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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

RENÉ VAN DER WOUDEN: Earth Festivities (2013)

Updated: Oct 31, 2020

Earth Festivities is a strong album where EM of the analog years caresses modern forms without ever smothering rhythms and melodies

1 Earth Festivities 19:26

2 Water Festivities 10:07

3 Tropical Forest Festivities 10:46

4 Arctic Festivities 3:50

5 Desert Festivities 4:52

6 Antarctica Festivities 6:57

7 Air Festivities 5:31

8 Life Festivities 5:01

9 Human Festivities 7:18

(CD-R/DDL 73:48) (V.F.)

(Sequencer based Cosmic Rock)

It had been a long time since I had heard René Van Der Wouden's music. Since 2009 and his very good Numerus Fixus in fact. Since then, the Belgian synthesist has produced no less than 4 albums while remastering his old out of print ones on behalf of the German label SynGate. And it's good to reconnect with his music. Inspired by the documentary series Earth Planet and Frozen Planet of the English TV BBC, EARTH FESTIVITIES takes us in the paths of the influences of René van der Wouden with a very good album which breathes the rhythms and the cosmic atmospheres of Jean-Michel Jarre and the textural harmonies of Vangelis.

Voices that wind around static crackling; the intro of Earth Festivities hovers like flights of birds trapped in the storm of cosmic winds. Winds ooze in long twisted gashes and sing in their murky voices in a long sonorous corridor adorned with twinkling stars. And in the distance, we hear percussions clicking with the fear of disturbing. The rhythm sets in. It grows with its clickings of metallic percussions which tickle synth waves suddenly become very musical, as they float like a cosmic waltz. René van der Wouden hasn't forgotten the cradle of his influences. We swim in the open space of Jean-Michel Jarre with a sound firmament variegated with its electronic tones to the sweet aromas of analog. Perfume that will nourishes the 74 minutes of the album. It's beautiful and tenderly poetic. This cosmic rhythm hiccups finely on the strikes of percussions while a line of sequences gathers its jumping keys which play in their glass clothes in a dense mist with angelic voices. Their dance forges an earworm that will sharpen our senses over the next 12 minutes, even if sometimes they disappear momentarily. Like the rhythm! It's quietly, under the cover of cosmic mists, that the title-track offers its rhythmic texture. A rhythm which comes and goes, and which incubates its heaviness under intense cosmic layers to finish by biting its resonant chords towards the 12th minute. And the rhythm becomes violence. It flinches like a big harmonic funk buzzing with rage on the fragile rattling of sheet metal percussions and the glass-shaped sequences that bicker in dense cosmic clouds pierced with angelic voices. It's powerful, beautiful, and oneiric. It sets the tone for a completely unexpected album.

Are you missing the slow cosmic diversions of Jarre? The very ambient and floating Water Festivities will be your antidote. It's a slow waltz where streams of sequences flow and of which the musical grains are spreading out rhythms which sleep under the enveloping layers of a synth with soporific sighs of weariness. We love? The stock of short titles in this second half of the album is full of them. After this slow dance of cosmic waters where the waves and foam intertwine in the shade of the anger of Aeolus and the cybernetic dialogues of R2D2, Tropical Forest Festivities takes hold of our ears with an astonishing and seductive structure of rhythm. A very musical rhythm where REWO forges tribal percussions and acoustic guitar chords which support harmonies blown in a strange wind instrument. One has the impression of having heard this melody everywhere as it is so familiar and yet unique due to its cachet of paradisiacal beauty. Tangerine Dream for Force Majeure, Mind Over Matter, Ian Boddy and David Wright are names that come to mind in order to better describe the rhythmic and harmonic structure of Tropical Forest Festivities whose evolution embraces a more jerky and a more muscular tangent in 2nd half of the track. One of the good musical titles I heard this year. As atmospherical as Water Festivities but with more weight in terms of rhythms that remain static, Arctic Festivities, Desert Festivities and Antarctica Festivities are titles that fascinate with a mixture of sequences with organic tones which meander around very ambient structures. Air Festivities offers a sweet reverie à la Vangelis hunted down by sound elements which erode its sculptural beauty while Life Festivities respects the very great tranquility of the ambient titles with soft prisms which ring in violin sighs that René van der Wouden borrows from a nice floating orchestration structure. Human Festivities stands out from the crowd of titles here by closing Earth Festivities with an electronic synth-pop approach à la Jarre. It's a very catchy track with nuances in the rhythms and a good melodious approach unique to the electro-pop signature of his.

In an environment where too often everything is alike, René Van Der Wouden is a breath of fresh air. He belongs to this category of artists who have their own musical signature. His music is unique. Even if the strong reminiscences of JMJ hover here and there, his sound signature is his own. But it's not the only charm of EARTH FESTIVITIES. His latest album shows an attractive musical writing of his own. It's a nice album where the EM of the analog years caresses the contemporary forms in an electronic envelope where the creativity and the atmospherical structures never extinguish the harmonious phases. There are earworms lying around here and there, as well as electronic rhythms to make dream fans of the French synth-wizard, Ron Boots and Przemyslaw Rudz.

Sylvain Lupari (August 21st, 2013) *****

Available at SynGate Bandcamp

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