Skoulaman & Stephan Whitlan Flight 433106 (2023)
Updated: Sep 13
“A beautiful album that has everything to please Berlin School fans”
1 Dalton Lift-off 13:02
2 Meadows from the Air 14:45
3 Descent into Chaos 14:20
4 HE727 13:59
5 Epitaph 6:49
(CD/DDL 62:58) (V.F.)
Waves of sizzle and of drones are opening the lift-off of Dalton Lift-off. Rumbly pads settle in. Other more orchestral pads slip in, bringing contrasts, nuances and modulations to this slow, atmospheric opening, where a few strolling arpeggios sparkle. After the 5-minute mark, a kind of muted tremor discreetly shakes the ambience. The reverberating drones display an increasing sonic power above these tremors, which gradually coalesce to form the basis of a static rhythm. Sequences follow one another in a jerky filament. They form oscillatory loops that roll continuously, reflecting a form of echo that gives the rhythm a spasmodic texture. I must say that the rhythmic structures in FLIGHT 433106 are conceived in this vision of unexpected jerks that jostle in small, repetitive circles to hop and bounce in an echo that flirts with the phenomenon of a lasso that irretrievably brings the rhythm back to its starting point. Magnetizing, hypnotizing and bewitching! From a more or less static state, they progress to livelier phases to land in an electronic rock mode. Percussions and percussive slams add a wild, industrial electronica depth. The synth launches gothic tunes formulated in these orchestral mists and more musical pads, while the rhythm insidiously increases its velocity and cadence. The keyboard unleashes arpeggios with progressive rock tones, reminiscent of Pink Floyd. The rhythm becomes more incisive. Its sequenced chords fall more curtly, structuring a more jerky, frenetic approach. The synths unleash tunes which are closed to Tangerine Dream's repertoire. Pads of orchestral haze, along with orchestrations and their slender staccato oblongs, not to mention gothic fog, accompany the progression of Dalton Lift-off. Delightful and profoundly dark, the bass rumbles and modulates muted outbursts under this rhythm, which is also adorned with tasty percussive elements that clatter in a silvery echo. And as dominant as ever in its multi-faceted musical role, the synths also draw warm solos with that air of the analog years in their tonal repertoires.
Recorded at the famous E-Live festival in November 2022, FLIGHT 433106 is inspired by the flight of an English bomber that crashed with a Canadian crew in Wilnis, Netherlands, during the Second World War. Hans Van Kroonenburg and Stephan Whitlan visited the monument where the plane's engine, which is featured on the album cover, is also located. Consequently, the music, rhythms and moods are skillfully rendered in music throughout the 63 minutes of this first Skoulaman & Stephan Whitlan collaboration. We're in the territories of electronic music (EM) propelled by sequenced rhythms in a Berlin School model inspired by English electronic rock. And everything you heard in Dalton Lift-off is repositioned in the 4 other structures of FLIGHT 433106 with just enough nuance, in both rhythm and ambience, to avoid the pitfalls of redundancy.
Possibly the most addictive track on this album, along with the rocking Epitaph, Meadows from the Air is a little EM gem that invades and hypnotizes the senses. Its introduction is made of whirring sounds, like an engine being coaxed by the orchestral flights of the synths. The rhythm also emerges after the 5th minute. Leaping with a cadenced echo effect, it resonates and shakes the speakers. Sequences leap from ear to ear, quietly taking on a more pronounced rhythmic flight as the seconds flee the dial. The musical envelope that encircles the rhythm is similar in each structure of this album, except for Epitaph which is more emotive. The level of intensity varies with the curve of the rhythm, reaching more poignant thresholds. On Meadows from the Air, the synths have the air of the 70's apocalyptic trumpets from the Dream. A simply magnetizing track! Descent into Chaos offers a more fluid rhythm, with lots of gothic haze, angelic trumpets and cosmic tones reminiscent of Klaus Schulze's analog dimensions, over a beat that progresses in sequenced spasms. A beautiful marriage of the 70's genres! The track's ambiences follow an axis of destruction in a finale that respects this form of descent into chaos, with a cacophony of sound that spills over into the opening of HE727. The rhythm here is more nervous, with sequences of bouncy oscillations coupled with percussive effects of metallic slamming. The Skoulaman-Whitlan duo are more into electronic rock here than elsewhere on FLIGHT 433106. And Epitaph confirms this vision with a rhythmic structure that vibrates and resonates with heaviness. A lively rhythm that waddles from ear to ear and serves as the basis for a keyboard that sculpts a melody as lively as the rhythm. A rhythm, moreover, that progresses with a vision of spasmodic jolts and percussive effects that slam with an industrial tone beneath synth solos that sculpt acrobatic arabesques without forgetting to grace our ears with juicy trumpet elements that are both angelic and apocalyptic. A finale in the image of a frenzied EM concert!
FLIGHT 433106 is a little gem that I devoured over a distance of 2 weeks. There's something very addictive behind Skoulaman and Stephan Whitlan's sequencers. The roaring, rumbling bass waves, electronic percussions and metallic sparkles are intimately linked to the spellbinding electronic rhythms that surf on England School as well as the Netherlands School. Aside from these rhythms, there's also a fine dose of intensity in the arrangements and some soul-stirring synth solos. In short, a very fine album that has everything to please fans of Berlin School and of Groove nl repertoire, which never cease to produce albums that meet the expectations of fans of the genre. And I'm one of them!
Sylvain Lupari (September 13th, 2023) *****
Available at Groove nl
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