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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

STEFAN ERBE: Nachtlichter (2020)

As far as I'm concerned, it's the strongest album I've heard from SE who succeeds here a wonderful fusion of EDM and Berlin School

1 In Die Dunkelheit 7:44

2 Sirius 4:46

3 Du und Ich 5:36

4 Raum der Maschinen 1:29

5 Voruebergehend 3:53

6 In dem Feuer Verloren 6:08

7 Untergrund 5:38

8 Gluecksmoment 4:00

9 Das hellste Element 2:23

10 Nachtlichter 6:18

11 Alles Lebt 7:48

12 Hier und Jetzt 2:30

13 Wenn Engel Reisen 6:59

14 Alles Schwebt 4:5

(DDL/CD 70:10) (V.F.)

(EDM Berlin School)

30 albums! Already a 30th album for the king of progressive dance music from Hagen, Germany, since The Cosmic Dreamland in 1994. It has changed Stefan Erbe a lot since then. I made his musical acquaintance in 2015 with the excellent S-thetic², composed and performed with ex-Ashra, Steve Baltes. In solo, his musical direction is more focused on dance-music style with heavy and catchy rhythms that are still legion here. Besides, I have often compared his style with that of Moonbooter, as well as that of Jerome Froese, both in terms of dance-music vision and melodious approaches that are created within evolutionary rhythms. But logically, I rather believe that it is the opposite! But whatever, NACHTLICHTER flirts with our ears in a very nice balance with the two genres, but with a slight dominance for the Berlin School this time, in particular with a sequencer which sorts its keys by promoting the reminiscences of Tangerine Dream. The atmospheres are surprisingly heavy with a disproportionate decor where circulate freely many elements attached to the psybient style, like that of Mark Shreeve, in solo or with Redshift. In fact, I spent a more than pleasant 70 minutes of an EM which even brought me to the borders of Mike Oldfield in terms of vocal arrangements.

And it starts with the very cinematic vision of In Die Dunkelheit. The opening is dark with ambiances and Redshift-style sound effects. The pace of the rhythm is heavy and uncertain, a bit like Jerome Froese in the opening of The Spirit of The Czar. Luminous keys sparkle and flutter all around this theatrical movement which gradually develops into a good static electronic rock. The sequences are too good while the sound mass, and these tribal songs à la The Songs of Distant Earth by Mike Oldfield, adopt the tangent of a rhythm that has become finely jerky. The evolution takes place in three phases, and the last leads us into a solid electronic rock pinned in a New Berlin School vision. So is done In Die Dunkelheit, so are the other 13 tracks on the album, with a few nuances near. And these nuances are in the definition of rhythms. So, with its rhythmic load clearly more in Dance mode, Sirius explains to itself the many directions of the sequencer in Tangerine Dream mode in an evolving rhythm structure that flirts between hard techno and another New Berlin School's rock. These 2 first titles of NACHTLICHTER attract the fan of Berlin School in a very acceptable environment. Admittedly, there are hymns of Techno and of Dance-music where one twirls according to the power of the rhythms, like in Du und Ich and Gluecksmoment. But the way Stefan goes about training us is as insidious as it's respectful of the old school of Berlin. Either with ambient transition phases. Bridges! Like that of Raum der Maschinen which transits to Voruebergehend. This title without borders embraces Ambient House with a bass line which supports the multiple reverberation loops which mainly constitute its rhythmic membrane. Psybient noises and glitches nourish the atmosphere as much as the synth pads disjointed into corrosive pads. Like Moonbooter, each Stefan Erbe album brings 1 to 2 musical itches weaver of gorgeous melodies. Superb with its arpeggios sparkling with chastity, the heavy, slow and sensually astral rhythm of In dem Feuer Verloren is the very first of 3 to transport us where birds no longer need wings.

A good Chill-out in a lounge ambience sitting comfortably on a nest of sequences, Untergrund deserves its place between this nice earworm and the big Techno melted in dance-music that is Gluecksmoment. Das hellste Element is another ambient phase. This time it transits to the title-track and its musical staging worthy of David Bowie. Heavy and slow, gravitating on a nervous nest of unruly sequences, Nachtlichter offers this solid second earworm with this superb electronic ballad woven in a phenomenal harmonic intensity. The arrangements here and these drizzle veils are additional elements to give us goosebumps. Splendid, we can twirl to get our soul drunk with memories and tears! Speaking of intensity, it's hard to do better than Alles Lebt. Heavy and semi-slow, with these percussive effects flowing with steam, the structure is teeming with these nervous sequences which pile up in a mass of ultra shock, while others hammer anvil through these veils of glitches and of white noises. I even hear chains taking place in a context outside of Redshift where the synths, we must not forget them, lament like a choir of specters with lamentations ill-adjusted. Hier und Jetzt offers a cosmic transition towards the most solid title of NACHTLICHTER, the superb ballad that is Wenn Engel Reisen. This time, the musical structure hesitates between a heavy techno for sleeping Zombies, where a marvelous piano melody awakens and whose fragmented tunes were already prowling in the depths of the album, and a mid-tempo all the same smart. A good electronic ride which crumbles its emotions in the solid Alles Schwebt and its lively EDM structure which is stuffed by good synth solos.

As far as I'm concerned, NACHTLICHTER is the strongest album I've heard from Stefan Erbe, including the two albums with Steve Baltes. Everything is well balanced in this album where Mr Erbe does an excellent balance between the atmospheric elements and the sound effects of an EM knotted in a war to end between the percussions and the ingenious rhythmic patterns of the sequencer. The melodies are extremely rare, but incredibly beautiful. Apart from these melodies woven on the keyboard, there are those that nest on the sequencer. And I could go on for a long time to describe this magnificent album that I listen to in loops since a couple of days. For now, NACHTLICHTER is only available in downloadable version and on the various streaming platforms, therefore the very Hi-Fi Tidal. It will be available on CD later this summer. A must, period!

Sylvain Lupari (June 4th, 2020) ****½*

Available at Stefan Erbe Music

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