If they’d had a crystal ball would Steve Wright and David P. Crickmore - who formed Fiat Lux in the early 80s - have still embarked on a musical journey that would see the duo finally release their debut full-length album in 2019? I get the feeling they would as ‘Saved Symmetry’ has the feel and sound of an album that encompasses everything the duo were trying to achieve back in the day. The Latin phrase Fiat Lux translates as Let There Be Light, with light as a metaphor for wisdom. This seems fitting as ‘Saved Symmetry’ finally sees the light of day and I’m pretty sure Steve and David have learnt a few things along the way.
The Fiat Lux story is the usual tale of near misses and record company shenanigans. The duo gained their first break when Steve Wright met Be-Bop Deluxe frontman Bill Nelson and It would be Bill who would release the first Fiat Lux single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ on his Cocteau label in November of 1982. Bill’s younger brother Ian joined the band around this time adding saxophone which remains an integral part of the Fiat Lux sound to this day (Ian, unfortunately, passed away in 2006). A major deal with Polydor was inked and the band released a mini album ‘Hired History’ and a string of singles with ‘Secrets’ and ‘Blue Emotion’ creeping into the lower reaches of the charts. They toured with the likes of Howard Jones, Thomas Dolby, Nik Kershaw and John Cale while UK TV appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test and in a Channel 4 documentary helped boost their profile. Despite all this, the band eventually split in 1985 after a planned full-length Polydor debut album was shelved.
Thirty-two years later Wright and Crickmore reformed to record a version of ‘Secrets’ - which the duo seemingly refuse to let die. I'm pleased to report that ‘Secrets’ features as a bonus track on 'Saved Symmetry' and sounds wonderful with Ric Sanders' violin and Kathryn Roberts' woodwind a welcome addition. Musically Fiat Lux is firmly rooted in the sounds of the 80s with those terrific vintage synths providing the foundations on which the album is built. Dig a little deeper though and David Crickmore’s bass guitar is surprisingly upfront and gives their sound a more organic feel than you might expect. The opening track ‘Tuesday’ builds slowly with scratchy distortion and acoustic guitar but the bass guitar is the driving force – Crickmore gives it a really good thwack – before what initially felt like an instrumental piece unexpectedly changes gear as Steve Wright adds a hushed, mannered almost spoken vocal. Wright and Crickmore seem very comfortable with progressive and art rock from the 70s and it adds another dimension to their sound with the opening track reminiscent of Pink Floyd. ‘Hold Me While You Can’ follows and brings to mind Heaven 17 but the addition of Will Howard’s clarinet and a strident saxophone solo works beautifully adding impressive musicality to the track.
Throughout ‘Saved Symmetry’ the duo prove particularly adept at catchy 80s synth-pop with ‘Everyday in Heaven’, ‘Long Lost Love’ and ‘It’s You’ displaying a timeless quality and a notable appreciation for a catchy hook. ‘Grey Unpainted Rooms’ is more melancholy and orchestral while ‘We Can Change the World’ has quite glorious synth parts with Will Howard’s saxophone again to the fore. ‘We Can Change The World’ is one of many tracks here that benefit from nicely judged arrangements and the placement of the harmony vocals with ‘Wasted (On Baby Tears)’ another winner in this regard. As if to ram home their versatility and refusal to be boxed in ‘Calling All Angels’ again finds the duo exploring their more downbeat and melancholy side on a synth-heavy piano ballad given a jazzy inflexion thanks to Jude Abbott’s trumpet contribution. The album concludes with the instrumental title track providing a fitting climax to a lovingly compiled and beautifully performed album. This mix of light and shade in the song structure and the sometimes unusual choice of instrumentation makes for an immersive listening experience.
It might have taken decades to arrive but ‘Saved Symmetry’ is a terrific record which all fans of 80s pop should enjoy. Fiat Lux are starting fresh and 2019 looks like it could be a big year for them with their 80s material - the majority of which has remained unreleased - also set for release later this year. Finally, the planets seem to be in alignment for Fiat Lux to enjoy a little of the success they narrowly missed all those years ago.
Saved Symmetry will be released March 8th 2019 on the Splid Records label via Proper Music Distribution.