van der Wouden - Altostratus
and Cirrostratus 2cd set
This 2cd set is compiled from music composed, arranged, produced and
recorded by René van der Wouden from May 1999 to September 2002.
Optimized and selected for CD by John Sherwood during Summer 2007.
René van der Wouden: Analogue and digital synthesizers, sampling,
sequencing and sounddesign
CD ONE - ALTOSTRATUS
1. Clear Altitudes
2. Mezzanine Blue
4. Hydrogen and Helium
5. Frozen Spectacles
7. Mezzanine Red
CD TWO - CIRROSTRATUS
2. Fin de Siecle
3. Pro Silencio
4. Halo Phenomena
6. Mezzanine Green
Cirrostratus clouds are a composition of ice crystals
and often by the production of halo phenomena.
They appear as whitish and usually somewhat fibrous
veils, often covering the whole sky and sometimes so
thin as to be hardly discernible. Compare cirrostratus
with other stratus cloud formations at lower altitude:
altostratus, nimbostratus, and low altitude stratus
clouds. Cirrostratus clouds are signs that precipitation
will follow in the next twelve hours. These clouds are
located above 6,000m (20,000 feet)
The first disc kicks off with 'Clear Altitudes'. A sonic jetstream whooshes forth leaving soft pads in its wake.
Images of a bird gliding high in the air came to mind. Water droplet type notes add a little detail. 'Mezzanine
Blue' has a similar feel though the sonic palette is subtly different. If anything this is even more chilled and
blissed out than its predecessor. The title track to this disc is back to the jetstream effects. There is an
almost hissing brightness and shimmer to proceedings which is decidedly pleasant as well as subtle melody
created by the various elements shifting against each other in the gentle ebb and flow. Very nice. 'Hydrogen
and Helium' turns the prevailing mood on its head. Initially this is sparse dark stuff with vocal samples crying
out 'Watcha!'. There is loads of space with just the odd effect here, electronic twitter there. Gradually things
develop as we move to even more disturbing manipulated samples until exquisite little motifs, which seem
in complete contrast to the established atmosphere, slowly change things from dark to light.
'Frozen Spectacles' has a rather fifties sci fi feel. It's as if a spaceship has landed on a far distant planet,
which at first seemed alien and hostile, only for the mood to lift as more of the surroundings are explored.
'Remembrance' seemed to me just like an even more tranquil continuation of the previous track until a
sequence started up in the third minute. Quite a beefy one it is too providing one off the heavier moments
on the album. 'Mezzanine Red' wasn't too bad either though it was spoilt a bit by the rhythms near the end.
I think that on the whole René is much better at the atmospheric tracks than the upbeat numbers.
Bright swirling melodic pads punctuated by little melodic flourishes gives an appropriately 'airy' feel to the
title track of the second disc. 'Fin de Siecle' is a lot sparser with a little melodic warble here, a little sonic
colouring there. A similar pattern follows through to 'Pro Silencio' the melodies darting in then rapidly
departing like an insect hovering over a patch of water to suddenly shoot off in another direction. A slow
sequence emerges like a soft rain only to depart all too soon. Pads swell then submerge. Different sonic
effects and colouring come thick and fast, things never staying still for long but at the same time there
is a peacefulness to it all which increases as the track progresses. Just sit back and relax.
'Halo Phenomena' initially takes a darker turn, timpani giving way to staccato stabbing notes. A slow
almost militaristic rhythm strikes up over symphonic pads then the most melodic lead line so far drifts
from the speakers. To start off with 'Enschede' is all rather abstract and 'bleepy' before a rather quirky
rhythm enters. In the sixth minute we return to some soothing tranquil pads. We drift straight into
'Mezzanine Green' which finishes things off in a similar fashion to the opening track on this disc,
all rather chilled and bright but with something of a melancholy twist at the end.
If subtlety and sonic textures are your thing maybe you should give this a try. The first disc is especially
good even though for my taste it seemed a little too relaxed and well, 'nice'. The second disc wasn't that
bad either even though on the two tracks where there were drums they did sound dated. As of writing this
the album is a budget priced double so maybe even if you don't like every track there is still more than
enough for your money.
David Law / Synth Music Direct