JOS D'ALMEIDA: Continent 7
“A beautiful and complex album in its melodious musical anarchy which has too many charms to be ignored”
1 Continent 7 Movement 1 (19:38)
2 Continent 7 Movement 2 (17:45)
3 Continent 7 Movement 3 (26:24)
(CD/DDL 63:54) (V.F.)
(Symphonic, cinematic EM)
The least we can say is that Jos d'Almeida knew how to measure up to his ambitions in an extremely complex album that will require a couple of listenings in order to appreciate its multiple denouements. Built on 3 long tracks, which are cut by 13 subtitles, CONTINENT 7 is a concept album revolving around the Mid-Atlantic-Ridge, which is located in the middle of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, projected into the future. The album unfolds its 64 minutes between changing structures whose styles vary between electronic music (EM) and its symphonic side with strong cinematic textures. In addition to these styles, the music revolves around atmospheric phases as rich in the high pitched tones of the synth solos as well as in its phases of electronic rhythms that are mostly moderate. The Portuguese musician-synthesist adds electric guitar textures with striking solos, adding a slight progressive touch to this work with a symphonic cinematographic dimension that flirts with the universes of Vangelis. In short, an album, available in manufactured CD as well as in 24 Bits download, which has too many charms to be sulked!
Continent 7 Movement 1 starts this new musical odyssey with a vision that is not without reminding the very oceanic one of Michael Stearns in his superb album M'Ocean. The first orchestral synth waves have these characteristics, floating like jellyfish under the warm rays of a reverberating sun. High-pitched as tender, the last synth breeze clashes with a less musical reverberating effect, leading Azores Plateau towards MODIS. This 2nd part is animated by electronic effects, like chirping, which oscillate in a rhythmic vision. A voice of goddess covers this electronic rhythm, intended to agitate our neurons, that orchestrations help even more to relegate in the background. A sequenced bass line pulses nonchalantly while the sequencer weaves an ascending, zigzagging rhythm that is very close to the Berlin School style. The synth takes advantage of this portion of the track to elaborate some good solos in a phase that takes a dramatic tangent with more intense and darker orchestral effects. These synth solos fade away to make room to guitar effects and their poignant high pitched solos. Without really overstepping its stationary axis, the rhythm remains an asset for the neurons, even when those goddess voices come back to replace the guitar torments. Continent 7 Movement 1 falls into a more ambient phase around its 12th minute when Sentinel-3 begins. Bugle effects, that we often hear during the funeral chants of the army, lead this passage that remains very beautiful, while close to our ears we hear orchestrations trying to carve a staccato effect that struggles to touch our hearing. Violins and absent voices hum their nostalgic airs whereas stars begin to twinkle under layers of wind turbulences. Voice effects come in, chattering without saying anything in an atmospheric finale that tears itself between its tumult and its serenity before big symphonic percussions sound the knell for this first long track of CONTINENT 7.
Dramatic, the opening of Continent 7 Movement 2 is woven on spasms of the sequencer that pierce a tender veil of atmospheric orchestrations. Very cinematic, this introduction feeds our ears with the curt pulsations of the sequencer which have a small organic side. Shadows of a bass add a dramatic part whose whirrs sound like timpanis thunders. A sequencer movement transforms this violent and nervous spasmodic opening into a pulsating rhythmic link that navigates between its percussive thunders. Reverberating drone effects round out this first section and lead us into the intense orchestrations of Gorringe Seamount. This striking violin salvo marries a slow staccato with a cosmic breeze in the tone. It reminds me a lot of the esoteric structures of Jean-Pierre Thanès! And I must admit that I am very comfortable with the changing structures of this CONTINENT 7. The rest becomes more dramatic with symphonic drums thundering to try to bury the Vangelis-like Gregorian voice that is the charm of Seine Seamount, while the oceanic orchestrations of Josephine Seamount end smoothly, even if some orchestral bursts remain, Continent 7 Movement 2. Exceeding 26 minutes, Continent 7 Movement 3 remains the least accessible track on this CONTINENT 7. Its opening, Condor Seamount, mixes a texture of droning waves that are laced with acrobatic, sharp synth exclamations. From cavernous to high-pitched, these ambiences slide into a procession of crystalline arpeggios that shine in a rhythmic texture beneath another divine goddess voice humming under dreamy synth layers that fight for survival between slow, twisted, shadowy synth filaments. The procession of arpeggios becomes a percussive cycle that draws a zigzagging motion from the sequencer. Crouching under this strident mass of sound, Giant Seamount moves from its wavering electronic rhythm to the mirific, ever-sharp synth solos of Great Meteor Seamount around the 8 minute mark. The sequencer continues its marvelous procession under these solos and divine starfish songs whose twinkling draws another rhythmic structure in parallel. The synth solos are trumpeting more here than elsewhere in this album, deepening this amazing texture of intensity that fills its great spheres. The guitar comes back with even more poignant solos when the atmospheric passage of The Atlantis, a few seconds before the 11th minute, is poured between our ears whose eardrums still vibrate under the impact of the last elephant trumpet tones. The solos are roaring as much as they seem to rage in this ambient phase that constantly seeks to pull out the hairs on our arms to plant a good supply of chills. There's a subtle Pink Floyd essence here as the bridges between each Continent 7 Movement 3's subtitle begin to slide into the next, like around the 14 minute mark when the synth, and its prism-filled haze, replaces the agonizing guitar harmonies with more beautiful solos. Rising up brings us to the last passage of CONTINENT 7 with Tibetan percussions making tinkle their charm between solos always very sharp in a noisy ambient passage where the sequencer starts to spasm, unraveling a fine stroboscopic rhythmic line. A rhythm that stimulates more the listening than our feet since it serves as a support to an avalanche of solos, mixing synth and guitar tones, to become a nice structure that has turned into a form of rhythmic chant.
Not really easy for the ears at the first listening, I would even add after a few listenings, the music of CONTINENT 7 possesses on the other hand several elements, the majority very poignant, which incite to listen to it again. We are surprised, as if slightly assaulted, by these multiple reorientations which sometimes sound like those too many conversations in the Tower of Babel. Except that over the listening we let ourselves subjugate by these textures which mix the seraphic universes of Thanès and Vangelis in an album that Jos d'Almeida literally conceived in order to give us shivers in moving passages, as in its bridges, which prick the curiosity of our emotions. Complex, heterogeneous...but there are moments in this album that will raise your passions.
Sylvain Lupari (June 16th, 2022) *****
Available at Jos d'Almeida Bandcamp and on CD Baby