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(71:20, Dreaming/Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Hypnotic Ways 30:08 2. Psychedelic Dream 41:12 SOLO PILOT: Joel Bernard – synthesizer
Prolusion. French composer and keyboardist Joel Bernard has been an actively producing solo artist since 2005, initially opting for Awen as his creative alias, but from 2007 and onwards AWENSON has been his chosen artist moniker. He has produced four full-length albums so far, and "Wizard" is the latest of these. He was signed up to Musea Records for this album, which was issued on their Dreaming imprint in the first half of 2010.
Analysis. After reading about this artist, it transpires that he has a dedicated interest in what is often coined the Berlin School of electronic music, an influential subset of the progressive electronic realm where Klaus Schulze arguably is the most highly regarded creator. Bernard apparently also admires the more accessible types of material explored by artists such as Jean-Michel Jarre, and crafting material of his own, combining these rather different ideologies, appears to be among the tasks he wants to succeed at. And based on this latest CD I'd say that he manages to do that very well indeed. I'm not well-versed enough in this field to be able to proclaim that he does so with a fair bit of originality (or not), but this guy is good at what he does. On this most recent production we're provided with a grand total of two tracks, of which the shortest one clocks in at just over 30 minutes: massive epics, in other words. Opening effort Hypnotic Ways is the composition that comparatively can be described as short, and opens with gentle tones evolving into a dual-layered droning excursion transforming itself into a Jarre-style creation with gently hammering electronic percussion as a mainstay. Bits and pieces are added as the theme slowly transforms, with lighter synths fluttering above a contrasting twisting droning set-up, and later on the former evolves into a double-textured solo. From this energetic set-up we're led over to a minimalistic double-layered droning passage evolving into a richer theme featuring a circulating dark tonal synth rhythm, contrasted by a lighter, fragile fluctuating motif, the latter staying on and transforming to a droning texture while the former fades out. Second effort Psychedelic Dream isn't quite as richly diverse in its various manifestations, and for three-quarters of this excursion it's the melodic staccato synths gently pounding in a circulating motif that form the central premise of this excursion, with a rich variety in supporting themes and motifs. Enticing landscapes with surging textures and sophisticated soloing go hand-in-hand with introverted droning layers, and quite a few instances of the musical firmament are given time and place to shine on their own, effectively used as transitional phases throughout. Sounds and motifs that inspire thoughts of science fiction and the distant future are common features on both compositions, and the natural, almost organic, flow is another shared trait with these ventures. In terms of stylistic details, Bernard seems to place somewhat of an emphasis on staying clear of wholeheartedly harmonic themes, with slightly dissonant textures and subtle disharmonies almost ever-present features used to create and maintain tension and nerve, avoiding the most well-travelled paths of composers who strive to craft enthralling moods by sheer beauty alone. The light, the dark and most of the areas in between are all well represented on this disc, mood-wise and the compositions thrive on that particular approach.
Conclusion. While Awenson's take on the field of prog-tinged electronic music may be a bit neither fowl nor fish for some, those who are accustomed to and generally enjoy artists in this genre to explore material with a broad expressive sonic palette should find plenty to enjoy here. Fans of Tangerine Dream in particular should note down this artist and album straight away, and those who listen to Jarre on regular occasions and wouldn't mind seeking out material of a more adventurous nature that contains familiar-sounding elements should also take note of this production – as well as anyone else who might find this description interesting, obviously.
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