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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Tone Science Module No.7 Cause and Effect (2023)

This as to be the most accessible volume of this amazing series which presents here great Berlin School in an always fascinating sound fauna

1 Abalone Vortex (Andrea Cichecki) 7:38

2 Tempestarius (Chris Meyer) 7:30

3 Dim Rill (Rodent) 5:14

4 Flutter (Dark Sparkler) 6:44

5 Of Ash and Sorrow (Blakmoth) 6:30

6 Pareidolia (Brendan Pollard) 8:23

7 Hecataea (Andrew Ostler) 7:22

8 A Hopeless Momentum (James Cigler) 8:29

9 Near Earth (Jon Palmer) 6:39

(CD/DDL 64:51) (V.F.)

(Dark Ambient & Berlin School)

Synth pads falling like sighs, muffled and rhythmic clicks of a kind of cash register and a wave of bass pulsations. These are the heterogeneous ingredients that make up the opening of Abalone Vortex. And it's better to get used to it since by agreeing to unpack the sound fauna of CAUSE AND EFFECT, you also agree to let yourself be overwhelmed by a range of sounds create in those thousand possibilities made possible by the magical universe of modular synths. Creativity at the service of our ears! This is the only sentence, logical and full of veracity, that comes to mind to introduce my review on this other fascinating Tone Science Module compilation from the English label DiN. CAUSE AND EFFECT is the 7th volume of this project which follows the Tone Science album by Ian Boddy in 2016. Like the other releases in this series, the album features a panoply of names that are mostly unknown from the audience, with the exception of Brendan Pollard and possibly Andrew Ostler. These artists are however very active on You Tube, Facebook and Soundcloud. I invite you to let your curiosity go by visiting their pages and discovering their talent in the art of modular synths. As for CAUSE AND EFFECT, the music is more accessible on this compilation. There are many phases of rhythms and rhythmic melodies that flirt with the Berlin School style and even with a more progressive Synthpop, even aggressive, in the England School genre.

So, Abalone Vortex develops from these bass pulsations, deaf knocks, which awaken a cadenced melody. The tone of the arpeggios here is tinkling as if Andrea Cichecki is gently tapping a row of empty bottles which are placed in a zigzagging order. Another series of synth pads collaborates with this melodious rhythm structure which always accelerates its flow a little more while now flirting with the universe of Edgar Froese's Stuntman. Let's say that our ears are in seduction mode with this very good title which starts this 7th part of Tone Science Module on a nice rhythmic note. We remain in the land of sonic wonders with Tempestarius by American musician-synthesist Chris Meyer. The rhythm is more moderate and the music, its sound, exploits a little that of Abalone Vortex, but with a more oriental essence due to the tone of Kyoto which comes from the rhythmic arpeggios. There is a duality between vintage and contemporary tones in this title enlivens by a more celestial rhythm. Kind of Kitaro from the Geffen Records years! Another craftsman of American modular synths, from North Carolina, Rodent leads us into the abyss of ambient and dark EM with Dim Rill. We are in the frightening cinematographic genre with a synth which multiplies spectral waves. They clump together in a compact mass from which emerge various mooing and ghostly lamentations. Clicking, fizzing of electronic bubbles and knocks excite the hearing without creating a lively rhythm structure. We remain in this heart of dark ambient music with a composition by Dark Sparkler, another creator from Uncle Sam's country, which offers us in Flutter a dark EM filled with radiant shadows and radioactive drones. The modulations in the impulses of synth pads structure a slow procession of which the acoustic resonates and fills our eardrums with illusions of bells and their ringing which seem to come from the sinkholes of the Earth. The lamentations which crack its dense sound wall constitute a significant melodious element. In the end, it's a title that deserves to be listened to a couple of times!

Blakmoth is a very prolific artist from Maryland, USA. He offers a dark ambient track in Of Ash and Sorrow which implodes with its legion of reverberating waves. Our good friend Brendan Pollard brings us the quintessence of Berlin School with the excellent Pareidolia. Its opening is filled with effects from the vintage years and atmospheric rumbles which are reminiscent of the time of Klaus Schulze in Body Love. Kind of a more contemporary Stardancer! The sonic storm gives way to a mesmerizing rhythm which is heavy and slow, a bit like an invading vampiric shadow, with resonant pulsations. The sequencer activates a movement of rhythm in parallel, creating two textures that meet when the sequencer again creates a line of rhythmic melody that winds the contour of our hearing, like a masterful caress of harmonic rhythm. Between Arc, Andy Pickford and Brendan Pollard's own style, Pareidolia wanders briskly between Berlin School and Dark Ambient by evolving on the multiline of the sequencer, including very catchy dribble effects, combining pure and melodic rhythm that complement each other in a heavy texture of dark ambient moods. A superb title which precedes the no less splendid Hecataea by Andrew Ostler which develops on a Berlin School pulsing rhythm with a sequencer whose lively and curt flow structures the ascent of a rhythmic train. The musician-synthesist from Edinburgh in the United Kingdom modulates the variance of his rhythm by attenuating his rising velocity at times and sprinkling his jerky rhythm with nice laments, some with a texture of dark melody, from his synths. An excellent title that deserves our ears to linger on the universe of Ostler, in particular his album Crossing the Line of which I would have to chronicle one of these days. We stay in the Berlin School style with A Hopeless Momentum by James Cigler whose minimalist style makes me think of Plastikman, especially with this echo effect in the variations of the percussive ringings and this rhythmic momentum which turns in slow motion towards the last third of the title. A Hopeless Momentum thus offers good elements of rhythm which complete a good ascending structure of which the sequences, with a tone a bit metallic, skip on a carpet of resonances. These elastic leaps make various chimes tinkle which twirl without enthusiasm and give life to synth waves which unravel in twisted filaments. A very good title that gets haunting by hearing it again! Sitting on layers of drones where the oceanic depths meet the sparkles of an astral way, Jon Palmer's Near Earth closes CAUSE AND EFFECT on a more atmospheric note always attracted by the spheres of darkness.

If Protons and Neutrons set the bar high for an avant-garde EM, this CAUSE AND EFFECT brings our expectations back to a more familiar ground by exploiting a little more the route of rhythms and melodies while offering an EM that remains quite creative. There are some very nice surprises for Berlin School fans in this 7th episode of Tone Science Module which, against all odds, is the most accessible of this series offered by the English label DiN. Its main attraction lies in the order of the titles where our ears encounter EM guided by melodious rhythms and a segment of more atmospheric music which flirts slightly with the dark ambient genre. But the very essence of this compilation is its core with artists who develop the art of bizarre rhythms and good Berlin School. Elements which, must I admit, are incentives to listen from beginning to end, and several times, the 9 chapters of this CAUSE AND EFFECT.

Sylvain Lupari (May 10th, 2023) *****

Available at DiN Records

(NB: The texts in blue are links on which you can click)

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