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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

JIM OTTAWAY: Threshold of the Universe (2021)

A great album of ambient music deliciously lulled by Berlin School

1 Beyond Space and Time 6:41

2 Starburst in Celestial Darkness 7:46

3 Infinite Space 7:07

4 Celestial Parallax 8:23

5 Alien Star 7:49

6 Parallel Suns 7:45

7 Two Trillion Galaxies 9:20

8 Dark Matter in Distorted Starlight 8:04

9 Threshold of the Universe 6:47

(CD/DDL 70:03) (V.F.)

(Ambient Berlin School)

A peaceful humming is at the origin of Beyond Space and Time. A layer of synth illuminates these first moments with a celestial harmony that counterbalances this persistent, even if non-violent, humming. Its chant is linked with misty layers that chords of a very Edgar Froese guitar span by series of 3 repeating at more or less sustained intervals. An ascending movement of the sequencer releases a bass-pulse that climbs and climbs in a beautiful ambient Berlin School. At the same time, Jim Ottaway awakens a seductive organic percussive fauna. This new element is added to this rhythm whose ascent happens more at the level of emotions, while the 3 chords, temporarily lost, come back with more passion to exchange their harmonies with those of the more seraphic voices' layers. Surfing on the beauties of When Eternity Touches Time, the Australian synthesist delivers in THRESHOLD OF THE UNIVERSE another excellent album of calm and serene rhythms softly lulled by an ambient vision of Berlin Scholl. The sounds, their forms! This is the richness of this album which had the heavy task to survive precisely to When Eternity Touches Time. Rich of a renewed sonority, the album proposes about ten tracks that sail quietly until a sequencer's structure gives it a rhythmic direction in symbiosis with its spirit.

The next track, Starburst in Celestial Darkness, is one of the tracks that uncaps a sequenced rhythm structure fairly early on. The ambient movement is woven into that restraint that has always made Tangerine Dream's Silver Scale a seductive electronic crescendo. The synth weaves short, strident harmonic whistles that surf over the discrete bouncing movement of the sequencer. A creative sequencer that holds back its horde while dribbling its marbles here and there, until percussion, modeled on horse hooves, pushes the rhythm toward a reef of an ambient zone. A zone of atmospheric transition and its chloroform layers entwining in uncertainty. The rhythm returns more timidly than at the beginning with a jerky structure whose jolts initiate a second half marked by a renewed dynamism. In a music quite revealing of its title, Infinite Space attracts rhythm and celestial atmospheres in a circular and static swirl. The roundnesses are elastic with impulses weakened by an atmospheric density, thus emphasizing the seraphic suggestive murmurs blown by voices of cosmic goddesses. Celestial Parallax follows with a humming sound that crumbles its shadows into a tonal nebulosity. Woosshh sweep the soundscapes and keyboard riffs deposit those chords that now tinkle in the whistling cosmic winds. The track sinks into a sonic zone filled with layers and strident lines, initiating this ambient rhythm that rises and falls to disappear 90 seconds later, not even 30 seconds into the 5th minute, leaving Celestial Parallax to return to its genesis.

The echo of tinkles lost in a metallic mist; Alien Star unveils its catchy rhythm at its 30th second. A sequenced rhythm jumping with one leg shorter than the other, it seduces by this imperfection which continues its mechanism in this industrial haze and these tinklings coming from I don't know where. A beautiful synth solo, as melodious as prismatic, embellishes the ambiences of this raw electronic cha-cha while percussive effects accelerate a cadence which will be useful for the orchestrations to come. One listens to the music of Parallel Suns and one cannot miss the parallelism in this concept where two entities answer each other in an ambient track made to listen to sounds and their forms. It remains very melodic with a vibrating carpet that structures a fascinating cosmic bolero. The more we progress in THRESHOLD OF THE UNIVERSE and the more we discover little gems, confirming that the connection between our ears, our emotions to the music of Jim Ottaway is seamless. The most beautiful title of this album, Two Trillion Galaxies is a splendid lunar rhyme made of emotions and delicacy. A melody à la Reflections in Suspension, Steve Roach and his album Structures from Silence, makes its nest and its earworm, untying its somniferous chords with a circular piano ritornello. Moving and meditative, it's in my iPod, music for sleepless nights section. A very beautiful track Jim who exploits its almost 10 minutes wonderfully. Enigmatic and tenebrous, Dark Matter in Distorted Starlight proposes a dark opening nimbed with organic elements. The muffled synth bursts become fascinating chthonian whispers that contrast with this organic sharpness. The whispers become black orations in an ambience that admirably describes the Dark Ambient side of the track. Threshold of the Universe is on a par with Two Trillion Galaxies, except that here the ambient movement spreads great wings slowly flying on the harmonies of a melancholic synth. A synth that cries on these wings seeking the heights of paradise with an emotionality as great as these orchestrations that will make us cry one day. I am sure of it! What a way to close this superb album by Jim Ottaway who still knocks me over with his tonal pen and his musical odes that make dreams sprout. THRESHOLD OF THE UNIVERSE! A great album of ambient music deliciously lulled by Berlin School.

Sylvain Lupari (September 8th, 2021) ****½*

Available at Jim Ottaway Bandcamp

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