['ramp] Arp-en-Ciel (2023)
“There are things that never change in the wonderful world of EM and ['ramp] is one of them”
1 Weerlicht 10:57
2 Arp-en-Ciel 20:59
3 Summer of 88 12:36
4 Chunky Cookies Carpet Ride 1 7:45
5 Chunky Cookies Carpet Ride 2 7:39
6 Chunky Cookies Carpet Ride 3 14:58
(CD/DDL 74:54) (V.F.)
(Ambient, Berlin School)
There are things that never change in the wonderful world of electronic music (EM) and ['ramp], without Lambert Ringlage and Frank Makowski, is one of them. For Stephen Parsick, ARP-EN-CIEL is his most current album. Although the second half of the album, the Chunky Cookies Carpet Ride section, dates back to the early 2000's, the majority of the music on the first half of this new album was conceived in early 2022. This was just before the death of Klaus Schulze. As the music is heavily influenced by Schulze's vintage years, the release of ARP-EN-CIEL was delayed by a year because Parsick didn't want to use Schulze's passing as a vehicle to promote his own music. So Happy Days are Here to Stay was released instead. The album title is a pun on the word arc-en-ciel, which means rainbow, as the musician-synthesist from Moers, Germany, used mostly Arp synthesizers, and their very simple minimalist chord gradations, for the first 45 minutes of ARP-EN-CIEL.
Synth effects flicker over the lapping of astral waves. A distant synth wave floats and settles on the opening of the quiet Weerlicht, reminding us of the serene universe that filled Klaus Schulze's music around the years 74 to 77. It rises like a sibylline shadow, caressing those flickers and rustles that add an esoteric touch to the first musical chapter of ARP-EN-CIEL. Increasingly accentuating its emotional grip, it brings chills as it transforms into a canticle-like ode driven by the presence of the mellotron. The modulations, the accentuation and the darker shadows of this electronic chant propel Weerlicht's ambiences to the same level as the glorious era of vintage EM. These moments pour into the opening of the very long title track, which sucks them in over a 90-second span before Stephen Parsick activates his first rhythm unit with cadenced chords that jump around in the shadows of each other. These sequenced arpeggios jump around in a leapfrog effect until a series of bass-pulses structure a more sustained electronic rhythm similar to those that Jean-Michel Jarre innovated in his cosmic universe. Afterwards, ['ramp] inserts a line of arpeggios that jumps more nervously, some modulations to the series of bass-pulsations and some rather discreet electronic effects in order to deepen the atmospheric and rhythmic texture of Arp-en-Ciel. Synth solos, equally discreet, and twists of reverberations, similar to irradiating drones, are quietly grafted, creating a tasty mix between the universes of these 2 EM pioneers. Stephen maintains the pace of this very good electronic cosmic rock over a distance of more than 15 minutes where the track evolves with a rhythmic grace that monopolizes our attention. The finale of Arp-en-Ciel finally wraps itself in the ambiences of Weerlicht to initiate Summer of 88, a period where Parsick was inspired by the atmospheric and improvised structures of Klaus Schulze early years. The modulations in the chants of the mellotron, the organ layers with the tones of the mirific Farfisa and these elements creating nebulous atmospheres bring us back to the golden years of EM.
The 2nd part of ARP-EN-CIEL revolves around the Chunky Cookies Carpet Ride trilogy which has its roots in recording session in April 2000 when Klaus Hoffmann Hoock (Cosmic Hoffmann) visited Stephen Parsick. The 2 friends had spent a beautiful morning walking in a misty forest. And both had heads just as foggy as the morning atmosphere of the time. A subsequent recording session at Cosmic Hoffmann studio would cement the moods of the music that Parsick would rediscover by accident years later. He reshaped these sessions to give them an atmospheric texture akin to the mantric world of Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock. And it is in this excess of serenity, proper to the first albums of Mind Over Matter, that the first 2 acts of Chunky Cookies Carpet Ride take place. Except that clacking, it sounds like hoofbeats dancing on asphalt, and rumbling awaken the final moments of Chunky Cookies Carpet Ride 2. This is the signal for the trilogy to finally awaken to a rhythmic structure as frenetic as hoped. A series of arpeggios jump around to structure keen oscillations. These loops cling to a spiral of 3 sequenced chords that rise and fall in a lively and driving Berlin School structure. A structure sieved by waves and flying shadows of a mellotron with the Cosmic Hoffmann inspirations. The oscillations come and go, structuring the flight of a fighter helicopter, over this fiery electronic rock flow which gradually loses them from ear. The series of 3 sequences stretch their gaps at times, slowing down the velocity of Chunky Cookies Carpet Ride 3 which gets stuck in sibylline voice textures until a finale where the rhythm palpitates less and less, thus leaving the musical imprint of Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock well alive in our ears.
Returning to the base of ['ramp], we must also hear the amazing Last Exit Barbarossaplatz from an album made in collaboration with Bernhard Wöstheinrich, Ultima Ratio in April 2022, Stephen Parsick proves that the charms of Berlin School do not always lay in the most total complexity. ARP-EN-CIEL is an eloquent example. A very nice album that surfs on the musical memories of 2 icons of the 70's and more, with a slight essence of J-M Jarre's cosmic odes. What more can we expect? If not the reincarnations of Schulze, Hoffmann-Hoock and Edgar Froese for whom the mellotron also had no secrets. The album is offered in manufactured CD as well as in downloadable format via the Bandcamp site of ['ramp].
Sylvain Lupari (May 13th, 2023) ****½*
Available at ['ramp] Bandcamp
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