‘The Complete Cathedral Oceans’ compiles the three separate volumes of the album series that John Foxx issued between 1997 and 2005, released here as a lavish limited five LP vinyl boxset some six years after the albums were first compiled for a CD release.
The keyword here is of course ambient – even without knowing anything about the series or Foxx’s music, the title alone screams that this music is going to be meditative in nature – but not exactly in the way that Brian Eno conceived of the genre. Whereas Eno’s music was often designed to sit in the background, Foxx’s take on ambient is resolutely intended for the foreground. Much of ‘Cathedral Oceans’ has the cavernous, expansive echo associated with music performed in holy places – music that openly looks for transcendency and which offers divine thanks, not music which seeks to lurk, hidden, behind the action.
Profound beauty is a given here, but by operating with chords and semi-choral passages that evoke the sense of being in a holy place, Foxx’s main conceit is to make the listener feel small, aware of their inconsequential place in the universe. At times this can make tracks like ‘Through Summer Rooms’ engender a deep sense of self-consciousness, of what it is to be truly alive, while at others the sounds and textures trigger a troubling sense of impermanence and anxiety at the brevity of life. It is perhaps testament to Foxx’s tremendous compositional dexterity that he can create music that spans both so easily, operating across the three albums with classical phrasing and literacy.
If you can avoid forcing any comparison with the German group Enigma, or the vague of New Age-iness that operating in this territory brings, ‘Cathedral Oceans’ remains an inspiring, uplifting and thought-provoking body of work. Foxx’s music has always had an expansive, powerful quality, but this collection is a truly towering accomplishment of scale and grandeur.
CATHEDRAL OCEANS – Cathedral Oceans / City As Memory / Through Summer Rooms / Geometry And Coincidence / If Only… / Shifting Perspective / Floating Islands / Infinite In All Directions / Avenham Collonade / Sunset Rising / Invisible Architecture
CATHEDRAL OCEANS II – Revolving Birdsong / Shimmer Symmetry / Far And Wide 2 / Ad Infinitum / Quiet Splendour / Luminous And Gone / Stillness And Wonder / Return To A Place Of Remembered Beauty / Visible And Invisible / Golden Green
CATHEDRAL OCEANS III – Oceanic / Through Gardens Overgrown / Spiral Overture / The Shadow Of A Woman’s Hand / Radial Harmonics / Serene Velocity / Fog Structures / Eternity Sunrise / Harmonia Mundi / City Of Endless Stairways / In Rising Light / Metanym
‘Cathedral Oceans’ is available now as a deluxe vinyl boxset.
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