Beyond Berlin – Live at Awakenings 2022

Review by Sylvain Lupari, kindly reproduced from Synths and Sequences.

LIVE AT AWAKENINGS is an audio document that was recorded during Beyond Berlin‘s performance at the festival of the same name in September 2014. A year earlier, the Dutch duo had resplendent at the famous Cosmic Nights, held at the Brussels Planetarium, leading to the duo’s first ever album-download, Cosmic Nights in 2013. Mastered by Ron Boots this album offers the same musical style. Either be, some very good Berlin School, ambient and rhythmic, where Rene de Bakker and Martin Peters modulate the art of building harmonic rhythms, unique to the Netherlands School, with the tone of the analog years, thanks to the synths and modular sequencers that fill the Beyond Berlin’s stage.

Heavenly Resurrection begins this performance in the land of the England School with a heavy atmospheric opening that is the hallmark of the genre. A synth wave with an increasingly enveloping gradation unravels its fluctuations in the explosions of bass pads. The fusion casts a dramatic aura, especially when a subtle chthonian choir lets its discreet chant be heard. A jolting effect animates the meditative movement of this wave that also lets out fine laments as the minutes tick by on the dial. Other elements converge on this opening, including orchestral arrangements and the tinkling of stars that weave a more cosmic vision. This opening, typical of the Berlin School’s improvisation sessions, will also fill the opening of the colossal Weakness. The waves are still buzzing with force after the 8th minute, when a line of arpeggios sings waddling in the background. This is the signal to turn on the sequencer! It activates two lines of arpeggios that gambol against the grain under a layer of voices as dark as ever. The movement is convoluted by its tottering nature and by its chords that intertwine in a more harmonic than rhythmic vision. The setting hardly changes its texture which constantly radiates this luciferian approach of dark ambient style, even with the rhythm that takes a slight accentuation to disappear little by little around the 17th minute. The synth harmonizes the whole with harmonious pads and effects that join those atmospheric elements that filled the first moments of Heavenly Resurrection. Interlude is purely atmospheric and meditative with layers of voices, both low and seraphic, and starry sounds in an opaque movement of dark ambient music.

No Man’s Land lets go a superb sequenced ritornello that softens the brain. It’s between a Halloween anthem revisited and an electronic lullaby for cyborgs. The sequence unties its arpeggios with subtle fluctuations and nuances that charm while the synth injects these clouds of allegorical mist that gives a fine orchestral touch to this very beautiful hypnotic ritornello. Mesmerizing in the most authentic way, and this on its 12 minutes! Weakness has a similar opening to Heavenly Resurrection, maybe a little more sci-fi, before letting a fascinating rhythmic structure blossom around its 5th minute. This movement starts with simple percussive tinkles, similar to drumsticks tapping on a metal skin, which develop into a mini tornado of percussive sequenced elements spinning over the ripples of a sequenced bass line. Rich layers of orchestration envelop this rhythm, not made for dancing but for listening, which continues its progression in a cosmic climate. Rhythmic riffs and more melodic sequences are grafted onto this ascending Berlin School rhythm as the synths inject various effects as well as those iridescent wails that give a Mephistophelian shade to Heavenly Resurrection‘s ever-increasing rhythm structure. A big track that exploits its evolving rhythm structure all the way to a more intense finale.

Recorded during a 2013 concert in Oirschot, E-Lusions is a bonus track offered on this album. Its opening shimmers with glittering cobalt blue effects where a few notes of a pensive pianist nestle. The rhythmic sequence is activated after the 90 seconds through 2 parallel lines that are rolling and jumping upon a fluty mellotron breeze. The keyboard also scatters its chords on this circular structure where one line gambols on the nervous fluctuations of the other. The jumping keys live of an uncommon synergy with one movement fundamentally shy and the other giving off a stormy vision, dragging E-Lusions into a heavy and tempestuous electronic rock that progresses with aggressiveness under an outpouring of synth solos whose hypnotic harmonies roll in loops. That’s what I call big electronic music. This is what I call a solid Beyond Berlin album that still offers solid Berlin School à la sauce Hollandaise.