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Rovo - Phoenix Rising   (with System 7) CD (album) cover



Psychedelic/Space Rock

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I decided to chase this hitherto unknown to me Japanese act, uniquely attracted by the lure of Steve Hillage's presence on guitar as well as confirmation that he would be wielding his slippery axe and leaving the synths to long-time partner Miquette Giraudy . Then, I also noticed that this psychedelic/space combo was also staffed by two drummers. The clincher was the presence of a cover version of a Mahavishnu Orchestra classic "Meeting of the Spirits" Hmm! This could be good proggy stuff, further online video research revealed the need to take a risk, as no PA review has yet been posted.

Well, they have been around since 1998, releasing regularly intervalled albums, to relatively small prog-rock acclaim being more of a trance/jam band and I can only guess that by adding the Gongster and his famous lady the prog community will join in on the fun. Truth is the music presented here is definitely more club oriented techno/rave with stupendous though binary drumming, relentless bass pummeling, scouring violin sorties, cyclical guitar churnings and stop/start explosions. In fact, the correct definition would be a heavier, more organic version of System 7 (Hillage and Giraudy's band are huge in Japan) with harsher sounds, adding definitely more propulsion than a synthesized drum machine. The first two tracks "Hinotori" and "Love for the Phoenix" are clear examples of what System 7 is all about, electronic space jam excursions that are both linear and hypnotic.

One of the highlight tracks unsurprisingly is the John McLaughlin-penned "Meeting of Spirits" off the Inner Mountain Flame album, showcasing Hillage's command of his instrument as well as some spirited work from violinist Yuji Katsui, though the two Japanese drummers cannot match Cobham's whirlwind technique. The piece comes across as a much heavier version, which is actually highly appreciated.

Another cool track is "Cisco", which is a heftier lumbering bulldozer with an echoing guitar that sounds like a harmonica, sort of wondering if it was not inspired by War's classic "Cisco Kid" (I think so!) , creating an all-instrumental jam-fest that rambles on for 13 minutes of beat-infested glory. There is an obvious Ozric Tentacles feel, when bassist Jin Harada steps up to the plate and starts swinging for the fences. Hillage, together with fellow axe man Seiichi Yamamoto (who is legendary in his native country) then start carving some serious slices of cosmic splendor, boldly going where few have gone before. This is a highly bellicose arrangement, thrashing hard and mercilessly, skirting the outer edges of delirium and unafraid to bliss out.

"Unbroken" starts out all fluffy white clouds, ponderous slivers of undulating rhythms and serene atmospheres, until the violin starts screeching boldly, a twisting neo-jazz electro- space shuffle, sort of urban cool in a delirious kind of way. Imagine JL Ponty meeting a Gonged-out Steely Dan! Steve really kills it here, showing clearly why he is such a prog guitar icon. Tremendous track!

The simmering and somewhat playful "Sino Dub" is a Yamamoto-penned epic that is just too simplistic and frankly puerile to my ears, at odds with the three previous tracks that had such massive doses of bite, grit, beat and fire. The eternal drum rhythm in particular is very boom-boom-tchak, closer to the Orb than anything else (funny, Hillage played on the debut!). This is a skipper.

The final track "Unseen Onsen" is an ambient Giraudy piece that showcases interplanetary synthesized resonations that flicker about in seemingly Oriental spheres (Gong), strips of Moogy stringlets forever blowing bubbles into the not too distant cosmos. It's refreshing, meditative, spiritual and hypnotic. A definite mood driver.

Somewhere between 3,5 and 4 Elevating firebirds

Report this review (#1226627)
Posted Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars It was a video link to the song "Meeting Of The Spirits" from this album that moved me to purchase this. It was a faithful cover of the great MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA song and seeing Steve Hillage play in John McLaughlin's style was pretty amazing. Also the violinist who is from BONDAGE FRUIT also kills on this track. I was already familiar with the Japanese band ROVO as I have their first live album, but here the duo of SYSTEM 7(Steve Hillage & partner Miquette Giraudy) add guitar, programming and synths. I should also mention that ROVO consists of the ALTERED STATES/GROUND ZERO drummer and the guitarist from THE BOREDOMS.

"Hinotori" has a very spacey intro and after 2 minutes the bass and drums take the spotlight although the spacey sounds continue. I'm reminded of OZRIC TENTACLES 4 1/2 minutes in with so much going on but i'm reminded of them quite often throughout this disc. Check out the guitar before 8 minutes until before 11 minutes. Nice! "Love For The Phoenix" eventually settles into a dance-like beat with sounds coming and going over top including vocal expressions. "Meeting Of The Spirits" is of course that MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA cover and the highlight of this album. It's true to the original and the guitar and violin really take the spotlight here.

"Cisio(Phoenix Rising Version)" is simply a ROVO song re-done. A good groove to this one as the violin solos over top. Catchy stuff as they jam. The tempo speeds up around 5 1/2 minutes, this is fun. It settles back a minute later but then turns fuller and then the guitar starts lighting it up over top. "Unbroken' is laid back to start with beats, pulses and more including spacey synths and guitar. Violin 2 1/2 minutes in. I like the guitar/violin combo after 5 minutes to the end. "Sino Dub(Phoenix Rising Version)" is another ROVO song re-done here. The guitar echoes and cascades to start as synths roll in. A techno beat a minute in as it builds. Violin joins in as well. They jam as the mood changes slightly from time to time. I like when the guitar comes in around 9 1/2 minutes. "Unseen Onsen" is very spacey with keys, bass and more helping out in this laid back piece.

Like the live album by ROVO that I own this is a pretty good Space Rock album with a lot of jamming. I'm not blown away by any means but I feel it's worth the fourth star.

Report this review (#1437575)
Posted Wednesday, July 8, 2015 | Review Permalink

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