STEFAN ERBE: Distopia (2022)
“There is this constant thread that maintains our level of emotional crescendo on alert”
1 Forever 5:42
2 Utopia 6:28
3 Solitude 5:53
4 My Simple Toys 2:12
5 The Day we Lost Ourselves 7:05
6 At the Edge of Storm 1:49
7 Signal of Change 4:49
8 Distopia 9:03
9 Infinite 4:46
10 Last Lost Paradise 3:17
11 Breakout 4:38
(CD/DDL 55:46) (V.F.)
(Dark cinematic textures)
Dystopia is a fictional story that describes a dark utopian world. Stefan Erbe's new effort offers a cinematic texture that fits well with the spirit behind the title DISTOPIA. The German musician-synthesist has been collecting individual honors since his 2008 album Club Genetica. His name regularly appears in the nominations for the prestigious Schallwelle Award held annually in Germany. In fact, Serbenity is up for the best album of 2021. With its dark and mysterious envelope, DISTOPIA stands out from his previous albums. Always vitaminized by heavy and lively rhythms, as well as sometimes slow but always heavy, the 56 minutes of this last CD, which is also available for download, literally plunge into this universe of dystopia where the melodies are like thin optimistic hopes which melt as soon as they appear to reappear further on. Playing thus cat and mouse with our emotions by creating this thread that maintains a level of emotional crescendo on alert.
It's with heavy circadian pulses echoing in the undulating haze of the synth that Forever brings DISTOPIA out of the silence. Clear keyboard chords lay the foundation for a melody in the making in a musical envelope that intensifies its vision with its faster pace and more enveloping atmospheres. The foundations are laid for Stefan Erbe's charm operation! The sequencer releases a handful of jumping keys around the 2nd minute. They jump in a repetitive alternate motion, giving a melodic aspect to this rhythm structure that has become circular. The clear chords shimmer a little less, spinning in a darker swirling mass. They will be replaced by delicate synth laments, creating a fascinating emotional impact in this structure that evaporates a little too quickly to merge into the slow introduction of Utopia and its slow organic rhythm. The structure is delightful with these muted, rubbery percussion effects that cling to heavy, more refined percussions. As circular as Forever, the structure adopts a mid-tempo with keyboard chords whose limpidity projects a melodic aspect that shines through DISTOPIA's dystopian envelope. Solitude offers a lot for as little as its almost 6 minutes. The structure is in dance mode with superb sequencer play dribbling its keys like Chris Franke did in the Jive years. This creative rhythm catches our attention immediately while the synth does the same with a melody sung like a guitarist can do with his talk-box. A great track! My Simple Toys follows with this dribbling effect on the percussions and this ghostly melody that comes and goes on this new Stefan Erbe CD. A melody that plays with our emotional intensity and that brings light in this counter-utopian universe.
Hands clappings around machine gun percussions and fluttering sequences The Day we Lost Ourselves elaborates a lively and evolving rhythm structure with a synth that laments through short trumpet blows. The shadows intensify with At the Edge of Storm which leads us to Signal of Change and its heavy bass line whose circular pulsations call for a good play of percussions and sequencer in a still embryonic melody structure. The orchestrations infuse a dose of drama where this melody takes more and more shape with more and more poignant synth streaks. Drum rolls on a war footing bring us to the long title-track, Distopia and its opening that reflects the essence of this long and slowly developing track. Buzzing mist and suspended synth effects provide a desolate spectacle that is enhanced by those shimmering arpeggios in the DISTOPIA setting. The haze evaporates to let a rhythmic structure trot by like a riderless horse. The synth scatters a few lines of melancholic melodies under big woosshh and waasshh that reinsert this nebulous membrane. The sequencer activates around the 4th minute, structuring a lively rhythm where the keys jump around in a static choreography. Playing between dramatic atmospheres and a rhythm that gets lost in these ambiences, Distopia gets lost in the slow-tempo of Infinite and its sequencer lines that increase the rhythmic pressure. It's after the 2nd minute that an EDM rhythm shakes this more nebulous and quiet phase of the CD. The 1st part of Last Lost Paradise offers a panoramic ambient phase with a nice tonal setting. A rhythmic structure without driving effects gives emotional tone to this track filled with good organic and electronic effects. And so we come to Breakout and its structure divided between EDM and an electronic rock motivated by good sequencer playing.
Less melodic, but very effective in its dystopian panorama, DISTOPIA reflects wonderfully the visions of Stefan Erbe who manages to maintain a high level of interest with a creative vision of his rhythms and the atmospheres that surround them. The sequencer is as dynamic as melodic and complements perfectly these synth lines whose scarlet powers weave subtle melodic waves. This is what we call a nice balance for an album annihilating free will.
Sylvain Lupari (February 21st, 2022) *****
Available at Stefan Erbe Bandcamp