‘Bells’, taken from Phil France’s ‘Circle’ album. Buy/stream: https://gondwana-records.lnk.to/bYsPwID
Originally from West Yorkshire, but now resident in Manchester, composer, bassist and producer Phil France is probably best known as a key collaborator alongside Jason Swinscoe in the Cinematic Orchestra, where he co-wrote, arranged and produced on classic albums including Everyday, Man With The Movie Camera, Ma Fleur and also the triple award winning soundtrack for The Crimson Wing nature documentary. In 2013 France released his debut solo album, The Swimmer (GOND016), an emotive, epic record influenced by the great second wave of film composers including John Carpenter and Vangelis, as well as minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass
Five years later, France presents the follow up, the enigmatically titled, Circle, which again represents a very personal journey for the artist. For France the album is an extension of work he began on The Swimmer. A process he has described as: ” blocks of sound containing intricate minimal arpeggiated patterns and electronic textures that develop and shift in subtle, original and melodic ways. The trancelike quality, mood and electronic character of title track Circle led France to think of the circular patterns which eventually became a potent concept for the album. “Ideas and fashions repeat themselves in cycles. Events are said to travel ‘full circle’ and this is important to me because it represents my own recent personal and musical journey after 15 years touring as bassist and composer with The Cinematic Orchestra. I consider circles to be a strong symbol of unity, strength and inclusiveness and ultimately I’ve aspired to make something beautiful with those values at its heart”.
The album opens with the title track, Circle, built on a minimal looped pattern with melodic embellishment and shifting additional harmonic textures. Bells was developed from the arpeggiator and offers a nod to the melodicism and atmosphere of French electronic music. The Jackal features an idea originally developed for The Crimson Wing score but which finally bears fruit here. Cathedrals features an improvised intro, Philip Glass inspired organ and vocal textures inspired by the work of Colin Stetson. Finally, the album ends with a reprise of Circle this time featuring layered pianos. But it isn’t the conclusion of the journey, for France: “The Circle is infinite – During the process of making this record, I have been constantly reminded that nothing ever stays the same and that all is in constant flux. The challenge for me is always to respond positively, be aware of and seize the opportunity for progression constant change provides” And it is that sense of movement and flow, but also calm and beauty that permeates Circle and make it such a worthy successor to The Swimmer.