SOLITAIRE: Altered States (1990/2015)
“With sonic essences extract from the musical roots of mid 80's, Altered States turns out to be quite an enchantment”
1 Indian Garden 9:37 2 Heart of the Desert 10:25 3 Splendid Harmony 6:55 4 Indelibility 7:13 5 Altered States/Secret Illuminations 9:46 6 Raindance 8:00 7 Mescalito Exit 11:10 8 Altered States & Secret Illuminations 9:06 (Bonus Track) Projekt: Archive ARC00127
(CD/DDL 72:16) (V.F.) (Ambient EM with a zest of psy-tribal)
I remember this time when I collected all that was sold, was shared and was traded on the Internet about EM. I was like a child in a candy store! Except that I was looking for a specific sweetie; the one with big juicy sequences and tasty synth solos. And we also proposed me this ALTERED STATES from a band wearing a strange name SOLITAIRE. I had found the artwork too New Age to lose some minutes on it. Even not one! Nothing! Nada! It's a luck that this good old pal Sam Rosenthal has persuaded the Elmar Schulte/ Rüdiger Gleisberg tandem to dust the tapes in order to offer a very charming 25th year edition newly remastered in a much nicer artwork sealed in a digipack. Otherwise I would have missed something very good. For the story; SOLITAIRE was a duet made up of Elmar Schulte, a true fan of the Berlin School a la Tangerine Dream, and Rüdiger Gleisberg who was, and still is, recognized for a more ethereal, a more cinematographic and a more ambient musical style. The duet was formed in 1989 and gave a first concert a few days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a bonus track about this event can be found on this remaster. ALTERED STATES was their first album. A major album in the chessboard of EM that several criticisms of that era haven't hesitate to describe as being phenomenal, as being a masterpiece in the history of contemporary EM. SOLITAIRE will produce in the end only 5 albums, among which one with Steve Roach in 1991 (Ritual Ground) before looping the loop in 1997 with Nocturnes, an ambient and dark opus.
A very beautiful piano loosens its notes to offer a quite honeyed introduction to Indian Garden. The music makes a very movie genre, one would believe to hear Florian Fricke's Nosferatu, with lines of mists which throw a perfume of melancholy over the first 2 minutes, before a line of sequences untie its keys which bewitch our senses with a spherical approach. This sequence pattern pulls Indian Garden into a minimalist electronic structure knotted in the wavelets of oscillatory rhythms that some tom-toms throw towards a more astral, a more tribal dimension. The rhythm rolls in loops and the tom-toms are drumming a peaceful rhythm whereas other elements such as a Mellotron, and its perfumes of flute, wiser percussions and dramatic electronic effects, which make sounding very TD of Le Parc years, are grafted and bring Indian Garden at the most electronic rhythmical level, with Secret Illuminations, of this album. Heart of the Desert leads us in the more ambient lands of SOLITAIRE. It's a very quiet track, knotted in celestial synth pads which agglutinate in a compact mass and whose big dark cloud is scolding and swallowing the lonely riffs, which shows more intensity as the seconds fly by. Let's say that it's rather invasive as minimalist melody. But that's nothing compared to the approach of Indelibility which, after an intro molded in samplings of voices and percussions of the Middle East, plunges us in the devilish John Carpenter's universe and his famous Halloween music theme. Astonishing and mesmerizing. We understand a little more why the music of SOLITAIRE finds its place in movies such as Heat and Blade. As for me this art that possesses this duo to blend the genres and the ambient textures is the main strength of this album which is a real musical box full of nice surprises.
The dense pads of voices which open Splendid Harmony send me literally in the universe of French Skyline by the American duet Earthstar, released some 10 years earlier. The onset is very meditative and spiritual. It leads towards the breezes of a warm Mellotron among which the successive and minimalist breaths, marinated with pads of more celestial voices and those of a synth to the finely piercing harmonies, are falling in saccades and draw a kind of ascending procession. It's very as an ode for desert of dreams such as seen by Steve Roach with a strong ancestry for the genre of French Skyline. Mescalito Exit is a very dark ambient piece of music based on a thick cloud of drones which gurgles in the secret and the ambient harmonies of a synth and of its scarlet shadows. Even there the influences of Roach are notable. The introduction of Altered States/ Secret Illuminations is very pompous, kind of music theme, where the angels are tearing the coat of humanity. The synth pads crowned of a Mephistophelian aura fall with fury, flooding the first minutes of a post-apocalyptic vision. A pulsation gets loose a little before the 3rd minute, pulling some heterogeneous noises and murmurs of Cyborg towards a more electronic structure. The structure is minimalist and soaked with these pads of Earthstar's seraphic voices. It shakes its passive keys around the 6th minute, introducing a quiet rhythm rocked by the harmonies scattered by a line of flutes and by a dense clouds to the colors of the emerald. Raindance also exploits this approach of minimalist melody as we heard on in Indelibility and Heart of the Desert, but in a more oniric envelope, with some soft perfumes of flute, and slightly more livened up by nice tribal tom-tom. That reminds me enormously of the very beautiful main themes from the Cornucopia album by Matthias Thurow which was released in 1986. And this surprising album, a very beautiful surprise for me, ends with a fine live interpretation of Altered States/Secret Illuminations which finds a more ambient shape here.
I enjoyed a lot going at the discovery of ALTERED STATES. I discovered a very eclectic album which was strongly inspired by this very meditative movement of the 85-90 years with a vintage touch for the celestial voices in the synth layers. I won't go as far as saying that is a masterpiece, except that the parallels and the narrow links which unite it to the music of Steve Roach, Earthstar, John Carpenter and Matthias Thurow are very exact and confer to this album a special place among the good ones of these years. If the meditative ambient genre livened up by soft beats and by beautiful minimalist melodies attracts you, this album is completely indicated to you!
Sylvain Lupari (July 30th, 2015) *****
Available at Projekt Records Bandcamp