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(54:07; Soniq Theater)
TRACK LIST 1. Antarctica 7:46 2. Springtime in Siberia 5:12 3. Brandenburg 6:54 4. London Town 5:15 5. The Cyclades 1:42 6. Weekend in Monaco 5:16 7. Tasmania 0:45 8. Daytona Beach 2:47 9. Brimstone Cave 2:53 10. NYC 4:53 11. Mariana Rift (Guitar Version) 10:44 LINEUP: Alfred Mueller - all instruments with Ralph Brandenburger - guitars
Prolusion. Soniq Theatre was founded in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1999 by former Rachelís Birthday keyboardist Alfred Mueller. Since then, Mr. Mueller, the projectís only composer, producer and performer, has been stably releasing 1 album a year, with only one failure in 2001. Brandenburg is the last of the 19 works the musician has produced to date. This album, like few other ones in Alfredís discography, features a guest musician Ė guitarist Ralph Brandenburger.
Analysis. Following a long-established tradition, Alfred Mueller brought his next brainchild into this world exactly on the first day of the new year (2019). Stylistically, Brandenburg continues the long line of the Soniq Theatre discography of all-electronic music, this time with the exception of 3 songs, Nos. 1, 3 and 11, where Ralph Brandenburger contributes his electric guitar sound. The first four songs are generally longer than the others (except for the last one) and are rather solid and demonstrate scrupulous approach to details and overall composition, where even electronic drums sound quite interesting and natural. Nevertheless, there, again, the synthetic atmosphere of soundtracks for low-budget computer games typical of the projectís previous work creeps into the texture. What makes Alfred Mueller release every next Soniq Theatre album exactly on the 1st of January each year Ė whether itís contract terms, the bandís trademark, the musicianís inborn punctuality or something else Ė I donít know, but it may be one of the main reasons for the highly unstable quality of Brandenburg. After Track 4 the album suddenly drops into some kind of sonic mess. What comprises most of the material in Tracks 5-10 is some badly arranged and hardly identifiable stuff created, probably, during the last two weeks of 2018, when Mr. Mueller was busy doing his Christmas shopping and preparing for the New Year, while keeping in mind the obligation to make Brandenburg a full CD by 1 January 2019. Tracks 5 & 7, The Cyclades and Tasmania, respectively, are very short and consist of a few rudimentary chords without, as it seems, any real idea behind them. I cannot really fancy any of them took their creator more than several minutes to produce from beginning to end. Paradoxically, Tracks 6, 9 & 10, though in the weaker part of the album, are the most complex, and in places even remind of Keith Emerson. But they all have one big problem about them. The main goal of music as a type of art is entertainment, and however refined listeners we, prog rock lovers, may think ourselves, in music we primarily search for pleasure. But the quality of the sound in these songs is so neglected that it seems they cannot please at all. All they can do is to demonstrate that Alfred Mueller can operate keyboards and synthesisers and he may have ideas. The electronic percussion here sounds particularly wretched. Track 8, Daytona Beach, looks quite an outsider in this company. Though quite simple, it is a well-produced juicy song, with a nice groove, decent rhythm section, atmosphere and good overall sound. The last composition, Mariana Rift, is a variation of the song with the same name from Soniq Theatreís 2004 This Mortal Coil album (I havenít heard the original), which brings us back to the level offered at the beginning of the album. This 10+-minute composition seasoned for the third time with Ralph Brandenburgerís excellent guitar sound is a nice finale for the album.
Conclusion. Though more uneven and controversial than the previous one, this album, in my opinion, deserves a half-star higher score than Squaring the Circle, mainly because some of its best songs are really good, and, certainly, because of the presence of Brandenburger in Brandenburg. Despite all the criticism, there is one obvious merit about Muellerís project: the composer has definitely developed his own recognizable style.
Proguessor: July 12th 2019
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