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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

SKOULAMAN: Fluxes in Philadelphia (2019)

In my opinion, we don't discover Skoulaman's music with this live CD which in the end gives us the desire to listen to his previous album again

1 Baku Memories 10:06 2 Rumble 10:17 3 Oceans and Air Guitar 11:47 4 Chinese Sea 4:53 5 Fluxes in Philadelphia 10:38 6 EC2 10:48 7 Coloured Glass 13:15 Groove Unlimited ‎– GR-283 (CD/DDL 71:45) (V.F.) (Ambient Berlin School)

Following his huge Next Step in Evolution, Hans Van Kroonenburg trades the tranquility of his studio for his backpack as a musician through various festivals and shows that will take him near Philadelphia as part of the famous radio program Star's End. It was also during the E-day 2018 event in Oirschot that Chuck van Zyl, the host of this show on WXPN 88.5 FM, met Skoulaman. Dazzled by his performance and his music, Chuck sent him the invitation to cross the Atlantic in order to visit the legendary studios of The Gatherings. Obviously Hans couldn'tbring his studio, and his son Rik, who played guitar on Next Step in Evolution, couldn't make it. It was therefore with equipment that Chuck van Zyl and his friends lent him, as well as a new guitarist, Harrison McKay from The Tangent Project band, whom he met the day before, that Skoulaman improvised a set of 90 minutes of an EM that follows the musical trends of his excellent last album.

Something may annoy some of you, and which is however very interesting at the same time, are the introductions and the explanations of maestro Chuck van Zyl that we hear 3 times in this album; at the beginning, at Chinese Sea and at the end where he clearly explains the contexts of this performance by Skoulaman. Baku Memories begins with his comments. This new title does very Vangelis in its uncertain opening where hesitant fingers float on the keyboard, while synths and bass lines warm the moods. Little by little, the fragile style of the sequencer, which makes its keys jump like the legs of a Bambi on ice, invades our ears with an ascending bass line. Hans Van Kroonenburg coats a good lunar melody on this floating rhythm that with a good layer of anesthetic mist. There, the keyboard moans of tenderness while the gentle excitement of the sequencer keeps the music at a level of dreamlike wandering. If the velocity of the sound suggests an increase in the flow, that's the Skoulaman magic! Thus, Baku Memories continues its floating migration like a line of butterflies with glowing wings.

I wrote improvised above because the titles found on Next Step in Evolution, Rumble, Oceans and Air Guitar, EC2 and Colored Glass are interpreted with differences in terms of rhythmic flow which is either slower or unconvinced versus the studio album. It's okay like that since this new dimension corresponds to a concert recording. Sometimes it's on the nose. Other times, it's less so! Some openings are initiated on the model of Jean-Michel Jarre and his Concerts in China at the level of the setting of the instrument which are diffusers of ambiences. And if these ambiences are decidedly different, the core remains the same except for a few nuances. Except for Colored Glass which is more hesitant here. After the 2nd interlude with Chuck van Zyl, Chinese Sea explains this association a little better than I can't help making with Jarre. It's an atmospheric passage which leads us to the beautiful Fluxes in Philadelphia. The intro continues with the finale of Chinese Sea and its windy sepulchral chants. Early on, two lines of rhythms synchronize their beat so as to make feel very well the tip of their alternating, sculpting a cosmic rock which serves as a convoy for arpeggios and their harmonic attempts. A nice bass line brings more fluidity, while layers of voices counterbalance with a more seraphic vision. Following the known rhythms of Skoulaman, Fluxes in Philadelphia runs towards a skid when the synchronism of the lines of rhythm gets slightly confused to redirect the rhythm to a more sustained level and where the harmonies stand out in a panorama which is filled with felted jets. This is some good Skoulaman, like in Next Step in Evolution.

We don't discover Skoulaman's music with this FLUXES IN PHILADELPHIA. In my opinion, it's a good album in concert which gives us the desire to listen to his previous album again. The purpose of a tour what! I found the performance adequate with good interpretations and two new titles which makes us very comfortable as for the next stage of the Dutch musician. It's beautiful, it's good. It's Skoulaman!

Sylvain Lupari (March 4th, 2020) ***¾**

Available at Groove NL

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