CDS Review November 2008
I remember a day right back in the very early 90's when a new UK Synth musician travelled up to Dundee to meet with me to discuss his debut CD album, and I recall how I was initially struck by the ethereal, heavenly quality of his music and also by his obvious enthusiasm for what he was doing - I could see (and hear) that his music meant a lot to him and that it was genuinely inspired by people and places in his personal life.
That musician was Robert Fox, and with 'Asfafa' he was the first UK synth player I had heard who made truly inspired melodic synth space music within a CHORAL setting - the only others doing it to that level at that time were USA based musicians like Constance Demby and Kevin Braheny. CD Services was still a relatively new company at that stage, and the new Fox brand of 'EM' was an exciting find. It was escapism in music to the extreme and capable of taking you to places in your head that hadn't existed up to that point - I loved every second of it - and as it happened soon after that meeting - so did a great many CD Services customers!
It was like Vangelis playing in heaven and I promoted it as such, and Fox (as did Demby and Braheny) went on to become some of CD Services biggest selling artists of the time. I remember when I first reviewed 'Asfafa' I could not help my mind constantly drifting into a strong urge to write the word Vangelis down almost every two or three lines - I was never very fond of name-dropping to that degree, and desperately tried to avoid repeating myself, but I just couldn't help it - the link was there by the bucket load, and there was no way of avoiding it, so I relented and just rolled with the comparison.
Now, almost two decades have passed by, with so many dramatic changes in the music industry having come and gone along the way, and here I am with a brand new Robert Fox album at the end of 2008, and finding myself doing exactly the same thing again!
I said back then that Fox was the UK equivalent of the Greek keyboard maestro Vangelis and after listening through 'Evergreen' several times, here I am saying it again!
Above all others he has released since 'Asfafa', this album really seems to have struck that same chord for me.
There are some unbelievably strong melodies on 'Evergreen' - often simple, but very effective - some of which have been shrouded with more of these gorgeous choral textures first heard on 'Asfafa', but now, with all the advances that technology has brought to synthesizers and the recording world in general, they sound even more sophisticated.
Yes, 'Evergreen' is a beautiful album indeed - the nearest synth music gets to "new age" but so much more that that would imply, so lets briefly sample each of the album's 10 tracks for you...
'Sceptred Isle' takes me straight back to the time when I first experienced 'Asfafa' and is one very much for all the Vangelis fans among us with it's beautiful central melody line surrounded by strikingly gorgeous ethereal voices and sweeping, symphonic strings with some natural background effects.
Another simple but striking piano melody introduces: 'Brown Bread & Thatched Cottages' and as new layers of Vangelis-ized synth sounds are added, the piece develops in an easy, relaxed fashion. 'Rolling Hills' opens with a host of angelic voices, which is soon joined by gentle rolling rhythms and a chiming piano melody to create another track of great beautifully.
'Song For A Dark Queen' is a dreamy track that has a slight hint of things Celtic with a sampled Clannad-like female voice effect and a haunting alto (synth) sax melody line with distant drum beats, and together a beautiful atmosphere is formed, with the overall effect becoming quite intoxicating as it moves on.
'The River' is a slowly evolving track with a simple piano theme rolling over a bed of rippling water and bird sounds - very tranquil and relaxed, with a pretty melody line. 'Dirty Old Train' opens with more of the synth alto sax sound that featured earlier in the album, then flows into another flowing, tranquil, piano/synth passage with a rhythm designed to give the impression of a train making its way through the countryside, conjuring up images of tranquil landscapes as it passes through.
'Cloisters' goes back into choral mode with angelic voices hovering above a dream-like piano melody, then after a couple of minutes the electronic rhythm kicks in and carries the track forward with further (male) choral voices adding depth to what is a tranquil, spiritually influenced piece.
'Woodland Carpet In Blue' is beautifully orchestrated synth track with distant sounds of the countryside flowing into the mix from time to time. The production is quite sparse initially but develops with added electronic rhythms and extra subtle synth layers, until the final two minutes where a gorgeous Vangelis-like synth lead carries the melody line on to a wonderful conclusion.
'Nightlife' opens to a sound collage of synth textures, distant angelic voices and other effects, then that familiar Fox synth/piano sound comes in with another strong melodic lead, before more synth sounds are added as the orchestral layers build and grow into a fuller picture. This could easily be mistaken for a missing track from Ridley Scott's 'Bladerunner' soundtrack. 'Land's End' finishes the album off in style with a gorgeous slice of that familiar Fox magic, but with an added female vocal that will remind you of past work Vangelis did with Greek singer Irene Papas.
So, there we go, this is as good as anything Robert Fox has produced since 'Asfafa' with emphasis placed on mixing those gorgeous Vangelis style melodies with lovely angelic choral arrangements, and if you liked what you heard when this guy started out in the early 90's, then your going to love 'Evergreen' as well.
The concept album “Adonai”, originally created for theatre, is Robert’s evocative sonic telling of the Easter Story and a remarkable man from a human point of view. Assembled of grand orchestral soundscapes, vocal textures, guitar and piano, the album unmistakeably reveals a new side of Robert’s music.
The 17 highly visual tracks actually contain a deep sense of reflection and (com)passion, offering lush symphonic outings next to rhythmic, tribal-infused pieces and reflective, intimate miniatures. What “Adonai” especially shows is an honest, heartfelt passion which reminds of the symphonic works of Michael Neil, although the music is different.
Opening and ending with furious thunder and lightning, the emotionally laden, beautifully rendered religious soundworlds between them make this album something special. One can actually sense the positive, uplifting impact on “Temple”, the immersive impact of the monk-chants of “Anointing”, or beautifully melted atmospheric sections that make up the 12-minute highlight “Nine Mimes”.
Only the psychedelic, directionless soundscapes of “Gethsemane” interrupted the magical spell for me shortly. Heaven opens its doors on “Transfiguration”, after which the religious experience deepens even further in the following tracks before heaven’s gate opens a second time on “Crucifixion”.
As the story nears its completion, the sacred spaces of “Pieta (2)” and “Resurrection” nicely wind things down, leaving the listener with a deep sense of compelled satisfaction and amazement .
The 62-minute “Adonai” is a religious symphonic soundtrack hymn which I would have loved to see with the powerful piece of theatre it was originally created for.
Well done, Robert!
Touching the Serpent's Tail.
Review by CDS
I'll say one thing about old Foxie - he doesn't half love the majesty that you can create with synthesizer music.
If any music could be described as "epic" - in the film sense - it's what he's playing today!
Huge, sweeping layers of absolute grandeur and opulence pour out of each and every track. Even when it's romantic, it's powerful, and when he wants to get powerful, it's romantic. So, with a lump in the throat, eyes like saucers and not a dry eye in the house, allow us to present his latest album: 'Touching The Serpent's Tail'.
It starts in the relative restrained pleasure of 'Earth', which it about as close as he gets to a cosmic track on the album, and even this is laced with an orchestral-styled magic.
From there you head off into eight minutes plus of: 'Another Time, Another Place', initially on undulating sequencer-like rhythms, as a beautiful piano lead comes into play and synths sparkle and dance all around.
That soon-to-be familiar sound of rich synth tapestries form the majestic string-like backdrop, and the whole thing is underpinned with a river of electronic gorgeousness that flows underneath, as the whole piece moves along neatly and delicately, threatening to open out and fly, but keeping it within its chosen emotive limits.
'The Serpent's Sweet Song' largely continues where the previous track left off, only this time the sense of grandeur is even more to the fore as the string synths soar to the heavens amid tinkling percussive synth rhythms, and as the tracks slowly begins to build, eventually becoming something that would accompany shots of vast oceans or arid deserts - the sort of thing a film maker would kill to get done this well.
The eight-minute: 'Weaver Of Chance' takes all this on board, increases the volume and accelerates the pace slightly, so that the effect is more intense.
This all starts to rise as the combination of rich textures and echoed percussive electronic rhythms form a canvas of sweeping chords that move slowly but inexorably forward.
It's big, expansive, wide-screen and breathtakingly panoramic beautiful music that's loud and majestic, yet somehow serene and spacey too. As with most other Robert Fox albums,
hints of Vangelis pop up from time to time, but by and large, it remains original, yet somehow familiar, and for the five remaining tracks, that pattern continues.
The melodic layers, depths, textures and rhythms run through a heartland of music that provides an ease of enjoyment that is decidedly hypnotic, and way more than its potential money-spinner as "film music", were that to happen! As I said, synth music of splendour and beauty, substantial yet sweet, pleasant and strong, it's for those who want their music to carry them off like a warm wind on a cloudy day.
Touching the Serpent's Tail.
A tricky one to write about. AD Music specialise in electronica that belongs, generally, in a specilised sub-genre, one where releases
rarely break free to the public’s wider attention. Yet the devotees of artists like Robert Fox, David Wright, Code Indigo et al wax
lyrical about each nuance.
This release is characterised by sweeping synths and keyboard-based breathy almost-choirs. Tinkling grand piano sounds add breadth and
melodic progression. If you’d been around the Full Moon Beach on Ko Phan Gan in the early nineties you’d recognise this sound
as the signature of Enigma’s first (and subsequent) albums. The stoner head-trip of a lazy day, hiding from the sun under a shady
straw roof. Or maybe you were back in the rainy UK, where the sound was nearly as ubiquitous. You’d not be surprised then when, now
and again, a stranger sound, like maybe a gamelan sampled, appears or even when, surprise, Gregorian chant materialises, followed by unintelligible
female talking. It’s all very familiar but also enjoyable. For me it soundtracked, variously, a journey to work, a stretch at the
computer and, best of all, a lazy Saturday morning reading the paper in bed.
Nothing new at all but a collection with a symphonic sweep and tunes that go somewhere.
Touching the Serpent's Tail.
Sleeve Notes by Robert Fox.
What goes around comes around.....as the saying goes.....and indeed it does! 1995 saw the release of album number 3 - A Gathering of Spirits
which derived its inspiration from an earlier trip to Canada. The same trip unwittingly provided the inspiration for "Touching the
Serpent's Tail", some 12 years and 11 albums later, and came in the form of a book of poetry with the same title and picked up in a
book shop in Ottawa! All I can remember at the time was glancing through it and being struck by its imagery....with the additional thought
that there may well be something in this to work an album around. This same poetry was then subsequently brought back, put away....and forgotten
about, - temporarily lost amidst house moves, studio revamps, - and life in general. Its recent rediscovery only served to make that dim
and distant connection with the initial thoughts that fleetingly occurred in 1995....and "Touching the Serpent's Tail", the musical
version (!!) was belatedly born!
Simply put, it is not a musical interpretation of the poem, but more a musical interpretation of the track titles which derived from the
poem. That being said the title itself does have the suggestion of things needed to be faced, and that in the touching thereof maybe the
serpent is not quite so bad a beast as the word "serpent" would suggest. So....perhaps the listener need do no more than the composer
and let it work for them inside the head. It is, after all, no more than a musical interpretation of a series of images...........or is
Robert Fox - 2007
remember the first time I heard Robert Fox's music. It was his debut release 'Asfafa' (1991), represented here by 'Over Turquoise
Seas', and it left a lasting impression on me. At last a British musician had created a melodic, grandiose sound on a scale to
rival Vangelis, yet the composer's own identity shone through like a beacon. Now, nearly 15 years later, just before the release
of his tenth solo album, 'Timeless' is a welcome compilation of carefully selected tracks from an impressive canon.
Drawing musical inspiration from personal experiences such as traveling to Australia, Robert has produced enduring classics such
as 'White Man Dreaming' and a personal favorite, '3 Sisters' from 1993's 'Blue Mountain Suite'. Further excursions to Canada, and
study of the native legends surrounding Niagara Falls, inspired the album 'A Gathering of Spirits'(1994) from which the opening
cut 'Thundering Water(Niagara)' and 'Moving On' have been taken. The latter is a good example of the composer refining his musical
template with increasing sophistication and skill.
Another key influence on Robert's music has been classic Literature. 'The Fire and the Rose' (1991) was inspired by T.S. Elliot's 'Four
Quartets' and, sadly, by the death of his first wife and is represented here by the majestic 'And All Shall Be Well'. 'Underworld'
(2002) was a soundtrack composed for the Mikrokosmos Theatre Company's production of 'Faustus' and revealed deeper and darker dimensions
to Robert's music and 'Angel' clearly demonstrates the increasing range and maturity of Robert's sound.
'Brother Earth' from 'Into the Light' (1997) reveals a more spiritual side, deploying ethnic textures whilst 'Somewhere
Out There' aptly demonstrates the composer's ability to produce music to inspire and uplift the listener in equal measure.
'Heaven's Gate' is taken from
the proposed 1998 release 'The stuff of Dreams' which finally appeared in 2000 as part of the collaborative project 'Blue' and is
another fine example of Robert's uncanny gift for producing ;memorable anthems.
The critically acclaimed 'Talking Heads' (2000) is well represented by the excellent 'FourSixZero', 'Water Music' and the magnificent
'Queen of Hearts', a melody of such outstanding quality that it has quickly become a firm fan's favorite. Robert Fox's work, as 'Timeless'
clearly demonstrates, bears favourable comparison to the very best the genre has produced simply because his music is so consistently
inspiring. His vision has remained constant, to produce evocative, high quality, melodic electronic music but he has continually refined
his distinctive sound and with increasing subtlety produced music of enduring quality.
For the uninitiated, 'Timeless' is the best possible introduction to Robert Fox's impressive discography but it also
serves as an excellent retrospective on a distinguished career and a timely appraisal of the master craftsman's oeuvre. The
final cut, an exclusive edit of 'Ascension', is taken from Robert's forthcoming album 'Maya' and is further evidence of
the increasing maturity and
evolution of his trademark sound. 'Timeless' stands up as an exceptional collection but there is more to come and I will continue
to follow Robert Fox's career, along with his faithful followers, with keen anticipation.
Steve Roberts (February 2005)
Review by Deadearnestreviews.
This collection shows the breadth and depth of the man's musical career to date and is a remarkable showcase of the variation
and range of electronic music that Fox has produced. To his credit - although some would say "arguably" at this point - most of
his tracks here not only don't conform to the clichéd synth music categories, but also don't sound like any other musician.
Sure, there are hints of 30 years of greatness as artists from Tangerine Dream & Vangelis to Vimal, Roach, Oldfield and Enigma
are recalled as melodies, rhythms samples and soundscapes pass by, but the overall effect is that the compositions are individual
and unique - this is Robert Fox and no-one else.
Yet by the end of it, you still haven't pinned him down. Mostly rhythmic, and generally strongly electro- percussive or just plain
percussive, some of the tracks have an etho-ambient foundation to them while others are based more on the traditional electro-percussive
synth structures. He uses string synths a fair bit to provide the lush textures that serve as an expanse or a backdrop to much
of the intricately composed and played melodic detail that is going on above all this. The tracks all possess a very deep, warm,
human, almost analogue, sound to them and, despite the relative variation between tracks (one that actually lessens the more you
get into the album), the whole thing hangs together superbly as a great introduction - even a collection in itself - to the remarkable
and highly creative, easily digestible and thoroughly spiritual music of Robert Fox - treat yourself!! - you won't regret a minute
Robert's 11th album is a stunning listening experience. MAYA is one of the best examples of the 'synthetic soundscape' style
of electronic music you'll hear this side of Vangelis classic works. In fact this album sees a return to Roberts forte, composing
lush compositions and arranging/ and performing them superbly. The sound is layered with melodies and imaginative effects that
combine to create a dramatic mix of ornate themes and dense undulating movements full of rhythmic energy. It's not to be
Amongst the splendid catalogue by the label AD Music, this work by Robert Fox deserves special mention, as its creative quality is most
noteworthy. The music by Robert Fox joins elements from Melodic Space Music, Progressive Rock and some SynthPop touches. The nine
pieces that integrate this album are very melodic, with romantic airs and crystaline environments. Some passages have an overwhelming
emotive nature. Others have certain mystery traits. The use of synthesizers enhances the majestic atmospheres that appear in some
of the compositions.
Robert Fox extended soundtrack for the Mikrokosmos Theatre Company's production of 'Faustus', also directed by Robert, takes its
musical themes and inspiration from Marlowe's play. In the play Faustus enters into a contract with the devil and eventually pays
the price but knowledge of the play's narrative is not an essential prerequisite to enjoy the music on offer here.
Ominous tolling bells initiate the first track 'Portent', a fittingly restless prelude to the superbly atmospheric electronics
evoking a restless sonic nightmare. 'Mephistopheles' begins with a richly dense gothic soundtrack with powerful percussion effects
before Fox delivers one of his top drawer evocative, yet understated melodies, stately but tinged with melancholy. 'Underworld'
utilizes voices, chants and whispers to great effect as a minimalist backdrop to some fine piano and keyboard work.
'Hot Whore' opens with a salvo of exotic Vangelis-style electronic treatments before settling into a piano riff and periodic expansive
full-on keyboard sound interspersed with more minimalist improvisation passages.
'Seven Deadly Sins' has a highly charged, unsettling, impressionistic introduction before undergoing a variety of changes, including
Vangelis-style phrasings and dramatic percussion with clever touches of light and shade provided by some sensitive piano and voice
samples. Fox serves up a more typically expansive melody on the excellent 'Angel' providing a more relaxed ethereal atmosphere.
On 'Helen of Troy' a lighter feel is provided by the marimba effects but Fox retains the superbly crafted melodics. The tracks cross
fade into a seamless work with occasional linking tracks providing interesting musical bridges.
'Anthem' changes the style by using melodic ethnic chanting but does not depart from Fox's oeuvre. The consummate craftsman serves up yet another inspiring anthem. 'Redemption' closes the album in quiet,
reflective but no less inspiring mood.
'Underworld' is classic Robert Fox but at the same time is a more ambitious work as the composer's horizons are broadened to include darker
realms which only serves to enhance Fox's more familiar melodic stylings. As well as broadening his constituency, Fox somehow manages to
make 'Underworld' sound even more personal and emotive than previous works. That is no mean feat.
'Underworld' is a breath of fresh air and a strong contender for album of the year.
The new Robert Fox. Steps beyond "Into the Light," & with lots of Code Indigo influence, this is still unmistakably
Fox at his modern best. All of his trademark styles are visibly intact, from the symphonic layers to his melodic genius. Mostly
we find that the Fox sound has expanded with more modern ambient effects and rhythmic details that add multiple dimensions to
his already proven sound. Each track seems to hold a wealth of listening within its intros, transitions and successful attempts
at closure --
before the next piece envelops the listener and takes off into flight anew. Masterful, inspired, and everything we have come
to expect from Robert Fox. If you are still hesitating in your exploration of his earlier works, now might be the time to check
again a superlative work that contains incredible ambient information that only enhances the atmosphere created in this remarkable
live recording. Suffice to say that the entire experience is both enlightening and immensely enjoyable and that commentary
on the individual tracks would serve no purpose other than to report on an incredible experience out of context. Once again
a disc that would stand on it's own and only enhances the complete package concept of presenting a productive musical period
that would have otherwise gone unheard. This box set puts that right and fills the gaps.
Very highly recommended as an essential addition to any space music fans library of listening material. Please remember that
there are only 2000 of these sets released. Fair warning as I cannot imagine that they will last very long.
Touching the Serpent's Tail.
Review by Mick Garlick - Sequencers
Just like David Wright's latest album, this newie from fellow AD Music mainstay Robert Fox also has a strong connection to 1995 (you'll
have to buy the album to find out what it is, though!) It's actually been quite a while since I've heard any of Robert's albums but now
that I've lent an ear to his latest offering I think it's safe to say that his musical style has undergone very little in the way of change
or development in the intervening period. With the possible exception of the inspiringly spacey opener 'Earth' there can be little doubt
who you're listening to. I guess some might feel he's just re-treading old ground & while this is not a totally unreasonable comment
in some respects, what is more important is that he also plays to his myriad strengths throughout with the numerous stand-out tracks proving
his well-liked majestic, emotive, symphonic style has lost none of its potency.
The superb piano leads that grace 'Another Time, Another
Place', for example, hit the same emotional heights as his older works & while the choir samples that play a major role on the restful
but inspringly atmospheric 'Strange Voices In Ancient Tongues' & the heart-tuggingly emotive 'Of A Time Gone By' are a definate reminder
of the 90s it's impossible to resist the human feel that they add to the two pieces, the icing on the cake being supplied by typically masterful
synthwork in both cases & some achingly emotive sax-like sounds on the latter piece. Similar voices add a similarly emotive touch to
the rhythmic closer 'The Serpent's Tail', combining with more soaring synths & stately but assertive percussion to bring the album to
a fittingly triumphant conclusion. All of which goes to show that, even if Fox's music hasn't progressed that much over the years, it remains
the potent force it always was, making this an album that deserves to be heard.
Touching the Serpent's Tail.
Review by David Law.
A soft soothing lead line drifts above deep reverberating drones. There’s a warmth to it all that is comforting, the subtle melodies
caressing my soul. The track is called ‘Earth’ put to my mind sounds more like Heaven as ethereal pads join the lead, almost like
angels singing along to it.
‘Another Time, Another Place’ has a rather abstract and slightly eerie beginning. A rhythm comes in
and instantly the atmosphere lightens and we are taken forward in joyous mood. A beautiful piano lead line increases the feeling of well being
still further. This is an amazing track that would melt the coldest of hearts. Simply stunning.
‘The Serpent’s Sweet Song’ uses
melodic percussion as a backing for synth strings to create a slightly mournful atmosphere. Slow faintly ethnic sounding drums increase the
feeling of melancholy. From brooding beginnings ‘Weaver of Chance’ becomes quite soothing as wordless choral pads mix with tinkling
piano. More ethnic drumming picks up the pace and the piano responds to it lifting the spirits high. It’s as if I am standing on the
top of a mountain, a gentle wind blowing as the cloud shadows chase over the ground below. Another beautiful piece.
‘Strange Voice in
Ancient Tongues’ starts with Gregorian Chants, OK hardly original but I still love it. A loping percussive rhythm takes things forward
as gorgeous thick melodic pads then a delicate lead line once again reach for the heart. Unexpectedly as we approach the middle of the track
the mood seems to darken a little but gradually the melodic pads return, as if the clouds that had momentarily obscured the sun had drifted
away but there is still a slight edge of unease hinting of their possible return.
‘Flying Free’ also features chanting but this
time it sounds much more Arabic (though I could be wrong, not being an expert on chants!). A twangy rhythm strikes up. Rather than flying the
images that came to my mind were those of camels unhurriedly crossing the horizon. I found my feet gently tapping as I was carried along with
the flow. The piano playing throughout this track is wonderful, giving it that extra energy that keeps the interest and excitement throughout.
Windy effects get
‘Of a Time Gone By’ underway. Orchestral pads impart something of a biblical feel. Some sort of mournful horn
sound cries out then the Gregorian chants return. It’s a gentle reflective piece maybe bringing up feelings of something or someone lost
in the passage of time. More lovely piano bounces over a sedate but still infectious rhythm ensuring that ‘Above the Still Waters’ maintains
the feeling of wonder and beauty so carefully crafted over this whole album.
‘The Serpent’s Tale’ brings things to a close.
Sampled mystical echoing text over more angelic pads sets the scene then the most forceful rhythm thus far really starts to kick, giving things
a guitarless Code Indigo feel, finishing things on a real high. Is this Robert’s best album to date? Hmm, could well be a musical interpretation
of a series of images...........or is it??!!
"Maya is incredible!" - Mike V. - Fan (USA)
"Astonishing music and the best Robert Fox album in years. Well done AD!" - John C. (UK)
"Another gem from AD Music - Maya is just awesome!" - Tony S
"Maya is such a beautifully crafted and chilled album - I can't describe how amazing I think it is." Karl S. - Fan (UK)
"Robert has delivered another stunning display of his talent. Any one who ever played and loved a Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Patrick
O'Hearn, Mike Oldfield, Bernard Herrman, or for that matter, any moving instrumental cd will love this cd. His music is like a soundtrack to
all the softness and depth that is life." - Ken Onstad (USA)
FOX: MayaThere are a few CD's released these days - not many I admit - where you have to treat the album as a whole body of music - you
have to listen to the whole thing - there's no point highlighting things here and bits there - not unless you have something the equivalent
of the Brandenburg No.3 (I think) that sticks in your head - otherwise you have to treat said album like one of the great orchestral works
of the past - and this is that sort of album.
In its own way, it's HUGE, sounding - as expansive as anything synth soundscapes I've heard - big melodies over vast symphonic backdrops,
with rhythms and layers that billow like cloud formations and ether rise up to impress or mellow out to caress. There's a distinctly Oldfield-meets-Enigma
flavour to this Fox album too, but without some of the blandness that characterized some of those artists works. With a seriously full-sounding
mix and crystal clear production, this is an album with purpose, direction, cohesion, strength, dynamics, warmth, delicacy and drive.
There's nothing here that will challenge, nor is there anything particularly powerful; there's no 'Berlin School' or long-winded
Schulze-esque compositions either, but what there is does reveal a sense of great depth to the new music of Robert Fox. These are compositions
that have been thought out and carefully constructed to provide the perfect soundtrack to your thoughts, as images of faraway places, towering
cathedrals and high-flying journeys over gorgeous landscapes, all come into play. Decidedly greater than its component elements, this has
class and quality running through its veins from start to finish, and as a melodic, rhythmic, spacious and cosmic album of great strength
and substance, even though it is solid yet easy listening, it has to be regarded as one of Robert Fox's finest albums to date.
A thunder crack heralds the arrival of Robert's latest opus 'Maya' and the first track, the magnificent 'On Reflection', shows how
he has refined his signature sound from the heady days of his debut 'Asfafa'. The mood of the album is more reflective and although
maybe not as immediate as say, 'Talking Heads', 'Maya' is full of subtle delights that will reward the patient listener.
'On Reflection' with its beautifully understated melody and dream-like sequencing sets the tone and, I've said it before and its even more applicable here ,Robert's music would enhance a major film production. 'Kindred Spirits' is lighter than its predecessor with another superb melody but with sections of chanting giving it a spiritual atmosphere. The use of percussion treatments here, and throughout the album, is another strongpoint as is the quality of the signal.
'Close to the Edge' is even more subtle than its predecessors with a gentle melody interspersed with more abstract treatments, piano touches and gentle percussion. Fox carefully builds the atmosphere and again prefers understatement which succeeds well. The title track is divided into three parts with Part 1 clocking in at 7.38, and features some great piano work, distant voices, percussion and some interesting changes of mood and texture. A descending piano motif is accompanied by trademark orchestral touches and cross fades into Part 2 which resembles a film soundtrack as Roberts strips his sound down to the bones.. Piano is interspersed with ambient textures and treatments but returns to the more familiar template on Part 3. Some dramatic percussion preludes some majestic orchestral tones which lead into a classic Fox melodic sequence which stands up with the very best he has ever produced. The subtle changes in melody and use of voices are a delight.
'Daylight Madness' features good percussion work and piano which succeeed in creating a different kind of introspection and
atmosphere. 'When All is Done' raises the tempo a little and gradually a piano motif succeeds in establishing itself but
once again the composer chooses restraint. Finally, 'Ascension' takes the music on to a higher spiritual level to a wonderfully
moving finale reminiscent of Vangelis at his most sublime. Once again Robert prefers subtlety as he builds slowly and allows
the music space to evolve and take on a hymn-like quality and brings the set to a most satisfying conclusion.
'Maya' is a great achievement from one of the UK's best synthesists. Robert Fox has created yet another album of very high
quality music and succeeded in honing his distinctive sound even further into a truly unique vision of contemporary electronica.'Maya' is his
most mature and personal work to date and deserves to be a big seller. With the release of the 'best of' retrospective
,'Timeless', 2005 is going to be a good year for Robert's fans.
Into The Light
4th solo outing, so eagerly awaited by his fans, is at last here - and let me waste no time in telling you that it's as good as I'd
hoped - and that means very good. All the essential Robert Fox elements can be found in abundance - massive symphonic textures, beautiful
themes and superb use of power and subtlety.
New to the scene are samples which up to now Robert has largely shied away from. The American Indian samples in the second track 'Brother Earth' do bring to mind the 'Sacred Spirits' album but the combination with Roberts symphonic textures is a perfect match. The piece is topped and tailed by 2 tracks which feature a child's voice and overall the trio have sublime power. 'A New Day' follows, reveling in strident piano and a clear rhythm which brings to mind the 'Blue Mountains Suite', especially the 'Into the Mountains' track.
'Into the Light' has depth created by dense synth textures which pick out the main theme accompanied by a female voice overlay reminiscent of Asana's 'Trikuti'. 'Somewhere Out There' is a masterpiece of power harmonics with infectious themes aplenty. Rhythmically his work seems to have developed more of an edge, as demonstrated by the beat which kicks in near the end of this piece. Possibly the stand-out piece for me is 'Shadowed Lands' which builds colossal walls of sound backed by an almost industrial collage of effects. This is Robert Fox at his most inspirational. His ability to create spine tingling sonic vistas almost at will is astounding.
'Lights, Pictures, Sensations' drives home on a heavy percussive
highway which is embellished by yet more memorable themes, and with electric guitar detail. 'Nearer Than Before' uses effects to bridge to the final piece 'Sister Earth' which is a continuation and development of 'Brother Earth' with more rich rhythms and that
mesmeric theme an ever present feature. A pipey synth is sequenced to accompany the beat giving the piece a very up tempo air.
So, all in all this is another completely stunning album from Robert Fox. I'm pleased to see that he hasn't departed radically from his previous works, instead carefully refining his style and adding new features where necessary in a very controlled and precise manner. Perhaps Robert is consciously steering more radical exploration to the Code Indigo project, leaving his solo albums to nurture his own "formula" - a phrase which is used many times in a negative sense but in Robert Fox's case nothing could be wider of the mark. 'Into the Light' is formula brilliance"
Blue Mountains Suite
When 'Blue Mountains' was issued Fox was the U.K.'s leading exponent of symphonic spacey spiritual music. Like the two before it, this CD
is made up of rich, passionate, harmonious, ethereal, melodic richly textured symphonic synth music. The tracks are both powerful and
celestial with rhythmical drumming and the now trademarked choral voices makes regular appearances. It is a perfect fusion of space
and symphonics recorded in a style that reminds those who are familiar with one of the all-time great USA space music artists: Constance
Demy, for her work on the ‘Novus Magnificat-Through The Stargate’ album. As always, these tracks are all interlinked
to give the music that feeling of a continuous piece of music where washes of glorious, dreamy synth chords swell and rise in to
the heavens like ascending angelic choirs, all overlaid by some fine melodic themes and percussive passages. Another Robert Fox
CD to bear the hallmark of real UK quality!
The Fire and the Rose
"Although split into 10 separate tracks, the music actually consists of two long pieces each composed of 5 discernable sections. 'The Beginning...' is very much a scene-setter for the first piece introducing shades of themes to be used in tracks to come. The title track takes over seamlessly, the early moments of this section reminiscent of Vangelis' 'Metallic Rain' from the 'Direct' album. The track then builds into a masterpiece of power and grace, massed synth choirs creating soundscapes of truly epic proportions.
'Timeless Moments' is woven on a web of rhythmic percussion, pipey synth improvising exotically with a lush sweeping backdrop. 'Half Heard...' lowers the pace then utilizes another truly magnificent melody to build into a startling wall of sound. 'Illegible Stone' carries on a similar theme but accentuates the melody with Enigma-style pan pipes and cascading synths while booming drums plumb the depths of dynamics.
'While the Light Fades' introduces the second section, acting primarily as a vehicle for gathering momentum into the next piece. 'Through the Unknown...' uses clock-like percussion as a framework for fantastic sweeping melodies. It then fades into an atmospheric cacophony of effects leaving only a percussion block to traverse the gap to 'In A Secluded Chapel'. Aptly, this track is carried by synth and church organ creating more incredible highpoints. 'And All Shall Be Well' introduces relatively up tempo percussion complemented by optimistic synth to produce a track of skilled contrast to the preceding images.
'The End...' is another awesome lesson in powerful melodics, Earth shattering chords bringing the album to a close. I feel Robert's music can be best summed up by comparing it to a journey over a mountain range. The music is truly of mountainous proportions, each piece starts from low ground before scaling the highest peaks, and finally the listener is returned to the valley below. If I had any criticism, it is that the music is on such a scale that after a complete 'trek' one can feel completely exhausted!
When I originally reviewed this album in Zenith #1, I actually dared to say that Robert Fox was even surpassing the works of Vangelis himself. Admittedly Vangelis was going through a relatively uninspired period at the time, and subsequent releases have shown just what a genius he really is, but revisiting these albums confirms to me exactly why I made that statement. If you are a fan of Vangelis and you have yet to hear Robert Fox, then you are in for a treat!"