• Sylvain Lupari

SYNTH. NL: Apollo (2011)

Updated: May 18

Synth succeeds in weaving a musical universe where paradoxes harmonize with Apollo

1 LaunchPad 6:46

2 Apollo 7 4:23

3 Staging 5:23

4 Apollo 8 6:56

5 Orbit 8:23

6 Apollo 9 6:16

7 Docking 6:56

8 Apollo 11 5:46

9 EarthRise 4:33

10 Apollo 13 5:19

11 ReEntry 5:00

12 SplashDown 4:57

Groove | GR-181

(CD/DDL 70:29) (V.F.)

(E-Rock, EDM, JMJarre)

It's in a musical canvas strongly inspired by Jean-Michel Jarre, Rendez-Vous era, that bathe the rhythms and ambiences of Synth NL's APOLLO. Surprisingly too because it's also Synth NL's 4th album. But the legendary French synthesist is not the only source of inspiration that guided Michel van Osenbruggen in the making of APOLLO. Born in 1969, the same year that Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, the Dutch synthesist has always had strong connections and emotions towards the Apollo missions and other space expeditions. And it's in this context that he offers us APOLLO, a solid opus where historical NASA voices among other of sound effects invade the rhythms and dissimilar atmospheres that surround the 12 tracks all with strong reminiscences of the cosmic and rhythmic universe of Rendez-Vous.

Sizzling and cosmic noises open the ambient introduction of LaunchPad. A dark synth wave pulses and expands its sounds to the undulating pulses of a bass line, leading to voices' samples that describe a space tragedy. Synth waves sweep through the atmosphere, like rotating headlights illuminating the debris bursting with an igneous color under the weight of the pulsations that have become more threatening and insistent. And it's under John Kennedy's historical speech that LaunchPad takes off slowly with an uncertain rhythm linked to the heavy pulsations and topped with good twisted solos that tear the circular sails of a synth with cosmic visions. This rhythmic tendency a bit ambivalent feeds the great majority of APOLLO's tracks. Thus, Apollo 7 struggles to take off from its intro with round pulsations which jump on the spot on barely mobile synth layers. Again, vocal samplings of what sounds like NASA desks overrun a good rhythmic structure that bursts more clearly with percussions flickering against the direction over a floating rhythm. And I like the stereo effect they project into our ears with a slightly groovy mid-tempo that commands further listens to better assimilate them. A nice sequenced line traces the spherical path of Staging. The rhythm settles down. It's frank and curt! And especially strafed by pulsations which palpitate frantically before being welded to the intro's sequences and dancing on a synth whose melodious chords get escape out from the stormy solos and cosmic waves. Apollo 8 sounds like true JMJarre. The rhythm is subdued and languid, much like the interstellar waltzes of Oxygene, and is supported by delicate percussion whose woodwind echoes are buried by layers of cosmic synth filled with soft, soaring, prismatic solos. The synth takes on a guitar-like tone and draws a fine melancholy-tinted approach that floats among cosmic winds and sound effects. A line of a sequencer creates a strobe effect which surrounds of a jerky approach this mesmerizing cosmic and sensual duality that overwhelms Apollo 8. It's a very beautiful title just like Orbit which presents a whole musical cocktail to the antipodes of an ambivalent emotivity with an intense apocalyptic intro. Metallic percussions clash heavily, sequences flutter frantically and synth hoops intertwine in a hellish din, leading to a heavy spatial implosion. There where some celestial choirs are humming liberating harmonies and synthesized guitar chords float and structure an ode to serenity. The rhythm becomes more agitated around the 4th minute. Keeping its melodic cachet, it will progress, waddling gently over the echo effects of good percussion, good heavy beats, and synth riffs whose light chords float among fine jerky circles and nice old organ sounding synth waves. It's very good and also quite moving.

A bit in a fragmented down-tempo genre, Apollo 9 is fed with round and pulsating sequences as well as hand clappings and echoes of percussions that lose their rhythm in good ambient and lunar phases. The synth is lyrical and draws nice structures as melodious as soaring and also some approaches as celestial as melodramatic. Docking is a dark cosmic lament where loneliness transpires discomfort on a soft jazz rhythm that slowly undulates in a good pool of galactic sound effects. Clearly more rhythmic Apollo 11 is unleashed in a rather synth-pop rhythmic approach, at the limit technoïd. The rhythm is girded by a stroboscopic line and fed with vocal samples while the synth throws melodious morphic layers on rhythms that are at the crossroads of JMJarre and Element 4's energetic tracks. It's lively, like ReEntry which is on the other hand heavier and curt while offering a good synth solo. With its light and melancholic approach, EarthRise reminds me of Tomita's Snowflakes are Dancing. Layers of synth are floating and crisscrossing in a symmetrical breeze as fine pulses feed a slow rhythm and that delicate isolated arpeggios trace a somber melody. The solos are the cornerstone of the heavy and languid Apollo 13, by far the fastest catchy track in APOLLO. The synth forges beautiful melodies that escape from these twisting solos while the rhythmic approach is structured by percussive warnings. There is something intensely poetic and dramatic in SplashDown which closes in beauty this 4th CD of Synth NL. It's a good electronic ballad which sounds strangely like an interstellar ride. Between the universe of Jean-Michel Jarre and Thierry Fervant, the sequences undulate in a sphere full of resonances, while the rhythm flees like a cowboy running away from a mythical horde of cosmic dusts. I think it's great and I like this slow crescendo that increases the pace under reverberating solos, perfectly matching the resonances that eat up the harmonies of the sequences.

APOLLO is without doubt the most complete work of Synth NL. Always relying on structures both complex and melodious, Michel van Osenbruggen succeeds in weaving a musical universe where paradoxes harmonize with the concept of APOLLO. If I have a downside, it's the vocal samplings that take too much space and get annoying in the long run. It would be better in small doses and on 2 or 3 tracks, not more. But it doesn't matter, it's a question of choice and it doesn't alter the quality of this album which hides some very nice pearls. He who begins to collect them since AtmoSphere.

Sylvain Lupari (November 25th, 2011) ***½**


Available at Groove nl

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