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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

SEIFERT & STEINBÜCHEL: Missions (2021)

Updated: Sep 5, 2021

A beautiful album where the New Berlin School shines like never before

1 SKYLAB Mission 15:52

2 MERCURY Mission 9:38

3 APOLLO Mission 9:33

4 ISS Mission 10:29

5 COLUMBIA Mission 11:54

6 CHALLENGER Mission 17:24

(DDL 74:52) (V.F.)

(New Berlin School, Orchestral Cosmic)

The Cosmos! Space excursions, lunar landings and the famous exchanges between astronauts and NASA personnel are part of the folklore of EM. And this is even more true for those who have continued to clear the genre after Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and other masters of universes woven in the analog. Fifty years ago this year, the first men walked on the Moon with the Apollo 11 mission. The event generated a lot of CDs and downloads dedicated to this adventure in the field of EM. Erik Seifert and Josef Steinbüchel have done things differently. Their new album MISSIONS is a concept album about NASA missions. To add depth and authenticity, the duo added the original exchanges between NASA astronauts and engineers to each track on MISSIONS. In doing so, each track feeds our interest with a cosmic vision that puts us right in the middle of the action. The two musicians have this art of filling the void with accuracy. We feel the loneliness that weighs on the astronauts in these space shuttles, while the creaking and noises inside the shuttles are as appealing as they are frightening. The beauty of the Cosmos is experienced with fear, and this is what the duo Seifert & Steinbüchel does best. And let's face it, you'll never be as close to space, NASA and its launch sites as with this latest album by Erik Seifert and Josef Steinbüchel.

The opening of SKYLAB Mission is the most striking to this level. The sound effects and dialogues extend for more than 5 minutes and then gradually disappear in lunar orchestrations that remind us of Software's symphonic waltzes in their first albums with a cosmic flavor. These orchestral bursts go beyond the 7-minute mark where we can hear a line of sequenced arpeggios jumping around in a circular pattern. Other sound elements of the same kind are mixed in this setting when a frank rhythm line gets in around the 8th minute. Flickering on a stationary phase, this electronic rhythm attracts some good percussive effects that fill a setting that turns more and more to a mix of rock and electronic techno adorned with very good synth solos as inspired as inspiring. In a big 7 minute of electronic rhythm that takes us back to the mid 80's, SKYLAB Mission also needs its last 2 minutes to explore again this orchestral-atmospheric side with these cosmic winds that make us drift towards MERCURY Mission. The track is also based on a long 5 minutes introduction filled with evasive orchestrations, voice layers, cinematic sound effects and dialogues. The sequencer movement is circular with a very Tangerine Dream tone, with chthonian voices helping, in a cosmic environment. A synth raises its sharp tears, giving a celestial appearance to this sequencer rotation. MERCURY Mission uses the seraphic voice layers to insert the Mercury mission speech. APOLLO Mission is dedicated to the Apollo 13 mission. Its opening sets the scene for those heavy moments of silence, which makes you hear the partitions moving, and of solitude that surround the astronauts. And then, the explosion! We all know the story of Apollo 13 and the tension that was released during the movie relating its story. We feel this tension in this opening where time seems to pass faster than on Earth. This tension, the duo Seifert & Steinbüchel transforms it into an Electronica and up-tempo style that reminds me of Moonbooter, if not the first albums of Stefan Erbe. An excellent track with a nice rhythmic evolution, thanks to a superb use of percussions and percussive elements.

The opening of ISS Mission respects the orientations of Seifert & Steinbüchel in an exchange between cosmonauts and NASA. The rhythm that bursts out of it around the 4th minute is a mid-tempo adorned with a splendid lunar melody whose every beaded note that falls awakens little by little a string of sensitivity. But it's too late, the earworm made itself there to live in the nest of my eardrum. A very beautiful track where even the dialogues are in tune with the music! We slowly slide towards the COLUMBIA Mission which needs only 3 minutes before serving us another curt rhythm, well secured by solid percussions and a bass line with multiple echoes. A rhythm very close to the one of Pyramid Peak in the album Anatomy and that has all the ingredients to screw my ears to my headphones. This cosmic Funk moves away from the dramatic aspect of this mission to focus on the STS-55 mission and the help of Germany. The rhythm is therefore joyful with good chloroformed layers and cosmic effects of the Jean-Michel Jarre years but with more nuances and more details in them. And if its opening was brief, the finale steals some rhythmic time with 2 minutes of verbal exchanges under the caresses of nice electronic arrangements. Here we are at CHALLENGER Mission, the longest track of this MISSIONS. Beeps and samples of communications between NASA and the astronauts take place under a synth line whose apocalyptic perfume floods the ambiences which become soaked with moroseness. But the title does not refer to the tragic accident, it refers rather to the German Spacelab mission STS-61-A. And it's with a stationary rhythmic structure, lying on a hectic bed of sequences and percussions, that CHALLENGER Mission ends this last rhythmic mission on MISSIONS. It's robotic, hypnotic and minimalist. And it's also conducive to unrolling those fragile strobe hoops as the synth multiplies its language as its floating arrangements on a Teutonic structure. It's also very short as a rhythmic option as the rhythm lasts barely 5 minutes before some very beautiful lunar and floating harmonies distance themselves from a buzzing and sizzling phase. If I didn't tell you at the beginning, you have to take the time to fully grasp the sonic phenomenon of this album, and the finale of CHALLENGER Mission shows the intrinsic qualities of these two sound designers and musicians who make us hear and see with our ears the dimensions of these flights, the uncertainty, the tensions, and the loneliness as witnesses of what is most beautiful in the universe.

A beautiful album where the New Berlin School shines like never before, MISSIONS is the album that offers the most accurate perspective of space flights. There are very good passages in this album where more than once, we feel the temporary terror, like the loneliness and the claustrophobia when the cabin cracks or still too long moments of silence. The rhythms, the atmospheres and especially the melodies are there to calibrate our emotions. And yes, there is a lot of dialogue and sound effects but at no time do they interfere with the music. No, everything is well thought in this MISSIONS. Available only as a download, Seifert & Steinbüchel did not give up the idea of a manufactured CD pressing.

Sylvain Lupari (September 5th, 2021) *****

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