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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

LA PONTO ENSEMBLO: ISHMAEL at Quintessence (2022)

An album as complicated and surreal as its story with nice piano textures

1 Malfermi 4:17

2 Drifting and Flowing 7:54

3 Fyre (in the sea) 5:19

4 Transcendental Pulpit 8:32

5 His Face 7:56

6 River, River 9:38

7 Ishmael's Lament 6:32

8 Open Water 4:56

9 The Public Burning of Wooden Pianos 3:45

10 1/4 tone Prepared Metal Piano 2:59

11 Tidal Jump 4:26

12 Ishmael's Lull 6:18

(DDL 72:36) (V.F.)

(Art for Ears, Experimental)

It's with sweetness, melody and melancholy that the delicate piano in Malfermi introduces us to the second volume of a trilogy that will be completed in a week from La Ponto Ensemblo. This time, the new universe of The CERN Diaries had to go back in time to recreate a past in ISHMAEL at Quintessence. This new stage is set in 1855 and Ishmael Crane has become an observer of things like metal pianos that can play directly into the ether and flying machines that are organic. The stage is set for an album as complicated and surreal as its story, with structures that change faces to blow hot and cold on the alarming visions they project. Not looking for the usual electronic music (EM) structures here, Hans-Dieter Schmidt and E-Clark Cornell are more interested in exploiting orchestral structures that expose an almost eerie dramatic approach. A fusion between Philip Glass and Max Richter! If the melodic approaches are better defined and more present than in The CERN Diaries, the musical structures are woven of moments of quietude or simply shaken by violent orchestral explosions.

Intense and implacable, the structure of Drifting and Flowing reflects the spirit of its title with this sensation of sinking through these arrangements which paint an edgy water and its waves which are also its predators. The piano is always as thoughtful with its notes which drag in an orchestral decor nourished of an ambiguity which serves very well the cinematographic vision of the album. If Drifting and Flowing is emotionally intense, Fyre (in the sea) is even more so with violent staccato arrangements which shake the ambiences with the energy of a fire on water. We are in a difficult portion of the album with this track and the long abyssal descent of Transcendental Pulpit. The synth lines carve out a slow agony that is picked up by the solemn march of a piano that just can't quite balance out the ambiences of the track. The first draft of anguished ambiences is drawn on this title which is chased by a feeling of serenity with the starry arpeggios which dance vaporously between notes of electric piano that are stuck on a discreet muted rhythm with a slightly Jazzy intimist flavor on His Face. River, River takes up some of the metallic pain ambiences felt in Fyre (in the sea). The dissonant approach merges with more musical moments where the music radiates its most beautiful intonations in a sonically shifted structure that is undoubtedly explained by this parallel universe in which Ishmael Crane is looking for answers.

Does he find them in Ishmael's Lament? This title proposes a nice texture of melancholic piano in a sound environment marked by quavering rustlings (anguish?) and by a more beautiful harmonious vision when the violin makes its strings cry in the shade of a dominant piano. A very beautiful title which makes breathe its melancholy from the first to its last note. And it is so much better because Open Water is an anguishing cinematographic title with its tenebrous envelope and its jerks of violins behind a nightmarish decoration. The orchestrations develop in a tormented vision with a voice ululating of fear in the background. Chills guaranteed! The Public Burning of Wooden Pianos is an elusive track with a strange atmosphere where Tibetan string chords mix with reverberations muffled by a ghostly musical envelope. We are now in the 2nd difficult portion of the album, and we are still swimming in incomprehension with 1/4 tone Prepared Metal Piano which breathes by a structure such as Drifting and Flowing. Always imprecise, the title offers a more musical second part, whereas Tidal Jump pursues this quest where the abstract flirts with an unfinished melodious vision. Ishmael's Lull highlights the complex personality of the character with two piano textures, one melodic and the other random of his gait, sharpen their emotions on a structure as torn as this dark hero of an incredible story and his odyssey between parallel universes. The suite and finale soon...

Sylvain Lupari (February 25th, 2022) ***½**

Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp

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