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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Sophos Tales from Urania (2023)

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

A solid album that should appeal to fans of cosmic EM with a more progressive Berlin School vision

1 Seasons in Gliese 9:10

2 A Dark Sphere 8:46

3 Thalassa 8:46

4 Other Sunlight 8:00

5 Mnemosyne 6:26

6 Cepheids 6:04

7 Tales form Urania 17:29

(DDL/CD-(r) 64:45) (V.F.)

(Progressive Berlin School)

Ulises Labaronnie's Sophos project is just one of the many artists and musician-synthesizers bringing out the full potential of electronic music (EM) made in South America, mainly Argentina. The South American School! Torn between his influences of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre, Sophos sets out to conquer our ears again with another solid album that proves that MUEON was not just an isolated album in the great sphere of modern EM. If TALES FROM URANIA has the pretension of being lyrical, due to the highly poetic nature Ulises uses to describe each track, the music is quite different with this fusion of sequencer and electronic percussions that drum, pound and hammer evolving rhythms. These rhythms gently transit towards pinnacle with a beautiful use of the sequencer's ratcheting technique and the cookie-cutter charges of electronic percussions in a realm of sparkling electronic effects, some of which have an organic texture. In short, an album built on cosmic foundations that lose themselves in swirling rhythms that even flirt with an essence of Electronica.

Seasons in Gliese kicks off the album with elegance and rhythm. This evolving track accosts us with beeps and interstellar dialogue effects. A layer of buzzing mist encircles this opening, followed by a pulsing bass-line whose slow flow gives the synth the opportunity to proclaim its melancholy through tunes imbued with sadness. The nostalgic harmonies, twinkling stars and arrangements flirt with the world of Vangelis. Two minutes later, and the rhythm sets in. A first movement of arpeggios swirling in an imperfect circle, these plaintive harmonies and the droning bass are at the origin. The sequencer immediately kicks in with two rhythm lines, one with a splendid ratchet effect, that come and go in an ascending form. A fascinating fragmented melody and other synth effects plunge us into the universe of Tangerine Dream, album Exit, on this very 80's electronic structure that percussions support with sober strikes. These percussions revitalize Seasons in Gliese, which enters an electronica phase around the 4-minute mark. A solid track with good solos and nice synth harmonies that would be a gem in a compilation! A Dark Sphere follows with a fitting introduction. The mood is nebulous, with odd electronic signals. An arrhythmic pulsing bass-line that bounces like worn rubber is structuring a nervous pace that a sequencer supports with equally restless jumping keys. Percussions and percussive elements adorn this structure, and at times you can hear little feet stamping with impatience. But it's the bass layer, crawling like a thirsty vampire, that makes the charm of this track, of which the structure is similar to stop'n'go, except for its two more atmospheric passages. The track takes advantage of its almost 9 minutes to discreetly mutate while maintaining a fairly rhythmic cadence. The synth is very good, I like the sound, and the gargantuan impulses of the bass bring an element of cinematic drama to the track. Thalassa opens with a gentle Christmas-style melody before plunging into a structure akin to the nervous rhythm of A Dark Sphere. The percussions drum out semi-technoïd boom-booms, while the sequencer feeds the structure with cadenced arpeggios that come and go, complementing these percussive elements that tinkle and resonate throughout the track. The sequencer runs alone around the 5-minute mark, structuring a zigzagging run that orchestrations and synth laments envelop in a nightmarish texture.

After an ethereal opening that flirts with cosmic and terrestrial elements, such as birds, Other Sunlight introduces a beautiful electronic melody in a romantic David Wright style. Moiré arpeggios swirl delicately beneath synth wails and percussions and sequences that structure a gently driving electronic ballad. The movement is ascending and develops more rhythmically, as the keyboard crumbles chords and the synth draws cosmic filaments over a mesh of percussions and sequences with an increasingly animated flow. Sequenced rubbery pulses, spasmodic sequences with ratcheting effects and sustained percussions, Other Sunlight evolves into a solid, driving electronic rock. The synth lives on in another timbre, initiating hallucinatory laments that guide us into a more atmospheric phase some 30 seconds into the 4th minute. The keyboard then brings out a melody over a burst of sequencer and ratchet effects. Bouncing bass pulses sprout technoïd boom-booms, and percussions hammer out an intensive pounding under good synth solos. Frying effects, like an old LP, Mnemosyne dances on Tibetan percussions. The rhythm is meditative in nature, with arpeggios adding to the carousel of Gamelan percussion effects. A bass shadow adds a touch of mystery as it floats and crawls across the ambient wall. The sonic texture is rich with shimmers, old vinyl frying and organic percussive effects, like aggressive rattlesnake tails. The rhythm is in constant progression, always swirling in this kaleidoscopic texture where muffled percussive effects constantly challenge the listener. The synth scatters laments that add to the reverb and decay effects, as the track swings into a slightly more cosmic electronic rock phase just before the 4-minute mark. The finale is based on keyboard chords with 70's progressive rock tones. Cepheids also features this evolving and changing rhythm structure. The music oscillates between short phases of dramatic ambience, with bass chords falling heavily and good bursts of resonant bass, and above all a driving rhythm based on a mesh of sequences on the race and percussions bouncing as if encased in elastic material. The rhythm embraces unbridled phases, not least thanks to the sequencer's ratchet technique, and the synth elaborates melody lines and solos that respond to the bass' assaults.

The long title-track begins quietly enough, with gamelan percussions tinkling in the vibratory effects of the bass layer. Stars twinkle in this panorama of transcendental meditation for some 60 seconds. From then on, the sequencer pitches a line that gallops only to return immediately, like an elastic electronic slingshot. The bass hums, and nervous little steps run in all directions, much like the sequences. Indecisive, the rhythm that shakes up the tranquility of Tales form Urania embraces some patterns already heard in the album. The sequencer and percussions intertwine their rhythmic approaches for a more cosmic rock that swirls on the ample spheroidal movements of the sequencer. The track plunges into an atmospheric-psychedelic phase towards the 6th. The synth draws good laments that the keyboard supports with a melancholy approach. The bass drones with slow, tragic momentums. The rhythm picks up again a little after the 7th minute, with nervous sequences that leap and bounce in an arrhythmia choreographed like a modern dance. The synthesizer weaves a celestial panorama with colorful arrangements unifying sulfur and industrial blue, as well as sinister shadows with Tangerine Dream timbres. The percussions, especially its percussive embellishments, fill the ears with bliss, as well as guiding the music towards phases that are more in the nature of electronic rock flirting with Electronica. There are many elements of Jean-Michel Jarre in this track, which ends in a tenebrous atmospheric phase.

TALES FROM URANIA by Sophos is a solid album that should appeal to fans of cosmic EM with a more progressive Berlin School vision. Although the album flirts with the 65-minute mark, and some of the rhythm structures can be found on other tracks, there are no dead moments or unnecessary minutes thanks to its shifting structures and brilliant use of sequencer and percussions. The synth has a beautiful soul and such beautiful tones that awaken in us a certain nostalgia linked to the eternal Vangelis. A great album from Sophos!

Sylvain Lupari (December 1st, 2023) *****

Available at Cyclical Dreams Bandcamp

(NB: Texts in blue are links you can click on)

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