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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Thaneco & DASK Ships in the Sky (2023)

The duo is more daring with dark ambiences and progressive Berlin School

1 Tirana Incident 8:19

2 Angel Hair 8:11

3 The Ariel School Incident 11:15

4 Lubbock Lights 6:15

5 The Abduction of Betty & Barney 9:43

6 Phoenix '97 8:04

7 Miracle of the Sun 10:07

8 Ships in the Sky 8:45

(DDL/CD-(r) 70:43) (V.F.)

(Progressive Berlin School Electronica)

Who hasn't heard about the abduction of Betty and Barney Hill? Those inexplicable lights in the Phoenix sky? In the skies over Texas in the '50s? The Rwandan Ariel School incident? If you're a fan of unexplained phenomena and the presence of extraterrestrials on Earth, you'll be familiar with these topics. And just to remind us that these incidents, and a few others, have left their mark on both our time and our imagination, the duo Thaneco & DASK have composed an electronic music (EM) inspired by these events. The album's title is rather poetic, SHIPS IN THE SKY, and features the rather progressive approach of this duo, who have accustomed us to a much calmer music in a Berlin School of what is most correct. Thanasis Oikonomopoulos and David Marsh step out of their comfort zones, exploiting darker ambiences and more progressive structures where Electronica style flirts with solid electronic rock, while Berlin School leaves its roots to migrate towards electronic progressive rock structures. It's an explosive cocktail that the Greek-English duo have just released on the German label SynGate Records.

Tirana Incident introduces us to the eclectic world of SHIPS IN THE SKY by a droning synth pad and its modulations which go along with angelic whispers. The music is inspired by an unexplained sighting over Tirana in the summer of 2010. Celestial voices are blowing quiet airs over this drone wave, whose shadowy accentuation of the synth bass adds an emotional, dramatic and even somber touch to the opening. This feeling dissipates when the synth turns into a master DJ who plays a serenade interspersed with the jerk of synth pads, of keyboard riffs. Boom-boom, Tirana Incident becomes the album's first source of Electronica. Flirting with the world of Moonbooter, Thanasis Oikonomopoulos and David Marsh envelop this driving rhythm with a swarm of orchestrations that help propel the synth harmonies as high as these densifying, twirling orchestrations in harmony with the pounding of technoïd percussion. Angel Hair is built in an almost identical mold. The track features a more ethereal opening, with honey-colored orchestrations, voices and synth waves intertwining like a trio of auras. Arpeggios twinkle and swirl in circles around the 80-second. This river of sonic prisms shimmers of a suspended cadence that is buffeted by heavy percussion. The percussions are even more boom-booming than on Tirana Incident, especially when the bass mumbles quite heavily. The synth is just as harmonious, but only in the first third. The sequencer will take over from here! The rhythm is interspersed with two short atmosphericosmic phases. The sequencer plays a stunning game of shimmering rhythmic harmony in those quiet phases, while the rhythm reappears each times with more bass pulses and deafening percussion strokes. The cinematic, but psychedelic, opening of The Ariel School Incident relies on docile synth strings that coo with orchestral texture. More ardent filaments intrude on this gentle soaring, whose dreamy texture is disrupted by gypsy bow strokes and apocalyptic trumpet harmonies. A swarm of tiny footsteps, similar to those of the 72 students at Ariel School who claimed to have seen one or more silver-colored contraptions descend from the sky, runs between our ears, while the synth remains apocalyptically noble and the students, aged six to twelve, seem to quiver of terror. The sequencer dispels this filmic panorama with a powerful rhythmic undulation a few seconds into the 3rd minute. Although violent, the rhythm remains passive, stationary and continues to explore its lively, flickering fluctuations under a sky adorned with a few twinkling stars. Rubbery percussive stabs originate a rhythmic thrust that introduces itself with technoïd beats, guiding The Ariel School Incident towards another kind of rave party music in a cross between a spasmodic Berlin School and a techno à la Jean-Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk.

One closes our eyes and listen to Lubbock Lights. Atmospheric and hyper-melodic, with a piano that crumbles its melancholy in silky orchestrations, we think it's a track that Vangelis mislaid in the Rosetta sessions. Splendid! There's nothing more to write about. You have to read the story, available on Wikipedia and elsewhere in the vast universe of the Net, of Betty and Barney Hill to better understand the twists and turns in The Abduction of Betty & Barney. The title opens with a portion of Betty Hill's audio narration. The first few minutes have an orchestral nature, with a vague psybient effect appearing mostly around the 3-minute mark. At this precise moment, I'm thinking of the robot in Lost in Space going off the rails. Never mind, the rhythm settles in with the sequencer in ascending mode. The ratchet technique adds a delicious texture to the ears magnetized by this Berlin School. The rhythm hops along with an accentuation in the strength of the sound under dramatic Vangelis-style orchestrations and layers of chthonian voices. Another frenetic, yet stationary, rhythmic movement sweeps away this passive, yet entrancing for the neurons, structure just before the 6-minute mark. This ambient choreography for circular sequencer waves completes the last third of a track that has everything to please Berlin School aficionados. A big, juicy drone, undulating like an ophidian menace, is at the root of Phoenix '97 and its highly atmospheric first 4 minutes. Drones intertwine their waves, waltzing through the darkness of an evening where a series of luminous phenomena was observed over the states of Arizona and Nevada in March 1997. A translucent texture emits a veil of sizzle, adding an intriguing sci-fi touch to this fusion of drones and orchestrations, of which the impulse and ascent are accompanied by fluctuations at the level of intensity. Jumping keys, coated in a rubbery organic texture, create twinning lines that leap in parallel in an electronic rock that exhilarates with its bumpy gait. Wooden percussive elements begin to beat all around, accentuating a rhythmic dynamism that remains, all in all, catchier for the ears and neurons than the feet. Thaneco & Dask throws in some good synth solos in this watercolor of rhythm that is clearly more seductive than catchy. The duo surprise with a very good progressive rock on Miracle of the Sun. Well hammered by percussions and sectioned by sharp riffs, the rhythm grabs the attention immediately. It progresses from its heavy, slow envelope to increase in velocity and take on a circular tangent around the 4-minute mark. The nebulous haze of the orchestration hovers over this spheroidal movement, on which are grafted excellent elements of wood-tinkling percussions, Pink Floyd-sounding arpeggios and Tangerine Dream-sounding synth-mellotron solos. The title-track lets also hear some very interesting percussive elements, creating the sounds of tick-tock for a dysfunctional clock. The drones buzz like big, blood-seeking horseflies over a bed of more or less silky orchestrations. Some even have an apocalyptic air. In fact, Ships in the Sky plunges us into a dark universe to finally restore its presence with a good Berlin School propelled by a sequencer and its ratchet effects and embellished by synth solos visibly inspired by the Dream's universe, period Baumann-Franke-Froese. A superb way to conclude an album by Thaneco & DASK that exceeds our expectations. The duo has literally step out of its comfort zone by offering a more daring EM and Berlin School than in its first 3 opuses. Highly recommendable!

Sylvain Lupari (December 28th, 2023) ****½*

Available at SynGate Bandcamp

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

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