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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Michael Brückner & Mathias Grassow Polar Vortex (2019)

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

“Another sonic immersion not always so easy to tamewhich has many seductive elements”

1 The North 18:16 2 Mirror 9:36 3 Drums of Shoom 6:00 4 The Waiting Hour 5:46 5 Xau Etách 10:29 6 Shanti 15:19

7 The Falling of Leaves (Melodic Version) 10:05

(CD 75:47) (V.F.)

(Ambient & Drones)

What's more natural than a collaboration between Mathias Grassow and Michael Brückner? Despite the multitude of associations of musical ideas which have come and go in the career of the two musicians, never the opportunity to cross their visions has occurred. We must talk to the past, since it's now done with POLAR VORTEX. And the experience is up to the expectations of fans of these two musicians with a manufactured CD almost at full capacity. POLAR VORTEX offers nearly 76 minutes of an EM composed in the ambiospherical textures of the two German musicians who, without being poles apart, have some very precise visions of ambient music and music of ambiences. Reverberant effects and luminescent synth layers become the main accomplices of a musical fauna drawn from two imaginations that are never short of ideas. The sound fauna is made up of organic as well as out of the ordinary tones, while the ambiances and the musicality are rather diversified with the presence of Cornelia Kern on piano, Doris Hach on Monochord and the voice Cilia di Ponte on Shanti Let's add the cello, the guitar and the percussions of Mathias Grassow to his anesthetic synth layers to the work of Michael Brückner on synths and keyboards, we have all the ingredients to enjoy an ambient work rich of its musical diversity.

The North plunges us into dismal atmospheres with a long guttural growl from which emerge bluish synth filaments waltzing with an orchestral philosophy in a forest where no one has yet laid down their ears. The slow layers of chimerical violins dance with groans and raucous sighs, before turning into solos agonizing in a hostile environment. Strange noises, such as long gurgles, percussive jingles and other hard-to-describe noises cling to the permutation of the resonant shadows which merge into layers of synths with more seraphic tints. Slamming of doors make our eardrums jump, changing the long course of The North. The mists become less opaque and the synth writes down some extended notes which turn into small aerial solos. The synth multiplies these solos which are always on the edge of being similar which sing with more agility, more freedom in the shadow of moaning drones. I don't know if we are in the North, but we are in a remote territory where everything can be scary, as enchanting. A piano steal the presence of floating arpeggios with isolated notes weakened by these atmospheres. Birds chirp and the sun seems to have found the northern route. But the turbulence of the atmospheres is never completely gone. The air tumult remains. The North tries to return to the dead ends of its opening. We are around 10 minutes and the piano of Cornelia Kern is timely. Crumbling its notes with the fear of getting lost, it resists this sonic and tonal turmoil. And the synth supports it with tears that flow in suspension, drawing these tasks that slip but refuse to fall on this wall of eclectic tones which has gnaw the first 17 minutes of this title that deserves to be hear more than once. Evanescent in its melody, the piano completes the torments of The North with a sensibility that we had not heard coming.

Mirror follows with a burst of hollow breezes and winds filled with crystalline drizzle in an ambient pattern and with different intensity levels. The arpeggios trapped in this gust of cold winds sound like in the universe of Vangelis, Antartica, or like those of The North. Crunches and crackles add tonus to the gloomy look of Mirror. Drums of Shoom offers a solo of percussions, kind of tom-tom, from Mathias Grassow. One would say like thunders which purr in a soundscape which will remind you of Steve Roach and Byron Metcalf, but in a more sober way. Percussive effects attract our sense hearing on this music without harmony, except for the very melancholic one from the cello which points out at the end of a title imagined for percussions. The Waiting Hour is a short track of quite disturbing vibes with a horde of sound effects that fill our ears to the brim. Yes! The more I think about it and the more the links with Vangelis, for the orchestrations here, are solid. Fascinating and seductive, we get hooked on the first listen of Xau Etách. While one expects to find this universe of gloomy ambiences, the long meditative hum helping, a series of spasmodic sequences pile up and dance in jolts. A bit like a movement of sifting. Chords with bass tones revolve around this stationary dance where you can also hear the cello draw on some strings. A thrill of intensity is felt and brings this dance on 3 chords and shakes of the sequencer towards an ambient passage where a fascinating Elvish voice awaits us. The tone is set and Xau Etách embraces a dance of wooden shoes on brick while Michael Brückner floods the sky with nice solos and synth effects rolling in loops. Extremely strange and absolutely attractive! Shanti is a purely ambient chant featuring Doris Hach and Cilia di Ponte. The voice is as seductive as the effects of the monochord whose astral blues melts into silence before returning with a crash. A confusing noise, since it was very quiet until then, which has displeased me more than anything else. But hey, nothing is perfect! The Falling of Leaves (Melodic Version) ends POLAR VORTEX with another duel between drones, cello lamentations and synth layers haloed by delicate melodious lines in a panorama of ambient elements illuminated by the songs of the stars. And one feels a slight pulse of a phantom rhythm in a structure never short of intensity.

You have probably guessed; POLAR VORTEX is not for all ears. I am fortunate enough to discover new music and new musical horizons, and I have the chance to sit down and enjoy the many projects of Michael Brückner and other artists who like to come out of their comfort zones. And I come out rarely disappointed. In fact, when I don't like, I don't talk about it! And I liked this POLAR VORTEX ...

Sylvain Lupari (May 16th, 2019) *****

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