UNISPHERE: TempUs (2021)
Updated: Nov 25, 2021
“TempUs is built in a way to integrate us on familiar grounds that gave us so many chills”
1 The Calling for Dawn 9:25
2 Le Temps Retrouve 9:59
3 In Transition 8:33
4 Reflections 6:44
5 Post Meridian 11:35pm 8:00
6 Technical Instrument for Measurement of Existence 10:29
7 Reunification 11:19
(CD/DDL 64:36) (V.F.)
(E-Rock, New Berlin School)
It was in 2015 that Unisphere established their mark in the contemporary electronic music (EM) chessboard with a brilliant debut album entitled Endless Endeavor. Heavily inspired by the Schmoelling years of Tangerine Dream, Rene Splinter and Eric van der Heijden also had some Vangelis influences to wash over this first album which was very well received by critics, including me, and fans of the genre. The two companions are doing it again some 6 years later with an album that combines rhythms, melodies, atmospheres, percussive elements, a lot of them, and raging synth solos in a 65 minutes of explosive EM. All these qualities together make TempUs to be considered as the most beautiful and accessible EM album in 2021. Available from Groove nl in manufactured CD and downloadable format, this little EM gem is the work of two excellent melodists. Beautifully structured, the music is of this narrative race with choruses and verses which clash in exchanges without words, but which mean everything.
With a reverberating ray and the chirping of birds, The Calling for Dawn offers a slow, atmospheric introduction. Voice effects are grafted onto this opening, which gets more and more amplified when it is absorbed by a large organ layer that tops it and propels it to the 3rd minute. Deafening blasts resound, spreading a cloud of sonic dust from which seraphic voices emerge. In fact, it takes almost 4 minutes for The Calling for Dawn to give a sign of rhythmic life. And even then, this rhythm is hesitant. Not knowing what chord to dance to, it lets a delicate flute whisper to our ears the promise of more energetic structures to come. This is the case one minute later. Taking advantage of the support of the percussive elements and electronic percussion, the sequencer alternates its keys more vividly in a stationary rhythmic structure. The bouncing keys get clumped together in a dense mass and jump briskly, nervously along a large oblong line that slowly undulates. Synth solos overlay this static feverishness of the sequencer, weaving harmonious shapes. After this track, the thing that jumps out at you is the power of percussions and sequencer in TempUs' music. Le Temps Retrouve plunges us into a melancholic ambience with notes thrown on the pavement by a cynical pianist. Among the resonances they scatter, a dramatic veil is woven, helping the pianist to move in this direction. This track, which breathes the influences of Johannes Schmoelling, starts with a delicate rhythm, always supported by metallic percussive effects, on good arrangements, including a magnificent fluty mellotron. Little by little, Le Temps Retrouve detaches itself from these artistic constraints with a galloping rhythm and a structure of lively sequences, as if struck by a goldsmith having 4 hands, before undertaking its last third with very good solos on a structure that has become a bit jerky. After a 60 seconds of naval ambiences, In Transition go off with a bang with a sequencer unleashing its line of bass sequences and another line of keys jumping briskly in ostinato in a movement where these lines crisscross while describing undulatory axes. The flow is either lively or jerky and gallops in a spasmodic way under very good solos that bewitch my ears. Becoming a bit disordered, the rhythm spreads a carpet of small nervous steps in a structure that sounds so much like Tangerine Dream that I had my jaw dropped. The solos, multiple I must specify, are sometimes suave and at other times high-pitched as if they were whistled. It sounds like a junction between Schmoelling and Paul Haslinger, with Chris Franke at the sequencer. It's mind blowing of truth!
Reflections is the only ambient track on TempUs. It's also a long nebulous introduction to the colossal Post Meridian 11:35pm. The percussions come in to roll awkwardly over the resonant carpet of Reflections' ambiences. This rhythm is particular to us because we heard it in TD's Jive years! The sequencer makes pulse a key as the orchestrations envelop this texture enhanced by the keyboard. An initial floating harmony from the synth sings us the apple with strident emotive peaks that obnubilate our senses. The electronic drums and the sequencer continue to hammer the rhythm and the ambiences that awaken in us memories of The Keep. The solos, always so sharp, lead us to a second part of Post Meridian 11:35pm which is definitely more intense and more dramatic. It's quite a whole track with magical solos. A slightly reverberating shadow is watching for our ears as Technical Instrument for Measurement of Existence opens. Its floating momentum drops sparse limpid chords from a musing keyboardist while all around lurk bluish filaments. This slow introduction is timed so that the rhythm starts to shake our speakers around the 3rd minute. This phase unfolds like a new Poland. Jerky bass string, spontaneous percussions, gauzy cymbals and a sequencer which runs away with keys hopping like eggs on a conveyor belt, the rhythm is of the stop-and-go style under the regurgitation of this hovering shadow. Suddenly, the time stops to let freedom to a plethora of percussive effects, sequences and oriental percussions to scroll under powerful atmospheric riffs. Still without a precise direction and hanging on to a ticking of a big wooden clock, Technical Instrument for Measurement of Existence ends up exploding somewhere after the 7th minute to offer an ambient rhythm conducive to succulent synth solos. Reunification closes TempUs in a fusion between up and down tempos. The percussions still play an essential role in what becomes a good electronic rock cut in narrative music mode that is decorated by good synth loops and very good solos of a synth that wants to be melodious to every overexcitement phase of the sequencer and of the electronic percussions.
Although some phases are totally crazy, I think of the rhythms shot by sequenced machine gun bursts and the synth solos played like Johannes Strauss' violins, TempUs is built in such a way that Unisphere integrates us in a familiar universe to offer the most progressive music in its last 22 minutes. A very well-structured album by the duo Rene Splinter and Eric van der Heijden which offers us certainly the most complete and melodic album of 2021, while bringing us closer around the wonderful memories of the Dream.
Sylvain Lupari (November 25th, 2021) ****¾*
Available at Groove nl