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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

STEPHAN WHITLAN: Sw;arf (2019)

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

“An opus loaded of tones and timbres of all kinds woven out of a Modular Analog synth. No music, only tones”

1 Snakes - No Snakes

a 1943

b aeronought

c ecliptic

d inversion

e discrete interference

f .....there and back again

(CD 64:11) (V.F.)

(Ambient, abstract)

The music woven from Modular synths takes us to territories where the imagination crosses a new threshold. And there are artists who constantly push the boundaries of these countries, Stephan Whitlan is one of them. From the outset, let's honestly say that SW;ARF is an album difficult to tame and that it's addressed to a public fond of sound travels that change shapes and timbres, according to our imagination. There are some very good moments, like Inversion where the two universes, the abstract and the melodious, merge in an eclectic approach that always commands a great openness. Constituted in a long title, Snakes - No Snakes, this latest album of the English atmospheric sculptor is segmented into 5 parts, demonstrating the evolutionary nature of SW;ARF. And the listener goes through a whole range of emotions with masses of elusive sounds, but identifiable only and with only a good dose of perception, and contemplative phases that are always stained by small clusters of sounds which travel like implosive clouds. And it begins rather abruptly!

The 1943 segment begins with a song from a well filled with half-human cyborgs souls. These are ululations on which seem to be grafted frictions of string cello manipulated by the six fingers of a giant orc. An invasion of strange rattling and other friction are forming an unidentifiable sound mass to which are added orchestrations whose violin wings can not soften this growing din that eats the seconds with its kryptonic teeth. Zorro's sword blows whistle and cut through this pile of senseless tones as workers are digging on a street made of adamantium concrete. Frying timbres and an industrial din are dragging us into an endless tonal abyss where violins sigh at the same time that electronic effects attempt to communicate for help. But we cross the limits of aeronought and its more ethereal phase where the feeling of rising to the surface and drinking a breath of heavenly air is rather replaced by another phase of ambient noises quite inexplicable. It's behind the falls of ecliptic that our ears find an area of appeasement. The waves and the violins give us wings in order to fly over an ocean of which some islands seem to live by mermaids, violinists and flutists. Yes! There are noisy effects, like screeching metal on metal. But there are also quiet phases that seem to be moments of apotheosis in this strange symphony for sounds from elsewhere that fill the majority of the 65 minutes in SW;ARF. Stronger than anything in this album, the call of the void draws us to the middle of inversion and its loops of harmonies which roll on a symphony for flutes and other celestial instruments whose sibylline vision adds a pleasant dose of charms to this ocean of sounds that we are flying over since ecliptic. Another storm of tones to the antipodes takes us out of our relative peace of mind before discrete interference also offers us a small moment of sweetness. We renew our tolerance bank and we follow the sound fantasies of Stephan Whitlan with ..... there and back again which, in less than 17 minutes offers us a pretty realistic summary of the 65 minutes of SW;ARF. To listen if, and only if, an adventure of an evening with an artist without attachment for harmonies and ambiences interests us.

Sylvain Lupari (July 19th, 2019) *****

Available at Groove nl

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