Gert Emmens, Metamorphosis

Nineteen stalwart analog warriors are rallied into service to form the sonic force behind Gert Emmens’ new release, Metamorphosis. Inspired by the sounds that came from playing around with a borrowed ARP sequencer, Emmens decided to “stick to the oldies” for this disc. The outcome is a deliciously retro pack of tunes that travel through all the familiar spaces. I admit it took a couple of listens for me to latch onto Metamorphosis. At first I found it a bit too angular, almost clunky and nostalgically forced. Emmens’ style eventually grew on me. The sound here is big—as many as 15 of the synths Emmens lists on his liner notes appear on a single track; aside from “Emotive Disparity,” which is just three minutes long and played only on a Yamaha CS-80, the fewest number of keyboards is 12. So there’s typically a lot going on at any given moment from a sound standpoint. The tracks here are fairly long, and Emmens is prone to shifts of style as he goes. The opener, “Strategem of Morality” goes through such strong switches of identity over its 14 minutes that I initially found myself checking  iTunes to see if I’d moved into a new track. The  changes work, once you get used to them. At first I found them a little jarring; after a few listens, paying closer attention to Emmens’ transitions, it seemed more like a cross-fade than a jump cut. The middle of “Collision” bursts into a cool, feel-good break–very 80s in tone, but timelessly funky. Caught me by surprise, and then caught me chair-dancing. “Opaque Divergence” works its way to a strident, almost military cadence, growing bolder and more dramatic as it goes. “Pace of Voyage” jaunts happily along, downshifts with a literal hiss of the brakes, then fires back up on a catchy sequencer pulse. Like many of his Groove Unlimited labelmates, Emmens’ work quickly calls up a score of influences and homages. But it’s not a bad thing; when familiarity is done well and crossed with an ample dose of fresh approach, the connections we make in our heads can just amplify the experience. Does Metamorphosis sound like TD and JMJ in spots? Of course it does. But more to the point, it sounds like Gert Emmens using them as a base from which to launch his own expressive excursions.

Available from Groove Unlimited.

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