JOHN CHRISTIAN: Via Australis (2022)
“A must, in every sense of the word, for fans of TD's 80 tours and of percussions/sequencers' driven beats”
1 North Bank 25:58
2 South Street 27:19
(CD/DDL 53:18) (V.F.)
(E-Rock, England School)
This new John Christian album on the Groove nl label is based on the rehearsals of the English musician-synthesist on the sidelines of his concert for Leafcutter John's opening act at the South Street Arts Centre in Reading, the hometown of the member of the England's trio Airsculpture. It was an evening for aficionados of electronic music (EM) made from synth modulars. And for this event, John Christian planned to use mainly his Nord Modular G2. It's in the week which preceded this show that he polished up the main lines of VIA AUSTRALIS with good rehearsal sessions which led him to the making of this album. VIA AUSTRALIS is not an album of rehearsal sessions! But the final product of these sessions where the English musician added all the elements to make a complete work which, if breathes a little improvisation, is freely inspired by the tour of the beginning of the 80s of a certain mythical trio of Berlin. The album offers nothing less than 2 long tracks of progressive EM on strong electronic percussion patterns and sequences with twists close to the roots of Tangerine Dream, both in the evolution of the music and the use of the sequencer. And unlike Glis Glis, John Christian strikes at the heart of his influences with an album that Airsculpture could have made.
The sound of waves rolling over our neurons chews our ears as North Bank opens. Already, we feel this impression of déjà heard in this introduction which breathes the sonorous strangeness of the 86 tour of Tangerine Dream, like those of the English bands AirSculpture and/or Radio Massacre International. These waves become a lost hubbub in a train station filled with birds and bipeds to hear the chirpings and the footsteps on the ceramic floor. From waves of water to waves of noises and now bursts of sounds from a jet engine, the sounds and their ability to astonish carry the first 5 minutes of this opening track to VIA AUSTRALIS on the rails of a rhythm that the clattering of cymbals make sound to what you hear when a train rolls over each sleeper of its route. Percussive slams and gas jet effects enliven the structure after the 5 minute mark. Synth layers are forming a halo of sonic radioactivity as quietly, North Bank's stationary rhythm gets bludgeoned by good percussions. Another swarm of percussive elements is added to this compact rhythmic mass which is not really catchy for the feet but very seductive for the ears which are invaded by the immense possibilities of modular electronic art. The buzzing pulsations of a bass line come then to enrich this rhythmic stride, redefining its standard with its organic impact. The keyboards extend a language of its own in the world of synthesizers with chirps that cackle in symbiosis with the reverberating, droning effect of a bass without rhythmic harmonies. Everything is in suspension in this passage which softens its shocks to undertake a first atmospheric bridge around the 13th minute. These atmospheric elements weave a universe between a sibylline and an industrial vision over a distance of 2 minutes. The rhythm resumes in this ambience with taps that describe a slightly out of balance structure where oscillations are grafted rolling in loops. Slowly, John Christian breathes in the first musical part of VIA AUSTRALIS with a line of sequences that flicker vividly on barely chthonian synth waves. These sequences are as much melodic as rhythmic, even if this rhythm remains to be defined, on a background structure that rises and falls in the pure Berlin School tradition. The flights of the synth layers also describe harmonic ascents with tints that recall that Cosmos as well as the psychedelic music of the 70's were holding their influences over EM. Notably with this finale, which picks up on the ambiences of the opening and which ends the track 10 minutes later. If the first part of South Street is similar, in time and genre, to North Bank, its second half, also born at the 15th minute, offers nothing less than the best passage of this new album from the Airsculpture's member. The sequencer, as feverish and flickering as ever, takes the path of a Chris Franke pattern in a very good moment that reminds of the best Tangerine Dream live performances in the early 80's. A must, in every sense of the word, for the fans of the genre!
Sylvain Lupari (May 11th, 2022) ****¼*
Available at Groove nl