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ROVO and System 7: Phoenix Rising

Glenn Astarita By

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Fabled British progressive rock guitarist Steve Hillage was a pioneer back in the 1970s via his work with Gong. His morphing of far- out, psychedelic guitar licks with cutting edge prog stylizations became highly influential. Moreover, the guitarist's solo albums during this time fused electronics with dreamy soundscapes, sturdy backbeats and memorably melodic comps. Moving forward, Hillage and fellow Gong alumni, keyboardist Miquette Giraudy formed System 7 in 1989, shifting focus to the house beat, ambient electronica and space-rock art-forms. Here, the duo aligns with the Japanese progressive rock /jam band ROVO, where techno, streaming synths, pumping rock grooves and Hillage's psycho guitar riffs extend the ensemble's call of duty into a fluidly evolving wall of sound.

True to form, the musicians elevate the techno aspects way beyond the typical dance and party music institution. They give this medium a college education of sorts, as stellar musicianship has always been a staple of System 7's nomenclature. The dual ROVO drummers rev it up during the band's power-packed rendition of the classic Mahavishnu Orchestra jazz-fusion piece "Meeting of the Spirits, where violinist Yuji Katsui and Hillage go toe-to-toe, knocking the high-impact theme into the stratosphere. However, the album as a whole presents a group- focus that while democratic by design, is not dominated by any single musician. There are passages that contain improvisational elements and driving pulses, treated with layers of electronics, used as a polychromatic-like vehicle. Ultimately Phoenix Rising breeds copious entertaining attributes, but tenders a portraiture framed on expert musicianship, sustainable compositions and spot-on camaraderie among the players. Hence, the musicians capitalize on their strengths, yielding an extensive musical panorama that beckons repeated listens.

Track Listing: Hinotori (Album Version); Love for the Phoenix; Meeting of the Spirits; Cisco (Phoenix Rising Version); Unbroken; Simo Dub (Phoenix Rising Version); Unseen Onsen.

Personnel: Steve Hillage: guitar, programming; Miquette Giraudy: synthesizer; Yuji Katsui: electric violin; Seiichi Yamamoto: guitar; Yasuhiro Yoshigaki: drums, percussion; Yoichi Okabe: drums, percussion; Jin Harada: bass guitar; Tatsuki Masuko: synthesizer.

Title: Phoenix Rising | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Purple Pyramid

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