Friday, December 25, 2009

Terra Ferma - Turtle Crossing (Original TC Review)

Best Price: $43.39terra ferma













Platipus: Cat. # plat 30CD
Released 1997

TRACK LIST:
1. Lunar Sunrise (10:14)
2. Fire (7:44)
3. The Scream (8:13)
4. Visions (7:57)
5. The Poet (6:32)
6. Floating (9:46)
7. The Snakecharmer (10:53)
8. Planet Ogo (7:56)
9. Crazy People (7:10)


(2010 Update:
Ugh. Another meticulously detailed review. I find these read better if you just ignore the whole middle sections, as the first couple and last couple paragraphs basically sum up my thoughts. Still, if you don't mind long, dry descriptions of music, I suppose this is alright.)



IN BRIEF: Music and themes best not forgotten.

Claudio Giussani created some classic acid trance numbers with Simon Berry such as Red Herring and Two Full Moons And A Trout when they produced together as Union Jack. Their collaboration seemed to be short lived though, as Berry went on to do big things as Art Of Trance and Giussani went onto, um, not-as-big things as Terra Ferma.

Which is a shame really, because if this album is any indication, Giussani is an exceptional producer. His ability to utilize natural percussion so they co-exist with your typical trance patches - rather than stand out as gimmicky - is uncanny. Coupled with creating stirring, somber melodies being melded with fast-paced acidy rhythms, and you have some truly captivating tracks on offer here. The added bonus is Giussani manages to keep things thematic, namely drawing upon Tibetan milieus, a bit of a unique setting as far as trance tends to be concerned.

As the opener for this album, Lunar Surprise makes abundant use of such elements. After a woodwind intro, things begin to speed along quite nicely with suitable patches of dark electronic squelches and effects offset by melodic string pads and piano arpeggios while the percussion is a nice blend of the synthetic and organic. Layers are continuously added, building up to a breakdown some five minutes into the track. Here, we're introduced to some tribal chants as strings and pianos play in the background and things build back up to right where we left off with this interlude. Things play out quite typically from here: previous elements coming and going for the remainder four minutes, with extra layers of organic percussion being gradually added to a rousing climax. All and all, Lunar Surprise is a strong start to this album.

Aiming straight for the dancefloor, Fire starts out with quick kicks and acidy basslines. Layers of synth pads, acid squelches, and organic percussion are continuously added, building momentum for over three minutes into a minor breakdown. A high-pitched acid melody is introduced here and, in a surprising contrast to the darker overtones of the start of this track, it has quite the melancholic tone about it. Once Fire gets going again, the melody doesn't stick around for long, instead letting the rhythms dominate here with subtle stuttering strings taking over for the duration.

Moving away a bit from the somber melodies is The Scream, despite the use of voice pads in the beginning. That isn't to say this track is devoid of emotion, rather it's just not as important here. Darker and harder than the previous two, many pitch effects are employed on its acid and synth patches. Structurally, this song isn't all that far removed from the previous two as it follows the more traditional lead-in, mild breakdown, brief build, rush to the finish template of many trance tracks. Even with some string pad moments, the acid lines are the dominant element throughout, keeping the energy going. After all, if a sample going, "WHOOooooooo-rrrAH!" doesn't spark an adrenaline surge, I don't know what will.

Visions starts things off a little slower compared to what's come before but it too is a fairly energetic track. A deep bass line is introduced, something that, while not completely lacking, hasn't had enough attention given to thus far on this album. The main riff uses some stuttering synth stabs but it doesn't really come across as anything that hasn't been heard on the album to a varying degree yet. In fact, Visions has quite a bit that is structurally similar to everything else that has come before on this album. There are some tribal-like male chants in a breakdown but, unlike Lunar Surprise, they don't really add much to the overall texture of the song. Probably one of the most unique aspects I noticed are the hand claps in the percussion. At some point midway through (I'll let you discover where; why should I ruin all the fun?), they go from straightforward strikes every second beat to a far more energetic pattern. It's quite subtle but the energy it adds is remarkable.

On its own, Visions is quite good. However, since all the previous tracks have made use of the same structure, it doesn't seem to stand out as well as it should. There's an unfortunate feeling of 'been there, done that,' and I hope this trend doesn't continue for the rest of the albums.

With more prominent organic percussion, The Poet has more of a bouncy start to it after some acid lead-in. Don't be fooled, though, as, like those that came before, there is a somber atmosphere to this track as well. Shorter than the rest, the use of the breakdown method mid-way through isn't as prominent, serving more as a brief pause in the momentum rather than a full-out break as no new melodies are introduced. A few additional elements like pianos and extra acid come and go but, for the most part, The Poet is a subtle song compared to the rest, making it a nice respite from all the simialarily structured tracks that's come before.

Floating comes across as a collection of elements that have already been used thus far, stripped down to their very basic components. Really, this makes some sense as Floating was the first single Giussani produced as Terra Ferma. Things build quite nicely in this song as percussion meshing synthetic with organic instruments accompany melodic string pads, synth stabs, and piano solos. As with the tracks that came before, a breakdown slows things down again midway through before building back up again, peaking with stuttering voice pads. Yet another strong song but perhaps a change of scenery would benefit this album's overall effect.

As if heading the call, The Snakecharmer opens up outdoors, with a campfire and crickets chirping while a large drum beats in the distance. A woodwind and string pad intro goes on for nearly three minutes but it's quite nice to listen to after six straight songs of straightforward trance numbers. Once things get going, The Snakecharmer opts for minimal use of trance elements, foregoing organic percussion, breakdowns, and evident melodies. Granted, there are some somber moments to be had thanks to pad work and subtly stuttering acid effects but, for the most part, this is a simple, hypnotic song, entrancing you with rhythms and sight leads.

Like the light at the end of a somber tunnel, Planet Ogo has a more optimistic tone about it. With mellow strings and voice pads, this song very simply goes about its business with the usual assortment of organic percussion and acid lines that we've come to expect thus far on this album. Neither trying to outdo anything already given, this track seems to be quite aware it's nearing the end of Turtle Crossing. And to finish off, Crazy People takes us through an ambient excursion of Gregorian chants, dark synth pads, progressively layered organic percussion, piano melodies, and a long sample of 12 Monkeys. All in all, it's a nice diversion from what's come before, and a fine way to finish off the album.

Any song on Turtle Crossing could make for a strong single but there is a problem to be had with cramming your album as such. The flow of it can come off a little repetitive without something to mix it up in between. Perhaps some of the differently themed songs toward the end could have made the transitions between the songs more intuitive had they been placed in a different track order.

This niggling nitpick isn't enough to not recommend this release though. In fact, there is more than enough on here that fans of trance old or new can equally enjoy. You have acid and quick rhythms for those who prefer the more hypnotic era of the style, and nice melodies for those whom discovered trance at a later date. It's quite remarkable that Giussani managed to craft an album that crossed these two time periods of trance's short history without loosing any credibility.


Score: 8/10

ACE TRACKS:
Fire
Floating
The Snakecharmer



Written by Sykonee. Originally published 2005 for TranceCritic.com.© All rights reserved.

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