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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

ZODIAC: I.C. (1995-2019)

“With 4 long titles that transited between modernist, vintage, complexity and accessibility; this I.C. was, and still is, a fresh breath of originality”

1 Dynamic 16:35

2 Rhythtmic 14:04

3 Synphonic 30:53

4 Aquaric 12:14

CUE-Records NL ‎| CUE 1112

(CD 73:42) (V.F.)

(New Berlin School)

Here's another old music brought to our ears after a new mastering from Ron Boots. For the record: Zodiac is a Dutch duo, composed of Frans Ramakers and Ruud Grothauzen, who flourished and kneaded in the heart of the New Berlin School years on Cue Records. Produced and directed by Ron Boots, then leader of Cue in Holland, I.C. is Zodiac's only album. It was released in 1995 while the EM was attempting a commercial turnaround that was a disaster, both in terms of public reception and of the artistic quality of the music proposed. This Zodiac album was a breath of originality with 4 long titles that transited between modernist, vintage, complexity and accessibility. Nearly 25 years later, Groove reissues I.C. with a slight dusting that keeps intact the originality of Zodiac's first and only album.

Dynamic won't have no difficulty convincing the timorous ears. After an introduction proposed with a wave that grows like a threatening shadow between the lappings of waste waters and uncertain chords, a rhythmic structure begins to dance. Its fluid approach zigzags among scattered drums. Another line of rhythm emerges and its shift beats in harmony with the first. A third line appears! Its contribution is more harmonic and leads to a series of chords and arpeggios that cements in a harmonic block as thick as this structure of rhythm nourished by an intense mesh of percussions and sequences. A line of riffs hatches and drives the changing rhythm of Dynamic towards a solid electronic rock. This evolutionary structure combines a mad sequencer that makes dribbling its rhythmic keys as in the best moments of Chris Franke. There is something very attractive in this continual rhythmic permutation which reduces its voracity in the second half. Oh yes, a little detail! The main influence here is Tangerine Dream, the Jive period. Rhythtmic begins with a series of crystalline arpeggios that perform cosmic kicks in the chants of an ethereal synth. The environment is dark, and the synth pads are rather melodious. A line of bass sequences bangs insistently, but Rhythtmic attaches itself to its veil of slightly bucolic harmonies. This opening offers very accessible moments. And if the transitions between the multiple phases of Dynamic flew smoothly, it's quite the opposite here. Especially in the second half, which is more complex with a disjointed vision that reminds me a bit of progressive Italian rock. From the top of its 31 minutes, Synphonic fills the ears to the top with very good passages that slide more effectively to more intense or more complex moments that always returns to more accessible phases. There are some very good orchestrations and the arrangements move between softness and a more agonizing music. Electronic rhythm structures burst out of their bubbles to offer very good passages guided by Johannes Schmoelling's influences. The sound effects have punch, I love the percussion tap styles, and there is strange effect of intriguing voices. They come and go, fooling even around with the appearances of specters with strange humming, at the same speed as the rhythms change of skins in a setting that flirts even with a slight bit of libertine madness at the level of the sequences which beat in an ever-flourishing decor and a continuous movement. And always, the first part is more intense with a pack of figures of rhythms that stick together to create a nice homogeneity, which was lacking in Rhythtmic. We are entitled to a more melodious, more ambient passage around 20 minutes. A passage that does not alter the level of creativity of Frans Ramakers and Ruud Grothauzen. The shortest title of I.C., Aquaric surfs on Tangram's melodious and fluttering space with a slight rhythmic rise that has nothing to do with this classic of Tangerine Dream.

I.C. is this kind of album that we taste bit by bit, before realizing that it's already finished. The position of the titles helps to better tame this music in constant movement that hides more good times than empty moments. I didn't count a lot! I found my account in this album which is a real mine of ideas and visions camouflaged in an imposing collage of rhythms, melodies and walls of atmospheres. Good synths with nice solos and beautiful keyboards with good harmonies! Sequencers in madness and electronic percussions cleverly inserted! Here you have the 4 major ingredients that, combined with good paintings of electronic and organic atmospheres, will make you go through all ranges of musical curiosity. Very good! And I love when Groove dives in time ...

Sylvain Lupari (November 22nd, 2019) ***½**

Available at Groove NL.

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