TRANSPONDER: Astral Expanse (2021)
Updated: Nov 28, 2021
“An excellent album overwhelmed by an EM that is in harmony with its art”
1 Kronos Gate 8:38
2 Eye of the Infinite 7:18
3 Abyssal Rift 6:22
4 Fathomless 14:52
5 Negative Space 6:26
6 Astraeus 6:20
7 Edge of Time 6:28
8 Astral Expanse 7:32
(DDL 63:56) (V.F.)
Second album of Transponder in 2021, ASTRAL EXPANSE distances itself from those musical links that unite Beholder to Hyperion Gate by offering the most beautiful album of this trilogy started in 2018. This latest album from the duo Don Tyler and Steve Pierce offers a gentle ascent to the realm of vintage Berlin School. The sound is pure with sequences of ascending rhythm which gravitate, depending on the speed, in a way that creates a sonic fauna that knits its world into a 70's rift.
Kronos Gate puts us in the moods of this new album with an ambient rhythm structured by an amalgam of beats from the sequencer and keyboard riffs. From the start, we notice the finesse of the synthesizers and their musical creativity flirting with the borders of Psybient. Carried away by their impulses, the music gives off this feeling of intensity with drumming bass-sequences that, together with the floating synthesized movement, plunges us into those years when Klaus Schulze seduced a wider audience with albums such as Timewind and Body Love. Ambient but not motionless, Kronos Gate offers a nice range of sounds in terms of haze banks and semi-extinguished impulses while the rhythm structure also elaborates these short momentums that increase its velocity. Eye of the Infinite begins with the march of a thick reverberating fog bank that also lets us hear a diphonic choir and synth blades. It's at the 2-minute mark that the sequencer propels an ascending rhythm line, like an excellent Berlin School. The jumping keys clump together into a jumping mass as the synth weaves an evasive mocking melody. Following the curve of this melody, the keys distance themselves to sculpt a curt motion that is slightly faster. Like a melodic train straight out of the influences of Neu!, if not Kraftwerk. The tandem of Don Tyler and Steve Pierce removes one key and replaces it with one that spins uneven, creating a haunting rhythmic melody. Spanning a distance of over 3 minutes, Eye of the Infinite comes to a short transitional phase that allows the rhythm to increase in speed and power before being engulfed in an atmospheric finale. Abyssal Rift features an ambient rhythm structure with reverberating loops and effects from a synth that is not stingy of its astral vocal layers. The further we go into the discovery of ASTRAL EXPANSE, the more we feel the influences of the retro Berlin School taking over the music.
It's with the surges of passion of a buzzing wave that Fathomless moves slowly. We are in the territories of a dark ambient music, not to say totally black, with the particles of radiation that emanate from this sound mass where our ears can also discern absent murmurs. Chords, sounding like a guitar, and weak beats pierce this membrane to institute a rhythm that swings between our two hemispheres. We speak of a phantom rhythm that is buried by an avalanche of cosmic sound effects, like those of a space ship releasing its gases (pschitt). These chords of an unidentified six-string take on a little more confidence, even bringing the beats out of the silence. Little by little, Fathomless feeds on the harmonious loops and riffs of this guitar in order to structure a very good rhythm gently galloping on the invisible plains of a title that we would like to discover the secrets always a little more. A beautiful title with a rhythmic simply surprising! It's on a fast pace that begins the very lively Negative Space. Supported by a grave chord falling with the precision of a tick without the tock, the rhythm elaborates a form of sequenced gallop which comes and goes in a minimalist decor where always resounds this grave chord. Astraeus continues to keep us in pure electronic rhythms with a sequencer structure that spins slightly faster than the title Arpeggiator found on Jean-Michel Jarre's album The Concerts In China. Magnetizing! Edge of Time comes to us with a big buzzing cloud whose reverberating effect translates into a large sonic slingshot spinning in an elastic pocket. The rhythm is grafted onto it with a sequencer in tandem mode, a bit like in Kronos Gate but more insistent. So, two lines of rhythm which are side by side in a nebulous sound envelope worthy of the good ambient Berlin School of the vintage years. The title-track sticks to this style of hypnotic ambient rhythm by offering us another ascending movement of the sequencer that goes up and down in a musical panorama swollen with sound masses moving more slowly than the elastic jumping keys. The sound sky of Astral Expanse is filled with these rumbling filaments that have escaped from the reverberating masses. They exchange their tone in an astral choreography where sounds and their belongings intertwine in a fictitious ballet.
ASTRAL EXPANSE is the kind of album that commands you to sit back and let yourself be overwhelmed by an EM that is in harmony with its art. Each track is finely elaborated in order to maintain this hypnotic cadence which will end up overflowing in a rhythmic explosion which would not have the same flavour without the richness of the ambiances imagined by creative synths. Creative to the point of putting us in the middle of an effervescent universe where the cosmic highways are dominated by the vintage years deliciously retrieved by Transponder.
An excellent album!
Sylvain Lupari (November 28th, 2021) ****½*
Available at Exosphere Bandcamp