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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

MICHAEL SHIPWAY: Voyage to Venus (2011)

In Voyage to Venus Michael Shipway draws the lines of a very good album filled by this England School's heavy creativity

1 Kingfisher 8:17

2 Mekonta 5:20

3 Silicon Mass 6:12

4 The Jungle 6:45

5 The Mekon 5:55

6 Turning Blue 7:58

7 Submariner 8:23

8 Kargaz 4:29

9 Invasion 4:17

10 Victory 7:02

(CD 64:38) (V.F.)

(Progressive E-Rock, England School)

Rather recognized for his work within Volt, and most recently Lamp, Michael Shipway has been active on the EM scene since 1995 with a first album entitled Beneath Folly. VOYAGE TO VENUS is his 4th solo album, and a first since Spirit of Adventure in 1995. With as a backdrop of the cult science fiction comic book Dan Dare; Pilot of the Future, VOYAGE TO VENUS is an album that moves away from rhythms and ambiences sunk into controlled improvisation spheres in order to offer 10 more structured tracks. Animated and melodious tracks where the English musician dresses with tunes of Mike Oldfield, offering even interesting duels synth / guitar, and Mark Shreeve with a zest of Tangerine Dream from the Miramar years. Half of Volt offers a whole range of genres in musical structures which are steeped in the dialogues of this series brought to the airwaves of the English BBC. Voices and brouhahas carefully inserted which bring a very futuristic dimension to an album which is worth the detour.

Clear sequences of which the hits alternate in a static broth along with these voices and these cosmic elements which soak the listener instantly in related atmospheres are piercing the very atmospheric intro of Kingfisher. The rhythm is light and catchy. Arched over these lively sequences and sober percussions, it wanders with a barely jerky gait on the harmonies that a flute traces and let float in a fine cosmic mist. And like in a large majority of the titles here, this rhythm explodes finely in the second portion. It vibrates with its resonant chords under the complex curves and lines of a synth which doesn't spare its solos. We recognize through this title, and many others, the influence of Chris Franke on the rhythms and visions of the sequencer. Mekonta offers a heavy rhythm with percussions of Bongos/Tablas styles which sculpt a tribal-cosmic approach with the twisted lines of a synth and the solos which spit the venoms of a heavy electric guitar. Silicon Mass presents a more fluid rhythm with sequences that hop alternately on the ghostly breaths of goggled eyes Martians. A guitar weaves fine harmonies which get lost on a rhythm become more powerful where Michael Shipway takes advantage of the movement's heaviness to add other furious guitar solos. The Jungle begins in the braking dust of a spaceship. The intro presents hesitant chords which flutter with the heaviness of their resonances, fooling surreal dialogues which vanish in the heavy percussion strikes. The rhythm then becomes heavy, adopting the soft lascivious curves of a good electronic ballad caressed by a synth with strange aromas of futuristic saxophone.

After a The Mekon which loads the galaxy with crackling waves where a dark and melancholy atmosphere à la Blade Runner assails our memories, Turning Blue deploys its fragile glass chords in a delicate spiral which swirls in the shade of the ambient airs of a solitary synth. If the first part offers a meditative approach, the percussions' kicking which shake the tranquility pull the title towards an alien down-tempo where is teeming a luxuriant organic fauna. A fine strummed melody makes a diversion while insistent riffs plunge Turning Blue towards a curious galactic ride where off-screen voices and synth twisted lines are flaying the delicate melody which always seeks refuge in this curious crossover of rhythms, ambiences and melodies that tear its canvas. With its ballast noises, Submariner vibrates on the chords of a bass line and on an armada of Bongos-style percussions which structure a fairly funky approach. And the pace is made of concrete! Surrounded by good synth solos, it's also eaten away by stroboscopic lines that forge a jerky funk as guitar solos transform in a sort of half-blues/half-jazz. Still on a background of Dan Dare, Kargaz offers a soft ballad approach with fretful chords on the breaths of a soft ethereal flute. The rhythm is soft, framed by clouds of angelic mist, and the melody is drawn by a skillfully played acoustic guitar. One tells me that it's Mike Oldfield that I would tend to believe it. Invasion offers a structure like Mekonta but with a more nervous and a more pulsating approach, while Victory deploys a more rock rhythm with a cadence which gallops under the melodious winds of the solos from a synth as musical as emotional. It's a good title with a cinematic approach that reminds me of the world of Mark Shreeve.

Generally, I am one of those who approach an album with samples of voices and tumult of action movies in a fairly refractory way! And I must confess that these elements bring a realistic touch (sic!) to this JOURNEY TO VENUS. For Volt fans, the musical landscape offered by Michael Shipway may surprise. But all in all, and by join the 10 tracks of the album end to end, we see that it's not very far from the alternating current of Volt. I liked it. Michael Shipway surrounds his structures very well in rhythms and atmospheres that follow the traces forged in the England School model by Ian Boddy, Mark Shreeve, Andy Pickford and David Wright. And that very well depicts the rather original journey of VOYAGE TO VENUS.

Sylvain Lupari (November 5th, 2012) ***½**

Available at MSL Music

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