January 2017 CD of the Month: Ian Boddy – As Above So Below

Ian Boddy's As Above So Below Echoes January CD of the Month

Remember the first time you heard Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra? Jean-Michel-Jarre’s Oxygene? Or Klaus Schulze’s Timewind? It was a rush not only of thenew, but of the timeless, like you’d stepped into another, more beautiful reality, albeit a surreal one. Ian Boddy’s As Above So Below has that bliss of the new, even though he’s been doing it for 37 years and his sound is built on the foundation of those aforementioned artists.

Ian Boddy released his first album, Images, on cassette in 1980. He graduated to LPs and then CDs, growing as a musician and master of analog and digital synthesis. In 1999 he founded the DiN label, not only to release his own music, but also that of fellow electronic travelers. He’s cut a swath through electronic music, ranging from classic Berlin-school sequencers to all-out space abstractions and more. In addition to several solo albums he’s released collaborations with Mark Shreeve, Robert Rich and Chris Carter.

With As Above So Below, Ian Boddy comes out of the storm of his previous album, Tone Science, a sound-stretching experiment in distorted reality. But like that record, the sweeping, massive synth pads of the opening title track act as a cleansing. They move like a deep sea sonic dredger, removing everything in its path. Boddy says it’s based on J.S. Bach’s “Prelude No.1 in C Major,” but he’s dispensed with the melody and instead orchestrates the root chords through thick, symphonic-like synth densities. It is magisterial without a hint of the pompous.

After the cleansing, comes the light and a new dawn which launches with “Quantum of Memory.” It’s not a follow-up to the James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. It’s a sonic realization of philosophical and scientific concepts of memory and technology that he embodies with spinning sequencer patterns that build slowly before crashing in a crescendo and gently diffusing throughout the universal space.

One rarely thinks of Ian Boddy as making pretty music. He can be dynamic, dissonant, flowing, driving maybe even bombastic, but not pretty. But he does attain a poignant beauty on “Time Lapse” with a spare, minimalist piano motif that builds and interlocks with sequencer patterns before, like “Quantum of Memory,” they disperse.

“Shrine” has that ominous pulsing sound that Boddy has used so effectively over the years to create a menacing mood as synths sweep like search lights across the analog skies. When the electronic percussion rolls in with its 4/4/ groove, Boddy changes from a panther prowling through the night to an electronic mammoth stomping through the landscape.

My spell check wouldn’t acknowledge the song called “The Thaumaturge” and I had to look up its meaning. It’s one who practices magic based in science. One could certainly call Ian Boddy a thaumaturgist of sound and synthesizers. It’s a riveting work of contrapuntal sequencer grooves with a thudding bass accents and violin like synth phasing. Boddy does quite a lot in the syncopated 4/4 groove, creating electronic percussion instruments against a minimalist swirl. It’s the most driving track on the album, especially with those twanging Moog riffs.

“One Day” bookends the album, again with a classical motif. It sounds a ceremonial note that’s more like a procession into the royal court than a trip through space. Led once again by a piano based theme, Boddy, marches us out into the night, the breath of his synthesizers still in our ears.

As Above So Below resounds as one of Ian Boddy’s best work in his nearly four decades and many albums.

See a review of iNDEX05, a collection of music from Ian Boddy’s DiN label that was a bonus CD of the Month selection.
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