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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Rovo and System 7

Phoenix Rising

Review by Gary Hill

Steve Hillage is best known for his work with Gong and his solo work. He’s also responsible for the electronic project System 7. This album combines that group with the Japanese band Rovo. The result is a great set that sits between space rock and electronic. This is good stuff that should please fans of Hawkwind and other space rockers. 

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hinotori

This opens with ambient music that rises up with bits of chirps and other textural sounds. It’s almost as if Hawkwind were to merge with Vangelis. Drums come in after a while, bringing more energy, but the mood remains largely unchanged until around the two and a half minute mark where it starts to rock out more. It builds out and the percussion really starts to get pretty intense around the four and a half minute mark. As it continues to build and evolve some serious space music is heard over the top of frantic drumming. Working out to more power-house rocking from there, it really does resemble Hawkwind quite a bit. Somehow the jam that emerges from that makes me think of some of the more powered up and lush versions of early Genesis quite a bit. The drums again drive the piece through another space like movement. It drops way down to end.

Love for the Phoenix
Coming in mellow and rather electronic sounding, this builds out with some world music vocals heard over the top. Those vocals feel tribal and are rather distant and dreamy. The song gains more rhythmic elements as it continues. As this one works out those Hawkwind references are sometimes valid again. Still, there is almost an electronic dance thing going on a lot of the time.
Meeting of the Spirits
Much more of a rocker from the start, this cut definitely has a lot of Hawkwind in the mix. That said, though there is world music here along with fusion. It’s one of my favorites on the disc. As is often the case with space rock, this thing shifts and changes pretty gradually, but it definitely grows. There are various instruments getting the chance to solo throughout and this is just a killer cut.
Cisco (Phoenix Rising Version)
Although the most likely contender in terms of sounds here is Hawkwind, I can make out some Beatles on this piece. It’s definitely well formatted as sitting somewhere along the line between space rock and psychedelic music. This is a great tune that is one of my favorites here. This gets very intense later as it powers out into some serious jamming. The song never really changes much in terms of melody or structure, but rather shifts and changes in terms of sounds and intensity.
Unbroken
Coming in more like electronic music, this starts to pick up some space elements as it grows. It gets more organic and pure space rock elements added to it as it grows. This gets pretty powerful and evolved. It even has some hints of fusion at times. It’s one of the more dynamic and growing pieces on the disc.
Sino Dub (Phoenix Rising Version)
Atmospheric elements open this up and move it forward. Then a real electronic dance vibe emerges. Space rock and that electronic sound are the two driving forces here. This piece is good, but it’s a bit too set in an almost house vibe for my tastes. Not that it makes this a bad song. It’s just that it doesn’t stand as tall as the rest do.
Unseen Onsen
More a dreamy space rock with electronic prog sound is the basis here. This is pretty and tasteful. It’s perhaps not the best choice to close the set, but on the other hand it seems to let the whole experience drift off into dreamland.
 
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