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Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman
Bill Binkelman is a long-time icon in the industry.
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Sign of Us
By Dlaivison
Label: DLAERS
Released 12/5/2016
Sign of Us tracks
1. Dreams
2. The Wind's valse
3. Belle
4. Calyx
5. Horizons
6. Heroes
7. Angels
8. Amazon
9. Sirius
10. The Journey
Dlaivison - Sign Of Us
Like a sonic love letter to the pioneers of electronic music, Dlaivison’s Sign Of Us is a trip through the corridors of the genre, done with panache, grace, and style, as well as an obvious fondness for the genre itself. Bursting to the seams with nods to everyone from Jarre to Fast to Tomita to Faltermeyer to Schulze to…well, you name someone, and there is likely an echo of their influence somewhere on the album. Sign Of Us is a glorious, frequently exuberant, fun-filled exploration of why the genre's multitude of fans fell in love with synthesizers in the first place. This is ear candy on the scale of Lindt, Ghiradelli, or Godiva chocolates. If you came of age listening to Synergy’s Electronic Realization for Rock Orchestra, Jean Michele-Jarre’s Equinoxe, Patrick Gleason’s Rainbow Delta, or Michael Garrison’s In the Region of Sunreturn (to name a scant few), just buy this album and thank me later. Sign Of Us is an amazing homage to all the founding artists of the synthesizer age, including women such as Suzanne Ciani and Wendy Carlos.

What impresses me the most about Sign Of Us is how well conceived it is and how well executed as well. In lesser hands, this could have come off as cheesy and cliched. Instead, what we have is both a tribute and a celebration of the genre itself. The sheer variety of synth sounds that Dlaivison pulls forth from a rather modest (in my opinion) number of synths and plug-ins is remarkable, not to mention that he pretty much hits every sub-genre in electronic music from the '70s through the '00s and performs each one with style, grace, and artistry.

The CD comes in a well-designed heavier-than-usual digipack and features a liner note booklet tucked into one of the sleeves with copious (to say the least) liner notes that detail each track's inspiration/meaning in metaphysical terms. In fact, the entire booklet is written more like an academic/spiritual essay than most liner notes. There is no way I can easily summarize what the artist has written except to quote a small passage. "Music has the sublime power to create a parallel universe, allowing experiences on many different levels, be it physical, mental, and even transcendental ones. Sign of Us was composed with the idea of inviting the listener to participate in this experience, to reflect on that connection and transcend to a new world." Heady stuff, to be sure, but whether you delve into the metaphysical aspects of what the artist is conveying, or simply grooving to the fantastic panoply of music, you're going to have quite the trip through the album's ten tracks.

The music on Sign Of Us varies in tempo, from slower pieces that are more atmospheric but have no or subtle beats to some featuring rapidly percolating rhythms that ping-pong back and forth while synths soar like eagles over multiple layers of bedrock sequenced notes sometimes accented by retro whooshes or other spacy effects. "Dreams" kicks things off in Jarre-esque fashion with chugging beats and upper register synths. "The Wind's valse" opens with the sound of synthetic wind before lush synth strings and pads in Synergy-like fashion take over. This is one of the rare "no beats" songs, and the mood is somber and subtly dramatic. Shifting gears, "Belle," slowly emerges with soft synths and a gorgeous solo flute melody line. It's worth noting that I have seldom heard a debut album on which the artist displayed such technical mastery over so many synth styles. Nothing here sounds cheap, cliché, or cheesy. "Calyx" dials up the tempo with infectious dance beats, laser zaps, and upper register chiming notes, before the main melody on piano takes over. Two more artists that came to my mind as I listened to Sign Of Us were Can Attila and Peter Mergener, both of whose work I have reviewed years ago and praised to he heavens. "Angels" starts off slow and then just freakin' takes off into space about half way through its seven-plus minutes.

If you still enjoy listening to any of the artists whom I have mentioned in this review (which I did only for comparison's sake, because I do not want to infer Dlaivison is in any way imitating them as much as paying tribute to their styles), you should absolutely give this a listen and either purchase it or download it (I prefer to have the CD in my hands, of course). Here is a CD you will crank up in your vehicle of choice and hit the open road, but as I mentioned earlier, keep a close watch on your speedometer.
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 2/6/2018
 
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