VENJA: Unfolded (2021)
Updated: Jun 13, 2021
“Unfolded is a great collection of recordings inspired by the touching story of a 8 year boy”
1 A Starry Expanse 11:13
2 Unfolded 7:10
3 Clear Sky 3:54
4 Daikanyama Part 3 (Featuring Nyoko Mizuki) 9:01
5 Unfolded Truth 5:07
6 Saturn's Rings 11:08
(CD/DDL 47:36) (V.F.)
(Cinema, Ambient, IDM)
Venja's last solo album dates back to Shapeshifter released on SynGate Records in 2016. Since then, the Belgian musician has been active with the Galactic Underground project. Two beautiful albums were made in this adventure, in addition to an album performed live at the Cosmic Nights festival that took place at the Brussels Planetarium on May 19, 2018. UNFOLDED is a collection of recordings that Johan Geens has made since 2016 until today, inspired by the story of an 8-year-old boy in the Second World War. The titles Unfolded and Unfolded Truth are directly related to this story of a mother and her son Isaac who left the south of France to escape the Nazis. She returned to retrieve the family property without returning. Many years later, Isaac returned to the village to find out what had happened to his mother. He wrote a book which can be found at http://www.levendel.com/
A Starry Expanse begins this album with a concert of crickets and their animated stridulation. A synth wave with a delicate goddess voice covers this nocturnal gathering with its ambient chant. Another more fragile and weeping line adds tenderness and mystery to this introduction that changes dynamism when ahhh... of lower voices re-launch its mystery. The synth moans tears as sharp as the prismatic airs of a Theremin. The ambiences are beautiful and restful with a light melancholic line. We have to wait around the 4th minute to hear a first push of the sequencer. The elastic effect of the clashing balls creates a permanent bed for the moans and other vocal textures that are more in the note. That are more touching! This ambient rhythm of A Starry Expanse begins its 3rd phase with a circular melody that makes tinkling its chords in elasticized resonances swirling with the delicacy of a heart-wrenching tale. We are in a phase of a spheroidal melancholic melody which is trapped in the sum of all these changes in this wonderful opening to UNFOLDED which exploits to perfection Johan Geens' art of composition. We feel it even more with the title-track, which is a musical ritornello slowly turning on itself to gather chords and multiplying morose layers to gratify us with a cosmic rock phase before putting us back in Morpheus' arms. Clear Sky is a good melodious ballad with the of a keyboard which pushes its arpeggios with energy in a gradual impulse of sound radiations.
Venja likes to multiply the volume of his synth layers. They form a musical anaconda in Daikanyama Part 3. This longest track in the Daikanyama series keeps in mind the essence of its purpose and features twinkling arpeggios on this soft oblong tubular box which floats through grainy cosmic winds. Nyoko Mizuki's voice comes back to charm our subconscious, even when interferences triturate her monologue. They mummify a bit those synth-guitar chords that flow on this ambient part. A very nice down-tempo makes our soul capsize a little after the 5th minute. Soft and musical, with organic chords and good percussions, the rhythm even takes a little more EDM tone in a vision of psybient well animated. A very nice track that cuts too quickly, leaving 90 seconds of ambiences caressing our ears. Unfolded Truth begins like a finger having touched a mass of sounds to give it life. Arcs of reverberations invade our ears with a mourning ambience where these chords tinkle like bells in the church. The layers follow an invisible current, giving more impact to the chords falling either with strength or the softness of despair. The winds sing, scratching our emotions as they go, while the piano notes insist without being able to express themselves in any way other than the breezes of memory. Although there are some very good tracks on this UNFOLDED, Venja saves the best for last with Saturn's Rings. And the music embraces the meaning of the title by offering a circular rhythm structure with a hypnotic trance effect well set up by the percussions playing, as well as that bass line that gives no respite for any attempt to escape by thought. Addictive, the rhythm swirls with a harmonic desire of well anchored in these spheroidal circles having the same effect as a giant spirograph. This is one of the most beautiful tracks to have rocked my ears in an EM style other than Berlin School's. Although we are not so far from it here...
The story of this kid is as touching as the vision that Venja shares with us in his very beautiful compositions on UNFOLDED. Moreover, we listen to this album by imagining a sentimental story that goes up a dramatic notch from track to track until a finale that screws our ears to our headphones, so much the collective of the tones embraces the imagination. The album is only available in downloadable format for now. The delivery of manufactured CDs is expected in the week of June 14. A very nice album from Johan Geens that follows in the footsteps of his Galactic Underground project.
Sylvain Lupari (June 12th, 2021) ****½*
Available at Venja's Bandcamp