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Michael Hoenig - Departure From The Northern Wasteland CD (album) cover

DEPARTURE FROM THE NORTHERN WASTELAND

Michael Hoenig

 

Progressive Electronic

3.77 | 53 ratings

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HolyMoly
Special Collaborator
Retired Admin
4 stars This is without a doubt the first electronic music album I ever heard, way back around the time it was released, when I was still in grade school. My father played it a lot, and even at that young age I was fascinated by it. This is the kind of electronic music (which by 1978 had already been perfected by the likes of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, though I did not know this at the time) that drifts gently but insistently on a mobile sequenced note pattern, taking a long time to slowly develop from a quiet drone through a melodic synthesizer improvisation, and receding back into a quiet drone again. So goes the side-long title track, which even today plays like a soundtrack to my youth. It's a "travel" piece, an electronic voyage whose goal is not to dazzle nor surprise nor frighten, but to paint a picture, a mind movie.

Side two opens with the similar "Hanging Garden Transfer", also built on an arpeggiated sequencer riff, but the mood has a greater tension, more urgency than before. "Voices of Where" has several minutes of rhythm-less drone, gradually replaced by a mass of chanting voices. A fairly disposable track. But the final track is really something else - "Sun and Moon", a brief 4 minute number that, though built on the same basic template as the other sequencer pieces, actually has the feel of a song with a verse/chorus format. I don't recall Tangerine Dream doing much of that kind of thing by 1978. It's a lovely melodic piece with a lead organ sounding akin to an oboe, a very nice touch.

For personal reasons, this is my "go-to" electronic album. Other reviewers have correctly pointed out that there's nothing really new going on here (though I might challenge them to show me another example of a short piece like "Sun and Moon"), and that other more accomplished artists had already done the same thing better. But it has a long history with me personally, and even today with the benefit of a greater familiarity with electronic music, I still think of it as a highly enjoyable, very accessible example of its genre. It's highly melodic, fairly simple, and has plenty of atmosphere. I have no issue recommending it highly to anyone interested in 1970s electronic music - it's not too challenging, but not everything great needs to be.

HolyMoly | 4/5 |

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