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Sensations' Fix - Portable Madness CD (album) cover


Sensations' Fix

Psychedelic/Space Rock

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5 stars What an amazing album this is! This has really grown on me! This was their second album (actually third, if you include their self-entitled album which was released only as a promo). I remembered all those years ago buying a copy of "Fragments of Light" being completely blown away with it. Then some years later bought Finest Finger and wasn't quite as impressed ("Where did the synthesizers go?" was what I was thinking), but at least it was still a good album. Now I got "Portable Madness", an album just begging for a CD reissue (Mellow Records should've reissued this like they did "Fragments of Light"). Luckily I still collect vinyl. Anyway, while "Fragments of Light" sounded more like a Franco Falsini project with only bassist Richard Ursillo and drummer Keith Edwards (an American, that explains his very Anglo name) contributing the occasional cut, "Portable Madness" was a full band cooperation, giving each three of the musicians more fair play. The music is definately more ambitious and complex than before. The music is now all-instrumental (no more hearing Franco Falsini screech out of tune like he did on "Do You Love Me?" from "Fragments of Light", thankfully!). Rather than actual separate cuts like on "Fragments of Light", the music all segues together creating a continuous flow. Here are the songs:

"Smooth and Round": a cool piece dominated by Richard Ursillo's bass and Franco Falsini's Eminent (a string organ that sounds like a string synth). His guitar also pops up from time to time.

"Fullglast": Franco's guitar is his showcase here, there's even that one passage that sounds almost bluesy. The end part is where the synthesizers (Moog, Eminent) come in to play.

"Phase One and Phase Two": Guitar showcase, with Eminent popping up. I just love that phasing near the end! Maybe that's why the word "Phase" is used in this piece.

"Underwater": One of the more experimental pieces here, a spacy theme played on Eminent gets played repeatedly, then they go in to something more atmospheric (with again, the Eminent dominating), before suddenly you hear the theme of "Smooth and Round", played in reverse.

"The Next Place of Nobody": A synth experiment that's most like what's found on "Fragments of Light".

"Pasty Day Resistance": I just love how the music starts picking up more and more, as it gets more and more intense. I especially like the bass work as it reaches its most intense. I doubt SENSATIONS' FIX ever created anything as intense as this! Guitar, Eminent, and Moog all get their turn to shine.

"Leave My Chemistry Alone": Well, something sounds a bit familiar with this! Having been familiar with "Finest Finger" for much longer than "Portable Madness", it turns out that the title track to "Finest Finger" was nothing more than "Leave My Chemistry Alone" with vocals added on. The original proves how effective it is without the vocals.

"Strange About the Hands": Again, re-recorded with vocals on "Finest Finger" as "Strange About Your Hands". This original has synthesizers, and has more going on. I just love how this piece then segues in to "With Relative Jump Into Water", which is a very peaceful and relaxing electronic piece, to calm you down after all you faced on this album. Here it's mainly Franco's Eminent droning the whole time, with his Moog popping up. This is one piece I wished was much longer.

Without a doubt "Portable Madness" is the most challenging album SENSATIONS' FIX put out, it's also one of their best as well. While newcomers should start with "Fragments of Light" (easier to get in to, but just as mindblowing), for those wanting something more challenging, go for this album!

Report this review (#29110)
Posted Friday, May 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This quite unique outfit in the italian field because of its "Krautrock attitude" was formed by Franco Falsini (guitar, keyboards, vocals), italo-american bass player Richard Ursillo and american drummer Keith Edwards. Maybe it's worth mentioning that they were living near Florence on a farm and recorded their albums with poor quality in their own studio. Their sound reminds very much to german cosmic bands from the 70's and especially on this album quite a lot to TANGERINE DREAM (ca. Cyclone-era) just more complex in a way.

This album is more a band effort than the previous one which was mainly a project of Franco Falsini. All tracks segue in to each other so one gets the impression to listen to one long track for each side exactly like it was the case for almost all TANGERINE DREAM albums. The opening one Smooth and Round has bass and Eminent, which is a string organ that sounds like a string synth played by Falsini in a very mindblowing and spacy way. It segues in to Fullglast starting with Falsini on guitar, continueing with a section one could call almost bluesy and finishing with Eminent and Minimoog. Phase One and Phase Two is again dominated by guitar and Eminent, sounds a bit like a more heavy version of TANGERINE DREAM. Last track on side one Underwater starts spacy with the Eminent, then getting into a more Floyd-ish atmospheric vein and finishes with the theme of Smooth and Round played in reverse.

Side two opens up with The Next Place of Nobody, which is a purely electronic and atmospheric one that segues smoothly into Pasty Day Resistance with a music that becomes more and more intense, from the basic again rather similar to TANGERINE DREAM, but with a higher variability and energy. Next two songs were re-recorded for their album Finest Finger with vocals added. The original of Leave My Chemistry Alone which became the title track on "Finest Finger" later consists only of guitars, synths and drums, but is nevertheless very effective. Strange About The Hands is even better in its instrumental version on here, since it has added-on spacy synths which doesn't have the re-recorded version. The album ends with the all-electronic track With Relative Jump Into Water with great playing on the Eminent and Moog.


Their second output is a bit more dificult to get into and unlike their debut all instrumental. Most probably their best one and good recommendation for all lovers of spacy progressive rock.4 stars without hesitation!

Report this review (#29111)
Posted Friday, March 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Sensation's Fix is a talented spacey rock collectif from Italy. their music is rather different from the usual Italian progressive rock scene. The band is supposed to be captivated by weird analog keybaords experimentations & melodies, floating guitar solos and hypno / groovy bass pulses. Portable Madness features many strange, enigmatic atmospheres suggesting a mysterious astral voyage throw time...The vintage keys instruments are used in a rather old dated style in a genre that will develop Tangerine Dream at the end of the 70', however there isn't electronic patterns or arpeggios, the rhythm is given by the repetitive bass lines. The guitar's sections are rather heavy concerning the riffs and provide spacious epic solos. The inspiration is not always at the top and some parts are cheezy, partly boring or old fashioned due to an insistent use of easy melodies and electronic gadgets. The best passage on side A is represented by the dreamy-like, floating solo at the end (that reminds some Manuel Gottsching's guitar exercices in Blackouts). I personaly consider that the electronic side of Sensations' Fix is the weakest point on this album: theres' no real / visceral atmospheres and the synth waves are rather linear, accessible, mainstream and dominated by a artificial symphonic approach. The ambience is rather cold and difficult in terms of immersion, frankly this is not really a good trip and I imagined something better before to ear the album. This is an honest psychedelic / space rock album (with skilled musicians) but it sounds terribly dated after all these years, just the opposite of early musical efforts released by visionnary krautrock artists.
Report this review (#156838)
Posted Thursday, December 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Man if I didn't know these guys were from Italy i'd swear they were from Germany. As hdfisch says there is a definite "Krautrock attitude" with their style of play. The songs all blend together, and it's an all instrumental affair.There are synths galore on this album and they sound so beautiful, in fact I thought that they must use mellotron, but it's actually eminant (string organ). The guitar is very upfront the way I like it, as is the bass. By the way the bass player Richard Ursillo also played bass for CAMPO DI MARTE under the name Paul Richard (thankyou Tom Ozric).

"Smooth And Round" sounds very cool with the bass lines and the spacey string organ. Guitar 2 minutes in starts to solo over top. "Fullglast" opens with some dark but tasteful guitar as bass throbs and drums pound. The guitar starts to light it up 1 1/2 minutes in. It stops a minute later as synths take over. Bass and drums continue. "Phase One And Phase Two" opens with aggressive guitar as bass and drums continue. Synths and string organ follow when the guitar stops. Nice bass before 2 minutes. Lots of bottom end 2 1/2 minutes in, then guitar returns followed by synths again. Great sound after 3 1/2 minutes as the synths and guitar lead the way. "Underwater" is led by synths throughout, although the guitar comes in soaring over top 2 minutes in. The guitar style changes before 3 1/2 minutes, the song ends with solo synths.

"The Next Place Of Nobody" is quite spacey with lots of atmosphere. "Pasty Day Resistance" reminds me of TANGERINE DREAM. Bass and synths lead the way. Some nice drumming before 2 minutes followed by some excellent guitar that grinds away. Great tune. "Leave My Chemistry Alone" has this cool melody to start with then guitar comes in around a minute, but it's brief as synths dominate the rest of the song. "Strange About The Hands" is a much spacier soundscape without any beat or rhythm until after minute in when bass and drums come in . It gets louder, and the synths get more intense 2 1/2 minutes in. Guitar arrives 3 minutes in. "Relative Jump Into Water" is very calm and spacey. Like waves of synths in an almost haunting soundscape.

I wish they would remaster this record, the sound isn't terrible but it is a little muddy. A must for Krautrock fans.

Report this review (#187665)
Posted Saturday, November 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Very trippy, spacey and trancey and pretty electronic. I'd call the music at different times (or often simultaneously) Psychedelic Space Rock, Progressive Electronic, Psychedelic Krautrock, Psych Ambient, and Kraut Symphonic Prog, as well as rock, jazz, electronic, blues, soul, folk and funk. I hear (across this album (1974), 'Fragments of Light' (1974) and 'Finest Finger' (1976)--the three i've heard) similarities to Ashra, Pink Floyd, Ash Ra Tempel, A.R. & Machines, Genesis, Hawkwind, Nektar, Eloy, Black Sabbath, Fripp/Eno, Agitation Free, Brainticket, Kalacakra, Popol Vuh, and some Japanese psych perhaps, as well as a number of bands I can't yet put my finger on. Their sound manages to be fresh and distinct from each of these bands, with a very creative and original musical sensibility. Some of the electronic parts show this band to be an early pioneer of both psychedelic/progressive electronic and psychedelic space rock a la Ashra (whom they preceeded by 2 years!), Pink Floyd (whose album 'Wish You Were Here'-1975 they preceded with their first 3 albums-all 1974 by 1 year!), Eloy (whose masterpiece 'Ocean' came 3 years later-in 1977), and Tangerine Dream (who released Pheadra the same year) More "song"-oriented than its successor. Sounds in line with the German electronic, krautrock and symphonic genres, though an abundance of other styles are invoked here and there, with touches of French and English psych and electronic (they were an Italian band). Of interest is their use of simultaneous synth/keyboard and acoustic guitar. Very good.


Report this review (#214791)
Posted Monday, May 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Portable Madness is for sure THE best music from Sensations's Fix and one of the top 20 prog albums of all time ... It was way before prog groups have to «perform» a given number of records per 3 years contract.

I know, masterpiece or 5 stars rating have to be tagged carefully. But tell me, what kind of tag could you give to music still alive and appreciated 40 years after been written ? Really ?

The band played in perfect harmony, no one is trying to be « the star» and even solo part are staying low profile. I really appreciate the drums | percussion style and talent of Keith Edwards.

For those who are lucky enough to still have the vinyl version (ie less compressed then CD), keep a special attention on «Underwater» at the time where the beat is changing on a slower time signature when Falsini is modulating (on synthesizer) and then leading on guitar. Wow ! what an emotional charge they put on this.

Thanks for your work Franco Falsini ... wherever you are in Italy


Report this review (#516863)
Posted Wednesday, September 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
5 stars "Portable Madness" was released in 1974 as the second album of SENSATIONS' FIX, and I easily guess this creation might have aroused a definite controversy both in Rock Progressivo Italiano and in psychedelic progressive rock scene, with their mysterious, heavy, symphonic psychedelia massively tinged with dry-fruity experimentalism like Krautrock, created with guitars, synthesizers, and drums - yes, a quite basic formation like other rock combo.

Their music structure and strategy (aka conspiracy against our mindscape) are pretty simple and steady. Richard's heavy and deep bass riffs, Franco's awesome synthesizer-based atmospheric radiation and ghostly guitar fuzz, and Keith's quietly explosive drumming rigidity ... they are not complex nor phantasmagoric like other progressive rock project indeed (especially Franco's synthesizer sounds are not only plain and smooth but also distorted and tolerant), but their continual threatening voltage in this work has never been experienced. This "progressive environment" veiling the whole album looks really as if searing pain like getting sunburn, or chilling coolness like touching ice. Sometimes we can yield ourselves to their momentary calmness or comfort, that might herald disquieting air blowing in the next moment. And there's enough evidence for such a drastic phenomenon here and there. Of course, we can hear polished delicacy maybe the three Italian had been drenched in by nature too all through.

Very amazing "Portable Madness" has been recorded and released about 40 years before, whilst even now this album always gives us gooseflesh and remarkable instability into our mind, just like a disquietude in the sleeve picture.Recommended for every progressive rock fan who gets a bit bored at contemporary space rock.

Report this review (#849840)
Posted Saturday, November 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Italy's `Sensations' Fix' play on `Portable Madness' a hypnotic and dreamy blend of murky instrumental space rock that shares many similarities to several German artists such as Tangerine Dream, Eloy and the Ash Ra/Manuel Gottsching projects, as well as much of the Krautrock sound in general. Both sides of the album form a continuous piece of music that ebbs and flows with alien atmosphere and deep space mystery. It's an album you can easily drift off to, some parts float along in blissful serenity, others have an uneasy menace and tension.

Endless thick synths/keyboards cover the entire album, sometimes creating a disorientating Tangerine Dream-like electronic mood with repetitive and hypnotic sounds, other times dancing uptempo runs and grand themes. The chunky bass is not far from the classic 70's Eloy, even Hawkwind in a few brief moments. It punches through the hazy fog of the album all the time, mixed so loud and prominent, quite distorted and imposing. It brings a grooving quality to even the more aimless and plodding parts of the album, keeping it grounded and constantly exciting. The electric guitars swap from scuzzy dirty solos to chugging harder riffs, with occasional majestic themes and stoned soloing. The drumming/percussion leaves a huge impression on the album, one minute it's a rumbling avalanche of power, a maddening and aggressive rumble that bears down on the listener, the next it's got an almost tribal percussion sound, constantly building in urgency and drama.

There's several particular standout moments amongst the whole intoxicating work. Listen for the slightly off sounding guitar that creates a tense and disorientating mood in `Fullglast'! The dark `Leave My Chemistry Alone' has twin guitars playing alternate melodies, with thick glorious synths washing crystalline waves around the listener. It then shifts to haunted sinister stabbing keys like a nightmare before an uplifting Eloy-like theme in the last 30 seconds.

The final section `Relative Jump Into Water' is an unnerving droning piece with gentle wailing lonely synths over the top that's very draining and quietly reflective, a somber way to finish the album. Some people find electronic-based music like this piece totally empty and devoid of life, I find it truly human and full of emotion.

I think there's one or two spots on the album where the music is broken up with an out-of-place or abrupt transition that doesn't entirely work, but these are only brief, and the rest of the music is so consistently good. I much prefer this album to the previous `Fragments of Light', although I think I was a little too harsh in dismissing that one by paying too much attention to the vocals I disliked so much - now I'll have to go and dig that off the shelf again!

`Portable Madness' is a truly immersive space-rock experience, a beautiful, floating, repetitive, haunting and maddening album, sounding just as mind-blowing, inventive and emotional now almost 40 years after it's release. Highly recommended.

Four and a half stars.

Report this review (#872302)
Posted Wednesday, December 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Technical perfection VS studio time.

Sensations' Fix other 1974, vinyl album "Portable Madness", is more primal yet it has a more accomplished performance dexterity, in comparisson to their 1974 "Fragments of Light" record. But somehow, even though, the music sounds perfectly rehearsed and put up together, the feeling in general is too technical and more than once, heartless mechanical. To the point of going backwards and start sounding as if they were still playing a "studio run-through" (like the ones that appear as bonuses on today's "oldies" remastered cds). I mean, I do appreciate skilled musicianship, but not to the point of "pressured by studio time" (and money, I suppose) almost-perfect but "soulless" performances. The line between is too thin as to become and sound like a "music school's final test" presentation or mere "almost there" rehearsals .

As far as studio perfection, I myself will choose low-budget masterpieces over hi-tech garbage. But money is money, no one's concern, unless its yours. What saves the day are this record's highlights, which are evidently found on the last 4 and a half tracks, when the band had throughly "warmed up" and was more comfortable with the "studio situation" they were trapped into. Quiet undeserving for the "flowing-like" intention of the recording (no mute gaps between each song), because It takes them to much time, to really lift off. And their developing own- musical language, is also stuck in the same kind of mud. Too technical as if scared to miss the note, like "stage fright".

I do prefer "Fragments of Light" more experimental tone, less technical compositions and more heartfelt performances as a whole.

With less pretention in technical perfection (more studio-time,maybe) and a "whole lotta love", this could have sounded above my ***3 "flat" PA stars rating. Promising but not enough.

Report this review (#1133596)
Posted Tuesday, February 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Reputedly the place were Sensations' Fix were recording their albums was a farm house near Florence, where they had built their own studio.While ''Fragments of light'' was more of a demo-like effort, the next work of the band ''Portable madness'' marked their first properly recording attempt, composed entirely by Falsini and produced by Filippo Milani.It was issued in 1975 on Polydor.

With this album Sensations' Fix turn a bit towards more rocking-based textures, defined by the many isolated guitar parts, but they still show a preference towards a very spacious sound.The music had become more complex with a great combination of neurotic analog synthesizers and sinister bass lines, interrupted often by heavier guitar moves and spacey distortions.Instead of building their style on the TANGERINE DREAM principles and the MIKE OLDFIELD-like textures, they went on for a more personal sound, which now included melancholic atmospheres, dramatic Electronic moods and pounding beats.Falsini had established his own way to combine synth manipulations with spacey guitar vibes, delivered via odd grooves, intricate solos and even some bombastic, still trippy moments.Gone are the long hypnotic parts of the debut and the whole material here sounds much more energetic and passionate with dual keyboard experiments, always surrounded by the solid bass work and drumming.The album is entirely instrumental and, unlike many works of the style, it shows a strong sense of careful structuring with limited loose parts and very tight composing.

Great work of synth-based Space Rock with series of unique atmospheres.Better than Sensations' Fix'es debut, featuring a good bunch of electric moves among the thunderous synth lines.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1292189)
Posted Wednesday, October 15, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars The music of Sensations' Fix is often compared to their fellow travelers on the Krautrock bandwagon, and with good reason: Florence, Italy (where the Fix made its base) is a lot closer to Germany than to Britain or America. But in truth the band never resembled anyone except themselves, practicing a unique style of cosmic rock still hard to pin down a generation later, despite the singular voice of Franco Falsini's guitar technique: impossible to mistake once heard.

The second credited Fix album was actually their first as a legitimate group, recorded on the crest of an unexpected record deal in 1974. Unlike the mostly solo research and development of "Fragments of Light" (released earlier the same year), this one sounds like a genuine collaboration, and is easily the band's most consistent, and strongest, effort.

'Strength' is a relative term, however. 1974 saw Progressive Rock approaching its apex of ambition (in albums like "Relayer" and "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway"), while Falsini and his trio were cloistered in a Florence basement, weaving their hand-crafted magic: space travel on a shoestring, but with a firm grip on the laces.

Other reviewers in these Archives have already analyzed each track, from the ominous opening groove of "Smooth and Round" (fading in as if the band had already been jamming for days) to the album's drifting, proto-ambient coda, enigmatically titled "With Relative Jump Into Water". Note the lack of actual songs, perhaps a key to the album's higher overall score here. And notice too the airtight ensemble discipline, without a single wasted note in evidence: a rare thing in progressive rock at the time.

A lot of the music here would reappear on subsequent Fix albums, often with added vocals or under different titles: anything to meet the contract obligations set by the clueless suits at Polydor Records. The company must have realized all too quickly that the insular, almost amateur nature of their new band was never going to light up the charts, or attract anything more than a cult fan base.

Which was fine by Mr. Falsini and crew. The guitarist would later sum up his entire (and still active) career in music with Zen-like modesty: "We can change the world without anyone noticing the difference."

Report this review (#1531349)
Posted Monday, February 22, 2016 | Review Permalink

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