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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Collide - Bent and Broken
STYLE
 

November 2012
Wide-ranging gritty electronica and seductive/ethereal female vocals.
Bent and Broken sees Collide back in collaborative mode building upon the powerful approach taken on their 2004 release Vortex. The tracks here include a new song (the title-track Bent and Broken), two steeply twisted covers (Robert Smith's Orgy from his Glove project and Queen's She Makes Me) and freely adventurous remixes of earlier Collide material both from Collide themselves and multifarious guest musicians/producers. Following an online remix contest a dazzling array of contributors were chosen to provide content for Bent and Broken - big names as well as less familiar artists: Vrenna, cEvin Key, Android Lust, Katarrhaktes, Tom Gipson, Alyssa Finnivan, Antigen5, iNGRUO, Matt Gatsos and The Black Sheep Project, Psych-Nein, DJO2, LgVela, Synkraft, Diffuzion, DJ Forensic and Whitney Kew... The unity of Bent and Broken is quite a coup considering the diversity of the styles encountered - gutsy, plastic, digital mangling; harsh industrial electronica juxtaposed with synth washes and feminine vocal expressions; dreamy gothic nocturnes and fractured cyber-lullabies. Bent and Broken is perhaps the ideal introduction for anyone not yet familiar with Collide.

 
ARTWORK   Since my version is an electronic download I can't comment on the physical packaging of Bent and Broken except to say that Collide generally produce high-quality materials with a loving personal touch throughout. Cover art here is of a consistent metallic grey-blue hue - shot through with glass-mirror-cracks, jagged razor-edged, liquid smooth or soft-focus blurred. Sharp portrait shots of kaRIN and Statik intersperse with recording information and track details. As is appropriate given the collaborative nature and Kickstarter funding approach to this release a generous thanks section concludes the booklet.
 
OVERALL   

Bent and Broken is the latest release from the proudly unshackled independent band Collide. This two CD package contains twenty-six tracks and in excess of a hundred and thirty minutes of music sprawling across a broad range of associated genres. The project is funded almost entirely from Kickstarter contributions so that fans have been provided with a sense of involvement right from the start. Those who donated $10.00 or more to the Kickstarter page received a digital download of the album a week in advance. The band also have a generous policy of giving away interesting items with their releases: autographed CDs, a Collide necklace, a signed drum head. The album can be downloaded from the band's official website where it can also be purchased in CD format along with a range of associated Collide ephemera - not least a special limited edition black metal aluminium USB drive, laser etched with the Collide symbol and preloaded with the album, and artwork. Tracks from Bent and Broken can also be sampled via the official release page.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Nektar - A Spoonful of Time
STYLE
 

November 2012
Progressive rock legends and collaborative covers.
Long-term prog-rock enthusiasts Nektar team up with like-minded musicians from the hallowed halls of fame to deliver a fresh take on fourteen classic tracks. Nektar musicians and Billy Sherwood on bass form the backbone of the album and a uniting sound throughout the album, but an intriguing richness is provided as each guest artist adds his own unique lustre. We get keyboard wizardry from Michael Pinnella (Symphony X); Mark Kelly (Marillion); Geoff Downes (Asia / Yes); Joel Vandroogenbroek (Brainticket); Edgar Froese (Tangerine Dream); Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater/Black Country Communion); Rod Argent (The Zombies / Argent); Joakim Svalberg (Opeth); Rick Wakeman (Yes) and Patrick Moraz (Yes / The Moody Blues). Nik Turner (Hawkwind) and Mel Collins (King Crimson) play sax and flute; Ian Paice (Deep Purple) and Ginger Baker (Cream) provide drums; Steve Howe (Yes) guitars; Simon House (Hawkwind), Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra) and David Cross (King Crimson) violin; whilst Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big) plays bass on one track and Bobby Kimball (Toto) takes up vocal duties on the final recording. The tracks benefit from modern production methods and have a tight, clean sound, nevertheless as the title indicates this is a gloriously nostalgic trip into a world where virtuoso performance still sparkles.

 
ARTWORK   A Spoonful of Time is a jewelcase release with a fold-up insert of four sections that opens out into a square mini-poster. The rather vicious-looking Nektar bee figure crouches on the front cover against a futuristic cityscape with slightly Dali-esque pocket watches sinking into a waxy honeycomb around its feet. The rear cover provides a full tracklist upon another psychedelic fantasy painting that appears somewhat enlarged within the booklet. The rear cover also lists the impressive roster of guest musicians gathered to 'reinterpret a slew of rock radio classics'. The insert expands the tracklisting to credit the original writers of the tracks as well as showing which performers grace each piece.
 
OVERALL   

Progressive rock pioneers Nektar followed the course of many big bands of the 70's fading somewhat from the limelight for some years only to return with renewed vigour over the past decade or two. The band might be more well-known in Germany and the U.S. than at home in England, nevertheless as this 43rd anniversary project reveals, the band retains considerable influence and popularity. Released through Cleopatra Records, founding member Roye Albrighton said "The idea originated from Cleopatra themselves... they thought it might be a good idea to do an album of classic songs with a multitude of different players but under the Nektar banner. Klaus, Ron and myself were to be the staple musicians taking part and the files would be given out to various musicians to do their parts. I was asked to do most of the vocals except for the one track which was (Africa) and quite a few guitars too. Ron did a lot of the drums and Klaus was prominent on several of the tracks on Hammond and mellotron." You can learn more about the music either via the Nektar official site or Cleopatra Records own site.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Koan - Argonautica
STYLE
 
November 2012
Downtempo electronica.
Last December's forerunner to Argonautica - Circe's Touch Remixes - left me with high expectations regarding this release and these are certainly fulfilled now. From the very opening bars of this album you know you are in for a deliriously lush and cinematic listening experience. Koan manage to craft some very beautiful melodic themes that are full of soaring, gliding, drifting emotion yet they never fall into the trap of becoming too saccharine or overly sentimental. A deft blend of deep pads, crystalline or burbling arps, meandering washes and heaving yet restrained lead lines has the listener floating in rapture for much of the time. The beats on Argonautica are a delight - complex and full of shifting detail whilst blissfully serene and gently lulling; that is not to say that the rhythms are without their power, especially around the mid-section there are passages of chilled dance grooves that defy immobility. Argonautica establishes an ultra modern soundscape of top notch electronica until mentally linked with the ancient inspirational concepts fuelling the music - then the journey really begins - the compositions take on a timeless quality, becoming increasingly absorbing and transporting.
 
ARTWORK   Argonautica in physical form arrives in a card digipack of two panels and plastic grip. The artwork is all built around the legendary concept material of Jason and his crew in quest after the golden fleece. The front cover shows a green tinted woodcut image of the crew's ship with lettering in complementary mythic fonts. On the rear, on a backdrop suggestive of antique parchment or weathered Mediterranean walls, is a simple tracklist and smaller website details. Within, similar mythic embellishments surround a panel of credits, thanks and relevant cyberspace locations.
 
OVERALL   

Argonautica sees Russian duo Koan expanding their exploration of ancient Greek storytelling into a masterful sonic epic. Daniel Roeth and William Grey have been working together since 1993 and produce music under a number of pseudonyms: Koan focussing on ethno-chillout and ambient; Vacuum Stalkers for progressive psy-trance and Fatum Sci-Fi for noise, experimental and IDM . Released via Section Records, the Argonautica album is available in digital and physical formats via the label's website where you can, of course, also listen to the nine tracks and learn a little more before purchasing. Stitched together with intriguing interludes that conjure up visions of the sea, sun-bathed mystical vistas or ancient worlds, Argonautica flows as a continuous whole meaning that listeners can enjoy a full eighty minutes of uninterrupted reverie.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Mythos - Surround Sound System
STYLE
 
December 2012
Melodic synth music and spacey electronica.
Building upon the foundation of Surround Sound Offensive released in 2008, Surround Sound Evolution does as it says in the title. Mythos main man Stephan Kaske can draw upon musical origins dating back to the synthesiser hay-days of the nineteen seventies and although the evolution here is focussed primarily upon development of this current series of albums, the depth of experience underpinning the music is almost unfathomable. Arcing across the sequencer and dream pads of early Berlin school to the ambient expanses and sonic subtleties of more recent times the listener gradually finds a pleasing sense of timelessness welling up within. Mythos displays a very broad palette of synthetic tone and electronic effects wherein energetic themes again stride - yet there is a more finely developed gentleness and delicacy as this evolution progresses, not least among the interplay of arpeggios and programmed electro-beats. Heavily processed flutes and the odd celetial whale float among lush washes and chimes; filter sequences mechanically drift by; oriental atmospheres jangle and keen; galactic sci-fi vistas endlessly open and surround us.
 
ARTWORK   Surround Sound Evolution is a digipack release of two panels with a generous twelve-page booklet held in a slot on the left section. A lustrous galactic theme sees the package brimming with twinkling starscapes, colourful nebulae and planetary orbs. The front cover has the Mythos logo and album title back-lit by beaming celestial bodies whilst the back presents a timed track list against a relatively dark star-specked void. Inside, distracting text is minimal (only the label logo lurking behind the disc itself) allowing the vastness of space to extend across the full panorama. Information is not lacking though: within the booklet is an extensive description of the project, a wealth of performance and studio photography as well as details of other recent Mythos releases.
 
OVERALL   

German synth-rock legend Stephan Kaske returns to his Surround Sound project after a period of live performance and polishing up some classic material for re-release from the archives. It has been four years since Surround Sound Offensive was released back in 2008 and thanks to some intensive studio time during recent tour breaks Surround Sound Evolution now continues the intended series. A total of twelve tracks ranging from three and a half to nearly nine minutes provides a listening experience of seventy-eight plus minutes. Promotional material describes the reception of Offensive: due to its "optimal matching to the Dolby Pro Logic 5.1 Standard ™... [a number of] international HiFi-Shops and electronic-chains ordered copies for their shops in order to show their clients the ability of their equipment." More information can be found via record label Sireena's web site as well as the official Mythos website.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Sabled Sun - 2145
STYLE
 

December 2012
Futuristic dark ambient.
2145 is one man's vision of a bleak and brooding future. The album opens with dank, cavernous effects and a rather ominous heaving wind somewhere just beyond. The dejected voice of a traveller recently released from deep freeze hibernation describes a world far from the utopia he had expected. This poignant introduction flavours everything that follows, track titles expanding the story - This is Where the World Ends, Abandoned, Signals, The Facility, Acid Rain. Potentially warm, harmonious synth terrains are fractured with crackle and static; ambient zones thrum with mechanical bass pulses; suggestions of shattered civilization and littered detritus clatter and clank upon evocative textures; grungy field-recordings intermingle with austere sci-fi effects. The album moves effortlessly, if disquietingly, from 'music' to 'noise' - at times consonant and wistful; at times dissonant, environmental; at times deeply melancholy juxtaposing subtle, touching themes against grimly distorted transmissions. Most tracks are beatless and some are quite minimal, although there are rhythmic sequencer or bass fragments, and passages of programmed beats briefly arising. In one place the harsh shriek of a manic bird? a damaged creature? an abandoned mechanism? establishes a loose pattern.

 
ARTWORK  

The artwork for 2145 centres on the sabled sun of the title: grey, haloed with eerie sweeps of brightness and casting a corrosive orange stain over a post-apocalyptic city-scape. Further pages of the attached five-page digibooklet record the words of the traveller, set out starkly as though recorded cleanly upon tarnished concrete surfaces. Credits take up another panel, revealing that Simon Heath is responsible for all sounds with the exception of the spoken voice on Intro and Transmission.

 
OVERALL   

With 2145, Atrium Carceri artist Simon Heath reveals another aspect of his intense musical interest - the forward looking Sabled Sun. Released for the first time on the artist's own Cryo Chamber label; Simon's characteristic ambient grit and the sonic sinew of his other works remain to scratch away at the less-comfortable recesses of the mind. Presented under a strong and colourful narrative vision, 2145 exhibits an intensity and attention to detail often lacking in ambient electronica. Fifteen tracks ranging from around two-and-a-half to around six-and-a-half minutes tell the story - beginning and ending with the lonely words of the unnamed survivor. Promotional material explains that the "album is available in 24 bit FLAC uncompressed and has a High Dynamic mastering for audiophiles, meaning a lower output volume and a greater dynamic range." You can further explore this release via the Bandcamp Cryo Chamber label page where sound samples and discography links are offered.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Aes Dana - Pollen
STYLE
 

December 2012
Moody ambient, progressive trance and delirious downtempo IDM.
Pollen sees Aes Dana doing what most fans hope for from their favourite artists: developing what he does best and embellishing it with greater depth and more sophistication. The overall approach is thus familiar: lush ambient, slow-building introduction gradually gathering into more insistent rhythms toward the central section of the album, gradual dissipation of intensity toward the end. There are a number of darkly dreamy downtempo pieces in the latter half where the cleverness of Aes Dana really reveals its profundity - inventive, intriguing textures; evocative environmental recordings; confident shadows and languid lustre. The concluding pieces wind down pleasingly - the regularity of trance arps and beats more frequently fractured, more readily evaporating, more melodic touches interwoven. Low Tide Explorations - the final composition - returns to the blissful, overflowing ambience of the intro: very textural, unfurling those little static breakers that Vincent does so well; far-off voices softened by sonic haze; restful glitchy beat midway, falling away and reforming before disappearing back into ambient reverie.

 
ARTWORK   Pollen is delivered in a gorgeously understated three-panel digipack - inside and outside both opening out into broad panoramic spreads. Splashes of emergent specks and motes catch the light on the outer panels - pallid, liquid in appearance against a dark ground. Little distracting text - simple titles on the rear. Within, even less print, just some brief credits and contact details in the corners of a macro shot of dandelion seed heads. The usual sixteen-page booklet is found tucked into one end of the card sleeve, its cover mirroring the album sleeve. Track titles are laid out on the first page along with some information on collaborative input and filed recording. Subsequent sheets have imagery only - not a word to break the impact of the photographic abstractions that accompany the music so well. The final pages include generous thanks, photo credits and repeated contact information.
 
OVERALL   

Vincent Villuis takes Aes Dana further down the path he has plotted from the project's inception. This is a good thing - rather than deviating off in some nervous attempt to be 'different' or 'surprising' - the Aes Dana persona is strong and confident enough to be explored more fully, maturing and evolving delightfully. That is not to say that Pollen is just more of the same; leaping from the springboard of 2011's Perimeters, Pollen seems to refine and polish what has gone before whilst introducing plenty of fresh sounds and themes. The ten tracks here show Aes Dana at his best making this release a must for anyone into this style of music. Promotional material nicely highlights Aes Dana's ability to weave "symphonic pads into deep bass grooves and haunting themes while bringing out a certain melancholia brushed by stratified rhythms." Explore the music at Ultimae where you can also find videos, pictures and biographical information.

 
AUDIO  

Ultimae are giving away free track from Pollen - Riven.

Click here to download.