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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

One Arc Degree The Forest and the Milky Way (2023)

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

Ambient techno in a psybient setting, it's still very pleasant to hear...

1 Elevator to the Stars 10:19

2 Oceans Gone 6:55

3 Stella Obscura 6:13

4 Time Invariance 6:59

5 Exponential Age 9:00

6 Galactic Fall 6:48

7 Hidden into the Future 6:54

8 The Final Parsec 5:39

(DDL 58:49) (V.F.)

(Ambient Techno-Dub Psybient)

Ambient techno! Can you believe it? That's the first term the directors of Synphaera Records have chosen to describe One Arc Degree's style of electronic music. Fleeing genre stigmatization like the plague, these same directors like to sail from one style to another, whether it's the ambient Berlin School of Martin Stürtzer's Cosmic Echo album, or the highly sequenced one in Remote Vision's excellent The Architecture of Time, or psychill with a strong cinematic essence in Joystick and The Landing album. Moreover, it's more in these waters that THE FOREST AND THE MILKY WAY navigate. But regardless of the genres chosen, the productions of this California-based label achieve a sonic and musical perfection where every nuance of rhythm, every pulse of bass, every color of ambient layers and every shimmer of arpeggio belts are cut from musical purity so as to stimulate listening again and again. In headphones, as in the open air with loudspeakers. THE FOREST AND THE MILKY WAY passed under my radar this summer. I'd listened to it absent-mindedly, thinking I'd come back to it later. A track like Elevator to the Stars had me completely out of my shorts! By the way, do I like ambient techno? Ambient Techno, Dub House or Ambient Dub, this 5th opus from the Greek duo (it's their 3rd on Synphaera) offers a panoply of rhythms in ambiances that flirt rather well with the psybient style. And this, I like!

Elevator to the Stars opens with the flickering hoops of a wave of buzzing rustles. The opening is very sci-fi cinematic, with clouds of sound particles and rattlesnake effects unfurling like a massive invasion of arthropods. From afar comes a rhythmic structure lying on this bass membrane that undulates, copulating with our ears. The beginning is sensual, with an elusive melody in this ambient dangling. A bed of percussions is swarming. But it's only temporary, as Elevator to the Stars stumbles through its atmospheric transition phase filled with that tonal richness that flirts with the world of Solar Fields, back in the days of Ultimae Records. In fact, this won't be the only phase in which links with the Lyon-based label leak out to our ears. Vasilis Kesalidis (aka Spinnet) and Ioannis Konstantios recorded 2 tracks for the label, which appeared on the Ambrosia and Digiseeds compilations. The percussive texture is simply haunting in this track. It reanimates it after the 5-minute mark, structuring a bewitching soft dance rhythm that serves as a further anchor for One Arc Degree's multiple sonic resources. And always, that one bass devours the senses! The sources of this sonic panorama are reproduced, in different visions but the concept remains the same, for the other 7 tracks on THE FOREST AND THE MILKY WAY. Oceans Gone follows with good EDM where those keyboard chords stretch their musical aura, a bit like a finger bouncing circles of sound after pressing on the wall of sound. The rhythm is gently driving, like ambient techno indeed, with sober percussions that are seconded by ornamental rattlings. Thunder effects and water noises complete the set. Stella Obscura's flow is much more accentuated. The track flirts with the psychill style, with good percussion playing that spreads a form of echo, giving a sustained structure that also passes through a more ambient transitional phase, like most of the tracks here, before being reborn with slightly more authority.

Aside from the percussions play, and their accomplices wreaking havoc with their clattering, Time Invariance is propelled by that elastic bass line where those sound hoops are thrown, leaping and crashing with clatter, only to be continually reborn. The track is intercepted here by two atmospheric phases that are rich in contemporary sound concept. I like it! Exponential Age is a big, rhythmic track full of psybient effects in a tasty Dub House texture. The percussion has a tribal feel, and the bass is hungry and greedy. It makes us roll our necks in anesthetizing synth layers. A contrast with the velocity of a rhythm that pulverizes the parameters of ambient techno as far as I'm concerned. Emerging from a floating wave that subdivides its atmospheric molecules, Galactic Fall awakens with a bass shadow that mimics the sensual floating choreography of spectres. Muffled beats follow in sustained succession. In ostinato mode. They structure a techno that is more than ambient. Arpeggios dissolve, creating a shimmering string of melodies yet to be born, while the percussions that come in are resizing the rhythm, making it more fluid. More like IDM! And as the track moves into a psychill phase in its final third, the beats become more deafening, and their resonance activates our heartbeats. And always those arpeggios that now float with a melody that is in some way symbiotic with the floating synth bass. Hidden into the Future features an opening that flirts with psybient, not least because of the organic percussive rustling. The track makes good use of this introduction, evolving into a good ambient dub structure. I like the organic sound effects that transform into seductive percussive elements. The opening of The Final Parsec exudes nostalgia, with pensive chords bouncing around, wandering over a distant rhythm structure forgotten on the dance continent. Boom-booms and tssitt-tssitt bounce our circadian rhythm after the 90-second mark, unequivocally reminding us that One Arc Degree's THE FOREST AND THE MILKY WAY is first and foremost a dance music album. Ambient electronic dance music (EDM), or for zombies marinated in THC! So, did I like this ambient techno album? When the rhythms shine on these bass textures, and in a psybient and psychill setting rich with organic and percussive elements, it's still very pleasant to hear...but it ain't that much of my cup of tea😉

Sylvain Lupari (October15th, 2023) ***¾**

Available at Synphaera Records Bandcamp

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

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