Nautilus - When Time Is Just A Word

Nautilus – When Time Is Just A Word

When Time Is Just A Word is the 9th album by the German electronic progressive rock band Nautilus and is an atmospheric and flowing album of largely instrumental music that will appeal to listeners who appreciate dreamy, ambient, keyboard-led soundscapes overlaid by expressive, extended, and floating electric guitar soloing.

Led by founder, Martin Ludwig on keyboards/synthesizers and supported by Jürgen Dürrbeck on synthesisers/sequencer, they create a rich background keyboard wash that will appeal to fans of mid-period Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Vangelis and even Pink Floyd. However, what lifts the music up from its trippy musical ambience are the pure, soaring guitar lines of Werner Strätz, which combines elements of David Gilmour, Peter Green and Mike Oldfield amongst others to the evocative instrumentation. Occasional vocals and samples are supplied by Meiko Richert, with Katja Weigel adding backing vocals as appropriate.

The album is loosely inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days but is not necessarily restricted to the literary concept completely. Contemporary observations on modern travellers, introspection and even cosmic exploration mix with scenes from the novel. However, A Gentleman’s Bet opens with the sounds of Big Ben, and we are taken to the Reform Club in London, where Phileas Fogg accepts a £20,000 wager that he can complete his global journey in the said eighty days. Meiko’s dark vocals with their distinctive Germanic lilt add a sense of foreboding before the album’s template of electric guitar and occasional acoustic guitar, over the wash of synthesisers, begins over a rising tempo. Free Wings starts with a more futuristic electronic feel, before Werner’s reflective and echoing lead guitar, which for me sounds like Snowy White’s solo playing on his Bird of Paradise track from the 80s (itself a homage to Peter Green’s era in Fleetwood Mac.)

Travellers Without Time, begins with piano and then acoustic guitar, before Mark Knopfler-like guitar adds some nice sparkle. However, rhythmic Tangerine Dream synthesisers and pulsating sequences, with hints of The Alan Parsons Project, create a lovely hypnotic, ambient feel and tempo, with the track allowed to build gradually, through to the later introduction of lead guitar. Martin has said the music was inspired by the modern trend for travellers to rush through famous sights without actually experiencing them – as if it is more important to document them with their smartphones than to reflect on them (a later, shorter track, Donkey And Sheep has a similar meaning, with animal sounds and Roger Waters-like vocals over strummed guitar and a rich organ sound, before a delicate closing guitar solo).

Wherever You Go, is a different style, with Meiko’s vocals accompanied by a mid-tempo chugging rock beat and pleasing Wishbone Ash-style power chords and soloing, as we follow Inspector Fixx’s dogged pursuit of Fogg and his servant Passepartout. However, Crusading Light is very much a return to the band’s signature style – one that, for me, is fully realised on my favourite track, October Sunrain – where for over 10 minutes the almost improvised, dancing interplay between guitar and keyboards is lovely.

To Another Dimension has undulating Vangelis-style synthesisers at the start and a dreamy, cosmic, sci-fi, ambient feel before a native drum rhythm propels the music later, adding some welcome variety. Country of Stars, with some lyrical chiming guitar notes recalls a specific scene from the novel, where a dangerous encounter between the Sioux and American soldiers threatens to derail Fogg’s journey. The vocal snippet ‘Can I risk 50 lives to save 3’ conjures up this dramatic part of the story in the United States.

Rainbow Tears has a sleepy, melancholic feel, with the reflective, vocal ‘…never see you again’ accompanied by the piano, acoustic guitar along with the lush keyboard backing. It has a rather personal meaning to Martin and fits the album flow well. The album ends with the poignant Back Home in Silence, recalling, in the novel, Aouda’s feeling of pity for Fogg’s loneliness, as he returns home after his travels – with vocal samples adding to the overall contemplative ambience and downbeat, melancholic conclusion.

With just a few exceptions, there is a similarity to the musical soundscape throughout the album’s almost 70-minute duration. As a result, it is best appreciated in one sitting to allow you to be fully enveloped within the intertwining keyboards and guitar patterns and allow them to drift and flow at their own pace around you. Whilst there is nothing particularly ground-breaking here, the standard of musicianship is consistently high throughout, and this German electronic progressive band weave an intriguing, largely instrumental, tapestry of ambient, psychedelic and symphonic textures worthy of further exploration.

01. A Gentleman’s Bet (4:29)
02. Free Wings (4:25)
03. Travellers Without Time (11:58)
04. Wherever You Go (3:39)
05. Crusading Lights (6:31)
06. Donkeys And Sheep (2:58)
07. October Sunrain (10:16)
08. To Another Dimension (6:19)
09. Country Of Stars (6:40)
10. Rainbow Tears (3:56)
11. Back Home In Silence (8:05)

Total Time – 69:16

Jürgen Dürrbeck – Synthesizer & Sequencer
Martin Ludwig – Keyboards, Synthesizer, Guitars, Samples
Meiko Richert – Vocals, Voice Samples
Werner Strätz – Guitars
~ with:
Katja Weigel – Backing Vocals

Record Label: Sireena Records (CD, Digital)
Country of Origin: Germany
Released: 15th April 2024

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