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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Various - Fahrenheit Project 5
STYLE   Described by Ultimae as "11 panoramic tracks for better days" - this is a beautiful collection of immersive, ambient, downtempo trance vistas. Beats as light as air yet deeply grounded at the low-end loop in and out among ever changing ripples of cycling synth lines and dense ambient pads. Low voices whisper in the shifting spaces and hypnotic sonic effects sweep across the vibrating skyline.
 
MOOD  

Serene and subdued yet pulsating with vibrant life. The whole album sounds very contemporary and technically accomplished - the clarity of sound is excellent and the depth of the mix absorbing. Having said that, this machinery of sound is by no means impersonal and remote - the artists here create breezy, expansive panoramas, rich, emotional infusions, music full of feeling and implied imagery. The mood varies smoothly from supremely relaxing, drifting, floating ambience to mystical, deep and dramatic rhythms - a laboratory brimming with beguiling lustrous organic creations.

 
ARTWORK   Ultimae artistry maintains its high standard - the usual cool black panels border an atmospheric scene that stretches broadly across both front and back of this classy digipack. If you have any of Ultimae's CD's you'll know that these are items that you just love to have in your hands to hold and touch. Vincent's photography is tasteful and Mat Da Kat's graphic layout flawless. Credits highlight the contributions from individual artists and point out the length of each piece.
 
OVERALL   

Unlike many compilation albums this collection is strong from start to finish. Percussive loops vary from sonic swishes and bleeps to the chilled d'n'b of 'Processing Lights' through to Carbon Based Lifeforms distorted crunches - yet all the time maintaining that transcendent restfulness. The sound is consistent and the vision clearly shared. The CD opens with Jaïa and then presents tracks by Solar Fields, Carbon Based Lifeforms, Hol Baumann, Aes Dana, Cell, Great Leap Forward, Aural Planet and SYNC24. The selection is mixed into one flowing whole by Tajmahal. If you enjoyed previous Fahrenheit releases, you surely won't be disappointed by this one.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Ultimae addicts will need no bidding to grab this collection - but if you've enjoyed albums by Carbon Based Lifeforms, H.U.V.A. Network, Aes Dana, Solar Fields etc - the mood is nicely maintained by the whole gathering across this CD. Chilled trance par excellence - ideal if you'd like some very modern ambient soundscapes with tripping downtempo beats.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Alio Die - Khen Introduce Silence
STYLE

 

 

Waxing, waning, organic minimal ambience all built around the extended drones of the khen - a mouth organ from Thailand or Laos. Naturally in the hands of Alio Die and having undergone appropriate processing this simple instrument is the source of unearthly strands of varying harmony and dissonance. Thickening the leading drones are various environmental recordings ranging from what sound like Tibetan chimes and faint voices to tricklings of water, distant thunder, birds, crickets, frogs. The final track on the album takes the unique approach of gradually building a rumbling ambience populated with crickets or frogs and then abruptly cutting to a familiar khen drone - this drone gradually fades and the process repeats. What initially feels distinctly odd, gradually becomes a rhythm until once again we're drawn comfortably into Alio Die's distinct sound world

 
MOOD  

The mood is other-worldly and timeless - sometimes sombre (as occasionally drones are) but more often serene or meditative. The water effects soften the atmosphere, frequently leading us between tracks, sometimes becoming the focus as the khen recedes. Some pieces are slow and almost monumental whereas others waver to and fro with revolving tonal cycles layering like waves. We are left with an impression of artist and environment collaborating together to realise a peculiar musical concept.

 
ARTWORK   The front cover artwork is highly textural - apparently dappled with patterns of light. The back cover features an enigmatic, dislocated stone ear listening under the surface of a pool of water. Across these panels the unobtrusive text is simple, black and functional. The inner booklet has no words at all - simply a photograph of a tree reflected in water - one could easily imagine the artist himself hidden here, sharing the khen with the location. Track titles are all in Italian except track 6 - 'Introduce Silence'.
 
OVERALL   

This collection of humming ethnic mouth-organ tones is not the most accessible of albums - but once the listener is absorbed, the effect is one of natural tranquillity. Stefano Musso is credited with playing: khen (mouth organ), drones and loops. He also produced the environmental recordings taken in Thailand and in Lunigiana/Italy. Ginfranco Cualbu plays percussion on one track, Francesco Paladino provided the environmental sounds from Katmandu and Nepal and Teo Zini/Opium those from Topolo', Italy. Stefano told us "I remember it was with a little suffering when I did the recording in the forest in Thailand with the frogs from the last track due to the mosquitos, as I could not move...actually that place in the island Koh Phi Phi was strongly hit by the tsunami of Decemeber 2004.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This CD will likely be enjoyed by those drawn to experimental ambient music. The overall effect is minimal, environmental, meditative. Alio Die is working far, far from the mainstream of modern music - if you fancy a trip to somewhere musically distant, this might be for you, just don't expect nice beats and friendly melodies.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 THE SOUND GALLERY - DESIGNED FOR READING

 

 

 ------The Sound Gallery - Designed For Reading
STYLE

 

 

Oceans of haunting static, distorted drones and ambient guitar textures supporting floating female vocals that often flounder beautifully somewhere deep below the sound surface. The Sound Gallery's style is very individual and experimental, yet strangely appealing and accessible. The music is mainly beatless with ample delays and reverb effects. Long drawn out strings, E-bow or synth pads charged with crackling noise form a satisfying contrast to the ever-present dissonance that ranges from lonely and intimate to harsh and menacing. The warms voices of Leslie DuPre-Grimaud, Sarah Hepburn, Lorri Myers, Jan Johanson and Miranda Van Holland bring a touch of humanity to the loops, waves and strains that are so deftly interwoven to create this post-industrial montage.

 
MOOD  

Designed For Reading this may be, but certainly not designed for easy listening, at least initially - the atmosphere is one of stark contrasts, dark and eerie then gentle and moody. A melancholy, brooding elegance that suggests a flawed technology, a ruined urban vision, heavy with decadence, coated grey like a warm coal yet with pulsing colour showing through cracks in the surface. Indeed Herb Grimaud Jr. says that the inspiration for much of the album was the film Blade Runner. There are moments where, among all of the thick texture and sonic haze, guitars coalesce and hint at the Cocteaus or This Mortal Coil.

 
ARTWORK  

A well laid-out package with soft green abstract photography illuminating a dense, dark background. Text is in a sharp brush script with looping capitals, laid out in layered graphic panels such that it forms a strong aspect of the visual appeal. Inside, like breaking open a bubble the viridescence is at its most obscure - soft and fluid. Within the booklet text is laid out for each track like a guide to gallery exhibits, with full credits, thanks and dedications. The verse within the booklet translates: Shower me with cherry blossoms again - Lower me into this grave again - Watching my life die in your arms again - Bury me into your love again - Lower me into this pain again - Wiping your tears from my eyes again - Shower me with apologies again - Pulling the stars from the sky again - Placing them into this grave again.

 
OVERALL   

The basic foundations of this CD are laid in adventurous ambient guitar structures with some very individual soundscaping. Sometimes the canvas of Designed For Reading consists of gracefully languid synth or guitar drones where rumbling noise, crisp, electrical stabs and swishes take to the foreground - on other tracks the backdrop is swirling white noise, feedback or interference with soft female voices whispering, singing softly or speaking. The richly affected atonal layers become so natural after a point on the CD that the more melodic elements of guitar and bass begin to sound almost obtrusive when they appear - almost too normal to exist in these far distant soundscapes.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Ambient fans looking for something that comes in from a different direction. Post rock listeners looking for something that floats, fluxes and twists with very few beats. Herb says that "the goal was to end up with material that you would want to listen to with headphones on. Music to drive to at night, music for thought, music to get lost in the moment with".
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Ishvara - Magik Square of the Sun
STYLE   Mesmerising, shifting, exotic ambience filled with a myriad sparkling details. The structure of Magik Square of the Sun is very fluid with slow build ups of whispering tones, strange pseudo-organic sounds, shifting 'psychoacoustic' effects and even a few soft wispy beats. From the moment the dream train arrives in the early moments of the twenty one minute long initial track 'Nomad', everything is in constant flux as angelic strums, bird song and sibilant voices appear and vanish among the liquid sounds of warm synthesiser arps and twinkles.
 
MOOD  

Transcendent luminous soundworlds that will have you floating on mind clouds. As the Virtual website proclaims, this music is highly headphone friendly. The tone is one of unbounded imaginary imagery. Spiralling, cascading, science fiction sound beds lit with pools of inviting light - as insubstantial as a breath of air, multifarious as the spicules, tentacles and polyps of a techno-coral colony, a soundtrack to a new genesis.

 
ARTWORK   The front cover is very graphic - plenty of white space bordering an enigmatic circle emblem featuring a bright burst of light. Continuing the pursuit of mystery - the reverse contains only obscure symbols somewhat resembling Braille - I'm told they translate: Virtual - Object and purpose - Transmissions decoded into digital audio data. Maps, blueprints and encoded virtual realities. All virtual transmissions are encoded at prism using silicon based technologies and re-synthesis algorithms and created with Evolution in mind - Light synthesis - Ishq. The inner booklet carries fifteen discs of arcane imagery - from shell chambers to a double helix to space craft. Track titles Green Sun Prismatic Sky, Iqqoa, Utopian Moon Garden set the tone well. Magik Square of the Sun was encoded in Cornwall, U.K..
 
OVERALL    If you enjoyed the related project - Ishq, you'll perhaps have an idea of what to expect from Ishvara. If anything, this CD is freer, less anchored to any musical structure - drifting with whatever tide of creativity carries it. Fluttering, condensed ambient environments intended to transport the listener on flights of the purest fancy to ecstatic states of grace.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Fans of Ishq looking for another journey into bliss. Ambient lovers that enjoy constant fluctuation and flickering minutiae. Headphone nomads wanting to float on billowing clouds.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Serapis - Serapis
STYLE

 

 

Serene female vocals and subtle moody electronica. Singer Kathie Dojaczek sings emotionally charged songs in an alluring, clear, lingering style over the dreamy downtempo structures of producer Erwin Pitsch. There are pieces of haunting languor and ambient swell where the vocals entice the listener into a restful glamour and trance like basses lull and prowl. At the other end of the spectrum, Shine is a light song that could easily gain mainstream radio play.

 
MOOD   The mood on this debut CD ranges from doleful and introspective to a bright, nigh popish shine. The Serapis promo material says, "Serene sounds by Serapis simultaneously give you goose bumps and airlift your mind to a dreamlike level." I wouldn't argue with this claim, being pleasantly drawn back to listen to this album over and again.
 
ARTWORK   The copy I have is a promo copy and so I am only able to comment on the front cover, which seems to be a suitable abstract juxtaposition of light and dark. Track titles Love Kills, Don't Leave and In Vain hint at the subject material of Serapis' lyrics
 
OVERALL    Serapis is the Studio Project of Erwin Pitsch, Film Composer and owner of TON 4 RECORDS, and Kathie Dojaczek. Instrumentation on the album ranges from low-key atmospheric keyboards through double bass and guitars to lustrous programmed drum loops and electronic effects - softened throughout by the compelling vocals and lyrical arrangements.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you enjoy floating pieces of electronica with lullaby female vocals and airy drum loops - Serapis is well worth a listen. Fans of Harland and similar passionate synth song combos could well find themselves hooked.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Aes Dana - Season 5
STYLE   Downtempo 'morning' trance with ambient passages and smooth textures among the beats. Packed with interesting ephemera such as ethnic hits, whales, whispering voices and electronic flutterings - Season 5 is at its best when straying farthest from its trance roots. Warbling analog cycles and bubbling sequences weave in and out among programmed grooves that are alternately as light as a feather and then throbbing with dance floor intensity.
 
MOOD  

Immersive, flowing chillout with exotic atmospheres. Aes Dana take time building up tracks making subtle use of rolling repetition in a way that constantly brings different details to the surface creating a restful mood even during the more up-tempo sections of the album. The frequent swells and synth pads soften the arpeggios and filtered loops, especially as tracks fade into one another, forming continuous fluid progression that soothes and stirs at the same time.

 
ARTWORK   A rich Ultimae digipack cocoons this CD among photographs of ladybirds, dandelions and technical recording gear. The back cover image of a flower is so up-close an intimate that we're drawn into its sensual and intoxicating curves before even glancing at the text. Track titles Undertow, Chrysalis and Forest Fish carry us deeper in Aes Dana's vision of exotica. The black panels that border all of Ultimae's packages emphasise the richness of the imagery and work to separate section of text easily for the eye.
 
OVERALL   

Season 5, we are told is the "in-between season, the one which does not exist but can at times be perceived. It could be the Indian summer or the beginning of Spring, something contrasted and filled with unusual lights." Aes Dana evokes this 'season' with a fluid montage of waves slightly tribal beats and breezy atmospheres. Starting gently, this album grows slowly into a montage of mild pumping basses and downtempo sequences strung with samples and colourful seams until once again the tide ebbs away and the beats subside into a meandering ambience.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Electronic chill-out listeners - someone looking for a less aggressive trance music to while away the later hours or early mornings. Season 5 will suit fans of ambient dance music; those looking for exotic downtempo outings yet still maintaining a solid beat.