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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

John Scott Shepherd Realms Beyond (2021)

Updated: Nov 5, 2022

And if I had an album to listen while spying the night sky, it will be this one

1 Cartesian Space 5:11

2 Waves of Lenthor 9:22

3 Docucon 3:02

4 The Bridge 3:44

5 The Stroll II 5:30

6 Realms Beyond 7:37

7 Genesis 3:54

8 Neptune 2:51

9 The Haunting 7:31

(DDL 48:46) (V.F.)

(Experimental, Alien EM)

By casting too wide a net, it was only a matter of time before Cyclical Dreams stumbled. Already, the last albums of the Argentinean label showed signs that electronic music (EM) was moving away from a wider audience by offering albums with more experimental themes. But always, the quality was there. REALMS BEYOND is a strange album with a very 70's time signature. A fusion between the labels Audion and Coda seems to me to be the best example to better define the ambiences of this album. It must also be said that John Scott Shepherd is quite a character! We can also seize all of his dimension in a documentary entitled John Was Trying to Contact Aliens available on Netflix. The man believes in little green men and develops his musical strategy around possible means of communication. That's what you have to understand by unpacking the 9 structures of this REALMS BEYOND. Fascinated by synthesizers since always, this native of Chicago has built over time different sound sources serving to establish a first contact. Veins or not, these attempts have initiated nearly 60 tracks that he makes available on his Bandcamp page. This first album on Cyclical Dreams is composed of improvised and recorded live in stereo. There is no overdub nor mastering. It gives a vintage sound that is in line with the first electronic experiments and whose numerous winks do not add anything to what we have already heard or to what have influenced John Scott Shepherd.

Cartesian Space sets the mood for this album with an oblong synth layer, with a tone flirting with that of an organ, that descends to our ears to collect an electronic dialect with an alien sound. Waves of Lenthor elaborates a structure which rolls on itself. Fracturing in loops, the synth splits its second layer into zigzagging harmonies that rise and fall in a Berlin School-like sequenced structure. It reminds me of Synergy's Cords album. An excellent repetitive track with just the right amount of nuance to keep us from getting bored. Docucon is a short pulsating track that travels to Adelbert Von Deyen's first sequenced analogue rhythm. In a similar vein, The Bridge exploits a more aggressive texture knotted over staccato rushes while favoring a psychedelic setting. More ambient, The Stroll II features two complementary tonal synth layers above an ambient rhythm structure that moves forward like a sped-up walk. The title-track is a continuous avalanche of synth layers that wave and fall over an ascending rhythm structure. The scent of old Klaus Schulze floods my eardrums on this track. Genesis has the most contemporary tone of REALMS BEYOND. An immensely cosmic track attached to beautiful oscillations, both harmonic and rhythmic, that waltz with the stars. Is there a magnetic storm near Neptune? Because this is cacophony bursting out in jerks. The Haunting ends this album with Tangerine Dream-toned synth pads, Wavelength-like, that move forward in a processional form that respects the vision of its title.

The problem with REALMS BEYOND is that it seems to be designed track by track that have no connection between them. A bit like the 56 tracks that furnish John Scott Shepherd's Bandcamp space. This lack of homogeneity becomes annoying. But taken one by one, we find good pieces of music that make us travel in time. And if I had an EM album to listen to in a field on an evening when the stars seem to be within reach, I would certainly think of this REALMS BEYOND.

Sylvain Lupari (December 4th, 2021) *****

Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp

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