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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Andy Pickford Forbidden Spheres (2023)

Updated: Apr 23, 2023

This is an album as we can expect and wish from the unique Andy Pickford

1 Liminal Freefall 7:49

2 Plato's Box 7:18

3 Quarklight 5:35

4 Zak the Juggler 7:08

5 Forbidden Spheres no.1 9:26

6 Forbidden Spheres no.2 11:16

7 Forbidden Spheres no.3 10:08

8 Forbidden Spheres no.4 9:39

9 Forbidden Spheres no.5 11:30

(DDL 79:53) (V.F.)

(E-Rock, England School Electronica)

No! Andy Pickford is definitely not at the end of his resources. Nor in lack of inspiration! The last album I reviewed of the famous English musician was Vanishing Point. And it was in 2021. Since then, the electronic music (EM) rocker from Derby has continued to produce album after album, not far from 15, all of which have addictive stuff that our ears can easily tune into. And I decided to dive deeper into one of his recent works to hear if the prolific musician had as many interesting things to say. Yes, he has! Always flirting with the full capacity of the customary 80 minutes of EM offered for CD-(r) format, Andy offers in FORBIDDEN SPHERES an album at the measure of his talent and at the excessiveness of his fans and of his new public continuously demanding of this colorful character. Exploiting more or less the same rhythmic and harmonic veins, the man who was one of the precursors of the England School knows how to arouse our interest by adding just the right amount of percussions, arrangements and snippets of melodies so that our ears always remain under the spell of his evolving minimalist structures. Lively, driving rhythms support a plethora of sequenced melodies that easily weave disturbing earworms, while the arrangements flirt with creepy and supernatural worlds. And in the end, FORBIDDEN SPHERES' music can be listened to like a dark English tale that always leaves a little room for the lyrical side of a poetry without verse.

The imaginary circles of keyboard chords falling like a drop of sound on a peaceful lake are at the origin of Liminal Freefall. Arpeggios sounding like hand percussions and resonant chords are the first resources of a rhythm structure built around 3 ideas thrown into the sequencer. Saccadic, danceable and melodic, the rhythm flows peacefully before the percussions bring it into a livelier and heavier structure. It becomes a good electronic rock with a small verse released by arpeggios that weave a delicate melodic obsession. This brief melody is a recurring pattern in the track and its intonations will be heard later in the album. It floats over an electronic flow driven by a jerky sequencer line and the stop'n'go percussions that will drive the dynamic rhythms of this new Andy Pickford album. Resonant chords and a zigzagging line of sequenced arpeggios, the opening of Plato's Box is in the same parameters. Still as gracefully coated with a cloud of chords, electronic effects that flirt with psybient as well as heavy percussions whose resonant and vibrating strikes are also recurring elements in the album and finally percussive sequences, the rhythm is less vigorous and offers a nice slow tempo on which one dances in floating circles while meditating on those arpeggios still as melodious and close to weaving another earworm. Quarklight is somewhat in the same vein with languid synth solos and a plethora of percussive effects that clatter and resonate over a structure that's not too far from progressive rock, think Curved Air, UK and FM, from the 70's because of this violin tint of the synth. Zak the Juggler is more in Techno and/or EDM mode with a rhythmic structure that builds to a rhythmic music ideal for jogging. The percussive tinkling, electronic percussion machine gunning and sequencer in Frankie Goes to Hollywood mode are very effective.

Divided in 5 parts which total nearly 52 minutes of EM answering to different structures of rhythms, the long title track of this new album of the English electronic rocker begins with Forbidden Spheres no.1 which offers to our ears, well knocked out by this rhythmic power which shakes the spheres of FORBIDDEN SPHERES, different structures of rhythms which converge in a solid fusion of a pulsating and jerky rhythm. I like this effect of short breaths that are linked to some percussions. And sometimes violently bludgeoned by a raging percussion play, the rhythm is still very driving. Organic effects, such as intestinal grunts, distant voices humming wah-wahs and wandering voice layers that make for intriguing singing are enhancing the psychedelic and organic nature of the track. AP also inserts some good arrangements that give a more musical relief and over-dimension the charms of this track whose necklace of shimmering arpeggios makes float a melody that easily weaves a haunting tune. Although a bit more intense, Forbidden Spheres no.2 offers a less heavy structure that is structured on lines of arpeggios singing in the grooves of absent voice layers. The sequencer follows both a melodic ascending mode and a slightly jerky repetitive structure. The percussion, always rather violent in its cadenced crashes, adds heaviness to the track. Forbidden Spheres no.3 follows with a pulsating bass shadow that traces long droning filaments. Percussion chords tinkle and resonate like those nimbly and spiritedly strummed on a glass xylophone. This first structure of sequenced rhythmic melody is quickly overtaken by these heavy and lively percussion strokes that resonate with their electronic splash effects. The rhythm becomes a kind of spasmodic trance and welcomes this distant but fascinating synthesized melody that seems to be whistled by the wind. The melodic sequence becomes more and more unbridled, constantly challenging the heaviness and velocity of the percussions. This brings us to the rather ethereal opening of Forbidden Spheres no.4. The synth weaves a warm wave where a soft melody for dreamers tinkles. This ritornello is sequenced in a repetitive sequence and undulates over a rhythmic structure that is mainly driven by another heavy set of electronic percussion that plows a semi-slow motion. The structure develops like Forbidden Spheres no.3, except that the cadenced melody gradually fades to one that is pushed by the synth whose loops are mimicked by a shadow made up of melodic tinkles. Forbidden Spheres no.5 adopts a bit the ethereal approach of no.4 to develop on a pulsating rhythm always challenged by an intense play of the percussions which have this gift to raise over us the pinnacle of FORBIDDEN SPHERES rhythms. The difference here is that the fusion of the sequencer and the percussions structure an electronic procession whose semi-slow flow grows with a dramatic effect closed to cinematographic arrangements. The synth weaves a melodic approach that matches, if not exceeds, the processional intensity of this rhythm that develops with a Babylonian dramatic vision. Only Andy Pickford could imagine such a finale to an album that develops slowly and with an accentuation as much on the level of the rhythms, the arrangements and the atmospheres where the zenith reached in Forbidden Spheres no.5 can only command that our ears to hear again and again a FORBIDDEN SPHERES that is more than we can hope, after all these years, of a work from Mr. Pickford.

Sylvain Lupari (April 23rd, 2023) ****¼*

Available at Andy Pickford Bandcamp

(NB: The texts in blue are links you can click on)

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