Mythos Front

CD: Berliner Schule Sequencing by Mythos

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Mythos - insidePleasant surprise: this CD was in my mailbox, up for review.

The album.

At first glance, it is a slim sealed digisleeve, an ecologically sound choice. It holds 1 CD with a whopping 16 tracks. The cover shows a nice graphic stretching from front to back, of electronic circuits in blue and cyan. We can’t mis-understand what kind of music will be on the CD. The inside shows another image of electronic circuits, this time in magenta and deep navy. No other info is presented there.

On the back are various label logos: the 1971-1972 record label Pilz Records, Breeze Music GmbH, AKM and Cargo Records. The CD carries the vintage Pilz label in its very loud colours. As I understand it, the Pilz label is now part of Breeze Music, owned by Dieter Dierks.

The name “Mythos”, displayed in huge OCR-A type letters, goes along for many many years. So, it was a surprise that I haven’t heard of the band, now the solo project of Stephan Kaske. Let’s change that. ¬†Stephan did the marvelous task of composing, producing, arranging and mixing all 16 tracks in his studio, Mythos Studio in Berlin.

Mythos -backThe music.

Popping the CD in the player, we’re immediately surrounded by swirling pads in the distance, accompanied by sequenced notes so typical for Berlin School. There’s little foreplay, it’s straight to business.

The various compositions come and go, presenting a broad palette of what Berlin School means to Stephan. Heavy sequencing, lush background pads and strings. People who love the fast-paced sequencing on the oldest Tangerine Dream records, or the first works of Zanov, will certainly like this.

When listening from track to track, one thing occurs to the listener. All tracks are about 5 minutes long; many shorter, some longer. The music starts without hardly any intro, and the endings haven’t been put much thought in as well. It leaves a hunger. Berlin School is more than sequencers and strings alone.
This would make the album extremely suitable for background listening or ambient music, as there’s always a nice Berlin thing goin on whenever your ears pick up the music. The album is therefor certainly true to its title: “Berliner Schule Sequencing”.

Overall I can say, on the CD there is a lot going on; many many genius explorations of electronic sounds true to the genre, all very varied and diversified. But the tracks sound like 16 excerpts of different vinyl sides, so track-per-track it’s a bit unsatisfying. I’d rather see some of the highlight tracks elaborated into vast pieces with more “story” in them. Track 7, 8, 15 and 6 would certainly be excellent to do so.

The technical side.

On many tracks, sequencing may have been recorded a bit too loud. I suspect in the enthusiasm some meters have been driven into the red zone. This also contributes to that vintage feel of the classic Berliner Schule, that real 70’s sound. On track 10 however, “Iron and Steel”, this effect is overdone – resulting in a disturbingly cracking track reminding of loose cables. It’s a pity, since it is a very nice composition with multiple sequencers. Other tracks have a specific amount of audio clipping, and Mythos certainly flirts with audio levels in the parts relying on heavy resonance filtering, phasing or downright stampeding sequences. Some audiophiliacs may disapprove, but others may recognise it from the characteristic sounds of the original Berlin School nearly half a century ago…

The album cover doesn’t say which gear was used, however Stephan gladly provided the gear list. As it turns out, Stephan used “several Synths of the Arturia V-Collection6 in various combinations of the 20 legendary keyboards”, with Ableton Live as the beating heart in this setup. This may contribute to put an end to the big analog hardware/software modelling synth question: these tracks actually feel so analog, that they might be ripped straight away out of the 70’s before computers even were capable of processing audio! A flute solo or the vintage Mellotron sound wouldn’t have been out of place, though.

After several weeks of composing and arranging, Stephan took the rough audio into his Mythos Studio in Berlin, where the complete album was mastered.

The stereo image of the tracks is well balanced. the music surrounds you amply, sequences always originate in the center, but are spread out via various ping-pong delays or Haas-effects. The pads and strings fill in the blanks in the complete image – they have this cosmic character which show Stephan’s experience in live sets. As a listener, you get to play the role of an audience with a live set in front of you but music flying all around you.

The verdict.

In the end, this album has a nice appeal. The cover-art is inviting, the title is promising. The music is not too hard; there are many easy-accessible tracks which may definitely raise the ears on fans of the genre. Most tracks would even be suitable for space documentaries. In terms of real Berlin School, all tracks are short. This may be a good thing for those not having the patience to plow through endless Berlin tracks with 15 minute intros of floating sound effects, and it surely leaves room for the imagination for those who do have the patience.

For the casual fan of heavy Berlin who has a playlist on shuffle, this is excellent. No-nonsense instant vintage sequencing stampedes. For the ones enjoying music on an album-per-album basis, you might first want to take a listen before you buy – it may be not every one’s cup of tea.

Album design:3.7 out of 5 stars (3.7 / 5)
Composition:3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
Sound/Production:3 out of 5 stars (3.0 / 5)
Originality:3.2 out of 5 stars (3.2 / 5)
Must-haveness:2.7 out of 5 stars (2.7 / 5)
Verdict:3.2 out of 5 stars (3.2 / 5)

I’d like to thank Stephan Kaske for his kind will to provide the CD and cooperation.

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