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(51:42, Soniq Theater)
TRACK LIST: 1. Squaring the Circle 6:21 2. Circus Ponies on the Run 5:00 3. The Unbearable Lightness of Being 5:50 4. Strange Times and Odd Days 5:42 5. Kissing the Sun 2:27 6. Pink Panda 5:46 7. Flying Dolphins 4:40 8. Spirallels 4:17 9. Welcome to Absurdistan 2:24 10. Paradox 6:00 11. April Snow 3:08 LINEUP: Alfred Mueller – all instruments
Prolusion. Soniq Theatre is a solo project from Germany driven by Alfred Mueller. The abundant discography was started in 2000 and consists of 18 studio albums issued at a steady pace of one album a year, with an only skip in production in 2001. Except for a few episodes, all music is instrumental and composed and played by only one person using only one instrument – keyboards. Squaring the Circle is the musician’s latest work released on 16 January 2018.
Analysis. According to the composer’s official website, Alfred Mueller here follows his customary pattern and again acts as the only band member who has composed, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered all the material. Also, as far as I could make out, the only instrument used on the album is the synthesiser, which produces quite a variety of sounds and intonations and is responsible for the entire wide range of percussions. It was the first album by Soniq Theatre I heard, and it quite appealed to me at first. The music seemed inventive, and the author showed great skill in operating the instruments as both a composer and performer. Relatively short compositions (between 2+ and 6+ minutes long) were quite diverse in character, while odd beats used here and there and tempo changes and syncopations throughout the album made it sound quite progressive and interesting on the whole. Moreover, the music, though hinted at a number of prog bands (personally I found there similarities with ELP, Yes, the Alan Parsons Project, Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream and some others) was quite original in itself – a quality I regard as one of the most important for an artistic project. However, the more I listened to it, the worse things were getting. It soon turned out that most compositions revolve around 2-3 very simple tunes, which, as the song progressed, substitute for one another in different succession, sometimes varying in intonation, or overlay each other. Occasional improvisations and digressions are short (often not longer than a couple of bars), abrupt and straightforward, and, as if frightened by their own bravery of deviating from the common rut, seem to hurry back to the cosy repetitiveness of simple tunes. Those longer and more complex passages sound outlandish, and their purpose within the songs remain unclear to me. Generally, I find the overall atmosphere on the album is that of purposelessness, when you do not know if there is any idea underlying this or that song – just a play on sound. The material on Squaring the Circle brings to mind soundtracks for category 2 and lower computer games to play at the office, where the music’s only goal is to fill your ears with something while you are performing simple operations on the computer. This impression and the general depressive character of the music is intensified by the absence of live instruments which, however diverse sounds produced by modern computers may be, are probably much more pleasing to the human ear. The only track which, perhaps, stands out of the general picture is the last one – an electric piano composition reminiscent of piano songs by Rick Wakeman and, though quite commonplace, yet has a solid structure and, most importantly, soul within it. A few words need be said in defense of the project, nevertheless. To shake off some subjectivity, I researched into Alfred Mueller’s earlier works and tried some songs from previous albums. All of those seemed to me much better than the stuff on Squaring the Circle.
Conclusion. Soniq Theatre’s Squaring the Circle may appeal to those specifically interested in Mueller’s music, as well as those making research into different aspects of progressive rock, particularly its electronic dimension.
Shamil “Proguessor” Gareev: 26 July 2018
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