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23. Issue Twenty Three. Special.

Today's special:

Alpha Conspiracy - Cipher

Cipher, producer - Andrew Sega

It is great indeed for any tracker musician to achieve the highest level of his skill and to produce an album of his own. Andrew Gregory Sega, better known as Necros for his scene activity in the 1990s, did his best to complete the whole journey. His current label - "The Alpha Conspiracy" - a result of numerous sleepless nights spent among computer-generated sounds, hi-end samples and music motifs flowing out of his head. AC music, as Andrew notes himself, includes various genres such as Indie/Emo rock, Trance, D&B and many others. Buzz Tracker is the brain of Andrew's studio, bringing his new masterpieces to life.

So, it is year 2001 Anno Domini and Andrew Sega, in cooperation with Diffusion Records, produces his first commercial album called the "Cipher," which he asked me to review. The music represented on this CD combines both the influence of Necros background (which means perfect, high quality arrangements) and modern music-producing technologies (which add sound depth unreachable with a plain tracker). One can recognize the hand of an old-school master - the superior bass living its own life, soft pads adding warmth and breath to the music, solo leads and melodies one cannot forget... well, those who know Andrew's music can understand me.

And now here's yet another remarkable thing - Andrew himself singing in his highest spiritual state. This is the first time we have heard Andrew's voice in his songs - and his solo fits the arrangements perfectly.

But enough of the plain words. Let's listen to what is inside the CD box.

The opening track is called the "Cross Product". Electronic sounds surround the listener from the very beginning, ascending and creating a sharp rhythm. Necros sings his solo through a vocoder with deep bass, drums and acidic sounds as a support for his voice. The solo is then chourused and harmonized. These effects add more substance to the voice track. Voice parts are combined with instrumental ones where solo leads help to create both highly energized D&B dancing music and static, planar views of outer worlds created by Andrew's fantasy. The song concludes with a long, swirling fadeout, as instrumental tracks are muted one by one, finally leaving only drums and floating sounds which disappear into a distance...

Lyrics:

Listen to the tides you make
Walk to center stage awaken
I sit tight and smile again
Visiting from far away

Sixteen words what ties they break
Lingering your eyes they make me
Forget I'm too sane to touch
Living underground awaits

Exit to your mind opaque
Mercury arrives to take you
I sit tight and smile again
Listening from yesterday

Mission to your stars again
Picturing your rocket taken
Shadows paint the ground again
Further into space awaits

Track 2, the "Martian Lovesong," is well-known to most tracker musicians - it is based on one of the modules produced by Necros with good old Impulse Tracker. Asian trumpets fade in slowly and are followed by synthetic sounds and drums. One can imagine dim Martian channels with blue-green water - and a gondola with a couple of lovers... martian lovers, so unusual for the human point of view, but still so beautiful... This music reminds me of Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles. A combination of rock, trance and traditional genres makes this song one of the best tracker modules composed by Necros along with Mindspring, Ice River, Tangerine Fascination and many others. Anyway, the track presented on the CD differs from the IT version a bit, so it's worth listening even if you've heard the original version.

Track 3, the "Black Sunrise," is a perfect example of what I call "good composition structure". The inner power of this song grows slowly from a syncopated intro filled with surrounding electronic sounds and deep chords, into the main theme with slowly ascending sound texture and dynamics. Finally the climax arrives: long orchestral chords in an ambient style which suddenly shatter into tiny pieces and echo away as if they were played in a small chamber. There is no melody in this song - the music simply builds a wide landscape with no sharp images... just a coal black sun rising from the upside-down horizon of a blazing sea of fire...

One of my favorite tracks on this CD, track 4 is called the "Winter" (it has nothing to do with old "Winter's Dream" module, as some might think). As presented on the CD, it is a great breakbeat song with uplifting verses spoken by Necros and beautiful, colorful instrumental choruses. The distorted solo voice and smooth back vocals, with accented drum track and eerie pads, create an amazing contrast between the fast and slow and "hot" and "cold" components of the music. Continual expansion of the composition allows Andrew to slowly increase the energy of his voice and music as the lyrics explain:

"Another day is a waste of your life", she said
I can't wander looking for your dream today
One two a river unseen by the waste in your life

"Another break in your way is a sign", she says
I look forward, watch you eat your words today
Run to the look in your darkened eyes
Still they're alive

"Another day is a step towards grey", she says
I just wonder if she'll ever be today
Run to the winter cold embrace
Stealing my life

"Another running away is your sign", she says
I look forward, watch the sky recede today
One two a fateful turn away
Sealing our lives

I'm lost in your eyes again -
Once I met your gaze -
And find the way -
The way to be cold again

The fifth track, "Sceptopotamus," appears to be rather simple. Personally, I didn't like it very much, because instruments used in this song are so common. The track really seem to lack conception, melody and progression. So it seems Andrew has published one of his first tracks produced in Buzz Tracker. Alas...

Track 6, the "Glass," is an experimental one, and I really enjoyed it. Imagine a percussion band playing jars, windchimes, shakers, coins and even pails - all these in a distinct rhythm with no bass/pad/etc support. Energetic beat fills the body and the soul of a listener, making him move with the music. As the music grows in strength, more and more instruments begin to play in an ensemble making an impressive orchestra. An excellent track... I wonder if Andrew has sampled all these sounds by himself.

The seventh track, the "Ubiq," is named for a famous SF novel by Philip K. Dick. In a future world, dying people are placed in cryogen tanks which allow them to prolong their spiritual existence in an unsteady after-life in an imaginary world controlled by a computer. Still, they can communicate with those who remain alive in the outer world though it suddenly appears to be not as real as its inhabitants think... The stern rock beat with drifting electronic sounds brings into being a dark, dismal realm; the picture seems so real to one's mind that it frightens and attracts simultaneously. This is a great track expressing a notable concept.

Track 8, the "Morphic," is yet another recitative spoken by Necros with straight house-like drum track (but with more powerful drums) and dominating electronic rhythm programmed in Buzz. Since Andrew whispers all the verses, this song appears to be enigmatic and mystical. Choruses are also vocalized by Andrew who sings in his usual soft and warm manner bringing life to the mechanical computer music. The harmony and the melody are broad and remarkably impressive.

Lyrics:

Wrongs are clever, you're in disguise
Wait for days, it's a surprise
Once is never, time's unwise
The dark is coming for you

You are never dying to try
Hate my ways, burning my eyes
Look forever, time to lie
The darkness coming for you

Take your pleasure, cut it to size
Feel your malaise, here as it cries
Once is never, it multiplies
The darkness coming towards you.

"Nonsense," the 9th track, is some sort of a minimalist techno track. The arrangement in the introduction is pretty clear and pure - drums, solo lead and acidic fill-ins. But the music begins to grow, becoming more and more odd and cryptic. Bass and pads emerge... then the room suddenly fills with strange trembling sounds as a piano plays its part in the background. The music itself doesn't appear to be nonsense, but it is about one - the nonsense of living and dying, the nonsense of loving and hating... the nonsense of being a man. Only one thing remains constant through the whole song: the rhythm, characterizing the pulse of the life.

Track 10, "Spiral Effect," integrates rich stereo effects and plane, diffusive sounds. This theme has no obvious progression; instead it slowly assimilates the listener taking him into a drowsy ocean of emotions. Andrew's scene experience is much in evidence in this track, for he uses the chords and composing techniques usual for Necros modules... a reminiscence that adds more color to the texture of the whole album.

The last track, "Further," is forceful and blissful. Pad and comprehensive bass open this track, shaping the rhythm of the music from the very beginning. Mild, energetic drums, gentle leads and liquid, sustaining pads enlighten this track... I imagine sunny spring day... trees gauzy with blossoms... and a shining sun above, all alone in a deep blue sky...

My general impression of the whole disk is that it is superb and definitely worth listening to. By the way, anyone can purchase this disk (legal version!) by visiting the following web link:

http://www.diffusionrecords.com/cipher.html

It's rather easy to transfer money nowadays with Western Union or similar services even in Russia. Since old-school gurus like Andrew Sega don't release much of their works now, I really suggest buying this CD... and I look forward to listening to more Alpha Conspiracy releases.

Special thanks to Gordon S. Jones for helping me to correct the English version of this review.

    Dmitry Kirillov aka Esteps: esteps@mail.ru

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