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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

VANGELIS: Spiral (1977/2013)

Difficult to tame? Yes! But Spiral remains a stunning EM album which has made progress the art and which has aged cleverly well

1 Spiral 6:46 2 Ballad 8:32 3 Dervish D 5:16 4 To the Unknown Man 9:07 5 3 + 3 9:40 6 To the Unknown Man (Part Two) (Bonus Track) 2:33 RCA International | NL 70568 Esoteric Recordings | ECLEC 2423 (CD 41:47) (V.F.) (E-Prog Rock, E-Jazz, Orchestral Electronic)

Did I like SPIRAL? Hum…No! And today? A little more! I know, I am going to receive a shower of tomatoes (again!?) and my credibility is even going to take a blow, but I had enormously, and I still have a bit, of difficulty falling under the charms of SPIRAL; an album which was a real revolution in EM. First album to be built around the immense possibilities of the Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer, this album breathes all the complexity of this instrument with a Vangelis Papathanassiou avid to squeeze out all the maximum without falling in the dissonance, in the experimentation or in the improvisation. All the opposite, he has succeeded the improbable; transcend, at technical levels, Heaven and Hell and Albedo 0.39, while keeping this fabulous approach of melody so melancholic which will adorn with a halo of melancholy the very sublime To the Unknown Man. But before, there was a myriad of other tones that was necessary to know how to tame if we were seeking for a more musical content. It's within the framework of our radio show, Murmure du Son, that I discovered again this album which has bloody aged well.

It's like an effect of big sonic cork which overflows, as a drain that we empty and which the sound particles rush towards the neck, that the title-track binds itself to our lobe of ear. We look at the artwork and its creativity at pure state that we are dealing with, because the music reflects in all senses the picture. Ambient, Spiral is a spiral of sequences which follow each other in single file, like a sonic snake which moves constantly to reach more sensational colors and more swiftness in its fluid movements. Vangelis manages to attach a melodic approach in orchestral explosions unique to his signature to reach an explosive finale. That took me some listenings and I eventually ended by liking it. But it was different with Ballad! A dark and rather strange track which progresses with synth and with jerks of ghostly violins. It's a track punctuated with explosions, coming from the many arrangements and symphonic percussions, which make that the ends of short-lived rhythms return to their ambiosonic embryos whereas the synths moan around the chants murmured by Vangelis. Dervish D proposes a jerked and repetitive structure of rhythm which is knotted around spasms of sequences, a little just like Pulstar in Albedo 0.39 but a little less musical I would say. The synths are very musical, almost lyrical, and the percussions add a tint of Jazz-rock to this track of which the nuances and the variances in the flow of sequences add to its charm. This is the perfect example of the track that I found cacophonous at the first listening and that I eventually appreciated over the years. To the Unknown Man is the jewel of this 3rd album from Vangelis on Polydor. We find all of his essence with a line of bass sequences which draws a sober hopping movement on where hangs some chords which skip in parallel and turn in loops on a rhythmic pattern as much pulsatory than ambient. These chords give the shiver because of a delicate intensity where the moroseness goes next to the momentary cheerfulness. And the Vangelis effects accumulate; metallic mist which seems to hum, drum rolls and symphonic effects feed a crescendo which gobbles up your emotions. It's one of his most beautiful piece of music and I suspect that it's maybe the genesis of Chariots of Fire.

3 + 3 is a very beautiful track which allies these movements of sequences which swirl in spirals, one would say millipedes which run in order to copulate, to pompous crystalline melodies of which the high notes perturb us the puddle of shivers. The movement spreads a fascinating symphonic progression with these solos filled of perfumes of shrill trumpets, a little as these trumpets which would announce the end of time, which chuckle and which dance in one finale loaded of orchestral explosions. It's the fusion electronic symphonic rock totally crazy, such as conceived by Vangelis. To the Unknown Man (Part Two), which nested on the single of that era (To the Unknown Man), is the bonus track on this reedition remixed by Vangelis and which is offered by Esoteric Recordings. We hear maybe some light perfumes of the older brother of sound here, but it's rather to a track of Jon and Vangelis, The Italian Song, that I think of when I hear this delicate and very oniric lullaby with some very melancholic arpeggios which sing into clouds of prisms. The arrangements, the voices, the romantic and dreamy approach as well as the level of emotionalism unique to Vangelis bring a great deal of shivers to this short but delicious ballad for nostalgic souls.

The different horizons and the abrupt bends in the structures make of SPIRAL an album complex and a little complicated to tame. A little like in Albedo 0.39, but in a clearly less musical and more experimental envelope, Vangelis aims at all the styles, accentuating this lack of homogeneity that was his musical signature of this time. There are some very good moments here and others clearly more difficult that I learnt to tame with the years. I think among others to Dervish D and 3 + 3. It's the indication of a very avant-gardist album which has deliciously aged well.

Sylvain Lupari (April 12th, 2014) *****

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