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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Neuronium The Harvest Years (Quasar 2C361 + Vuelo Quimico) (2023)

This 2 CD set takes us back to the heart of the artistic effervescence that was the 70's Berlin School

CD1 (45:23)

1 Quasar 2C361 26:35

2 Catalepsia 8:34

3 El Valle De Rimac 5:49

4 Turo Park 4:25

CD2 (37:13)

1 Abismos De Terciopelo 19:59

2 Viento Sola 3:10

3 Vuelo Quimico 14:04

(2CD 82:36) (V.F.)

(Berlin School, Psycho vibes)

Well, it was about time many would say! And I'm one of them. After all, who, especially in North America, can boast a collection of Neuronium albums? In particular, the first albums from Michel Huygen's project. Well, this possibility is now within everyone's reach, thanks to a remastering project of the Hispano-Belgian band's first 2 albums on the Harvest label: Quasar 2C361 and Vuelo Quimico. THE HARVEST YEARS (Quasar 2C361 + Vuelo Quimico) was released by the German label MIG, which has produced remasters of albums by Klaus Schulze, Ashra and Manuel Gottsching, as well as the more recent In London Platinum Edition from Neuronium. This 2-CD set has been remastered by Johannes Scheibenreif after Michel Huygen has restored and reworked the original recordings. And I can assure you that the music, the production and the new mastering are well worth it. Quasar 2C361 is an excellent album, whereas Vuelo Quimico is darker. It's more atmospheric, with chthonian zones and meditative passages where the term psychotronic comes into its own. What's more, it features scores sung and/or narrated by Michel Huygen and Nico, who was in the Barcelona studios at the time. I'll skip writing again about Quasar 2C361, which I reviewed in May 2022. It takes headphones to discern the differences, but there are some. The 2 versions are equal, although the rhythm sequences are better defined in this version, as are the tones of the ether layers. The guitar is more nuanced in places, as well as more accentuated elsewhere, preserving the very ethereal, meditative nature of this Neuronium debut. Like many fans in my part of the world, I never had the chance to hear this Vuelo Quimico. It was unobtainable on import at that time. Years went by and you could find a vinyl edition on eBay, if you had a turntable, as well as CDs - some reported as counterfeit - at exorbitant prices.

So, it's with great enthusiasm that I discover these metallic tinklings that resonate in hollow breezes and drift over layers of musical chloroform undulating lazily in a bottomless abyss. We're in the Neuronium register with the slow, almost agonizing opening of Abismos De Terciopelo (Velvet Abysses), which is similar, at least in its ether fragrance, to that of Quasar 2C361 from the album of the same name. An interesting atmospheric duel between Albert Jiménez's guitar and the synths of Michel Huygen and Carlos Guirao - reminiscent of the sleep-inducing duels between Robert Fripp and Brian Eno on Evening Star - perfumes the ambiences, which are enhanced by the presence of a mellotron that throws some flute-like musical bouquets and sets the scene for a vaporous sonority accentuated by the austere tone of a Farfisa-style organ. It's a beautiful passage, lasting around 7 minutes, which still has its effect today. A stream of arpeggios begins to shimmer and roll in the vapors of Jiménez's electric six-string just before the 7-minute mark. This movement establishes a limpid rhythm sequence that ebbs and flows, zigzags slightly and rises and falls on the chants and solos of a divine synth. We sense the mellotron not too far away in this highly musical segment, where rhythm and its modulations have the nobility of their fragility. The Huygen/Guirao duo weave in some electronic sound effects that are specific to Neuronium's psychotronic universe, and the synths take on a more chthonian musical color with shadowy solos and laments whose tenebrous content takes refuge in reverb waves and torsade, from which rise more good guitar solos. The music slides towards a more acoustic segment around the 14-minute mark. Albert Jiménez swaps his electric for an acoustic six-string. He plays an ambient ballad in which Huygen's voice narrates rather than sings a Sinhalese text. Unexpected, but still very beautiful!

A heavy drone, a sizzling metallic-blue synth layer and a burst of white noises form the basis of Viento Sola (Solitary Wind), which becomes a good electronic rock anthem built on the analog model of the time. A heavy but lively sequenced oscillation with a fascinating synth melody. A melody that the guitar, as well as the synth-keyboard, render with greater musicality in what has become a form of sonic storm worthy of the distorted tones of the 70's. A huge organ shadow and a delicate melody played on a harpsichord initiate the opening of the long title track, which Nico immediately attacks by reciting Edgar Allan Poe's poem Ulalume. The movement is very slow, with intense organ layers piling up and juxtaposing in a mortuary atmosphere that suits Poe's poem. The guitar and its sublime, soaring laments make a remarkable appearance around the 7-minute mark, when Vuelo Quimico settles into a more musical, meditative vision akin to the best moments of Quasar 2C361. The ending embraces this ethereal ambience and the slightly more nebulous one of its opening in a final segment where we hear Nico's voice again.

Let time invade your ears and let in those tones of yesteryear to bewitch your senses with this very good reissue of Neuronium's first 2 albums. THE HARVEST YEARS (Quasar 2C361 + Vuelo Quimico) takes us back to the heart of the artistic effervescence that was the Berlin School of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, in an avant-garde envelope that gave root to the term psychotronic. It's a fusion of Pink Floyd's progressive rock and TD's gothic ambiences against a backdrop of sequenced rhythms that sound like Dream, but with Neuronium's highly stylized signature. A must for the history and evolution of electronic music (EM) in this genre! To date, only Neuronium's first 2 albums, the Harvest years, are targeted by the MIG label. Remasters of Michel Huygen's other albums have been released in Japan. But for the North American public, postal service prices are clearly prohibitive, unlike those of MIG if you go through Amazon. Here's hoping that the other Neuronium albums, of which there are some excellent ones, will follow the path blazed by THE HARVEST YEARS (Quasar 2C361 + Vuelo Quimico).

Sylvain Lupari (May 30th, 2023) ****½*

Available from MIG Music

(NB: Words in blue are links you can click on)

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