MARTIN STÜRTZER: Dyson Sphere Alpha (2021)
Updated: May 20
“Hats off to you Martin Stürtzer for this excellent sequencer feast”
1 Exosolar Coordinates 44:02
2 Birth of Pulsar 27:49
3 Lunar Projection 13:29
4 Molecular Clouds 30:04
5 Uncharted Systems 10:36
6 Gateway Network 30:06
(DDL 156:10) (V.F.)
(Sequencer-based Berlin School)
Martin Stürtzer has been busy since the pandemic. The brilliant German synthesist has made a name for himself with his series of live performances from his studio entitled Stay at Home. DYSON SPHERE ALPHA is the result of his improvisation sessions that were offered to a growing audience in early October. This download-only album contains 6 tracks which flirt with nearly 3 hours of Berlin School style of Electronic Music (EM). Each track is designed to create a hypnotic bond with the listener who plunges into a temporary state of hibernation only to emerge invigorated by this sometimes rhythmically lifeless source of music but always with an emotion that Stürtzer shares with his guest.
And it starts with the very long Exosolar Coordinates. Its oblong woosshh crisscross the interstellar void that we imagine with our eyes glued to our ears. Already, the tone overlaps as if the musician was uncertain about the choice of his tonalities. Thus hybrid this first wave of synth blows the dark as the luminosity in first minutes where another line draws evanescent curves, like a dull Berber lamentation. A portion of the wind whistles when one sings and the other exhales its deaf reverberations which constantly seek to reverse the colors of this long introduction in order to link it to a tasty Berlin School. You have to know how to wait, and Martin Stürtzer does it right by sculpting an abstract highway where each corridor has its colors. And those of intensity rub off on the others. Each segment of Exosolar Coordinates comes with a change that stimulates the listening. There are synth blades that distance themselves by giving shivers on the surface of our arms, while others draw spatial swirls that roll on themselves. The most intense portion, the one evolving with a slow crescendo of emotionality, reaches its pinnacle when the rhythm forms after the 18th minute. The overlapping beats struggle to overcome the intensity that the dominant line of this opening has carved out of this rather musical sound mass. The rhythm is ambient and stable with a hypnotic attraction as this oblong mass of synthesized waves defends its colors and passion in front of a rhythm structure that quietly imposes its presence. It's a whole fight that settles between our ears. The stridency of the winds intensifies in front of the amplification of the sequencer which sculpts a line of rhythm with tighter and more vivid oscillations. We are in the best moment of Exosolar Coordinates as the first trumpets of the synth call for reinforcement. We've only just crossed the middle ground and the opening concedes dominance to this phase 2 of DYSON SPHERE ALPHA's longest track. Spasmodic and quavering, the rhythmic structure deploys the visions and aims of the sequencer in an established order, adding some percussive delights here and there while more incisively hammered keys add colors and fluidity. Layers of seraphic voices get inserted in this enormous synthesized veil where color and warmth are elements that always charm. We get to the 40th minute where Exosolar Coordinates shows once again that spirit of the synthesizers that have blown intensity, passion and love from a long track which deserves each of its seconds. Thus is made Exosolar Coordinates, and thus will be made the other 5 structures of this monument that the musician has just offered to his fans and the aficionados of vintage electronic music (EM).
It's a wave of reverberation that frees Birth of Pulsar from silence. This wave floats like a shadow in the tin, making its arabesques in a cosmic darkness where only the sound has a visible form behind our half-closed eyelids. Martin Stürtzer has this facility to introduce a brighter tone whose contrast is like a prick stimulating the neurons. Thus, we drift in this cosmos as if we were waltzing with our shadow in the secrets of our dimension. And when the tension drops, the stammering of the sequencer makes the music drift as if it was dissipating in front of the uncertainty of its first steps. The pace is firmer and more determined here than in Exosolar Coordinates. Responding to the bites of the drones, it draws on its reserves to create a slow, firm rhythm to which it adds keys covered of distortions, white noises. All up, all around the drone keep attacking, drawing long circles like a shrinking trap. This fight is a delight for the imagination vitaminized by so much aggressiveness. It is then, after the 18th minute, that the sequencer initiates a rhythm that is very Tangerine Dream, when Chris Franke was at the top of his art, and that brings us to the finale of Birth of Pulsar. What a way to end this one! It's in a cosmic and magnetic storm that Lunar Projection begins. This rhythmless first track relies on the ferocity of the synthesizers to produce a sonic ceiling that is low and exhales the turmoil with an atmospheric heaviness sheared by multicolored and multi-sound streaks. There is no need for rhythm here as the pulses of the synth waves provide a heavy ambient structure filled with effects as well as tones that feed the extremes. This heavy mass develops percussive elements as well as static swirls having a distorted voice form, a bit like if an aquatic creature was trying to communicate behind this armada of synth waves. Intense and ambient, Lunar Projection ends with a psybient imprint that reverberates in the echo of the various percussive effects silenced behind its heavy arrhythmic mass.
In its first minutes, Molecular Clouds is the most meditative track of DYSON SPHERE ALPHA. Its first part is illuminated by morphic synth layers with Martin Stürtzer flavors. I also like to hear these synth chants as sharp as a trumpeter on the verge of despair. All this leads to a rhythmic structure, between the 13th and 14th minute, as meditative as the bed of its ambiences. A bass line infiltrates the rhythm some 3 minutes later, bringing a low sound and a heavier rhythm with agile keys dressed in brown. I also like these effects of reverberating springs which burst while saying bizzzz...In short, a track evolving with a palette of charms as seductive, rhythm included, as the structure of Birth of Pulsar. With a lively rhythm and playing with the jumps of its echo, Uncharted Systems occupies a special place in this album. Martin Stürtzer displays his ease with the sequencer by multiplying rhythmic lines that run along and meet in a rather unique rhythmic crossroads. Its sky is decorated with resonant filaments whose reverberations have no impact on a rhythmic direction supported by an amazing coordination, we are live here, which always leaves its place to any addition. Driving and lively, even when the rhythm meets a more nourished cell of synthesizers that are still quite sober in front of this high-speed parade. A sequencer lover like me is just in heaven with this album that never ceases to surprise. And it's not with the heavy rhythm of Gateway Network, born 30 seconds after the 9th minute that it will calm down. On the contrary! Taking advantage of a context as ideal as the one in Birth of Pulsar, this track closing this imposing collection of sequencer-based style of EM goes for a heavy rhythm and whose ascending structure welcomes different outbursts of more lively sequences, more hungry for speed.
Between ambient music and electronic rhythms there is only a few minutes of difference in this amazing album dedicated to all the lovers of heavy, stationary, uplifting and/or melodic rhythms. DYSON SPHERE ALPHA is an excellent album which at first sight can be frightening with the length of the presented tracks. But everything is well balanced and no second is wasted in this impressive collection of improvised tracks played live on Sunday evenings of October 2021. Hats off to you Martin Stürtzer!
Sylvain Lupari (November 15th, 2021) *****
Available at Martin Stürtzer Bandcamp