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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari


His ambient Berlin School easily gets into the ears and leaves a pleasant imprint

1 ATMOS 1 16:23

2 Particles 12:39

3 Rain Dance 15:17

4 ATMOS 2 16:55

5 Salvador Cruising 16:33

(DDL 77:47) (V.F.)

(Ambient Berlin School)

Ken Martin is a pioneer of the English EM scene who has had a career in three stages. That of the 70's, the 90's and finally in the 2000's with an explosion of music sold in the form of CD-r's on the English label New Harmony. A prolific career with more than 200 cassettes and/or CD-r's over 45 years of music that explored all spheres of ambient and Berlin School music. I remember making an attempt in the early 2000's, but without going any further. The memory I had of it was heavy ambient music full of Klaus Schulze's 70's sound pastiches. That's pretty much what's on ATMOS, Ken Martin's debut album on Cyclical Dreams, which continues to expand its empire by adding another name to its ever-diverse catalog. This new album features 5 full-length tracks and nearly 78 minutes of high-quality EM. That is a beautiful cosmic journey that Ken Martin offers to our ears with ATMOS. The movements are slow and bathed in a finely elaborated sound atmosphere with a very invading tone.

ATMOS 1 plunges us into Ken Martin's very cosmic psybient universe with a source of melted noises that stretches and unravels with an aspect of sonic caramel. Cosmic noises and effects waltz with an anesthetizing state of weightlessness. This slow introduction evolves into a phase of ambient rhythm between the 3rd and 4th minute. Vivid oscillations structure an ascending rhythm whose flow is too fast to maintain a link with Klaus Schulze, whose sound effects are always floating along cosmic journey of ATMOS 1. These effects multiply, invading the tonal decor of the oscillations that shorten their loops. It's accentuating even more the flow that our fingers struggle to follow but which is not created for dancing. It's around the 12th minute that these loops disappear to give way to beats muffled in this tonal setting. These pulsations become short portions of the sequencer's rhythm which weaves a Berlin School too short to be appreciated. Particles is a track without musical or rhythmic life that reminds me of my first attempts to discover Ken Martin universe. It's a long track built on floating or drifting synth layers in a cosmos reinvented by the sound effects of the musician living in Spain since the beginning of the 2000's. It's not really my cup of tea, but I know that there are many followers of the genre. I must admit that the effect is striking in a listening room. Rain Dance is another track of anaesthetizing ambiences. It's also in a minimalist frame that a line of oscillations goes up, down and sneaks through many cosmic electronic effects, which have already softened our hearing, under a ceiling delimited by a mosaic of chloroformed layers.

No long introduction to start the ambient journey of ATMOS 2. The sequencer sculpts a line of ascending rhythm that oscillates, like a musical boa, in a zone of intergalactic sounds. A partial shadow gets in increasing the depth of a rhythm, welding two parallel loops jumping into a sound mass with no gaps for a jumping key to escape. If I miss the synth solos, there haven't been any since the first second of ATMOS 1, the synth layers stuck one on top of the other and the noises put in sequence are all elements that give Ken Martin's music a lot of substance. And it is even more apparent on Salvador Cruising where the repetitive movement of the sequencer, which is very Klaus Schulze period Body Love to Mirage, offers subtle variations in its oscillations which come and go in these clouds of magnetizing mist and these layers of synthesizers sewn and glued which make the charms of an ambient and animated EM. Without doing solos, the synth is definitely more creative in this track.

I enjoyed rediscovering Ken Martin's music. His ambient Berlin School easily gets into the ears and leaves a pleasant imprint. We are in the school of the minimalist EM where everything is played in the details and the English synthesist is very comfortable there. Beautiful EM made to meditate and a track like Salvador Cruising is made to be praised. The album is also available on Ken Martin's Bandcamp site. It is however more expensive but offers two long bonus tracks that are not unreleased tracks for having appeared on the Above the Horizon album.

Sylvain Lupari (May 19th, 2021) ***½**

Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp

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