TOTEMTAG: Exploring The Numinous (2021)
“This album proposes not less than 90 minutes of a sequencer-based style of EM”
1 Soft Takeoff 7:24
2 Vertical Highway 23:44
3 Horizontal Sunrise 8:11
4 Sun Through Pink Haze 8:00
5 Surfing on Thin Air 8:52
6 The Bright Side 12:22
7 The River of Karma 12:53
8 Stellar Wind 8:11
(DDL 89:40) (V.F.)
Another newcomer? Yes, and another one of those musicians who is invading the spheres of contemporary ME at the same rate as Phrozenlight. Look at it as you want, Totemtag has put on his Bandcamp page no less than 32 albums since May 24, 2020!!! But it must be said that Massimo Teodorani, Doctor of Astrophysics and literary author, has been doing EM for over 20 years where he has amassed his share of analog and digital synthesizers and sequencers. Influenced by the Berlin School model, he sees EM as an antenna to connect to the world of ideas. Nostalgic for the progressive rock of the 70's, he also likes to dabble in the Chillout style. With a name like Totemtag, we are tempted to make a connection between his music and the electronic-opera and neoclassical music of Klaus Schulze's album Totentag. Fortunately, it is not the case. At least on this EXPLORING THE NUMINOUS which proposes not less than 90 minutes of a sequencer-based style of EM in ambiences and synth solos divided between the universes of KS and Tangerine Dream.
We start with the cosmic electronic rock approach of Soft Takeoff. The sequencer unleashes a circular line with spasmodic keys and other ones with an eccentric electronic tone. The percussions bludgeon this ascending rhythm with heavy strikes whose resonances get lost in synth layers that stretch into solos with very strong TD flavors. I like it heavy and slow, and it's heavy and slow with a slightly stroboscopic circular flow under a haze radiating from its iridescent outline. I noted one small problem that may annoy some of you in the fade-in and fade-out, giving a bad MP3 memories. Vertical Highway is a long track that starts with sound signals lost in a cosmic haze laden with ambient hums. The sequencer drives a pulsating rhythm in concert with a metronomic metallic clatter. This static rhythm drifts into a Cosmos before a seraphic choir with elastic gurgling effects and a second line of the sequencer chirping like a flock of sparrows. And the metronomic ticking feeds our obsession beyond the 12th minute as the synth scatters its solos in its allegorical haze. Shots from an alien weapon out of nowhere will no doubt startle you, a bit like Totemtag lacking confidence in its long minimalist journey. Unless they serve as a beacon to indicate a good change in the title a little before the 14th minute. Sirens swirl brightly, giving the impression of an increase in a cadence that remains the same, plus the noises in addition. It's true that we are in a Vertical Highway and everything can indeed happen. This noisy phase lasts a big 4 minutes before the music comes back on these initial charms with a slightly more cosmic vision in the sound effects. Horizontal Sunrise offers a rhythmic structure progressing between static ambient style to a good velocity with keys jumping in a nice alternating cohesion. The ambiences are injected with haze and sound effects in the tone while the synth blows out strings and solos that have that very TD tones. Sun Through Pink Haze is an ambient ballad with a dreamy keyboard scattering its chords on a rather seraphic structure. One sleeps well there!
Surfing on Thin Air literally takes us on a roller coaster ride with a brisk flow. Take the second half of Horizontal Sunrise and you have a frenzied rhythm where the sequencer stays a little more in the background to expose a little better the choir of absent voices that follows the course of this bass-sequence line running at full speed under a plethora of intergalactic sound effects and layers of chthonian mist. The synth is also discreet, fomenting short harmonies towards the finale of this infernal race. Explosions of white noise, ectoplasmic sighs, static electricity in sounds! The Bright Side's introduction navigates in psybient waters by adding spectral ululations and disintegrating hoops of sound over a 5-minute stretch before tonal warmth sets in. A murky ambient form circulates and clings to an evanescent undulating motion under an orchestral haze. The rhythm settles 90 seconds later with the echo of arrhythmic beats under intense glimmers of despair from a synth in search of its identity; solos, harmonies, or sound effects. A solitary jumping key stomps stubbornly, eventually initiating a rhythmic structure that will grow up until the finale of a track where the synth remains an accomplice of its gloomy ambiences. The River of Karma is one of those tracks that hooks us immediately on with its unbridled rhythm offered by a sequencer faster than the drummer's hand and footwork. This electronic rock without respite is surrounded by the multiple possibilities of a synthesizer responsible for this dense cosmic haze as well as vocal effects and flute jets as audacious as in the universe of Klaus Schulze, not to mention these solos with hybrid vocals. The more the title progresses and the more it is carried away by waves of sounds that break with violence. These surges give a perception to slow down the rhythm, especially in its last third. Stellar Wind is the kind of thing that irresistibly attracts me. The sequencer brings to the table a rhythm with keys alternating evenly in a kind of cosmic half-hike and half-ride. A sandy haze surrounds this structure that hops randomly in a cloud of sonic artifices from a synth that manages to inject notes that will get lost, but not all. These notes stretch into effects, nebulous solos and apocalyptic haze pads. Here again, Totemtag blows a fusion of TD and Klaus Schulze on this structure where the trumpets of mist end up burying the impact of its rhythm.
One cannot deny that Totemtag has this sense of composition that gives color to his music. The Italian musician literally layers down in music the meanings of his 8 tracks that adorn the 90 minutes of EXPLORING THE NUMINOUS. Apart from the fades, the album listens well and requires a few listenings in order to acclimatize well to these new ambiences where the influences of the Dream and KS are coupled in a vision different from what one would have imagined.
Sylvain Lupari (November 7th, 2021) ***½**
Available at Totemtag Bandcamp