UNDER THE DOME: Almagest (2020)
“Twelve years that are sounding like only one! The music of Under The Dome still has this demonic charms that are so comforting to the ears”
1 Beach Train 5:47
2 Sundunes pt. 1 4:13
3 Earthrise 2:50
4 Pyramid of Symex 4:14
5 Monolith 8:46
6 The Blind Watchmaker 16:08
7 Berlin 11:43
8 The Naiads 5:18
9 Sonar 6:02
10 Thirteen Bells 4:32
(CD-R/DDL 69:34) (V.F.)
(England & Berlin School)
When we have an intense and immense love at first sight for an album by such an artist, it is only normal to expect the artist to repeat the feat. Always according to our personal tastes. The Demon Haunted World by Under The Dome is on this list of 10 albums that I bring all the time on my displacements, my travels. It's an album perfectly balanced between the fat and hard rhythms versus its atmospheres and the melodies which circulate there. An incredibly unique mix of atmosphere and violence! I was told that Bellerophon was superior to it. I have heard it a few times, and indeed it hides rather good little moments. And so, ALMAGEST? Its cover is superb with its psychedelic vision where we see Claude Ptolemy, the one to whom we owe this Almageste, seeking to flee his thesis. And the music? Okay, I don't know! I must have listened to this latest Grant Middleton and Colin Anderson album at least a dozen times. And still I can't have this crush for ALMAGEST. Let's say it doesn't hit the bar of my expectations. But it remains a very beautiful album which still takes us by surprises, especially with its breathtaking opening.
Electronic percussions, including these famous rattlesnakes, and a line of bass sequences cross their efforts in a fiery electronic rock à la Jean-Michel Jarre, the rattlesnakes still sparkling. Invigorating and lively, the rhythm of Beach Train is the equivalence of its title with fragrances that stimulate our interest in hearing Bellerophon's Launch again. Magnificent synth solos, unique to UTD's signature, inject sonorous acrobatics until a bass line reinjects tonus to the rhythm around the second minute. And we stay in this familiar backdrop when the tinkling of glockenspiel lays down a melody line that the synth, and its hybrid voice, tries to enhance. Superb! The rhythm spills over to Sundunes pt. 1 which introduces the sound of machines resistant to waves and strange ectoplasmic lamentations into a cataclysmic cinematic vision. Colin Anderson is like this guitarist his girlfriend has just given up! And his solitary chords are quickly absorbed by apocalyptic synth beams sweeping the horizons on where I'm expecting another rhythmic explosion. Earthrise gives me what I want. The rhythm is static and sparkles on the spot surrounded by musical elements, including good synth solos and melodious chords, which pull it from all sides. We quickly fall for the excellent Pyramid of Symex and its sound fauna filled with gurgles regurgitating big reverberating worms. Rich in these effects, and other more iconoclastic ones, the title stagnates in an artistic broth composed of synth tears which are equal to those of a Theremin. Once again, the shrill tones are unique to the music of the English duo. Monolith gets revealed in a rain. Crawling on its line of low pulsations, the rhythm is more bewitching than catchy. The electric piano, sounding a bit like Ray Manzarek, scatters its fragile pensive notes in an ill-famed bar decor. The rhythm accelerates its pulsating ascent while the setting becomes even more gloomy, thus justifying these spectral solos and these tinkles of a badly copied Halloween genre.
The Blind Watchmaker is a long ambient track. Synth tears moan and infiltrate the nostalgic hesitations of a very pensive keyboard. I found it a bit long, but on the other hand there is something that haunts the senses through its 16 minutes. Berlin begins with a violin effect. An acoustic guitar and a soft flute take over these ambiences with a Folk approach from the California Dream years. Approach that is not new to the UTD repertoire. On a pulsating breath, Colin Anderson throws the jets of an Edgar Froese guitar on a track which develops very slowly and which remains intense. The Naiads is a mysterious track with a cello that crumbles its metallic fears in a suffocating cinematic atmosphere, like a horror film. The synth multiplies its vampiric strata which entwine in a strange ambient ballet where the cello cries and cries ... A title of heavy and intense atmospheres which quietly prowls up to the border of Sonar which bursts in our ears with a very good Berlin School quite slow but powerful and above all filled with the sound and musical effects that Tangerine Dream imported in its 81 to 86 tours, sonar includes. Thirteen Bells fills the last minutes of this album with a passage without rhythm, nor rhythmic life, woven in the layers of chthonic voices singing an opera for filthy corridors
It's been over 12 years since Under The Dome stopped charming our ears. To hear ALMAGEST, it looks like it's barely 1 year. Is this a good sign in an art where technology and ideas evolve faster than our ears adapt? I find it comfortable and reassuring. The English band had a unique sound that hasn't aged a wrinkle since HJ7. A nice comeback album, a bit shy but exhilarating from all points of view ...
Sylvain Lupari (August 29th, 2020) *****
Available at Under The Dome Bandcamp