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Keeping analog sequencer music alive in the 21st century
Poly-rhythmic sequential melodies of warm, engaging electronics propel Transmitter, an album created live-in-the-studio on vintage synthesizers and sequencers. Organic performances of 6 new tracks (and one from MantraSequent) glide through evolving epics with a classic 70s feel. Thick synthesizer textures and pulsating rhythms generate and modulate the pieces captured June 18th 2017 at WXPN’s Star’s End Radio, Philadelphia. Host Chuck Van Zyl writes:
“Jeffrey Koepper realizes his work using a wonderful set of musical colors made on vintage analog electronic gear – a process of going back to go further. The rounded tones of synth lead lines hover and float above ever-changing sequencer territory. With the structural divisions less clear-cut, his interconnected pieces progress through a mindscape of phase-shifted pads, windy white noise sweeps and contrapuntal fantasies of mechanistic synchronization. Koepper’s echoing tone patterns capture the kinetic energy of traveling through space – this music without sharp dramatic climaxes is all about the journey.”
Transmitter is a continuous, pulsating, teutonic-flavored album with hypnotizing textures and throbbing sequences. Utilizing complex layers of analog synths and shapeshifting rhythms, the transistors overlay human synaptic transmitters for an album of new electronic music designed for yesterday and tomorrow.
Reviews Editor –
A review from Textura.org
Transmitter documents a June 18th, 2017 performance given by Jeffrey Koepper in Philadelphia on WXPN’s Star’s End Radio broadcast. Using vintage analog synthesizers and sequencers, the long-standing electronic producer delivered a live-in-studio set comprised of six new pieces and one (“Halo”) from 2017’s MantraSequent, also issued on Projekt, for the program. Koepper’s kinetic material flows without pause for fifty-eight pulsating minutes, the sound mass exuding a sleek, synthetic sheen as it glides gracefully through one polyrhythmic sequence after another. High above, synth patterns twinkle incandescently, while at a deeper level, low-pitched drones act as an undercurrent, its almost tribal quality reminiscent of something one might hear in a Steve Roach production.
While uniformity reigns, Transmitter isn’t one-dimensional. Sequencer patterns power the mass forward during much of it, but moments arise too where rhythmic insistence subsides and the music assumes a serene and rather blissed-out disposition (the starry-eyed closer “Clouds,” for example). Such moments don’t last long, however, with Koepper, who once performed with the group Pure Gamma but has been operating solo for many a year now, generally focused more on animation than meditation. The set’s connectedness argues against isolating individual tracks for discussion, yet mention must be made of “Darkness” for how effectively its repeated buildups showcase Koepper’s handling of tension and release and for the dramatic impact of its eventual plunge into deep Tangerine Dream-styled atmospherics.
To say Transmitter exudes a classic ‘70s feel isn’t inaccurate, though describing it as such sells what he’s doing here a little short. Rather than see it as some modern-day replication of a hugely influential earlier era of synthesizer music, it might be more accurate to see it as perpetuating a style that’s never gone out of date. No doubt echoes of Jean Michel Jarre, Klaus Schulze, and others are audible in the recording, but that’s little different from hearing in Keith Richards’ playing traces of Chuck Berry and Buddy Guy. Put simply, every artist builds on the legacies of those that came before, regardless of genre. With that in mind, the text accompanying the release is arguably more on-point in pitching the release as “new electronic music designed for yesterday and tomorrow.”
Reviews Editor –
From Synth & Sequences
Polymorphic rhythms which melt in a load of analog synth waves, this Transmitter should be one of the best albums to have been played and recorded on the waves of WXPN-FM in Philadelphia.
Even in a night-mass, Jeffrey Koepper stays beyond his brothers of sounds with a fascinating obsession for analog synths and sequencers. Recorded within the framework of the mythical radio show Star’s End, Transmitter is one of the very good albums of cosmic EM to have been played and recorded on the waves of WXPN-FM in Philadelphia. A radio program scheduled in the last hours of Sunday, the music which is usually performed is rather of a relaxing nature. But on this Sunday of June 18th 2017, Jeffrey Koepper had other plans and overpassed this tradition by imposing a quiet music for sure, but among which the numerous changes of forms in the structures of rhythms and the piles of layers in colors as sharpened as harrowing have merged into an impressive cosmic mosaic which is unique to the very stylized signature of Jeffrey Koepper.
It’s with a torrid sweetness that “Whirl” spreads the sound field of the next 58 minutes of Transmitter. A piercing synth layer, (I have perfumes of bagpipe in my ears) throws its spot of tones which undulates and spreads out with a mute impulse in the movement, giving free rein to a bass line which stretches its pulsations and to a sequencer movement which aligns 7 or 8 jumping keys. These keys structure an ambient rhythm with agile harmonious capers which weave a first musical itch of this crepuscular electronic mass. If the rhythm disappears, it’s not the same thing of this sinuous wave which penetrates into the spheres of “Ions”. This dense resounding wave is shining now with its outlines decorated with a parasitic texture and fleet until exhilarate another stream of sequences fidgeting as benches of smelts on the surface of a water cooked by a penetrating sun. Here, the marriage of the rhythm and of the ambiences is more in symbiosis than the splendid imperfection of the minimalist movement of “Whirl” which was clearly early ahead of the floating and migratory layers. Frenzied and lively, this perfect balance is like the brilliance of scarlet rocks beneath a water excited by swirling winds. “Tides” follows then with a multitude of reverberations which twirl as in an effect of kaleidoscope, weaving lines in circles as much indomitable as the strands of a cotton candy making its perfect ball.
But time is missing and this circular cloud gets undone little by little when “Quasar” loosens the secrets of Jeffrey Koepper’s sequencer. Here the sequences swirl and dance lightly in a horizontal spiral with more bright shadows and echoes. That gives a surprising fight between the shade and the light, between unstable movements of the sequencer and of its mini crossroads of rhythm always in reconstruction under a growing storm of the synth and of its sound reflections which sound so much like being stolen to the universe of Software. It’s from there moreover that the impressive “Darkness” makes its entrance. At the beginning, the movement is shy. The sequences skip in the steps of others with a gyrating effect. A sensation of velocity doesn’t take time to be felt. Since “Quasar”, we are in the core of Transmitter with some starving evolutionary rhythms which exchange their tones, here it’s organic, with the same fluidity as the permutations between the gravitation phases of the rhythms. In this “Quasar”, the minimalist approach shows two contrasts in the ornamentation as rhythmic as harmonious of the sequencer with Robert Schroëder’s cackling tones and with strands which little by little exchange the trifling skipping into a fine jerky movement. These stroboscopic jolts travel slowly over the differences in level of a soundscape sieved of dark lights, disquieting synth layers and other ones which will remind to some of you the delights and the solos perfumed of Tangerine Dream’s fascinating melodies in the years pre White Eagle. Little by little “Quasar” weakens its rhythmic charms to plunge this night concert towards a more meditative phase with “Halo”, which we find moreover on the MantraSequent album, and “Clouds” which adopts marvelously the slow curves of “Halo” but with more of mordant into the effects of loops and reverberations. The synth layers invade the atmospheres with a horde of tones which flirt a little with the effects of radioactivity and of white noises, and which have decorated pleasantly the soundscapes of “Transmitter” since “Whirl”, pushing the awakening of the sequencer which traces the last stroboscopic stammering of one of Star End’s most beautiful night concerts. Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 -Sylvain Lupari
Michael Hodgson –
From Prog Archives
With over ten full-length releases since his debut Etherea in 2003, American prog-electronic artist Jeffrey Koepper has slowly built a strong reputation as a skilled composer of Berlin School-modelled music for the modern era. Jeffrey uses a variety of analogue synthesizers and sequencers to create deeply immersive electronic music in the manner of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Steve Roach and Jean-Michel Jarre, and his latest release is the sublime Transmitter, his second work for this year after MantraSequent arrived in June 2017. Recorded live for WXPN’s Star’s End Radio in June 2016, the seven fully instrumental pieces on offer move between pure ambient and percussive-driven pieces, yet they all form a continuous unhurried flow of beautiful hypnotic atmospheres.
Opener `Whirl’ groans with an ebbing and flowing electronic hum that encases a trilling little crystalline loop teeming with magic and contentment. It maintains throughout `Ions’ and its jangling low-key sequencers dancing back and forth and carries on into `Tides’, growing more upfront before retreating once more. But it’s when the album morphs into the eleven minute cosmic drift `Quasar’ that it soars to another level altogether, taking on Klaus Schulze-like fizzing electronic washes over ringing aggressive Tangerine Dream-flavoured sequencer patterns and the large scale atmospheric aural soundworlds of so many legendary Berlin School artists. There’s an aching, almost choral-like moan that flits in and out of parts of the piece and a constant momentum surges the piece ever onwards before culminating in a placid come-down of swirling dreaminess stripped of all percussive traces.
Another longer piece at over fifteen minutes, `Darkness’ descends into just that, diverting into a brooding canvass of maddening gurgling loops with a gently stalking restlessness and twisting into mysterious hypnotic electronic pools lapping around dramatic pulsing themes weaving through the climax. `Halo’ abandons the rhythmic elements again as it floats with rapturous pure-ambient bliss and softly embracing affectionate caresses that call to mind parts of Ashra’s `New Age of Earth’, and after the opening few minutes swell with bubbling machine hum that reminds of the early Adelbert von Deyen LP’s, `Clouds’ lifts the disc higher one final time with its carefully clanging sequencer contemplations.
Many modern prog-electronic artists look to the past of the genre for their own inspiration, but there’s a classic Berlin School purity here with Jeffrey’s album, perhaps because he avoids diverting into uneventful static drones or lazily falling into dance/trance elements that some modern electronic albums do. It helps make Transmitter something extra special, a wondrous work that carefully unveils sweeping sonic canvasses and balances it with the lurking darker edges of all the finest space music electronic albums with immense environments, and it proves to be one of the standout prog-electronic releases of 2017. -Four and a half stars.