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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

JUSTIN VANDERBERG: Synthetic Memories (2011)

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

Synthetic Memories' beauty has of equal only its musical purity

1 From Below (9:29)

2 When I Walk (4:08)

3 Synthetic Memories (13:06)

4 67 (8:17)

5 The Path (7:30)

6 Dusk (8:05)

7 Drops (5:16)

8 Cold Brightness (8:58)

(DDL 64:09) (V.F.)

(Melodious Ambient)

Oh, how beautiful it is! It's a little marvel of contemplative music and a pure musical enchantment that Justin Vanderberg offers us as a first album on the Spotted Peccary label. Woven on the reflections and questionings of memories and their realities, SYNTHETIC MEMORIES magically flows into our ears to stir the innermost recesses of our soul. It's a majestic musical adventure that breathes by our bewitchment throughout its taming. The album breathes tranquility on 8 tracks with rhythms and ambiences that intertwine in an amazing symbiosis where morphic and oneiric layers flirt with fine sequenced flights. This second album by Justin Vanderberg is a small masterpiece of wordless poetry and a splendid album of incredible musical depth that will captivate your ears as much as your emotions.

Winds, or astral whispers, stir up elements of life to initiate the superb From Below, a track composed with Jon Jenkins. Steve Roach-like tribal percussion beats through synth waves that seem to caress inner-spiritual waves, while a hypnotic rhythm submerges our aura. Thin guitar chords trail through the ethereal ambiences, drawing delicate loops that float and roll over a rhythm built of heavier pulses and poundings. This rhythm measures up to the emotional amplitude of our soul, as limpid piano notes emerge from oblivion to forge a melody lost among ancestral rhythms that dance in morphic moods, sculpting musical memories as distant as the early works of Patrick O'Hearn and those of Steve Roach's more deserted ones. Arguably one of the most beautiful titles of 2011, From Below is bursting with passion and emotion, reaching its climax in a finale that will make our last pent-up passion capsize. When I Walk follows the angelic ashes of From Below with a beautiful melodic approach where the piano notes run with drummed pulses under the breath of an iridescent synth that pushes its astral waves towards the intro of Synthetic Memories. The title-track is the heart of it! The climax of the emotions converges there to filter the doubts which will emerge on more tempered and more poetic tracks. But for now, SYNTHETIC MEMORIES' longest track awakens its sequenced pulses from the claws of a morphic synth. They run and undulate with finesse. Following the curve of sinuous waves that blow like enslaved choirs, merging wonderfully the ethereal elements and the drummed sequences in a musical canvas where the constant rhythm adopts the quietness of the ambient elements. The pulsating sequences may well boast other more heterogeneous, metallic and organic pulsations, but this does not alter the ambience of serenity that prevails throughout the gentle rhythmic evolution of Synthetic Memories.

Fine oscillations subtly modify the long journey of 67, a pure ode to serenity where one perceives the clear influence of Steve Roach on the ambient movements of Justin Vanderberg. Fragile, limpid arpeggios chime punctually and follow the fine inflections that feed this oblong linear movement where sweet morphic lines undulate and entwine in nice and obscure angelic breaths. These limpid arpeggios are the epicenter of the morphic, and sequenced melodies found in the album. They shimmer and swirl with the grace of winds on The Path, another good and subjugating track where glass sequences twirl around fine drumming and heavy silver winds. With its slow morphic but still quite musical phases, Dusk carries the dust of its slow, dark winds up to the melodic quietude of Drops and its piano notes that fall with a nice canon effect in a strange cerebral carousel. A nice melody escapes from it. Playing on the mathematical chords, it slips into our ears with a virginal candor to continue its chiming road towards the musical tremolos, the dark and iridescent winds of Cold Brightness, concretizing the subliminal beauty of this superb opus that is SYNTHETIC MEMORIES.

I know that I tend to get carried away and that my somewhat juvenile emotions resurface when my ears come across a work of such sensitivity. While SYNTHETIC MEMORIES is not typical of the heavy sequenced works, its beauty is matched only by its musical purity. With its skillful mix of dreamy rhythms and celestial atmospheres, this album will stir your emotions. Without doubt the most beautiful musical one of 2011, this album is an imperative that must appear in your record collection, and this no matter if you are a fan of heavy Berlin School or ambient music because this album is a perfect symbiosis of the 2 genres but with more depth and clarity.

Sylvain Lupari (January 8th, 2012) ****½*

Available at Spotted Peccary Bandcamp

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