For many years, the Danish electronic musician Bjørn Jeppesen creates music under the name Nattefrost. His music can be called a mixture between melodically, traditional, EM and icy atmospheric ambient sounds, perfectly fitting the landscapes of the Scandinavian countries. Matzumi is not a Japanese woman but the artist name of the German electronic musician and singer Kathrin Manz. Her concert at the “E-Day Festival” in 2011 made a huge impression. Her music is also “ambient” but with a modern twist. It sounded very interesting when the two announced that they would make an album together.
- First Movement
- The Ancient Land
- The Portal
- Rise of the Phoenix
- Time Passing
- The New Dawn
- Cold Midwinter Nights
Atmosphere is an important element on “From Distant Times”. The album is opened in a quite classical in a bombastic way in “First Movement”. Vangelis greets here clearly. “Evolution” opens also in a similar approach.
The main melody in “The Ancient Land” has traces of the music of ambient grandmaster Patrick O’Hearn. Vangelis again comes in mind while listening to “The Portal”. Matzumi sings here without text, bringing the music in the direction of that of Lisa Gerrard who, in her turn, has collaborated with another EM greatness, Klaus Schulze. “Medieval” is again a wonderful track with a link to Vangelis. The choirs sound really excellent here and the melody is euphoric and melancholically. To stay with the founders of EM: ”The New Dawn” is a kind of symphonic variation on the music of Jean Michel Jarre. “Cold Midwinter Nights” closes the album showing the two sides of the duo with an impressive ambient opens and a melodically ending.
It is wonderful to hear how the styles of these two artists perfectly blend on this fine album. Hopefully, they are also going to perform this great music live.
2012. Paul Rijkens
I like comparing the musical approach of Nattefrost to that of Jean Michel Jarre. Like the French synthesist used to do at the beginning of his career, Bjorn Jeppesen produces a title that hooks from the first listening on each of his albums. A title that would be a radio hit if the FM stations were still interested in EM as in the years of free thought and cultural creativity. And From Distant Times does not make an exception to this rule. Flanked by Matzumi (Kathrin Manz), the Danish synthman pursues his electronic odyssey in the lands of cosmic rhythms. It’s without surprises that this tandem, who had stunned our senses with the powerful "Die der Erde" (Dying Sun / Scarlet Moon), meets the interesting challenge to unite the poetic and filmic approaches of Matzumi to the heavy and static rhythms of Nattefrost, depraving so the very beautiful electronic melodies which overhang From Distant Times.
A big gong, as in the introduction of Matzumi’s In Mutatio Tempora, opens the very atmospheric and cinematographic "First Movement". Synth layers to very orchestral fragrances are waving around there with some slow uncertain movements, creating a dramatic mood while zigzagging among choirs roaming in the calm of ambivalent musical territories; there where pulsating sequences flicker as some wings of dragonflies in wait of an apocalyptic signal. This intro sets the tone in a powerful album where orchestral momentums surround indomitable rhythms. "Evolution" rocks in the orchestral ashes of the introductory track when From Distant Times' first rhythmic rides go downhill in a slow hesitating staccato. A spasmodic pulsation shakes this uncertainty introduction, tumbling down the rhythmic plains of a balanced gallop greeted by fine solos flooded in the mists of ochred voices. Although every track of From Distant Times is different, there is always a link that connects them. "The Ancient Land" espouses the tangent begun with a fluid and lively rhythm where keyboard keys weave a circular melody which leans on sober percussions. Always so warm the synth throws some sweet melodic solos which are mixing their harmonies to fine filets of ethereal voices gliding in a surrealist setting. The more we move forward and the more the rhythms liven up of a fascinating heaviness. Rhythms embroidered inside a superb mixture of sequences and percussions, as on "The Portal" and its melodic approach which spits reminiscences of Tangerine Dream on Underwater Sunlight. Scalable the rhythm is at first fragile and progresses with beautiful sequences of which the fast oscillations are slowed down by a beautiful play of percussions to varied tones and forms. The angelic voice of Kathrin Manz collects this portion of rhythm which switches shape towards a surprising heavy and aggressive structure, to pound on a heavy undulating bass line as well as some echoing percussions which find ref uge into this smooth melody drawn in Song of the Whale, before melting in a finale all in atmospherical and filmic effects.
Jean Michel Jarre's influences perspire all around From Distant Times' hidden recesses. If it’s not at the rhythms level, it’s on the melodic ones. And "Rise of the Phoenix", with its hoops which flutter as wings of dragonflies gathering nectar on the petals of a rhythm filled by jerky steroids, is the perfect example. And when I wrote about immediate hit, I referred to this catchy track where the rhythm, bombarded by a street gang step and drawn by sequences which plough the cosmos as snips of scissors in emptiness, has difficulty to climb the slopes of a heavy stroboscopic ascension which perspires of its cymbals and galactic tones while the melody, divinely electronic, is silkily forged in wonderful synth solos. Solos floating and singing into mists filled by iridescent vocalises to forge a delicious ear worm. Built on a bed of sequences swarming to alternating strikings, "Time Passing" offers a slow hypnotic rhythmic journey where the voice of Kathrin Manz roams among layers of a synth sometimes cosmic and sometimes orchestral. "Medieval" wears the nobility of its naming with a very theatrical envelope released by synths from which strata intensely orchestral brings us back in the time of the medieval battlefields. Heavy and slow the rhythm is no less powerful and drags its sequences which come running beneath the envelopes of a synth to singings of war, quite as in "The New Dawn" which follows with an even heavier rhythm wrapped by a synth full of orchestral veils and twisted harmonious solos. If the percussions and sequences weave convoluted rhythms which are not pull any punches, the synths are incredibly musical and embroider some passages which attract the hearing, both by solos and harmonies and especially ambiences. Following this premise "Cold Midwinter Nights", with its nervous rhythm contained in its film element and its solos scattered in the winds of a harmonious discord, is at the height of all that surrounds From Distant Times.
This first collaboration Nattefrost and Matzumi gives birth to a great album. From Distant Times is a powerful and lyrical opus, forged into Babylonian, cosmic and musical ambiences which wrap melodies floating such as silky winds on sequences and percussions which pound rhythms as creative as electrifying. It’s one of the great albums to be released this year that I recommend to everyone who love driven based sequences EM, especially those who miss Jean Michel Jarre.
2012. Sylvain Lupari / gutsofdarkness.com & synth&sequences.com
“From Distant Times” is the first full-length album by Nattefrost (aka Danish synthesist Bjørn Jeppesen) and Matzumi (aka German composer Kathrin Manz), realized between September 2010 and February 2012. Starting out in a symphonic manner on the first track, the music already shifts to an accessible type of melodic, sequencer-driven music from the second track on. One can clearly hear the stark fingerprint of Nattefrost shining through the 9-track/61-minute outcome, mixing pssst-pssst-percussion, choir textures, symphonic soundscapes, occasional female singing and powerful synth pads. The music is of a tasty and driving nature, sometimes to almost dancing effect, while it also reveals some mellow sides now and then. “Rise of the Phoenix” and “Time Passing”, both found in the middle of the album, are without doubt the highlights of the release: they sophisticatedly merge the driving elements to tantalizing effect. On the other hand, the smoot h soaring solo on “The New Dawn” though sounds like Robert Schroeder is joining the duo briefly.
All in all, “From Distant Times” is a fine draft of contemporary electronic music that will kick some ass in the general melodic genre, and most certainly turn out to be another winning release from the established Groove Unlimited label.
2012. Bert Strolenberg / Sonicimmersion.org