Running time: 2:17:21
Naiad - 24:38
Thalassa - 23:05
Despina - 5:21
Galatea - 16:53
Larissa - 12:47
Proteus - 13:02
Triton - 15:24
Nereid - 19:00
Echoes Promo - 7:11
Disk 1: Tracks 1-4
Disk 2: Tracks 5-9
At last re-issued giving those fans who missed out first time around a chance to own this totally fantastic double CD. When Dave Law asked me to re-run his original review I instead offered to give my perspective on this album which I've now had a chance to fully absorb and appreciate.
Firstly it's confession time. I initially greeted FSP's decision to tread the purely retro route with a level of dismay. The mixture of contemporary melody and retro sequencing on 'Pointless Reminder' was totally captivating and to replace it with an approach which so many are now treading seemed to be a backward step. However, all doubts were dispelled when I heard this album. It took a few sittings, initially I thought "great but nothing particularly special" but then I gradually realised what I had in my possession. This could be by all intents and purposes a long lost TD album from the 'Ricochet'/'Rubycon' period. You've read this sort of sentiment many times from me and other reviewers about dozens and dozens of other albums, but here the sound and style are so close as to be totally "on the nail". CD 1 contains 4 tracks, a couple around the 25 min mark, a 17 min and a 5 min piece. Nearly all were recorded live, opening with 'Naiad' from the Gathering on October 2001. Just bask in the opening 10 minutes, with 70's atmospherics and liberal layers of mellotron. Then the sequences emerge at around the 11 minute mark, totally convincing, mutating all over the place, pounding and thundering through the whole soundstage. It could be a modern day version of 'Rubycon' - a comparison which does the original no injustice at all such is the quality of this modern day recreation. Totally, totally fantastic.
Gear fans will delight at the inside cover pictures, revealing that not only is the sound authentic the equipment behind it is too - well, if if you classify an Arrick modular as authentic. The next track was
recorded at Jodrell Bank in 2002, a concert I attended and this is as mere peek at the magnificence on show. The sequence has a slightly more modern/complex feel, initially pitched higher in the register while motifs and atmospherics blend an absorbing backdrop. The sequence then takes a bolder stance, with a deeper bass line added, rounded off with beautiful mellotron flute sonics. This is Heaven. 'Despina' weighs in at a touch over 5 minutes but still manages to generate great atmosphere, then the final track 'Galatea' gets underway which is an excerpt from their Hampshire Jam appearance in 2001. Totally brilliant atmospherics precede totally brilliant sequencing. Usually I'd be happy with just one track of this quality on an album, here it's wall-to-wall. Every track hits the mark. This would be a definitive album if it was just one CD, what's even better is that it's a double and there's no let up in the Berlin School rampage. 'Larissa' is a studio track but is still recorded "of the moment". The formula is the same, sequencing and retro synths but it's done so brilliantly. The sequencing is always shifting and merging. The palette of voices always changing. 'Proteus' was recorded at the Stars End Radio show, hence the late hour(s) mandated a more laid back approach. Here we hear the subtler side of FSP with a mere sprinkling of sequencing.
Another studio piece follows 'Triton', this time we are launched straight into the sequence run. 15 minutes of pure wall-of-sound pulsating magic follows. Finally (as far as the music is concerned) we get another 19 minutes from the Jodrell Bank concert in the shape of 'Nereid'. This is a totally blistering piece! Sequencer fans will be in their element. The final track is a 7 minute radio promo which describes a little of FSP's approach. I wouldn't have bet on excerpt from The Moody Blues 'Tuesday Afternoon' being included, though Pinder was of course a great exponent of the Mellotron. An interesting bonus anyway. I was surprised by the relative lack of comment around this album when it was first released, perhaps we are getting a little blasé about things. If you bought the TD bootleg box set vol 1, and crave for the same thing but with decent sound quality then you must buy this album. It's no imitation, it's the real thing! Totally and absolutely magnificent. (GG)
There are certain CDs which are fairly pointless to review, people will buy them as soon as they see them available because of who they are by. Tangerine Dream used to be such a band. Over the last few years Free System Project have built up a similar following. This double CD of all new material taken from live performances over the last two years will be simply irresistible to their fans, especially as its contains some of the best stuff they have ever done. Comparisons to 70s TD are inevitable. The sound palate used for the atmospherics could be anything from 'Atem' to 'Tangram' where as the sequences from 'Rubycon' to 'Force Majeure'. In the studio FSP are just Marcel Engels but live the superb Ruud Heij from Kubusschnitt and Frank van der Wel are added, so we have a threesome. Now which other band usually had three members?
OK, so I said a review isn't necessary but what the hell I will do one anyway. We kick off with a track they performed at 'The Gathering' last year called 'Naiad'. After the band are introduced and the clapping
subsides eerie metallic drones and cosmic twitterings float from the speakers. Occasional bass rumbles add depth. A gorgeous flutey synth lead tenderly caresses the soul whilst classic mid 70s celestial choir pads take you back to those days where for many of us the journey began. In the eleventh minute a very powerful rapid sequence is added. This is pure 75 / 76 and will have most fans of TD or FSP in raptures- not remotely original but certainly giving their following exactly what they want. It becomes even more devastating only to subside for a lovely 'Sorcerer' sounding finish. The next track 'Thalassa' is the first of two taken from their Jodrell Bank performance together totalling over forty two minutes. The Sci Fi effects and solar flare introduction was perfect for the venue. Before long a sequence emerges- and what a sequence! The sounds chosen are delicate and high register- we have heard them before but they have never sounded better. A slow lead line weaves its spell without being too intrusive and more tron sounds act as a soft cushion to it all. After a few more minutes a deeper sequence is added combining perfectly with the first. It becomes more insistent, threatens to get out of control but is restrained just in time allowing another lovely lead line to be heard. It surges again and again but each time is brought back into perfect harmony with the rest of the track. 'Despina' is a beautiful short atmospheric number performed at the WDIY radio station. Its the only track on this double CD not to feature sequences but the textures- pure bliss! We finish the first disc with 'Galatea', recorded at the 2001 Hampshire Jam. The first couple of minutes treat us
to the most cosmic passage on the album so far. A sequence emerges a minute later and again it takes no prisoners. Actually for a few moments it might be flying a bit close to a TD original but its almost as if they realise this as it mutates away to another just as satisfying pattern. More celestial choir pads and flutey synth lead lines swell as the piece progresses. The sequence surges from time to time constantly shifting but always wonderful. Amazing stuff.
'Larissa' is a studio recording beginning with cosmic winds and soft pads. Melodic lead lines float over the top but it isn't long before a rapid sequence surges into life. The pulsations, lead lines and tron sounds combine together better than any other track on the album. Each element plays a staring role but together are devastating. There is loads going on but somehow the sound isn't at all muddied, its crystal clear in fact. 'Proteus' is a live track from the Star's End radio show. Sirens are heard as if from the furthest, darkest corners of space. It really is the moodiest piece on the CD and the least TD sounding. At just after the half way mark a delicate sequence enters lightening proceedings slightly but the overall feel remains decidedly moody. 'Triton' (another studio track) fades in with a sequence bubbling away right from the outset. It has a very AirSculpture feel to it, relentless but with superb lead details here and there. More sequences come and go heightening the excitement still further.
'Nereid' is the second track from the Jodrell Bank concert and extremely atmospheric it is too. It begins with more cosmic/spooky effects creating extremely vivid images then in the fourth minute a rapid rotor blade type sequence starts up and we are straight back to TD comparisons but where one of their tracks at 33rpm is speeded up to 45! To make the piece even better the best mellotron sounds used so far are deployed thick and often. AirSculpture again comes to mind as the sequence seems to be cranked up even further. What a corker! We finish with a bonus track called 'Echoes Promo' which is a cross between an interview and demonstration where the band tell us about the FSP philosophy. It's supposed to be serious.
This double CD will be thought of as blasphemy by some who consider copying the style of mid 70s TD as pointless at the best and a hanging offence at the worst. I must admit that if I didn't know it was FSP I would automatically have assumed it was TD. It is the closest copy of this period of their career I have ever heard. What's more it is very exciting stuff. People who hate retro will despise it. Those however who can't get enough of this style of music will be in pure heaven as it must be one of best (and most blatant and non apologetic) example of this style ever. (DL)