Cephid – Sparks In The Darkness

Cephid – Sparks In The Darkness

Cephid will be a new name to us all here at TPA, however this debut album released in February this year is the culmination of years of solo work by talented keyboard player Moray Macdonald, who will be familiar to you for his work with That Joe Payne, and his flamboyant performances with Rammstein tribute band Rammlied, as well as having remixed the latest single by synth pioneers OMD.

You can’t think of a more contrasting set of artists to work with, however on this album Moray stamps his own musical identity on these eight tracks of contemporary electronic music.

Inspired by (but certainly not re-treading the path) of electronic keyboard artists like Jean Michel Jarre or Vangelis, this is the electronic instrumental album redefined for the 21st century, with elements of trance, dance and electro-pop filtered through the ears of a talented performer and composer.

From the opening To Catch The Eye of Heaven, this is all stark synths, beats and shimmering electronic sounds that ease us into Worlds Before (1st Spark) which with its metronomic beat and multi-layered synth sounds (with an insistent pulsating rhythm behind it) is as much suited for the dance tent as it is for the discerning fan of electronic music.

Bands like Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream pushed barriers down as they redefined what electronic music could do, and it’s fair to say that this is a successor to their ethos, and the fact that some of these tracks are propelled by live drums adds to the organic heart that beats within these machines.

The ethereal vocals of Angel Wolf-Black on Terminus add an anthemic and spiritual feel which contrasts beautifully with the multi-layered intricate synth sounds that Moray skilfully builds and weaves round, and it’s this mix of machine and soul throughout Sparks in the Darkness that helps this album transcend any specific genre.

Keeping your attention across an instrumental album is not an easy skill, but it’s one that Moray has mastered with aplomb, and as anyone whose seen him perform live will know, he is musician who doesn’t just play the music, but he feels it and has an innate understanding of how to emotionally connect with the song and the audience.

The way the main theme soars throughout Of Promises Broken (2nd Spark) is a joy to listen to, and there are some beautifully euphoric moments on this album, where you can imagine sitting on a beach in Ibiza with a cold drink in your hand as the Sun rises and Sparks in the Darkness weaves it’s magic on the moment.

Having been a fan of progressive music since the early 90’s, my first love was electronic music, having grown up on the synths of the Pet Shop Boys and a father who was constantly playing Jean Michel Jarre. This album blends the best of both worlds, being a complex, growing album that has to be enjoyed in one sitting to fully take in the synth technology and electronic sounds to their full effect.

The faintly sinister Strobe could easily be played in clubs, or on a soundtrack to an action thriller, and it’s Moray’s experience in composition and arrangement that really shines throughout this sublime album. There is not a second wasted here, and the styles are diverse, like the slower pace of With Kindred Assistance which has more of Moray’s fantastic keyboard riffs and melodies and builds to a fantastic crescendo where he makes his keyboards wail like a guitar in full flight.

The closing two tracks on the album are Dead Hand’s Decree with its Chemical Brothers-esque beat and pulsating sound, and The Old Me (3rd Spark) which at six minutes is the longest track on here, bringing the album to a satisfying musical conclusion. The two tracks have more of those shimmering synths and catchy hooks over a skittering insistent beat, bringing the album full circle, with some epic cinematic soundscapes. In fact, this could be a soundtrack to a film that hasn’t been made yet.

This is an assured and enjoyable debut from a multi-talented performer at the top of his game, and so far, this is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.

01. To Catch The Eye of Heaven (2:57)
02. Worlds Before (1st Spark) (3:51)
03. Terminus (5:53)
04. Of Promises Broken (2nd Spark) (4:42)
05. Strobe (3:56)
06. With Kindred Assistance (5:25)
07. Dead Hands Decree (5:54)
08. The Old Me (3rd Spark) (6:43)

Total Time – 39:21

Moray Macdonald – All Instruments
~ With:
Graham Brown – Drums (tracks 3 & 7)
Emily Dolan Davies – Drums (tracks 4,6 & 8)
Angel Wolf-Black – Vocals (track 3)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 9th February 2024

Cephid – Facebook | Bandcamp