The English synthduo VoLt, consisting of the experienced electronic musicians Michael Shipway and Steve Smith, has (in case of releasing studioalbums) been on hold since their excellent 2007 album “Nucleosynthesis”. But individually the guys weren’t on hold at all. Shipway has recently released the great album “The Three Towers” which he recorded together with guitarplayer Gareth Jones under the “bandname” Lamp. Smith has made a wonderful album called “Phoenix Rising” as Steve Smith And The Tylas Cyndrome.|
- Ohms Law
But now it is time again for VoLt.
Shipway and Smith have the gift to compose electronic music that clearly has it’s roots in the retro-electronic music but actually has removed itself a lot from “Berlin”, so to say. They manage to combine the traditional elements like long sequencerpassages, ambient intros and analog effects with a great deal of melody and that is a wonderful thing. ”Circuits”, their fifth album on the Groove Unlimited label, consists of three long tracks, varying from 19:20 minutes to 21:36 minutes. The titletrack opens the cd with widely stretched effects, after which beautiful atmospheric sounds fall in. The guys play a wide line of fine instruments, like the impressive Korg Oasys. Slow sequences come in and they start soloing softly. The sequences become fuller, accompanied by rhythms, and a wonderful melodically track is born. The second piece “Ohms Law” starts with massive vocal sounds en effects. The sequences and rhythms that follow have references to the classic Jean Michel Jarre “Oxygene” and “Equinoxe”, keeping the mix between retro and melody in tact. The electric guitar-like solosound is very good. Darkness opens the last composition “Firewire”. It almost feels like you are inside a cathedral during a Tangerine Dream-concert halfway the seventies. Than melody enters and the for VoLt so typically thrusting sequences are added. This ends the cd in an almost euphoric way.
It is good to have VoLt back after five years. Michael and Steve are really two unique electronic musicians with their special way of retro. Let us hope the next one will not take another five years.
2012. Paul Rijkens
It has been a long time since we heard some new music of Volt. And a little more, we would have even waited for a long time. Possibly forever! Nevertheless the “Circuits” project was on rails shortly after the superb HjVi, except that some internal problems (in what I believed to understand) as well as Steve Smith’s solo project (Phoenix Arising) and Michael Shipway’s (Journey to Venus and The Three Towers) delayed the finalization of “Circuits” which was conclude by distance with Ron Boots' support who did an amazing job on mixing a whimsical album based on electronic tones of all stripes, depicting the microscopic universe of the electronic chips and circuits. “Circuits” lives by 3 long titles which renew with the long deployments of the minimalist rhythms of Volt, with sequences sometimes docile and sometimes crazy and synths sometimes musical and sometimes aggressive which depict the turbulent universe of Michael Shipway and Steve Smith.
Short waves' cracklings and noises, causing interferences in the absolute oblivion, open the labyrinthic meanders of white noises which compose the title-track's slow introductory path. Some discreet and misty synth waves with a scent of a vague archaic organ float behind these electric phonemes, guiding the abstract ambiences of "Circuits" towards a cosmic passage to finally bind themselves to keys dancing in opposite sense. These sequences which play cat and mouse with an embryonic rhythmic draw a virginal approach with ions cavorting under ghostly waves. And abruptly this innocent rhythm collides the barriers of the impassiveness at 12:13 with muffled knockings which hammer a static and heavy rhythm, keeping beneath its resonances these sequences which flutter with innocence on a structure become of lead. This heavy and melodic rhythm raises allegorical clouds in the presence of synths exchanging solos which are courting mists of ether, releasing a soft perfume of madness with these Arabic airs which decorate a structure already rich in rhythm and harmonies. A rhythmic structure which goes alone to offer to our ears a stunning dialogue of sequences and crackling waves which dies in heavy artificial beatings. "Ohms Law" presents a more musical intro with lines of synth which cross their spectral wanderings above a magnetic storm, while a more premature rhythm settles down with metallic keys which drum a vaporous march under a sky tinted by threatening mists and eclectic tones. A hesitating pulsation emerges from this mini industrial din, modifying a rhythm which becomes more rhythmic with a mixture of pulsations, sequences and percussions sounding as wings of ice-cold locusts. Like a one-legged man, this rhythm skips awkwardly. Staggering, it gains a second leg to roll in undulatory circles under solos of two synths which don’t sing the same melody but which harmonize themselves to flood the ambience of a delicate oniric mist and some great fluty breezes while the rhythm, which wins in heaviness and velocity, is always decorated by these superb wings of electronic locusts.
The rhythmic evolution of "Firewire" is latent. Circulating between wild winds of which the extremities suddenly appear both from heavens and from hell, some fine echoing hoops pop out a little after the 3rd minute to jump in the arc of their resonances under the dark eye of a synth with breaths aired by colorful electronic elements. This short-lived rhythm is gobbled up by a deluge of twisted solos which roll its lamentations in clouds of mist slain by darkness. And it’s in these lost breaths that the rhythm gets back to life beneath another shape, demonstrating all the capacity of Volt to amaze again and again. It’s a splendid rhythmic structure built around fine rebounds stick one after the other, moulding a stunning glaucous ride through the somber tunnels of lines of fire of which the resonances throb such as the black breaths of Ramp or Redshift. Fine fluty laments sound the end of this apocalyptic ride which takes more vigour with electronic percussions which hammer a rhy thm more lively than curt under wonderful solos to tones as alive as musical, entailing "Firewire" towards a finale which seethes of caresses coming from a musical purgatory as much musical as anarchy.
Volt is part of EM big names in the same way as Ramp, Redshift, Arc or Arcane are. And "Circuits" confirms the importance of the English duet in the chessboard of contemporary EM with a powerful album which allies the rhythms and ambiences to the diapason of their paradoxes with a skillful dexterity, witness that the universe of EM is not only between good hands but is also blooming more than ever beyond the unlimited imaginations of its designers.
2012. Sylvain Lupari / gutsofdarkness.com & synth&sequences.com
Known for Mid Era synth music, Volt continues this style on "Ciruits". The first song is deep space with sound effects that slowly evolves into sequencer rhythms and layered melodies. "Ohms Law' follows the same pattern, while "Firewire" is more upbeat than the other two medium-paced tracks. Comparable to Redshift and Free System Projekt but slightly lighter. A must for fans of Michael and Steve's work.
2012. Pat Murphy / Alien Air Music