Synth.NL’s well-honed mastery of classic analog/Berlin music gets an extra dose of theme on his 2011 release, Apollo. This rocket-fueled joyride whooshes through a dozen sequencer-based scenarios, abetted by soundbites taken from Mission Control recordings. Michel van Osenbruggen neatly captures the feel of our early jaunts into space, from the rush of takeoff to the grace of zero-G to the expectation of splashdown. Many of the tracks here are powered by deep, rich bass lines, a solid and funky bedrock that perfectly supports his higher-end flights. This is at its best in the patient movement of “Docking.” The bass tiptoes along like the subtle and deliberate manipulations of the docking craft. At the same time, van Osenbruggen manages to pipe in a feeling of suspense.

Apollo truly hits its stride when it’s going full-speed. “Apollo 11″ catches me with a moment of sudden acceleration that puts me in mind of the 80s New Romantic band Classix Nouveaux–a burst of dance-worthy electro-pop groove that’s pure fun. Appropriately, “Reentry” is uptempo and energetic, but also carries a great hopeful feel–the sense of heading toward victory.  The gentler pieces also excel in conveying the theme. “Earthrise” coasts along on a flute-like sequencer. Plucked notes reminiscent of the work of Ray Lynch carry the melody and paint a picture of the big blue marble coming into view in the distance. “Apollo 8″ is a perfect floating spacemusic construct with Berlin influences at the edges. Electronic twiddles dance in the space around van Osenbruggen’s graceful melody. The overall atmosphere of Apollo, if you’ll pardon the pun, is wonderfully amplified by the voice samples. They create a real sense of narrative. van Osenbruggen is telling a story he’s very passionate about, and he puts that straight into the music. Apollo is a lot of fun to listen to, particularly at volume. (Drive with this on and you may likely exceed all local speed limits.) Kudos also to van Osenbruggen for his detailed liner notes. He gives a bit of history about the flight or mission aspect that each track is named after. It’s one more bit of extra effort that makes the disc stand out. Available from Groove Unlimited.

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