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Geoffrey Downes

and the New Dance Orchestra – The Light Program

Review by Gary Hill

This album was Geoffrey Downes first foray down the New Dance Orchestra trail. While Downes is best known for his work in Yes and Asia (and also the Buggles) this is more purely electronic music than rock. In that way it’s closer to the Buggles than it is the other two (hence the earlier parenthetical). This is closer, though to things like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream. It’s composed of five multi-track suites. It’s good stuff, but don’t expect to hear Yes or Asia (or even The Buggles) here. This is very different than that.   


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Symphonie Eletronique
This multi-part suite is over fourteen and a half minutes in length.
Prophecy
It opens with symphonic meets electronic textures and grows gradually from there. By around the minute and a half mark some more percussive elements have joined and the cut is building in a very symphonic way. Then a little after the two minute mark it bursts forward into energized music that’s more like the electronic kind of music Vangelis and Kitaro are known for. It’s rocking and quite cool, but there are still plenty of symphonic elements on board. It drops back to more rhythmically dominated music as it continues. That sound carries it into the next movement.
Mountain
The second movement of the suite, the symphonic elements continue as piano rises up.  This is a fairly short transitional piece.
Majesty
More of a mainstream rock element emerges on this movement. It’s still all about electronic keyboards but has a lot more energy and oomph to it. It does drop back at times, though.
Softly
There is sort of a time-like element to this one. Some of the melody lines seem to convey sort of an Asian vibe. The later sections of this really make me think of Kraftwerk quite a bit.
Funkratl
An energized number, this moves the sounds from the previous segment into more of an electronic dance vibe.
Megalyth
Continuing from the previous movement, this feels extremely powerful and dramatic. It’s still got a lot of electronic dance elements at play, but it’s also very symphonic rock in nature. This does a great job of tying together a number of sounds we’ve heard before.
Oceania
Clocking in at 16:34, this suite is even longer than the opening one was.
French
As waves of keyboard lay down some atmosphere a piano carries a classical melody. This is gentle, intricate and very beautiful. It really does make me think of Vangelis in a lot of ways.
Daybreak
This comes out of that section with more of a 1980s vibe. It’s got a lot of energy and lands firmly in electronic music territory.
Steam
Little bursts of echoey melody create the drama in this movement as the percussion drives forward. The piece grows on that basic concept turning into an energetic kind of electronic music jam. There is a bit of jazzy vibe to it at times.
Surfin
More in line with pretty electronic music, this comes straight out of the previous movement and grows from there. There isn’t much change here because it’s only about a minute and a half long.
Polar
This comes in percussive and grows out from there. Even the melodic elements on this are more percussive as it continues.
Seapeace

Eventually the melodic elements take over and this becomes more symphonic electronic music. This is quite powerful in a lot of ways.

Stellar
Coming out of the previous one, there is almost a jazz feeling to this. Mix that with more of that Vengelis kind of electronic music and you’ll have a pretty good clue of what this sounds like.  This gets pretty intense as it continues.
Spring
This is a very dramatic and powerful piece. It comes the closest to “rock” music of just about anything here. It’s a very satisfying way to bring this suite to a close. In fact, I’d say that this has some of the most evocative musical passages of the whole set.
Ethnic Dances
This suite lands in at about eleven and a half minutes in length. That makes it the shortest of the suites here.
Bour'ee
As this comes in, it is mellow and gentle and very much in a world music style. There are some great electronic explorations of the musical themes as this continues.
Merrydown
Percussive elements drive this out and it becomes another of the most “rock” oriented movements of the disc. It gets quite powerful as it winds through.
Jigtime
Carrying the same basic musical themes, this is mellower and more purely electronic. Still, the world music elements are present and there’s a lot of percussion to the piece. In fact, at the end it drops to almost just percussion.
Jethro
Great keyboard lines weave a trail that continues the musical themes, but gives them an almost elemental texture. There are definitely some jazzy elements here, at times calling to mind Keith Emerson a bit.
Finale
Feeling a bit like something from Mannheim Steamroller, Celtic themes merge with symphonic electronic music here.
Icedance
This is rather gentle and almost playful to me. It’s less a wrap up than the other two closing segments were.
East West
This suite runs a little over eleven and a half minutes.
Shooters Pno I
Pretty piano type melodies open this and hold it. This is quite intricate and dramatic. It grows out later with a more rocking musical element. A guitar-like section takes this out.
Chopstik

There’s an Asian element as this opens. Then waves of atmosphere bring it toward fusion as it continues. This gets more of that Tangerine Dream kind of vibe as it continues, but drops to the Asian stylings to end.

Synthcry
Although this is somewhat atmospheric as it rises up, it’s also intricate. Somehow I can hear comparisons to “Tubular Bells” being made on this. It gets quite powerful.
Bazaar
Something that feels like tuned percussion opens this and the cut grows out in a very rhythmic way from there. As it gets more involved there are some rather Middle Eastern musical themes and this really does feel like the bustle of a bazaar.
Indosax
Indian styled music starts this, but it quickly turns very dream-like.
Shooters II
I love the musical themes and the textures to this. It’s dramatic and powerful with intricate melody lines merging with layers of textural sound.
Urbanology
The final suite is over fifteen and a half minutes long.
Groundfunk
Coming in noisy and bustling, there is a beauty to this, but it also feels industrial in a way. Then it powers out to some serious funk from that point.
Geoffunk
More rhythmic, this has even more funk built into it. As much as I liked the previous movement, I think this one works even better.
Stevie
Percussion starts this one and then the funk joins. This is another that’s both electronic and symphonic.
Curryclub
Rhythmic elements are also at the heart of this, but weird bits of keyboard melody move around it in almost ominous ways. It drops to percussive to end.
Safari
Pretty piano melodies emerge as this song works outward. It’s definitely a more melodic piece in many ways.
Redrap
Funk returns on this killer jam. It’s a very jazzy keyboard performance that is a lot of fun. More melodic keys come in over the top bringing even more jazz to the table. There are some little oddities mid-track that are fun. Noisy blips, like a computer game, end this.
Regiman
There’s a real 1980s music vibe as this starts.
 
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