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 Spyra - Phonehead - PS 08/86
  Release Date: 3 March 1997
  Limitation: 1000

    7 Homes & 8 Spyrits Part I 8.56
    VCM 100F 10.22
    Ocean 9.44

    Level, Voice 11.08
    VCF CS20 5.04
    7 Homes & 8 Spyrits Part II 9.13

    Omega est Alpha 14.47
    Hommage a Satie 3.13

  all tracks written by Wolfram DER Spyra

Say hello to my new second-favorite ambient artist, Wolfram DER Spyra!

1. First of all, I like mallet instruments a lot. Secondly, I >really< like odd time signatures. Therefore, I doubt Spyra could have left a more positive first impression on me. The song's emphasis changes gradually from the mallets to the trance-dance, and then blends them together in a way that almost sounds like a techno version of Peter Gabriel's "The Intruder". We return to Theme 1, then fade. Bubbly noises segue into...

2. Odd time signatures again - a bass loop with four 7/8s followed by one 8/8 (36/8?!) and whatever else spyra decided to wash over it. Without the bass loop it would probably remind me most of either "A Sprinkling of Clouds" by Gong or "The Eternal Wheel" by the Ozrics (who of course take much of their inspiration from Gong). Bubbles segue again...

3. We are introduced to an electronically altered voice describing the religious experience of being at sea. This weirdo introduces a LOW BASS DUB. Watch yer speakers. A vibraphone appears toward the end.

4. A dark organ and synthesized piano accompanies a sort of alien voice chanting "La-di-da-di" or something like that. At about 4:30 we get some dub and almost immediately following that some weird Harvey Bainbridge-like swooshes. The chanting aliens return to close the song. More bubbles...

5. Starts as an ambient soundscape. At around 2:00, someone tells us what a VCF is.

6. 7 Homes Part II: Not that similar to Part I of "7 Homes & 8 Spyrits", except for the 7/8, some mallets, and nice danceable music [for those of you with seven legs :-) ].

7. Starts out soft, with a kind of Moogish melody. Piano enters at around 3;30 with a melody that sounds a bit like a pared down version of "Girls On Broadway" from Tangerine Dream's _Rockoon_. Piano enters again at around 7:05. A different melody this time, but the same general feel. Around 8:00 we veer into smooth-jazz territory a bit, but the music still retains a good edge. At around 9:30, a mellotron chorus accompanies the rest of the music. At 10:30, the song takes a right turn. It's still mellow and slow, but the tonal emphasis changes almost entirely. As other "instruments" join in this change, it ends up sounding like something Vangelis might have written. Overall, a VERY tasty 14:47. A difficult choice, but this is the best track on the album, with Track 1 a VERY close second.

8. Simple piano thing.

OK. I give this album a 9.5 out of 10. It's awesome, and the only reason I take off half a point is because the Satie thing doesn't seem to fit with anything else. No biggie, though. GET THIS IF YOU CAN.

(review by Damon Capehart)

Do not be cautious about this album, because of a few less-than-brilliant releases from FAX lately. This is a pleasant and interesting CD to listen to. The style is a little like Pino and Wildjamin (Xangadix's latter tracks) for chilled trance that plods along nicely, along with some lush, organic synths and chords. The feel and mood is fresh and oceanic, while remaining quite electronic. The sounds are beautiful; chilled synth chords (reminiscent of early Jarre, in places, and of Tetsu Inoue in others).The first track is a nice solid opening - 7Homes & Spyrits Part 1 - good soft ambient/techno, which cools down into VCM 100F - Tetsu Inoue-type sounds with chilled rhythms and soft synth passages. Ocean is an even more chilled (to begin with), organic affair - processed, echoey narrative voice with soft dubby beats kicking in later. Level, Voice is mellow and yet has great presence - synth, piano and slow trancey rhythms. VCF CS20 tones things down - a beatless soft ambient passage with a narrative voice talking synth-techno-babble (this track reminds me of the track Albedo 0.39 by Vangelis). 7Homes & 8Spyrits Part 2 is a trancey piece with watery-electronic effects and a general synthy Jarre-ish feel. Omega and Alpha is the best piece in the album; soft minimal trance, organic effects, excellent chords (brilliant narrative feel with ambient piano pieces) and synth (backing synths are very like Jarre - Oxygene/Equinoxe). In fact, I would say the synth is comparable to (and as good as) Klaus Schultz or Jarre in the 70's, although the rhythms are modern. The last track is Hommage a Satie which is a nice short piano piece much like Cosmic Baby's track Thinking About Myself.

The tracks have a soft and narrative feel with no weak spots. As a whole, it's a very good album that has a soft trancey organic feel, with nice synth (and a pinch of piano in just the right spots) and ideas that could easily have turned out cheesy but are, in fact, pretty damn good in the end.

A strong release from FAX.

(review by eddY)

in wanting to comment on spyra's solo work in the fax catalogue, it's been difficult to narrow down a particular release unless i were to make a best of mix, which by any means, would fail to capture the spirit of creativity, balance, and diversity this body of work deserves. that's not to say unification wouldn't exist as spyra's sensibility of instrumentation, tone, emotions, and rhythm make him recognizable even on such works as Hommage a Satie.

tracks like Sferics and Birds on the Wire raise the bar when it comes to blending a conceptual nature with it's emotional effects. everything becomes very visual and organic. those two tracks alone are actually enough reason for me to own the spyra collection, no matter the cost. rarely am i captivated by such music for an extended period of time. the same sadness also leaks through in tracks such Temporarily Not Available, but not to the same effect, although it's still pretty darn heart twisting.

the way sounds are treated and understood by spyra are made clear on a track like VCF CS20, which again, beautifully blends emotional response and expression. i never feel lost in any of his music, Six Miles South of Hastings from Etherlands keeps it real tight, especially when that slappin' organ come in. there is never a moment where i feel he has lost control what so ever, even when things start to seemingly syncopate, it comes to turn there was never a moment that wasn't planned or wonderfully executed. bringing it back to phonehead, i choose this above the rest for it's playability as a whole. the organic dubby qualities are excellent, and it retains a flow the others lack. i'll not forget it's his first fax release.

(review by myopically)

Track 1: (7Homes & 8Spirits Part I) Haunting marimba rhythm lines in 7/4. This opening track is reminiscent of Percolations:Part1 by the band Gong from the album Gazeuse! but of course in an electronica style.

Track 2: (VCM 100F) A nice low end rhythm (whose meter changes subtly every fifth bar) underlies a journey into breadth as a bass drum lightly thumps. The atmosphere overlay consists of synth chords and musical saw like codes peppered with occasional cicada sounds.

Track 3: (Ocean) "You look out over the ocean.... at whatever's around... and your mind clears... puts you in your place. The wind, it moans at ya... it moans past your ears... sorta like God talkin' to ya. I'm not crazy, it's like God talking to ya." The dub kicks in as your mind clears (as the voice clears)

Track 4: (Level, Voice) Nan-nee, nan-nee, nan-nee chants over Pink Floyd like chords - wish you were here. The chords become more staccato after about 4 minutes and the latin like percussion becomes more visible. This melts away into space for a couple of minutes and then the chants come back into focus again to pick up where the journey left off.

Track 5: (VCF CS20) Electronic quail and sparrows warble and chirp behind a beautiful soundscape. We get a lesson in voltage controlled filters - the heart of the synthesizer.

Track 6: (7Homes & 8Spirits Part II) Sequencer, chords, and a funky~dancy reprise of track 1.

Track 7: (Omega est Alpha) Phaedra like atmospheres carry you from the end to the beginning. After about 3 1/2 minutes, simple piano and bass open the way for UFO watching. The piece builds with some tasteful beats and percussive keyboard, recedes, and then begins another TD voyage until the UFO lands.

Track 8: (Hommage a Satie) Reverent piano for a French 19th century composer.

(review by Roy SeGuine)


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