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Michael Brückner - Two (Tommy Betzler and Michael Brückner) CD (album) cover

TWO (TOMMY BETZLER AND MICHAEL BRÜCKNER)

Michael Brückner

 

Progressive Electronic

4.29 | 3 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars German composer Michael Brückner has been quietly proving himself to be one of the most varied, intelligent and fresh composers in the modern progressive-electronic scene, each of his many releases all sounding completely different to the last, with the artist constantly challenging himself and listeners in the ways in which the genre can be presented. Despite several works of long, abstract sound-collages and pure Berlin School atmospheres, Brückner is also no stranger to utilizing beats and percussion in his long-form soundscapes, but collaborating with Tommy Betzler (who has previously worked with Klaus Schulze on the tour for his `Dig It' album and was a member of P'Cock), has opened up his music in personally unheard of ways than before. The team-up makes `Two' (a reference to the pair, not a `second album!'), along with the addition of some surprising instrument choices and a strong balance of modern and vintage techniques, one of the most diverse and interesting electronic releases of 2015.

Rumbles of live drums and a cut-up soundbite announce the sleek album opener `(Not) Too Late', raucous electric guitar from guest Sammy David, grooving electronics, slinking synth trills and driving live drums might call to mind the similar set-up on the title track of Tangerine Dream's `Force Majeure', perhaps one of the closest moments that band ever got to `progressive rock, and the same is true here. But the best is yet to come, and the chiming notes and spectral piano of `Two Words (Inside One Mirror')' bring light gothic touches amongst swirling spacey effects. Guest Fryderyk Jona's floating clarinet drifts around an ocean of electronic drones, other-wordly-treated vocal groans, phasing Moog dreaminess and a variety of constantly evolving percussion patterns, and the ringing synths, constantly up-tempo beats and triumphant Mellotron fanfares of `Monsoon (Too Soon)' wouldn't have sounded out of place on Tangerine Dream's `Hyperborea' album.

The album also boasts two twenty-plus minute extended works, and here is where the duo especially excel. The first section of the twenty-five minute `Gaia: A Suite in Two Parts' mixes sounds of nature, gentle programmed loops, sparking unfolding synth trickles and the most subtle of tribal textures. Glacial electronic drones reveal a great expanse, with some moments not unlike the work of ambient icon Steve Roach, but resisting the aimless or overtly vague stretches he occasionally falls back on. Reflective Pink Floyd/David Gilmour-like guitar strains come to life, cascading piano dances around icy synth caresses, a thick dark pulse grows in power and menace lunging and retreating back and forth, and seductive beats carefully dot the horizon. Revealing a great sense of drama with restrained subtlety, light and dark is in perfect unison the entire time, `Gaia' is truly the soundtrack to a new world being born.

Throughout the twenty-minute closer `(One) To the Flame of Hope', sprightly yet subdued clarinet and scratchy Mellotron flutes reveal great heart and even a gentle romantic quality, but the way the piece then springs to life with a clipping and cool joyful sequencer run at the five minute mark is simply incredible! Loopy synths twirl around a variety of lurking and gradually emerging beats, and it's easily one of the coolest, head-bobbing pieces to appear on one of Brückner's albums, and one of the biggest musical pleasures of the year!

It's no easy task incorporating an instrument like the clarinet (or even electric guitar) whilst maintaining an ambient and atmospheric mood, but the combination works very successfully here. `Two' might be an ideal place to start for newcomers to the progressive-electronic genre, as it not only frequently stays carefully melodic, but it balances great variety and more obvious movement with the expected expansive, immersive droning ambient stillness of the deeper works of the style. Along with his deep-space live performance at the 2015 Cosmic Nights Festival with Mathias Brüssel on `Ondes Intergalactiques', and the borderline Krautrock experiment of Michael and Gustavo Jobim's `Hochofen'', these collaborations result in some of his most interesting works, the type that challenges the kind of approach electronic artists can take working in the genre. Hopefully Tommy and Michael will team up again in the near future, but for now `Two' is an outstanding achievement, a wonderful and addictive electronic release with great crossover appeal.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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