Follow-up to the successful "The Far Canal".|
- Escape Velocity [11:10]
- Hyperspace Drift [20:48]
- Star Compass [22:58]
- First Direction
- Second Direction
- Third Direction
- First Contact [10:41]
Recorded live at MSL studio with mixing and editing by Michael Shipway
Mastered by Ron Boots
All tracks composed and performed by Michael Shipway and Steve Smith
"Have you ever done something spontaneous like jumping in a car and driving to wherever the road takes you...
This was our approach to "Star Compass" where we literally only packed a few sequences in our machines and set off on a trip wherever it took us..." With these words Michael Shipway and Steve Smith, who form the duo VoLt, opens the booklet of their second CD.
"The Far Canal" from 2003 was the first one. Their words couldn't be truer because in electronic music and with the multi-faceted instruments that are available to the musicians it is very well possible to create something completely spontaneous, out of almost nothing. The nice thing about the music of VoLt, is that they create a melodical variant on the Berlin School. Take the first track "Escape Velocity": it has driving high and low sequences but also fine melodies. That is the strength of VoLt. There is also room for beautiful digital sounds, like those that are opening "Hyperspace Drift". This moves into some excellent sequencer work, again packed with great atmospheres.
The title track is divided into three parts: "First Direction", "Second Direction" and "Third Direction". The music is rich, full and with a lot of interesting solo work. On "First Contact" with great Mellotron-string sounds, an intriguing rhythm is added.
With "Star Compass" VoLt might become a leading force in this specific form of retro.
The VoLt duo of Michael Shipway and Steve Smith did a first album that blew the minds of many rockers. The good news is that album # 2 is even better. Highlighted by the extended title track at (22:58) & "Hyperspace Drift" (20:48) the ebb and flow of the whole album will carry you away on a listening trip into the light fandango of time & space.
Without allowing themselves to get influenced by the conventionalities associated to Chill-out, the duo Volt creates a series of pieces ideal to let imagination fly freely, yet without falling into an arid minimalism, nor do they become careless with the melodic patterns.
"Star Compass" is Space Music that re-creates the fascination on an interstellar journey.
Melodies ranging from epic to romanticism, wondrous orchestrations, unearthly ambiences, and powerful sequencer rhythms are some of the main traits in this wonderful album.
2004. Edgar Kogler
Congrats to Mike and Steve. I liked both CD's very much, a nice change since Spirit of Adventure - anyone interested in the original cover art to Spirit? Keep up the good work
2004. Mark / UK
VoLt’s sophomore release is a surefooted follow up to The Far Canal, raising the bar with these four lengthy excursions into deep space teutonics.
A soft yet brisk crystalline sequence brings us to "Escape Velocity" as the disc opens in dreamy vintage style. Michael Shipway and Steve Smith deftly avoid tipping their hand too early, holding back a gently rolling bass line until past the 4:00 mark, adding an effective synth solo a bit later on, and leaving the drums at home entirely. This track has a "hit single" feel to it despite its double-digit running time.
Next comes "Hyperspace Drift", the first of two leisurely evolving epics, each clocking in at over 20 minutes. Gorgeous synth pads and slowly pulsating sequences emerge about a quarter of the way in. Restraint is again a strength as the music lays back instead of going for a dramatic climax. This pays big dividends with a rewarding listening experience that transcends Berlin school cliché, though all the familiar elements are certainly there in abundance to enjoy.
The title track is solid as well, providing a feast for the ears of all things electronic, pure unadulterated synthlust laid bare for all to hear. A perky bubbly bass line is good, hanging just this side of becoming too busy.
The final track is no slacker either. "First Contact" spends a few minutes floating in the mist before a majestic tribal beat rises out of it. The rhythms build in immensely enjoyable fashion to bring this stellar space set to a solid landing back on terra firma.
2005. Phil Derby / Electroambient Space
Michael Shipway and Steve Smith (a.k.a. Volt) state in the liner notes to Star Compass "Have you ever done something spontaneous like jumping in a car and driving to wherever the road takes you...This was our approach to "Star Compass" where we literally only packed a few sequences in our machines and set off on a trip to wherever it took us..." After hearing this album, I'm gonna let these two be my travel guides the next vacation I take!
Star Compass is an excellent and exciting excursion (via four tracks, two in the ten-minute and two in the twenty minute range) into long form Berlin school music that wends its way slowly and deliberately, but always engagingly to "wherever it takes you."
The song titles have overt astronomical or SF themes, and while there is an element of spacemusic to certain passages on some songs, this is unabashed Germanic retro EM, and boy does it cook. Unlike fellow Groove label stablemate Gert Emmens, Shipway and Smith don't tend to shift their songs' gears in mid-track.
The evolution of a song, such as the opening "Escape Velocity" tends to be more linear (whereas Emmens tends to work vertically). The initial sequence on "Escape Velocity" hums and beats along contentedly while the assorted solos unfurl, bob, and weave around it. I suppose some might find this kind of music lacking in development. I can't say this music excites the senses the way, e.g. Waves of Dreams, does, but it's immensely entertaining and I'll bet it makes the miles disappear effortlessly when played while cruising down the highway.
The two long tracks are sandwiched in the middle between the shorter ones. "Hyperspace Drift" opens in a spacy vein with swirling synths of assorted sounds and textures floating through the inky black of space. If you're a sequence-phile, be forewarned this song takes its sweet time transitioning to a pulsing and dramatic Berlin school cut, but it does get there. Sequences are layered on, set against some whirling keyboards, percolating and bubbling away. The song really picks up steam as it enters the ten-minute mark, with lush mellotrons flowing under the lively sequence.
The title track has "chapters," if you will: "First", "Second" and "Third" direction, although there is only the one time cue. It also starts out with washes of keyboards, this time more melodic and closer to classic spacemusic in sound. When the rapid tempo bass beats jump into the fray, I sure do wish I was behind the wheel of Datsun Z or a Audi A6.
"First Contact", which closes the album, is arguably the weakest track, being the least like the others and also being preoccupied with being alien-ish and the most spacy. It's not bad by any means, just lackluster compared to the first three cuts. Lots of relatively abstract synth rumblings and effects dominate the early going, but twinkling bell tones bring a welcome air of warmth and musicality to the proceedings. Rhythmic elements do come into play later, but they are more subdued than on previous selections, almost sounding contemporary and vaguely "glitchy" which makes for an interesting juxtaposition with undulating mellotrons carrying the lead melodic component to the track.
Nonetheless, Star Compass is a great CD. After all, if you don't count the last song, you still get way over fifty minutes of primo Berlin/retro EM. Shipway and Smith crafted some superb improvisational music on this album and I have no problem recommending it to fans of the genre.
2005. Bill Binkelman
WOW!!! My first introduction to Volt was through an Internet radio station, and the track they played was Hyperspace Drift.
I listened to it and, whilst I don't usually listen to this style of music, I was hooked. The song took me on a journey beyond imagination, on an interstellar space cruiser exploring far-flung Galaxy.
I have since listened to the other songs from the album and would highly recommend it to anyone. Keep up the good work.
2005. Simon Covell / England
Through the Rings is very nice....BUT ...Wait untill you hear ''Star Compass'' this will blow your socks off boy!!! imo this one is the best of
the three by far...More of this please Mr Shipway!!!!!!
Congrats to Groove for releasing the 2nd Volt album.
I thought the first one was good , but this is simply amazing.
2004. Dennis Moore