XAN ALEXANDER: Quantum Waves (2010-18)
“This is an album which is more dominated by ambiences, very Froese, than rhythms which are delicate and floating in the pure spirit of the Berlin School”
1 I 4:55 2 II 11:00 3 III 6:00 4 IV 5:33 5 Wave 9:26 6 Particle 6:09 7 Duality 6:16 8 Agents of Chaos 11:22 9 Rhodes to Nowhere 9:30 10 Dream Force (Remix 2018) 8:44 Xan Alexander Music
(CD-r/DDL 78:54) (V.F.) (Berlin School)
It's a shame, we don't talk much about Xan Alexander. And yet, we should! It's also quite normal since the English musician focuses on the activities of Magnetron whose last studio album dates back to 2017 with Hypnosis. Since then, it's silence! Except for the re-releases in CD-r format on the Synth Music label of his catalog including this QUANTUM YEARS which was reissued in the summer of 2018. So, I will try to correct this injustice by bringing to your attention this album, in reality its 4th solo album, which moves towards a world of ambiances very close to the territories of Edgar Froese and of Tangerine Dream, two very dominant sources of inspiration in the music of the English musician. Appeared in 2010 on the Ambient Live label, QUANTUM YEARS has undergone two changes; in 2013 with the label Ouroboros Music and in 2018 on Synth Music Direct and on Xan Alexander's Bandcamp site with the addition of 2 bonus tracks. It's this edition that I review for you, Berlin School lovers!
It's with a futuristic Western approach that QUANTUM YEARS is opening. The ballad of I! Pulsating steps adopt an easy-going approach which gets rely on other metronomic percussions sounding like pecking on wood. A keyboard draws a delicious approach which weaves a pleasant ear worm before melting into an ambient disorder where the magnetizing rhythm of I was extinguished without our consent. The music is tied into a long sonic river which goes up to Agents of Chaos. Keyboard effects which are close to the Exit period, we can also add White Eagle, it's in the introduction of nebulous ambiences of II that the first fragrances of Tangerine Dream's influence are heard. A rhythmic approach emerges after the first minute of these ambiences. The sequencer modulates a rhythm in progression which sounds like the crusade of a knight galloping in a meadow where each of the trots of his chimerical horse raises sound particles. Layers of a synth as enveloping as the maternal arms of Morpheus envelop this passive rhythm that allows the synth to spit a sonic venom with solos which hypnotize our sonorous quest. We arrive at the barrier of 8 minutes! The rhythm disappears and II plunges into a mystical place which reconnects with the sonic enigmas of its opening. This moment of ambiances, modeled on the models Tangerine Dream and Edgar Froese on solo, slides to the softness of III which is dominated by caresses of Mellotron and of Elvish voices. We thus drift into the spheres of ambience, adorned of good sound effects, of QUANTUM YEARS. A seraphic sweetness watches over the finale in order to pour into IV which is a kind of lullaby whose disorganized jingles radiate on a layer of sound flutter that seem to come from industrial machineries and that my ears had smelled in the finale of II. These rumblings erase a little the ethereal dimension of the lullaby and carry the music towards these hollow winds which also nourish the opening of Wave.
A Mellotron flute rises and weaves an ambient romance in a jungle of concrete where yet hisses an organic vegetation. This long phase without rhythm in this album completes its murky breaths when tam-tams emerge around the 3 minutes. We are still floating in this mix of forest and industrial when a sweet flute spreads its charms over the hypnotic beat from electronic skins. This slow rhythm, almost submissive, follows this tangent of rhythmic eradication while Wave also sinks in a final of ambiences and of sound derivations. Particle soaks its music in a kind of psybient vibe with lamentations in the form of floating shadows which wriggle under organic sparkles. One has to wait to Duality before rediscovering the charms of Xan Alexander's sequenced rhythms. The sequencer releases indeed an agile snake which deploys its hypnotic undulations which dominate a synth and its Mellotron perfumes with nasal harmonies. Agents of Chaos concluded QUANTUM YEARS with a solid phase of electronic rock dominated by a sequencer and its keys simultaneously jumping in a fluid movement which quite supports a sound fauna inspired by Tangerine Dream's Exit era. The first 60 minutes of passed, Rhodes to Nowhere offers a more contemporary tone but also a structure which is quite similar to the flute harmonies which dominated the core of this album. Stolen in the plate of Star Dark, Dream Force (Remix 2018) is more in mode Berlin School's electronic rock than the rough and heavy side of the English model. The rhythm is still of lead with good pulsating sequences and a good electronic drum while the synth throws solos and harmonies which are still linked to the influences of Tangerine Dream, period 86. A good title that demonstrates the more rock and lively side of Xan Alexander who gives us in this QUANTUM YEARS an album more dominated by ambiences, very Froese, than rhythms which are delicate and floating in the pure spirit of the Berlin School.
Sylvain Lupari (February 22nd, 2019) ***½**
Available at Xan Alexander Bandcamp