Russian painter Yuri Pugachov is the deceased father of Artemi Pugachov, known from his online electronic music-encyclopedia. For his album “The Nearest Faraway Place, Volume 2” Gert Emmens was allowed to use one of Yuri’s paintings on the cover. Gert is an admirer of Yuri’s work and so, in cooperation with Artemi, an idea was born to create a conceptalbum based on the paintings of his father.
- Cossack Temperament [13:53]
- The Long Walk (Towards The Black Sea) [13:14]
- Paintings – The Themes [16:44]
- Paintings – The Spirituality Behind It [7:19]
- The Leningrad Years [12:21]
- Darkness Unfolds [11:40]
- Yuri Pugachov – In Memoriam [3:07]
Dutchman Emmens always brings us electronic music of high quality: it is warm, melodically and played well.
“Cossack Temperament” opens the album in a great way because of the strong sequences, fine Mellotronstrings and a solo that resembles the sound of a Theremin. The sequences get fuller and fuller, after which a quiet intermezzo follows. In the second part of the track the sequences are masterful. In “The Long Walk Towards The Black Sea” Gert describes a walk of 1.000 (!) km. that Yuri undertook to reach the Black Sea. As a kind of relaxation, he painted there. Also he stopped underway to paint. This piece is kind of lighter, in comparison to the other compositions. The solo here is great. Gert always differs from other electronic musicians in the retro-electronic music because his music always contains more melody and tension. Yet for the most part anyway he stays within the paths of the Berlin School and that is clever. The German Lambert has this too in his music. And “Paintings-The Spirituality Behind It” sounds like a Lambert-track, musically and sequencer-wise. The fat solo sounds almost like Vangelis. Also in “Darkness Upfolds” this kind of solo can be heard. In the beginning the sequencer pattern sounds like a marimba, something we heard often in the electronic music of the early nineties. The cd closes with the atmospheric “Yuri Pugachov-In Memoriam”. Here the antique drum boxes of Gert are included.
Emmens has again created a beautiful cd. Music and paintings blend together beautifully in this way. Those are the wonders of art.
2012. Paul Rijkens
The music on the latest album by Gert Emmens is inspired by the life and work of Yuri Pugachov (www.pugachov.ru) - a late Russian painter that happens to be my father. Of course I am biased when writing this review, as this project means really a lot to me. I would like to thank Gert for this wonderful endeavor and I must say the results have surpassed my expectations. I will try to only describe the music itself here, without referring too much to the subject matter so as to not become too subjective when judging this album's merits.
"Cossack Temperament" describes the period of my father's childhood and adolescence, as well as certain character traits. After a very brief atmospheric intro, a wonderful melodic sequence starts, accompanied by mournful mellotron strings. A typical theremin-like lead line is heard in what sounds like a classic Emmens track. There's a hymn-like quality to the music, which is full of life, joy and at the same time is somewhat melancholic. A brief atmospheric section is a welcomed change. After that, an even more effective sequencer section appears, that combines the floating quality of Gert's pads and atmospheres with assertiveness of the multiple pulsations. It's tense and easy-going, anguished and relaxed, melancholic and bright. The track closes with yet another section dominated by fat cascading sequences and Gert's trademark (very earthly, not cosmic) minimoog soloing. I loved this track.
"The Long Walk (Towards the Black Sea)" reflects a period of traveling for my dad, when he literally walked by feet the whole eastern coast of the Black Sea, from Batumi (now in Georgia) to southern Crimea, painting landscapes mainly. A marching rhythm serves as the basis for this track's first part, helped by a one-note bass sequence and lots of classic analog sounds (including some trademark mellotron patches). There's also a nice melodic sensibility in this track that sets it apart from many other current EM works. It has that nature-inspired romanticism you don't encounter often nowadays. An excellent atmospheric section follows. I must say that Gert's ambient parts have never sounded as full and deep as on this album. He has really refined his sound-sculpting and atmosphere-creating abilities to perfection. Then a majestic galloping sequence / pad combination that just takes your breath away! It grips you with its beauty and doesn't let go. I was not born when my father did his "little journey" but listening to this track I can vividly imagine how exciting it might have been for him, how many beautiful places he saw and painted, how many people met and how many miles he walked. A shadowy world of clanging ambient textures and mellotron choir wraps up this wonderful track as the journey finally reaches its end.
"Paintings - The Themes" is the longest track at just under 17 minutes. It's straight into business this time, with great melodic sequencing ("Gert style") and mourn ful pads. Fat, symphonic synthesizer textures ala Vangelis make an appearance, giving an epic quality to the track. From beneath the blanket of impeccably constructed sequencer pulsations a harmonica lead line appears, reinforcing the Vangelis analogy. The sequences are lilting, passionate, assertive, lively. And there are really lots of them here. A four-note melodic theme welcomes the coming of a brief atmospheric section after which an assertive bass sequence appears. This section, with its excellent, rolling sequences and symphonic string chords is easily one of the EM highlights from 2012. Overall, the track is the crowning jewel of the album, although all tracks were great so far. It finally climaxes into a melange of dramatic pads and symphonic textures before fading out. "Paintings - The Spirituality Behind It" strikes a darker note with it's thick fog of atmospheric textures and a steady bass drum pulse, before complex melodic sequencing takes us to familiar territory but w ith a different twist on Gert's typical sequencer music. On this track, the trademark harmonica lead makes a triumphant return in a much more subdued and melancholic setting. The track ends with dramatic pads and synthesized atmospheres enveloping you. "The Leningrad Years" starts with a great atmospheric intro by Cadenced Heaven. Reflecting my father's most productive and best-known period, the music has a fittingly busy and uplifting vibe to it. Then an analog goodness of a sequence by Ruud Heij appears, well in the style of Emmens / Heij collaborations. After a rhythm starts, in comes what I can only describe as Gert's best ever soloing. The excellent use of modulation wheel gives the lead line a kind of depth, subtlety, grandeur and emotion that are just indescribable. A nice use of oboe reminds us on great Russian classical traditions. And the roll calling between the oboe and synth was an excellent idea. On the other hand, Gert's most unusual and experimental ideas found their way on the following track, "Darkness Unfolds". After an atmospheric intro, a strange bubbling sequence appears and a metallic rhythm drives forward the track that is chock-full of melancholic pads and reflective symphonic solos. It's still Emmens style but seen through a dark window that leads to the otherworld. After a brief section of dark sounds, a whirlpool of uplifting sequence picks us up and takes us to an unknown territory filled with sweet chord progressions and soft analog rhythms. This is probably the best section of the album. The track ends with a chilly atmospheric part with what sounds like a telephone ringing and distant choirs. "Yuri Pugachov - In Memoriam" is a short tribute that is uplifting and gentle.
With tears in my eyes and a strange, pleasant sensation inside, I finish this review. I have seen this album criticized slightly for not bringing anything new to Gert Emmens sound but I have to disagree. First of all, there are lots of new interesting sounds on "An Artist's Stroke". Secondly, it's quite different in mood to his previous efforts - more personal, emotional and atmospheric. Even the chord progression (one of Gert's trademarks) is often quite different from what we're used to hear. There are no weak or strong tracks on this album, because "An Artist's Stroke" is a complete journey. I've said it many times, but I am afraid I'll have to repeat it here: this is Gert Emmens' best album, with or without bias. I wonder if my father can hear this music, from wherever he is now... I think, yes.
2012. Artemi Pugachov / Russia
Inspired by the life and works of the Russian painter Yuri Pugachov, from whom one of the paintings (The Garden in Toulouse) decorated the front artwork of The Nearest Faraway Place Vol. 2, An Artist’s Stroke unfolds in 6 musical paintings of which the beauty equals the most beautiful creations of Gert Emmens. The Dutch synthesist has dug at the bottom of his emotions to deliver us a superb album where his sequences and synths, unique to his poetic universe, weave the main lines of an album to rhythms floating in the breaths and lines of synth as harmonious as misty.
Divided into 3 segments "Cossack Temperament" goes out of the limbos with an oblong breath of a nasal synth which loses its threatening character in the voices of a cosmic choir. The rhythm begins with sequences which skip into fine undulations, drawing a rhythm emerging beneath nice foggy synth pads. These flickering sequences harmonize their indecision to undulate like snips of scissors in space and bind at sober percussions, structuring a rhythm oscillating into the layers of a synth to angelic vocalizes. An atmospheric passage smothers this first rhythmic flight with the ephemera threatening lines of the introduction. This time they darken the horizon of a heavy ochre veil which lowers one's guard and let go a sinuous bass line which awakens sleepy sequences in layers of ether. They skip in deep oscillating loops, dissipating morphic clouds which draw a bewitching melody as abstract as discreet before that the rhythm takes back its rights with some furious sequences which bo unce and pound in a linear whirlwind. A lively tempo that percussions harpoon of incisive strikings and that a synth dresses of a strange serenade to nasal solos. This structure of "Cossack Temperament" is the skeleton of the titles which compose An Artist’s Stroke, where the intros and atmospheric passages engender some evolutionary rhythms which progress and float like planes carried by winds. Choirs wandering within electronic tones, threatening sequence which gallops slowly around hesitating chords and fleeting synth lines; the intro of "The Long Walk (Towards the Black Sea)" is as much scheming as fascinating. The percussions fall and go astray into sequences which skip finely under a synth injected by an iridescent fog. The rhythm fluid but delicate, "The Long Walk (Towards the Black Sea)" hangs on to a bass line to a slow gallop, shaping a strange sensual blues of which the cosmic environment makes it simply unreal. The chords of an e-guitar add a surprising and fascinating d imension of a western where we imagine a cowboy roamed in a plain full of living monoliths. The rhythm kicks back after a rather long atmospheric moment. Hardly more fluid it gallops in a plain with a fog as harmonious as symphonic, drawing a superb floating tempo which supports its delicacy into fine percussions of which the metallic jingles resound in a foggy angelic choral.
With its long structure to unpredictable outcomes "Paintings-The Themes" is one of An Artist’s Stroke’s jewels. An apathic sequential line pierces the dark introductory veil. Its keys waddle, leading sweet carillons which espouse the slow tempo and sparkle beneath a dense cloud of a synth to hybrid tones where some nice angelic voices roam in ethereal mists. A bass line emerges from it and makes dance its notes beneath the gyrating eye of a synth to threatening waves, while slowly the rhythm takes the shape of oblong oscillating curves to wave under the spells of a synth with musical solos. The sequences are isolating to dance in solo, bringing "Paintings-The Themes" towards a brief atmospheric passage where thunders and cosmic tones prepare the entrance of a heavier bass line. Its agile notes pulsate frantically on a long intro before bursting with sequences which the alternate strikings dance beneath rippling synth layers. These sequences which skip in lanes of mist are the core of Gert Emmens' works. They shape a soft melodic rhythm on "Paintings-The Spirituality behind It", dancing a spiral ballet which gives itself to a superb synth with celestial harmonies. Sequences flickering with velocity pop out from the introductory fog of "The Leningrad Years". Like the wings of dragonflies they dance of a stationary movement before being harpooned by a beautiful line of percussions, bringing "The Leningrad Years" towards a tempo made languid. A rhythm which increases its intensity after a brief sequences solo where the harmonies and breezes of the synths move us closer to the melodic rhythms of Tangerine Dream and its Paul Haslinger era. Always agile the sequences beat of their frenzied wings a tempo which wanders in the thin filets of a melancholic synth whereas that slowly the musical painting of "Darkness Unfolds" opens in an ambience tinged with nostalgia before espousing a rhythmic curve slightly more livened up, plunging this very beautiful title to drea my nuances towards a kind of cosmic blues rocked by a superb synth to harmonies as contemplative as dark. "Yuri Pugachov-In Memoriam" closes with a beautiful electronic ballad inspired by shadows and lights, rhythms and ambiences which embroider the wonderful universe of An Artist’s Stroke, one of Gert Emmens' beautiful albums, otherwise his best, and undoubtedly one of the jewels of 2012.
2012. Sylvain Lupari / gutsofdarkness.com & synth&sequences.com