So you take two well-known names in synthesizer music, Ron Boots of the Groove Unlimited label and Michel van Osenbruggen (Synth.NL) and you send them on vacation together. Naturally they bring some gear, right? And they do a little jamming. (It’s to be expected, after all.) What comes out of it is Refuge en Verre, a robust collection of pieces with a strong retro feel, reminiscent in spots of Tangerine Dream and J-M Jarre–but not overpoweringly so. Rich, rhythmic and possessing a bit of a swaggering rock ‘n roll stride, Refuge en Verre wastes no time in hooking the listener. The first/title track spreads across 12 minutes to showcase the duo’s work in synths, keyboards and guitar. “Orage d’ete” brings in memories of early Mark Isham in its repeated motif. Percussion here carries the track. I like the way a blues-rock feel translates itself through the keyboards in “Coucher du soleil.” This will come off as a strange analogy, I’m sure, but in my head it sounds like a Scorpions tune, done on synths. Trust me when I tell you this is a good thing. And “Rosee du matin” is a slow, lush track with a little hint of Vangelis at the edges. Admittedly, it helps to have a spot in your listening heart for echoes of old-school synth music if you’re going to dive into Refuge en Verre. Because it’s here, and in spots its perceived age can be a little too pronounced; I find myself wanting to move along during “La Roche-en-Ardenne,” for example, because its 80s-ish cadence feels heavily dated. But it’s more hit than miss, certainly. The combination of styles, the chemistry between Boots and van Osenbruggen, and the love of the genre’s backstory, all come through in the music.
By the way, gentlemen: “Combat des coqs” would be an absolutely unstoppable track, crunchy and muscular and rammed forward by gripping sequencers and a great guitar line (or guitar-sounding keyboard) if it wasn’t for the damned rooster sound effects. Never have I more desperately wanted to punch a chicken in the face.
Old-school fans, take a listen. You’ll find familiar grooving grounds in Refuge en Verre.
Available from Groove Unlimited.