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Eloy - Ocean CD (album) cover

OCEAN

Eloy

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.22 | 677 ratings

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Joolz
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Finally, after a few near misses, Eloy got it right! No 'buts' this time, just a near perfect masterpiece of psychedelic space-rock and story-telling to stand amongst the very best of the genre. Ocean is a distillation of all that had gone before yet displaying an ever increasing level of competence and self-confidence. Smooth ambient atmospheres rub shoulders with hypnotic yet ethereal space-jams in an irrestible combination of lush and futuristic keyboard textures, understated sensitive guitar phrases, superb bass motifs, excellent vocals [yes, really], solid performances, inspired arrangements and a thoughtful concept all assisted by a crystal clear soundstage.

This is the sound of a band in their prime, and what a band, now on their second album together [this lineup] and as always led from the front by Frank Bornemann, by now an accomplished singer as well as guitarist. But this is not a 'guitar' album as such: the dominant musical device is densely layered keyboards creating moods with and without support from harmonious guitars and a tight rhythm section, sometimes light and upbeat but often dark and sombre, using 'drones' and spoken vocals to invoke feelings consistent with the story: suspense, awe, wonder, dread and melancholy. Tempos are exclusively mid-pace and rhythms are loping rather than aggressive [for reference, think: contemporary Pink Floyd].

The allegorical concept of Ocean is a cautionery tale based on the ancient myth of Atlantis, a 'heaven-on-earth' continent containing a race of people who became so corrupt that they had to be destroyed by the gods before they terminally polluted the earth. Bornemann has said they chose "the subject of Atlantis to point out the wrong direction society is taking - that our development into such a wrong direction can only result in a catastrophe" but provides no answers to the conundrum [the 1998 follow-up Ocean 2 was an attempt at redress]. Although divided into four tracks, the album proceeds and succeeds as a single homogeneous entity, stylistically coherent and satisfyingly constructed: there is no hint of filler, nor anything out of place, as each section sets an appropriate mood in an entertaining and inventive way. Even a lengthy monologue-over-ambient-drones section covering the first half of the final track never descends into tedium as attention is maintained by background subtleties and tantalising foreknowledge of the rhythmic section to follow.

There are no lows to report, so neither can there be any significant highs either, perhaps only pieces that are to be slightly more favoured than others. The classic Eloy grooves of Poseidon's Creation sets the scene, a nice Proggy arrangement with both spacey and bouncy melodic components, turning to a darker mood later in the song. A brilliant start, followed by slow eerie drones and heart-beat bass drum of an equally stunning Incarnation Of Logos, a track dripping with images of the cosmos and planetary motion - "primary procreation is accomplished" - before entering a very Renaissance-type instrumental break. Both utilise subtle but effective un-voiced backing vocals.

The second half allows no respite from the relentless excellence. This is where the Atlantean dream begins to fail. Decay Of The Logos begins with a variant of the spacey groove effect before turning into a more conventional Prog Rock number complete with tempo changes, a synth solo, what sounds like a violin and even a Mellotron among the usual instruments. Final track, Atlantis' Agony ..... is hugely atmospheric with an ambient keyboard [especially organ] and effect laden first half chronicling the fall of Atlantis, slowly developing a gorgeous rhythm as the album ends with a prediction: "the mass of stones will surface again .... soon it all will be revealed". You want the mood to last forever, but a complex and up-beat ending breaks the spell.

Atlantis is both inside and outside, a commentary on a possible past in a parallel universe out in the infinity of space, yet a warning for us in the here-and-now. Ocean's music-scape eerily conveys the magnitude and wonder of the cosmos in a very direct manner, more succesfully than most of its peers. Though it is long since I last saw the film, I am put in mind of 2001 A Space Odyssey - that feeling of profound infinity pervading the film is also to be found here. Their storylines may differ, but to me they are cut from the same cloth!

EMI's latest remastered edition [2004] is as always nicely packaged though liner notes are in German and there is no bonus addition. That is about the only negative comment I can make on this occasion. Needless to say, Ocean is a masterpiece of space-rock and is highly recommended as the means of a trip to the stars.

Joolz | 5/5 |

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