TONAL ASSEMBLY: No Solid Ground (2021)
Updated: Apr 8
“Everything here is made so to love each moment, sequenced or melodious, drawn to only please to our passion of music lover”
1 From Afar 8:10
2 Rendez-Vous At Proxima-B 6:30
3 Floating 11:17
4 Winter in Bochum 7:06
5 December 7:37
6 Yanhuo! 5:29
7 Thunderstruck 12:31
8 Waking Up 7:37
(CD/DDL 66:20) (V.F.)
(Melodious and rhythmic EM)
Winds from afar, forest bird chirps and thunder are among the sound elements that cling to a horizontal sway in an effort to bring From Afar to our ears. Some two minutes later, the rhythm erupts with a rubbery effect in an organic line of the sequencer. Another line, with a more melodic than rhythmic ascendancy, invites itself with a zigzagging effect. This line goes round, and round and my ears get the impression that another line from the sequencer is infiltrating this staggering process, creating a delicate strobe effect. And when all these sequences converge in a point of saturation, where even some of them start to dribble, Dr. Taede A. Smedes lays down a first electronic chorus composed of ethereal voices giving up the quietness of the moment to a synth and its numerous solos. The second part of From Afar is opaquer, in that Tonal Assembly adds a bass line to support the rhythmic flow and solos from a synth, one of which escapes to accompany the last solitary rhythmic step of the sequencer with a melodic air. I was eager to hear what the next Tonal Assembly album would be made of. Let's just say that the last project of Dr. Taede A. Smedes' latest project was a very melodic one to eat our eardrums, but as quiet as a gentle musical breeze. I had hoped that the doctor could continue on the tracks of Lost And Found In Imaginary Landscapes. This is exactly what NO SOLID GROUND is made of. This very beautiful album of EM is conceived with a beautiful tone of the sequencer which never hesitates to structure rhythms whose complexity lies in the choice of the tones. These rhythms are progressive with beautiful melody lines attached to them in a way that captures our interest as they always seek to progress. The synths are as dominant as the sequencer with solos and melody lines whistled in tonal storms spurred on by Dr. Smedes' clever writing.
Rendez-Vous At Proxima-B painfully extricates itself from the tonal swamp of its opening with a barely formed sequencer line. Staggering to offer an increasingly convincing gait, it becomes the precursor of a solid electronic rock whose Tangerine Dream essences are lost in the voluptuousness of the synth solos, but not in its excellent melodic vision. Simple and effective! More difficult to tame, Floating belongs to the category of rhythms structured by a sequencer in mode creativity. Emerging after 100 seconds of interstellar mists, the sequencer hops along with resonant effects of fixing to its contour. The synth takes over the moment by wrapping this vibrating rhythm with good twisted solos that wrap around this now more vertical structure. The echo effect in the solos fills the background, as does that short Asian melody that gives way to a rich mellotron. Hypnotic, the bouncing rhythm continues to meet the same elements, except for the synth effects of a powerful industrial alarm captured in a big reverberating thread a little after the 6th minute. That is, right in the middle of this oriental melody that has taken over the linear and bouncy rhythm. Muffled explosions, industrial crumpling and drops of sound introduce us to Winter in Bochum. The tune is very solemn with the presence of synth-like bugles, while behind the sound droplets project a first rhythmic vision. It is rather to a carousel that we owe a hypnotic rhythmic presence where it always rains beautiful synth solos having a touch to give us chills, to repress a tear in this track that breathes an intense dramatic vision. The sequencer stumbles around the 5th minute, destabilizing the rhythm that abandons its circular rotations to undertake its Berlin School vision, its ascending vision in a mass of mist that leads us to the dark harmonies of church bells.
December offers us a beautiful lunar ballad beginning with a bed of ascending arpeggios moving at a surreal speed for a ballad. The tone of the arpeggios and the percussions' pulses is however without appeal. The finger snaps resonate in the whitish setting where these notes of a celestial harp end up flowing on the too firm body of this ballad. Quietly December picks up everything that falls, including tinkling knocks on an anvil and clattering wooden shoes. The flow then becomes a spiral form with staccato stabs that sniff a dance tune. Except that the music returns to its starting point with a guitar which scatters well its few notes in a dash of repetitions where always sing these elements trapped in the grace of this ballad become spiral. I had this feeling of dance music coming? Yanhuo! delivers it with a rhythm sculpted in the influences of Moonbooter, for the ballads of cosmic dance music, and Jean-Michel Jarre for the cosmic elements as well as sometimes rhythmic, like electronic hand claps, and agonizing synthesizer on a roaring bass line. There's energy by the square inch here! Here and in Thunderstruck, the track I like the most in NO SOLID GROUND. The intro takes place in the torments of thunders that are pierced by plaintive solos of a synth in guitar mode. If the sequences swirl behind the scenes, it is rather a very beautiful astral song which raises the hairs on our arms while outside it rains and thunders. The rhythm kicks in just before entering the 4th minute. In an upward speed treading water, it swirls around the pulsating bass sequences. Synth solos play with chirping effects as the haze solidifies its orchestral notion. With the crescendo well established, the electronic drums turn the tables with a savage attack just before the 7-minute mark. Elaborating rhythmic textures molded into good rock moments, I think of The Who here, the rhythm goes off on a tangent, unwinding a spasmodic texture that swells with each thunderous blast. The next 5 minutes are frenzied. Between the magnetizing play of the sequencer and this fury renewed by percussions and meteorological explosions, the jerky and finely nuanced melodic vision remain the most accompanying of a title that I still do not tire of listening. Direction iPod, most beautiful tracks in ME! Waking Up starts with crackling wood tortured by flames and a funny noise, like a rough imitation of stridulations between giant insects. Unexpected is then this piano which blows us a beautiful acoustic melody on organic ashes. We think we are in the sweetness of Meditation No.1 when a spiral movement of the sequencer disarticulates its line in spasmodic filament, bringing this piano a structure of easy listening on a rhythm knotted in the tangle of rhythm lines in what becomes a beautiful electronic ballad in a very beautiful album that we listen because it is beautiful.
A very good album that this NO SOLID GROUND is! Everything here is conceived so that each note of keyboard, each breath of the synth and each key of the sequencer go one in the other as if it was the most natural thing in this musical Eden that knew how to create this Dr. who was a pure unknown just before Lost And Found In Imaginary Landscapes in 2019. Admit that it is out of the ordinary...
Sylvain Lupari (April 7th, 2021) *****
Available at Tonal Assembly Bandcamp