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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

RENE de BAKKER: Passing By (2022)

A powerful album where the imbalance between reason and aberration is depicted with emotion

1 Nerdisch 13:14

2 Ecanon 8:30

3 Passing By 17:56

4 Slow Steps 10:54

5 Fading Mind 17:23

(CD/DDL 67:58) (V.F.)

(Ambient Berlin School)

Accustomed as we are to Rene de Bakker's Cartesian albums, this PASSING BY might surprise, even disappoint at first listen, with a much more complex approach. Complex like this mental imbalance that settles in over the years. Complex as dementia, this disease that makes our identity disappear little by little until we lose the reasons of what we sacrificed to get where we wanted to be and ended to this diagnosis. This new album of the Dutch musician is the reflection of this fight against the disease of his father. A powerful album where the imbalance between reason and aberration is depicted with emotion.

It is with arpeggios gamboling in the rhythmic complexities of the sequencer that Nerdisch opens. The movement is crystalline, with shadows of bass and bass-sequences as well as the echo of these arpeggios that gradually accelerate the pace. Hyperactive for the neurons, these sequenced chords enjoy a structure free of rhythmic constraint, favoring random jumps and shocks. The rhythmic mathematics takes over when the bass subtly gets hungrier and joins in with almost invisible percussions. Lovers of sequences and of these short, chaotic and jerky series à la Chris Franke are in the right place in this PASSING BY, which exploits different rhythmic facets that a sequencer can offer in an electronic music (EM) universe. A light orchestral haze perfumes this static and circular rhythmic chassé-croisé where get grafted other arpeggios with a vision more melodic than rhythmic. If Nerdisch seduced from the start, it is another story with Ecanon. Even with its bouquet with the scents of Klaus Schulze, period Dreams. Its start is slow with a cello that stretches its overwhelming laments on a bed of compassionate violins. These orchestrations turn into a slow waltz movement that swirls relentlessly with the tinkling of curtly plucked strings until the sequencer wakes up around the 4th minute. The movement is like a tornado rising from the ground like spasmodic swirls in a resonant and dramatically embracing bass layer. In a mishmash of genres, orchestrations and synth blasts, sounding like trumpets, are sucked into this swirling swarm of sounds that annihilates its confusion to let the sequencer make frolic these sequences a bit crazy which vanish like the winds after a storm. We reach the long title-track and its secret opening where the winds whisper on the bed of a sequencer in full awakening. A superb ascending procession emerges and winds its way through a soundscape where a few chords tinkle like lost calls in the middle of the forest. This movement accelerates little by little the cadence with some percussions drummed by invisible hands, while the synthesizer spices up its harmonies which wander like drifting memories. Borrowing the mirages of Klaus Schulze, Passing By flirts with the perfection of a minimalist structure where the charms are secretly deposited. A bass line renews the rhythmic contribution of the title which becomes a splendid Berlin School a few seconds after the 9th minute. The synth multiplies these breaths and effects which sound so much like discordant elements in this magnificent magnetizing spiral at the same time as floating harmonies which make counterweight to this temporary insanity. Great art my friends!

Don't let yourself fooled by this somewhat disorienting opening of Slow Steps. After a tumultuous first minute, the music reveals itself to be a sumptuous lunar ballad with the undulating movement of the sequencer and its keys floating in a harmonious haze. Behind this carousel for lost spirits, the synth elaborates this subtle fight between abyss and hope. In particular with points of emotionality which pierce a possible carapace of insouciance while listening to this other good title of PASSING BY which is haloed by some nice arrangements of cosmic orchestrations. It is difficult to explain Fading Mind. You have to hear it! Orchestral, its opening caresses our ears over a distance of 5 minutes. The sequencer weaves evanescent volutes that come and go to finally take a sedentary rhythmic flight around this 5th minute. A bass layer adds depth to this decor where everything that comes disappears almost immediately, except for the sumptuous orchestral layers of a synth that releases at times pieces of harmonies whose loops fade away immediately in the lunar mists of the title. A little long? It may be! Except that our brain is elsewhere, wandering in these foggy spaces where all that comes disappears at once. Like those last moments in the sleepwalking life of a person suffering from Alzheimer's.

You have to get inside the composer's head to fully appreciate Rene de Bakker's last journey, like his father's no doubt. Flirting with a lifeless but emotionally resourceful EM, PASSING BY, offered both as a manufactured CD and as a download by the Dutch label Groove nl, is the kind of album that can be listened to alone with our recollections before they disappear into the fog of our memory.

Sylvain Lupari (April 14th, 2022) *****

Available at Groove nl

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