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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

RENE VAN DER WOUDEN: Return to the Stargaze (2020)

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

There are some great moments in this album where at no time did I feel that René van der Wouden lacked inspiration

1 Return to the Stargaze 16:07

2 Red Star Dwarf 17:32

3 Moonbeam 17:23

4 Sounding Rockets 17:23

(DDL/CD-R 68:27) (V.F.)

(Berlin School, Progressive EM)

RETURN TO THE STARGAZE is the suite of this album which generated the popularity of René van der Wouden in the firmament of cosmic sequencer-based EM of the Berlin School style. It was in 2015 that Stargazer appeared in the bins and on the wires of Internet. Before knowing RETURN TO THE STARGAZE, I did not know about this Stargazer saga which will know its outcome with Astromen, my next column about REWO. René sent me this Stargazer, that I should review soon, in order to establish comparison points. I didn't find any! RETURN TO THE STARGAZE is more ambient with more convoluted rhythmic structures which command more than one listening in order to better assimilate them. If the introductions of Stargazer's titles are long, here it's the endings that would have a better impact if they were cut by a few minutes. I am thinking among others of Moonbeam which is a real bomb with a too long finale. For the rest, I found a solid album with hypnotic rhythms and a lot of imagination in terms of setting. There are some great moments in this album where at no time did I feel that René van der Wouden lacked inspiration. He who finished 2020 with 5 albums, including 3 consecutive ones, and a series of compilations ...

Synth blades that screech in the hollows of rubbery wooshh, and aerial effects as prismatic ones' are at the origin of the slow atmospheric opening of the title-track. A storm of cosmic winds whistles with a rush of speed and in the shape of zigzags and yet this unreal choir. Return to the Stargaze presents an intro sewn into a high-tension cosmic setting. The sequencer releases a ghostly-looking line flowing through this storm of wiishh and waashh. Wreckage debris can be heard colliding whereas eddies are sucking the remaining debris around haunting voices. It's between the jets of the ballasts that the sequencer sculpts a zigzagging movement a little after the 5th minute. Uncertain, the rhythm takes its aplomb while chatting with jets of mist and with an effect of extraterrestrial dialogue from a creative synth. Hypnotic, this rhythmic procession touches no ground, if it's only this thin floor made of resonances which gives it a footrest. This approach gains in intensity while crossing an ambient cosmic panorama in a form of Berlin School having even brought its wall of chthonic voices. It's only after 13 minutes that this sequencer's mirage receives support. And it comes from percussions, not really on fire, which make the drum rolls, giving the sequencer one more argument to bring out another rhythmic line with a more accentuated flow.

Atmospheric but lively, these are the first 3 minutes of Red Star Dwarf. Wooshhs from afar have this tail of debris and of lost voices dragging behind. Synth waves roam between the two ears with this false tone of vuvuzelas and trumpets worn out by cosmic sand. The echo of mechanical knocking, like industrial noises, disappears as the sequencer makes circulate a line of keys which oscillate while being hammered by various chords, including the hums of a line of buzzing drones. A bass line stings this stationary rhythm which goes up and down with harmonies stuck to its undulating movement. Too fluid for this mass of ambient sounds, the rhythm drifts towards a phase of lunar elements and lets itself float in these lines of voices which come and go since the opening of RETURN TO THE STARGAZE. The sequencer reactivates its rhythmic line around the 10th minute. Of same velocity, this rhythm adjusts to the intensity of its lunar envelope, to this more biting bass line and these small lines of fluttering sequences which get excited in this progression which has become a celestial suite for cosmic orchestrations. Let's say this is not where I'm going to write; wow that's some very solid REWO! But it's an intense atmospheric title with a good creativity from René in the choice of his cosmic effects.

But yes, I would write wow for the superb Moonbeam!

Its opening is sewn in the inspirations of Klaus Schulze's Moondawn years. Layers of ether and grainy vocals should beware of attacks of resonant bass hiding a superb, sneaky and soaring movement of the sequencer. The swing of this hypnotic rhythm is perfect. It goes from ear to ear in a false stereo effect, the intensity of one go being stronger than its return. Those who think of Remy's nocturnal structures are on the same wavelength as me. The decor of the rhythm is this evasive wave which extends its dimensions with a bluish tone. Suddenly, a crackling shadow envelops the structure of a cloud of tonal radioactivities, while the decor awakens to the sounds of layers of apocalyptic trumpets. Percussive elements inspired by Electronica and psybient mimic the swing of the rhythm, even giving it a second skin, which is more nervous. It's around the 9th minute that Moonbeam activates its second skin. Spasmodic skin with a cybernetic tone and bassline that forms the bulk of its upward momentum. But everything changes! In a space-time of more or less 4 minutes, the title seeks its identity in the bursts of percussive elements before carving out a place on a rhythm forged with lively and radiant oscillations, propelling the title towards these conventional electronic rhythms, always with its desire for struggling.

No! It's not Tangram! It's Sounding Rockets which wants to pay homage to this prosperous period of Tangerine Dream. A shadow of rhythm spreads its skeletal keys in a mist that remains as immense as intense. This mist with orchestral arrangements also hides percussive elements, like tinkles that are never too certain of what they are, and electronic chirps which remain stuck to this rough rhythm which emerges further on in a corner of a seraphic garden. In short, René van der Wouden takes all his time to weave an atmospheric web and its precious hiding places, including synth layers that are truly from the Schmoelling era, before releasing another structure of hypnotic rhythm. This time, it's this cachectic series of sequences that have all become fat and intimidating with their rays of reverberation. We are around the 7th minute and René is already attaching seductive percussive elements to it which always add a dimension to his rhythms which are not always easy to assimilate. But this time, let's tied to our Tangram memories and you get a feel for this structure. It's pure Berlin School that goes up and down and where REWO has only removed a key, history that the rhythm hobbles a bit. We go up and down with clickers and tssitt-tssitt, and then with finely sharpened and whistled solos so that they remain discrete. The rhythm sequence changes tones to timidly return to its initial engagement, leading Sounding Rockets to an ethereal haze finale.

A very nice album of pure cosmic EM! This is what awaits you if you set out to discover RETURN TO THE STARGAZE.

Sylvain Lupari (29/01/21) ****¼*

Available at REWO Bandcamp

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