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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Sophos: Oceanica (2021)

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

A big 4 stars, in spite of some lengths but the dynamist and excellence of the sequencer

1 Prologue 1:05

2 Oceanides 6:30

3 Naturae 8:00

4 Wild Water 7:26

5 Waves of Continuity 6:15

6 Time Modulation 5:30

7 Magic Experience 3:18

8 An Imaginary Coast 6:53

9 Seven Dreams 4:02

10 The Cave 4:56

11 Out of Everything 5:30

12 Epilogue 1:32

(DDL 61:00) (V.F.)

(Fast Sequencer-based E-Rock)

Sophos' second album to be released this year, OCEANICA is an album that began during a trip to the Pacific coast of Chile in early 2021. Strongly inspired by nature and its fascinating inexplicable beauties, Ulises Labaronnie took advantage of this chance to compose his music by observing the many sunsets, as well as the moonlit nights. The challenge was to develop themes strong enough to combine them with strange melodies on complex rhythms within other rhythms always a little more complex. Thus, was born OCEANICA! Sophos takes us into an electronic universe structured on remarkable rhythmic patterns of the sequencer. So much so that you would think you were listening to new Tangerine Dream material, if not Chris Franke's! In a 60 minutes opus on an oceanic concept, this 3rd album by Ulises Labaronnie on Cyclical Dreams is a fascinating journey where our ears meet the Mephistophelian zones of the oceans. The mermaids here dare to sound like creepy ghosts on polyrhythmic structures pushed by a creative sequencer and electronic percussions sounding like the rock of Tangerine Dream in its Miramar period.

Between azure winds and the echo all of metal blue coming from the resonant chords, it is under lyric chords, between harp and keyboard, that Prologue stirs our ears. A short prologue for a journey in sounds and music worthy of the expectations we developed towards Cyclical Dreams. Oceanides emerges with a line of sequences immediately copied by a line of bass-sequences and percussive effects under the sign of an old typist. Thus, the rhythm is lively and spasmodic. The misty synth layers and the percussions with metallic bangs give it more fluidity that it carries towards a first mutation some seconds after the second minute. We hardly have time to appreciate this more clear transitory phase that Oceanides dives into a big electronic rock about thirty seconds later. The rhythm is as heavy as its bass and as fluid as its sequencer while inserting fascinating vocal effects bringing a seductive desire to listen to the music again and again. Trapped by good electronic percussions and charmed by a beautiful keyboard melody, this first electronic rock from OCEANICA passes the seduction test with flying colors! The sea winds lead us to a sequencer loving to dribble its sequenced arpeggios in an opening that the mist makes mysterious. Naturae proposes a static structure composed of several rhythmic lines that the sequencer gobbles up without hesitation. The balls jumping and dribbling mischievously compete with equally sequenced percussion in this static rhythmic broth stirred up by metallic percussion. A series of arpeggios leak out to establish a circular melody that wanders smoothly through a track proposed for sequencer aficionados. The sequencer continues its seductive quest from the first steps of Wild Water. The first movement moves forward at a leisurely pace with 5 jumping balls tinted of a shadowy color. Arpeggios escape from the keyboard to form a ghostly melody whose threatening tunes accentuate the power of the percussions. The track then becomes a good driving rock flowing under the surges of prismatic layers and good synth solos until stumbling on a short passage that momentarily slows down the ardors of Wild Water in the middle of its 4th minute. The title starts again of more beautiful a dozen seconds further, entraining it in a play of the sequencer which clings to a line of ascending bass-sequences inspired by Berlin School. Except for the stop'n'go of its finale, Waves of Continuity borrows the rhythmic structure of Oceanides to stick it with beautiful harmonies, more solos and spectral airs that continue to grow as you discover OCEANICA.

The first two minutes of Time Modulation features a slow death procession followed by the murmurs of spectres. After the second minute, sequences begin to flutter on the spot. These little jumping balls frolic in a tight circle, creating the impression of thousands of shimmering ripples that clash only to be absorbed by a melody woven into Halloween-like arpeggios. The synth throws in dark musings and dichotomous filaments as the movement takes a Vangelis-like orchestral tangent to secretly return to its original form. Magic Experience wastes no time in imposing its circular melodic approach. Becoming a contemplative carousel, the track brings a buzzing line into its garden, as well as ghostly solos. Two elements that pull the track towards a finale where the rhythm zigzags like a tipsy madman finding his glowing pebbles for a short choreography towards infinity. A track to which time has been stolen! A cha-cha-cha, missing a step, blown in a baritone forms behind this glass melody that tinkles in the opening of An Imaginary Coast. Sequenced, she awakens a portion of her shadow to dance drunkenly on this serenade that gradually turns into a light swirl that engulfs melody, sequences and percussions to shape them into metal crumbling at the slightest touch. I would have taken some time here to give it to Magic Experience. With a sequencer that has sequenced the tone of a comb whose teeth are made to sing by passing the finger briskly, a bass line in stop'n'go mode and half typed electronic percussions, Seven Dreams is a real little rhythmic bomb. Fantastic! We arrive at The Cave, an atmospheric track with an aquatic flow that keeps on flowing between our speakers, or our headphones, with a vision for an underwater flood. Tibetan bells resound in this mythical landscape where we hear cries and lamentations of hydroponic beasts. We end this journey into the heart of Sophos' imagination with Out of Everything and its chords dragging on the back of a sly and melodious sequencer movement. The puny rhythm is upward and flows through a tide of famine-sounding borborygms that gobble it up at the same time as the orchestrations arrive in the background of another track designed to be intriguing. From these dense orchestrations comes a pendulum movement sounding like the signal of a train that will accompany this string orchestra up to a finale before Epilogue and its delicate melody played by a dreamy pianist.

If you want to hear the potential of Sophos, I invite you to watch this YouTube link by clicking HERE. We discover an artist at the top of his art! An artist whose album OCEANICA is one of the attractive albums offered only in download format by the Argentinean label. Ulises Labaronnie offers to the maniacal fans of the sequencer and its multiple rhythmic possibilities a beautiful little jewel that can be tasted with ears amazed by so many convoluted movements. Apart from the rhythms, there are still the ominous ambiences on which rest strange melodic suites that fall on us and whose origins I am still looking for. A big 4 stars, in spite of some lengths except that the dynamist and the excellence of the sequencer...

Sylvain Lupari (October 5th, 2021) *****

Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp

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