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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari


Updated: Jan 1, 2022

“Again, this is another symbol of pure Berlin School with a fantastic 51 minutes opening”

1 Catalyst 51:28 2 The Chaos Balance 20:28

(CD/DDL 71:56) (V.F.)

(Retro Berlin School)

Are there still aficionados, the pure and hard ones, from the Rubycon era or even Phaedra from you know who? PDB IX will satisfy this limitless greed in those who love this Berlin School style of the vintage and analog years. Recorded during rehearsals of the music that will be performed at the E-Live and The Hampshire Jam festivals in the fall of 2009, PDB IX was originally produced as September 2009 Jams in 2010. This was a limited CD-R release in a trilogy of so-called officials bootlegs. Offered for the first time in manufactured CD and in downloadable format, on the Bandcamp website of the English trio, this version mastered by Michael Daniel meets the expectations of Brendan Pollard and Phil Booth and should satisfy those who were disappointed by the very bootleg sound of the 1st edition. I would say that the result is phenomenal. Because at no time we have the impression to hear this sound of rehearsal and of improvisation.

A long title of more than 50 minutes is always a bold bet. Our ears are not fooled! They have heard those tracks more than once with often mixed results. Especially with the outbreaks of groups such as Air Sculpture, Keller & Schönwälder and RMI who became masters at this level. You must know how to be creative and divide, in addition of making a good dosage, the different phases in order not to lose the interest of the listener. At this level, Pollard, Daniel & Booth have not missed their shot with the brilliant Catalyst. A zone of gray noises and of sizzling radioactivity, a zigzagging synth wave and some tiny puny arpeggios meet in the first moments of its opening. Some rushes of muted shadows, sonic dust and twisted filaments falling from cosmos, morose songs of an interstellar guitar and chirps of electronic sparrows parade throughout the introductory procession of this 50-minute monument to which are also grafted shooting stars and Mellotron songs with fluty aromas. A shadow of more sinister ambiences covers the idle passivity of this introduction when a movement of the sequencer animates a structure of delicate rhythm hopping on the fire of Michael Daniel's guitar and his incisive solos. We dive into these structures of analog rhythms of the Ricochet era here. Only the sulphurous guitar solos take us away from this time, but the sequencer... A line of bass sequences gives an extra boost to Catalyst which flies away with a heavy and furious Berlin School rhythm. And to say that there isn't 10 minutes on the clock! The movement of rhythm offers nuances that demolish the possibility of perfect rotary axes. On the contrary! The long axis of the rhythm runs while losing a key out of its rhythmic chain beneath a sonic sky painted of synth and guitars solos that we hardly discern, so much the musical imprint of the both entities is almost identical. The effects of shooting stars, if not disintegrated, adorn this panorama which makes us stomp, if not roll of the neck. Michael Daniel propels his guitar to the forefront with other good solos and fuzz wah-wah effects on a structure still hungry for Berliner rhythm and for cosmic ambiances. Phil Booth takes over with synth solos while we feel a little rhythmic breathlessness around the 17 minutes. The sequencer quietly switches off its velocity. The rhythm strikes then a barrage of chthonic ambiances at around the 22 minutes. These paranormal moods are pushed by loud waves of roar from a messy keyboard, much like in this old movie Phantasm. It's the keyboard of terror! The effects are cataclysmic with a monstrous sound barrier that nails our ears after our headphones. Quaking arpeggios of a keyboard come sniffing the atmospheres where roam strange electronic tones that can't delimit the boundaries of the abyss of those of the cosmos. Waves of mist rise, as well as lines a little more musical but still recluse of the mysticism of the moment. Layers of chthonic voices embrace these lines that quietly radiate of a seraphic beauty in the dark moment of Catalyst. This transient serenity, and not quite heavenly, crosses the barrier of 33 minutes. Moment when the sequencer takes over the controls with its 2nd phase of Berlin School rhythm embellished by monstrous guitar solos. A very good title and a great Berlin School too.

The Chaos Balance has the difficult task of succeeding to this powerful track. And this is probably the reason that dictated to the English trio to take a different approach with a more ambient structure. Layered organ tones and synth-tones intertwine their floating movements in a black hole filled with chirps and abstract sound effects. It's a seraphic calmness that reaches its point of sonic schizophrenia with a violent din that captures and makes grimace our ears, at least mines', after the 10-minute limit. This static and dissonant rush of tones brings us to the final of a title that was not really needed to increase the rating of this excellent album by Brendan Pollard, Michael Daniel and Phil Booth.

Sylvain Lupari (April 28th, 2019) *****

Available at Pollard/Daniel/Booth's Bandcamp

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