mardi 14 avril 2015

STEVE BALTES: Bochum Sky (2014)

“Here is a nice unexpected surprise where retro Berlin School gets mixed to a kind of dance music intoxicated of sonic elements which are at the threshold of the psychedelism”

1 Bochum Sky I 35:24
2 Bochum Sky II 24:53
3 Bochum Sky III 10:23

MellowJet Records|CD-rSB1401 (CD-r/DDL 70:39) ****
(Cosmic electronica dipped in Krautrock and Berlin School)
Member of Ashra during the 97 tour and partner of Harald Grosskpof in Sunya Beat and Holo Syndrome's albums as well as the too good Vier Mal Drei in 2001, Steve Baltes goes his own sweet way through the roads of EM by bringing with him his mastery for rhythms and keys in diverse musical projects introduced by other artists. He proclaims itself, rightly, as being a musician to the service of others. And in every project where he puts his collaboration, the music breathed of rhythms and arrangements just as much lively than harmonious. The roles are inversed for “Bochum Sky”. Steve Baltes has rather answered the invitation of a friend to participate in the Sound of Sky event, set up by Stefan Erbe, which took place on July 13th, 2013. For the occasion he has written and performed three long sonic acts strongly impregnated by the model of Ashra with structures of rhythms which flirt between space funk and of cosmic techno and which dissociate themselves from their shadows in order to flow in opposite directions. It's a first album in 14 years, either since Rhythm of Life, for Steve Baltes. And let's just hope that it won't be that long before we hear from him again!
Hollow winds which hoot and others more metallic which squeal! It's with a dense thick cloud of shrill scarlet tones that Steve Baltes decides to draw our attention. The intro of this long first act of “Bochum Sky” is very realistic of an interstellar sky where comets, stars and sedimentary residues whistle, rumble and throb in a din which scratches a few those very helmeted ears. Bells, small bells and carillons flutter and ring in these winds where are hiding the first pulsations of "Bochum Sky I" which throb as much weakly as slyly. Subtly, the dance of the bells turn into a movement of sequences which makes its keys scintillate in this static storm where tears of synth ooze throughout a dense noisy panorama. The movement of sequences cavorts on the spot, beneath the bites of the wooshes and the noisy sonic serpentines. Little by little Steve Baltes spreads his electronic canvas which clears up a little after the bar of the 8 minutes. We are seduced by this minimalist dance of sequences which is whipped by the banging of electronic percussions. The pulsations remain laconic and the synth winds calm their intergalactic anger with more astral waves. "Bochum Sky I" becomes softer. Skipping in a wide hypnotic circle and adorned of fine dreamy arpeggios, the rhythm is nibbled by percussions which pound with more vigor than the sequences skip. Sequences which detach their shadows, increasing a pattern of motionless rhythm always hypnotic which enters its 3rd phase with a more funk, a more abrupt structure around the 15th minute. We are in the lands of Ashra, the guitar of Gottsching or Lutz Ulbrich in less, where techno and funk clinch their cosmic flavors under a sky multicolored of electronic effects. The hypnotic movement of sequences gets lost in electronic percussions and bass bumps of which the symbiosis shapes a more lively parallel rhythm. And the whole thing becomes more punchy. We draw an obvious parallel with the sequencing universe of Franke while the rhythm is skipping in cosmic electronic elements for about 20 minutes, before crossing a more ambiospherical phase. "Bochum Sky I" enters its 4th phase with an even more lively structure of rhythm. A curt rhythm fed this time by organic keys and by lively beatings where the tears of Oliver Franks' guitar get lost in synth lines a little more spectral. And quietly "Bochum Sky I" reaches its finale which is decorated with dialogues and electronic elements, reminding to all that the sound universe of Steve Baltes likes to cross the borders of time and of genres.
More accessible, and clearly more musical, "Bochum Sky II" also extricate itself from a dense cloud of noisy radio-activities before offering a superb movement of sequences which brings us back in
Tangerine Dream's Flashpoint era. The jingle of the percussions is machine-gunning this bewitching circular rhythm. Percussions which become more incisive and, with the help of the bass pulsations, redirect the axis of the rhythm which bickers in this change of skin before showing a beautiful symbiosis. The approach of Jarre kind of cosmic dance music perspires in this track constantly pecked by iridescent lines and by electronic gurglings. The singings of the flutes are making nibbled the charms by these organic pulsations, spreading all the paradoxes and the nuances inside this surprising sonic saga which is “Bochum Sky”. And with its finale clearly stronger than on "Bochum Sky I", and where the synth solos remind of the complex charms of EM harmonies, "Bochum Sky II" loops the loop with a return to basics where its introduction was flooded by an opaque veil as ambiospherical than ambiosonic. A finale and an introduction which are absent of "Bochum Sky III" which ends  this last album of Steve Baltes with a softer, a more dreamy approach. The rhythm is delicate. The percussions start the dance of meditation where the knocks of the grumpy pulsations disturb at no moment a serenity wrapped up in tears and sighs of synth. Oliver Franks' guitar scatters its melancholy while a soft movement of sequences reminds to us the structures of rhythms in constant opposition of “Bochum Sky”. It's a beautiful piece of music. It's a soft moment which little by little awakens its appetite for more swiftness. An always peaceful swiftness which will reach more the nirvana of meditation than excitement, concluding so a concert and an album where the contrasts, both in the rhythm and the ambiences, are what there is of the most attractive.
Bochum Sky” is a nice surprise. With a superb dexterity for figures of rhythms in constant opposition, for ambiences fed by contrasts, Steve Baltes presents an album where the borders of Ashra flirt with the hypnotic movements of the retro Berlin School. Our ears are full and totally fascinated by this immense sonic mosaic which is certainly the anchor point of this album where the minimalist structures are used as bases to an impressive sound arsenal full of nuances. Here is a beautiful surprise! In spite of some lengths in intros, unless we are a fan of intense sound scribblings, “Bochum Sky” remains a beautiful album where the kind of dance music gets intoxicated of sound elements which are at the threshold of the psychedelism. A beautiful album which will inevitably make us dig in the discography of Ashra, so much the sonic winks abound.
Sylvain Lupari (April 14th, 2015)

gutsofdarkness.com & synthsequences.blogspot.ca
You will find this album on the MellowJet Records shop here

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