A few years ago, I was planning to buy a drum machine. I made a thorough background study. At the same time, I spotted a Facebook post by the Estonian electronic music artist Galaktlan (Taavi Laatsit) in which he praised the Swedish drum synthesizer Analog Rytm, which is told to be the best and with the most distinctive sound among drum machines. Although at first I had rejected this device because of its high price and apparent complexity, I put it back on my radar, because if it is suggested by someone who is such a strong authority for me, this has to be a good instrument. The drum machine was sold.
A few days later Galaktlan posted the first track, which was largely created on this machine – “Elealo”.
A few years went by and I read the news that Galaktlan is releasing a new album – En Garde. It turned out that although the man had never thrown away his instruments (in fact, the “real instruments” are largely thrown away and newer music has been created mostly with the support of virtual synthesizers) and new pieces of music were born every now and then, Analog Rytm played an important role in the fact that Taavi Laatsit who mostly resides abroad set a goal to release a new album. As Galaktlan told me, he had actually more new unreleased tracks, but he decided to start his next album with a clean slate and with a specific concept in mind and not just as a collection of single tracks.
Even though Taavi told me that En Garde is a conceptual follow-up to his previous album Constance regarding the feeling, for me, this album sounds like something in between his first album Sinine Platoo and Constance. And that’s exactly what makes En Garde so enjoyable for me. Sinine Platoo and some of the tracks made in the same period came out when I was at an age where music was strongly associated with different life events and emotions. This music turned out to be my soundtrack for a certain period in life. And because of the music from this era, I consider myself to be a fan or a great admirer of Galaktlan. Constance was a fairly smooth progression from the music on Sinine Platoo, and also full of tracks important for me. However, the albums released after these two developed in a little bit different direction. They were less electronic. Flirted with rock.
It happens to be that when the artists release a new album, fans are in high hopes that they will once again get a bunch of this good stuff they are used to. Oftentimes, it’s a big disappointment for the fans if it turns out that with the previous album, the artist has finished dealing with a certain topic and has decided to make something totally different. The fan either develops in the same direction with the musician or remains to listen to the first album and bashes that their former favourite has begun to do some “art” that’s good for nothing. I can not say that I do not listen to Taavi Laatsit’s latest music or that I do not like it, but these tracks are rather like nice colleagues with whom it’s fun to talk, but they are not like girls with whom you would go home from the club, if using a rather simple analogy of human relations. The bigger is my joy, when I can listen to something like this again, something that was once so important to me. Galaktlan’s trademark is back.
I recognize a good song when I am delved into some important activity such as sleeping, writing an article or working and music is playing in the background and suddenly I’m feeling that my attention is floating away from the important activity and I’m listening to music. When I hear the first four notes of “Ataraksia koidikul” (Ataraxia at Dawn) from the album En Garde, my attention is immediately on this track. The atmosphere with just enough reverb is enjoyable and calming. Ataraxia means the arrival of peace after nervousness, anxiety, tension. The Rytm drums that accompany the synth will soon bring back a little nervousness, but the dynamics and atmospheres of the track still create a home-like and safe feel. “Ataraksia koidikul” is a special highlight of the album and it’s no wonder that it is chosen to be a single and also has a video. When I listened to the album before talking with Galtaktlan, I wondered why he had not chosen this track to be the title song of the album. I myself would have named my album after the best track. It turned out that I had not been sufficiently skilled in reading the hints in the titles and album cover. It turned out that it happens to be a concept album.
Taavi Laatsit explained to me that on the album cover, two people are preparing for the duel. The concept of the album is the duel and things related to that. Be it a direct man versus man duel or an inner duel inside a person. En garde – the French term that means protect yourself is the starting point the duelists take for the duel. So it is a perfectly appropriate title song for the album. The titular track itself is perhaps the only one on this album, which I liked only after listening to it repeatedly. It’s like there is a little duel inside this track. A slightly dissonant, a bit irritating lower repetitive synthesizer sound and contrasting bright and calming harmony and solo using good old trademarks of Galaktlan, are fighting against each other. I can say in advance that the brighter side wins.
The album cover seems to depict winter, but in my opinion, the music on the album is too warm and too bright for the winter. Sinine Platoo, on the other hand, was pure winter music. Of course, it’s partly because of the fact that while listening to the Platoo, it was cold winter outside, and now, while listening to En Garde, I can see from the window how the trees are just starting to change their colour. If the album had been released in spring, I would probably hear the sounds of spring on it.
The album starts with that same first Analog Rytm track “Elealo”. In my opinion, this is an excellent opening track. Whoever has listened to some albums in their life knows that the first or second track must be strong, attractive. Otherwise, the listener may not continue with the album. Harmonies are good old Galaktlan’s atmospheres that make you ponder. On top of that is the pathetic positive hailing of the solo synthesizer.
The following track “Selle peale oleksin ma ise ka tulnud” (I Would Have Come to This by Myself) sounds like a kind of interlude at first. This is, in my opinion, the track where the two earlier albums, Sinine Platoo and Constance, blend together the most. Until the arrival of the drums, it has the vibe of Sinine Platoo and it continues with the sound which could easily be from Constance, mostly due to the bass.
“Denebi lilled” (Deneb Flowers) is probably the most beautiful track of the album. The only one without drums. It’s heartwarming that from the second part of the song I find a fragment of the remix Galaktlan made to the sys2074 track “Ferosal Coral” at the turn of the century. If there was a quiz where you had to guess the artist based on the tracks of the album without knowing them beforehand, that song would probably give me the best hint to give the right answer.
This calm song is followed by the most danceable one, “Kvantsurematu” (Quantum Immortal). This is also rather neutral. Does not quite touch my soul. But I think it could be very well used in some movie.
For me, the highlight of the last part of the album is “Schaerbeek”, which is the region in Brussels where Galaktlan has created the music of this album. Again, this is a very beautiful harmony and rhythm characteristic to Galaktlan. Connects well with the concept of the beautiful golden autumn, which I’ve been associating with this album instead of a duel.
The last track of the album is very short and ends very abruptly in my opinion. It seems like the album remains hanging in the air a little. It makes you think – is it really over because I just started (the overall length of the album is only 37 minutes). After this track, silence sounds a bit odd. But that’s what the duel is like. Ends sometimes quickly and unexpectedly. For some, with an eternal silence.