April 4th 1984, the new album by Catalan Sam Vitoulis, is his more ambitious piece of work. Influences comes out from Berlin School, Vangelis symphonic and melodic structures and film music.
He performs it on electronic instruments such us Yamaha CS-80, Moogs, Mellotron.. There are amazing sequences, great melodies and orchestrations, and exciting rhythms. April 4th 1984 is an album of very impressive and intense music with exquisite arrangements and seductive landscapes.
2003. Press information
It's a masterpiece!!!
2003. Manuel Carliño / Portugal
Music with a remarkable dramatic load, which immediately attracts the attention of the listener.
Just as a songwriter-singer for synthesizers, Sam Vitoulis transmits to us messages on transcendental questions of human society, using some of the most emblematic pieces in this album as the vehicle. Not by chance the album is inspired on the novel "1984" by George Orwell.
The peculiar style the composer displays in this CD fits well with the topic in the book. By masterfully combining elements from New Instrumental Music with others more typical of Space Music or from some currents to them related, Sam Vitoulis shapes an inspired symphony, brimming with sensitivity as well as with diatribes against some of the bloodiest evils in our civilization.
Also, mention must be made of the brilliant collaboration of Sergio Koval, a renewer of Space Music, who has a musical talent excellently displayed in his solo albums, as well as his soundtracks.
2004. Edgar Kogler
With April 4th 1984, Sam Vitoulis has created a fitting homage to the epic dystopian fiction Nineteen eighty-four by George Orwell. He accomplishes this by seamlessly fusing traditional Berlin School elements with the symphonic grandeur and melodic sensibility commonly associated with Vangelis. This result is ultimately unlike anything I have heard before, and aside from being consistently captivating, April 4th 1984 often scales to almost unimaginable heights of delicately channeled orchestral power.
The opening track "Notice" greets us in a disturbing and yet slightly comedic manner with a "government sanctioned" announcement informing us that due to our success in the war, "Big Brother has decided to give each and every family 300 grams of chocolate instead of the usual 200 grams."
It is on this note that the opening symphonic refrains of "The name of Jenin" assert their formidable presence, with Vitoulis already flaunting the famed CS-80, considered by many EM aficionados to be Vangelis' trademark synth. A simplistic yet effective pulsating sequence underpins a sophisticated piano melody that conveys a sense of impending danger. The punctuations of richly textured synth swells serve to emphasize these feelings as well as to provide an edge of urgency.
"Echelon is watching you" appropriately elicits a slightly paranoid feeling, with the simplistic and only deceptively mellow sequence actually concealing a more nefarious vibe.
The commencement of "Thought Crime" supplants the eerie voyeurism of the previous track with a pronounced melancholia, although the addition of the dissonant piano, sinister theremin and forceful strings induces an emotional sensation verging on barely restrained psychosis.
Those that are feeling somewhat aurally encumbered by the oppressive atmosphere of the album thus far will find relief in the majestic, uplifting "I'm Winston Smith too", and with its thunderous percussion and heartfelt confluence of robust melodies, acoustic accents, and cohesive sequences, it's surely one of the highlights of an already very accomplished album.
"11s or Room 101" is an inventive concoction containing amongst other things a mischievous bass sequence and invigorating ethnic percussion, all overlaid by enticing dulcimer motifs.
"Love to Big Brother" is a study in the understated yet insistent evolution of steadily paced electric string stabs. The piece features a particularly poignant interlude during which an enchanting melody is gently coaxed from the strings of a dulcimer (at least I think that's what it is).
The next song, "The two minutes of hate", is starkly contrasting in its emotional content, and features the compelling synthesis of a modern drum track with menacing orchestral interjections as well as more of that unmistakable high-pitched theremin wail.
"War is Peace", and especially its introduction, brought to mind some of Vangelis' more serene, contemplative material, such as the beginning of "Five Circles", "Abraham's Theme" or possibly parts of "Tears in Rain". The element that distinguishes this piece as Vitoulis' is the subtle sequence, which serves to subliminally propel it into the intimate recesses of your mind.
Vitoulis dispenses with any introduction or gradual progression on "Julia". instead unleashing an infectious, remarkably powerful sequence within the first 2 seconds. As the piece progresses, Vitoulis intersperses delicate, alluring sections with intense orchestral crescendos. The soundscape is further enlivened by Vitoulis' keen sense of arrangement, an ability perhaps only surpassed by Vangelis himself. It is for these reasons that "Julia" is my hands down choice for best song on the album.
Following the short, soporific "Palestine" we reach the final two tracks, which are billed as "bonus tracks". Fear not, however, because these pieces transcend the marketing ploy mentality that is responsible for the inclusion of many bonus tracks, and are far from being mere filler. Indeed, they are two of the best songs on the album. "Magma" is a sequencer romp of the highest caliber, exchanging the album's previous symphonic sensibilities for those signature Berlin School elements that any fan of Tangerine Dream's Baumann period will recognize instantly.
And finally we have "Departure", the only song on the album not at least partially composed by Vitoulis, but instead by Sergio Koval. It is a proficiently executed anthem of epic proportions, featuring regal, triumphant melodies and a particularly noteworthy middle segment during which a mercurial string section is reinforced by glorious choirs and more CS-80 embellishments.
With April 4th 1984, Sam Vitoulis has adeptly traversed the entire emotional spectrum, not only offering variety but also complexity. In addition, Vitoulis crafts compositions that exhibit a rare structural subtlety, an ability often times characteristic of those in possession of an authentic and enduring musical talent.
Anyone with even a passing interest in symphonic electronica or Berlin School should not hesitate to buy this incredible masterpiece.
2005. Travis Briggs
This album recorded in 2003 was composed as a tribute to George Orwell's '1984' and is certainly a fitting tribute to the author.
I can safely say without a shadow of doubt this is an exceptional release that is firmly placed within the realms of the 70's Vangelis school of thought, with powerful neo-classical arrangements which are stunning. And it that's not enough there's even a retro Tangerine Dream moment thrown in for good measure too. Sound textures are supplied via a vast array of analogue and digital synthesizer technology, together with a small string/acoustic section. The set also comprises brief narrative pieces to help set the scene.
The first track, 'Notice' is one of these narrative sections and indeed is an informative start to the album.
Then its' straight in with 'The Name of Jenin' where drums and effects combine to great effect and it is here already that you can sense the Vangelis 'Albedo/Spiral' connection. A mid tempo bass sequence pattern takes hold under grand symphonic textures then a confident piano motif is added creating a most awesome overture for the set.
'Echelon is Watching You' enters with effects then a dark soundscape enters with 'phone-pad' effects at intervals. A bass synth is then apparent which is efficiently transformed into a proper sequence under a wash of effects. A new and effective delayed sequence line is added and another Vangelis styled lead follows.
Track 4, 'Notice' (again) is another narrative piece. The neo classical orientated 'Thought Crime' begins with synth effects and is shortly followed by a piano melody and eminent orchestral stabs. A mid-tempo percussion loop enters the foray under a slightly melancholy lead line.
White noise and sundry effects starts things off for the oddly titled 'I'm Winston Smith too'. A definitive timpani and choral section comes forth then a resonant sequence is added. A bass sequence pattern then enters together with bass percussion sounds. An effective main theme takes hold and further gentle percussive elements creating a profound sense of serenity are apparent.
'11 s or room 101' is off the mark immediately with a catchy bass sequence pattern. Percussion is added with effects. There is a slightly mysterious feel to this piece and the addition of a Dulcimer solo together with occasional timpani helps to keep the intensity of the piece.
'Love to Big brother' primarily encompasses the sounds of acoustic and electric piano. A string section and intermittent sequencer pattern enters and once again there is a feeling of serenity. A dominant percussive section takes hold and a satisfactory synth lead follows. The addition of an orchestral stab sequence at around the 2 minute mark adds depth to the piece before returning to the melodious overture of the piece.
'The Two Minutes of Hate' again enters with piano and effects. A brief narrative is then added progressing to an obscure orchestral sequence complete with an effective drum and timpani section. An analogue lead line then appears under a vast ocean of sequencer patterns and effects.
'War is Peace' begins slightly differently with its almost Vangelis 'Beaubourg' orientated lead line. Effects and a suitable bass sequence pans in and out of the mix to the finale.
'Julia' builds with intensity via use of its effective bass sequence and synth strings. A slightly obscure percussion loop enters and eventually a new pattern replaces this at about 2 minutes. This is sonically enhanced via the use of flute styled samples and choral effects.
'Palestine' includes low synth patterns and various effects. Additional percussives and an almost low oboe styled main theme takes hold to the end.
Track 13 is the final narrative piece 'Notice'
and ends the album as such. However the listener is treated to two bonus tracks that were recorded live in July 2003 and it is here that we sample yet further sonic brilliance of this musician.
In a complete contrast to the Vangelis orientated epics encountered throughout the main course of the album this track heads off in strict Tangerine Dream seventies tradition. The effective and awe inspiring sequencer patterns are reminiscent of 'Ricochet' period Tangerine Dream while the lead lines are similar in style and structure to 'Stratosfear' with mellotron samples a plenty! The second live piece throws the listener straight back into Vangelis territory one more time and is one of the most stunning finales I have heard!
Bass sequencers, synth textures and grand thematic lead line help to create this awesome power feast of a track!
This is just one stunning album I can't say any more than that!
This is a concept album based upon the world-famous novel "Nineteen eighty-four" by George Orwell. Of course Sam Vitoulis is not the first one to do this. Artists like Rick Wakeman and Anthony Phillips have already been down that road before him. In his novel (from 1948!), Orwell most strikingly describes what the world could have looked like in 1984. Besides being interested in Orwell Sam Vitoulis is a keen admirer of Vangelis.
This is quite evident by the frequent use of the Yamaha CS80 synthesizer (which has been a Vangelis trademark for many years).
In tracks like ‘The Name Of Jenin’ and ‘Julia #’ this is shown to great effect: beautiful orchestral sounds from the CS80, piano, dulcimer, heavy percussion and a kind of Byzantine mood. So there is a lot to enjoy for Vangelis-freaks like me, who have not exactly been spoilt by the great man himself in these past few years.
‘Echelon Is Watching You’, ‘I’m Winston Smith Too’ and ‘Love To Big Brother’ could have been typical Vangelis (sound-) tracks as well because of the slow sequencer patterns, the melodies and the effects used. Melancholia also plays a part in this album, like in ‘Thought Crime’. The final two tracks were recorded live at the Insolit Music Forum on Juli 4th 2003. Here Vitoulis plays together with Sergio Koval, who can also be heard on some of the other tracks on the album.
The impressive ‘Magma’ sounds more like Tangerine Dream, judging by its sequences and mellotron sounds.
‘Departure’, composed by Koval, is beautiful and melodious.
An album to cherish.
Paul Rijkens / SonicImmersion.org