STRATOSPHERE: Aftermath (2015)
Updated: Feb 3, 2020
“There is something unique about Aftermath! Something that has bewitched me, charmed me...And still, I don't know what”
1 Accepting the Aftermath 8:41 2 Search for Normality 7:38 3 Search for Normality (Reprise) 11:38 4 Endless Despair 9:53 5 Confusion 9:51 6 When you Think Everything is Alright... 10:40 Projekt Records | PRO0317 (CD/DDL 58:11) (V.F.) (Deep ambient with guitar drones)
Projekt Records continues to sound out the borders of abstract and ambient music which draws its originalities from the long hummings filled by an industrial heat. After my experience with Dirk Serries, it's now the turn of Stratosphere to dump feelings crystallized in a fusion of guitars' tears, voices pads as much attractive as obsessive and synth lines with colors nuanced by the paradoxes which is flavored by the perfumes of airy drones. Stratosphere is Ronald Mariën. A Belgian sound sculptor of soundscapes, just like Dirk Serries, whose first outcomes have passed by a long road pierced by the incomprehension in front of a kind of sound expression which only attracts a handful of followers. And nevertheless, we all seek to fill the silence... No?! And I would say that this AFTERMATH reaches this goal wonderfully.
Some very limpid notes of guitar are bouncing like pearls of crystalline water. Their igneous shadows melt into hollow breaths and turn into absent voices which quite slowly are caressed by the silent impulses of a layer of bass. Reverberations in contrasting tints on a play of iridescent shadows, the introduction of Accepting the Aftermath plunges us in center of this album's paradoxes. The riffs of guitar remodel their harmonies on these faded pearls, dancing like eternal flames in the elastic effects of those layers unfold by a bass guitar which spreads its lugubrious and bewitching waves. We can hear pads of Gothic voices there resuscitating some more astral voices all over the length this duality between the harmonies congealed in minimalist patterns and these somber effects of synth/guitar which remains the main axis of charms of AFTERMATH. Search for Normality proposes a heavy and stifling ambient structure where these harmonies are completely gulped down by the oblivion. The hummings are in the heart of a storm which forces a very good, and mesmerizing I must insist, crescendo of atmospheres and distortions which ends in a rather abrupt way. It looks like our ears ran out of air! Its reprise, which has nothing of comparable, unwinds some peaceful riffs which murmur in glittering synth pads where the duality of the shadows lies down a soft sibylline ambient ballad. Each track also proposes its vision of the development of intensity. Here, the movement adopts a kind of slow staccato, a little as if Ronald Mariën had let his spirits be fooled by a possible ambient rock. I like the very intense envelope and the emotion of this track which has hooked my ear as soon as the first 3 minutes have burned its atmospheres. The same pattern appears in When you Think Everything is Alright... but with more liveliness. That ends even in this kind of chaos which concluded the wild shows of hard rock in the 70's. Endless Despair decorates again these black ambiences. It's a very ambient piece of music with a fascinating opposition between the somber synth layers and the growls of a six-strings. There are weak translucent rays which pop out, reminding me Michael Rother's bases without the Teutonic harmonies. Except that AFTERMATH is not totally deprived of these harmonies. They are more ethereal ones and they roll in loops. Loops weaved tightened in a minimalist envelope, like in Confusion where they flow like pearls at the bottom of a river which becomes misty of toxic waste. There is a wonderful dramatic crescendo in this track which catches the attention, and the pleasure of our ears, from the first listening.
There is something unique, of enchanting in the six structures of AFTERMATH. I can't put the finger on what or why, but it's only very rarely that a black ambient work attracts me in this way. It's maybe this impression of sadness, of melancholy which makes the solitude full of attributes that makes me like it so much...But still, I don't really know. But one thing is for sure, AFTERMATH and its ghostly voices have touched me. There are things like that....
Sylvain Lupari (August 4th, 2015) *****
Available at Projekt Records Bandcamp