PETER BAUMANN: Trans Harmonic Nights (1978)
“Always according to my tastes, this is a splendid album which combines all the styles of a wonderful era full of brights ideas”
1 This Day 5:15
2 White Bench and Black Beach 5:33
3 Chasing the Dream 4:40
4 Biking up the Strand 2:29
5 Phaseday 5:50
6 Meridian Moorland 3:29
7 The Third Site 6:26
8 Dance at Dawn 3:58
Virgin V 2124 CDV 2124
(CD/LP 37:45) (V.F.)
(Synth-Pop, Berlin School, Art for Ears)
Perhaps out of respect or for fear of not living up to such an honor, I never found the time to talk about this second solo album by the enigmatic Peter Baumann. And this among the 2,000 or so columns written since 2001! The reissues of Romance 76 and TRANS HARMONIC NIGHTS, the release of Machines of Desire and finally the album Neuland, with Paul Haslinger, are all reasons that could have explained a review. But here it is, I missed it! ... At the time, around the 80's, listening to TRANS HARMONIC NIGHTS had given me a second wind, necessary I must say, in order to continue my quest for discovery, and understanding, EM. The melodic vision of Peter Baumann through the 8 tracks of this album, filled with methodical and Berliner rhythms, ended up democratizing this genre which was the prerogative of the snobbish elite who prided themselves on being the great connoisseurs in the field. Here, no long improvised structures in studio, no ambient phases where the synths multiply layers of mist, the dark moments belong to melancholy and no long substitutable evolving structures, apart from The Third Site. Only short tracks with a melodious vision that make this link between progressive and exploratory EM and a more accessible one with stories told in 5 minutes instead of those that reached 15 minutes, or even 25.
It begins with the fluid rhythm of This Day which, on the other hand, has to get rid of its introduction stuffed of organic reverberations. The rhythm is arched on a line of ascending sequences which perform discreetly in the background and sober electronic percussions. A keyboard-synth injects a delicate fluty melody which is joined by a chant of synth sounding like a guitar and which shares the same harmonious frequency. On this structure of rhythm which goes up and down, in the purest tradition of Berlin School, the harmonious vision of Baumann takes another tangent when one has this feeling that the synth is trying to communicate and even the arpeggios which take a greater harmonic latitude. Finally, it's the use of the vocoder, which brings a zest of Kraftwerk, which completes this trio of cybernetic and surreal voices. And this almost narrated melody is as catchy as the rhythm which will make tumble the keys of the sequencer which will jump on a disordered conveyor, a vestige of the maestro Franke. And we're only in the middle of This Day which is a fairly good indication of how TRANS HARMONIC NIGHTS is going.
To a slower extent, White Bench and Black Beach taps into much of the same elements with a more emotional outlook that can give chills, for different reasons. We find this air so strident of the synth which takes different octaves in a desire to make our emotions tug. The presence of a guitar tone also fools the listening with beautiful strident harmonies. Wolfgang Thierfeldt's sprawling hits on the drums resonate with harshness in an ambience that flirts a little with mysticism, especially in the second part where Peter Baumann exploits these murky TD tones. Chasing the Dream offers a frantic race of the sequencer and its lines that make rodeo in a living structure, like a jogger on the sprint who hears the breath of madness in his neck. Loud sound effects, an innocent melody that enchants and haunts on a rhythm structure in search of its breath, I have the impression that Peter has more than joined the Dream here. He is even ahead since there are Force Majeure's fragrances in this title. Superbly melodious, Biking up the Strand is a version of The Barber of Seville designed electronically. Purely brilliant!
There are a lot of White Bench and Black Beach in Phaseday. In the sense that the rhythm is in the ideal non-rhythm genre for a bludgeoning of the drum. That fact classified; the melody is in a class of its own with a superb mellotron that gives us thrills in a package of twelve per square inch. It sounds like a bagpipe, and we know it isn't. There is this convoluted walk of the sequencer drunk like a boot to the river. This is a superb title which shows all the skill of melodist in Peter Baumann. The ambiences of Meridian Moorland are those that come closest to Tangerine Dream in this album. It's a pretty dark track that doesn't really have a rhythmic direction and is filled with memories of the Dream in the 70's. The percussions and this military march, as well as the melody which sticks to it, are elements which put together the puzzle of a title which asked me a couple of plays at the time and which I still like today. It's quite the opposite with The Third Site which is really the black sheep of TRANS HARMONIC NIGHTS. The track opens with a bouquet of Meridian Moorland's ambiences in its first third. And Bang! It explodes in a race without directions. In unbridled electronic rock with a sequencer which loses sight of the percussions in its rearview mirror, going too fast without breaking your neck in turns which are almost at the borders of Cluster. The sequencer and the mellotron are powerful in this title which also commands a few plays. Listening that will make us discover new elements that will pave the way for its taming. A funny way to conclude this album with music worthy of Civil War films where a flutist and drums strolled through the villages of the Far West. But in electronic vision, Dance at Dawn melts in the ear.
Always according to my tastes, TRANS HARMONIC NIGHTS is a splendid album. We are far from evolutive and progressive EM, although a title like The Third Site does not give its place. But I have the impression that Peter Baumann wanted to do everything for this album, from Berlin School to synth-pop without forgetting Düsseldorf School with Kraftwerk-style Teutonic rhythms and melodies. The essences of Tangerine Dream are present at the level of the sequencer while the synth and the mellotron have ideas-fragrances of Edgar Froese. In short, a completely splendid album which has its place in my Top 25.
Sylvain Lupari (November 11th, 2020) ****½*
Disponible chez Groove nl