SYNTH REPLICANTS: The Umbrella Man (2022)
Updated: Apr 23
“Good, catchy and melodious EM well done without spoiling the true soul of the art”
1 An Odyssey Against Time 8:32
2 Seven Love Letters 5:54
3 The Umbrella Man 3:22
4 Stuck in an Endless Dream 5:09
5 The Gate of Earth 8:08
6 Light as Air 8:00
(DDL 39:06) (V.F.)
(E-Rock, New Berlin School)
I was very much seduced by the structure of Synth Replicants' compositions on the download album Time Walker. Per Thomhav managed to capture the essence of his rhythms and melodies on short tracks that oscillated between 4 and 7 minutes, reminding the soundtracks universe of Tangerine Dream and of their albums as memorable as Le Parc and Exit. Without necessarily having the same musical spirit, THE UMBRELLA MAN is also beautiful in a style where the melodious and catchy character of electronic music (EM) is not done at the expense of an easy accessibility which reduces the depth of the art. Available only as a download, THE UMBRELLA MAN is first and foremost a stunning photograph of Evgeni Tcherksski entitled I'm singing in the rain which has inspired the Danish musician's universe since his 2019 debut album Concerts in Cyberspace. And for Per Thomhav, it was just about time that this character got his own album, THE UMBRELLA MAN.
The first tinklings of An Odyssey Against Time seduce right away. They form a swarm of sequences and arpeggios which tinkle while twirling in the imaginary eye of a cyclone. The synth scatters nostalgic wails and sighs with a dramatic timbre between other sounds imitating the accelerated passages of falling Cosmos debris and other effects of a cinematographic universe near the German duo Weisser/Mergener, while a bass layer spreads its thick deafening coat. The first modulation of this bass occurs around the 90-second mark, initiating a floating rhythm and that awesome mellotron song. The fluty melody, the cosmic timbre and the restrained rhythm is reminiscent of Software's unique dimension in the timeless Electronic Universe album. Taps, sounding like rodeo steps, slightly accentuate a cadence trapped in this static carousel of arpeggios and sequences that has never ceased its charm operation since the opening of An Odyssey Against Time. We must hear the nuances between these multiple shimmering and slamming of a beat without particular impulses, if it is not that these pushes of low and resonant chords which nourish its dramatic aspect, to understand this beginning of bewitchment which binds us to THE UMBRELLA MAN. Because the rest is just as good! Drops of sound crackling on the skin of the umbrella initiate the good electronic rock Seven Love Letters. Even at half-speed, its opening shines with solid pulsating beats under a bluish acrylic haze of a synth that spares no effects, including the robotic movement of an amphibian cyborg. The first tonal flavors of Tangerine Dream are heard here, in the keyboard riffs, and more and more as the rhythm takes off, imitating those thousands of marbles clattering on a conveyor belt. Like in the good old days of Chris Franke on the Poland album! From semi-lively to livelier, the track uses its 6 minutes with a set of percussions whose more and more dynamic strokes dance with the chirps of the arpeggios under an attempt of the chloroformed synth layers to reduce the pace. An excellent and frenzied electronic rock very whose impetus continues beyond these waves of apocalyptic synths à la Vangelis which decorate the opening of the title-track. More orchestral and theatrical, The Umbrella Man embraces the lost illusions of the Ultravox' synthpop.
I referred to Software in An Odyssey Against Time and the mass of sounds and sound effects that fog up the introduction of Stuck in an Endless Dream plunges us into those ambiences where the new technology of MIDI equipment of the time flirted with a sonic reality that remained stuck on the analogue perfumes, notably those seraphic fluty airs. From this intense envelope as atmospheric as cinematographic, Stuck in an Endless Dream also draws its energy from an impressive bank of sounds. The Gate of Earth, the longest track on SR's new album, begins with layers of violins floating in a cinematic vision before unstitching a good rhythm with headbanger's pulses and finely stroboscopic circular jerks. In a musical and melodious combination, the structure multiplies its orchestral arrangements on the delicate nuances of a rhythm where one can jump while spinning on a spasmodic thread. Cosmic particles, synth sighs and guitar chords sounding like hard riffs adorn the quiet opening of Light as Air. These chords cast a subtle shadow of echo in a soundscape that quietly develops into an interesting velocity, leaving time for this closing track of THE UMBRELLA MAN to develop its harmonic and atmospheric vision. In the end, it is an intense track with a strength in the riffs that reaches that threshold where the emotions bloom with the intensity projected by Synth Replicants that proposes here nothing less than an EM in tune with its iconic Time Walker download-album.
Sylvain Lupari (April 23rd, 2022) *****
Available at Synth Replicants Bandcamp