MATTHEW STRINGER: Changing Landscapes (2018)
“This is a splendid album where the many Berlin School tracks go along with the very harmonic touch of Matthew. An album where we have the best of Perge's both worlds”
CD1 (63:56) 1 A Man with a Van 2:04 2 Sundrip 7:09 3 Ten Thousand Days 5:55 4 I Feel Laserium 14:38 5 Crystal 3:45 6 Zed Won 6:05 7 Little Novas 3:31 8 Retrospect 7:50 9 Albedo: Zero Point One Five 4:34 10 Mars 8:26
CD2 (54:10) 1 Mesentoa 8:22 2 Hypatia 11:09
3 Out of the Woodwork 14:16 4 Haumea 10:22 Perge Music
(CD/DDL 118:06) (V.F.) (Berlin School & Harmonic E-Rock)
Is it the end of Perge? There are rumors ... But with this latest solo album from Matthew Stringer, where the signature of Graham Getty is present in a few places, one can say that the succession of the mythical duo is in good hands in this period where Perge is just on a break. And it's while wanting to make a compilation of the band that the English musician notes that there is still good original material of Perge, in addition to find a good amount of his own compositions that he wrote through the sessions of the duet. Gradually, CHANGING LANDSCAPES took shape. First considered as a simple album, Matthew Stringer sees the possibility of adding his music for a second album on which also appear some titles of a totally new Perge which seems to get away from the claws of Tangerine Dream. The result is an extremely attractive and complete album with short titles and longer ones in a form of these Berlin School monuments as well as atmospheric titles. And always the harmonic signature, sometimes melancholy and sometimes joyous, of Matthew Stringer who revealed his capacities in the very good The Second Sun, one of the best albums published in 2015. The perfect recipe to give a big album of EM.
A Man with a Van comes into our ears without subtleties. It's direct and musical with synth pads which push songs in a cathedral atmosphere. The arrangements seem to be a kind of nod to the opening of the album Turn of the Tides, in a less classic version by cons. Sundrip changes the game with a light rhythm and a beautiful melody structure that cannot deny the influences of the Dream on the music of Matthew Stringer, period Logos. If the sequencer is as lively as musical with its removable fluidity, the synth is not bad either with beautiful solos enchanting. It's a very Johannes Schmoelling title. What would you do with Ten Thousand Days to live? It's a little the questioning, and the echo of his thoughts, of a synthesized voice. The following rhythm is semi slow with a beautiful Mellotron in mode singing under starry prisms. The intensity is progressing with finesse. The Mellotron becomes synth, the sequences more accentuated and some play in symbiosis with the harmonic projection in a very Peter Baumann structure, Romance 76 period. I Feel Laserium is a title written by Graham Getty and performed by Perge. And this is probably the most original title of the band, in that we hardly feel the influences of the Dream. This is a good Berlin School with a rhythmic structure supported by a tandem sequences and percussions, and which takes unexpected turns under a rain of synth riffs. The synths are in melody mode with beautiful solos and just what is needed as a bed of sound effects. A very good title! Crystal is very representative of its title with a symphony for chimes forged in ice. The flow is fluid with a beautiful harmonious approach that is lost in a very eventful finale. Zed Won is an ambient ballad modeled in the sessions of Turn of the Tides or Tyranny of Beauty. The orchestrations are dense and the melody as inspired than very inspiring. Little Novas is a short title animated by a lively movement of the sequencer that Matthew Stringer decorates with effects and arpeggios as crystalline as the solos. Retrospect is this beautiful melodious electronic ballad which was the bonus title of the album The Second Sun, while Albedo: Zero Point One Five is the vision of Matthew of this composition from Vangelis. Mars ends this first CD of CHANGING LANDSCAPES a little on the same tone as A Man with a Van but in less ceremonial. It's a title of very musical atmospheres with big strata of screaming synth which get pile up in a dark sonic sky. A sky which get clears by the insistence of a beautiful melody plays on piano and which hatches with panache in beautiful orchestrations. The influences of Schmoelling are also very present in this title.
The CD2 contains 4 long titles that are all related to the Berlin School style. After an opening filled with layers of synths which intertwine their visions of moods and defeat their songs filled of angelic trumpets, Mesentoa explodes with an infernal rhythm. An ostinato rhythm that is as lively as it is fluid and well supported by equally nervous percussions. Here, the programming of the sequencer, ditto for Out of the Woodwork, is the business of Graham Getty. The moods are actually very TD for synths and the harmonic solos. The structure is quite personal to the new sound of Perge, as in I Feel Laserium. Adorned of splendid solos, the stubborn rhythm gradually fades, attracting Mesentoa in a final as much very ethereal as TD with nice solos which sing on sequences still hot and ready to explode. Hypatia is more ambient and is born of the mysteries and the nebulous tones of EM. Synthetic graffiti adorn an acrylic mist where fragments of very evasive melodies and a bass pulsation without ambition are heard. A keyboard weaves hopping notes in order to build a more melodic opening when a sequencer emerges from this sonic fog to sculpt the sharp leaps of a motionless rhythm. The added percussions bring more strength to Hypatia, joining the harmonious portion of the title. But it's too little too late, since the rhythm becomes cocoon again and the harmonies are melting in a decor now richer of its emotive ambiences and of its solos which are more emotive than musical. Out of the Woodwork is my favorite title of the 2nd CD, and possibly of CHANGING LANDSCAPES. Here, Perge, as on I Feel Laserium and Mesentoa, surpasses itself with an envelope, a musical imprint, of its own. This makes some catchy rhythms for the neurons and the cravings of a Berlin School fan. And the sequencer here is in mode; run after me so that I'll make you damn. Two lines of rhythmic sequences, and a more harmonic one, as well as electronic percussions leave a living imprint which perfectly supports the weight of lost narrations in its structure. The nature of the tones varies with some organic spikes and some more limpid balls which add up nervously on a rhythmic conveyor. The solos are simply splendid and fly like spectrums of melodies which charm in these 15 minutes simply majestic. Composed by Matthew Stringer, the structure of Haumea shows that the latter is as comfortable behind a sequencer as his piano or his synths. Emerging gently from its atmospheres, the title clings to a good electronic rock and its tempo which makes us easily stamp foot and where nestles a beautiful melody in a very TD style of the Virgin years. The sharp oscillations of a sequencer push Haumea to a more furious rhythm, thus setting the table to Graham Charman for heavy and incisive guitar solos that sound very Frank Dorittke, otherwise Zlatko Perica. The violence of Haumea melts in a foggy finale and a morphic atmosphere, as if the music was going to enjoy again its change of sonic landscapes.
This excellent album comes with a 3rd CD if one buys the album in download . There is nearly 40 more minutes on this CD which hides 5 tracks ranging from 3 to 13 minutes. The music is good with more moments of ambience. Bip is a good and very catchy electronic rock with a good synth-guitar solo. The Fluidity of Memory is a title of rather meditative moods with a nice touch of emotion which reaches its limit with the arrival of a nice dreamy acoustic guitar. Emodius is a long title of ambiences dotted with samplings of nature and which ends with a piano in nostalgia mode. The intensity of the atmospherical fog buries the presence of the piano. Tock is a good ballad which is very New Age. And Makemake vibrates too much in my speakers with its structure as heavy and intense as in Emodius. Unless you absolutely want to dance on Bip, this 3rd CD is not essential. This is bonus material which doesn't alter the richness and the depth of this splendid album from Matthew Stringer. In the end, CHANGING LANDSCAPES is an impressive tour-de-force of an incredible depth and which makes me say from the tip of my lips; Perge is dead, long live Matthew Stringer! But I don't want to. We can easily live with the 2 and I miss Perge. Especially if its orientations are redefined by the titles present in CHANGING LANDSCAPES where we have the best of both worlds from Perge.
Sylvain Lupari (June 18th, 2018) ****½*
Available on Perge Bandcamp