Various Reviews (credited at end of review)
I know it's only February, but the rest of the synth music fraternity is going to have their work cut out to produce a better, more consistent, more original and more enjoyable album than this one, in 2006. A seventy minute work of class, quality and sheer brilliance.
Forget the first album - good though it remains, comparing this to that is like comparing Tangerine Dream to Bananarama. This is way above that album. The best bit is that it's totally accessible yet doesn't take its cues from any one band or style, yet covers a wide range of thirty years of synth music without ever sacrificing its consistency.
It's a concept album - the concept being the conveyance of the thoughts and emotions of a man in space who takes off, orbits, walks in space, becomes separated from his craft and eventually drifts through space on his "last flight". Sounds strange? Well, trust me, it works - and works so well, you'll see exactly where the musician is coming from. That the subject is emotions, means that the musician, Chris Christou, has poured his emotions into the making of this album - and it shows, for a more "feeling" synth music album, you'd be hard pressed to find. There are 7 tracks between four and twenty minutes long and nearly all of them lead unbroken into the next forming this gigantic seventy minute body of glorious synth music.. A fair portion of the album is space music - but space music that is better than anything you'll have ever heard before.
The album opens with the near nine minute 'Orbit', beginning with NASA samples before the craft lifts off and enters space - the sound of the gorgeous synth textures convey the silence that is the entry into orbit, to perfection as deep bass, flutey synth overlays and rich synth textures combine with rippling synth underneath as a gigantic, beefy, solid sequencer rhythm begins and the whole musical panorama just billows out like an expanding cloud on a gloriously sunny day. It doesn't sound like Schulze or T Dream - but it is "familiar", original and totally wonderful. String synths, lead melodies, sequencer rhythms and assorted layers all drive forward on a quite incredible opening track that has power, atmosphere and feeling by the shovel load. From here it's an unbroken segue into the seven minutes of 'Stasis', a space synths track that is so much fuller-sounding, so much more emotional and just utterly spine-tingling and heart-warming than any other slice of cosmic music around right now. The sound of the synth layers go the full range from deep bass undercurrents to high-flying flowing synth lead layers, at all times conveying a movement that is not rhythmic but feels like it is traveling. With plenty of layers, at no point does anything stay the same, while the fascination becomes addictive as you enter further into the concept and the conception. After this comes 'Separation' and, bearing in mind the subject matter, gets it spot on as this dark, eerie, almost frightening sea of scary synth layers, textures, echoes, and effects conveys to a tee, the sheer terror at an emotional level, of its subject. As scary but engrossing and, it has to be said, enjoyable, a slice of dark synth music, as you'll hear.
The four minutes of 'Refraction' is a sombre yet symphonic slice of huge-sounding, flowing, mighty cosmic music with, once again, plenty of soaring, drifting, full-sounding, strong and purposeful synth layers and textures that move across your mental horizon and take you on the journey with every second that unfolds, in a wondrous cloud of electronic gorgeousness, with a dark surround. From here you are taken to the thirteen minute 'Gan Eden' as percussive synth rhythms are heard under flowing string synths, before a sea of assorted bass synth and sequencer rhythms begins as the track builds its layers and heads out into deep space, the presence of rhythms for the whole length of the track, at this point in the album, just perfect. The music now tightens its hold on your attention even further and takes you forward into the thoughts of a traveler watching worlds pass by as he heads for seeming oblivion, yet fascinated at what is being seen. Mighty and then some. The track sails uninterrupted into the near ten minute 'Seraphim', Spacey and gloriously cosmic synths take you to the six minute point, then it explodes into life amid a sea of string synths, deep rivers of resonant bass synths and solid, rolling electronic drum rhythms that dive forward to the end of the huge-sounding track.
However, this is but a mere precursor to the near twenty one minutes of 'Last Flight' that follows, as fantastic an epic of deep feeling, multi-layered, multi-textured, flowing, full-sounding, always traveling, solid cosmic space synths music as there can surely be. It's one monumental slice of music that is just inspirational and totally absorbing listening every time you hear it, full of emotion and even deep feeling spirituality, a glorious cosmos of synth music splendours that is simply immense as it drifts, soars, flows and flies towards a heaven that it has created by is very existence and a heaven that is the unknown point to which the whole journey is leading.
As a synth album goes, this is superb and then some - not a second wasted, not a second out of place - immaculately played, written, produced and arranged. It's not like anyone else and it stands rightfully proud as an epic work of electronic music that shall remain totally timeless for years to come.
Andy Garibaldi - CD Services
Etherfysh is the work of British electronic musician Chris Christou, whose music combines Berlin school kosmiche á la Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze with elements of symphonic progressive rock. Stasis is his third and latest album and is a 7 track set of long, slowly and beautifully developing ultra cosmic tracks. Check out this bit from the liner notes:
The idea behind this entire CD began with some very simple thoughts. What if an astronaut became separated from his spacecraft and then drifted away forever through space? After the initial fear and panic, when a resignation to his fate began to take hold, how might his thought progress? What visions might accompany him within the universal flotation tank?
Wow, what an image to have in mind as the music began. "Orbit" opens the set and begins with an intense from-the-launchpad rocket liftoff that soon settles into an electronic space-prog symphonic dreamland with elements of early Tangerine Dream to spice things up. "Stasis" is next and is much more focused on meditative space-ambient drift, but still in that all pervasive symphonic wrapper. "Separation" is one of the shortest tracks of the set but one of my favorites, as the music veers off its meditative course, clearly representing a critical moment for our astronaut hero. Chris weaves lots of interesting sound work into this one.
"Gan Eden" is a standout track that draws heavily on old time German kosmiche music influences. Fans of Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Conrad Schnitzler and the like will be delighted. "Seraphim" is a bit different, starting off as one of the more purely orchestral tracks of the set, but then turning into an electro beat groove laden number. The album ends with the 21 minute epic, "Last Flight". The music begins with a somewhat foreboding feel, but an angelic vibe quickly starts to wash its way through, creating a feeling that caused me to sense that our astronaut hero is now at the point of resignation and acceptance.
The 7 tracks on Stasis all flow seamlessly from one to the next, making this very much a continuous 70 minute journey through space and time. But there's lots of variety too, which one would expect given the range of emotions our astronaut hero would undoubtedly experience. So if you're in a contemplative mood, or just feel like leaving the planet for a while, put on the headphones, dim the lights, and settle into Stasis.
The Ed Unitsky artwork will make you mourn the loss of the gatefold vinyl album.
Jerry Kranitz From Aural Innovations #33 (March 2006)
Transforming. Unaware of the passage of time.
The new album from Chris Christou ( AKA Etherfysh) is a work that has quite possibly taken a millennium to create, or at least to create again. The music of Etherfysh touches me in a very special way. I've always been an Electronic Music fan, but there is something about the music of Etherfysh that sounds all too familiar, and yet ancient and otherworldly somehow.....
Stasis is the realization of a dream and the power found in kinship.
The album starts off with a NASA transmission to a spacecraft lifting off the pad. Perhaps this approach is a bit overdone, but to relay the story behind Stasis, it is a necessary piece of the music, and the tale of eventual Stasis.
Orbit. (8:40) We arrive on board the ship and are in Orbit . A beautiful cascade of synth sounds washes over this piece as one could visualize a space walk, or some other extra vehicular activity. Below us, another world. Confusion, anxiety and a sense of liberation strikes the character upon seeing this. He is one with all of space, and realizes this is just the beginning of his life outside gravity. Images of a bygone age where Indians roamed the land and Pyramids were just beginning to spring up. Mystics at their fireside telling the tales as told to them are all just brief flashes in the blackness of space.
Stasis. (7:49) A time of rest and reflection. It is here that Chris' full mastering of the keyboards enter. This soundscape rivals anything from Tangerine Dream's Green Desert album. A piece of stark beauty if one would listen with their heart and see with their mind. There also lies in this piece a certain level of darkness, as if the character is transforming, changing from what he once was, to what he is meant to be. As if a formidable, yet gentle spirit has enveloped the character in the icy embrace of space. Recollections of a past life have long faded. The character's mind is open to all levels of reality and the possibilities of those realities. Stasis in progress.........
Separation. (3:47) Chris has delved into the darkest reaches of his talents and his soul to pull to the surface this part of the story. It is Chaotic and Mournful. All the while an almost menacing sense of fear of the unknown has come over our traveller. What is he? What was he? What is he supposed to be? Flashes of memory across his mind offer no more comfort than the comets he sees hurtling through space. He is alone, separated from all he knew, and all he once was. Liberation has it's price.
Refraction. (4:39) Refraction, in this context would mean the action of distorting an image by viewing through a medium. The character's memories and thoughts are now changed and influenced by the very concept of space. Everything that was perceived, believed, and understood, reduced to one thought. Unity. Unity in his own surroundings, and to whatever the future holds. It is here that the gentle spirit who enveloped our traveller in the previous track has now allowed him to awaken in a new thought, or dream. A peaceful piano and subtle touches with sampled Cello bring this piece to a realm of incredible beauty and belonging. The traveller is realizing this is where he belongs, but has no idea as yet to where "this" is. Chris' ability to paint an image so plainly in the absence of vocals is amazing. As I said, if you listen with your heart, you will hear this tale unfold. Chris is speaking through time.
Gan Eden.(13:02) Creation, Spirituality, and Belonging are all becoming more and more apparent to the traveller. It is here that Chris relays the story of Creation. The world terrarium bursting, the seas filling, the mountains springing up from the ground, The earth as it was so long ago. A wonderfully flowing synth piece that would harken to an early Andy Pickford or Jean-Michel Jarre album. As the track progresses, the traveller is exploring all the possibilities of this world. He is learning, taking everything in as a new mind, and a new way of thinking. It is fitting that he himself is being re-created here in this piece, although he is not totally aware of it yet. Sampled mellotrons, and an infectious rhythm make this one a strong pick as the edited "single" from the album.
Seraphim. (9:47) It is finished. The traveller now sees what he is and where he must go. This is a triumphant piece that ushers in an almost cinematic ending to a wonderful story. Chris sounds very confident in his playing and orchestration of this piece. Download in progress, the traveller is awaiting a new life. Flashes of his new world hurtle past his eyes. He sees everything as it really is, as if a veil has been lifted and he for the first time, is completely awake and aware of his own being. it is here that Chris' sequencers are on full power and are stunning.
Last Flight. (20:49) Certainly not the last flight of Etherfysh, but the last flight of the traveller. As a new heart beats in space, the traveller is complete. Stasis is over and he is quite different than when he went in. He sees himself, in a new way. However, he is not frightened by his sight, but very acceptable of it. He has shed his frail body and at last his soul is unbound. Chris' penchant for the mysterious is quite amazing. A single sequencer line opens this track that finally gives way to a wash of synths that is at once beautiful and deliberate. Space has given birth to a new entity, and it holds everything in it's grasp. It has the power to create, love and wander as it wishes. Chris' use of different sound textures in this piece is truly remarkable. Sounds that would evoke images of lava bubbling up from the ground and newly born winged creatures flying high over head.Summary: Etherfysh has managed to create an album that really is new to the world of Electronic Music. This is certainly not a New Age album, nor just another album of non-melodic meanderings that purvey a lot of the EM world. While a lot artists search for a way to fuse both Progressive and Electronic Music together, Chris has found the recipe, and will hopefully keep it in Stasis to draw upon it as he wishes.
Etherfysh: Stasis. Available from Eclectic Mountain Records. Fall, 2005.
Thanks for your time,