Atmosphere is a great new album of synth music album from Dutch synthesist Michel van Osenbruggen, aka Synth.nl. Atmosphere is a concept album, based on the layers of atmosphere that surround the Earth, the various types of clouds that are encountered within each layer and the sounds of weather that might occur at each layer. The tracks are arranged to follow the layers of the atmosphere, as if you were taking a trip from the earth into space. The 'atmosphere' concept isn't heavy-handed, but serves as a framework for Osenbruggen's music, which is electronic music in the synth music tradition of artists like Tangerine Dream, 80's Jan Hammer and Jean Michel Jarre. The music has a symphonic electronica texture with an emphasis on traditional analog-style sounds. The tracks on Atmosphere are very melodic, without being pop-ish. One of the highlights of the album is Stratocumulus. It features a sequenced synth bass line, a string/brass synth melody line and phased synth strings. Synth.nl builds on this with tasteful use of electronic percussion, effects and a bit of sampled ambient effects.
Another highlight is Allocumulus, which has an almost hymnlike quality. It begins by stating the theme with muted synth strings, accompanied by subtle percussive effects. It then repeats the theme in a series of variations, repeating once in an arpeggiated version, and then building to a broader statement of the theme with electronic rhythms and new instrumentation of the melody. Osenbruggen brings back the arpeggiated variation on the theme and then builds the piece back up to another peak. Jarre fans may smile a bit when hearing the track Mesosphere, which echoes the sounds of Oxygene and Equinoxe with its use of heavily phased synth strings and a melodic bass line. Another highlight is Allostratus. It's built around a descending bass line that repeats throughout most of the piece. Osenbruggen gives it a modern feel by using multiple layered basslines and electronic percussion, without taking it into dance music territory. Osenbruggen adds interest through effective used of synth orchestration and the use of several breaks. Overall, Synth.nl.s Atmosphere is a treat for synth fans. Osenbruggen's style of symphonic electronica will appeal to fans of classic synth music and space music artists of the late 70's and 80's but it's not too hard to imagine these tracks being remixed as dance music, too.