LA PONTO ENSEMBLO: The Screaming Sky of Mike Stravinsky (2022)
“The best of the three works, without a doubt!”
1 A Screaming Sky 7:03
2 Mike's Dream 6:50
3 Navagating in Calabi-Yau Space 10:44
4 On Being & Becoming 7:46
5 A Sexual Encounter in the Icehouse 5:10
6 Track to the End of the World 6:34
7 PediCab 6:07
8 Tickle Grass 9:22
9 Mike's Lull 7:12
10 Where is My Past 5:00
11 Songs and Rituals of the New Universe 4:43
(DDL 76:33) (V.F.)
(Art for Ears Ambient, Experimental)
Here we finally come to the third and final part of La Ponto Ensemblo's trilogy that started with the enigmatic The CERN Diaries. With THE SCREAMING SKY OF MIKE STRAVINSKY, Hans-Dieter Schmidt and E-Clark Cornell conclude the seemingly true story of Mike Stravinsky, a former marketing manager who is now mentally damaged. He is the Ishmael Crane of this terrible human tragedy who is still searching for his identity in a strange geometric world. To complete this trilogy, the duo has added the services of Michael Hoffmann who is very effective on percussions. His presence enhances this art-rock and neo-classical texture by creating a rhythmic parallel universe totally disconnected from reality, a bit as if he was also in another universe.
A Screaming Sky takes us out of the usual paths of this trilogy with an almost Native American tribal rhythmic vision. The percussions are delicate and structure this incantatory rhythm, which is filled with guitar solo's samplings, very realistic by the way with pinched chords, taken from the Omnisphere 2 synth. The atmosphere and the structure are changing with points of emotivities, as much blurry, in a good title whose meditative rhythm makes me think of some good Daniel Lanois' vibes. Mike Stravinsky's mind is tormented, and this is well explained in music on Mike's Dream, a difficult track that requires a few listens and that is in close correlation with its title. That's what gives it all its appeal. Over a nest of reverberations with mixed tones and twisted waves, Navagating in Calabi-Yau Space offers an ambient texture barely shaken by percussive elements with gauzy felts. Elastic chords, sounding like plucked strings, stretch their substance in this fascinating texture that accelerates its pace with percussions that seem to run after some oxygen. Navigating between these brief bursts and ambient phases, fueled by these waves contorting under a scarlet sky, Navagating in Calabi-Yau Space provides an auditory pleasure that is not to be sneezed at, being quite close to the ambiences of A Screaming Sky. A piano lost under a cloud of waves and drones, On Being & Becoming borrows the same musical scenario with percussion rolls of a Tabla kind. Its vision is more ethereal with sibylline synth lines and ectoplasmic waves that get lost in the tom-toms. A Sexual Encounter in the Icehouse takes us into a very ambient phase with long synth shadows where a boiling tonal fauna is hidden. Piano chords invite us in, as do high-pitched distortions and woosshh that stretch into a daydream vision. The ambiences swing between meditation and agitation without bringing any rhythm, just phases of melodies lost by this piano that has to fight its own sound spirits.
The symphonic opening of Track to the End of the World gives it a good cinematic texture. This delightful texture slowly turns into a nightmarish vision with spectral shadows and synth streaks screaming with despair. The more we move forward and the more we enter in a sordid universe where the sounds have less importance than this orchestral envelope that screws us to our headphones until the coming of the beats and the salvos of violins by jerks. An intense track in terms of its setting with a finale where loneliness weighs under a rain of crackling. We call that being in connection with his universe and it is one of the biggest qualities of La Ponto Ensemblo. PediCab is in the pure tradition of the dissonant structures of Hans-Dieter Schmidt and E-Clark Cornell. Dominated by a piano in search of melody and constantly disrupted by percussion attacks, the track stands out with these extremes fighting under synth peaceful waves. Flooded with lapping, Tickle Grass is victim of the same fight. Percussive drumsticks give the impression that Mike Stravinsky is martyrizing his typewriter by attacking his page with violent writing impulses at times. Michael Hoffmann gives himself to percussions here. Percussions which dismember its own art-rock. The atmospheres benefit from beautiful layers of voices which hum an absent air whereas the piano seems more lost here than in the previous title. Tickle Grass loses its control, but in a context such as THE SCREAMING SKY OF MIKE STRAVINSKY are we really surprised? Mike's Lull is more relaxing and musical than Ishmael's in ISHMAEL at Quintessence. And the piano is as relaxing as beautiful! Beautiful as in Where is My Past and its fascinating duel with an imaginary violin. I think the music fits the reality of its title. The voices and orchestrations of Songs and Rituals of the New Universe give us those shivers that crumble the shell of our soul. But as we know La Ponto Ensemblo, adding a discordant element is the norm. And the beauty is that it doesn't alter the angelic brilliance of this track that shines even more with nice arpeggios that glisten around the percussion hits. A finale that exceeds our expectations and that had been gradually established since PediCab. And suddenly, I feel sad at the idea that this famous trilogy is over.
Discovering this Mike Stravinsky's story was not an easy task. The first two parts took me a few listens in order to fully assimilate this story told in a musical elitism where even the neo-classical lost its bearings. The addition of Michael Hoffmann gives a spark of life that was missing in ISHMAEL at Quintessence, the most difficult of this trilogy, and to The CERN Diaries. THE SCREAMING SKY OF MIKE STRAVINSKY comes full circle in a brilliant way by being as imposing as refreshing. The best of the three works, without a doubt. Don't forget your Mike Stravinsky book by ordering one of the parts of this real tour-de-force by La Ponto Ensemblo.
Sylvain Lupari (February 26th, 2022) ****½*
Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp