STARTERRA: Celestial (2020)
Updated: Nov 4, 2020
“There are a lot of power and emotions in this album where our ears are easily lost to find themselves in still familiar places”
1 Sky Bridge 10:12
2 Council of Nine 6:54
3 The Tetrahedron 10:02
4 Celestial 10:18
5 Time Portal 9:30
6 Tristar 7:32
7 Quantum Mechanics 9:44
8 Beyond the Light 10:08
(DDL 73:39) (V.F.)
(Ambient Berlin School, Psychill)
Tibetan tinkles obstruct the listening of a melody which must cross a chant of rain to reach our ears. And all of a sudden, Sky Bridge illuminates our inner eyes with a palette of scintillating arpeggios that scroll dancing like a wild current until the 3rd module of this introductory track to CELESTIAL by Starterra, another great revelation from the American label. Based on a percussions base, the rhythm remains at an ambient and dancing level for our neurons. Echoes are attached to the knocking / tinkling which adorn this rhythmic journey whose softness serves the cause of sound effects undulating of reverberations which meander its astral rhythm. Another sonic skin change is implanted a little before the 5th minute. The lively alternation of sequences builds a convulsive line of rhythm which clashes with the long reverberating boas which manipulate the ambiences since Sky Bridge has reached its 3rd level. This new sound mass amplifies its grip of our ears until the 8th minute when the astral dust forms a compact sediment bank, however escaping these starry strobe lines and the radiations of the reverberating matter. Starterra is the musical vessel of Chris Bryant who teams up with Don C. Tyler in Ascendant. His last solo album dates back to 2017 with Pathways To Ascension under the pseudonym S1gns Of L1fe. At the time, we spoke of his ambient Down-tempo style while on CELESTIAL the American musician flirted with Berlin School and PsyChill. Based on a science fiction vision; As the Sky Bridge is formed, a ritual begins amongst the Council of Nine. A tristar soars overhead as a tetrahedron appears. The time portal is opened and a new world emerges as one age ends and the other one begins. Fractal patterns of binary code begin to form and the regeneration cycle is complete. The golden Age amongst the stars.
It's also the cradle of EM which can let its mathematical codes speak to form rhythms and their essences. The Berlin School is in the spotlight in this album, but in an ambient form. The rhythm is evolving in its power, especially at the beginning with an armada of pulsations and sequences, and in its collective of sequences with its ascending and aimless movement of Council of Nine. The sequencer offers a structure finely animated by lines of rhythms and their jumping keys which occupy the rhythmic portion and subsequently the harmonic portion with a good mesh with the keyboard. There are good momentums that are slowed down by banks of disparate tones, like those hordes of cybernetic bats coming and going, and electronic fog shoals that shield it from an armada of metallic-noisy sound effects. I hear good old Klaus Schulze here and even though the rhythm is mostly contained in its ambient structure, it remains attractive to the neurons. The sound envelope and the gadgets creating the sound effects are walls that put our imagination to work on this album. The layers of voices and mists inject heavy ambiences that are difficult to penetrate, and yet the two lines of sequencers that pull the belly of the ambiences in The Tetrahedron do not slow down the pace with bidirectional movements focused on the art of minimalist rhythm to which the addition of ornaments, especially arpeggios, leaves our ears speechless. A track here that brings us to the very ambient and intense Celestial.
The expression ambient Berlin School could not be most appropriate on Time Portal and its almost formed hoops which are fed by scintillating arpeggios, struggling to find their direction in this intense wall of ambiences. The first part is intense with a bank of fog living through the many reverberating effects which collect dust of all kinds in order to establish a center impossible to cross. We hear pulsations attempting to beat, freeing the way for arpeggios whose shimmering effects attract big loads of reverberations. The idea of structuring a rhythm is abandoned in a movement of incredible density which expels layers of wiishh and wooshh, thus picking up vitriolic arpeggios which let themselves be gently swayed. Tristar answers to Time Portal with an intense rhythm that stamps like a tribe on a war footing. We are in the territories of Steve Roach here, the Skeleton era, with a violent lunar rhythm which needs its phase of rest, no matter how long (it's very short here), before starting off again in its vision of cosmic tribal which reduces any kind of earwax to powder. Synth tears moan like Ondes Martenot at the opening of Quantum Mechanics. From this moment, a splendid ascending rhythm occupies the place with rising sequences under rays of synth moaning like a Katana blade cutting the tarmac. The keyboard then injects a surprising harmonic phase which seems to establish contact with the rhythmic rodeos of the sequencer. And while a giant mouth, and its hunger, is forged around the sound effects of the synth, it looks like mega breaths on a didgeridoo without appetite, Quantum Mechanics presents its last rhythmic arguments which animate a final dominated by the sequencer. Beyond the Light ends CELESTIAL with a thrust of mooing which gradually become country winds pushed by layers of wooshh and waashh and the dust of the stray notes they pick up. The sequencer tries a rhythmic breakthrough a little before the 3rd minute. Attempting a Berlin School escalation, it turns fairly quickly into rhythmic balls picked up by the winds as the horizontal windstorm replaces Beyond the Light in a monument of dark ambiences with a last hint of life.
It's difficult to explain my infatuation with this CELESTIAL from Starterra. It's an intense album where the Berlin School lives through a new vision which is attached to cinematic psychill. There are a lot of power and emotions in this album where our ears are easily lost to find themselves in still familiar places. Each listening brings its share of new things that escaped us in the previous ones. It is the sign of a great album and it is undoubtedly the most beautiful album of the Synphaera catalog that I have heard to date.
Sylvain Lupari (November 4th, 2020) ****½*
Available at Exosphere Bandcamp