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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

RAINBOW SERPENT: Stranger (2010)

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

A daring CD that has all it needs to appeal to both Berlin School and New Age fans”

1 Intense 3:27

2 Elements 15:00

3 Elements 24:21

4 Leave & Love4:52

5 Beyond New Worlds6:46

6 Wide Open Spaces 5:26

7 Gateway 6:38

8 Ark 4:31

9 Rub Al-Chali 4:35

10 Sands of Time 5:47

11 Memory Leaves 7:02

12 Stranger 4:15

13 Beautiful Child 4:10

(CD 66:53) (V.F.)

(Progressive Berlin School)

Are you interested in Enya on acid? It can be interesting and that's what happens on this latest Rainbow Serpent album that might leave fans of the German duo bewildered. With Live @ Liphook 2007, Gerd Wienekamp and Frank Specht had already made a foray into the world of voices with a heartfelt approach of Middle Eastern musical fragrances. And on STRANGER, they took the challenge to combine two extremes of Electronic Music (EM); the very progressive Berlin School style with the sweet and honeyed melodies of the New Age. The result? Well, it depends on your expectations! On your openness and maybe also on your patience to tame this unreal and virginal voice of Isgaard Marke which melts very well to the synth layers, and which resists to the stormy assaults of the sequences and the aggressive Rainbow Serpent rhythms. And even if STRANGER skims over the romantic and dreamy nuances of the New Age, the duo still exploits its bubbling rhythms. The structures are stormy and nervous with very good atmospheric passages which are here and there swallowed by the sweet voice of the Angel of the sands.

A long musical saga of nearly 70 minutes divided into 13 acts that stick together in a long musical mosaic, STRANGER starts like an avalanche of sounds heard from afar. Intense announces itself with a dark and sinuous distant wind that floats above heterogeneous percussions and sounds, while splitting its breath to create a cloud of layers that slowly waltz in a cosmic void. Orchestrations tear through this atonal wind dance as percussions fall and crash like a dramatic ride over desert dunes, closing Intense to drift nonchalantly into Elements 1 and its reverberating breaths that bellow in a metallic universe. The percussions take back the rhythm. They hammer out a frenzied cadence, supported by a bass line with fast and undulating flows and a line of sequences whose undulations are discreetly molded to the chords of jerky keyboards to circulate in syncopated loops. Some good and powerful Rainbow Serpent music is unfolding in our ears with its complex and crazy rhythms surrounded by a synth's heavy layers that whip the ambiences. There are heterogeneous sounds too that are covered by the suave voice of Isgaard before diving into Elements 2 and its chords that waddle among amphibian pulsations. A carousel of sequences turns around a nice melodious synth line whose circular flights are caressed by orchestral strata and sweet pubescent vocals. The rhythm of Leave & Love gallops on a sequenced bass line with heavy undulations. A syncopated movement that swirls around melodious synth lines and Isgaard's ethereal whispers. A good sung track that stands out in the baroque and complex universe of Rainbow Serpent. It's this kind of title that catches our attention and whose air sticks to the ears without really knowing why. We move forward in this universe of duality where the rhythms, sometimes wild, and the soft harmonies of Rainbow Serpent are twinned with the dreamy songs of their guest. Beyond New Worlds is born from a superb cosmic and aquatic fusion. A meeting between the cosmic and analog universe of Jean-Michel Jarre and the world without description of Rainbow Serpent. A slow synth layer floats and flows in a state of weightlessness, embracing a sequenced line with split chords and shaping a chaotic beat. Isgaard's voice comes to cover this rhythmic like a synth that veils its rhythms. And the magic of layers and vocals' fusion works with all its charms, nevertheless plunging Beyond New Worlds in the middle of a musical paradox, where EM meets the fragility of New Age. Where the complex musical universe of Rainbow Serpent dissipates in the lightness of the sand mermaid's vocals. We reach a point where fans of RS or/and Berlin School can be destabilized by this album. Except that the German duo holds its standard of high musical creativity by shaping good ambiences and rich melodies that evolve around nice synth lines and powerful sequences (Gateway, Arl and the superb Memory Leaves), forging a solid opus with a tribal spirit. On the other hand, many of these melodies are shrouded by the beautiful voice of the German female singer. Tracks like Beyond New Worlds, Wide Open Spaces (which is sublime by the way), Rub Al-Chali, Stranger and the silky Beautiful Child are melodious gems. Melodies whose Isgaard's voice bewitches like those of Enya, Sarah Brightman and even Kate Bush. But that also plunge STRANGER into a musical duality where the line between New Age and EM has never seemed so thin.

The German duo has dared an intrusion into a more accessible and commercial musical world, while keeping their own creative and innovative style. In fact, I think Rainbow Serpent succeeded where Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream have failed. Instead, Gerd Wienekamp and Frank Specht have integrated Isgaard Marke's harmonious vocal approaches into Rainbow Serpent's music, creating a bold mix that has all the ingredients to appeal to both Berlin School progressive fans and New Age first!

Sylvain Lupari (December 7th, 2010) ***¾**

Available at Manikin Bandcamp

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