RALF WADEPHUL: Ich Bin Ein Berliner (2012)
Updated: Oct 11
“This is another nice surprise from Ralf Wadephul who presents a solid live performance which is in the same vein as TD's 220 Volts”
1 Ghosts in the Satellite 6:40
2 Remember '88 (Incl. Neptune's Cave) 11:05
3 Into the Thunder 5:56
4 Suffering Sharks 6:58
5 Sungate 5:25
6 Endless Blue 8:43
7 Encore (Jump Van Halen) 8:50
(CD 53:39) (V.F.)
(Up tempo, e-rock and New Berlin School)
I understood, when I was reviewing When Aliens Meet a Drop of Water, that Ralf Wadephul was quite a character who liked to bring a very theatrical touch to his music. It was therefore not too much of a surprise when I learned that he is now a freelance sound engineer and that he mainly does the final mixes of German versions films for cinema and television. And it's exactly this electronic party ambiences, where the fantastic meets the limits of an imagination which finds all its depth in the shadow of synths and sequencers, that we find on his first solo album and here on ICH BIN EIN BERLINER. This is a very patriotic title (I'm a Berliner) for a performance given as part of the 40th anniversary of the Berlin School movement. And yet Ralf Wadephul is not an artist imbued of this minimalist and hypnotic artistic approach. Oh no! Accompanied by Thorsten Wagner on guitars, Kai Wiegert on bass and Heiko Gigner on percussion; WAdePHUL (the name of his band) delivers an astonishing performance that respects all the megalomania of this sci-fi eater and of his music woven into some explosive reminiscences of Optical Race, but with a much more intense musicality and a clear trend for heavy electronic progressive rock adorned of subtle orchestral arrangements.
Ghosts in the Satellite is the only new track here. The intro offers a prelude to new TV shows with a variety of static tones and crackles that gradually fade away to give way to a skipping rhythm. An organ layer flies over the first steps of this somewhat simplistic tempo while a synth extends a semi-spectral and semi-sci-fi harmonic veil over a title which balances its harmonies on a structure more focused on progressive soft rock. Remember '88 (Incl. Neptune's Cave) opens with a vocoder, creating a brief moment of cybernetic mood before the first chords of Neptune's Cave are heard. The interpretation is softer and brings the title back in a very down-tempo mode, almost a slow one. The atmospheric section of the middle is longer, with the use of the vocoder, while the surrounding veil is more nourished. But overall, it remains a nice interpretation of a title that seems to be, and with good reason, one of the public's favorites. Into the Thunder and Suffering Sharks fit the parameters of When Aliens Meet a Drop of Water, while Endless Blue offers a blues lounge-like structure with Ralf Wadephul speaking to listeners in a chloroformed voice. I like this version better where the saxophone is brilliantly replaced by soft synth solos while the guitar is smoother, dreamier. I couldn't remember that Sungate, from the Optical Race album, was co-written with Paul Haslinger and Edgar Froese, so it was with astonishment that I saw it on this W.A. dePHUL live album. And again, the interpretation is tinged with blues. An electronic blues as suggestive as dreamy with a biting guitar which mixes its solos and heavy riffs quite well without ever altering this melodious portion which always has its effect. The large ghostly organ layers à la Fantôme de L'Opera run at the opening of Encore before igniting a heavy atmospheric phase. This last unnamed track comes out of its organic coma to plunge into the unreal with a robotic and electronic version of Jump (yes yes; Van Halen) where synth solos and guitars share a furious battle that won't make us forget the original, but the game is worth the effort.
Unpretentious, and with an enormous respect for his audience, Ralf Wadephul, or W.A.dePHUL, delivers a performance which seems as energizing as his music. I was pleasantly surprised by When Aliens Meet a Drop of Water and ICH BIN EIN BERLINER exploits deeply the strength of this amazing album that I have no shame to recommend. This is a particularly good live album weaved in the approaches that Tangerine Dream ran during its 220 Volts tour, either with some furious and inspired e-rock. It's a good album which shows that EM can also lift its passions in concert. That would be pleasant to have a video version.
Sylvain Lupari (April 29th, 2013) *****
Available at Groove NL