Robert Reed is a musician who hardly needs an introduction to readers of Background Magazine. I have been following his work for ages. I might say forever, as I recall buying the first Cyan album back in 1993, then released on the legendary SI Music label. A second one followed the year after. I must confess both made little impression at the time and have been rarely played. Rob's brand of neo prog was a tad too tame for me at the time. He made much more impression as a part of the sort-of-supergroup The Fyreworks with their self-titled album in 1997. Great vintage prog which in retrospect foreshadowed Rob's breakthrough with Magenta. That band made me a fan of his work and I have followed them since that first album in 2001.
After that, Rob Reed has been busy with many other projects, including the poppy acts Trippa and Chimpan A, the highly symphonic Kompendium and recently the Mike Oldfield-oriented Sanctuary solo albums. Frankly, it is hard to keep track of all his work unless you make serious work of doing so. It wouldn't surprise me therefore if I have forgotten a few stations in his career.
Well, here is a new station in that career. Robert Reed chose to pursue another direction and leave the mostly symphonic prog flavoured waters and do an electronic album instead. Cursus 123 430 became a concept written by its narrator, Les Penning, an artist Rob has worked with before on various occasions and who may be known by some for his work with Mike Oldfield (a.o. Ommadawn). Penning's voice is pleasantly low and reminds me of Richard Burton's legendary narration of War Of The Worlds. I am not entirely sure what the concept is about, but if you want to find out, a graphic novel by Matt Rooke and Peter Rogers is available as the companion to the music. You can get a glimpse from the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMMqEBMwlrQ.
Speaking of the music... Reed (who is responsible for all the instruments) does not hide his influences. While we regard the Sanctuary albums as his tribute to Oldfield, this CD is clearly a homage to the work of Jean Michel Jarre. Just play the fifth track, Witness, and say that you do not hear Oxygene there! However, except for a few moments throughout the album when the inspiration becomes very obvious through a particular synthesizer sound or a chord, I must say that Reed stays on the level of “inspired by” rather than making this a full-fledged tribute. And either way would be okay anyway. I will not pick out any other single tracks as this album is to be cherished as a whole from start to end. Truth be told, if I had to choose between any of Jarre's albums and this one, I would go for Cursus 123 430. Wonderful electronic music that is accessible, yet never shallow (which Jarre sometimes is to my ears) and has a pleasant symphonic tinge to it.
The album is also available as a “Special Limited Edition” CD and DVD, including a 5.1 Surround Mix.
**** Carsten Busch (edited by Dave Smith)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2021