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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------Shelly Harland - The Girl Who Cried Wolf
STYLE
 
February 2014
Female vocals - electronica.
Shelly Harland is an expert in the field of understated, moody, pop electronica and here on The Girl Who Cried Wolf she delivers much of what she is best at. From the wistful opening words of Stay, the lovely combination of expressive female voice, touching piano, brooding electronic strains and gritty, downtempo beats sets the tone. A climactic build almost two thirds of the way through this opener adds a dream-like beauty that lifts the song up another level - another thing that Harland does so well. New Things (the first single from the album) follows with its upbeat pace and catchy chorus pleasingly underpinned by darker strings and electronic effects that retain that crucial edge. There are more pop songs (the title track being a prime example), delicate piano backed pieces (including the passionate and dramatic ballad He), trip-hop downtempo, minimalist broken toybox instrumentation - but best of all there is an abundance of that trademark, quirky programmed beauty that put this talented artist on a plateau high above the bland mainstream flow of much modern pop.
 
ARTWORK   I haven't seen any artwork for this album except for the cover graphic: a near-monochrome, canvas textured photomontage that sets half of Shelly Harland's own face alongside that of a wolf. The only colour is a blue tint that picks out title border details and the pupils of both eyes.
 
OVERALL   

Australian singer/songwriter Shelly Harland releases her fifth album of darkly, emotive electronic pop - The Girl Who Cried Wolf. Having worked with such musical greats as John Cale, Larry Klein, Morgan Page, Ferry Corsten, Junkie XL and Pole Folder as well as touring with the likes of Elvis Costello, The Fray, and Delerium, Shelly brings a broad range of experience and skill to her current music without abandoning the unique style that made earlier releases Sinking Shade and Salt Box Lane stand out from the crowd. The Girl Who Cried Wolf was partly financed by fans using a crowd funding campaign - an indication of the level of commitment among lovers of Harland's music. You can find the album on iTunes of follow the link from Shelly's own website. Alternately - listen to some of the music over at Soundcloud.

 
AUDIO  
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------Transatlantic - Kaleidoscope
STYLE
 
February 2014
Progressive rock.
Kaleidoscope is a dynamic and widely varied album of contemporary retro-influenced prog ranging from the stomping, synth lead grandeur of Black As The Sky to the plaintive Beyond The Sun and mostly acoustic Shine. The set opens with the ever-changing twenty-five minute epic Into The Blue which rises wistfully out of silence with dreamy electronic textures and bowed effects before the band piles in with an early climax. The track then drives through some heavy guitar developments before returning to the languid opening theme and the first vocals of the album. As the track progresses it passes through a section quite reminiscent of The Flower Kings recent Desolation Rose complete with that familiar gritty, effected voice. Shine is a delightful piece that gradually gathers from an acoustic guitar opening and sounds like a slightly country-influenced Pink Floyd composition complete with storming lead break in the latter part and subtle sitar strains interwoven. The keening, drum-free Beyond The Sun segues directly into the title track which is the other main epic here and what a wide-ranging track this is: from seventies glam through, soporific interludes, rock song passages, Lennonish-nostalgia, anguished and delicate recallings of the previous track with strings and piano, acoustic strumming and a huge build up that seems somehow manage to sum up the whole album.
 
ARTWORK  

Having just an electronic promo of the album, I have seen only the front cover image with its symmetrical electric blues and swirling greens. Kaleidoscope is available in a variety of formats including a limited edition with Deluxe Artbook, 2CDs, DVD and Bonus 5.1 Mix DVD-Video in an LP-sized book with loads of pictures, liner notes and a lenticular card cover. There will also be 2CD & DVD Mediabook, Standard 2CD Jewelcase and a 3LP & 2CD in slipcase. One of the bonus discs contains eight cover songs of some of the band's favourites: the Yes masterpiece And You and I, Can't Get It Out of My Head originally recorded by the Electric Light Orchestra, Procol Harum's Conquistador, Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Tin Soldier from the Small Faces, the Focus classic Sylvia, Indiscipline - King Crimson and finally The Moody Blues Nights in White Satin. Another disc in the package is a DVD with the Shine video and a couple of vignettes.

 
OVERALL   

The fourth studio album from the progressive band Transatlantic - Kaleidoscope - sees the band consolidating their signature sound across a powerful five track suite. Delivering their debut way back in 2000 band members Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard), Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater), Pete Trewavas (Marillion), and Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) clearly still very much love what they do and have a great talent for stitching disparate themes and stylistic elements into imaginative and free-flowing compositions. If you enjoyed previous albums, SMPTe, Bridge Across Forever, or The Whirlwind you won't be disappointed by this latest release. The band's official website holds a wealth of information including tour dates, album notes, purchase options, videos and audio links.

 
VIDEO  
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------Bruno Sanfilippo - ClarOscuro
STYLE
 

March 2014
Piano and strings.
Bruno Sanfilippo releases his latest solo album in the form of ClarOscuro. This time he is joined by Manuel Del Fresno on Violoncello and Pere Bardagí on Violin. An impressively elegant and blissfully tranquil set of tracks, ClarOscuro's gentle, classical approach calls to mind the delicate, minimal piano work of Satie or Max Richter whilst benefitting from Bruno's evident expertise in the contemporary field of modern ambient. There are piano-only pieces; compositions for the two stringed instruments and a number that feature a combination of these. Minimal, yet sparsely melodic, ClarOscuro luxuriates in the subtleties of the sounds employed: notes are often left hanging in the air, their delicate decay fully appreciated, fine textural layers form around the lead instruments like atmospheric distance and soft pedal or fingering details add to the impelling sense of presence many of the recording establish

 
ARTWORK   ClarOscuro is presented in a simple two-panel digipack of pale grey hue. Traceries of trees form an attractive backdrop for most of the surfaces - the front cover placing a peculiar transparent piano in the centre. Little other than track titles disturb the smooth surface of the rear cover - a website address is tucked away in small font at the foot. Inside also is uncluttered: a title, credits and the disc itself.
 
OVERALL    ClarOscuro sees Spanish ambient piano master Bruno Sanfilippo following up his series of Piano Textures albums with something a little more traditionally structured. The nine delightful recordings here have a strong classical sensibility, understated melodies and haunting demeanour. These pieces will repay careful listening or deep immersion, bringing a serenity to your day, yet they could equally be allowed to colour the background of your life, surely beautifying your surroundings with their evident feeling and grace. To find out more, why not visit the Bruno Sanfilippo website or try out the ClarOscuro preview at Soundcloud.
 
AUDIO  
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------Glass Hammer - Ode To Echo
STYLE
 
March 2014
Progressive rock.
Glass Hammer further define their increasingly powerful individuality in a genre rooted deeply among giants. Ode To Echo sees the band musically confident, adventurous and sounding ever more distinct. The delightfully complex arrangements are full of the twists and turns inspired by forms originally developed by seventies forerunners and yet they sound very contemporary in this context. The impressively virtuoso instrumentation is clear and clean yet the band are canny enough to see the need not to over-polish - in fact there are some surprisingly grungy, heavy passages that complement the darkness of the lyrical content most effectively. This inclusion of a bit more grit than on the last few albums works very well, making the harmonious and warm vocal approach all the more uplifting by juxtaposition. It's especially gratifying to hear more of Alan Shikoh's inventive guitar work high in the mix - although all of the band are excellent craftsmen - Shikoh's playing helps to put those necessary cracks and flecks of grit in what might otherwise be quite a clean sound (more please). Guest musicians further expand the sound palette: Rob Reed of Magenta and Randy Jackson of Zebra provide piano, mini-moog and lead guitar whilst David Ragsdale (Kansas) provides some spellbinding violin on the largely acoustic build to Crowbone with its words from novelist Robert Low.
 
ARTWORK   Ode To Echo is a jewel case release with the insert opening out into a generous twelve pages. The front cover image shows a classically painted narcissus figure with something of a Pre-Raphaelite feel: gazing into a reflective pool he sits draped in angular draperies that swirl off and into the air. A female figure sits apparently ignored slightly behind and in mirror image a little further back again. The details of this cover image are picked up and re-presented throughout the package - scuffed and damaged, cracked, daubed, paint splashed and spattered. On the rear cover is an outdoor band portrait presented in scrap-book style with smaller images of singers on either side: track titles are here with times for each. Lyrics for each track are included along with writing credits for each track. The final page is given over entirely to credits and acknowledgements; another set of photographs complete the booklet back cover.
 
OVERALL   

Ode To Echo, the fourteenth Glass Hammer album arrives on the band's 20th anniversary and so the guys have taken the opportunity to look back somewhat through the voices of past singers. Carl Groves (who has been the band's live singer of late) takes much of the lead, but Jon Davison and Susie Bogdanowicz and even earlier collaborators Walter Moore and Michelle Young from the band's 90’s releases are present too. Similar to 2012's Perilous, Ode To Echo works around a unified theme yet unlike Perilous the compositions are individual items more readily heard alone. The eight tracks include a few seven to ten minute mini-epics and a couple of shorter pieces including a rather psychedelic cover of the Monkees Porpoise Song that works as a pleasing diversion. Taking your signature sound and breaking into it is always something of a minefield: how far can you go with introducing different sonic elements and stylistic influences before what defines your musical identity is lost? Ode To Echo sucessfully manages to retain its cohesion by virtue of the fact that Schendel, Babb and Shikoh obviously share a similar overall vision and approach that masterfully binds everything else together - but there is yet much mileage in the solid musical approach explored from If onwards and hopefully the band won't stray too far from what has made them one of the top bands of the genre. Jon Davidson's arrival cemented a top notch 'band' sound and his contributions give a definite lift when present so it would be a shame if his work with Yes removes him any further from this band on the crest of a creative wave. Glass Hammer have built their sound over a couple of decades into something that now easily transcends constant comparisons to classic artists; they are currently more vibrant than the remaining originals, more inventive and strangely even more authentic in some ways.You can explore Ode To Echo album via the official Glass Hammer website where audio and video samples are available or if you really want to get into the development of the music take a look at the band's Facebook page where there are links to videos showing various steps of the writing/recording process.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------Zero Ohms - Process of Being
STYLE
 

April 2014
Beatless, infinite ambience.
Process of Being is a deep, drifting album of silk-shrouded expanses that explore the concept of freedom in eternity and infinity. Blending both acoustic and electronic sound sources Zero Ohms manipulates his synthesisers by means of an electronic wind-controller avoiding the rigidity of a traditional keyboard structure and allowing the resultant hazy textures to intersperse with the soft flutes that are a regular feature of his work. No edges, no percussion, no seams, nothing to disturb the sense of meandering serenity and boundless space. Tracks fade away and then arise once more from silence at the intersections, however, the music is so arranged as to flow continuously: the early synthetics that gather and disperse in intensity, shift in timbre and waft or mass in motion are thickened by the flute work on Glimpsing the Eternal whereas The Dream Dreaming You diffuses frequently into near silence.

 
ARTWORK   Packaging for Process of Being is simple, yet appealing - a two panel card wallet steeped in indigo blues. The front cover looks skyward above a filigree of fine twigs toward a night sky wherein the stars rotate about a yellow moon. The reverse is darker - track titles in white with times alongside (label web details below). Inside is a panoramic vista of a soft-focus horizon blurring into another star swirl. Brief credits hang on the left panel whilst the right holds the words: "Being is not a static state. It is not 'becoming' anything. It is a process. Through which we each exist. - Zero Ohms.
 
OVERALL    Zero Ohms presents Process of Being as his latest solo album following a series of collaborative releases with Craig Padilla. This smooth, lustrous, floatational immersion is aptly delivered via the Spotted Peccary label and contains six recordings that range in length from the fourteen minute twenty four second opener The Present Perfect Tense of Being through to the eight minute forty eight second conclusion Nameless. You can discover more about this release and listen to sample via the Spotted Peccary website or you can visit the Zero Ohms Facebook page for up-to-the-minute information and news.
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ----------Dan Pound - Eros Thanatos
STYLE
 

April 2014
Smooth, flowing ambient.
Eros Thanatos is an eminently serene disc of lush, velvety texture and rich sonic colour. Dan Pound uses deeply-effected guitar sounds as the basis for this album - although you would rarely perceive that such a familiar stringed instrument was employed except for perhaps the sliding tones of Between Breaths or the soft fingerings at the start of From Beyond. The meandering, sonorous layers reverberate weightlessly rising and falling from silence: delicate at times, faint, subtle; dreamy and charming in places; mysterious in others, shadowy, inhabited by peculiarly organic presences; there are tribal passages of sober intensity and sparkling sequence dances. The multi-voiced guitar sounds at the root of the music are enhanced by a range of analog and digital synths, piano-like impressions, distant chanting voices, woody flutes, water effects and infrequent lazy, percussive beats.

 
ARTWORK   Eros Thanatos is a jewel-case release with a single sheet insert. Imagery centres on a stark, leafless tree curving sidewards as if frozen within an invisible wind. On the front panel the strong colours of an amber-hued field and indigo mountain range make the lifeless branches all the more stark - grey sky above. On the rear, the image is repeated in monochrome - softer, simpler. Track titles in black hang in the sky; credits and contacts in white lie in the grass. On opening up the case the disc again repeats the cover shot, echoed still further behind the plastic grip. The left-most sheet zooms in on the field, the colours and textures of bright stalks and interlaced blades filling the entire space: word-free.
 
OVERALL   

Ambient musician/composer Dan Pound delivers his latest album of exploratory three dimensional sound in the form of Eros Thanatos - a title suggesting love and death. Dan takes the listener through a range of drifting expanses and textural zones: mostly beatless, faintly primal, spacey, dreamy, down into disquieting gloom and back into celestial light. Eight tracks in all, mostly around the seven to ten minute mark allowing for unrushed development and expression. Dan explains: "After trying on some newly acquired guitar effects, I decided to do a whole album dedicated to these guitar sound worlds I was discovering... I was able to extrapolate a myriad of tonal timbres that resembled other instruments like organ, strings, oboes, bassoons and even human voices. Adding of course some deep layers of reverb, this sound set ended up being one of the most originally challenging and creative projects I've ever done." You can find out more about this release and other Dan Pound music via the official Dan Pound website where there are sound samples and opportunities to download tracks in different formats; there is also Dan's Facebook page where a variety of news and personal details are provided.

 
OVERALL