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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

ROBERT FOX: House of Chimes (2020)

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

Excellent, it's one of Robert Fox's incredibly good albums that is good to hear in these strange days

1 House of Chimes 9:52

2 Murmuration 7:14

3 The Devil's Puzzle 6:34

4 Prayers of Light and Darkness 7:26

5 Lockdown 10:30

6 Dark Mirror 10:44

7 Glimmer of Light 7:48

8 Rainbow's End 4:24

(CD/DDL 64:32) (V.F.)

(Orchestral Cinematic EM)

It's with a buzzing breath that the first bells ring in this new universe of Robert Fox. Quite early, our ears are seized by this fascinating ritornello of the piano whose imperfect circles collect a no less fascinating voice of this female singer who hides in the secrets of an orchestral synth. It's difficult to lift your ears in front of this immense opening title whose cinematographic scents are weaving shivers. Thus, our listening hangs in this piano line which makes its notes ring in a void which is covered with sentimental orchestrations and this synthesized voice. The movement is deliciously slow. It moves forward with the weight of his emotion translated by violins extending slow caresses which now cling to the tssitt-tssitt of the electronic cymbals. We feel a revival in this movement which seems to fly away with a weakness in one side, dragging and circling above muffled and scattered explosions to bring us inside a watchmaking and its variegated jingles. House of Chimes, the title, kicks off an album both dark and very poetic where the multitude of tinkles disrupts time. Robert Fox has found a new formula to question our desire to go further in his musical universe, by linking to his eternal piano notes that ring like the resonances of different bells and chimes whose shimmers in the light are inserted in tones in this universe yet bordering the limits of darkness. There is also this magnificent cyborg singer who has been discreet and very sensual in the halls of HOUSE OF CHIMES whom you never know what we will fall on once past her limits. In short, a lyrical album where the thrills are as numerous as our enchantments.

These are immense waves of sound and water, in the form of sounds, that Murmuration shakes up the ambiences a little with a rhythm initiated and sustained by the clicking of cymbals which flutter gently on the repeated blows of electronic percussions. The rhythm is a good tribal rock in a race against time and takes a melodious path with a piano and arrangements conceived in poetry. A voice hums with a strange sensuality in the ahhh and the humm in ahhh, imitating the songs of magical birds which come and go in graceful pirouettes on a rhythm that has turned into ambient and adorned of very nice percussive effects with tones of soft wood. An incredibly good title which needs these ethereal whispers before concluding. The first impression that comes to us when listening to the opening of The Devil's Puzzle is hearing Mike Oldfield, period The Songs of the Distant Earth. And then comes this piano which unrolls its keyboard in a texture that reminds us that Robert has already played with Code Indigo. Its opening is covered with a water leak. The rhythm sets in with the fragility of a wooden metronome before biting into an intense passage dominated by the harmonic series of a piano and letting go in a vision of Caribbean rhythm. The xylophone makes us dance on the wings of a cloud of violins with soaring lentos in a second part which is more intense and more animated. The opening of Prayers of Light and Darkness plunges me into my memories of Mind Over Matter with this feminine voice whose felted timbre resonates between the synth lines which wave before my eyes. Slow layers of Mellotron implant this dark power of an organ in an esoteric ambience where the astral penchant of these ambiences confront the sibylline visions of a music which suddenly takes a tangent remarkably close to Tangerine Dream's Legend. The non-existent rhythm remains shaken by these explosions without consequences which animate the ambient movements of HOUSE OF CHIMES where the chimes are always slow to come out of their den. The bass drum rolls à la Vangelis make our chills roll and calm the intensity of the moods, allowing Robert Fox to charm us with his piano which serves as a bed for this voice so sweet and yet soulless. Between the resonating drums and the whispers, the finale draws us into the lair of time and its chimes announcing the second part of this still elusive album.

A buzzing wave makes some small bells quiver and lines of a dreamlike synthesizer at the opening of Lockdown. Torn by its instants of rhythms contained in the essential and its rather ethereal ambient phases, the music and its atmospheric elements take up the main lines of the first 31 minutes of the album in a long moment of atmospheric tenderness. The crucial moment arrives a little before the 4th minute with cries that merge with orgasmic laments forced to remain in anonymity. A heavy explosion falls at the same time, putting Lockdown on the stop before all these elements form the detonation of a violent tribal explosion announced by a Gong a little after the 5th minute. This ethnic rhythm is lively and propelled by percussions in mode: war's tom-toms. Our ears are entitled to a fascinating duel of the vocal capacities of the synth software which seems to be able to exploit a choir with as many intonations as it needs. This tribal dance exceeds 2 minutes, restoring this splendid title that we want to hear again as soon as possible in a finale that stirs the ashes of its opening. From the opening of House of Chimes to that of Lockdown, Robert Fox has accustomed us to repressed textures that become compact and always on the verge of exploding. But never like here and on the rhythm supported by the ticking of time in Dark Mirror which flows like an excellent marriage of the genres of David Wright and Code Indigo in a beautiful electronic ballad very musical and catchy which wins over 3 ambient phases. Another particularly good track in the purest tradition of the AD Music label. Glimmer of Light presents a rather good suggestive down-tempo with this intonation of a saxophonist and its heartbreak on a rhythm structured on regular beats. A rhythm which crosses its phases of melancholic moods to return with all its aplomb, defying these radiations of the celestial voices which pull Glimmer of Light towards a more astral appearance. Rainbow's End brings us to the other side of the unknown with these muffled explosions and these fascinating declarations of submission of the chimes from which emerges a fascinating lullaby, barely audible in this ambient din, carried by the wings of the orchestral tablecloths. As soon as the surreal voice emerges, this cinematic drama becomes more convincing, weaving a finale worthy of the universe of HOUSE OF CHIMES.

A very intense album and more carried by constantly evolving rhythms with unexpected outcomes, I agree with the AD Music press guide to the effect that this latest Robert Fox album requires a good dose of love and patience for his new fans. On the other hand, I'm not really scared for his early fan base since the music of HOUSE OF CHIMES is in many ways quite comparable to the earlier works of the English musician. For my part, I was very touched at times in this work of titanic dimensions which still has that touch of the England Middle Ages' tales. Excellent, it's one of Robert Fox's incredibly good albums that is good to hear in these strange days.

Sylvain Lupari (November 14th, 2020) ****½*

Available at AD Music

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