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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

ROBERT FOX: Asfafa 2 (2014)

Asfafa 2 is a great tale well told in music by a very touching and emotive artist

1 A Wing and a Prayer 2:14 2 Distant Horizons 6:11 3 Chasing the Sun 6:52 4 Native 6:57 5 A Wing and a Prayer (Reprise) 2:44 6 Blue Skies, Dark Clouds 10:59 7 Over Turquoise Seas 8:14 8 Tongue of the Ocean 5:02 9 Mainland to Mountain 12:21 10 Roof of the World 1:48 AD Music | 113CD

(CD 63:39) (V.F.)

(Melodic Symphonic E-Rock)

Initially realized in 1991 on his personal label (FXCD1), Asfafa - A Journey is rapidly became a work reference in Robert Fox's career and in the kind EM which mixes a little more rock approach to some orchestrations a la Vangelis. The label AD Music reintroduces the work on CD in 2001. A justified initiative if we consider that the album went quickly sold out and became an object of rarity since. And now the English label does it again and gives life to a new version of Asfafa where Robert Fox reworked his opus again and remodelled it with new sonic touches, adding also a bonus track (Blue Skies, Dark Clouds).

A Wing and a Prayer comes down in our ears like an astral breeze. Angelic voices get melt into the smooth synth pads filled by dreamy and harmonious orchestrations. The tone is given to an album of symphonic dreams and light rhythms when furtive the movement of Distant Horizons comes off from the seraphic pads of A Wing and a Prayer to jump into our ears with a light and furtive rhythm fed by strange jerky fluty voices, a little bit funky, of which the bah-bah goes stop and go around the curves of Patrick O'Hearn's kind of bass line talks and as well as on the curt knocks of sober percussions. The structure remains dreamlike with beautiful synth layers which scatter an orchestral mist embellished by delicate notes of a pensive piano whose first line of harmony is also dense as the ballads of Vangelis. This piano becomes more incisive when it unfastens itself to have a walk alone with delicately hammered notes, leading the harmonies of Distant Horizons even farther in the lands of melancholy with a synth to the breaths of trumpets. Chasing the Sun adopts the same pattern of rhythm and harmony with an approach delicately more fluid. A panpipe covers the always soft rhythm, joining the lamentations lost by a false trumpet mislaid in the night and by so absent and evasive choruses. Native is more violent with keyboard riffs which weaves a good e-rock with a rhythm as roaming as a horse race in desert. We are in a solid symphonic e-rock, with a delicate perfume of Arabic film, with a sustained rhythm which runs and oscillates under this meshing of synth lines to the diverse syllabic forms. Blue Skies, Dark Clouds is a new track on this new version of ASFAFA 2. If the rhythm is as sneakier as on the previous tracks, the melodious approach differs with a delicate piano which spreads its pensive notes on a rhythm which cavorts on dunes of mist. The melody is superb, and the synths are more sober, and more suave should I say, than as everywhere on the original version which, imho, exploits a little too much the forms of voice at the detriment of its sonic wealth. But at the end, these voices eventually charm. I know it to have been caught by them. It's very beautiful. The structure of this album rests on those delicate riffs which swirl and shape rhythms as much ambient as meditative. That's how Over Turquoise Seas binds itself to our ears. The rhythm is soft. And the deliciously inviting melody and the orchestrations will delight the fans of Vangelis. And this romance continues on the very beautiful Tongue of the Ocean where literally we simply fall for this splendid and soft melody cemented in a heavy mood of worry. We are undoubtedly in the most beautiful moments of this exhilarating beauty which little by little submerges us all the time that ASFAFA 2 parades in our ears. We feel a little more dramatic approach being forged while the track goes to its end. Mainland to Mountain takes back the road of light rhythm with another delicate approach centred on notes of a piano which unfold the plans of a slightly spherical rhythm. But it's the voice from a wood Efle which caresses the strikes of very discreet percussions that makes the strength of this track of which the length seems to us very secondary so much everything is so well tied up there. Roof of the World follows these rules but with an intense dramatic cinematic approach. Still there, the fans of Vangelis' soundtracks are going to adore.

I have to admit that it took time, and listening, in order to gauge well this key work of the English EM. For many purists; if EM doesn't offer these improvised structures and these psychotroniques phases of the analog years, it's inevitably New Age. This way of compartmentalizing the kinds hurts inexorably to the art. Robert Fox's style is as lighter, inviting as poetics. Is it New Age? I don't believe so because there is nothing artificial in the approach which compares easily with the one of an author who tells chapter by chapter his last story. My preference will always go for a little more experimental works, but there is always room for an artist who rises himself over the mass with a creative approach which gives shivers to the soul. And it's exactly the charms of this Robert Fox's ASFAFA 2 which is situated without weaknesses in the very melodious and orchestral registers of Vangelis. I have never heard the first version, but I simply adored this 2nd. Very beautiful and especially very well done.

Sylvain Lupari (May 9th, 2014) *****

Available at AD Music

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