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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

NEURONIUM: Quasar 2C361 (1977)

A must have to understand the nuances and the evolution of EM from then to now

1 Quasar 2C361 26:32

2 Catalepsia 8:34

3 El Valle De Rimac 5:15

4 Turo Park 4:22

Harvest – 10C062-021.442

(LP/CD 44:37) (V.F.)

(Psychotronic EM, Ambient)

Unless you were one of the very first followers of this new musical trend that was electronic music (EM) in the early 70's, you may not know Neuronium. Formed by keyboardists Michel Huygen and Carlos Guirao as well as guitarist Albert Gimenez, this new trio relies on the brilliance of Tangerine Dream's Stratosfear album to find a certain fervor in independent record stores around the world via imports. That's how I got hold of their classic album Heritage in 1984, while this QUASAR 2C361 was well hidden in a used vinyl store around the same time. So, this very first Neuronium album was going to be the second one I would hear since it was very difficult to get their albums in North America, unless you were well connected with the local record store owner. A false friendship I knew and that required a lot of dollars! And again, the only other album I was able to purchase via these imports was Digital Dream, after the purchase of Heritage. This preamble is just to say that if at the time it was difficult to get their albums, the task is not easier in this period where music abounds everywhere in the Far-West of the Internet. Like all of Neuronium's first albums, QUASAR 2C361 is nowhere to be found. There was a remaster around 2004, but this release seems to go by unnoticed. In fact, with rumors that Kitaro's, who is a good friend of the Belgian musician, label Domo Music Group would be interested in remastering and selling Neuronium's catalog, the only way to discover the universe of this once mythical Spanish band is through online listening networks. Like Spotify and Apple! I think it's a shame since it restricts music lovers to share illegal music files, mainly in flac, to properly hear the very esoteric sounds of this trio that became the solo project of a superb musician, Michel Huygen, who will fill our ears with small musical gems over 4 decades.

Contrary to many critics and observers, I do not believe that Neuronium's music is an attempt to imitate the universes of Klaus Schulze, Ashra and/or Tangerine Dream. On the contrary! We are talking about a refined EM where the trio sculpts very textural tones unique to their music which is situated between the Cosmos and a door to the darkness. This mixture of sounds that embrace a psychedelic and electronic period will become the aesthetic signature of the band and will be called psychotronic. Moreover, Michel Huygen's gang prefers to make their music evolve between long phases of ambiences and rhythms that overlap in a chloroformed nature. Like the excellent eponymous title of this album which begins with synthesizer warbles. They stretch like chants of ectoplasms shivering in a sound fauna filled with cosmic noises and on the shroud put down by a chloroformed synthesizer layer. Between a cosmic and sibylline essence, these sonorities become a portal towards the unknown which invites a very beautiful acoustic guitar to lay down an evasive meditative ballad. The fluty air of a Mellotron accompanies this acoustic six-strings ballad into Cosmos with a melody as ethereal that wilts in the layers of organ and synth whose slow undulations are like those roads that the inhalation of ether makes us distorted. There follows a moment of anaesthetizing ambiences where lap-steel guitar, mellotron and synthesizer sufferings, similar to the laments of the Ondes Martenot, get comforted in a spectral decor which seems to melt between our ears.

These first 12 minutes of Quasar 2C361 will become the trademark of the Neuronium overtures. These elements of chloroform-diluted harmonies are transposed onto a rhythmic structure braided by vivid oscillations sequenced on a metronomic bass sequence beat. The mixture gives a spasmodic rhythm structure that is very appealing to the neurons, not to mention the fingers, where banks of artificial haze fly and where good guitar solos twirl around. This is a great moment of sustained rhythm over a distance of more or less 9 minutes with a level of intensity proper to the rhythms of the TD's sequencers. The last minutes of Quasar 2C361 resurrect these first ones in a shorter ambient choreography whose charms belong to this classical guitar and to the Mellotron, until a form of apocalypse lays this superb long title down for good! Shorter, the very good Catalepsia is nevertheless built on the same principles as the long and seductive opening title to this first album of Huygen, Guirao and Gimenez. Moreover, the guitar of the latter is very poignant with solos that tear a part of our soul, while the whispers of the synth make us cross to the other side of the darkness. After a short opening where this feeling that the music distorts itself upon contact with our hearing, El Valle De Rimac lays the foundation for an atmospheric track with its swarm of layers that pile up in a slow waltz movement without contacts, nor another dancer. The ectoplasmic airs are bursting with emotion in this track while the mellotron is divinely enchanting. The shortest track of QUASAR 2C361, and despite the turbulence of children in a park, Turo Park embraces too the same principle of ambient track with synth layers whose slow flights whisper these humming of ghosts which haunt us since the first second of this brilliant album of Neuronium which leaves here a whole calling card. A must have to understand the nuances and the evolution of EM from the 70's to nowadays.

Sylvain Lupari (May 3rd, 2022) *****

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