMENS PROJECT: Memories (2013)
“Prog or EM, Gert Emmens always has this great sense of rhythms and harmonies...but I still prefer him in his EM suit”
1 Flight into Nostalgia 6:12 2 When Dreams Come True 8:36 3 One with Nature 6:48 4 Caught in Despair 10:09 5 Evocation- Parts 1, 2 & 3 7:43 6 Daydreaming 9:26 7 Waves of Dreams- Part 2 8:49 8 Lost in Memories 8:24 9 Thoughts of You 11:35 Groove | GR-197
(Prog Rock EM)
The rhythm is unbridled. Disheveled, but brief, it tumbles in 4 seconds with airs of UK (period Bozon). A small acoustic guitar is scratching a shadow of synthesized silence and Gert Emmens sits astride Flight into Nostalgia of a delicate rhythmic ride where prog and EM merges on the strikings of pale percussions. Gert Emmens who does in prog! I have to admit that his project (Gert Emmens Project) has frightened me a bit. So much that I asked a friend (thank you Nick Adam) for his first impressions (he is a fan of prog) on this MEMORIES from the Dutch synthesist. He liked it well. Making even a link with a group of the 80's, After The Fire. Me? The first idea which comes in mind is UK (the synths sing so much like Eddie Jobson's) as well as the unbridled rhythms with abrupt outcomes out of the electronic/progressive passages from Stomu Yamashta's Go Too. And, to my big surprise, I have to admit that Emmens manages well with this electro-prog fusion. Hem...Yes, even with his voice which haunts 3 pieces of prog-em.
And Flight into Nostalgia includes the whole recipe of a good prog of the vintage years. The rhythm is bipolar. Soft and rock, it's interrupted by more ethereal passages. Melodious passages where guitars, tom-toms and synths with delicate solos and cosmic mists outline some fine melodies in the shade of more aggressive rhythms which are tinted in aromas of jazz. Weightier, When Dreams Come True offers a structure of heavy prog with guitar riffs which bite the synth and keyboards from which the harmonies pour as quiet rivers versus the curt and unbridled rhythms. One would believe to hear a bit of Asia but the drum which always remains a little more in retreat with strikings which don’t give justice to the strength of the rhythm. The rest is complete! Very rhythmical keyboards, synths with solos signed Emmens that we would recognize among 100 and good electronic harmonies which remind that Gert Emmens is an excellent composer in electronic structures. Moreover, tracks like Evocation-Parts 1, 2 and 3 and Daydreaming are closer to EM than of progressive style with superb dreamy solos which flow into iridescent mists. It's with One with Nature that we meet the voice of Gert Emmens. The shock goes well. His voice is subdued, reedy and floats like a cloud of melancholy. The music? It's cosmic prog which begins with a delicate harmonious structure flowing of its arpeggios in cascades. Wooden percussions outline a fine tick-tock which guides quietly the rhythm towards a soft very tameable gallop under spectral synth solos before rushing towards a more rock phase, more dishevelled with good pads with a scent of old organs which slow down the heat. A good track which would have quite another dimension with more incisive, more human percussions. Which is all the contrary with Caught in Despair which is a good prog rock with an e-guitar from which the jazzy forms extend over an alive structure. A structure which, although Gert tries by all the means to trap in a prog approach, digresses for the electronic, oniric and harmonious world of Emmens. And I, I cannot always refrain of making a parallel with U.K. Especially with Waves of Dreams-Part 2 and its curt and edgy rhythm, its shy riffs, its cooing and spectral solos as well as the floating voice of Gert which are trapped in a foggy and cosmic ambience. Lost in Memories describes perfectly the progressive/electronic duel which rages throughout the album. The twisted synth solos are many and sing on a structure which eventually fastens itself in a rhythmic ride of which the gallop of the percussions is interrupted by more cosmic and more ethereal passages. Emmens seasons his structure with keyboard pads in the flavors of Procol Harum's tones of organ. Thoughts of You follows the same tangent of prog rock and ethereal passages, although the rhythm leans on good notes of a minimalist and melodious piano, with the voice of Laila Quraishi which adds a dimension à la Curved Air to MEMORIES. It's a track which is more prog than electronic with solos of an e-guitar and pads of a captivating organ where the melodious approaches of Gert Emmens always dominate, even on structures in perpetual movement and clearly raffish than on his electronic works.
What to think of MEMORIES? I'm a bit divided. The structures are interesting, and the music is very good except that the play of the percussions has difficulty to give the mordant that the music needs to really take off. It's fair prog which needs a good boost on drums. I rather see it as an electronic work with a progressive approach. There are very good moments which give the taste to listen prog music. In fact I dip into Patrick Moraz (Story of I), Rick Wakeman, whose harmonious approach seems to have been a source of inspiration for Gert Emmens (sections keyboard and piano), U.K. (Danger Money), Curved Air (Phatasmagoria) and Go Too from Stomu Yamashta while and after reviewing it. I would certainly like to hear this album with a real drummer because Emmens always demonstrates this sense of rhythm and melodies which make of his music an inescapable in the electronic sphere.
Sylvain Lupari (July 8th, 2013) *****
Available at Groove NL