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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Paul Ellis Music For the Space Between Atoms (2023)

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

We don't listen to Paul Ellis; we listen to some varied artists

1 Forever Exploring 3:59

2 Blue Ice 3:16

3 Heron Rising 6:42

4 Shifting Interdimensional Construct 5:40

5 The Kite Escapes 3:24

6 The Space Elevator's Last Ride 2:52

7 Cinnamon Sunrise 5:38

8 Ocean Immersion 2:28

9 Broken Jewel 5:38

10 State of Gray 5:17

11 Still the Center 10:03

12 Geometries and Ellipses 5:28

13 Persona Non Grata 5:05

(DDL/CD-(r) 70:34) (V.F.)

(E-Rock EM Berlin School)

Paul Ellis has been more than productive in recent years. There was his Panoramas trilogy debuted in 2021, followed by collaborative albums with Daryl Groetsch, The Interior Rhythms, Jared White for Unbroken Spirit and Pabellón Sintético for Clouds and Terrain. At the same time, he continued to produce solo albums, such as Pulse Width and Five Bliss Machines on the Infinite Stage, both released in 2022. Produced by either Cyclical Dreams or Dutch label Groove nl, these albums also revealed other facets of the American synthesist's electronic music (EM). Known mainly for his long abstract and/or atmospheric structures, Ellis flirts with solid Berlin School, neo as well as retro, electronic rock and even psybient. This eclectic MUSIC FOR THE SPACE BETWEEN ATOMS is a bit of a genre mash-up. The tracks on this album come from earlier recordings where Paul Ellis had fun creating a more methodical EM, in the genre of narrative music. He's quick to point out that the music of Vangelis, William Orbit and Air has moved him, as does the Private Music period, notably the early works of Patrick O'Hearn and Eddie Jobson. Influences that can be found on this album-download produced by the Argentinian label. And those who know the Ellis repertoire inside out and have for years will hear new versions of some of his classics. Others, like me, will discover an album full of pleasant surprises. Surprises that are simply unexpected!

Forever Exploring kicks things off with a progressive rock texture firmly anchored by good percussion and a solid bass-line. The rhythm is heavy and slow, like a cosmic slow dance, with very Pink Floyd-like keyboard playing and fluty harmonies. A delicate guitar texture, I believe, replaces the flute in the second half of the track. Acoustic guitar prevails in Blue Ice. An ambient melody that stays in the EM spheres in a mix of Patrick O'Hearn and Darshan Ambient styles that quietly migrates towards Tangerine Dream of the Jive years. Heron Rising is an evolving track that combines prog rock with a more progressive electronic rock structure. The rhythm is good and driving, with good percussive textures grafted on to seductive percussive slamming. The bass layer is vampiric, with an organic growl in its evolution. Reminds me of Traffic. Shifting Interdimensional Construct follows by exploiting a circular electronic rock structure that transits to a jazzier phase in the second half. The keyboard harmonizes arpeggios that follow one another in a fluid alternation, reminding me of Jobson's Synclavier in his delicious and timeless Theme of Secrets, and the bass is greedy like O'Hearn's. All in all, the music is very reminiscent of the early albums on the German ErdenKlang Music label. The Kite Escapes is a beautiful lunar melody with an ascending ambient rhythm sequence that develops with a little more velocity over its short time span. The keyboard lays down a lovely, luminous lullaby with a Vangelis-like timbre. This is the kind of music that makes you dream in broad daylight! The Space Elevator's Last Ride is a ballad with a slightly darker, even tenebrous dimension when organic effects start to growl, making us slow dancing on the day of a total solar eclipse. It's as musical as theatrical, with good arrangements. Doo do doo do doo do do doo... Oups, sorry! I was humming the vampiric melody of Walk on the Wild Side. The bass of this Lou Reed-composed track haunts the corridors of Cinnamon Sunrise, a good ballad with a heavy, a slow rhythm where the keyboard riffs sound like Tangerine Dream from the Private Music years. Twisted reverb effects illuminate the ambience, recalling us that Paul Ellis' MUSIC FOR THE SPACE BETWEEN ATOMS album is on Cyclical Dreams. And a track like Ocean Immersion, which flirts with organic Psybient over a soft, slow, circular rhythm, reminds it with a gentle comfort to ears eager for audacity.

Broken Jewel is a delicate ambient melody. A slowtempo that lives and swirls languorously over a luscious bass. Paul Ellis seems very pensive on this track. He draws weeping synth solos over a necklace of floating arpeggios that swivel tirelessly as it tries to hold on to the slow bass-line rhythm. It's as good to listen to as it is to dance in love under a moon filled with sadness. State of Gray is a jerky upbeat with a rhythmic structure knotted by the jolts of a fusion of arpeggios, sequences and percussions. The rhythm is jittery, with the synth mumbling an organic dialect while tracing cooing solos with loop-like acrobatics stretching in zigzags. A playful track that becomes a blend of rock and electronic funk on an Electronica backdrop. With a heavy bass step and clattering, dancing tones as if typing dactylo strokes twirled in spiraling winds, Still the Center develops like an electronic bolero. Arpeggios alternate and leap in symbiosis with this spiral of ambient rhythm where Paul Ellis adds one musical ingredient after another...and so on. Still the Center thus turns on its axis, developing an increasingly lively structure where harmony and contrast, like the vibrating weight of the bass, merge in a beautiful delicately jerky vision. A bit spasmodic. The percussions, which join in after the 7-minute mark, lend a more electronic rock dimension to this ritornello whose harmonious end will haunt your eardrums. This brilliant track is the jewel in the crown of this astonishing compilation of tracks repressed in the American musician's vaults. The rhythm, jumping like a horse bitten by a horsefly, of Geometries and Ellipses bounds over from its resonant, its rubbery texture. Organic effects are grafted onto this rhythm dominated by twirling arpeggios and electronic percussions drummed by mechanical macaques. There's a touch of 81-82-era Tangerine Dream in the percussive elements and the sequenced riffs of this track. Persona Non Grata brings a new texture to this eclectic compilation. The rhythm is of a tribal kind, in symbiosis with an acoustic guitar that traces the path of a good Mexican ballad. Yes, Mexican electronic rock can exist!

The beauty, and main attraction, of MUSIC FOR THE SPACE BETWEEN ATOMS, is that fascinating impression of listening to a compilation of the best moments of artists from a more anonymous EM label. A label that seeks to make a name for itself by promoting its styles and artists. We're not listening to Paul Ellis; we're listening to some varied artists! And there are some fine little gems here.

Sylvain Lupari (August 12th, 2023) *****

Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp

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

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