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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Synth Replicants Time of Legends (2023)

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

An EM fest that is very pleasant listen and listen again with a track that's worth the price of the download

1 A Hymn for the Pioneers 6:30

2 Drive by Berlin 7:22

3 Sunset Fantasy 6:13

4 Dragons March 5:47

5 Time of Legends 5:10

6 Artificial Love 7:38

7 Red Summer Rain 6:09

8 Moon Dance 7:01

9 In the Fading Starlight 6:38

10 Home (Dedicated to Vangelis) 7:57

(CD/DDL 66:29) (V.F.)

(E-Rock Berlin School)

I've always believed in it! Electric guitar and synthesizers make a great combination. All it takes is for the two musicians to combine their passions to create an explosive cocktail of emotions. TIME OF LEGENDS is an album of electronic hard rock, where Per Thomhav combines the harmonies of his keyboards, the rhythms of his sequencer and of his electronic percussion textures with the guitar of Steve Labrecque, a six-string virtuoso from Connecticut, in the United States. His riffs are heart-tearing and incisive. Put it together with his solos, it brings another dimension to electronic music (EM) as defined by Edgar Froese in Underwater Sunlight. The album's title is precisely a tribute to Tangerine Dream in its post-Chris Franke years. Except that the sequencer and its rhythmic tricks remain anchored in this album. The percussion textures, especially the bongos and other hand-clapped percussions, are a constant reminder of Iris Camaa's work in the Miramar years. And why is it so good here, when TD's electronic rock at the time left me cold? Well, the guitar is essentially the heart of TIME OF LEGENDS. There are none of the insipid backing vocals or mushy arrangements that sanitized the music of Froese, father and son. Thomhav and Labrecque's complicity is palpable, resulting in inspired and inspiring music with deep guitar solos and rhythms knotted around good percussion textures and a restrained but well-controlled sequencer. All in all, an excellent Synth Replicants album that continues where Cyclus TWO left off a few months earlier.

Wind and clashing rail effects. Mechanical ululations and a layer of fog hovering over a bed of orchestrations. These orchestrations waltz more than they glide, endorsing a distant melody that can be hummed, as well as whistled, with ease. These elements carry the atmospheric, musical opening of A Hymn for the Pioneers over a distance of 2 minutes and counting. It's pure EM until Steve Labrecque's electric six-string chops up the opening. It's heavy and incisive. It slices through the electronic effects like a scalpel through a spider's nest. Sequences and electronic percussions suffer under its weight, while voices - yes, there are voices - try to dominate it, if not tame it. But nothing works! Its plaintive solos, brimming with sharp riffs, shine over this static electronic rock, kicking off an album that is quite musical, even melodic, for its heaviness and fury. Drive by Berlin follows with a very Berliner electronic rhythm. The sequencer vividly alternates its bouncy chords, tracing Berlin School-like rotary axes. Already, the rhythm is lively under a layer of fluty mist. The structure becomes ascending, like a hiccupping spiral, before crashing down to a classic rock phase. The percussions restructure this rhythm, while the sequencer unravels its jerks with subtle ratchet effects, now surrounded by long guitar riffs. The explosion arrives around the 3-minute mark, with the guitar developing ferocious looping solos with sharper and deeper phases, flirting with the basics of heavy metal. A small moment of serenity, classic in EM, where the percussions flicker before Drive by Berlin re-explodes in a finale that reminds me of Harald Nies' techno rock. Sunset Fantasy attacks our ears with a dramatic opening from which a synth line is rippling a melody over lapping water. Orchestral haze covers this opening, as does a more pensive guitar that guides the structure towards an increasingly sustained rock. Efficient rock that's ideal for guitar, even if the sequencer here and there lets off some good jumping-key dribble effects. Speaking of Harald Nies, his style is also well felt in the solid blues rock that is Dragons March. A good cosmic slow that fills us with sensuality. The title track is the highlight of TIME OF LEGENDS. It's a heavy, a melodious rock, chopped up by powerful harmonic guitar riffs. The solos are powerful, and the guitar weaves a superb, poignant melody that digs an earworm in the deep of our ears that will haunt us for hours afterwards. This is the track that comes closest to Jerome Froese's Guitartronica repertoire. In addition to the splendid guitar, there's a wonderful combination of electronic percussions - you can hear the bongos as in the days of Iris Camaa with TD - and the sequencer, which structures a lively, driving rhythm.

Artificial Love is big, pastiche 80's rock. The rhythm relies on percussions struck with a jerky heaviness and a sequencer that uses the ratchet technique. The sequencer's flow hops and rolls with fluidity, structuring the foundations of a solid electronic rock that recalls the Melrose years of Edgar's gang. The guitar is as harmonious as always. And Steve Labrecque makes the most of the vibrato effect, cutting out screaming and sometimes poignant solos. Over a bolo sequencer structure, Red Summer Rain follows with a energetic static rhythm that gives the guitar plenty of room to expel passionate solos. After an opening that flirts with the candy-pink rock of the TDI years, Moon Dance adjusts its aim by offering a ballad drawn from EM's rather esoteric approach. The rhythm is sober, with a good mesh between percussions and sequencer, but nothing more. It is surrounded by electronic arrangements, with azure blue layers filtering through discreet, seraphic voice effects. The guitar, also more sober here than elsewhere on the album, adds a more rock vision to the track. In the Fading Starlight, with its less rock-oriented structure and more electronic ballad mode, takes us to another level. That of Synth Replicants, which doesn't go for the TD of the post-Jive years influences here. Of course, the essence of the Dream remains the main element of this ballad, which combines the magic of EM with a more commercial vision made possible by powerful guitar solos. These last, rather quiet tracks are like a long prelude to the ultimate ballad on this latest Synth Replicants album, Home (Dedicated to Vangelis). Thoughtful, the arpeggios - they have that unmistakable Vangelis tone - are like tears that refuse to leave the eyes. The setting is one of intriguing shadows, as if depicting a dystopian universe at the crossroads of Blade Runner and Antartica. The texture of the ambiences structures an atmospheric track very close to lunar ballads, with layers of orchestral mist and filaments whistling in the echo of the Cosmos. Steve Labrecque cuts out nostalgia-filled solos whose echoes are lost in orchestrations filled with humming angels and tears that still refuse to roll down our cheeks. Tender and nostalgic, just like Vangelis!

TIME OF LEGENDS is the talk of social networks, and rightly so! It's a powerful album that Steve Labrecque's guitar takes to a particularly intense emotional level. The music draws a lot of inspiration from Tangerine Dream, Synth Replicants' main influence, with rhythm structures that are better exploited, moving from pure rock to a more danceable version for both feet and neurons. There are beautiful lunar melodies that latch onto the earlobes and a sultry cosmic blues to send us waltzing into the stars. In short, it's a cocktail that always makes for enjoyable listening and to listen again. And the title track alone is worth the price of the download!

Sylvain Lupari (October 29th, 2023) ****½*

Available at Synth Replicants Bandcamp

(NB: Texts in blue are links you can click on)

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