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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Thaneco & Romerium The Magic Scarab (2023)

Solid, lively and creative from start to end

1 Pharaoh's Curse 3:30

2 Endless Corridors 6:16

3 Trapped in a Labyrinth 8:07

4 Chased by Giant Spiders 5:35

5 The Maze with 13 Ninches 9:24

6 Pharaoh's Key 7:15

7 The Inner Sanctum 8:09

8 The Sacred Jewel Scarabaeus 6:44

9 The Gate of Eternity 8:16

(DDL 63:15) (V.F.) (New Berlin School & Electronica)

Thaneco & Romerium are two of those up-and-coming artists in the Berlin School genre of electronic music (EM) and its derivatives who constantly arouse my musical curiosity. While Thaneco has a more melodic vision of music, his Dutch partner offers a more cinematic texture. Together, they're unrivalled at blending their styles in symbiosis to create astonishing albums that transcend their respective styles. Take Machine, for example! And like this brilliant THE MAGIC SCARAB, which offers over an hour of energetic music that flirts abundantly with the frontiers of Electronica, while remaining firmly rooted in the new Berlin School genre. A little more and I'd say it's a fusion of the styles of Dark Force and Machine, with a little more energy in the rhythm phases. This 7th Thanos Oikonomopoulos and Rene Montfoort collaboration was Romerium's idea to compose music inspired by an old Commodore 64 video game, Scarabaeus. Our ears enter a surprising musical universe filled with pastiches and sonic nods to the game's environment and mysteries. The style is quite cinematic, with some fine Middle Eastern-inspired arrangements.

Pharaoh's Curse sets the table with a track fueled by wind and orchestral strings. The layers float in an analog sound envelope, reminiscent of Adelbert Von Deyen's ambient waves. Sand dust grafts itself onto the sound, making the long wiisshh whistle as a texture built for this mechanical voice which recites a poem composed by Artificial Intelligence. Limpid sequences dance in circles in the guttural drones that initiate Endless Corridors. The music here wonderfully reflects the meaning of its title, with a sequenced pulsing bass-lines of which the zigzagging movement wanders under good sound effects and exhales from these drones that give a slightly organic texture to the ambiences. Manual percussions, like tribal tom-toms, start to tap-dance over the rhythm of which the evolution caresses the semi-electronica rhythms of Jean-Michel Jarre. The synth pads/riffs, meanwhile, have a texture closer to Tangerine Dream's, as does the flow of sequences in certain passages that recall the ingenuity of Chris Franke. These points of reference in the music of this album are found often enough throughout its 8 other passages. The music and its rhythm exploit brief atmospheric passages, nimbed with ethereal voices, as well as its share of sound effects in a structure of steady electronic rhythm and its brief zigzag passages. This polyrhythmic model, which returns to its origins, is also quite common in THE MAGIC SCARAB. We're literally plunged into the world of Electronica with Trapped in a Labyrinth and its rhythmic modulations, always imposed in a techno/electro mode. It's a cross between Leftfield and The Chemical Brothers, with a slight flirtation with the driving rhythms of Jarre. Chased by Giant Spiders is in the same vein, with a deafening beat. TD-style keyboard riffs add a more musical dimension to this very heavy Electronica, while sound effects inject a more organic dimension. There are plenty of snippets of very Berliner harmonies in the track. The Maze with 13 Ninches returns to a structure closer to the roots of New Berlin School, with a hyper-oscillating rhythm structure that traces long, spasmodic slaloms. Synth pads/riffs and other sound effects flirting with an organic texture surround its rhythmic evolution which blazes into a more technoïd form with rock-style percussions and boom-booms shortly after the 4-minute point. The sequencer then crumbles a convulsive arpeggio line into a more fluid one that sounds like early 80's Tangerine Dream in a finale where the misty synth strings have a cosmic JMJarre horizon.

After a start centered on a cinematic melody imprinted of suspense, Pharaoh's Key offers a beginning of stationary electronic rhythm. Arpeggios twirl and flutter along a circular axis, with a beautiful fluctuation in the timbre of the sequences, playing on the dramatic emotions of a music whose harmonies are inspired by the Middle East. The addition of percussions and a few symphonic bursts add a very Vangelis touch to the music, while the synth pads have that metallic essence of the White Eagle years by the Dream. The Inner Sanctum follows with a very good New Berlin School-style of electronic rhythm structure. The sequencer unrolls a line of crystal-clear arpeggios. They hop back and forth in each other's shadows, creating a fluid movement that ebbs and flows, rises and falls. Ethereal voice pads caress this undulating rhythm, while well-spaced bass pulses give it momentary surges. These pads transform into layers of orchestral mist that gradually structure a delightful astral choreography with a melodious dance of stardust. Ripples of undulating harmonies glide through the background, adding a cosmic texture to the music, which is energized by the addition of cymbal rattlings (tssitt-tssitt) and percussions (boom-boom) in the 3rd phase of the track. Which in no way denies the Greco-Belgian duo's Techno and Electronica visions. A melody struck on a glass keyboard tinkles in the acrimonious winds of The Sacred Jewel Scarabaeus' opening. The ambiences have a phantasmagorical texture with bellowing, bell-like resonances and guttural hums. Our ears would think we are in the lair of a deformed beast. These glassy arpeggios tinkle and skip solo around the 90th second, calling forth a structure of ambient rhythm that beats with its sly footsteps. Drones and orchestral arrangements accompany this slow procession which is always dominated by that meditative melody and its tinkling that resonates with a sensation of piercing the sound. The sequence activates its steps, which take on a more steady and fast-marching cadence, while the orchestrations take on a vocal texture. The 3rd phase of The Sacred Jewel Scarabaeus goes for a rhythm that ebbs and flows without explosion, rolling with a staggering effect under the resonances of this glass melody and in arrangements that are in symbiosis with the track's rhythmic and cinematic ascent. The Gate of Eternity concludes this adventure into the heart of the Scarabaeus video game with a twirling electronic structure whose sequencer's rhythmic thread clings to a technoïd rhythm (boom-boom) that is revealed by good percussions and jerky bass pulsations. The sound effects intrigue our hearing, while the clattering percussions stimulate our listening as much as our feet in another structure that combines the electronic rock of the Dream's Miramar years with Electronica that transcends Moonbooter's genre and even flirts with Element 4's style.

Unexpected in the styles visited, but as entertaining as it is diverse, THE MAGIC SCARAB is a solid album that keeps our feet, like our imagination, on alert. Following in the footsteps of their previous Machine album, Thaneco and Romerium create a world of phantasmagoria with lively music and essences that suit the story told in 9 tracks. The sound is very powerful, and the rhythms are very catchy, with cinematic passages that inspire the neurons. The essences of Jarre combined with those of Tangerine Dream add a unique dimension to this musical universe that overflows the boundaries of the New Berlin School to flirt with an Electronica that is just aggressive enough without being too. Solid and creative from start to end!

Sylvain Lupari (July 26th, 2023) ****¼*

Available at Thaneco and Romerium Bandcamp

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

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