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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Remy The Other Side: Lost in Reality (2023)

Intense and tenebrous, an album worthy of Remy's great vintages, even with a choir

1 Prologue 13:15

2 First Movement 9:43

3 The Skeptic 4:15

4 Lucida 6:13

5 Reality 2:34

6 The Astral Projector 1:37

7 The Akashic Records 4:09

8 The House of God 11:05

9 Reality Abandoned 5:00

10 Epilogue 9:43

(CD/DDL 67:39) (V.F.)

(Ambient E-Rock opera)

THE OTHER SIDE: LOST IN REALITY is an ambitious follow-up to Remy's excellent album The Other Side which was released in 2020. That album included the epic track Lost in Reality, with lyrics sung by Judith Wesselius and narrated by Joost Verhagen, who wrote the lyrics. Performed live at the Grote of St.-Bavokerk in Haarlem, the Netherlands, it's the second or third time that Remy performed there, with a choir of 10 singers, THE OTHER SIDE: LOST IN REALITY is the boldest and most conceptual work from the curly-haired musician to date. The whole album, with the exception of Prologue and Epilogue, is built upon the 23-minutes track Lost in Reality. Remy has deconstructed its core and spread it out over a distance of more or less 45 minutes. The Ijmuiden musician-synthesist's signature respects his usual style, exploiting ambient passages as much as Netherlands School rhythms, and even flirting with the EDM genre on the explosive The Skeptic. Mixing vocals and lyrics with music that people appreciate precisely for the absence of these elements is often synonymous with commercial failure. Even Klaus Schulze's operas have been shunned, except for his collaborations with Dead Can Dance singer Lisa Gerrard, which were well received. I'd say it's in this niche that this new album from the man who gave us the excellent Exhibition of Dreams in 1999 nests. So, is the choir annoying? Honestly, as someone who's not a fan of choirs, I found, after a few listens to certain tracks, that the voices and their explosions here and there went very well with the ambiences woven by Remy's splendid arrangements. All things considered; the voices are more dominant on this opus than on the title-track from the previous album. They hum, sing and narrate in a proportion that I'd put at just over 50% of the album. Lyrics aside, the voices extend textures of seraphic ahhs and ohhs that blend well with the orchestrations. And like with The Other Side, the lyrics can be found inside the CD booklet. If you'd rather buy the album as a download, they're available in PDF format.

Like its title suggests, Prologue is a long prologue in which the choir hums and narrates all the lyrics of the other 8 movements of THE OTHER SIDE: LOST IN REALITY. In addition to these texts, the choir murmurs seraphic arias within an ambient, rhythmless musical framework. This framework is forged in electronic orchestrations that give the illusion of a small string ensemble. The music is totally atmospheric, charming enough to meditate on, with drone waves resonating around hushed explosions. Its opening is very ethereal, with low humming and sharper female vocals. At times, the two extremes intersect, giving the music a more theatrical dimension. Gradually, an oratorio-like quality sets in as a singer narrates the text around the 7-minute mark. The violin and cello sections amplify the dramatic effect of the narration. A violin even activates the cadence to guide us into the sequencer's dynamic of First Movement. Its rhythm is very driving, with a sequencer that carves out zigzags. Although fluid, the step is resonant, and a sizzling shadow of ectoplasmic texture at times adorns this staggering, accelerated march. Arpeggios fall sparingly, adding a cadenced melody texture that quickens the pace as the sequencer activates its own. The two elements merge in a good symbiosis, adding texture to this Edgar Froese-inspired Berlin School. Wailing synth, wind and string instruments add that Exhibition of Dreams dimension to the track, which spills over vigorously into The Skeptic, where excellent percussion play structures a seductive EDM vision. The vocals arrive around the 1-minute mark. Seraphic as Ulysses' mermaids in Homer's tale, they bewitch in the same measure as the marvelous oceanic songs of Fresh Aire VI, a magnificent album from Mannheim Steamroller. Joost Verhagen narrates the short poem over this bed of elegiac vocal humming. The aria-opera approach versus narration isn't long enough to annoy the ears. But once these sung and hummed harmonies are assimilated, the music comes flows much better. Honestly, First Movement and The Skeptic are a truly bomb, where Berlin School style transits into EDM on a theatrical operatic backdrop. We can't get enough! And I want more... Lucida opens with a jangle, before the strings weave a slow, undulating movement supported by electronic percussions and percussive rattlings. The mood is dark, with husky exhalation effects feeding a panorama of anguish. The synthesizer babbles verses that crumble into brief, discreet solos. Remy is the architect of a very eerie, murky passage, here as in many other moments on this album, with good synth effects that have a cinematic dimension for a horror film. And the voices, admirably matched to this setting, add to this perspective. Although slow, the rhythm has a hypnotic texture that becomes a kind of gentle hallucinogenic trance. There's also the essence of Remy's first album, with nice orchestrations to which the muddled arias hum like in a bad dream. Awesome stuff!

Reality follows with its orchestrations dragging the weight of the world through their strings, the violin is weeping, over a rhythm that leaps and bounds. We quickly slip into The Astral Projector. A portion of the text is narrated, and the choir focuses on voices with lower timbres as well as a little more clearer. The rhythm bounces along with more gusto here with some good percussive rattling. It is girdled by circular synth effects and enveloped by ambient drone phases. Tinkling and a rubbery sequence line play cat-and-mouse with the ambiences of The Akashic Records. A little like Lucida, the ambiences are anguished with a good vision of string instruments by Remy on synth. Vocals dominate on this track, whose rhythm leaps forward at a slower pace. The arrangements are incredible, with Remy's creativity always remaining in that dark zone where dreams exploit the darker side of our lives. The tinklings sculpt a dimension as much rhythmic, when attached to the slow procession of synth string instruments, as melodic. And the melody they engender reminds me of Eddie Jobson's sublime Theme of Secrets. The House of God also comes to us with its big sound effects worthy of an angst movie. There's a pounding of percussive elements, like sequenced keyboard riffs, in the background. And it gradually becomes a zigzagging rhythm line that is less heavy than in First Movement. Ascending, as in a very good New Berlin School, the rhythm meanders through moods bordering on the sordid, before finally guiding us into a more seraphic phase dominated by a melancholy keyboard. The music follows a cinematic curve, with bolder chords adding a thin membrane of drama to the ambience of a track still dominated by its backbone of bouncy riffs from the beginning. A moment of pure magic that stretches over a distance of 8 minutes before the choir begins to blow its vocal airs. This hummed melody is like a kind of adoration until a strong male voice starts reciting the poem from The House of God, giving an Otello-like finale to this other strong title from THE OTHER SIDE: LOST IN REALITY. Reality Abandoned opens with a good cadenced melody tossed between our ears by a dreamy keyboardist. Remy runs notes from his piano over this processional ritornello, where a nice choir is laying down as well as a flute aria enchanted by the setting. It's a beautiful piece of music that migrates with intensity towards its silent finale. Epilogue closes Remy's latest album on a very somber note. The winds whistle behind the wall of sound instituted by the famous C. Müller Organ, where Remy does a fine imitation of the no less famous Fantôme. Intense and dark, Remy couldn't have found a better way to end an album on the scale of The Other Side. And even if there are more voices, it's the music and the atmosphere created by the arrangements that are the core of THE OTHER SIDE: LOST IN REALITY!

Sylvain Lupari (November 11th, 2023) *****

Available at Remy Stroomer Bandcamp

(NB: Texts in blue are links you can click on)

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