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Rovo and System 7 – Phoenix Rising

G-Wave/Cleopatra (North America)

Rovo and System 7  -  Phoenix RisingAfter reviewing the Hinotori single earlier this year I’ve been looking forward to the album release as the tracks on the EP blew me away. So it was with trepidation that I placed the CD into the player and pressed play. I certainly didn’t expect to be instantly transported to another galaxy.

The album begins with an extended version of “Hinotori,” and from the opening cosmic synth pads twittering as if they are a satellite to a giant planet to when Steve Hillage’s signature psychedelic guitar hits in you are already to blast off to another world. The drums scatter around as the guitar takes up a rather grandiose melody. The whole thing sounds uplifting; almost an ode of joy to the universe. The track bubbles with excitement as the percussion and bass pushes it forward. This is a dance at the end of the solar system. Then such a beautiful lead guitar smothers the sound that’s so aching it could almost make you cry. I’m exhausted and its only the first track.

“Love for the Phoenix” starts at a more gentle pace with gorgeous synth lines overlapping each other. Soon the drums begin to pick up the beat and we are heading more into System 7 territory here. A sampled vocal pops up now and then to add a slight air of melancholy to proceedings. This would sound wonderful as a soundtrack to some kind of outer space anime with glistening ships moving through endless space. Midway through the track and it hits more into a dance atmosphere with the guitar melody understated and the rhythm building. This is a multi-coloured, raise your hands in the air moment that is just perfect.

Picked guitar notes start the cover of John McLaughlin’s “Meeting of the Spirits” and suddenly we are into pure progressive rock territory with both flute and the electric guitar weaving a complex interplay with each other. If you are a fan of Fish Rising, early Gong or even early Yes you will instantly fall in love with this track. The drumming is marvellous and the violin very expressive and it rocks like it could have been an extra track on King Crimson’s Red album. This was the surprise track for me on the record and boy am I glad it’s there; I even thought for a moment I was back in 1973 (which is no bad thing). A steady beat introduces “Cisco” and flanged guitar plays some chords before a wailing lead takes over and we move in to a cosmic psychedelic jam. Synths swirl around as the track heads into NEU! meets Ash Ra Tempel Krautrock area with the drumming sliding around as to avoid hitting a motorik beat. Then the pace begins to pick up and suddenly we are in pure spacerock freak out mode which blisters along as the track progresses.

“Unbroken” moves in to a more languid air at its start with bass and drum thumps over some restful chords and some lush synth playing. When the drums kick the beat in proper the track slides into a kind of Ozric Tentacles festival band psychedelia. This is early evening music, the sun creeping through trees at a late summer gathering of the tribes. Spacey chords introduce “Sino Dub” and we prepare ourselves for a 13 minute ride to out there. Hand drum percussion starts the beat and the keyboards play a hummable melody and you can feel your feet begin to tap along to the beat. Then the lead guitar starts to pick out notes and some great bass riffs head in and we are transported to a different place. The piece shifts gear and again we hit slight progressive rock area with notes that build and climb. A glistening, shimmering synth introduces “Unseen Onsen” and suddenly we are tripping the light fantastic with Vangelis or Tangerine Dream. Haunting synthesized voices hover over gliss guitar and the odd bass note. This is a trip beyond the solar wind and a beautiful way to end the album.

This is a remarkable album: it bridges the gap between Hillage’s ’70s output and System 7 stuff amazingly well and Rovo are exceptional musicians that make this just a perfect whole. I look forward to seeing this album played live next year as I can imagine just how good its going to sound.

-Gary Parsons-

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