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Michael Brückner - The Undercurrent CD (album) cover

THE UNDERCURRENT

Michael Brückner

 

Progressive Electronic

4.00 | 1 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars On what is becoming an annual event, modern German prog-electronic standout Michael Brückner has delivered another work for the SynGate label, 2019's `The Undercurrent'. The artist himself describes the disc as `things going on in the world on the social, political and ecological level right now, and tells a tale of contrasts between sinister tendencies and bright hopes, between decay and growths and between stagnation and evolution.' Atmospheric electronic music, especially that based around the vintage Seventies Berlin School which the artist often dabbles in, can have a tendency to be murky and uninviting, but Michael's thoughtful dual approach makes for a fascinating album of contrasting sounds and styles here.

Eleven minute opener `The Undercurrent: Part 1 (Subliminal)' is an introspective ambient drift of lush synth washes that ultimately turn more urgent with dramatic whirring sweeps. While Michael has never been a mere clone of the defining prog- electronic sounds, `A Great Hope' takes a Jean-Michel Jarre-esque hold with its chiming keyboard melodies, and `24 Hours and 16 Days (In Amnesia)' quickly dances with a programmed rhythmic bounce that is joyful, maybe even a little giddy!

Strident programmed beats give `Activate!' an unexpectedly harder rock sound as it surges forward with constant momentum backing up joyfully excited synth outbursts. Fleeting abstract interlude `Mount Tuna (The Opening)' lies somewhere between dream-like and nightmarish but is ultimately full of hope, but `The Undercurrent: Part 2 (Messages)' is moody electronica fraught with unease and lurking danger. Defiant themes emerge from between `A Greater Hope (Reprise)'s jangling Berlin School-flavoured sequencer pulses and metallic programming.

Twenty-one minute environmentally-themed closer `The Unanswered Question' leaves a huge impression on the listener. Taking inspiration from US Senator Gaylord Nelson's speech about protecting the environment on the first Earth Day almost fifty years ago, the extended piece incorporates everything from contemplative ambient passages, Mellotron-like spectral choirs, ethereal reaches and mournful organ drones around sections of Nelson's recorded dialogue, and is a superb example of expertly executed build and drama.

(Note - the download version comes with additional reworked/reinterpreted bonus tracks too, all well worth exploring! `Undercurrent: part 1' almost resembles a mantra, being an eastern-flavoured and meditative reimagining. `24 Hours and 16 Days (Endangered)' is more up-tempo with light drum n' bass-like touches, and `Mount Tuna ' is expanded to twelve minutes as an evocative aural collage before a very chilled outro)

It's not easy to deliver proggy electronic music and not have it instantly sound like a science-fiction soundtrack, but Brückner has achieved that again here, and while `The Undercurrent' may be constantly melodic and rhythmic based, it's never at the expense of intelligently drawn out pieces with plenty of energetic soloing. Michael must be the eternal optimist, because one thing that instantly stands out about this disc is that, while it offers more sombre and confronting moments, there is a constant sense of triumph, humanity and hope always emerging throughout.

Four stars for another superb disc from the artist.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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