Stratosphere: Dreamscape
Basses Frequences

It's hardly irrelevant that Ronald Mariën's new Stratosphere recording was mastered by Fear Falls Burning, as the former's guitar-centered atmospherics would be equally at home on the latter's Tonefloat label as Basses Frequences. It also bears worth noting that Dreamscape is the first music from Stratosphere in over a decade, with Mariën having undergone a dramatic change of some unidentified kind during the break. If his earlier sound could be characterized as “spheric soundscapes” assembled from analog tapes, analogue synthesizers, and acoustic instruments, with harmonic melodies the project's signature sound, much the same description could be applied to the new material, too, or at least certain parts of it; as an example, the second track, “You Will Never Destroy Me,”  builds waves of electric guitar patterns—textural washes, heavy stabs, and pealing figures—into a stirring moodscape that's as uplifting as it is beautiful. In like manner, vaporous masses of guitar-generated textures waft gently heavenwards during “There is Still Hope” and “Nevertheless Into the Void.”

One difference between then and now is that for the new recording, Mariën has simplified his approach as Dreamscape was created using only guitar and bass guitar in combination with a wide range of pedal effects. That purification suits the material well in lending it an austere, even stately character, such that meditations like “No One Will Break the Silence” and “Discovering the Asian Hardcore Space” end up being not merely ponderous but, in their own subtle way, reverent, too. Using guitar and bass to generate serene ambient soundscapes proves to be an effective strategy on this fifty-five-minute recording and one that lends Stratosphere's ethereal sound clear definition on conceptual grounds.

May 2012