“I/O is a nice surprise that should appeal to EM fans of the Tangerine Dream's Jive years, like the England School genre from AD Music”
1 Pale Blue Dot 9:36
2 Despair (An Ending) 4:54
3 Summer Daze 3:47
4 Theory 5:38
5 Mission 4:19
6 Pandora 4:26
7 Marrakesh 5:47
8 Luxflux 6:58
9 Visions 6:15
10 i/o 8:51
(CD/DDL 60:29) (V.F.)
(E-Rock, E-Soft-rock, Techno, New Age)
Cinematographic opening followed by a female voice reciting a text by Carl Sagan. Pale Blue Dot crumbles its long-narrated introduction over a 4-minute journey before the tonal colors of Nik Owen-Jones light up our ears. Behind this voice, we heard the fat and juicy sequences born between the gliding of mist's banks torpedo our ears with a static flow of the rhythm lines which extend their wide sequenced loops in a futuristic vision. It's the percussions which establish a very rock-electronic approach, while the multicolours sequences thread a finely stroboscopic link. The rhythm thus opposes a fluid vision to another more jerky one up until a short phase of cosmic atmospheres hits the pace, before getting back with strength beneath a sky barded of lively striations and sound graffiti worthy of intergalactic war video games. Bits of very Jean-Michel Jarre harmony, in a pattern reminiscent of Night in Shanghai, as well as jets of solos lie on the last quarter of Pale Blue Dot which puts our ears in appetite. Guest artist at the E-Scape 2019, Nik Owen-Jones is an English musician who had been dreaming to be a modern-day rockers for over 30 years. He touched to everything and played all styles. It was the French musician's Oxygene album that would spark his passion for EM. He invests time and money in his new passion until he finishes I/O which is one of the great surprises in 2019.
We have something for all styles and tastes in this album. Our ears will embrace big heavy rock, like ballads with a New Age zest. Despair (An Ending) and its nostalgic piano is a nice ballad of the style that David Wright would certainly have liked to design. Beautiful, tender and poignant! Summer Daze is a good cosmic funk a la Robert Schroeder, while the very energetic Theory breaks loose the rhythm in a spasmodic techno which reminds me of the big rave parties of the 80's. Both for sound and vision! Small known text of the bible's Genesis, and Mission flies away in a light rock with harmonies woven on twisted effects and orchestrations in a context of pity for a one-way trip to oblivion. Pandora means what it means! Either be a static rhythm box which opens with a swarm of nervous percussive elements and swarming in all directions. This nest of percussions and sequences is teeming with a hyperactive life which counterbalances a rather sober musical decor, and which visits several eras. I would say that we are in the hollow of I/O which is coming back to life, both in terms of energy and creativity, with Marrakesh. Its first 2 minutes are atmospheric and set the table for a fabulous train which rolls with a very good vision at the level of percussions and harmonies with a melody which does in the very Tangerine Dream from the Logos years. Very, very good! The final brings us to the thundering dragging chords of Luxflux which casts a veil of intensity to an introduction where flutter in the background some feverish arpeggios all frail. The percussions realign the rhythm towards a heavy and lively rock with a melodious portion which is just as much. Very good heavy, heavy and heavy electronic rock with a short atmospheric phase, which lasts less than it took to write it, before the hard and heavy sequences assemble a beat sunk in concrete where the synth doesn't only whistle melodies. The very melodious Visions doesn't play shy after these two big behemoths. Not as heavy, nor as lively, but as much good with its electronic beat which softens in the caresses of violin. The stream of undulating sequences clings to orchestrations in staccato mode and deviates towards a genre of New Age, especially because of the melody on piano, in an envelope of electronic soft-rock. The guitar adds more rock to a track worthy of the Code Indigo repertoire. We stay a bit in the niche of the 90's with the rather Leftfield opening of the title-track. A synth disguised as a Mexican trumpet player adds melody to this structure which bubbles from the inside. A structure that breathes a bit of Mark Shreeve and a lot of David Wright with a violence repressed by the sequencer and assumed by sober percussions. In the end, it's a static electronic rock in a very cinematic envelope.
The 90's influences fill our ears with this debut album by Nik Owen-Jones. I/O is a nice surprise that should appeal to EM fans of the Tangerine Dream's Jive years, like the England School genre from AD Music. The very detailed vision in terms of the arrangements and harmonies from its author gives it a New Age appearance which flirts very well with the different structures of an EM which draws its essence from the big names of contemporary EM, from Robert Schroeder to Mark Shreeve, without forgetting the Techno visions of Jean-Michel Jarre.
Sylvain Lupari (February 29th, 2020) *****
Available at Nik Owen-Jones Bandcamp