STEFAN ERBE: Serbenity (2020)
Updated: Feb 4
“A brilliant album which in my opinion is the most beautiful album of 2020”
1 Shoot Out 4:18
2 Rusty Barrels 6:22
3 Fireflies 5:08
4 Glassbird 2:45
5 Fallen 5:42
6 Lost Windmill 5:09
7 The Light in Between 4:54
8 Aflutter 3:08
9 Walls of Stories 5:14
10 Final Arena 6:07
(DDL 48:52) (V.F.)
(Chillout, Ambient beats, Electronica)
It seems to be Stefan Erbe's first real ambient album!!!
This is the first phrase we read on his Bandcamp site to promote Stefan Erbe's last and 3rd album in 2020. WOW! I can tell you from the start that this promotional phrase is simply wrong. SERBENITY is anything but ambient. On a musical canvas of 49 minutes, the German musician-DJ weaves a mosaic of rhythms that borders down-tempo. In fact, I've been listening to this album in loops for 4 days and each time the degree of my obsession goes up to the ceiling. Do you know this feeling of being certain that you have already heard what you are listening to without remembering it? It becomes haunting! And suddenly the answer came to me last night!
Shoot Out begins with a percussive tumult. A duel between sequencer and percussions is organized around an undulating line of sequences which does breakdance in a musical arena surrounded by the garish colors synth streaks. The percussions are falling from everywhere, like the sequences and these arpeggio's necklaces which flow in convulsive flows, creating a mass of ambient rhythm which does slalom on a frozen pond of which the texture moves all the time. But how? Rusty Barrels follows with an overture, that I would describe as melancholy, adorned with an evasive melody from the percussive arpeggios. The orchestrations and the arrangements make me shed those tears from my soul, as these arpeggios ring jumping from one ear to the other. And it's at this first bridge that finally (After what! Something like a dozen times of hearing it), that I understood where I was! I see myself in the domain of I Remain, turning on myself wondering where these percussive elements are coming from forming this rhythmic texture which will feed in a harmonious way the 10 chapters of SERBENITY. I'm thinking of those layers of melancholy drizzle and those weeping hugs of The Glimmer Room when Rusty Barrels spreads its oneiric membrane. Stormy chords orchestrate their bass tones which roll like wavelets among the smooth spills of percussive elements. Although built on a reed of percussive elements, of percussion and of bass pulses, the track pulsates in the setting of I Remain while flirting with the psybient effects of bands such as Solar Fields and Carbon Based Lifeforms. It's around organic effects that the deluge of arpeggios awakens the up-tempo of Fireflies. The bass line is exhilarating and slows down the pace a little, allowing the keyboard to reveal a melody whose incompleteness becomes haunting. The rhythm always between two phases, Fireflies gets more intense, thus delivering the second secret of SERBENITY: its emotional growth. From now on, each title following Shoot Out comes with the soul and imprints of the titles that precede it. As a result, each title knows that it will have to sacrifice a piece of its soul to survive even more in our ears. Windows' tinkling, hollow and troubled winds, semi-composed chords, our ears drift in the opening of Glassbird which hands the baton to Fallen. After a slow opening with scents of Blade Runner, the forcefully strummed arpeggios establish its hopping rhythm. Its yoke of high-sounding arpeggios, Electronica-style snapping percussions, resonant bass and sequences hopping on the same spot, Fallen deploys a level of energy that is as much rhythmic as melodic and whose drama is blown away by these synth alarms à la Vangelis, we also find its scents in the arpeggios, which brought us to another level in Blade Runner. And there, the more it goes and the more we say to ourselves, it's the best track on the album!
That's without having heard Lost Windmill and its Solar Fields vibes in Until we Meet the Sky. An ambient but very intense title where we subtly embrace the Cosmos. The start of The Light in Between is a bit laborious? Wait until the first minute to hear a strange chord banging a linear rhythm from which escape effects of parasitic echoes, percussions and these bass sequences pounding a rhythm which rather serves as den for prismatic elements which escape through pretty sinister synth lines. But the level of intensity has reached a point where our emotions are now linked to the growth of SERBENITY. The din of atmospheric elements, thunders and horizontal rain guide us in another introduction stitched of ambiences in Aflutter. An alarmist synth wave whirls in decomposition, while a strummed melody somewhere in the album seems to find its bearings in this purely ambient-static-atmospheric title which serves as a springboard to the pinnacle of the album. Walls of Stories is the kind of title that sticks to our emotions! Its flow is slow, mesmerizing our senses with an increasing rhythm in its rubbery imprint. We had heard, but not often, of those heavenly voices that want to divert our attention as the rhythm settles firmly. There are echo and ricochet effects between the strobe lines in this melodious stroll towards a skyless field. The juice of tension comes out of our ears in this long prelude to Final Arena.
Following the precept of this album, Final Arena is Fallen's other side of mirror. It polishes its rhythm which skips with an effect of stroboscopic jerks under the cries now identified as those of crows. Having 9 souls and imprints of SERBENITY that the German musician always exploits with a little more emotion and intensity while adding new sound effects, it's not for nothing that Final Arena is the zenith of this astonishing and brilliant Stefan Erbe's album which in my opinion is the most beautiful album of 2020.
Sylvain Lupari (February 3rd, 2021) *****
Available at Stefan Erbe's Bandcamp