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Gert Emmens, 'Asteroids'

Asteroids  (2001,  72.06)  ***½

Ceres
Pallas
Juno
Vesta
Chiron
Geographos
Gert Emmens, 'Wanderer of Time'

Wanderer of Time  (2003,  69.07)  ***½

Wanderer of Time
Gaspra
Alien Matter
Elektra World
The Voyage of Voyager I
Gert Emmens, 'Obscure Movements in Twilight Shades'

Obscure Movements in Twilight Shades  (2003,  69.40)  ***½

The Day the Wind Blew Out the Light
Obscure Movements in Twilight Shades
Entering the Dark Depth
Voice From the Past
Gert Emmens, 'Live: A Long Way From Home'

Live: A Long Way From Home  (2004,  72.10)  ***½

Entering the Dark Depth
So Long
The Day the Wind Blew Out the Light
Solaris
Voice From the Past
Gert Emmens, 'Waves of Dreams'

Waves of Dreams  (2004,  72.00)  ***½

After the Rain
Another Time, Another Space
Waves of Dreams
Dawn
Heading Towards Unknown Destinations
Bright Spot on a Grey Day
Gert Emmens, 'When Darkness Falls Upon the Earth'

When Darkness Falls Upon the Earth  (2005,  75.26)  ***½

Rendez Vous With 2004 MN4
When Darkness Falls Upon the Earth
Nostalgia
Casting Shadows on the Cold Ground
The Day After (extended version)
Requiem pour Sam
Gert Emmens, 'The Tale of the Warlock'

The Tale of the Warlock  (2006,  78.43)  ***

The Warlock Returns
Warlock Meets the Young Princess
Myths and Legends as Told By the Storyteller
The Dream That Came True
The Confrontation - Warlock versus the Wizard of the Dark
Ghosts Calling From Yonder
Warlock's Death
Gert Emmens, 'A Boy's World'

A Boy's World  (2007,  78.59)  ***

School's Out
Gaming part 1: Battles Are Won and Lost
Life Around the Sand Castle
Gaming part 2: The Quest
Adolescent Behaviour
Nothing Lasts Forever
Gert Emmens, 'The Nearest Faraway Place Vol.1'

The Nearest Faraway Place Vol.1  (2008,  70.48)  **½

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Gert Emmens, 'The Nearest Faraway Place Vol.2'

The Nearest Faraway Place Vol.2  (2009,  71.39)  ***½

Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Gert Emmens, 'The Nearest Faraway Place Vol.3'

The Nearest Faraway Place Vol.3  (2010,  76.51)  ***

Part 15
Part 16
Part 17
Part 18
Part 19
Part 20
Part 21
Conclusion

Current availability:

Like many progressive musicians born at the wrong time, Gert Emmens has had to wait a while to get the career he's presumably always wanted. After a mainstream pop album in 1995, his first EM album, 1999's Elektra (Emmens was already over forty by this point), was a surprisingly proggy effort, consisting largely of structured material full of key changes, multiple parts and all the other prog paraphernalia, although nothing that sounds like a Mellotron.

Unfortunately, his first samplotron effort, 2001's Asteroids (a CD-R release, I believe), backs away slightly from this approach, although it's still far more structured than many electronic albums I've heard, Pallas possibly being the best thing here. Emmens uses his Mellotron samples with taste, refusing to overdo it, sticking choirs on pretty much every track, plus strings on Geographos, very obviously sampled. 2003's Wanderer of Time drops back into the groove, the title track and closer The Voyage Of Voyager I notably being 'electronic prog' rather than semi-improvisational EM. Most of the samplotron work here is choirs (sometimes running over the eight-second limit), with the occasional slightly ropey string part.

Unfortunately, I seem to be hitting my EM tolerance limit around now, as Emmens' second album of 2003, Obscure Movements in Twilight Shades, strikes me as merely more of the same. Yes, a load of work has gone into it, compositionally and in the playing/recording, but it just sounds like... another EM album. Sorry. I'm not sure I'm ever really going to understand this stuff, although this album's perfectly pleasant and every bit as good as its predecessors, with the usual amounts of fake 'Tron. 2004's Live: A Long Way From Home, is possibly the most 'studio'-sounding live album I've ever heard (and yes, that includes Judas Priest's Unleashed in the East). Seriously, you would have absolutely no idea this was live if it didn't say so in the title. Not all that much fakeotron, actually, with choirs on maybe three tracks, but not one of Mr. Emmens' more major nearlytron works.

Waves of Dreams, from later the same year, expands the envelope slightly, with a soprano voice on the title track being the one thing that makes it stand out from its predecessors. Loads of sampled choir, with strings added here and there, just for a change. The following year's When Darkness Falls Upon the Earth is (within EM limits, of course) a more 'commercial' album than its predecessors in some ways, its early tracks only needing a couple of tweaks in the percussive department to turn them into chill-out classics. The whole thing's vastly overlong, of course, but who wants a 'vinyl length' EM album these days, eh? Me, actually, but there you go. Thin on the fakeotron again, with naught but distant choirs on a couple of tracks, but a decent effort all round.

But what's happened on 2006's The Tale of the Warlock? Is it just me, or has Emmens lost his mojo? I'm having trouble putting my finger on the problem, but it sounds like he's simply allowed the sequencers to run themselves, the end result sounding completely by-numbers, even in a fairly by-numbers genre, not to mention the near-techno feel to a couple of tracks (dodgy ground, there...). A fairly typical level of samplotron choir and strings, but I wouldn't recommend this as your first port of call for Mr. Emmens. The following year's A Boy's World isn't much better, or have I finally reached my EM limit? It seems to me that you've got to be a serious fan of this kind of stuff to get very excited about anything that isn't jaw-droppingly good and frankly, this isn't jaw-droppingly good. Totally competent, completely professional, but all a bit uninspired, at least to my ears. Even less samplotron than before, with naught but a few background choir and string parts here and there for our edification.

Things get no better on the first part of Emmens' The Nearest Faraway Place trilogy; most of its contents have (of all things) a slightly MOR bent, chord sequences just that bit too 'sweet' for comfort. In total contrast, Vol. 2 is possibly Emmens' best album. Why, when it consists of exactly the same kind of blips and drones as all his previous releases? Impossible to say; for this listener, his influences all come together at their best here, in an irritatingly indefinable way, not to mention the 'original feature' of a woman's voice speaking French on Part 13. Reasonable levels of sampotron, too, the most major use being the full-on strings on Part 10. Vol. 3 falls somewhere between the previous two volumes, being, essentially, just another Gert Emmens album, although the sequencer patterns on Part 17 are particularly good and we get some interesting vocoder work on the relatively brief Part 21. Usual old samplotron stuff, barely worth mentioning.

So; generic EM, frankly. Emmens' work definitely has its moments, but most of his albums sond almost exactly like most of his other albums, while his Mellotron samples are used (as with most modern EM) as background pads, completely divorcing the sounds from their frequently strident origins.

Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij, 'Return to the Origin'

Return to the Origin  (2004,  70.39)  ***½

Vortex
Return to the Origin
Solaris
Life in Motion
So Long
Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij, 'Blind Watchers of a Vanishing Night'

Blind Watchers of a Vanishing Night  (2005,  73.45)  ***½

Blind Watchers of a Vanishing Night
A Journey Through Time
Moments of Unexpected Sadness
Conspiracy of Two Forces
Driving Home on a Rainy Night
Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij, 'Journey'

Journey  (2007,  74.38)  ***½

Journey
The Endless Running Messenger
A City Awakens
Rolling Thunder in the Mountains of Hope
Red Clouds Over a Misty Swamp
Regaining Breath in the Eye of the Storm
Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij, 'Silent Witnesses of Industrial Landscapes'

Silent Witnesses of Industrial Landscapes  (2008,  78.56)  ***½

Silent Witnesses of Industrial Landscapes - Overture
Elements in Decay
Liquid Ore Finding its Way
When Night Falls
Point of No Return
Setting the Wheels in Motion
Silent Witnesses of Industrial Landscapes - Finale

Current availability:

Alongside his solo works, noted Dutch synthesist Gert Emmens (above) has also produced a handful of albums with Ruud Heij, the first of which, 2004's Return to the Origin, has similarities with Emmens' solo work, but is a rather darker proposition all round, at least to my ears. Not that much samplotron, either, its chief use being the major string part on closer So Long. More Klaus, less Tangs. The following year's Blind Watchers of a Vanishing Night is recorded live, with all audience reaction removed. It starts well, with the opening title track (incidentally, one of the best pieces from this genre I've heard for a while), although the three-quarter-hour A Journey Through Time is possibly pushing it a little. More fakeotron than before, with choirs all over the title track, choirs and strings on A Journey Through Time and bits on the rest of the album.

2007's Journey doesn't differ significantly from its predecessors, making it a highly competent yet somewhat unoriginal EM albums. More samplotron than before, mostly choirs, with a couple of strong string parts. The following year's Silent Witnesses of Industrial Landscapes is, sadly, less industrial (in a real, not Ministry-esque sense) than I'd hoped, although Heij's darker influences remain at the fore. Unfortunately, Setting The Wheels In Motion features a four-note sequence that reminds me of The Jam's Eton Rifles, albeit in an entirely different context; I rather doubt whether the duo realised. As before, higher levels of samplotron, although it's all fairly obvious.

Emmens and Heij seem to work well together, possibly reining in each other's excesses, their albums being towards the darker end of 'generic', with decent levels of samplotron on all but their debut.

links

Official Gert Emmens site

Official Emmens/Heij site

See: Free System Projekt/Brendan Pollard/Hashtronaut


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