Sophos: Enceladus (2020)
Updated: Sep 20
“In fact, and from start to finish, Enceladus is a little gem of an EM that goes so well in the landscape of the 70's”
1 Explora 16:27
2 Principia 6:13
3 Enceladus 11:34
4 Pionner 5:19
5 Nyx 7:10
6 Klanglust 12:09
7 Eris 5:52
(DDL 64:45) (V.F.)
(Progressive Berlin School)
Yet well known in his cultural Buenos Aires, Sophos has been known to me since I was following the activities of the Cyclical Dreams label. Besides, his first album, which is missing from my collection, La Arquitectura del Tiempo is the second one in the Argentinian label's catalog. I remember enjoying discovering Nueva Vida on the Dreams # 1 compilation. All this to tell you that Sophos is a young EM veteran made in Argentina who touches all styles, including the Berlin School. If it was less obvious on La Arquitectura del Tiempo, which I heard a few extracts from on the Bandcamp site, it's really the case in this surprising ENCELADUS. This very good Sophos' album is built on ingenious rhythmic patterns of the sequencer which fills our ears with a variety of bouncy tones. And especially analog synths and solos running between the borders of the vintage years and those which are more contemporary to us.
However, Explora starts by groping! The synth sings one, two, three, sometimes adding another number, as if removing one in a structure in search of its rhythm guide. The dialogue of the synth awakens a sequencer which develops pearls skipping and dribbling in accordance with this outline of music dialogue. The percussions are born around the two minutes, energizing an electronic rhythm built between a formal language, a language of the sequencer and finally an electronic language which flirts with a seductive attempt at extraterrestrial dialogue. Other percussions, more sustained like in rock mode à la Kraftwerk, restructure Explora in a real electronic rock made to support the synth fantasies which fill our ears of happiness with good solos, recreating this illusion of the 70's. The flow changes! Becoming at times hyperactive and spasmodic, as ambient when the title plunges into a hollow phase a little before the 6th minute. Everything becomes slow and above all conducive to the elevation of good solos with analog tones. Explora then explores different rhythmic options in a last third which favors a little the lack of homogeneity without flirting with inconsistency. Principia makes a little use of Explora's approach in terms of the movement of its bass sequences. Its rhythm is slow and beats in symbiosis with a line of arpeggios whose scintillating arch forges an evasive melody. But the dynamics of rhythm versus the melody is its point of charm with a two-phase procession which meets its breaking point 30 seconds after the 2 minutes. Savage, the sequencer emits lines that follow one another without necessarily resembling each other, while the effects of loops and echoes in the melodies, the roars and the synth effects bring us into a phase of electronic magic that breathes freedom in a a vision that looks towards some pure psychedelia before Principia reverses itself again, bringing in its procession the fruits of some fleeting excitement.
The title-track is more experimental with a heavy opening whose charge of wooshh and wiishh casts an aura of cloudiness. The weight of the grave chords resonates in an echo which is distilled in a concept where ['ramp], Redshift and Arc are working to mount a wall of darkness. A dull explosion occurs before the 3-minute mark, releasing a Kraken and its multiple leeches fluttering in a rhythmic chaos that has no lair or handles to hold onto. Condemned to wander while dissolving, Enceladus gradually rises to the surface with a rhythm, an electronic rock hymn topped with superb solos whose radiations and soft sound arches lead us towards this chthonic finale that we thought we were embracing from its 5th minute. A powerful title! We are sailing from surprise to surprise with another electronic rock of the ELP style, without Carl Palmer, with a touch of Jazz Lounge. A creeping, vampiric layer of bass casts its shadow that percussive typing strikes attempt to scare away. Just this decor is enough for Pioneer to charm us. Now imagine with this fabulous synth and its countless aesthetic solos as well as its tidy, very sober saxophonist perfumes! A big title which flows into Nyx, a more abstract title with its series of chords and percussive elements which go in a formless structure, become the basin of a synth and its daring solos. We come to Klanglust and the fluid movement of the sequencer which undulates harmoniously in a zone of sound turbulence and its reminiscences of the Johannes Schmoelling years from Tangerine Dream. Moreover, Sophos will never have been so close to TD with this very good title which uses the sequencer to make us hear a panoply of sequenced keys and their delicate and melodious rhythm. The happiness of Electronic Music! Especially when the story of an album, brilliant from start to finish, ends in the sweetness of Eris, a very good morphic lullaby to dream about over its almost 6 minutes.
ENCELADUS is an icy moon on the planet Saturn. Very interesting for its internal oceans, its geysers and its detected organic molecules, it has fascinated Ulises Labaronnie, the man behind Sophos, since 2009. His visions set to music are part of the happiness of EM! Yes, I wrote that earlier in the text and so it's true. While the start of ENCELADUS may seem intimidating, the following 61 minutes are more reassuring. In fact, and from start to finish, this second Sophos album on Cyclical Dreams is a little gem of an EM that goes so well in the landscape of the 70's that it brings us there without resists.
Sylvain Lupari (February 26th, 2021) *****
Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp