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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Paul Ellis & Pabellón Sintético Clouds and Terrain (2022)

A great and solid album where each track is a little jewel for the ears

1 The Book of Life is Written with Disappearing Ink 6:05

2 The Gray Horizon 8:14

3 Rhythm and Drift 7:37

4 Neon Fireflies 7:04

5 Verdant Microcosm 5:50

6 Clouds and Terrain 13:23

7 Fluid Architecture 6:31

8 Window to the Exact Moment 6:27

9 Melodic Fragments in Amber 16:05

(DDL/CD(r) 77:19) (V.F.)

(New Berlin School)

I usually listen to Paul Ellis' music to relax, he makes an excellent ambient Berlin School style, or to guide me to an afternoon nap. But here, I can tell you that it was impossible to fall asleep on the loud and lively rhythms of this CLOUDS AND TERRAIN, an album made with the collaboration of Pabellón Sintético. The same one who gave us the excellent Instructions for Building an Orange in 2021. The 2 artists have this same vision to create an electronic music (EM) which goes out of its comfort zone. If Pablo Bilbao is more comfortable in a progressive New Berlin School style, with very Tangerine Dream tones, the American musician favors a more atmospheric vision often haloed by cosmic tones, wandering arpeggios or other sound effects that make our neurons work. Let's say that Pabellón Sintético has the ascendancy over Paul Ellis in this first collaboration, which is centered on electronic rhythms oscillating between rock and EDM while flirting with the New Berlin School style, except for the cinematic and atmospheric of Melodic Fragments in Amber. That's not to say that Ellis is held silent on this album! On the contrary, the versatility of his visions adds his very personal dimension of a cosmic Berlin School in a palette of tones that he introduced us to in his Panoramas trilogy. The sound and musical environment of this CD(r) is very inspired by Edgar Froese, for the mellotron, and by Tangerine Dream, for the effects and riffs, as well as the quite creative use of the sequencer which makes dribble his jumping arpeggios in visions as much rhythmic as cadenced melodies. In short, a great and solid album where each track is a little jewel for the ears.

The Book of Life is Written with Disappearing Ink proposes a rhythmic pattern that is undulating with nuances at the level of the attenuations, a little as if it passed under tunnels, under synth breezes which have these unique perfumes of TD. We can also say the same thing about these numerous solos and these floating harmonies with enchanting flute tones that criss-cross the horizons of a music that adjusts its rhythm to a form more like electronic rock. Let's note the wise link between a creative sequencer and the Teutonic electronic percussions. Sidereal whale laments, a pious choir and pastoral bells are among the nebulosities to open The Gray Horizon. The rhythm is evolving, playing with the nuances of its velocity, and emerges to zigzag from a suspended haze. Rhythmic chords bouncing on an elastic skin, and luminous streaks undulating like bluish lizard reflections which vaguely reminding me of some effects of Stuntman's Drunken Mozart in the Desert, are the first accompaniments of this rhythmic structure. If the electronic percussions remain sober, the sequencer's play is creative by making its rhythmic arpeggios dribble while a resonant pulsing bass-line helps to better propel the velocity of an electronic rock tugged by its New Berlin School vision. Somewhere between EDM and electronic rock, the music and rhythms of Rhythm and Drift are in symbiosis with the idea of the title. Its pulsating and vibrating rhythm gives it the momentum to embrace a structure that reminds me of Moonbooter for the energy and that tendency for dance music. Arpeggio lines crisscross this bouncy yet spastic structure, which is overlaid by synth layers with a melodic vision that compares to the Düsseldorf School style. Fascinating vocal effects around the 3-minute mark catch our attention, demonstrating the tonal richness that envelops this first Ellis/Bilbao collaboration. The vibratory surges are another example, as well as the duel of sequences and percussions, towards the end, which isolates the rhythmic framework of the track. Neon Fireflies is another track whose music is in symbiosis with its title. Its rhythmic backbone is designed with lively kicks and gambols that are forged by a two-tone and two-speed sequencer. The keyboard riffs have a fractured melodic tendency, in the style of Tangerine Dream. The sequencer activates its speed by dribbling, and subsequently running its jumping arpeggios, which flutter like swarms of fireflies, whose speed takes an extra notch with the arrival of percussions. Nice synth solos complete this lively structure at the very end of Neon Fireflies.

At 13 minutes long, the title track starts off rather abruptly. It sounds like a good rock that TD structured in the soundtrack of This Park is Mine. The synths dominate the first few minutes with good melodic lines, until the rhythm gets into second gear after the 3rd minute. Here again, the sequencer's playing draws attention with a vision not unlike Chris Franke's genius, playing on the nuances and velocity of a rhythm that charms the neurons more than the feet. Some cadenced chords project an organic aura and lead the music to a more atmospheric phase around the 7th minute. A short passage before the rhythm reinvigorates itself in a beautiful vision of Berber electronic rock. Set to slow, droning, undulating laments, Fluid Architecture also rattles and resonates with stationary percussive effects in an opening where synth harmonies float like sleepy layers. In fact, you can hear the humming before percussions and a pulsing bass-line redirect the rhythm to a more dance-like structure. Like Moonbooter. The pulsating rhythm is girded by nice synth lines, which mix melody and siren effects, and by very good movements of the sequencers which throw intertwined lines of cadenced arpeggios on a techno-dance beat. Our ears are entitled to good synth solos with very nuanced intonations and to a good tonal envelope with many riffs and chords thrown in the whirlwind of the rhythm. Window to the Exact Moment proposes a rhythmic structure built on the jolts of electronic percussions hitting above the bumpy gait of a nice and fluid sequencer movement. This rhythm beats and fades as the music moves through more meditative phases. The droning effects of the synths, as well as their textures of melodies blown in the form of solos, and those arpeggios that flicker in suspension are among the elements that adorn a setting still breathing that tonal scent of Dream's metallic years. Melodic Fragments in Amber ends this sumptuous album of a different kind of EM with a very good atmospheric New Berlin School adorned with cosmic effects and delicious synth breezes whose dramatic textures inevitably remind us of John Carpenter soundtracks. Its envelope is more of a cinematic kind with a musical happening and a dramatic tension that monopolizes our senses as the minutes flee its meter. While not overflowing with energy, the music and its tension film-like ambience relies on a slow pulsing rhythm that the sequencer attempts to draw into a cadenced emphasis. This mesh creates the concept of happening mood. The keyboard lets hover chords of which the shimmering reflections awaken distant memories of a Halloween that would take place in the Cosmos this time. These arpeggios are as magnetizing as the dribbling of the sequencer can be seductive. In short, a long track that brings together the best ideas of CLOUDS AND TERRAIN. One of the nice surprises in 2022 and certainly the best album of Cyclical Dreams so far this year. And this label has produced some very solid ones.

Sylvain Lupari (November 22nd, 2022) *****

Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp

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

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