cone magazine

Review: Roger Goula – Overview Effect


Roger Goula’s Overview Effect draws on a centralised cognitive concept within a neo-classical framework to produce a truly immersive and dynamic debut.

Born into a contemporary classical background, and building on his involvement with the free improvisation scene in the mid 2000s, Goula’s work has seen him develop into an experimental blend of classical chamber and orchestral music with electronics. In line with the ethos of the new label, Cognitive Shift Recordings, the record elegantly merges modern classical and electronic music to deliver unreal emotion.

With a fascination and admiration for outer space, Goula was inspired by the psychological shift in awareness reported by astronauts while viewing the Earth both from orbit and in transit between the Earth and the Moon. Many astronauts report a new perspective of life when viewing Earth from a distance, and Goula has musically reimagined this cognitive shift. “The idea of a psychological shift of how we see our home – the Earth – interested me enormously as the central theme for this project, particularly the concept of a psychological journey”, he explains.

The opening track ‘Soon Will Wake Up’ consists of a solo tenor ukulele piece and conjures up a mesmerising visualisation of the void of space, employing long and overlapping musical phrases. With abrasive and sinister-sounding chords, ‘Overview Effect’ induces pending danger, sounds of which you can imagine in many of today’s blockbuster films – the hero, the villain, and the ever present vulnerability of the unknown. It is immensely orchestrated with a series of violin steps, invoking a chase scene.

The violin solo piece, ‘Pale Blue Dot’, embarks with sullen and deep tonal swells of strings, before sudden and incredibly vibrant layers of frenzied violin pull you into a different realm. The soundscape creates a vivid picture; the emotion that Goula evokes here is powerful, flawlessly encapsulating the bewildering feelings one might feel when gazing upon Earth. ‘Something About Silence’ begins with what sounds like the strings of a bell tower, producing a sense of time passing as the steady rhythm continues. Adding to this feeling, creaking floorboards appear as strings build with a pulsating beat that adds mystery, before closing with white noise. It is clear that Goula wants the listener to visualise their own interpretation of the music.

During the course of the LP, Goula’s classical and electronic influences are apparent: Monteverdi, Reich and Aphex Twin but to name a few. By carefully finding an impeccable balance between the two, the atmospheric album explores interplay between waves of strings and synthesisers, and thus creates a tremendously compelling listen. The experience that transforms an astronauts’ perspective of the world, society and humanity’s existence can truly be felt. In delivering a seamless and astounding album, Roger Goula could be propelled into the same bracket as contemporary classical superstars such as Nils Frahm, and with that, Overview Effect is perhaps, the most beautiful album of the year.

Words by Matthew Barlow


Features are free for all CONE Mag subscribers.
Sign up below