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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

RENE VAN DER WOUDEN: Astromen (2021)

Updated: Feb 13, 2021

Here it goes! The loop is looped and no, I never found the time long reviewing 5 albums of REWO in a row

1 Astromen 10:23

2 Geomagnetic Storms 17:54

3 Gravitational Attraction 11:00

4 Magnetic Compass 12:43

5 Sunspot 9:30

(DDL 61:32) (V.F.)

(Berlin School)

Here it goes! The loop is looped, ASTROMEN being the conclusion of the Stargazer trilogy. And a little more than in Return to the Stargaze, except for Sunspot, I don't see any connection with this album released 5 years earlier. And if there is consistency to be made, it is at the level of the compositions which are much more elaborate here than in Stargazer. ASTROMEN closes a very creative end of the year for REWO who, pandemic obliges, began to produce a series of albums since Sounds of Silence in July 2020. It's a total of 5 albums of original music, accompanied by 6 compilations, that we are talking here. Five albums where I rediscovered the music of René van der Wouden. And no, I never found the time long ...

After 45 seconds of breezes as copper as scarlet, Astromen infiltrates my ears with an intelligent rhythm. A rhythm which structures a new futuristic dance with a sharp but quite musical movement of the sequencer. The released sequences play cat and mouse with back and forth movements that flow their jerky steps under floating and relaxing synth breaths. The rhythm has this sensation of rubbery leaps, thus responding to the gargantuan emotionality of the synth pads that have become more orchestral. Astromen thus offers duels of intensity, while the title melts into an atmospheric point a little after the 5 minutes. The modification there is drastic with layers full of voices melted in acid particles and a noisy rhythm which exceeds the barrier of amazement to invade my ears already conquered for the last minutes of Astromen. An immense title that I want to hear again and again… Geomagnetic Storms offers a first half under the sign of cosmos with a panoply of cosmic effects and bizarre noises, reminding us that space is a large territory with its habits and customs. Orchestrations are woven at the same time as twinkling stars pass by. Hums seem to emerge timidly from the more intense and cerebral shivering orchestral layers inspired by the intergalactic visions of Klaus Schulze. Keyboard chords also sparkle, giving a more romantic vision to this ambient space where the Moon shines as in a mirror on the bed of abandoned arpeggios. There is intensity in the flow of the arpeggios ringing as if in search of help. From sound effects to sound effects, our ears pick up pieces of wood that rub together while creating a fascinating wooden ticking. We are around 8 minutes and the universe of Geomagnetic Storms is transformed to the sounds of orchestrations whose cutting blades make very Redshift. The arpeggios twinkle again and tie up to a bass-pulse line. Deliciously, René van der Wouden draws us into the dark and sly territories of Arc with a sequence that wanders between pitfalls, skirting and even jumping over elements while making the synth whistling which subdivides in order to launch some sharpened solos in a finale reminiscent of the ideology behind the title Geomagnetic Storms. A dark sequence activates its shadow sounding like a double bass whose strings are firmly plucked and which quietly ascends an invisible staircase built by the fluty airs of the Mellotron. We are at the heart of a storm of wooshh and wiishh to which the sequencer responds with the resonance of the weight of its escalator keys. An astral choir lays its tune down at the same time as the sound effects from a drifting arcade pop out so to fill our ears. The mellotron is very good here and its air attracts all the attention, so much that we don't notice that everything has changed without warning in the decor. Gravitational Attraction's skin change seems painful and trapped in an atmospheric storm. Orchestrations dominate until bold and resonant chords upset its fragile balance. A movement of the sequencer throws a rhythm line whose middle is dribbled. Another movement, as threatening as these synth layers, adds a more animated texture to this title which without knowing it runs to a final which would have given it no chance. Anyway! Magnetic Compass is an ambient track which slowly spreads its chloroform wings with orchestral scents. The movement develops from the inside with a panoply of electronic tones that are in conformity with our discoveries of the vintage years. Here too, the sequencer activates its presence in an environment where the escalation of tones has reached its limit. We are around 7 minutes and the delicate rhythm line drifts in a cosmos covered with orchestral veils in a sound constellation filled with riffs and vocal effects from the Johannes Schmoelling years of Tangerine Dream. Magnetic Compass undergoes another turn for a more intense final at the level of the sonic arch. But everything remains in an area of emotional turbulences and ambiences. In less than 10 minutes, Sunspot demonstrates the know-how of René Van Der Wouden. If we use the rule of 3, the orchestral-astral opening is consistent with the length for a 19-minute track. So, somewhere after the twisted reverberations, ie after the 2 minutes, the sequencer sets up a hurried rhythm which dances with the wooden soles of a big meek and mild puppet. Unexpected and charming! An anesthetic veil follows the course of this structure, which has become bi-rhythmic with reflections of pirated voices. A third skin change brings us into a rest phase with synth pads trying to tear us off the ground. This oneiric grasp lasts barely 2 minutes when the rhythm reformulates its idea in an equally seductive and catchy finale. No, I never found the time long reviewing René van der Wouden's last 5 albums.

Sylvain Lupari (February 13th, 2021) ****¼*

Available at REWO Bandcamp

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