NORD: Digital Dreams (2019)
“Digital Dreams is a nice album where Nord still manages to enhance the value of his compositions with outcomes that defy any auditory wandering of the listener”
1 Sirens Part 1 11:01 2 Sirens Part 2 8:20 3 Sirens Part 3 10:47 4 The Stream Behind the Door 11:12 5 Contemplations 10:03 6 The Crows and the Boy 11:09 Nord Music
(DDL 62:35) (V.F.) (Progressive Berlin School)
Nord had a very good year in 2018 with two of his albums (Black Tears in 11th place and The Tree of Life in 18th place) which were nominated for the album of the year as part of the prestigious Schallwelle Award; the Oscars of Electronic Music. He starts 2019 on the right foot with an album which makes the share between his first love for big progressive rock and his late favorite heart-struck for EM. In doing so, DIGITAL DREAMS is quite consistent with his latest opuses. The music is influenced between dreams and slices of life that are real daydreams. The 6 structures proposed are evolutive and comfortably crisscross its two poles of music on compositions which don't suffer from its always prolific writing. The rhythms are forged by a good vision of the sequencer and good drum acts, giving at times quite exciting structures, sometimes even wild, which are in continuous movements. The synths, still very piercing and strangely singular, are again very creative, both at the level of solos and effects, which often have a slight Vangelis side, as well as for the arrangements and melodies which have a little sibylline vision. In short, a nice album with very few dead moments and which starts pretty well 2019 for this likeable Romanian musician.
It's with a wave of resonance and distortion that begins Sirens Part 1. Shimmering effects and flickering layers are joining to an introduction rich of its effects which clings to a zigzagging movement of the sequencer. This framework of the ambiences and the rhythm a bit organic reminds me a little of "A" 200 from Deep Purple that we found in the Burn album. The layers intersect their destinies in a movement of astral waltz, while the organic effects of the sequencer nourish a fluttering rhythm which always hesitates to start up. The synth is great with lamentations, or solos, of such a sharp intonation that it looks like a metal bow rubbing on the edge of a razor. These layers and piercing solos are very addictive and drive Sirens Part 1 to timpani drums whose rolling bring the music into a phase of quite exciting electronic rock. The transition of ambient EM, still kept alive by vibrating organic sequences, towards a heavy electronic rock, hammered by drums and bitten by sharp riffs, is true to Nord's signature even if a little more aggressive. The synth layers gradually extend their footprints to become hazy orchestrations with charms that gradually envelop the fury of Sirens Part 1. We are not far from the Scandinavian Progressive Hard Rock. These 11 minutes are a good indicator of DIGITAL DREAMS next 50 other ones to come, even if Sirens Part 2 is more ambient with its symphony of laments that fill our ears to the top. Some have airs of Vangelis and others are bursting of intensity with a slow and moving flow. This avalanche of circular layers makes us forget the movement of the sequencer which drives a discrete and pulsating rhythm. The drum gets activate at around the 4th minute, giving more vitamins to this traveling movement which remains very attractive with those multilayers of iridescent tones and others flowing like magma of mist. An evolving title, Sirens Part 3 begins with a movement of the sequencer which spreads a range of oscillating tones sliding pleasantly in stereo mode between the ears. These intersecting sequencer flights weave a stationary structure in constant boiling. The sequencer regurgitates its organic tones after 5 minutes, expiring now some more limpid sequences and with a more classical Berlin School identity. This phase initiates an indecision between rock and an EM torpedoed by its hesitations between rhythm and ambient phases in a final without outlet. Inspired by a slice of life, a night walk with his boy, The Stream Behind the Door is a title that also sails between ambient vibes, which depict the enchanting surroundings of a river, and a heavy rock phase dynamited by aggressive percussions. But the ambiences dominate, in accordance with the tranquility which adorns the seraphic vision of a river flowing its quiet journey within a city. A bouquet of piano notes and a cloud of iridescent layers inspire a discreet pulsating rhythm which try to get out Contemplations from its cocoon of ambient elements. Nebulous synth pads spread an aura of mysticism over a structure in full rout. Effects and foggy pads feed an intensity which increases with the confident presence of the sequencer whose pulsations structure a motionless rhythm. The synth is displaying its charms with piercing layers and lines haunting a piano which disintegrates its notes in a contemplative vision more sibylline than dreamlike. The Crows and the Boy is a rather intriguing title. Inspired by an outing to the park with his son, the introduction is fed of crows’ cawing that are quietly swallowed by a very mathematical pulsating rhythm and by synth pads whose chloroformic approach is nuanced by crystalline doses which are flying out in long enigmatic laments. The croaking resist to form the heart of the elements of ambiances while the synth swaps its enigmatic laments into orchestral thin lines. Bass layers and sequencer rolling keys in form of direct current add a slight touch of intensity to this ambio-rhythmic structure which wobbles like the stationary movements of the EM where we can hear the little Nord ask his dad; Where are the crows? Gradually, the symphony of crows takes on the appearance of tension music that would go pretty well in a suspense movie. The synth solos are crucial with laments which become the accomplices of very cinematic orchestrations in a finale which embraces this vision of Nord electronic progressive rock.
In conclusion! DIGITAL DREAMS is a nice album where Nord still manages to enhance the value of his compositions with outcomes which defy any auditory wandering of the listener. Whether through changes in rhythm structures, synth solos which are as dominant as they are captivating, and arrangements; there is always something that sticks to the tympanums in this opus and which will certainly please Nord's fan base as well as fans of Scandinavian Progressive Hard Rock in search of a different option, although it’s rather a shy entry but still an entry.
Sylvain Lupari (February 24th, 2019) ***½**
Available at Nord Bandcamp