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Wolfgang Bock - Cycles CD (album) cover

CYCLES

Wolfgang Bock

 

Progressive Electronic

3.80 | 3 ratings

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Guldbamsen
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4 stars Berlin school electronics mimicking how ice crystals form

This is one of the first progressive electronic records I acquired. It was not entirely on purpose, meaning that I bought the album solely based on the rather beautiful cover - thinking it would be something psychedelic and fuzzy. Much to my surprise, I found a type of music that sounded completely different from what I´d tried before, and thinking about it now makes me realize just how lucky it(the music) was, that I didn´t just throw it away, or gift wrapped the bugger - turning it into one of those "funny" presents that nobody likes. It struck a chord with me however, right from the first spin, and maybe that has something to do with its persuasive nature, because unlike much of what you´ll find in these treacherous electronic waters, this album is indeed highly seductive and alluring.

Wolfgang Bock was a late comer to the Berliner School of electronics, and this his debut Cycles was released back in 1980, though luckily without any of the awful plastic traits of the time. Fans of the genre shouldn´t worry, because it certainly sounds as a sweet outing from around 76-77 - bringing with it that slick, soothing and floating texture to it. Cycles was also produced by Klaus Schulze, and this comes as little surprise when you first pop the album on. There are definite traces of Moondawn and Body Love, although Bock sounds far more melodious to these ears.

Cycles is actually a perfect description of this record, as the music within spins and revolves around itself in what seems like a small slice of eternity. What I find ingenious about it though, is that it never gets repetitive in any way. Take the title track, where everything is so simple and straightforward, that it almost hides these splish-splashes of a pseudo water based synth. Cycles is a piece that lays down the course of this album, and it does so with a firm and feminine touch, as if the tune had been nurtured and breastfed by HAL 9000´s secret lady lover. Through enormous quantities of synthesizer-laden eiderdown sculptures - the small two-stroke engine of the sequencer slowly bobs its gentle and slightly menacing rhythm, to what actually sounds as some euphoric northern winds guided into giant concrete tubes, that makes me think of a slightly skewed urban pan flute. Yep Bock could easily fool you into believing, that some of his best instruments are indeed wind based, and that his greatest, the colossal concrete pan flute, is blown by an ancient Nordic god of breezes. These are cold and desolate sounds though, but they still retain a remarkable beauty, and if sadness could speak - it would be through these chilling sweeps of wind.

I often think of the time this album was recorded in - those crazy 80s, hangover filled from the rather free nature of the preceding decade. -That plastic and yuppie like coating much of the mainstream music had taken on, and the move towards an easier listen for the audience. It suddenly became important to have videos and songs that you could dance to. Holding Cycles up against this rather colourless artefacts n´ money - sweet money culture, it suddenly takes on the form of music that both describes the yuppie madness and plastic world down to a t, but furthermore stands in opposition of what that meant. Through the coldness and darkness of this record, there´s beauty and yearning - almost screaming passion to be found, and when Bock from time to time releases his fury on either the synths or treated organs, he hits a similar vibe to that of Monsieur Wakeman on his classic organ break of Close to the Edge. The effect is somewhat different here, but it still acts as a sonic Cyclops standing up slowly and awe-inspiring in a massive crowd of people.

Now I have listened to a fair deal of electronic music in my life, and along with maybe Tangerine Dream´s Stratosfear, Cycles strikes me as a fantastic entrance to this bubbly universe. In addition to being highly melodious in its own way, either through choir mellotrons and dreamy synth soundscapes, this album also features drums. They´re sparse and to the point, but they work so well with the music they accompany. The second track, which is comprised of several parts - uses the drums in a completely different way, than what you hear on the title track, where things are streamlined and not entirely unlike those you´ll hear on a modern Zombi record, - no here on Robsai we get a wild tribal stomp-like section with deep bellowing toms all mixed up by what sounds like 2 or 3 different parts - all sown frantically together.

I´d say the only downside to this album, is a small nuisance - a petty mistake, but it still gets me a little frustrated every time I listen to it: There are some abrupt pauses during the middle section of the second track. They change the scope of the record, and those charming sonic cycles are suddenly broken - again and again, where the music fades out and into silence. It doesn´t work for me. I find this rather peculiar and close to a mind fart, because the music that follows is quite extraordinary - as we are treated to a sky-high reaching moog that swoops through the droning notes like some untamed majestic bird of prey headed for the outskirts of a sapphire blue horizon. Like I said, it is the sole negative thing about the record, but it´s still there, if only for those brief 30 seconds.

I recommend Cycles to fans of Klaus Schulze´s more melodic work, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and newcomers to the genre. This is a perfect way to start exploring what the progressive electronic world has to offer. It is breathtaking like skydiving without a parachute. 4.5 stars.

Guldbamsen | 4/5 |

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