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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

STEPHAN WHITLAN: Second Site (2018)

“It's good to hear EM centered on synths and synths! Solos are flying all over minimalist rhythmic patterns which in the end are built on a mix of England and Berlin Schools”

1 Odyssey '93 12:00

2 Leitrim 11:46

3 ... Too much time 4:59

4 Spacetime 14:24

5 Sad Day 11:57

6 Pulsetrain 9:27

7 Untitled 13:56

(CD/DDL 78:28) (V.F.)

(England & Berlin Schools)

Things get crowded in Stephan Whitlan's universe. After his participation at the Awakenings Festival in November 2017 and his collaboration album with Ron Boots, Seven Days, the Irish musician confirms his come back with a new album filled of old music. The compositions on

SECOND SITE go back at beginning of the Map Reference era and were played, well for most of them, within the framework of Awakenings with Ron Boots, Frank Dorritke and Harold van der Heijden. And a little like in Seven Days, the electronic music of Stephan Whitlan bases mainly on synths. The sequencer multiplies the axes of minimalist rhythms to which are grafted at times another line to support the acrobatic pirouettes of the soloes of synths which don't trivialize at any times their harmonious approaches.

Odyssey ' 93 doesn't waste time. The sequences are nervous and sculpt a vivid approach which skips in the synth vapors perfumed of Tangerine Dream, era the 80's. The synth already coos with dreamy solos, such as a loving heart filled with nostalgia. Running over the 12 minutes of the title, these solos represent the quintessence of EM, a little as a very good guitarist of Jazz with agile fingers which are connected to the emotions of Stephan Whitlan. Little carillons begin tinkling around the 6th minute. Set apart these ringings and an emotive gradation in the synth vapors, always very TD, and in the ornamental elements, Odyssey ' 93 pursues a minimalist path with just enough swiftness in its passionate bolero to keep the interest of my ears. I like Leitrim very much. It's this kind of a heart crush that will give you the goosebumps with wonderful solos as acute and precise than the charms of an opera singer. The rhythm is all the opposite of Odyssey ' 93, in fact one would say a kind of remix in its structure of rhythm, with a slower approach which leans on percussions and good effects of percussions. ... Too Much Time breaks the mold of the hypnotic charms with a nervous approach set on the use of an imaginary xylophone. In Stephan Whitlan's universe, the synthesizer is important just as much than the guitar for Mike Oldfield. I like doing the parallel here because this short title does very MO with a nice little bucolic and quite cute tune in flute which gets loose from a structure overhung by a rhythm driving with the greed of a train to eat its own rails. Except for its introduction, and a short ambiospherical passage, Spacetime has absolutely nothing of a title of cosmic ambiences. The first movement of the sequencer forges a spheroidal rhythm which is of use as basis to a synth always very creative, both at the level of the solos and of the effects, which sound like a life in an airlock, and segments of melodies which are scattered on a rhythmic structure sometimes discreet and sometimes dominant.

Sad Day carries with dignity the sense of its naming. The music is charmingly tinted with an approach of dark and poetic movie of the French cinema in the 60-70 years. The rhythm is pulsating but not really livened up. The pulsations are rather of use as a rhythmic bed to a synth which spreads superb solos over its 12 minutes. Sober and lugubrious, the structure of rhythm shakes a more crystalline shadow which gets excited in some places, amplifying these shivers which run over our arms in front of these dreamy and extremely melancholic solos. Pulstrain is all in sequences! Stephan Whitlan uses a structure where the sequencer releases some lines of rhythms which skip with an effect of gap, so settling a spasmodic but not really very excited rhythm, where pour in harmonious vapors always very TD, period 80's. In spite of a strong essence of the MIDI years, the movement remains rather attractive and Whitlan inserts even a suite of harmonious sequences to it. Untitled begins our journey towards the unknown with a very spatial opening. On the narration of a voice in background the sequences begin swirling as snatched in sinusoidal winds. The décor makes strangely very wintry music and the voice reminds me of Mike Oldfield in Ommadawn (Horseback). Shimmering elements and electronic effects remain in suspension to follow finally a charming circular curve (you remember Lucky Charms?). And then the voice switches off these atmospheres of cosmic carnival to dip back this title towards these circular phases which this time hang on to a structure of Boom-Boom-Tschitt Tschitt where dance and spin around another avalanche of solos which sound very musical in spite of an envelope of improvisation. If the first part is soberer, Untitled explodes in its 2nd half, both in the rhythm and in the intensity in the ambiences as well as in the bites of the synth solos.

Even if Stephan Whitlan presents us old material, I quite liked this 2nd rendezvous with this English musician forgotten in this avalanche of emergent artists in an EM of the kind since a dozen years. His music is very different with a clear propensity for the harmonious side and for the use of synths, letting the sequencers play their roles of rhythms builder. At this level, the synth and the sequencer agree marvelously on SECOND SITE and it's perfect for our ears.

Sylvain Lupari (April 16th, 2018) ***¾**

Available on Groove NL

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