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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Skoulaman & Ron Boots Hot August Afternoon (2022)

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

For an improvised concert it's magic! Pure and simple magic!

1 Unexpected Two 12:57

2 Exit A33 12:16

3 Hot detuned 11:55

4 Dry Fields 14:40

5 In the Barn 16:59

Groove GR-337

(CD/DDL 68:49) (V.F.)

(Berlin & Netherlands Schools)

Ron Boots and Hans van Kroonenburg, aka Skoulaman, had to fill in at short notice for Detlev Keller's absence at the recent Electronic Circus festival in Borgholzhausen, a small town in the county of Detmold, Germany. It was in August, and it was very hot, hence the title, during this performance held in a barn. On short notice equals improvisation! Although Ron had a base to start the show from, the improvisation model is the basis of this recording. The principle creates slow introductions, as well as long finales that build those bridges, those atmospheric passages between two tracks. And both extremes frame structures of ambient and/or driving rhythms that are evolving. This is exactly the content of this HOT AUGUST AFTERNOON. Without taking anything away from Skoulaman, whose music I love, the presence of Ron Boots is more than reassuring in this kind of event where he has a vast experience. The Dutch musician knows tobacco and how to build a rhythm structure from scratch. And this is how this recording unfolds, where the rhythm slowly imposes its presence with structures of ambient beat that converge on solid and very catchy Berlin School. The fans of Tangerine Dream, of the Baumann years, will be delighted by the ambiences of this album.

So, Unexpected Two starts slowly. Various sound effects: shimmering arpeggios in suspension, breezes of chthonian voices, bursts of wind and atmospheric rumblings, and other elements belonging to the Dark psybient model adorn its opening. A flute wave settles, adding an enchanting element to this introduction modulated by two ideas waiting for complicity. The roars of the artificial squalls maintain their gothic grasp, while the sequencer quietly carves out a rhythmic line with arpeggios whose hesitant march remains in symbiosis with the slow opening of Unexpected Two. If it's not catchy for the feet, it's enticing for the ears! Especially when the synths start to roar with their most beautiful electronic tones. The ambient rhythm adopts a processional march under these synth blasts, where a flute air still drags, up until the door of the 8 minutes. Where a pulsating movement was fomenting a few seconds before. This movement accentuates the pace under celestial trumpet harmonies so dear to the Dream's tonalities in its 77 North American tour. Misty riffs add even more depth to these memories of another era, while the rhythm remains statically pulsating and struggling under a huge membrane of electronic tones with these synths imposing their effects and solos in the form of harmonies under a sky that has become almost cacophonic. This richness of the synths is the anchor of this album and surrounds the rhythm lines that intersect and/or juxtapose in the stationary rhythm, an element of pleasure more for the neurons than the feet, in Exit A33. The flavors of Dream are always present on this rhythmic structure where a pulsing bass-line undulates with a good pace, building the main rhythmic link, while oscillations as well as some organic, and percussive elements, mostly rattles, twirl in all directions, describing a rhythm that bubbles with the idea of always getting out of control. The duo saves this option for later in HOT AUGUST AFTERNOON. In fact, the further we go in this concert recording, the more dynamic the rhythm structures evolve. This is the case in the bouncy rhythm, as if you were putting your feet on a cold floor, of Hot detuned. Skoulaman's modular synth went out of tune on this track and Hans was unable to tune it up. Hence the title. But no matter, the rhythm, as sly as the footsteps of a wolf watching its prey, tinkles its sequenced arpeggios and follows its minimalist path in this seraphic setting that is filled with, among other things, slender and twisted synth solos, gothic haze, sibylline voices and ethereal fluty blasts.

If the first 3 tracks follow each other, the last 2 do the same. A bit like an encore. Dry Fields is an excellent Berlin School that starts with a buzzing expression. Glistening synth layers and arpeggios envelop its opening, which is also layered with layers that glide over a misty ice. These layers undulate with their veils and textures of sibylline voices and droning reflections over a 5-minute span. The first beats sound as if they are struck on an elastic skin. From a passive, electronic tribal kind of rhythm, the movement picks up the pace under a shower of twisted synth effects. These effects become good solos as percussive elements, mostly rattles, are grafted onto this rhythm that quavers and has become catchy without warning. The synths were dominant throughout HOT AUGUST AFTERNOON, and they reach a form of apotheosis on the last 2 tracks with a mass of gothic mist where a rain of solos and pads of harmonies twirl, on Dry Fields, which recall rather the period of Johannes Schmoelling with the Dream. Quietly, under synth laments and celestial sparkles, the title slides towards In the Barn. The passage between the 2 titles is done under the sign of psybient music with sharp lamentations and other effects which get this sibylline, even gothic touch, to the Berlin School style of the 70's. The rhythmic backbone emerges before the 3rd minute with a heavy resonant sequencer movement that traces long slaloms where the bass-sequences give the impression of staggering. Another movement lets go of a more limpid and circular rhythm line. Synth solos still abound, as the rhythm structure quietly swirls around encroaching on the bass-sequence line, giving the illusion of barely stumbling and then rising again. Magnetizing! I wrote somewhere in the review; If it's not catchy for the feet, it's enticing for the ears! This is exactly the case with In the Barn, which controls a very good Berlin School that zigzags with a rhythmic prose in perfect symbiosis with the majesty of the synths that launch beautiful solos in a chthonian setting. The intensity of the finale of this track, and of the concert, will give you some shivers of pleasure...guaranteed!

Ron Boots and Skoulaman! Two artists from whom we have the right to expect the best of contemporary Berlin School style electronic music (EM). And on that level, HOT AUGUST AFTERNOON is a little gem for those who love the Tangerine Dream style of the 70s. I know that Ron has Tangentized the real verdict from this recording from the last Electronic Circus festival, giving it that surreal impact for an album woven from two imaginations under an improvisational sign. It is the magic of complicity and of an invisible connection between 2 artists who have already worked together. Magic, pure and simple!

Sylvain Lupari (November 20th, 2022) ****¼*