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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Hyperion Circle

Vortex

Review by Gary Hill

The Hyperion Circle is not really a band, but actually one guy, Orlando Blanco. He’s created a CD here that’s very heavy on the keyboards. Frankly, I think it could have used some input from other people because there’s a little bit of a monolithic element to this disc. It also would have been nice to have more “rock” oriented sounds in at least a couple more of the tracks. For the most part this music (the album is completely instrumental) is along the lines of a conglomeration of Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk and Alan Parsons Project. Perhaps the most interesting thing, though (besides the fact that this is quite a strong disc) is that it never really feels boring or repetitive. That’s really to Blanco’s credit. There is little guitar on the disc and the album is essentially a keyboard solo CD with some other elements put in here and there. That’s a hard sell – especially when you want to keep each piece feeling unique. Blanco pulls it off. So, he’s given us a CD that’s very good. I think that with some additional input it could have been a real masterpiece, though because he’s talented, but a bit limited in his vision – as we all are.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Vortex Part 1
The first two and a half minutes of this are based on atmospheric keyboards. Then a droning musical structure rises and the piece feels like it might explode out. Instead, though, this just intensifies the layers of keyboard sounds. Comparisons to Pink Floyd here are well deserved as bits of sound rise and fall, languidly circling one another. Every couple of minutes this seems to get a new energy and vitality, but still it remains a keyboard dominated instrumental venture. Every time we get a shift it feels like it might be ready to turn the corner into real “rocking” soundscapes – and yet we don’t feel robbed. Around the nine and a half minute mark it shifts towards the mysterious and some Eastern musical elements emerge here and there. It really feels at this point like it could be the music to a horror film. Still, there is a dark beauty to be found here.

Vortex Part 2
A pounding keyboard sound starts this and makes me think of Pink Floyd’s “Dogs of War.” Rather than continue like that, this is changed to something like a keyboard based marching band sound for a time. Then it shifts out to music that feels quite like Alan Parsons Project. Keys weave lines of melody over the top of this after a time. Blanco takes the track through some changes and then shift out to the most “rocking” motif we’ve heard so far. This feels like a cross between Alan Parsons and Enigma. It’s still instrumental and keyboard dominated, but there’s more of a real rock “song” texture to it. This doesn’t remain long, though and he takes us back into more electronica driven sounds, perhaps more like a melding of AP and Kraftwerk. We’re taken through a number of changes and alterations in this ride. Musical themes appear, are replaced and return.
Vortex Part 3
Dense keyboard layers hold this for the first minute or two. Again it feels like it might burst up into hard rocking music but instead comes back to this sort of motif, with a more pronounced rhythmic structure. Then the keyboard layers drop away and just the rhythmic elements remain. They rise back up, but then fade away again. This is the pattern for a time and Kraftwerk definitely comes to mind. We are taken through a number of variations and themes. At times this feels like Pink Floyd. It turns weird and ominous around the eight and a half minute mark and it drops way down. It eventually moves back towards familiar territory.
Vortex Part 4
As this enters there’s more of a guitar oriented sound than we’ve heard before and it really feels a lot like Pink Floyd. It shifts out to more pretty keyboard dominated territory as it carries forward, though. He shifts through a number of changes and alterations. This track is similar in instrumentation to the music we’ve heard earlier on the CD, but it has one of the most unique characters of anything on show here. It’s pretty and rather gentle but can also be dark and a bit unsettling at times. At a little over six and a half minutes in length this is also the second shortest track on show.
Vortex Part 5
Faster paced, this is definitely more energized. It has elements of Vangelis, but one can also hear traces of the usual suspects (Kraftwerk, Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons). It’s definitely another piece that brings some variety to the table. Much of this is perhaps closer to Kraftwerk than anything else, but we also get all kinds of differing changes and even a cool flight of fancy in the middle. We also get some more rocking moments later the track. He leads us through a number of changes and alterations and we even get a tasty guitar solo.
Vortex Part 6
The first real rock sounds of the disc, complete with drums, lead this off. It’s still got a Vangelis kind of texture and there’s a sort of fusion coalescing of sounds as this builds up. You will probably still make out some definite hints of Pink Floyd on this, too, though. At just under four minutes in length this is also the shortest track here.
Waiting for the Vortex
Now this is more like it. It rises up with an almost metallic feeling to it. There is guitar all over this one. It feels much more like a band production. The keys still provide a lot of the instrumental prowess, but it’s good to rock. He gives us a number of themes and variants and it’s another point on the disc where we some guitar soloing. I think I also hear some theremin on this – always a nice touch. The closing section on this one really has a lot of Pink Floyd in it, but I actually made out some Yes earlier in the track.

 
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