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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

STEFAN ERBE: Breathe (2020)

This is a solid album whose disparate components and this Berlin School essence in its EDM hymns are the threads of its spellbinding

1 No more Limits 5:05

2 Breathe 4:14

3 Aeronautica 6:34

4 September Rain 6:02

5 Damaged not Dead 6:16

6 Life 3:54

7 Toxigen 4:39

8 Horizon is Blue 4:04

9 Exhale 3:12

10 The Hunter 4:49

11 Last Hand 5:20

12 Bright like a Silver Star 6:30

(CD/DDL 60:46) (V.F.)

(EDM & Berlin School)

What pleasure I had listening to this last Stefan Erbe album. I disguised myself as an air-drummer and an air-pianist trying to imitate some of those lasciviously alien or hyperviolent rhythms of the famous German DJ who is not afraid to soak his countless EDM anthems in a Berlin School sauce which even borders the psybient and harshness sides of Jerome Froese, notably in the series Dream Mixes. Usually I need a couple of listenings before getting in the moods of Stefan Erbe's world of EDM. However, it was very different in BREATHE whose harmonious and ambient side makes us breathe perfumes of Vangelis while the electronic rock side makes an admirable link to the Berlin School and these splendid synth solos which are attached to it.

No more Limits immediately gets us in the mood. Its opening is conceived with percussive elements which surround a strong desire to take off from a series of sequences which finally run towards a solid Berlin School à la Tangerine Dream. The arpeggios come together in a harmonic vision of the forward-and-backward genre. The synth solos are excellent, even surprising coming up from a prince of Dance Music. And running a few phases of unconnected rhythms, the last phase of No more Limits sacrifices E-Rock for some strong EDM with a taste for GOA style. The title-track is inspired by the last outburst of the first track to lay down a beautiful ethereal phase that voice effects bring towards a kind of ambient rap. Futuristic music with a rubber effect in the gumpfs of the voices, Breathe's evasive melody flees to Aeronautica which reproposes another Berlin School genre with a rhythmic structure limply galloping between nice collars of shimmering arpeggios and good synth solos, more sober this time. Like it's often the case with Stefan Erbe's albums, the 12 tracks are welded into a long mosaic of catchy rhythms that are closer to rock than dance areas, although this element is still present within 60 minutes of BREATHE. September Rain flows like a good Vangelis melody, arrangements included, with a slight organic hint. Especially in its introduction. The orchestrations are sublime and give us the thrill to the threads that connects our soul and our imagination. A beautiful title which brings us to Damaged not Dead. Once again, the introduction is woven into creativity with percussive effects, percussions and a decor of paranoia where I always have in mind the opening of The Spirit of the Czar from Dream Mixes III. Layers of chthonic voices and of satanic monks are added to the progression of the rhythm which remains very theatrical.

The next track, Life, is its growth with a swirling rhythm that is bundled up in superb orchestrations. A short title with a rather intense cinematic vision. Toxygen takes all its time and demands all its energy before spilling out into an EDM hymn. In the meantime, the introduction is conceived in mystery with whispers in the corridors of a polar cave and its blue mist which evaporates with a first circular rhythmic contact. This rhythm is forged by sequences which drift in a gyrating arc and arpeggios with nervous tones which twirl in its axis. There is intensity that accumulates per square inch when the rhythm explodes into an IDM sets up by spasmodic sequences and effects of a DJ who already has his shoes in a universe of ecstasy. Horizon is Blue is a good mix of Techno Dance with orchestrations which have that Disco tendency, like in the good years of Giorgio Moroder. The title plunges into pure Techno with a beautiful intuitive melody on the keyboard. Exhale goes in a gust of wind with beats scattered between waves of synths which shake up the serenity of the floating arpeggios. The soundscapes are extraordinarily rich on this ambient track which is sucked in by the waves of The Hunter and its lively rhythm. Its Indie and IDM structure is initially propelled by a sequencer and its arpeggios which leap on a narrow spiral-shaped conveyor. Hoarse whispers and irregular rhythm become the push for the music that becomes a wall for a sweaty dance floor. There is a fascinating tribal essence, at the level of certain percussions and absent voices, and even of Tangerine Dream, Mars Polaris, in this dance texture which takes one and even a second transitional period before regaining as much force but also in proposing new rhythmic arguments. Last Hand is another of those titles in BREATHE which take an ambient tangent and whose increasing rhythm is associated with a synth and its many twisted solos. Heavy, slow and powerful, the title drifts towards the morphic opening of Bright like a Silver Star. Here, arpeggios dance on keyboard chords which gradually offer a jerky texture. The arpeggios tinkle with a harmonious luminosity while from the ambient, Bright like a Silver Star evolves into a down-tempo shaken by short waves of percussions. Elements which do not manage to sink the melody into the void. If it changes tones in ambient periods, it comes back to life in an ever so ethereal form, even for a dance rhythm, in arrangements conceived in what Vangelis was able to make of his most beautiful melodies.

Stefan Erbe has always made a habit of inserting a Berlin School phase into a new album. BREATHE is almost wall-to-wall with it. The sequencer in this album is set to Chris Franke mode and has to deal with a universe of percussion and percussive effects as surprising as they are catchy. The melodies are imbued with a celestial vision filled with the scents of Vangelis. In short, BREATHE is a solid album whose disparate components and this Berlin School essence in its EDM hymns are the threads of its spellbinding.

Sylvain Lupari (November 8th, 2020) ****¼*

Available at Stefan Erbe Bandcamp

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