CD review by Artemi Pugachov (www.pugachov.ru/eem)
Martha Rabbit "Pyrrhogaster" (private release, 2008)
Michael Allert & Wolfgang Rohdenburg: Access Virus C, Access Indigo, Access TI, Clavia Nordlead 3, Korg Karma, Korg M1, Korg Wavestation and Wavestation SR, Korg Radias, Korg Triton Extreme, Korg Triton TR, Manikin Electronic Memotron, Moog Voyager, Roland Fantom XR, Roland JV2080, Roland XP-30, Roland V-Synth, Yamaha FSR 1, Yamaha Motif 6, Doepher MAQ 16/3, Manikin Electronic Schrittmacher, Quasimidi Polymorph, Radikal Technologies Spectralis, Roland MC-909, Yamaha RS7000.
The new album by the duo of Michel Allert and Wolfgang Rohdenburg arrived in the mail and I was eager to review it, as I remembered their nice first effort and I liked the cover art of "Pyrrhogaster" very much (especially the colours). They use a variety of synthesizers here, mostly virtual analogue ones, as well as the Memotron (the digital replica of a Mellotron). The title track begins with moody pads and a few plucked guitar sounds (sampled, I would guess). A bass sequence slowly creeps in, as Mellotron flute weeps on top. Nice music in pure Berlin style. In a surprise move, a relatively heavy 4/4 rhythm starts, as new sequences and effects are added. A nice melody plays on top of what sounds like a modern, dynamic EM track. I imagine this would sound perfect on a long journey along a deserted highway. The rhythm becomes more subtle, as echoing sequences are combined with a fluety lead synth line. A very Tangerine Dream-y melody is heard, reminding on a mixture of "White Eagle" and "Dream Mixes". The final part has a slow rhythm, and some very, very nice, restrained and reflective synth soloing. There are also Mellotron strings coupled with melancholic synth pads. This sounds like a mixture of TD and Schulze styles to me. A very nice track. If New Berlin School is your thing - go for it! "Mars Canyon Railway" is next. A steady bass sequence, some experimental sounds and a nice, 4/4 bass rhythm make for one rollercoaster of a track. It feels like you are on a train indeed. Martian train? Hmmm.... "Total Recall" anyone? Good soundscapes on this one. A nice solo or two and the picture is complete. A very enjoyable track with an improvised character. "Calcalong Creek" is introduced with a fast bass sequence which is soon joined by yet another, echoey one. A rhythm starts and a nice melody plays on top. It's an energetic and yet atmospheric number that is pretty much in line with what was heard before. If you like dynamic, rhythmic and yet melodic music, this will be right up your valley. "Transmediators" begins with moody pads, before a vocoder-like sound appears, immediately joined by a fast sequencer line. Great stuff with original sounds! I like it when synthesists make their own textures, and these guys are really into it this time. The pulsations are very nice, driving and propulsive. There are some voice samples that are used in a creative way. I like the dynamic qualities of this track which still manages to stay harmonic and melodic. Heck, I like the synthetic sax solo even, as it does gel together with the rest of the sounds. I expected the 4/4 rhythm to come over, as it seems to be the trademark of this album. And, indeed, after 6 minutes the rhythm appears making this track even more propulsive and urgent. However, it's melodic improvisation and the sounds and arrangements themselves, who are "real stars" here. Ok, I could probably do without the piano part, as it sounds somewhat out of place here. "Pathfinder's Secret" is introduced with a spacey soundscape. Pads and all kinds of effects hang in the air like thick haze. A wonderful laid-back sequence appears on what sounds like the most atmospheric number of this album. Another great sequence soon joins and we are floating on top of soft synthetic waves of this nice track. A classic! Nice soloing adds the necessary human touch while the whole composition has a decidedly cosmic character. A heavy rhythm starts as various sounds come and go. I would have preferred a totally beatless track, though. Still, it's a nice cosmic number with an epic length of 15 minutes. The guys have programmed some great sounds for this one. "Home of the Gods" surprises with a decidedly ethnic flair - lots of percussion, oriental melodies and a heavy beat / sequence combination. At various points during this track, in come the choirs, melodies and more ethnic or orchestral sounds. The debut album of Martha Rabbit was nice but this one here is a huge improvement. On "Pyrrhogaster" Michael and Wolfgang have solidified their sound and found their style. I would probably do without the heavy rhythm (not that there's anything wrong with it, just not to my taste) and it might also put off some people but those who like dance rhythms combined with no-nonsense electronics will find this album exactly to their liking. Besides, I will never argue with a guy who has a picture of Zappa on his t-shirt. Recommended.