Friday, 23 September 2016

Vangelis: Rosetta - a review

The freshly released, signed copy of Vangelis's new studio album entitled Rosetta has just had its first couple of spins...

The concept album, as not long ago signaled on this blog, too, is dedicated to the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission - and it was triggered so-to-speak by a discussion between Vangelis and ESA astronaut René Kuipers in 2012.

Some of the tracks composed between 2012 and 2014 have been made available on the internet, so these gave fans a little insight into the mood of the planned album.

It does not disappoint at all... Whist it has all the elements of Vangelis's more recent orchestral style (e.g. the sonorities and characteristic arrangements we heard here and there in his Alexander soundtrack are present here, too), it does not commit the excesses of Mythodea...

The rich and emotional, characteristically electro-romantic, passages alternate with exquisitely delicate space music.

Listening to e.g. Sunlight or the opening track Origins, we hear the technologically and conceptually up-to-date version of the spacey Vangelis of the late 1970s, with all the characteristic sensitivity and delicate care for every corner of his sonic world.

Between the atmospheric space-ambient soundscapes and the massive quasi-orchestral tides, we have memorable melodic tracks like Rosetta or Elegy that remind one of the delicate and catchy motifs heard on albums like El Greco (either the soundtrack to the film or his quite different studio album of same title).

In some of the early tracks on this album one finds quite some dose of intricate and fast arpeggiator use, with rapidly changing patterns, which we have not heard for quite some years in Vangelis tracks.

Perihelion is particularly interesting in this respect, with sequencer patterns and processed piano chords that will make Tangerine Dream fans perk up - especially as the chorused and rotary speaker-processed piano sound, with the bass sequencer pulses, is exactly what one can hear on Tangerine Dream classics like Rubycon. It is certainly a tribute to the space rock tracks of yesteryear, but it changes soon into a quiet meditation, then to resume its pulsating dynamism.

Elegy, after the tensions of Perihelion, is another gem of spacey meditation with delicate piano motifs - reminds one of the final tracks of El Greco (the studio album, not the soundtrack).

If the album started with a vast spacey overture, it ends with a floating, delicate piece, Return To The Void - the end of our sonic journey, until we press the play button again, of course... and it is very tempting to do so.

Yes, one can say that the album is a very digital affair, most of the sounds are eminently different from the former analog or analog-sounding patches - but with a typical warmth that always characterized Vangelis albums of even his most space-rock era.

It is a structurally and mood-wise impressively put together album, which resembles the sonic journeys that some of the Vangelis soundtrack albums take the listener on.

As Carl Walker from ESA mentioned about this album, when they played some of the tracks during Philae's landing: "When we put the images together with the music, we thought it was exactly how people would feel when they first saw the comet in close-up".

It is rather enchanting to hear Vangelis back in full force when it comes to visually inspiring, and originally visually inspired, concept albums.

Whilst his power to augment images with his music is well known and well appreciated, in this case, once again, Vangelis manages to create and augment imaginary visuals in the listener - even when the listener may not have ever seen any footage of the Rosetta mission...

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