NOMAD HANDS: Space Watch (2017)
“This is a strong, a huge opus of pure EM wonders which follows the main lines of The Tape, the best album of 2014”
1 Twice 5:52 2 Peter is Bach 6:40 3 Cognitive Connection 13:17 4 What Time is it? 6:40 5 Making Sense 4:28 6 Le Mécanisme d'Anthicythère 11:44 7 You Must Play Monotonus 7:44 8 L'Horloge Cosmique 223 14:12 Patch Work Music
(CD 70:51) (V.F.) (Berlin School, French School)
Do you remember this splendid album The Tape which was released on PWM by December 2014? This surprising album was going to become my preferred of this year, and for a good reason! Helped by Mourad Ait Abdelmalek on drums and percussions on half of the album, Olivier Briand knitted wonderful synth solos which sent us back in the beautiful years of the duet Klaus Schulze & Harald Grosskopf. Some 3 years farther, Olivier Briand and Mourad Ait Abdelmalek does it again by forming the band Nomad Hands (a very appropriate name for 2 artists who have some very agile and explorer hands). They present us a first opus entitled SPACE WATCH. An album which is in the continuity of The Tape with a priceless connection between both musicians who offers us quite a whole journey in the lands of EM.
Delicate arpeggios which skip and sparkle in crystal tones give a first very vintage electronic finery to Twice. Clatters of cymbals tinkle in a parallel rhythmic vision while the sequencer loosens a line of bass sequences which oscillates heavily and gets melt with the dance of cymbals, leaving the melodious arpeggios melt in a sound decor which prioritizes a style of Jazz fusion by its nervous rhythm. Olivier Briand textures here good harmonious solos which are like the whistles of a dreamer dancing against the flow of his musing. More centered on the melodious approach of the synth, the arpeggios are truly sculpting some silvery earworms, Twice lays down nevertheless between our ears a double, even a triple, structures of rhythm which invent a fascinating ball of beats where the electronics and the acoustics already give thirst to the ears. After this first rather nice title, Peter is Bach tumbles with a series of sequences and of which the keen oscillations awake the spirits of a spasmodic E-rock. Mourad Ait Abdelmalek's percussions are completely freed of shyness now with quick and curt strikes where the tight skins resound with a fascinating and ear-catchy tone. The sequencer well settled, so that it can proposes small variations in its structure, Olivier Briand is busy with his synth (and Mellotron?) in order to weave these foggy layers which gave so much depth to the ambiences of that time and specially to sculpt solos and harmonious phases which, if my ears don't play me trick, sound strangely like Peter Baumann. In fact, only the percussions take us away from these reminiscences. After 2 first titles rather easy to gob, Cognitive Connection brings us to another level. The introduction is painted of mystery and of mysticism with layers of mists which seem to inhale and to hide imperfect beings, whereas a stream of clatters and of eddy noises haunts the Gothic atmospheres. In fact, one would imagine to be in the Usher house. A soft rhythm, crawling without much conviction, extricates itself from these shitty abysses a little after the point of 5 minutes. I hear Heldon here! Especially with this line of bass sequence which crawls with noises of gurgling and these clatters of metallic elytron gigging on cymbals. The clatters exchange the metal tones for a wooden tap-dancing. And always this somber vampiric shadow which spreads its coat of suspense over the ambiences in mutation of Cognitive Connection. And then poof! The music is melting in an avant-gardist décor where the ghosts of Heldon watch the evolution of an extra sensorial music which hears itself to be pecked by agile, and sometimes heavy even murderer, percussions of Mourad Ait Abdelmalek while Olivier Briand is the elegance itself behind his synth and his solos as charming as provocative for a sense of hearing eager for pure and sophisticated EM.
A very good title which is followed by the heavy and slow, almost theatrical, rhythm of What Time is it?. The synth layers throw an aura as so misty as a new Phantom of the Opera while the percussions are always clearly incisive with a MAA which bangs and confronts his beatings of skin with a bed of sequences as fluid as a soft rhythmic river. Making Sense is a good hymn of a very Berliner E-rock. Still here, the tacticians of rhythm that is Nomad Hands show a very beautiful chemistry by harmonizing sequences and percussions, leaving all the space to the imagination free of everything of all hinders Olivier Briand in the art to create harmonious fantasies a bit near psychosis, otherwise near this impression of anxiety, even if always very melodious, on this structure semi wild and semi accessible that is Making Sense. Le Mécanisme d'Anthicythère is THE title of SPACE WATCH and the title which gets closer the most to this illusion of Schulze/Grosskopf that we found in the magnificent The Tape. In a free style where the whole thing goes in perfect symbiosis, Olivier's solos set back to emphasize the surgical strikes of Mourad Ait Abdelmalek on drums and cymbals. We surpass here these landscapes of ethereal layers where roamed the arms of Grosskopf. The rhythm is frantic with short jerky strata and it's rather a human octopus and its long tentacles which hammer the drums and cymbals with a surprising variation and precision in the sharing of its two rhythmic values. This is an outstanding track my friends that I never stopped to listening to since! You Must Play Monotonus brings us back to the ground with a very energizing EM which is as lively as the best of Synth-Pop of New Order. Very awake and alert behind his keyboard, Olivier Briand throws beautiful harmonious phases which fit the precision and the liveliness of Mourad Ait Abdelmalek's hands on drums. The vocoder? Bah we notice it hardly. It's some solid E-rock polyphased which turns around short harmonious phases equal to a fall of stars on snowy tops. L'Horloge Cosmique 223 ends this wonderful album with airs of Jazz fusion. The title has all the secrets of Berlin School with a floating introduction which quietly sets the tone to a disheveled structure of rhythm where spin the synth solos and where the bass sequences fight for their survival in front of a brilliant bludgeoning of the percussions. WoW, what an album my friends! An unavoidable and a pure monument of EM like a la Belle Époque. Like The Tape!
Sylvain Lupari (January 25th, 2018) ****½*
Available at PWM Distrib