The English electronic musician Steve Smith is best known for his work in VoLt, a duo together with his fellow countryman Michael Shipway. For the project “Phoenix Rising” he assembled a new band, consisting (besides himself on assorted synthesizers and other electronic instruments) of guitarplayer Alan Ford and drummer Les Sims. Together they are called Steve Smith And The Tylas Cyndrome VoLt is famous for the combination of thrusting Berlin School-like sequencerpatterns with nice melodies. The same, and more, can be heard on “Phoenix Rising”.
- Spanish storm
- Somewhere out there
- Clockwork freries
- Inner city
- Instand recognition
- Anticipation long distance
- Deep depression
- Phoenix arising
The album begins with the wonderful melodically track called ‘Spanish Storm” where the trio hits the likes of Jean Michel Jarre but combined with great guitarsolo’s on electric guitar as well as acoustic classical guitar. The sequences from VoLt we all have accustomed to during the last years are present in “Somewhere Out There”, again together with nice guitarwork. This is a top Berlin School-piece. Big retro periods and some lighter melodically moments is what this album makes special. “Clockwork Freries” is almost a progressive rockpiece. All these components come together in a composition like “Anticipation Long Distance”. The fans of Wavestar and John Dyson should listen to “Deep Depression” because this is an excellent combination of sequences, melodies, electric guitar and a bit of Pink Floyd. The ending is euphoric, accompanied by large Mellotronchoirs.
Steve Smith And The Tylas Cyndrome show that the electronic music scene in England is alive as never before. And there is some typical English humor as well because Les thanks the voices in his head for all the advice. Well, the voices did a great job!
2011. Paul Rijkens
Steve Smith is the 2nd half of Volt, a duet from England who presents a heavy EM strongly influenced by Berlin School. With old friends; Alan Ford on guitars and Sims on drums, Steve Smith took time necessary to forge a stunning album filled by mesmerizing cinematographic ambiances. Navigating between the fiery rhythms of England School strongly influenced by Mark Shreeve and Redshift as well as the ambiances more ethereal Berlin School, 'Phoenix Arising' explodes on progressive electronic rock structures while protecting jealously a very poetic approach on 8 titles to evolutions as complex as melodious.
A strong threatening wind blows on the introductory plains of "Spanish Storm", awakening powerful thunders which tear the opaqueness of the winds. Far off, we can hear an acoustic guitar drops its notes among rainy drops. A sinuous reverberating synth wave bears this very theatrical musical pattern, while the guitar draws a delicate Latin approach and that the rhythm of "Spanish Storm" wakes up little by little with fine Spanish tribal percussions which pound in the shade of Alan Ford's notes. The drum deepens this embryonic and motionless rhythmic approach which grows rich from a bed of gleaming sequences which hiccup of a shy jerky flow. A splendid mellotron blows the lines of an astral melody and the percussions fall. Embracing a delicious harmonious crescendo, the rhythm of "Spanish Storm" sits astride our imagination. Sometimes heavy and sometimes fluid, it rests in the hollow of a romantic acoustic guitar or explodes in the solos of a furious electric guitar, supported by powerful percussions, throbbing sequences and a good bass line. This mixture of explosive and balanced rhythms to ambiances as much cinematographic as ethereal feeds the evolutionary structures and the catchy melodies of the 8 titles which compose 'Phoenix Arising'. Gleaming sequences abound on it. They open the door to "Somewhere out There" which shines within multiple sequential approaches. On a circular and ascending rhythm, they cross and weave an at once melodious and intriguing musical pattern, digging into the twilights of Redshift and Mark Shreeve. These influences are the heart of this nice album, as we would hear later on "Instand Recognition" and "Anticipation Long Distance". Sober, the guitars and synths pour fine solos and sculpture beautiful melodies which sing and hang to the various sequential approaches. According to this pattern of progressive and divided rhythmic structure, "Clockwork Freries" embraces the airs of an innocent bed song a bit malefic with interposed s equences which bounce delicately under the breaths of a slightly ghostly synth. Ambivalent, the rhythm runs on curt percussions strikings while a dreamy guitar frees soft solos à la Al DiMeola, allying a jazz rock to spectral moods.
Furious, "Inner City" adopts a little bit the powerful ride of a little finale of "Spanish Storm" with vigorous sequences which undulate keenly and solid percussions which hammer a heavy infernal pace. Delicious, the synth throws beautiful melodious lines which sound like spectral lamentations while the guitar speaks to us on an emphatic rhythm where gleaming sequences add a cadenced depth to more hued passages. It’s a heavy and powerful title and it rides such as an apocalyptic Western, quite as "Instand Recognition" which pounds on a fine spasmodic sequential approach where the synth melodies take the shapes of spectral lamentations. We easily guess here a strong Redshift influence. Whispers lost in a gay-coloured intro bring "Anticipation Long Distance" towards a beautiful melodious structure which is similar to the universe of Tangerine Dream’s ballads. Hybrids, the sequences espouse fluty breaths or a strange unreel nursery rhyme while a very melodious synth drops beautiful melodious solos. The whole thing leans on a beautiful rhythmic structure where bass and percussions support soberly a melodious structure which deviates towards an apocalyptic finale, deserving of the universe of Mark Shreeve and his Legion album. Speaking of ballad, "Deep Depression" is a wonderful one. Everything stands on great music. The rhythm is slow and holds a very melancholic tuneful approach, a little as in David Wright's universe. The guitar is sublime. It floats above this dreamlike structure, freeing fine solos which dance and sing on keys in perdition. With its rhythm finely hatched and hesitating, "Deep Depression" evolves with the sadness of its naming to ends in a superb orchestral final where guitars solos whip mellotron choirs which embrace a heavy and slow rhythm before diving back into the echoing notes of a romantic piano. After a floating intro the slow sequences of "Phoenix Arising" wiggle nervously, drawing a hoping rhythm. Another sequential line, a bass o ne, 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, striking and tinted by a cinematographic romance, 'Phoenix Arising' from Steve Smith and the Tylas Cyndrome is a very nice surprise. On rhythms and ambiances in constant movement, Steve Smith weaves an impressive musical scenario where the bases of EM flirt with the heavinesses and the poetic approaches of the England School style and the sometimes complex and destabilizing structures that we find in a more progressive music. In brief, 'Phoenix Arising' is an audacious bet where the genres merge with a stunning fluidity, a little as to open a door to a new style of EM. And this is not something that evident to do. 'Phoenix Arising' is a charming favourite and a nice hat to Steve Smith.
2012. Sylvain Lupari / gutsofdarkness.com & synth&sequences.com