MICHAEL STEARNS: Chronos (1985)
“Michael Stearns' Chronos has changed my perception of EM where I understood that EM could definitely have a soul”
1 Movement 2 Corridors of Time 3 Essence and the Ancients 4 Angels, Bells and Pastorale 5 Escalator 6 Voices 7 Portraits 8 Ride (Finale) Sonic Atmospheres| RB1 4009
(CD 41:44) (V.F.)
Would it surprise you if I tell that me, a music lover animated by frenzied sequencers, I admire this masterpiece? In fact, this CHRONOS album from Michael Stearns is part of my list of 10 albums that would follow me everywhere? This is indeed the case. When I started my progression and learning on the spheres of EM, I was more in search of sequencer-based music than ambient of the Ricochet (TD) and Black Dance (Schulze) genres. Then came Jean-Michel Jarre and the digital eras of Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream and Software. Again, I was not attracted by so-called ambience or purely floating music, apart from the works of Schulze and TD that I was slowly learning. Then one day I stumble upon Ron Fricke's documentary. The beautiful and daring images flowed so well with the music that it piqued my curiosity. And what impressed me the most was the finale with this huge impulse that reminded me so much of Jarre's cosmic rhythms that I decided to buy the album. A gesture that I have never regretted! His apprenticeship was more difficult than envisioned! CHRONOS! It's more than 40 minutes of a haunting music where there are some striking passages from where this progressive enchantment that believes as and as it is discovered. The music is full of spatial modulations and subtle fragmentation of sounds that are discovered listening to listening, constantly renewing a new auditory vision. One can not be closer to the cosmos and life on earth than listening to CHRONOS; a deep cosmic symphony that takes place in a long 43 minutes in a cosmic symphony segmented into 8 parts. With the use of his Serge Synth modular system, Michael Stearns draws the lines of a timeless, exceptional journey that adapts so well to Ron Fricke's remarkable documentary. Each key, modulation, buzzing, movement, sequence, percussion, bass bite and spiraled descent, as ascension, is wonderfully crafted with an astonishing parallelism that we are entitled to ask ourselves if Ron Fricke didn't modify the editing of his documentary in order to give Michael Stearns' music a lot of latitude, because no soundtrack is so close to its subject than here. The terrestrial and aerial spaces, the long plains, the cosmos, the big cities and the tracing of the spiritual and corporal lights which follow each movement like auras luminous; Stearns espouses each image of the film with an astonishing precision and a remarkable creative vision.
Faint chimes ring in a deep darkness where thin layers of synths get intertwining with fragility under the rotary eye of a cosmic black lighthouse. This is how Movement infiltrates our ears. Dark and intense, the first act of CHRONOS is illuminated with the superb harmonic layers of Corridors of Time that flow and flow with an amazing cosmic poetry. Poignant and morphic, the synth radiates strata with suave celestial harmonies that merge into a powerful empirical crescendo to get lost in the atmospheric limbo of Essence and the Ancients. There where are crying these strata which are now devoid of rhythmic frame. Like sighs of ghosts, they wander in the confines of emptiness embracing these chords of Constance Demby' Space Bass to flee towards the heavy cathedral layers à la Jean-Michel Jarre which separate Essence and the Ancients from the tender and very meditative Angels , Bells and Pastorale. Again, Michael Stearns surprises with such tenderness and sweetness. The spectral sighs are transformed into flute songs, which follow the same forms, bringing the listener to the concert of the temporal bells. They tinkle and resound around a faint prismic glow and the jeremiads of a synth whose missing lines express a last wish before climbing the steps of Escalator where each key draw imaginary marches that turn into a powerful vertiginous whirlwind. This furious spiral is stifling itself in the stars with the choir of Voices that whisper and sing the promise of time on a delicate movement that has turned into a good ethereal choir that blows thin lines of silk in a ghostly atmosphere. Quietly we head to Portraits, another delicate passage that we would want endlessly. The synth cries tears of crystal falling under the charms of a fluty breeze. These winds tickle chimes that tinkle delicately amidst extinguished voices as one discerns a heavy and threatening explosion that resounds with a crash. It releases the titanic fury of Ride (Finale) which loops the loop with a very Jean-Michel Jarre approach, thus confirming CHRONOS in its timeless album of cosmic music.
This Michael Stearns album has radically changed my perception of EM. It was with CHRONOS that I realized that EM could definitely have a soul. The softness of Voices will remain anchored in my memory until she can remember it. And the beauty of CHRONOS is multiplied by ten with the vision of filmmaker Ron Fricke. If viewing this documentary is not an obligation to appreciate the richness of Michael Stearns' music, it's nonetheless an excellent complement to a work that has not taken a ride and that will remain in my top 10 despite the avalanche of EM that I've bought and received since the 70's.
Sylvain Lupari (April 6th, 2007) *****