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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

STEPHAN WHITLAN & RON BOOTS: Substitutes (2018)

Updated: Feb 21, 2021

“Substitutes is a stronger blend of a Boots & Whitlan's improvised set on an evening where they weren't supposed to play at all”

1 Finding our Way 9:54 2 The Deepend One 19:57 3 On an Old-Field 5:52 4 The Deepend Two 23:48 5 Flux 8:01 Groove Unlimited ‎| GR-258

(CD/DDL 67:33) (V.F.) (Improvised Netherlands & England Schools)

Hearing the first 30 minutes of SUBSTITUTES one wonders if it's possible! Supported by the faithful companion Harald Van der Heijden, on drums and percussions, Ron Boots and Stephan Whitlan, with whom he made Seven Days last year, have filled on short notice the waiting time with a fascinating live performance of more than one hour before Ulrich Schnauss has finally received his equipment during the last E-Day 2018. And to listen to SUBSTITUTES, one wonders if it's indeed possible! Because 3 hours before, the 3 musicians had no idea what was waiting for them.

A breath moans at the beginning of Finding our Way. Its radiance makes spring up the nest which diffuses a plethora which rolls in harmonious circles, while softly the first drums resound followed by a line of bass which spreads its heat. Very representative of three musicians who tune out their ideas, Finding our Way becomes a slow with a flavor of jazz-blues. The keyboard scatters its chords with nimble fingers that model an electric piano approach sitting in a bluish mist bench. The drum gets in tune with precise and non-violent strikes while the synth weaves acrobatic solos that counterbalance the harmoniously nostalgic vision of the electric piano. The atmospheres are warm, and the instruments as well tuned as the ideas, The Deepend One attacks the audience, and our ears, with the assurance of the best from Boots-Van der Heijden-Whitlan. A juicy and reverberating wave, fluty breezes and frivolous arpeggios put us in a position of expectation. Woosh and waash are buzzing around the harmonic carousel of arpeggios. Vangelis' synth impulses set an apocalyptic climate that suits woosh and waash. It's the arpeggios that first give way to the next phase of The Deepend One. Then comes the whispers of a bass line and the avalanche of a drum in mode attack! Synth lines sweep the horizons above our ears, bringing reverberation effects as the music reaches an area as dark as a war zone lit by the fires of the sky. This long staging goes beyond 7 minutes before the soft and steady pace of The Deepend One lights up the impatience of our feet. If the spheroidal impulses of the arpeggios remain present, the synth stays well back with harmonies in the form of very discrete solos. It's 2 minutes later that it pierces this sound cuirass with a more noble presence, while the title sinks into the heavy strikes of Harald Van der Heijden. Only the guitar is missing, and we are in the realm of MorPheuSz!

Divided into 2 parts, SUBSTITUTES is proposed in its most basic envelope. No overdubs, no frills! What we hear is what the audience has heard. However, we feel a better cohesion, a greater symbiosis here than on the first 30 minutes of this concert performed on short notice. Plus, there is no applauses! This second part starts with On an Old-Field. And no, you're not dreaming; it's a homemade cover of Tubular Bells. More ethereal, more fragile and very electronic, the music gets between our ears with the sweetness of an old companion who puts the suit of a romantic ballad. The finale slides to The Deepend Two and its synth which twists its solos like the slow agony from a guitar. Layers embellish this shrill chant of the synth whose nimble fingers sculpt solos and waves which mix their intentions. Arpeggios wriggle as the chthonic choir song awakens the rumblings from heavens. It's a dark overture, in the pure tradition of Berlin School, Phaedra era, where fires sparkles and is jumping a line of bass sequences in layers stuffed of chloroform. The rhythm hopping like a gallop in a static circle, The Deepend Two takes the shape of an ambient rhythm chewed by a sneaky bass line and circular sequences which tergiversate in a thick metallurgical fog. The drum makes its pitching tumble while the solos scream with fright. And then ... boom! The rhythm comes vigorously after the 9th minute point. Solid, furious and clubbed by an octopus on drums, it brings music far behind the limits of ambient rhythms. The sequencer throws its kicks and the synth its harmonious solos as Harry Van der Heijden, master on drums, multiplies strikes that support a heavier and more catchy music with keyboard and synth that launch sonic attacks of ruthless heaviness, without denying the melodious side of the music. It's good big electronic rock from the Netherlands School and this title is certainly worth the money spent to acquire this SUBSTITUTES. Especially since that Flux is another monument of electronic rhythm where sequencer and drums unite their cohesions in a good spasmodic electronic rock which finds its cosmic references towards its finale.

For a music which is proposed on short notice, this SUBSTITUTES has all the attributes of a music improvised by 3 friends who were on the same page, on the same beat. If the start is nebulous, the next 60 minutes take us to a level where the complexity of cohesion in the improvisations reaches several climaxes in the 2 parts of The Deepend. This is strong Netherlands School with a zest of this rock side of the England School. So, the result exceeds, in this context, all expectations. To further explore the 2 parts of The Deepend in studio would certainly be a stroke of genius! Sylvain Lupari (November 17th, 2018) ***** Available at Groove nl

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