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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------Banco De Gaia - Ollopa (Apollo Remixed)
STYLE
 

October 2013
Downtempo, world-dance remixes.
Gamelan bells, sighing synths and sonorous hand drums start the experience as Tripswitch remixes Acquiescence into a lush, hypnotic downtempo dream. The deeply evocative vocals of Zhenia Mahdi-Nau drift ethereally through the mix as it gradually builds to climactic glory. Subsequent tracks retain this richness, this saturated global-other-worldliness whilst shifting genre bases and rhythmic formats to taste. Deep Fried Dub does what the title suggests to Oreia with a bouncy, crunch beat and bubbling electronica; Desert Dwellers take All Sleeping into a perfect balance between nodding reverie and techno complexity. Hu! opens with heaving tribal drums and a piercing synthetic whistle before shifting to an insistent sequencer and dance/break beat. Kaya Project juxtaposes an eclectic montage of world instrumentation and melodic digital wizardry, whilst System 7 creates a lucid, spacey vibe around a distinctly feel-good rhythm. Toby Marks re-invents Eternal Sunshine himself as the eighth piece here: epic and enormous in scope, this track makes a mesmerising shift midway where the underlying time signature changes before reintroducing all of the dramatic synths, Middle Eastern elements and vocal chants onto the new pattern. Eat Static's whimsical Wimble Toot with its pumping brass wobbles gloriously in a drunken folk dance spurred on by traditional violins, flutes and accordion phrases. Gaudi lifts the drifting Lamentations into a bass driven blend of atmospheric beauty and gritty, zappy euphoria.

 
ARTWORK   The Ollopa CD arrives in a beautiful nocturnal blue card wallet of three panels. A huge moon dominates the front cover, cut vertically by a ragged tree form. The classical orange-sun-setting of the original Apollo album is here dropped into indigo night - a hue that diffuses throughout. The rear cover lists the tracks and their remix names. The third outer section opens up the track list with information on the remixers and their websites as well as listing additional musicians and providing generous thanks. The inner panorama is text-free; a pale blue moonscape filling all three sections. The DC sits in a curved notch keeping the packaging completely free of plastic.
 
OVERALL   

Banco de Gaia has been in the habit of following up his studio albums with remix releases for a while now - this is perhaps the strongest one so far with each track delivering something much more engrossing than a simple restructuring of the source material. The track order, like the title and the colour scheme, is reversed from the original album. The nine recordings can be explored on the Banco De Gaia Bandcamp page as can Apollo itself. A look at the official Banco De Gaia website explains that this was not originally intended to be a full remix album, he explains: "I emailed my friends and allies in the music world and was blown away by how many folk were up for remixes, and in that way 'Ollopa' was born. As the mixes came in, it became obvious that there was an opportunity to remix the album concept as well, by flipping the order (and then the name and the artwork), so that the collection would begin softly and end with a bang."

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------Banco De Gaia - Apollo
STYLE
 

November 2013
Electronic world dance.
Apollo sees Banco De Gaia on top form: powerfully evocative, globally infused chillout, vivid and colourful. There is a great range of mood here: we have the mournful, ethereal drift of Lamentations; the infectious, inebriated folk dance of Wimble Toot; the insistent off-beat joy of Eternal Sunshine; the internationally lush tribalism of Apollon; the dub-oriental flavoured gradual climax of Oreia. It seems that each new track brings a completely fresh feel to the developing picture, All Sleeping has a luxuriously soporific slow-motion English-ness about it unfolding gradually out of the natural sounds of woodland green and remote village timelessness. Tim Wheater's brooding flute adds to the dreamy, cinematic nature of this piece - echoing vocal hints, smooth violas and an understated, introspective guitar melody broadening the appeal.

 
ARTWORK   Apollo is a plastic-free three-panel card sleeve of dual character: the outside is bathed in Mediterranean sunshine and the aqua blue of the sea-sky divide, an orange-lit temple, textured title and ragged scroll (whereupon track titles reside) providing pleasing colour complement; within, a brick-red ground supports a panel of information, a panel with slot for the disc and another with slot for the twelve-page booklet. The booklet itself is designed to feel like an aged artefact: dark leather binding, textured spine and thickened corners. The pages inside are text free (apart from a quote George Orwell to accompany All Sleeping) rich photo/graphic montages full of subtle little details to enrich the sonic imagery.
 
OVERALL    After a studio hiatus of seven years, Banco De Gaia returns with a stunning new nine-track album. Released via his own Disco Gecko Recordings label Apollo features vocal performances from Zhenia Mahdi-Nau, flute from Tim Wheater, sax from Matthew Jenkins drums courtesy of Ted Duggan, violas from Patrick Dunn and even some guitar from someone called Toby Marks. Everything has the top quality feel that you would expect from such an experienced musician - beautifully produced and presented - Banco at his eclectic best. You can explore the music via the Banco De Gaia Bandcamp page or of course the official Banco De Gaia website.
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------The Flower Kings - Desolation Rose
STYLE
 

November 2013
Symphonic progressive.
Desolation Rose sees The Flower Kings demonstrating that progressive rock is vibrant, inspiring and powerfully emotive four and a half decades after the genre initially excited listeners back in the early 70's. This album has an energy and integrity that many of the originators of prog struggled to retain as they became branded dinosaurs during the punk revolution. The Flower Kings provide the virtuosity, aggression and lyrical intensity that gives this style of music its bite whilst arranging their compositions so that dreamy interludes, melodic hooks and blissfully, climactic builds provide the songs with a level of intelligence high above the verse, chorus structures that other genres often favour. Brimming with a host of trademark vintage instruments and recording techniques that bring a familiarity to the music - Desolation Rose provides fresh enthusiasm and musical inventiveness that will delight both the original fans and those currently discovering contemporary prog.

 
ARTWORK   Cover imagery for Desolation Rose sees the band beginning to do something akin to the pictures and music interplay that Yes had going with Roger Dean. A distinct visual style is emerging that I really hope the band build upon since progressive often takes on a new dimension when listeners are able to allow the music to connect mentally with powerful graphics. The multifaced form of the cover image arising from abandoned architecture is pleasingly festooned with layers of foliage and diagrammatic detail - a theme that carries over to all other panels. The rear cover of the special digipack lists tracks from both discs and provides brief credits and website info. Tucked into the leftmost card sleeve section is a rich 20-page brochure: expanded credits, lyrics, photos of the band and more eye-catching graphics abound.
 
OVERALL   

The Flower Kings have been progressive rock advocates since their formation in 1994, yet they are currently honing their craft to a high degree of excellence that deserves renewed attention. Desolation Rose follows up the excellent 2012 Banks Of Eden album - again released via Inside Out Music. Clearly The Flower Kings have found themselves on the crest of a wave: fans of progressive are proliferating and these guys know exactly what to deliver. Having captured much of what made the original classics so effective Desolation Rose somehow manages to deliver this retro-inspired sound with a very contemporary edge. The music was recorded 'live' in the studio on reel to reel tape with the band writing, recording, assembling music on the spot and arranging it as a team. Extensive touring has no doubt added to the somewhat heavier feel to this album - but this grit makes the more melodic and gentler passages all the more attractive in juxtaposition. Read more and listen to samples on the band's official website, Facebook page or visit the label's Flower Kings page.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------Found - Helpling . Jenkins
STYLE
 

December 2013
Cinematic electronica.
Found is a lush album of instrumental beauty that is not easy to categorise: there are smooth ambient elements; deep spacey expanses; tribal rhythms and heaving drums; moving themes that both uplift and defy gravity. The album exudes tranquillity and restful bliss - plenty of drifting, dreamy passages brimming with reverb and an overall vibe of enigmatic reverie. However, this is not simple relaxation music (although Found is ideal for that purpose) there is much here to engross and awe the listener and draw us into worlds of wonder and imagination. The title track features a delightfully underplayed wordless vocal from Miriam Stockley, her voice hanging far into the mix, entwined amid the synths like layers of fog and atmospheric haze. Electric guitars and synthesisers form most of the lustrous textures on Found, light piano touches adding an extra twinkle to some of the melodies.

 
ARTWORK  

The packaging of Found is as attractive as the music: a three panel card wallet of saturated colour and inspirational imagery. The front cover image depicts a rock mass rising from a flat plain backlit by an amber-umber sky that fades through purple to indigo above. The crag appears as a destination with the title sitting immediately below whilst a white streak in the sky suggests a greater picture. The rear cover drops the camera down into the grass of the plain, the last rays of sunlight painting the arcing blades in shades of copper and rust. Track titles are here with the time of each piece to the side. The third outer panel moves in closer to the enigmatic crag - now shrouded in mists and crepuscular blues; this same shot is repeated within as the centre of a three panel panorama. Credits, recording details and thanks are neatly tucked into the shadows of the rightmost inner section. A website address is here too.

 
OVERALL   

Found is released as the final chapter of a three-album series; Treasure and The Crossing having previously charted the course that has taken six years to unfold. David Helpling and Jon Jenkins rightly remain with Spotted Peccary who delivered the other releases in the series and you can explore the music via the label's website where there is also a Soundcloud link and further review links. The recordings on Found are of mid-length, ranging from the opening and concluding pieces both at five minutes thirty one seconds to the delicate, beatless Only Ashes at thirteen eleven. Promotional material talks of "the deep, three-dimensional quality to the recording" and music on a "grand scale ... filled with powerful rushes of adrenaline, beauty, loss and triumph - true words. A really fitting conclusion to an epic project of astounding music.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------Timothy Wenzel - River Serene
STYLE
 

January 2014
Electro-acoustic new age instrumentals.
River Serene is a delicate collection of restful, understated themes that bring together subtle electronic synths and a variety of gentle acoustic instruments: piano, guitar, flutes, drums and strings. For the most part the music is beatless, the melodies carrying the rhythmic side of the music; however there are light sequences and percussive flourishes that highlight the movement and one or two passages of downplayed programmed grooves. The mood is mostly one of natural tranquillity and introspective warmth, however, there are a few sections where the tone follows the themes into a more crepuscular zone: A Twilight Pause and The Night Train being the most obvious. River Serene has hints of classical sensitivity in the development of its emotive themes and choice of instrumentation. This is music that will be appreciated by anyone wanting a kindly uplifting soundtrack to their day or something to act as a serene and unobtrusive backdrop to one's flow of thoughts.

 
ARTWORK   Arriving in a gatefold, two-panel digipack with a gloss finish, River Serene is drenched in golden-amber hues throughout. The front cover sees a lone figure on a broad, smooth watercourse paddling a simple canoe in the final rays of a setting sun; black silhouettes against gold light. The rear cover homes in on the bright disc of the sun with track titles and their timings hanging in the air. A single paragraph at the foot here describes the artist and his musical background. Opening up the package, both panels here flow with the ripples and silken polish of the water from the cover imagery. Four elements crucial to the music are highlighted on the left: Water, Love, Light and Dreams. Brief credits and website details are also here.
 
OVERALL   

This is the third album from American-born Timothy Wenzel and follow-up to his 2012 release A Coalescence of Dreams. Sleeve note explain that Wenzel herein explores "certain essential elements that make up our lives" creating music that "puts a magnifying glass on some of them": Water, Love, Light and Dreams. The twelve tracks are divided into four sections one for each of the four chosen elements; three pieces therefore explore each thematic element. The tracks are relatively short in length mostly around the three or four minute mark. You can explore more of this music via the artist's website where there are track by track notes for River Serene as well as a wealth of listening opportunities, downloads and biographical details.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------Carbon Based Lifeforms - Refuge
STYLE
 

January 2014
Soundtrack, ambient, downtempo.
Carbon Based Lifeforms present the motion picture soundtrack: Refuge. The film is "a suspense-thriller about a family struggling to survive in the wake of a great catastrophic event... the film is about never feeling at ease, always trying to find refuge and seeking refuge" - how well the music captures this spread of emotion. Repeating themes tie the experience together whilst shifts in structure, tone and atmospherics greatly alter the mood from one piece to the next. RCA(+) opens the story with a warm, dreamy cloud that gradually brims with gentle melodic forms, a lazy bass fades in and a hazy, bright synthetic theme sparkles, then a restful beat of the kind that CBL do so well completes this utterly blissful awakening. Subsequent tracks develop the elements of the opener in different directions: Birdie beatless and plaintive - a reverb drenched piano picking up the theme; RCA(-) introduces a more uneasy feeling, with peculiar crackles and faint atonal disturbances flecking a steady, tense, gathering drone texture; the theme distorted and densely buried in the mix - a massive climactic build up. Leaves has us back in sun-dappled reverie - the now familiar melody lines buoyed up on another gorgeously tranquil programmed beat. Less typical of CBL is the penultimate Escape - a dynamic trance piece that picks up the pace with a burbling sense of menace that only dissipates when the last pulses of bass echo reluctantly away. Marauders concludes in prowling, beatless, ambience made somewhat emotionally ambiguous by sounds that seem to lie somewhere between water drops and bird calls.

 
ARTWORK   Since this is a digital release and a movie soundtrack, artwork at its most basic consists of the rather sinister cover image of a trail of dark figures whose presence threatens a modern home. A powerful, near-monochrome image that points toward the darker aspects of the album; you can almost miss the red tint in the twigs and the sky. More realistically though, Refuge was composed as accompaniment to the suspense-thriller of the same name: promotional material informs us that "Refuge will be screening at festivals this Spring through the Fall and will be coming to Europe for screenings. And beyond that it will be available theatrically and for download, but it will pass through the festival circuit first".
 
OVERALL   

Daniel Segerstad and Johannes Hedberg have released a series of extremely high quality ambient, drone and downtempo albums since their inception in 1998. The subtle, yet powerfully cinematic style of their music is so aptly suited to soundtrack work that it was surely only a matter of time before they took on a project of this nature. The seven tracks of Refuge, however, are an emotive listening experience in themselves: a deceptively simple theme explored from varying perspectives and presented in strikingly different forms - from evocatively minimal ambient through some of the most deliriously beautiful downtempo through to driving dark trance. You can hear the music at the band's Bandcamp page and there are a range of purchase options at the Leftfield website.

 
ARTISTS' THOUGHTS  
Writing a soundtrack was a welcome challenge. We had RCA(-) for years and we could not find a home for it, but when the director approached us and described the film we felt that it fit perfectly with their concept. And we based the whole soundtrack on the same basic theme just tweaking moods and melodies to fit the specific scenes.
 
VIDEO  
 
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