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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Ian Boddy Modulations III (2023)

More than 3 hours of all palettes of EM on modular synths

1 Earth Requiem 19:55

2 Seventh Wave 30:54

3 Subliminal Impulse 26:56

4 Druids Temple 7:16

5 As Far Away As Possible 33:20

6 Capstone 49:04

7 Boddy Love 14:09

(DDL 181:37) (V.F.)

(Experimental, dark ambient, Berlin School)

The long atmospherical introduction in Earth Requiem begins with the lapping and rolling of waves on a deserted shore. A droning wave encircles the moment, accentuating its presence in an ambient sphere where percussive felting resonates, and night specters are squeaking like the winds ululate with chthonian murmurs. In the listener's guide, Earth Requiem was composed for the Washington Arts Center in March 2022. Although the music accompanied a video of photos captured by Wendy Carroll's highly avant-garde eye for nature and its textural elements, there's a slight chthonian essence to its moods. In order to adapt to the realities of his life partner's photographs, Ian Boddy develops an organic sound fauna that embraces the montage of these photos. If the first part of Earth Requiem manages to maintain an ethereal approach, the buzzing sounds grow louder and louder around the 8-minute mark. So much so, in fact, that you might think you're inside an awakening volcano. Percussive chords accompany the growth of the rumblings, creating a chaotic rhythmic web in an intense, atmospheric and rather cinematic passage. From this turbulence emerges a long, more serene finale around the 12-minute mark. Crystalline chords and bird chirps adorn evasive, undulating bits of melody in a passage where the tumult of sounds tries to get out of its bed. So is Earth Requiem and so how, in different contexts, the impressive 3 hours of MODULATIONS III will be!

A lengthy mosaic of sounds, slightly more atmospheric than rhythmic, with the exception of the brilliantly frenzy Capstone and Boddy Love, this 3rd part of the Modulations series by the English musician-synthesist follows his adventures during various performances, mainly in England. Available as a download, MODULATIONS III also comes with a listener's guide explaining the concepts and origins of its 7 tracks. And you've got to love the experimental ambient genre provided by the infinite possibilities of electronic music (EM) conceived on modular synthesizers. This is the heart and raison d'être of this collection, which has kick-started the creation of this imposing universe where music lives and breathes to the rhythm of our imagination. You've got to love being enveloped by a myriad of sounds and ambiances of all kinds, from spacey to earthy, organic to ethereal, to those strange moods that flirt with the world of horror. The bed of MODULATIONS III! It also takes time to tame some of the more experimental structures on this album where the majority of tracks are very long, giving Boddy time to develop sonic textures that do justice to his expertise and his ability to challenge our imagination.

Those who remember the opening of King Crimson's Exiles in Larks' Tongues in Aspic will be on familiar ground with that of Seventh Wave. Recorded at the Seventh Wave Electronic Music Festival in Birmingham in November 2021, this very long track explores the sonic characteristics of modular. Its introduction features nocturnal ululations that wander between drone waves and textural water effects. Shimmering effects lurk in the furrows of hollow waves that howl mutedly up until the solos are making wail their laments near the 8-minute mark. These synth solos drag a nostalgia in their undulating arabesques over a distance of 3 minutes before the track's cosmic ambiences reappear in bursts of space drizzle towards the 11-minute mark. Tinkling tones attempt a melodic structure that loses its landmarks in these dusty winds, where muffled beats begin to echo. Hesitant arpeggios dance and gallop over the vibrations of these knocks, structuring a harmonic rhythm that ebbs and flows over a faster flow of bass sequenced pulsations and of the cadenced rattlings. This heavy and resonant rhythm, like Arc's finest moments, wears out its beats and fluttering arpeggios in the lair of a spectral phase enlivened by the high tones of the Martenot waves around the 20th minute. These tones merge with the less sharp tones of a synth and its floating shadows in a finale filled with those patchoulis of sound unique to the psychedelic edge that is bordering the atmospheric passages of this MODULATIONS III.

Subliminal Impulse is woven from some of Seventh Wave's fibers. The track mixes supernatural and fairy-tale ambiences in an orgy of sound propelled by bursts of interferences where voice effects and radioactive screeching intermingle. Muffled beats begin to progress around the 5-minute mark, sculpting a slow, slyly moving rhythm. This subliminal procession gathers all that modular has to offer in the way of tonal possibilities, including some tones that sound like a robotic language. Ian Boddy wraps this movement in beautiful, warmer and more musical synth waves, some of which even have a spectral vision due to the high-pitched nature of their electronic psalms. Sleeping-pink arabesques twist, contort and unravel in the coarse lyrics of a rhythm that flirts with a swaggering allegory. Noisy electronic effects flood the ambiences around the 14-minute mark, weighing down this now hobbling procession. The rhythm reappears after a long passage filled with spectral ululations. Hopping more gently, it offers the most musical side of Seventh Wave. The shortest track on MODULATIONS III, Druids Temple is an experimental atmospheric track that Boddy recorded outdoors at Druids Temple in North Yorkshire. A video is available on You Tube. Here's the link:

Another very long track, As Far Away As Possible features a slow opening of interstellar ambiences before offering a bouncy, resonant rhythm structure around its 15th minute. Sinuous lines of moiré oscillation and organic quacking run through this semi-slow rhythm, bringing us closer to the British musician's early work. This more or less 10-minute passage is followed by an atmospheric finale, here more inciting to meditation.

The very long Capstone is in the pure tradition of a very methodical Ian Boddy. It sounds like a studio track, even though it was played at the Liverpool's Capstone Theatre last April. The buzzing winds of its intro turn into a dance of undulating oscillations. They waltz in cosmic nothingness up until a driving rhythm leads them into an electronic rock sewn into a spasmodic method. It's easy to tap your toes to this 10-minute musical segment where the synth draws arabesques whose jerky flow is reminiscent of Tomita's Snowflakes are Dancing. Rippling like an extinguished menace, the rhythm quietly runs out of steam, allowing these percussive, sharpened laments to blossom, complaining like some Martenot Waves. It's a beautiful ambient passage filled with the kind of orchestration that only Ian Boddy knows the secret. This moment of serenity collides with a reef of drones around the 24-minute mark, dragging Capstone into brief atmospheric turbulence before a gentler, a more peaceful rhythm makes revive the undulatory bending some 5 minutes later. MODULATIONS III's longest track explodes again at around the 33-minute mark. As much percussive and driving as its first mission, the rhythm leads Capstone into a fiery electronic rock before putting our ears into the soft comfort of Boddy's ambient structures just before the 43rd minute. This frantic rhythm and waltz of undulations is the recipe for Boddy Love, which is also a nod to that majestic Klaus Schulze track.

Intense, dramatic, musical and experimental! Berlin School, England School, cosmic and chthonian vibes! Ohhh...there's a lot of music by the square inch in this daring mosaic of rhythms and moods that is the imposing MODULATIONS III. Ian Boddy displays his know-how and absolute creativity in this 3-hour boxed set of avant-garde EM that's easy to get to grips with, and where all tastes are enticed by a palette of styles that the DiN boss doesn't just skim.

Sylvain Lupari (June 12th, 2023) ****¼*

Available at DiN Music

(NB: Texts in blue are links you can click on)

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