Note the vinyl edition has blue tinted stream design.

Air Liquide – ‘Nephology’

Rising High 1994

3 versions released, UK with 12 tracks and 14 track versions, German version has 12 tracks and variation in play list.

Version reviewed is the UK double vinyl release.

Recorded at Ocean Blue.

Track List –

Side A.
1. The Cloud   (9:55)
2. Semiwave   (7:03)
3. Auroral Wave

Side B.
1. Die Reisse Im Teekeesel   (11:32)
2. Nephology   (3:02)
3. THX is on

Side C.
1. If There Was No Gravity  (7:44)
2. Kymnea  (5:09)
3. Sulfur Clouds  (4:06)
4. Im Grlenmeyerkolen I  (2:29)
5. Im Grlenmeyerkolen II  (4:04)

Side D.
1. Stratus Static  (8:13)
2. Casiopeia  (6:05)
3. The Clouds Have Eyes  (6:44)

Personnel –

Cem Oral (Jamin Unit)
Ingmar Koch (Dr.Walker), both play the following –

AKAI DD 1000, DR4/ ARP 2600, 2500/ Chroma Polaris/ Kawai K3M/ MOOG 35, Realistic MOOG/ Korg MS50/ Oberheim Sem/ Oscar/ Roland Tr 808, JD800, Promers, SH101, TB303, MK57, MK580, Jupiter 8, R8M, S570, Tr 909, System 102, SUC 350/ Steiner Parker Synthacon, Modular/ Synenergy 2+/ Synton Syrinx/ Yamaha C5301 and FB01.

M.S Applegate – Lyrics.

Selective electronic musicians often come out with the line that they’ve been influenced on a particular album by the Krautrock greats, citing such luminaries as Roedelius, Michael Rothar, Klaus Schulze, Irmin Schmidt etc. As though they were in some way picking up the baton and running with it.
Of course most of this is a whole crock of shit, as hardly anyone essentially understood that these innovators from the 70s were always moving forward and re-inventing their sound, never usually dwelling on the past; just copying it or reprising it totally misses the point.
OK I’m sort of meandering off on a tangent, but basically you can take a look at the likes of Neu!, Cluster, Kraftwerk and CAN and see they were making something fresh and new; to really take on their train of thought means to push those delineated boundaries even further.

Heir apparent to the synthesizer and analogue re-wiring school of exploration, were, and still are, the Cologne duo of Air Liquide.
They took up their forefathers brave new world mantle, and built an ambitious and inspiring variation based around the technological leaps in music production; concentrating on the styles of Techno and Acid House.
Their seminal opus of 1994, Nephology, adopts vestiges of cinematic, industrial, ambient and dub; producing an impressive soundtrack that stands up well even by today’s standards, and adheres to the German desires of progress.
The duo comprised of the exceptionally talented Cem Oral and Ingmar Koch, better known as Jamin Unit and Dr.Walker, both entrenched in technical know-how – Koch was the lucky recipient of a Roland JX3P synthesizer on his 14th birthday, a gift that led to him being hired by Korg to program sounds for a number of their iconic models.
Koch began recording in the late 80s, composing, as he puts it, assembly line House and Hip Hop tracks for the German labels Hype! And Technoline. The latter label went bankrupt, prompting him to join a course on electronic composition at a University in Cologne.
He would soon meet fellow student and synth enthusiast Oral, and find that he also shared a common interest for groups like Tangerine Dream, CAN, Heaven 17, early New York Hip Hop and Chicago acid; working together seemed almost inevitable. By the end of 1991 Air Liquide was born, with their first EP releases following in a matter of months, and a self-titled debut at the end of 1992.

Their second album, the 1994 released Nephology opus, really upped the ante, with its mostly innovative themes and layered tracks, modeled around the more sophisticated tones of intelligent Techno and dance music – future projects saw the duo experimenting with Gabba hardcore and ethereal fashioned traversing styles of trance.
Singing from the same hymn sheet as The Orb, and many similar ambient acts, they immerse themselves in a haze of new-age touchy-feely rhetoric, using both celestial horizons and the skies above as the central theme to hang their music to.
That Nephology title is itself taken from the, originally Greek, word for clouds; adopted as the terminology for the study of their formations – interestingly over the last century it has remained a rather marginalised and forgotten art, well not was until the recent interest in global warming.

The 14-track album is split into various sections; with the main tracks interspersed amongst the otherworldly type segue ways and vignettes.
A central atmospheric resonance runs throughout, evoking a cosmological and space-age mood, one that has an often ominous or threatening feel to it; charged with rippling static effects.
Mainly we are treated to some indolently and cleverly multi-layering techniques, produced from an impressive display of iconic analogue/electronic equipment, including the Roland Tr 808, Jupiter 8, ARP 2600 and a pair of Moogs.

Side one of this double album entirely consists of acid drenched grooves and bouncing taut techno. The grand opening of ‘The Cloud’ emerges refined and full of empyrean quality from the ether, its tightened rolling drums and throbbing bass cascade over an electrified wild jungle rich sound collage; sounding like a Germanic 808 State.
As though in tribune to Klaus Schulze and his cohorts, the duo interweave startling ambient sequences, dousing the beats in swathes of metallic walled corridor sounds and whispering missed conversations.
This swirling tome is followed by the more Chicago house style of ‘Semiwave’; a sauntering announced rhythmic workout, full of ever-tightened repetitive percussion, moody dramatic bass and lethargic plonking notes.
Ethereal strains of some distant cooing float in and out of the track, setting the look-to-the-skies above scene perfectly, sending us hurtling ever further into the stratosphere.
Caustic meatier bass lines and squelchy 909 bleeps flourish on the bonus track ‘Auroral Wave’ – seems this and one other tune, are not included on all versions.
Hardened ticking away drums and pre-set hand-claps encounter Mo Wax space-esque sustains, whilst moving along at a Mannuel Göttsching pronounced building pace.

Air Liquide manage to absorb many different styles of music including dub; the strong use of dark moody bass can be found on tracks like ‘THX is on’, where Sly and Robbie meet Carl Graig’s Plastic People period flow.
There’s also room for Hip Hop, with the duo re-working Cypress Hill’s ‘Insane In The Brian’ for their own beguiling electro track ‘Stratus Static’. They manage to meld both the stoner-induced sample of the Hill’s track, with what sounds like a dub-esque clattering Art of Noise, to produce something quite original and sublimely dizzying.

Scattered throughout are more light-hearted moments, including ‘If There Was No Gravity’, where they take on the ambient workshops of both The Orb and Orbital. Wispy willowy female vocals poetically describe a sort of dipsy journey through the clouds, the lyrics leaning towards cliche almost –

“How you’d love to live up there,
Kiss the sun and walk on air.
If there was no gravity,
You’d be in nephology”.

Dubtastic bass lines bumble along to fill the sweeping calm and dreamy melodic’s, in a display of evanescent pulchritude.

The looming presence of Kubrick, or rather the meticulous chosen soundtracks that go hand-in-hand with his films, add dramatic passages of tension and suspense.
‘Die Reisse Im Teekeesel’ (loosely translated as ‘Those travels in the tea boiler’) uses 2001 A Space Odyssey harrowing soundscapes, with the chanting evocative mantras from ‘So Spoke Zarathustra’ to add intrepid doom.
Both ‘Kymnea’ and ‘Im Grlenmeyerkolben I and II’ echo and groan with menacing moments plucked straight from A Clockwork Orange: Walter (Wendy) Carlos’s switched on treatment of Henry Purcell’s ‘Music For The Funeral Of Queen Mary’, and the tormented ‘Timesteps’ are brought to mind.
Eerily the duo can’t help but intersperse a sober and haunting array of imbued cinematics, dropping in hints of Dune, Star Trek and The Thing to create an often emotive or imaginative atmospherics, which lends the album a certain gravitas.

On the closing track, ‘The Clouds Have Eyes’ they end on a chaotic hypnotic flourish. Helicopter chopping Jeff Mills style beats rapidly rotate, as a operatic style haunted choral sweep swirls around in the tumultuous cyclonic blades. That almost disturbing voice-like loop, calls out from the melee as though an apparition from some distant planet or dimension; a perfect finish.

‘Nephology’ does undoubtedly sound of its time to some extent; tied in some respects to a particular epoch, yet though it’s over 16-years old and counting, it somehow rises above sounding dated.
In fact recent revivals of the late 80s and early 90s electronic scenes – where labels such as R & S, Harthouse, Structure and Rising Hell fed the deep thinking dance music appetite – have encouraged a mini-renaissance and re-valuation. Artists such as Fuck Buttons for instance wondrously evoke that time, creating their own film-esque trance/electro masterpieces, which take their lead from these almost lost treasures. In 2010 you could easily slip a bit of the old Nephology into the club, and no one would blink.

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