NEURONIUM: Ikigai (2022)
Updated: Aug 29
“A solid album which has this power to bind us with old memories”
1 Life is Motion 5:43
2 One Light-Year Away from You 4:27
3 La Comtesse Bipolaire 4:27
4 Le Cri du Temps 4:03
5 Cortical Refuge 5:33
6 The Thin Line of Friendship 4:32
7 No Pain no Fear 6:28
8 Shadow of Shadows 17:41
9 I Can Fly 11:33
(LP/CD 61:33) (V.F.)
You will hear a lot about Neuronium these days. Neuronium's band-project is currently on a huge second wind with the re-release of the famous Spanish band's catalog on the Japanese label Ultra-Vybe. The works are entirely remixed and remastered by Michel himself who promises a new sound envelope for each of these albums. In the meantime, the friendly Zaire-born musician offers a new album of his musical vessel, IKIGAI. This new album follows in the footsteps of Lysergic Dream with its full of meditative atmospheric passages and some rhythmic phases that establish a good balance between the two visions. The music is very beautiful with a clear propensity for Michel Huygen's solo style than for a Neuronium work like Nocny Lot - Live In Poland. But don't worry too much, the last of the great musician-fathers of electronic music (EM) in the Berlin School style has preserved the psychotronic envelope of Neuronium in many places in IKIGAI.
Life is Motion is an oneiric musical piece for voices humming a heavenly chant over the silken resonances of a synth disguised as a harp. The approach is very Vangelis in the arrangements with this emotional dose that adds a dramatic tension to a music that flirts between New Age and this astral essence unique to the music of Michel Huygen. The texture of the voices in this new Neuronium album is quite particular. In addition to using Shevannai and Vocalise 2 software, Michel recorded the voice of a friend, an extraordinary female voice by the way, which gives us chills in the very Electronica rhythm of One Light-Year Away from You which immediately reminds me of that Diva in blue from Luc Besson's movie, The 5th Element. The rhythm is very catchy with percussions that slam and resonate and those DJ effects, the woosh-a-woosh-a-woosh on a vinyl, on orchestrations built on waltz impulses. And if these voices annoy you, the first 4 tracks of the album are full of them. I'm not really a fan of the genre, but I have to admit that the way they are transposed on the synths is quite intriguing and sometimes very seductive, especially in One Light-Year Away from You and Le Cri du Temps. They are dominant in La Comtesse Bipolaire which is a kind of Berber oration with impulses and effects that flirt with the psychotronic side of Neuronium early years. Le Cri du Temps offers a similar genre but in a much more dreamlike and cinematic vision. They merge with the plaintive harmonies of the synth in a track more atmospheric than Tuareg tribal. Cortical Refuge offers a slow introduction filled with drifting violin lines. This cinematic orchestral music is delicately shaken by a fascinating rhythmic structure with delicate arpeggios which are sequenced in overlapping breaths that flutter like musical snowflakes sifted horizontally. Other arpeggios tinkle in, creating a harmonious balance between this ambient rhythm and the ethereal moods of the music. The Thin Line of Friendship's synth laments walk on the remnants of this track, which also makes tinkle a delicate harmonic rhythmic structure in a nice choreography for seductive arpeggios. The waltz of the tonalities brings to this title a very nice dose of seraphic emotivity. The tonalities and the arrangements of the synth layers which float in the second part of the title bring us back to the beginning of Neuronium.
No Pain no Fear is an ethereal ambient track with celestial voices and varied intonations in the arrangements, playing on the morose and the sharpness sides of both emotion. Same for I Can Fly. And I imagine easily by listening to these two tracks that this must be the music that brings us to Heaven! The longest track of IKIGAI, Shadow of Shadows, is also its jewel with a delicious atmospheric opening built around Neuronium's old psychotronic style. The synth layers that drift there have this old perfume of an organ that is tampered with in order to give it a vision at the same time sibylline and celestial. They flood our ears, like our listening room, with oblong sonic filaments that unfold in psychedelic volutes. The synth also unleashes this texture of celestial harmony that is filled with sighs and makes the rhythm bloom after the 5th minute. Softly, it zigzags in a pattern of small lost steps that seek to coordinate a rhythmic attack. It occurs through the multiplication of sequences whose more crystalline tone counterbalances the bass-sequences in a choreography that is still slaloming but has the weight to support big synth solos. This rhythm, as complex as a handful of peas hopping on a taut strap, stretches for a full 7 minutes before Shadow of Shadows begins its finale that exudes the meditative aromas of its opening. A superb finale filled with that Neuronium ether that gives me that irresistible urge to hear the Heritage album again. A classical album from the band!
Scents of the old Neuronium!? There are some everywhere in this very beautiful IKIGAI. Soft, sensitive and bewitching, this new album transposes marvellously the old memories that our ears have of the first albums of his cult band to more contemporary tonalities and arrangements. The fusion of the 2 poles gives a very beautiful album more meditative than rhythmic which has this power to rivet us with old memories. It is the power of the passion for the music. That of Michel Huygen.
Sylvain Lupari (August 28th, 2022) *****
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