ROVO &SYSTEM 7 Phoenix Rising (CD on Purple Pyramid Records)
This CD from 2013 features 72 minutes of intense trance music.
Rovo (a Japanese progrock ensemble) are: Yuji Katsui (on electric violin), Seiichi Yamamoto (on guitar), Yasuhiro Yoshigaki (on drums and percussion), Jin Harada (on bass), and Tatsuki Masuko (on synthesizer). System 7 (the British techo/rave artists) is: Steve Hillage (on guitar and programming) and Miquette Giraudy (on synthesizer.)
A basic primer on the history leading up to this album: Way back, the noted Japanese cartoonist Osama Tezuka created his manga series “Hi No Tori” (“Bird of Fire”). (Those lacking in a detailed knowledge of comic history might know Tezuka’s work from the TV cartoon series known in America as “Astroboy.”) Decades later, System 7 did an album (“Phoenix” as a homage to “Hi No Tori.” System 7 are fond of performing in Japan, where they encountered the Rovo group, who did a remix of one of the songs from “Phoenix.” The two bands got along so well, the “Phoenix Rising” album came about.
“Hinotori (Album Version)” Astral tones swim with crisp percussive, punctuated by shimmering sustains (Hillage’s guitar stylings). Eventually the drums take the lead, dogged by guitar effects swooping out of the sky, but not even the zooming synth sounds can daunt the uberbeats. Amid all of this, a violin’s wail lends a particularly subtle vibration to the dense, hyperactive mix.
“Love for the Phoenix” Serpentine electronics and diligent drums are immersed in a swarm of effects (guitar, violin, vocal, and otherwise). Despite the song’s generally uptempo posture, there’s a sinuous dreaminess lurking in the melody.
“Meeting of the Spirits” Here’s a treat cover version of the classic Mahavishnu Orchestra tune. Mahavishnu’s music involves harnessing pure intensity, and Rovo and System 7 match that requirement. The guitar is stunning, fiery and nimble-fingered. The rhythms are intense and relentless. The violin cuts a delightfully molten flow through it all. The bass finally gets the opportunity to express its rumble.
“Cisco (Phoenix Rising Version)” Here, the instruments take turns leading the ricocheting melody. The guitar and violin become almost synonymous in their grinding threads. The rhythms are durable. The electronics burbling with vitality. Everything contributes to the mounting drama, achieving a wondrous crescendo.
“Unbroken” Shimmering tones conspire with gurgling blurps, ushering in almost hesitant rhythms and atmospheric effects. The gestalt of these elements persists all the way to a nice fadeout.
“Sino Dub (Phoenix Rising Version)” Bongos enliven this piece in tandem with a horde of thumping effects. The strings establish a cosmic backdrop which the electronics fill with sparkling stars. Twangy guitar strumming winds through this astral panorama. Suddenly cymbals usurp the beats, and the bass rises like a lumbering behemoth. Pulsations sweep into play, generating riffs that undulate like sentient mist in the air. The bongos return, carrying the tune through an extended passage of escalating cycles. Again, the music’s pattern is expand toward a glorious pinnacle. There’s even room for a euphoric guitar solo of searing lethality.
“Unseen Onsen” The album concludes with a more ambient composition. Ethereal electronics and feathery percussion and gentle guitar sustains and ghostly violin. Several of the instrument take turns twinkling as a tapestry of textures unfurls.
A fine dose of trance music with strong prog tendencies. Full of epic moments.