dimanche 24 mai 2015

MARK SHREEVE: Legion (1985)

“Maybe the cradle of the England School movement such as we guess it, Legion is a wonderful album built on a wild sequencing and catchy melodies”
1 Legion 5:28
2 Storm Column 5:08
3 Flagg 8:24
4 Sybex Factor 5:18
5 Domain 7 6:29
6 Icon 3:56
7 The Stand 5:34
Bonus Tracks
8 Legion (Space Mix) 5:50
9 Hammer & Cross 3:51

Centaur Discs Ltd CENCD 006 (CD 50:05) *****
(England School)
Are you fans of horror movies and frightening tales? Enthusiastic followers of Stephen King? What would you say of hearing in music his book The Stand? It's visibly inspired by this book that Mark Shreeve has built the 7 tracks, the 40 minutes of his 8th solo album. “Legion” is distancing itself a few from the more progressive genre of Mark Shreeve's first solo albums with shorter and livelier compositions conceived at big knocks of sequencer and with superb atmospheric samplings apparently taken from the sonic libraries of the 80's horror movies. It's without a shadow of doubt the most rock album of the electronic community of this time when Tangerine Dream had charmed hundreds of musicians with its Underwater Sunlight and Legend Tour in 1986. It's also possibly the album which has introduced the movement of the England School. A movement which sent EM into some more rock bases and which has shown up its ears with the emergence of Ian Boddy, Andy Pickford and Wavestar. As for me; it's the most pop, the heaviest and the most lively album that I heard in the wonderful world of Electronic Music. With the years it became an inescapable album in my collection. An album which ages well and to which I still listen quite often, even nowadays. A heavy opus with jerky and wild rhythms set up by a brilliant play of sequencer and electronic percussions rolling to lose breath. Both rhythmic ingredients are supporting sweet, simple and effective melodies which at the end are simply frigging catchy. Using brilliantly and at the most the samplings, “Legion”  is stuffed with satanic winks.
It's thus with a strange incantation, with the looks of a Black mass, that begins the title-track. On this satanic incantation, a solid and heavy line of bass sequences opens the procession. From then on the rhythm becomes fast. It coughs in jerks on good percussions, metallic chords and a ultra heavy and powerful sequencer which sculpts a hard and heavy rhythm with the concert of a thick cloud of hard-hitting chords which tumble like furious percussions. The tone is set. Afterward this rhythm becomes kind of tribal's one. Those percussions mould a kind of speed-trance, which doubtless has inspired Juno Reactor, and push back the limits of the synth layers a bit philharmonic which even sound like riffs of guitar. It's at both times a heavy and fast piece of EM and also a totally demonic one that you would doubtless listened to from that era. Fragrances of it can be heard on the wildest parts of the 
Redshift repertoire. But some of you have already heard it, because it appeared on the Jewel of the Nile soundtrack, besides having played a lot on some dance floors, as prove its some Mixes and  the 7'' released at that time. This cannon-shot is not isolated. There are several other very sequenced and very rhythmical tracks. Like "Sybex Factor" with its hammering percussions and its long synth solos combined to those of Chrissie Bonnacci's guitar. There is "Icon" with its unbridled rhythm, with its ultra nervous and rapid sequencer toyed by Chris Franke as well as these metallic wings and these shouts of bat. Finally, there is "Hammer and Cross" which arrived on the late. It's a bonus track which appeared on the first CD edition from Centaur Discs. Melodies are always anchored on those tracks. But there are other ones more catchy. Like on "Storm Column" which rolls on a structure of rhythm as much wild, as jerky of the title-track. It's a heavy and nervous with some light and melodious choirs which are in harmonies with a very sharpened synth. Moreover this mixture of voice samplings on a rhythm so jerky is completely brilliant.
"Flagg" is another brilliant blow. The longest track of the CD opens with a very lugubrious intro, like in a horror movie B. A timid keyboard looses a melody with the charms of a threatening lullaby over a line of devilish sequences which accelerates the pace in the long sinuous lines of a magnetizing synth. The rhythm hammers a slow march, sometimes it sounds just like a walk of zombies on a high of vitamins. And still there, the samplings are superbly well used. With "Domain 7" we would imagine to be in a surrealist swamp with birds and wolves which cohabit on the jerks of violins and a keyboard of a harmonium style which glides over some splendid silky lines which adopt the long sensual curves of a dark and suggestive of Pat McManus' guitar. The effect is demonic and that's the spirit. Well...I guess! And it's even more pervasive with the strings of violins which resound on more symphonic layers. And the guitar is simply sublime. We feel its strings being deeply scratched so much the effect is realistic. Being more sentimental than rocker, it's my favorite track on “Legion”...but after "The Stand". We hear here a synth crying, suffering in an envelope of melancholy which can be feel at the tip of our sadness ropes which are hiding at the bottom of our souls. Behind a structure of a slower rhythm and effects of mist, a synth line changes its melancholic harmonies for those of a trumpet. This move makes raise the last bastion of our hairs which have resist to this desire to rise all throughout this adventure which is “Legion”. Not by its harshness, but by its sensibility and the hand put by the evil which seems to triumph. One would say some Ennio Morriconne who would have made a pact with the Devil in a finale more Mexican than Mephistophelian. But the tears of a baby returns us to the reality behind the precepts of “Legion”.
Even if closer to synth-pop, a rather progressive and a well worked one needs to be underline, than the other albums of Mark Shreeve, “Legion” remains an inescapable work. Just to see the price asking on EBay, we understand its importance in the chessboard of contemporary EM. It's the kind of setting that can please so much the lovers of a Gothic music, even if at times the melodies are hypersensitive, of synth pop and of heavy EM with a zest of radio FM's perfumes. Everything is structured well. So, no rooms for structures which deviate in random corridors of improvisation. It's a lively music filled of surprising samplings and built around a wild sequencing, the future trademark of Mark Shreeve, which preserves in spite of these two elements all its melodic dimension. Very good...Just hope that one day Mark Shreeve decides to reedit it.
Sylvain Lupari (May 24th, 2015)

gutsofdarkness.com & synthsequences.blogspot.ca

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