PALENTIR: Empire of Illusions (2000)
Updated: Apr 11
“Empire of Illusions is an album to be discovered if our senses require something different without neglecting melody nor rhythms”
1 Fantasy & Reason 5:23
2 Under the Silverwheel 6:22
3 The Empire of Illusions 17:58
c) Find The Key
4 Qi-Energy of Life 6:50
5 Tranceamazônica 5:02
6 Fatal Charm 4:06
7 Exhibit A 7:10
8 Searching For Words 5:45
9 The Threshold of Perception 5:52
10 Spinback 10:43
(CD/DDL 77:57) (V.F.)
(New Berlin School, Samplings)
Written and recorded over the years of 1995 to 2000, EMPIRE OF ILLUSIONS continues exactly where Refuge in Fantasy has ended; either be in a mythical sonic universe where the sounds make strength of law. And in order to better wrap us in this texture of samplings with tones so diverse as their meanings, Palentir has used the technique of binaural recording, giving an intense incredible depth to a universe where the listener feels literally plunged into a sonic world in 3-D. The effect is completely striking with headphones, but even more hard-hitting when we dare to raise the volume to forbidden levels. At this level, the pulsations of the title-track are voracious! Set apart the correctness, the wealth and the transparency of the samplings; the structures of rhythms, the melodies, the ambiences and the influences are very near of those in Refuge in Fantasy. Ah yes.... I can't close this introduction without talking about the superb artwork as well as the very beautiful explanatory booklet which reveal the sources of each track of an album that I devoured my ears wide open.
The noises of a door mechanism open the introduction of Fantasy and Reason which, at the same time, seems to open to the musical life. Already the rhythm turns up in the ears. Decorated by sweet small bells and flavored by beautiful flute lines, Fantasy and Reason goes in a kind of dance music filled by some hallucinogenic perfumes of trance. The rhythm is lively, the melody joyful, and becomes a little more lively, I hear David Bowie's Let's Dance, whereas the synth goes more electronic with whistled loops which caress those delicate bells of which the ringings are perfuming a livelier rhythm which is more in a dance mood than of a Berlin School style. The structures here are as much varied as those of the previous album, but in a more contemporary approach. Tunes of owl sneak behind the closing doors, awakening the fauna of Under the Silverwheel which is a real Aladdin's cave for the ears. The blows of the owl are melting with the floating synth pads while that a strange nasal air from an organ weaves a minimalist melody which roams slyly, and which serve as shroud to a beautiful flute. Clanic percussions delicately come to stimulate the ambiences which remain overall rather relaxing. The influence of Johannes Schmoelling can be feel here. The title-track is the most complex and the most delicious. Pulsations pierce the cloud of ringings which open its introduction. The rhythm is slow and magnetizing. Stepping up a notch or lowering its strength, it's flooded with a fauna and a flora full of colorful tones as much organic as synthetic. Samplings of acoustic guitar get close tightly to this pulsatory rhythm which, phase by phase, melts in a sound decoration filled by a multitudes of voices from cities, tribes or from heavens. The pulsations switch to big industrial breaths. Heavy beatings which seem to frighten voices of spectres, while other voices are added and sound like knocks of clogs on the road. The Empire of Illusions flood itself into voices and into noises of any kinds, while the rhythm, and the melody always scratched by a six-strings, spread a generous veil of hypnotic trance. And suddenly, the tranquility drowns itself in a pattern of acceleration as unexpected as inequitable where the stress and the surprise lives together in a matter of a few seconds.
Ringings and astral voices open the epilogue of Qi-Energy of Life. Arched on voice pads and on tribal percussions, the rhythm remains delicate. The ambiences are monasterial with voices of monks which float over a din of bells and carillons. The rhythm seems indomitable with momentums of violence which are next to a kind of spiritual trance, while the panpipe reigns in absolute master over a melody of which the noises of jungle bring it back in a heathen envelope. The delirious fauna throws itself into Tranceamazônica which proposes a more accessible tribal rhythm. More spontaneous with a beautiful sampling of clanic percussions which sing the rhythm and a flute which sings some cheerful harmonies. Palentir manages to get out of this jungle in order to offer us a beautiful moment of serenity with the very melodious Fatal Charm. The piano is as much delicious as the melody can be very melancholic. And yes, there is rain. Palentir brings us to another level with percussions which thunder a heavy ambient rhythm, with metallic rustlings and with subdued breaths which murmur Exhibit A. It's a dark and very intense track of which the crescendo creates a strange feeling of paranoia. Earphones here play a major role. The same goes for Searching for Words which adopts a little the model of Jean-Michel Jarre's syllabic and eclectic languages in Zoolook. A delicate melody, hummed by Christiane von Kutzschenbach, puts in our brain a good dose of phantasms, while that Christian Schimmöller, faithful to himself, floods his structure of harmonious elements and paradoxical sound effects, amplifying the nuances and the contrasts which are the key of this fascinating album where beautiful melodies and delicate lively rhythms roam in every nook and cranny. It's a good track which spreads the nobility of its ambiguity at high volume. Built on synth pads and decorated with singings of flute in an industrial din, The Threshold of Perception is as ambient as placid. Let's say that the ossicles of ears resound massively here. And it's also true on Spinback. To say the least of its introduction. Because after a few minutes of din, where nests a fine structure of melody lost in a noisy fog, where I presume being Backspin, Spinback ends the album with a soft concerto for piano and bells. Ah yes, a concerto for chirpings of birds also, and many other smoother noises. Did I hear an insect being gobbled up?
The music, or the sonic universe, of Palentir, and it's even truer here, is principally for fans of sounds. To those who devour sounds and samplings. These sound effets are flabbergasting and their insertions are always so levelheaded. As for me, EMPIRE OF ILLUSIONS is more accomplished than Refuge in Fantasy. There is something magical here. Christian Schimmöller shapes his rhythms in the shadows of his sonic mishmash, reaching the highlight of an imagination which finds its height in our perception, from where the title EMPIRE OF ILLUSIONS. Well, I suppose. Although the influences of Schmoelling are presents in some occasions, Palentir spreads his sonic realm with his own identity, giving thus some very personal structures of rhythms where the imagination is more present than the pace. I quite enjoyed it, even if sometimes everything sounds so unreal, so improbable. But on the other hand, it's doubtless it the biggest strength of EMPIRE OF ILLUSIONS; an album to be discovered if our senses require something different without neglecting the melody, or the rhythms and even less the ambiences.
Sylvain Lupari (February 3rd, 2015) *****
Available at Spheric Music