PHARAMOND: Orbis Tertius (2014)
“A strong first album; Orbis Tertius has all the ingredients to please to those most demanding fans of vintage Berlin School EM”
1 Hidden Scheme 14:07 2 Idéal 4:05 3 Uqbar 14:10 4 Uqbar II 14:26 5 Tlön 15:19 SynGate | CD-r SM01
(CD-r/DDL 62:10) (VF) (Vintage Berlin School style)
When an EM aficionado becomes a journalist / blogger and when a journalist / blogger becomes a musician, it gives Pharamond. Pharamond is Sylvain Mazars; this famous editor of the very popular French Blog about EM::: musique et médias en Allemagne et ailleurs. He has just released a first and completely surprising album; ORBIS TERTIUS. Besides its constantly evolving structures, the main strength of ORBIS TERTIUS is to sound like nothing else. Certainly there are small perceptible influences, in particular the Green Desert album from Tangerine Dream and the hiccupping rhythms of Pyramid Peak. But as for the rest, the signature of Pharamond is completely unique. A high feat of arms when we know how the Berlin School genre has been constantly assailed with the imprints of the big names that made its fame and by many followers after.
Hidden Scheme begins with a long course which takes advantage of its 14 minutes to offer an attractive evolutionary structure which keeps constantly the listener on the beat. Phissshhh a la Tom Sawyer (Rush), a little as a giant who roams in an electric puddle, opens its first seconds. Chords erect the parts of a vaporous electronic melody on a heavy and slow rhythm. The synth paints the ambiences of an eclectic aura with pads which float on a structure of rhythm which already flees its first membrane to run away with a line of bass sequences and its keys which run to strike an invisible wall. There is only 5 minutes to the meter when Hidden Scheme brings a 3rd skin to its structure. With this first track, Pharamond destabilizes any attempt of a passive listening. The structure of rhythm spreads a series of keys which agglutinates and run in a figure of rhythm which, at times, rolls at a very fast pace, and at other moments with a more passivity. The illusion to be on a railroad and aboard a rhythmic train waters our interest which grows with the electronic effects, the Teutonic percussions, the synth pads a la Green Desert and the suave solos which sneak between choruses and multiple small bells which awaken constantly the musical appetite. I like this interchangeability which feeds the 14 minutes of Hidden Scheme; a qualifier that applies very well to this first album of Sylvain Mazars. A streamer of sequences throws itself on a bass line a bit groovy. Electronic percussions are structuring the Teutonic rhythm of Ideal which charms with this gravitational melody blown by sequences to the tones of glass and their shadows which get loose from the lead line of sequences to offer a more differentiating tone, giving an effect of paradox to an electronic bed song where pleasant synth solos are floating such as the guards of the harmonization. After this short track, we return in the quite changeable artistic universe of ORBIS TERTIUS. As to prove it, this delicious introduction of Uqbar where initial whispers and the harmonies of a harpsichord tortured by white noises as well as a flute which daydreams in the sun are plunging us right in the heart of the Middle Ages. This completely unexpected portion gets melting very well to a splendid movement of sequences of which the ghostly walking adopts the movement of the harpsichord. Other keys fall down and stumble in a delicious rhythmic choreography which will remind of Chris Franke's ingenuity and which sparkles under the tears of a synth, and its spectral harmonies, as the mourners, so much discreet, of a cello as pensive than subdued. What seem to be linear becomes circular with a rhythmic ritornello which swirls under the caresses of a flute and its crystal-clear harmonies and a cello with its taciturn harmonies. The rhythm becomes bumpy. Rubbing its twinkling sequences to other bass ones, it takes a more jerky walking shape before taking another direction, at the door of 7 minutes, with a race of oscillating keys which spin in a shape of a spheroidal rhythmic ballet. This movement approaches a kind of paranoia with voices and synth lines which zigzag on a new pattern of movement built around more harmonious crystal-clear sequences. Uqbar plunges then into an area of turbulence, as rhythmic as harmonious, with breezes of synth a la Edgar Froese, flickering keys, schizophrenics rustles and discreet choir which drags us towards a finale fed by dramatic sound effects, synth pads punctuated of spectral singings, wrigglings of an organic life and by beautiful solos which coo in an abstract universe which brushes slightly the one of Vangelis. After such a first part, what could we expect from the second one?
Well that begins with a piano which is more joyful than nostalgic. Its harmonies dance in the discreet singings of the flutes. The movement of the piano becomes more classical. A kind of contemporary classic where the harmonious lines are cooing and get entangle in a strange rustic ballet. A pulsing line makes bouncing a repetitive key in the rippling layers of the synth. A shadow gets loose and hiccups. Another sequence brandishes a more limpid key which skips of a jerky pace. The rhythm becomes linear. It skips on the spot before being taken in a stroboscopic spiral, where are whistling beautiful solos under the knocks of robotics percussions. This is very near of TD's Green Desert, especially for the very ambient finale. And as nothing is really cast in concrete here, the rhythm gets lost in a mist where are roaming some felted percussions and pulsation of a misty locomotive. The ambiences widen undulating synth lines while the rhythm persists in its weakling beatings. Another line of sequence emerges and brings back the rhythm in a more stable choreography with keys which strike such as snips on a structure became bulimic with these rotations of percussions which give a military look to Uqbar II. And this, in spite of all these solos which whirl and eventually suppress the rebellion. Tlön concludes this album with a long ambient intro before falling over a dark rhythm which pounds of its felted knocks beneath the floating moves of the synth pads. I hear here, but weakly, TD's Stratosfear.
There's a very good album which has all the ingredients to please to those most demanding fans of vintage Berlin School EM. Sylvain Mazars shows a stunning maturity and a sense of writing which is quite disconcerting with all those music turnovers which bring the listener in his sonic heaven. You have guessed that to me ORBIS TERTIUS is wonderful surprise! With its structures in incessant awakening, its rhythms which have a delicious scent of analogue and its electronic envelope very near to the psychedelic soils of the vintage years, this first album of Pharamond is a real find and a mosaic of charms.
Sylvain Lupari (October 29th, 2014) ****½*
Available at SynGate Bandcamp