JEFFREY KOEPPER: Arctisonia (2011)
Updated: Mar 5, 2020
“Difficult to tame, Arctisonia needs several plays before capturing the full dimension of an album that will appeal to fans of analog music”
1 Arctic Sunrise 8:00
2 Illulissat 10:25
3 Ice Flow 5:48
4 Snow Sequence 10:50
5 Glacial 7:13
6 Avalanche 20:53
7 Greenland 9:31
(CD/DDL 72:44) (V.F.)
(Ambient Sequencer-based EM)
There are albums like that! Albums difficult to describe as the music is rich and diverse, and especially the rhythms are raining from everywhere and in any forms. However, it's not the first time that my ears cross the soft music of Jeffrey Koepper. Soft! Because the American synthesist succeeds in surviving through this jungle of diversity that is EM by offering a music built entirely with analog equipment. In doing so, and with the growing experience from album to album, Jeffrey Koepper offers opus of musical richness that is renewed with each new release. ARCTISONIA is dedicated to the tumultuous world of ice cream. And each of the titles of his 7th opus tells its story. A story where the magic of a crystal world is in perpetual motion on sequenced structures as surprising as they are diversified and on synth waves as lyrical as atmospherical.
Arctic Sunrise invites us on this Arctic musical journey with delicate synth pads which slightly wander, tracing a soft minimalism movement. Layers that waltz softly and intertwine, like a sea offering a thousand waves with iridescent colors under analog cosmic effects. A pulsation emerges and shapes a rhythmic structure which beats slowly under a cloud of limpid chords so as to render a fine melody on arpeggios spreading its harmonies on a delicate hypnotic rhythm which merges with the morphic intro of Illullissat. After 2 minutes of undulating lines, the first measures of the sequencer emerge. The rhythm waddles with good speed on an alternating movement of the jumping keys. The rhythm is hopping and a bit jerky. It's covered with delicious layers of a synth with aromas of Michael Garrison. Simply enjoyable! This rhythm sculpts its depth with a scintillating rosary of limpid arpeggios which skip in harmony with the sequenced approach while the synth layers add to the ambiences with their filiform twisted flights. Heavy pulsations and a swarm of sound effects ignite bits of hesitant solos that oversee the evolution of Illulissat. The title quietly deviates to the doors of Ice Flow and its languid Rumba tempo. All the opposite of its title, Ice Flow flows with an enormous amount of heat on a sensual beat covered with quivering synth layers which float above fine percussions sculpted on the very sensual Latin movements in a captivating cosmic atmosphere.
Snow Sequence takes place in 2 stages. First there is this intro where keyboard chords shape a slow march of cold with notes that fall and resonate on a movement of the sequencer and its delicate intertwined pulsations. Limpid beats advance like wolf steps while in the background gets drawing a stormy and jerky movement which ripples among chimes and synth streamers which cover this constantly changing rhythm. This rhythm is gaining momentum with this sequence which twists in an ascending spiral under beautiful layers of mellotron's synth. It really looks like a dance of snowflakes falling from a scarlet blue sky and which gradually wipes the winds of a storm embodied by a synth with howling breaths on a spasmodic rhythm which is reminiscent of certain approaches of Steve Roach. Glacial is a slow atonal movement where the synth breezes intersect in a very icy universe. A title which respects its naming, and which flows into the turbulent Avalanche and its intrepid journey of the sequencer where very keys run and dance in an amazing cohesion among migratory solos and heavy resonant layers. The sequencer structures a turbulent passage with a chaotic rhythm and Jeffrey Koepper maintains this infernal rhythm, except for a very brief lull in the middle, throughout the 20 minutes with heavy threatening synth waves which sink the huge blades of snow hurtling down the mountainsides. After a gentle period of calm of approximately 90 seconds, the rhythm gets heavier and the sequences pound an ardent tempo with unruly strikes which resound with strength on a spasmodic structure. Some sinuous synth layers feed a furious structure nourished with crystalline chords dancing like little devils over ice disasters. After this enormous storm of sequences, we fall into the relative calm of Greenland and its intro which undulates under the layers of an icy synth. Calm after the storm, Greenland is the most lyrical title of this album with its threatening layers of resonant synth which embrace and float under fine pulsations and keyboard chords which trace a cadence of glass. An ice cadence with rich iridescent reflections which is the strength of ARCTISONIA.
This is a powerful EM album that commands several plays before capturing the full dimension. An album which marvellously depicts the unexpected blows of climate of the Polar world, it bubbles up on rhythms which clash on structures in perpetual permutations and musical structures where the synths sport a rich sound incandescence which one does not know where to give of the ear. A great album by Jeffrey Koepper that will appeal to fans of analog music and fans of Michael Garrison and Jean-Michel Jarre from his Oxygene to Magnetic Fields era, because everything here is different while being familiar.
Sylvain Lupari (May 10th, 2011) *****
Available at Jeffrey Koepper Bandcamp