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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Parsick & Wöstheinrich Ultima Ratio (2022)

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

An absolute voyage to the heart of the Berlin School

1 Last Exit Barbarossaplatz 21:00

2 Mundane 18:59

3 Tape Error 11:16

(DDL 55:50) (V.F.)

(Berlin School)

It was while writing the review for ['ramp]'s album arp-en-ciel that Stephen Parsick put me on the trail of this album, released in the spring of 2022. Composed with another German-made electronic music (EM) icon, Bernhard Wöstheinrich, ULTIMA RATIO was nearing completion when Klaus Schulze's death was announced. Immensely saddened, Parsick and Wöstheinrich decided to dedicate Mundane to the man who had just changed cosmic address. arp-en-ciel's review allowed me to kill two birds with one stone. Firstly, to discover a very fine album by ['ramp], and secondly, to discover the depths of ULTIMA RATIO and its 3 long tracks, which offer us nothing less than a return to vintage EM with an excellent Berlin School, Last Exit Barbarossaplatz, and 2 more atmospheric tracks that flirt with the limits of chthonian and cosmic ambient music.

A layer of wandering voices is immediately trampled by the semi-zigzagging, circular motion of the sequencer. The rhythm is clear-cut and resonates with its lively heaviness under the caresses of a simply divine mellotron. A slight modulation and hop... it changes its angle to take on a little more speed under some great synth solos. Last Exit Barbarossaplatz is a succulent Berlin School interrupted by more atmospheric passages, lasting around 2 minutes, generated by the arrival of banks of orchestral mist. We're in the Stratosfear and Encore years of Tangerine Dream on these sequences of ascending, circular and zigzagging rhythms that are the prerogative of vintage mid-70's EM. The mellotron multiplies the fluty airs, the wandering voices and the fogs filled with stray violins, while the synth splits its harmonies, inserting a few seductive Middle Eastern tunes into the evolution of this long track where not a second is wasted. Great art and excellent Berlin School from EM's golden years, ULTIMA RATIO then moves into more ambient, atmospheric territory.

We let ourselves glide on the rather dark opening of Mundane. It's a long, solemn track with a very melancholy emotional essence. The synths multiply layers whose tonalities vary between the dark organ of Schulze and the very soaring, sleepy style of Rick Wright (Pink Floyd). There's plenty of moody emotion on this beautiful ambient track. A highly emotive pulse of sound gives Tape Error a dark, melancholy opening. These impulses glide along with inflections that seem to have inspired the track. One senses that the music describes circles of derivations, of extreme slow motion recorded and played with a distension phenomenon in the tape when one listens to the recording. Dark, almost gothic, the synth layers eventually restore a more cosmic tone, reminiscent of those moments of interplanetary wanderings in Jean-Michel Jarre's atmospheric-cosmic phases on his Oxygene and Equinoxe albums. There are darker, buzzier passages in this track, but its cosmic essence is what stands out most. The track clocks in at some 11:16 on the clock, while on my player it totals almost 16 minutes. Is this the ultimate Tape Error?

Stephen Parsick and Bernhard Wöstheinrich are 2 little-known and under-appreciated musicians in the EM universe. While ['ramp] has managed to put himself on the map with a solid start to his career, Wöstheinrich is an excellent musician who has produced some very good albums over the years. We were therefore entitled to expect a very good album from these 2 musicians. And they didn't disappoint! ULTIMA RATIO is an absolute voyage to the heart of the Berlin School as discovered and heard since Tangerine Dream arrived on Virgin, Klaus Schulze gave us the excellent Blackdance and Manuel Göttsching went solo with Ashra and the New Age on Earth album. That was around 1976!

Sylvain Lupari (June 19th, 2023) ****½*

Available at Iapetus Music Bandcamp

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

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