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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

STEVE SMITH & THE TYLAS CYNDROME: Phoenix Arising (2011)

Solid, striking and tinted by a cinematographic romance, Phoenix Arising is a very nice surprise

1 Spanish Storm 10:33 

2 Somewhere out There 10:05

3 Clockwork Freries 7:00 

4 Inner City 8:12

5 Instand Recognition 8:08

6 Anticipation Long Distance 8:02

7 Deep Depression 8:49 

8 Phoenix Arising 8:45

(CD/DDL 69:50) (V.F.)

(Progressive e-rock)

Steve Smith is the second half of Volt, an English duo that presents a heavy EM strongly influenced by the Berlin School. With long-time friends, Alan Ford on guitars and Les Sims on drums, he took the time needed to forge an amazing album with captivating cinematic atmospheres. Navigating between the fiery rhythms of an England School strongly influenced by Mark Shreeve and Redshift, as well as the more ethereal vibes of the Berlin School, PHOENIX ARISING explodes on progressive electronic rock structures while jealously preserving a very poetic approach on 8 tracks with complex that are very pleasant to the ears.

A strong threatening wind blows over the introductory plains of Spanish Storm, awakening powerful thunders that tear the opacity of the winds. In the distance, you can hear an acoustic guitar drop its notes among raindrops. A sinuous reverberating wave supports this very theatrical musical canvas, while the guitar draws a delicate Latin approach. The rhythm is gradually awakening with fine Spanish tribal percussions which pulsate in the shade of Alan Ford's chords. The drums deepen this embryonic and stationary rhythmic approach which is enriched by a bed of shimmering sequences which dances in a timid jerky beat. A mellotron blows the lines of an astral melody, and the percussions fall. Embracing a delicious harmonious crescendo, the rhythm overlaps our imagination. Sometimes heavy and sometimes fluid, it sits in the hollow of a romantic acoustic guitar and explodes in the solos of a raging electric guitar in a phase supported by powerful percussion, thrilling sequences and a superb bass line. This mixture of explosive and balanced rhythms, with both cinematic and ethereal atmospheres, feeds the evolutionary structures and catchy melodies of the 8 tracks that make up this first album by Steve Smith & The Tylas Cyndrome. Shimmering sequences abound. They also open the door to Somewhere out There which radiates with the multiple approaches of the sequencer. On a circular and ascending rhythm, the lines of ambient rhythm intertwine and weave a musical canvas at the same time melodious and intriguing, delving into the shadows of Redshift and Mark Shreeve. Influences which are the heart of this beautiful album, like on Instand Recognition and Anticipation Long Distance. Sober, guitars and synths make flow delicate solos and sculpt nice melodies that sing and cling to the different approaches of the sequencer. Following this pattern of progressive and divided rhythmic structure, Clockwork Freries embraces the tunes of an innocent nursery rhyme with an evil twist by interposed sequences which are hopping delicately under the breaths of a slightly ghostly synth. Ambivalent, the rhythm races on strikes of curt percussions while a dreamy guitar lets spin soft solos à la Al DiMeola style, combining jazz rock and spectral ambiences.

Furious, Inner City somewhat takes the shape of the powerful ride of Spanish Storm's final with vigorous sequences undulating strongly and solid percussions which hammer a heavy infernal tempo. Delicious, the synth releases some good melodious lines which resemble to spectral lamentations while the guitar speaks to us on an emphatic rhythm where shimmering sequences add a rhythmic depth to the more nuanced passages. It's a powerful title, like a heavy ride in an apocalyptic Western. Just like Instand Recognition which throbs on a delicate spasmodic approach where the airs take on the appearance of spectral lamentations. We can guess a very Redshift influence here. Whispers lost in a variegated intro brings Anticipation Long Distance towards a beautiful melodious structure which is akin to the universe of Tangerine Dream's ballads. Hybrid, the sequences get melt to the fluty breaths of a fascinating surreal nursery rhyme while the synth, very melodious, lets go beautiful harmonious solos. The whole thing is based on a good rhythmic structure where bass and percussions soberly support a melodious pattern which deviates towards an apocalyptic final, worthy of the universe of Mark Shreeve in his Legion album. Talking of ballad, Deep Depression is a superb one. Everything is in tune. The rhythm is slow and supports a very melancholic melodious approach, a little like in the universe of David Wright. The guitar is sublime. It floats above this dreamlike structure, releasing fine solos that dance and sing on shattered chords. The rhythm finely jerky and hesitant , Deep Depression evolves with the sadness of its name to run aground in a great orchestral finale where the guitar solos whip the mellotron choirs which embrace a heavy and slow rhythm before plunging back into the resonant chords of a romantic piano. After a slow hovering intro, the sequences of Phoenix Arising are moving nervously, drawing a hopping rhythm. Another line with a bass tone joins this wriggling carousel, preparing another progressive rhythmic ride which ends in the breaths of a philharmonic synth and a guitar with sober solos.

Solid, impactful and tinged with cinematic romance, PHOENIX ARISING from Steve Smith & The Tylas Cyndrome is a very nice surprise. On rhythms and ambiences constantly evolving, the band weaves an imposing musical scenario where the bases of EM flirt with the heaviness of the English School and the sometimes complex and destabilizing structures that we find in a more progressive music. This is a great favorite and an album that can be listened to at any time.

Sylvain Lupari (January 4th, 2012) *****

Available at Groove NL

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