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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

VANGELIS: The City (1990)

The City has divided fans and criticisms with a solid sonic pallet which bears as many styles as the tracks on it

1 Dawn 4:16 2 Morning Papers 3:55 3 Nerve Centre 5:30 4 Side Streets 4:12 5 Good to See You 6:51 6 Twilight 4:57 7 Red Lights 3:55 8 Procession 9:33 EastWest | 9031-73026-2

(CD/SPOTIFY 43:08) (V.F.) (E-Rock, cinematic, down-tempo, etc...)

As much to say it straightaway; I didn't really hooked on this album of Vangelis. At the time I had found it is too soft, set apart the striking Nerve Centre, or too much ambiospherical. I also had this strange sensation that Vangelis wanted to rewrite a new Blade Runner but with a more celestial spirit. And we have to agree that Direct was a little more…direct. The listening and the writing of the chronicle about Lunar Synth's Future City album has woke in me flashes of this album and I found that the opportunity was quite drawn to speak about it. And, I imagine that the years helping, I rediscovered a universe more charming than daunting. I do believe that the big strength of THE CITY lies upon its sonic envelope. Vangelis succeeds skillfully to create the sonic illusion of a day in the life of a character in a big city. Dawn begins like a sun which wakes up on a city. The track is very soporific with its Blade Runner harmonies which caress some inanimate carillons. Ambient and melodious, Dawn floats like the shadows of our awakening until some steps bring us to the window and until that Roman Polanski murmurs that this is the city on the horizon and that Emmanuelle Seigner answers: C'est beau Roman! Without knowing it, Vangelis drags us in his odyssey that will last an entire day. Composed and recorded in a hotel room in Rome, during the shooting of Roman Polanski's Bitter Moon, THE CITY distances itself by its abstract approach about the urban life and the atmospheres of the big megalopolises. In so doing, Vangelis jumps from a genre to another. From a pompous electronic rock to down-tempos perfumed of a New Age envelope, destabilizing and dividing thus music columnists and fans. And as very often, it is much later that we notice that a big work has flew under our nose.

Noises of sirens, steps, carillons and heterogeneous voices open the soft Morning Papers. The approach is of a lounge kind with twinklings, at times one would say the walking of a coachman, which outline a morphic beat beneath the rustles of an uncertain rain. These twinkled chords are painting harmonies which are just as much uncertain, while the synth lines are dirtying the moods with fluty tones. The bass drums liven up the vibe while that Morning Papers goes towards the big riffs of the electronic guitar and the booms of the drums which open Nerve Centre. To me, to my ears, never an electronic rock anthem will have been more striking than here. The riffs, the sharp drum knocks; our head is banging and we instinctively follow the punches of percussions and the bites of the guitar. And then, all of this becomes harmonious. Heavy harmonies! While Vangelis plays a rock star, he redirects his structure into a kind of dislocated symphony where angelic and Gregorian voices make boosted a rhythm which, after a brief seraphic passage, collides the edges of the dissonance with a pompous final orchestral totally off-the-wall. I had liked it a lot at the first time. And I adore this even more today! Side Streets presents an ambient structure of rhythm which follows the floating and fluid orchestrations. The tablas percussions add a little of nervousness to this quite delicate rhythm which follows the curves of violins. And Vangelis being Vangelis, the structure is manhandled by bursting of percussions and orchestrations here and there which will eventually have the upper hand on this finale here. Good to See You presents a structure of a rhythm which is a bit similar. More flowing and less cut-away by dramatic bursting, the rhythm hangs on to good percussions but also to these synth lines which wave as a tide of linear winds. And Vangelis is like a Chef who peppers his dish of heterogeneous tones. The tones sparkle or crackle almost everywhere but without ever remove anything of this melodious synth line which releases a harmonious perfume of flute. The voice of Kathy Hill adds a little something that one defined rather with difficulty, but which leaves unmistakably her imprint. Twilight is the most ambient part of THE CITY. Kind of Japanese guitar notes perspire the nostalgia in urban breezes and in the lappings of synth which oscillate with the heaviness of the melancholy. If Twilight is quiet, Red Lights is totally puzzling. Jerky orchestrations, voices of surreal Japanese dolls, synth lines with tones of saxophone in which we would have blocked the beak with a cornet and big pompous percussions, Red Lights is waving on a structure of rhythm too much diversified to savor its delicate suspicion of jazz. It's very cosmopolitan and quite catchy. It's also a delicious starter for the splendid Procession and its violin which snivels on a semi ambient structure and of which the orchestral crescendo stays unique to the signature of Vangelis. This is quite a great way of ending a day enlivened enough in a city whose dimensions respect the imagination of the timeless Vangelis.

Sylvain Lupari (February 8th, 2014) *****

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