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Michael Brückner - Two Letters from Crimea CD (album) cover


Michael Brückner


Progressive Electronic

4.86 | 2 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars `Two Letters from Crimea' is a double live CD/download release from German electronic composer Michael Brückner. Recorded on the 1st of April 2014 at the Saint Peter in Frankfurt, a former church that had been converted into a concert hall, it's a hypnotic live document of an electronic artist who always carefully blends vintage Berlin school elements with modern styles. His performance was part of the Luminale city-wide light art fair, where a collective of video and laser artists performed each night, with ambient composers contributing music to accompany their displays. As always, just like on his numerous studio albums, Brückner reveals great variety, absolute subtlety and a mastery of atmosphere and mood, and it just may be one of his best releases to date.

There actually is a fascinating story behind the title and concept of the album, concerning Michael's grandfather who was drafted during World War 2, announced missing and never returned after the battle of Stalingrad. Michael's grandmother, his wife, only had one photo of the soldier, and two letters sent during that time away. Along with a youthful fascination to learn more about the military history of his country, various conversations with his grandmother and her surprising responses and, of course, the letters themselves, as Michael began to develop an interest in electronic music and hone his skills, the artist began to dream of one day playing a `peace concert'. When the opportunity for this particular festival came up, he realised this was likely as close to his `daydream' as he would possibly get, and he therefore decided to dedicate this performance to that ideal and his grandfather.

Nineteen minute two part opener `The Black Sea' drifts along on mysterious ambient caresses before a twinkling star-field loop enters and grows in power, eventually to be washed away by serene ethereal waves. It's a very sedate and unhurried opener, one for patient electronic listeners who don't mind extended pieces with only little variations, but the best is yet to come. `The First Letter' is a mesmerizing, eerie, echoing freeform sound collage, and fans of Steve Roach will likely respond to this one very much. Trickling nightmarish droplets, buzzing white-noise distortion, clockwork-like chiming tension, reverberating pulsing drones panning around the listener and a cool near-metallic harshness, it's stark and bleak but with moments of light, little slivers of hope emerging. `Odenwald' is a brief if sombre respite, a shorter mournful hum in the manner of early 70's Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd, with droning Mellotron-like choir groans. `The Last Letter' begins as an organ hum, disorientating over chirping electronics, yet oddly comforting in siren-like moments too. Emerging clicking sequencer patterns grow in confidence and stature before breaking through and taking control. This is vintage and modern electronic styles in perfect unison with each other.

The two part `Peter' starts with churning electronics and a booming monolithic wall of noise, hallucinogenic floating spectral synths weaving around up-tempo contemporary beats with a soothing finale. The second disc then offers three lengthy pieces running between 20-30 minutes each. Bold dramatic heavy synths thrum with power in grand and imposing fashion throughout `In That First Light'. Brückner then offers two live rehearsal recordings made in preparation of the concert. `(No) Saints' overloads with a maddening variety of bouncing sequencer patterns and cool slinking beats over bubbling colourful synths, and it's one of the coolest and most energetic pieces here. It gently moves into a drifting come-down chill-out finale that even faintly calls to mind Pink Floyd's `Shine on You Crazy Diamond' and Eloy's `The Apocalypse'! The entire album closes on the fragile and restrained `Waiting Here, I remember The Bells' where a variety of echoing looped chimes dance around spacey shimmering electronics and gentle melancholic piano with just a trace of unease.

Extra special mention must go to the closer of the first disc, `Haven of Peace'. Michael performs a deeply personal and delicate piano solo over electronic crackles and the lightest smattering of gentle uplifting beats, and it's probably one of the most touching and hopeful pieces Brückner has ever delivered. It's this sort of detail that makes his music so deeply human and able to retain a warmth that is often absent from electronic music, and it's one of the musical highlights of 2014 for this reviewer!

Running over 150 minutes, this demanding album is Michael Brückner at his most varied and dynamic, and `Crimea' is a bold, confident and powerful musical statement. Despite it's length and sometimes challenging compositions, it achieves a good balance between free-form pieces and more melodic approachable numbers, with both plentiful use of beats and more purely ambient passages. Michael displays perfect mastery of build and drama with very human emotion, and this is as far away from cold electronic music as possible. Hopefully we see the release of even more complete live concerts from the artist in the near future!

`Two Letters from Crimea' is Michael Brückner's electronic tour de-force, at least so far, and further proof that he is one of the most exciting artists working in the genre today, and it's very possibly one of the best progressive electronic releases of 2014.

Four and a half stars, rounded up to five.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |


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