STEVE ORCHARD: Skyway (2018)
“Everything flows well in this Skyway and its mixture of styles where each title has a find that charms...even if it's no Berlin School”
1 Tailwind 4:51 2 Rushing By 5:52 3 Lets Talk About It 5:38 4 Within Tomorrow 5:21 5 Looking Down 4:19 6 Levels 5:44 7 Coast Road 4:03 8 Sky Way 5:41 9 Elevators 4:42 10 Tantra 5:49 11 Magnetic North 4:59 12 Indigo Dreams 6:05 AD200r (CD-r/DDL 63:42) (Down tempo, melodic, soft E-Rock)
AD Music closes 2018 with two releases which are bear witness of the direction taken by the English label to seduce this vast world public affable of this new genre where the Easy Listening and New Age cling to a well commercial Electronica. While Sylvain Carel's Talisman explored the ever-fascinating Middle Eastern world, Steve Orchard's SKYWAY has all the resources to attract as many consumers as its musical styles. This mosaic of genres would be rather harmless without its orchestrations which stimulate the excitement of our arm hairs with poignant arrangements and catchy impulses. As one can imagine, we are very far from the Berlin School here or any form of cosmic rock! Apart from introductions, and some finales, there are very few pure EM moments here. On the other hand, there is a wide range of titles that are easy to tame and that instantly catch the feet, much like Jean-Michel Jarre's good planetary success. One thing that I like about the music of the English musician here is the tone of his synth that sometimes sounds like good Edgar Froese.
Tailwind proposes from the outset a down-tempo adorned of melodious arpeggios which sparkle like a song of stars. The orchestrations are dense with a slight hint of Middle Eastern influences by their movements that I compare to flying sonic carpets. The synth, as well as layers of voices judiciously inserted, adopt the scrolling curve of a melody without stories. The strength of this title is the synth which throws some very catchy solos. Camouflaged in a rhythmic structure which sounds strangely like a fusion of Tangerine Dream, Le Parc, and Propaganda, Secret Wish, Rushing By rushes towards a cosmic rock armed with these crotale percussions à la Jarre. It's a title which hooks instantly our attention with a catchy rhythm and an equally catchy melody forged by a synth with solos so easy to whistle. Tantra is in the same vein but with a slightly more progressive approach. Both tracks are great! Lets Talk About It is a very New Age ballad inflated in a Double Fantasy style or in the Chillout Lounge of Software, genre Digital-Dance. Ditto for Levels which is a bit livelier with an Enigma World Music approach and filters of voices rather real. If one like this genre, Indigo Dreams is just as seductive while breathing layers of Gregorian voices. The melody and the arrangements hang you an anchor at the end of your soul. It's very effective!
After an introduction sewn into romance, Within Tomorrow indulges in a Hip-Hop hopping in its Funk outfit. So many styles for so many people! Looking Down also offers an opening all in dreams before succumbing to the charms of an EDM rather fragile at the design level but fiendishly effective with its orchestrations. Coast Road is shaped like a mid-tempo with a rather Lounge label where lunar arpeggios dart around jerky orchestrations. Creative and never lacking in ideas to give more dimension to his titles full of melodies, Steve Orchard still succeeds in grafting phases, here it's an electro-acoustic duel, which get his music out of an harmonious routine. So, one always stays on the alert! Like in the title-track and its hopping pace which limps and deviates to a more Electronica genre still feed of good arrangements. Here again, the sweet melody of the synth is quite simple but creates a desire for addiction. Elevators is that kind of harmless title that makes its way into the bottom of our eardrums. The peculiarity of this title is his approach to the synthesizer which does very much Edgar Froese in a kind of electronic cha-cha-cha.
I really got caught with Steve Orchard's SKYWAY! If Tailwind foreshadowed a kind of music stitched in the candy-pink, even with its divine solos, the discovery of the following tracks takes us into a musical world as captivating as it's enchanting. Everything flows well in this mixture of styles where each title has a find that charms a listening at first not enthusiastic and in search of an EM complicated and knitted in the nebulous side of the progressive Berlin School. In short, this is a nice album easy to tame and enjoy.
Sylvain Lupari (January 7th, 2019) *** ½**
Available at AD Music