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 ----------Amethystium - Transience

April 2014
Ethereal downtempo instrumental.
The unique and visionary Amethystium returns with the latest of his enigmatic, twilight meanderings. Sticking true to his roots, the lush Amethystium signature sound has here been further refined to a delightfully high degree: haunting, cinematic soundscapes full of wistful choirs; hypnotic strings and imaginative electronica; delirious, blissful melodies. Øystein Ramfjord clearly produces music for the love of it and here fully realises the evocative beauty that his special approach is capable of conjuring up. If anything the edges are more subtly blended on this latest work, the shadows more softly textured, the sighing, climactic melodies even more passionate. Delicate, echoing piano touches of the kind that Øystein does so well are still present as are the sleepy, programmed beats that carry the music along in lazy, drifting tides; peculiar world music elements, employed with tasteful restraint inhabit both the rhythmic and textural aspects of the mix. This might be Amethystium's most transportational album to date.

ARTWORK   This digital release comes with a truly gorgeous cover from Marcela Bolívar. Wisps of aurora dance in a night sky above a deep valley of twisted trees and intricate stone architecture nestled among curving rocks. Warm lights shine from a number of windows echoing the brimming moon above. Falling leaves, twinkling stars and water reflections all join the motion of the green skylight. The music and the image work together so well - you'll be losing yourself in the beauty of this beguiling scenery in no time.
OVERALL    Coming six years after the Neurodisc release of Isabliss back in 2008, this independent Amethystium album shows that Øystein's commitment to his project is pleasingly unwavering. The eleven compositions of Transience remain firmly within the lustrous, crepuscular, fantasy world that he has built up over the years since his early days with where he debuted with Odonata and the lovely Autumn Interlude. Get along to the official Amethystium website where you can preview the music and explore the complete discography. If you are a fan of Amethystium then Transience will fill the yearning that this six year wait will surely have created. If you are new to Amethystium - this is a great starting point: if you enjoy restful music that will have you dreaming whilst still awake or you want something to fill your room with aural incence - this is probably just what you need.






 ----------Various - Passages [Ultimae - framed by Nova]

April 2014
Ambient downtempo electronica.
A sonic trip through soft-focus urban vistas beneath the shifting colours and forms of London skies. Nova presents a gathering of subtle atmospheric zones and pulsing rhythmic ambience that rises lazily out of soft fogs and glitch-specked minimalism, breezes through fresh city greys with muted-crunch beats, lingers in sunlit beauty spots and concludes with a blissful wind-down into the final Northern Wind from Zinovia that literally aches with wistful melancholy piano and drifting vocalisations. Passages delivers some of the most inventive, contemporary electronic music currently available - there is absolutely nothing inferior here, everything has an air of refined sophistication, sensitive restraint and underplayed intricate detail. As the latest in Ultimae's catalogue of various artists releases, fans of the label will surely love this album - Nova knows what to pick and how to present it.


The James Murray track Passing Through Walls opens the set in a haze of delicate, layered textures that gradually fleck with tinkling chimes, rising steadily in intensity until Cygna's exquisite contribution creeps in - this piece clicks, lightly pops, creaks and flicks drips of static over a gentle throbbing bass line and weightless gossamer pads. By the time we reach track four from Brando Lupi the density of sound has amassed somewhat into a ponderous, more deeply saturated sound. Murya provides one of the more overtly beautiful compositions - Der Blaue Engel drifts effortlessly under its sweet xylophone melody and string backdrop, nodding digital groove maintaining easy onward momentum. The trance elements that scatter the mid-regions of the journey are pleasantly understated and fragile - the reverb-eroded piano interludes of AES Dana's Unlit providing an appealing complement to the thrum of the beat. In competition with Der Blaue Engel for lush hypnotic charm is the Cell remix of Connect Ohm's 9980 - this track ascends from silence with an unhurried yet brittle grace into buoyant rhythm and burbling bass languidly heaving beneath lightly elegant textures and chime touches - lovely smooth exit too. Zinovia's outro is perfectly chosen: beatless but for slight percussive effects, the piano melody is deliriously dreamy and punctuated by a slowly developing dramatic bass and bass piano stabs.

OVERALL   London-based DJ Nova follows up his previous compilations of tastefully selected downtempo for French label Ultimae with the gorgeously subtle Passages. 2005's Albedo and the 2009 selection Imaginary Friends set a high standard of transportational grace and Passages, if anything, exceeds expectations. The artist list explores talents well-established and raw, feeding off the musical visions of James Murray, Fingers In The Noise, Cygna, Brando Lupi, Miktek, Murya, Martin Nonstatic, Lars Leonhard, AES Dana, Connect.Ohm, Max Million and Zinovia. Passages consists of twelve tracks in all that can be explored via the Ultimae website, via the Ultimae Bandcamp page or there is a teaser video on YouTube.

Collaborating with Massimo, as always, has been a great pleasure, because we love the man and have full trust in his artistic choice. He has the ability to scout new talents and select some of the finest ambient / electronica productions of today.
Working on [ Passages ] was a slow process, it took a while to get the right tracks for this new story but there was no rush, we push artists to take their time so the outcome is mature.
We have always worked with various photographers on artworks and Nova offered the possibility to collaborate with Giovanni Calemma which was a brilliant idea as his photographic perceptions fully catch the mood of the compilation.
All in all we’re genuinely happy and proud about this release.
Sandrine - Ultimae







 ----------Rudy Adrian - Atmospheres
May 2014
Drifting ambient atmoscapes.
Rudy Adrian's latest release Atmospheres explores sonic associations of natural spaces. The tranquillity of landscape, the heaving lentor of open sky, the sense of awe experienced simply by being a part of the world - Atmospheres captures these elements and gracefully alchemises them into beatless, atmospheric musical sound. The recordings establish that contented serenity that comes from enjoying the environment: smooth textures, delicately layered, waft, meander, lift and soar inhabited by well-chosen field recordings and subtle melodic forms. There are faint percussive touches, often deep down in the mix; hints of enormity in low bass exhalations; human vocalisations that curl and reverberate and peculiar flute-like notes. Not a minimal album quite, but one where lush ambient pads and harmonic currents softly outweigh melodic suggestions.
ARTWORK   Atmospheres is presented in a pleasing card wallet (card sleeves are so much nicer objects than plastic cases) of two panels. Each section holds an expansive landscape photograph of wind-blown grasses, distant hills and beaming sky. On the nearly-square outer panels grass detail holds centre stage, sky lighting a narrow upper band with angular horizon arcing between. Inside, however, the horizon is dropped allowing the sky of this panorama to stretch out majestically. Little text is on the outer cover - track titles on the rear and label info. The inside left section has a couple of paragraphs from the artist explaining some of the inspirational aspects of the music as well as a touching dedication. The inside right provides some insight into the instrumentation used in the making of the music and an invitation to make contact.
OVERALL    Rudy Adrian follows up his 2010 release Distant Stars with this inherently more earthy collection - Atmospheres. Sleeve notes reveal that the music was created "in an attempt to evoke the quiet open space that can still be found in the south of New Zealand." Taking the paths laid down on Desert Realms and Moonwater, Adrian here refines his organic ambient approach in to a fine degree - very calm, very thoughtful, very deep. Although the music here has been recorded across a period of many years (Dream of Subantarctica having been part of a CD-R album back in the 1990s) the feeling of natural continuity is powerful: the nine tracks flow in an easy drift from the lapping water motion that opens Apple Tree Bay to the fading tides of the final wind-down. Find out more by visiting the Spotted Peccary website or the artist's own official site where listening and purchase options can be found.






 ----------Circular - [ Moon Pool ]

July 2014
Ambient, downtempo electronica.
Delicate, gossamery, smooth: these hi-tech, hazy soundscapes manage to be both eminently restful and yet full of engrossing detail at the same time. The fragile complexities of Circular's shifting ambiences seem to hide or fade in and out of perception within these liquid sonic soundscapes so that the listener can either focus in on the interplay of intricacies within the current or drift along on the overall flow of the tide. Much of the music has a lustrous, radiant quality to it: plenty of sparkling patterns and warm, weightless pads that create an uplifting mood, a sense of exuberant rest. Beats come and go; some are at the edge of awareness; some tracks build into solid downtempo momentum; Imbrium (a collaboration with Aes Dana) even gathers into a mid-section of ephemeral drum and bass. Voices feature frequently on Moon Pool: snatches of sentences; wafts of words; effected phrases; airy vocal pads. The concluding track with its mournful piano and sequencer ebb and flow ends the set with an aching wistfulness that will almost certainly set you returning for more...


Sleek and subtle - the muted blues of this glossy Ultimae package deliver the visual equivalent of the musical content really well. A glassy, bubble-filled abstract fills the front section; a form that can be admired both for its elegant whole or its multi-layered minutiae. The three-panelled cover is more simple on the other sections - lush blue expanses with minimal text in white font. Track titles are on the rear and each is represented within the sixteen-page booklet tucked into one end of the sleeve. The photography revolves very much around textural features and macro exploration. A shot of the artists fills the last two pages, crossing rocks by the sea.


Bjarte Andreassen and Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik return with their third Ultimae full-length release (previous albums began with a debut on Origo in the mid-nineties). Based in Norway this duo have gradually developed their craft such that this current blend of ambience, idm, downtempo and "ambidrum'n'bass" flows with a near-perfect balance of aesthetic beauty and professional mastery. This is high-quality music at the very cutting-edge of contemporary progress: you get a sense that you are listening almost to a feed of the future. Nevertheless, Circular manage also to pack their compositions with timeless emotive content that touches all the right places. The eight tracks of Moon Pool can be previewed at the Ultimae website or you can find out more about the album by visiting the Ultimae Bandcamp page dedicated to the release.







 ----------Dan Pound - Life Giving
August 2014
Ambient, nocturnal, space music.
Squelching sci-fi zaps and blips in empty space open Life Giving, a dreamy, drifting series of very beautiful ambient spaces and minimal soundscapes. There are rhythmic pieces here where naturally flowing sequences weave among water currents and tinkling chimes; there are light beats that trip within shady expanses; there are burbling patterns that pulse and roll below simple, elegant themes. Some passages hold melodic sections that distantly recall Satie, Close Encounters or even the band Enigma; melancholy, delicate phrases that linger in the air with restful resonance. But Life Giving is primarily a music of subtle drones and lustrous textures; ambient openings that glisten and gleam with overlaid synthetic harmonies more oriented at establishing sublime mood zones than creating firm structures to cling to.
ARTWORK    Life Giving is a jewel-case presentation with a single-sheet insert. Artwork is comprised of a series of soft-focus underwater photographs that feature orange, mauve, olive-hued reef life. A closer look reveals another level of depth to the imagery - reflections maybe, motion blur, presences? Text is kept to a minimum: small simple title on the front cover, track titles behind and some brief contact and website details; within there is no written content at all, just water-hazed visuals.

The second release of 2014 from ambient musician/film and multi-media composer Dan Pound comes in the wake of the guitar driven Eros Thanatos. This album of eight spacey expanses is once again released via Dan's own Pound Sounds label and takes its place atop what is now a rather impressive back catalogue. An aim of Life Giving is to facilitate personal meditation and inner visualization; given the right low-lighting and a suitably submersive listening arrangement I would say that Dan meets the criteria admirably. If you'd like to listen to the music you can visit Dan's official website where each track is available to sample as well as all of his previous releases. If you'd like to experience the transportation intended - buy the CD.


“After the long process that the last album's mixing and mastering took, I was glad to be at the creative end of things in the studio again. This new album was a breath of fresh air for me personally, and poured out fast. I literally used the recording process as a meditation, and found that by breath awareness, and taking in and letting out of slow deep breaths, alongside the music making, I was able to continually find, and end up in "The Zone" that is the epitome of the creative and deep discovery process. The result is very much a meditation album of new age ambient space music that is sure to enhance your own personal "Zone".








 ----------Robert Scott Thompson - Arcana
September 2014
Electroacoustic ambient.
Robert Scott Thompson releases here an album that is both full of enigmatic ambient space and elegantly understated melodic forms. The drone textures are intricate and multi-layered, employed in masterfully intangible motion, elements of familiarity and peculiarity within constantly rising into focus and dispersing once more. The melodies at their best are truly sublime: sometimes simple patterns that hang within the ambience, sometimes auditory lattice-works that balance the drone forms, then unexpectedly developing into climactic flushes of emotion that really touch something important inside. The tracks ebb and flow between uncomplicated hovering atmospheres and uncluttered tuneful motifs with a pleasant balance that keeps the attention hooked from start to finish.

Arcana is one of those precious few albums that truly deserves to be referred to as deeply immersive. The complex layers of involvement of this album will both send you into wistful abstraction and draw the mind into attentive examination of constantly evolving detail. Promotional material explains that "the Hartmann Neuron is strongly featured on this recording, as is the prepared piano, acoustic percussion of various types and also extended percussion techniques." Guest percussionist Stuart Gerber is credited with percussion samples and performances, most evident on Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight where his studio performance is further enhanced by Robert's own treatments and modifications. Presented with a professionalism and musical sensibility rarely experienced, Arcana unfurls climactic moments of aching beauty with delightful subtlety. That said, this is not an overly emotional creation: often minimal in structure and form, Arcana at times reveals barely-lit voids that suggest nuances as much as describe them.


The album opener Liminal Worlds is a lazy, gravity-free piece of meandering charm that spirals in the shadows of beguiling possibilities. Near-percussive, ascending phrases repeatedly climb up from a lush, textural bed lured by ethereal voices that move back and forth between the electro/organic divide. The listener is invited in, to cross the sensory threshold...

A searing swirl of layered tone sweeps us into Imagination is Memory. The sombre low-light obscurity that opened Arcana gathers here whilst similar ponderous phrases shift slightly in their upward motion - a little more buoyant, warm and restful. The notes seem comprised of multiple voices: effected piano, struck strings, oriental metallic bowls - it's hard to tell where the ears are working and where the imagination takes over. At just over three minutes, this piece quickly passes...

The air of mystery that wafted through the first two tracks thickens at the introduction of this track as shaken particles fall across discordant piano and cow-bell tinkles. As the great ambient drone bed of this composition wells up a huge sense of depth falls open, yet instead of tumbling in, sonic light beams seem to keep the listener afloat. These gentle, inviting synth strains of heavenly elegance are cast into the air creating a delightful interplay of melancholy beauty and uplifting luminance that seems apt to last forever.

The title track - the longest track at eleven minutes forty eight seconds - retains the radiant beauty of its predecessor. The darkness that surrounds everything is by now a familiar friend perfectly suited to perception of the nuances of gossamer tone that float and drift in shifting flux. Now the strongly-effected melodic patterns seem deep within the mix; piano-like/guitar-like embellished with chimes, peculiar disturbances and snaking air movements. An echoing rhythm sets in as the track progresses propelling the piece onward with an easy, nodding motion that finally fades once more into the expanse.

Whirling winds drop the listening temperature as a weave of harsh metal fibres and atonal threads push through dangling chimes into a night-time emptiness that carries a sense of disquiet and anticipation. Still the sonorous note patterns of previous tracks remain - muted strikings, woody at times, then more like large, thick metal bowls - barely melodic, wandering.

The title is an ancient Greek term describing the theoretical moment where judgment regarding the existence of the external world is suspended. It suggests the act of refraining from any conclusion for or against anything including that of judging whether anything exists or can exist. Robert Scott Thompson chooses this concept as a doorway to a build up of warmth and tranquillity: airy synth breaths and weightless strains floating freely in graceful simplicity.

This is perhaps the most overtly beautiful track on the whole album. Opening with light finger-cymbal, gamelan bell, splashing bowl tones the mood is quite exotic and mystical - swaying rhythmically. But then at about the one-minute fifteen-second mark there is a delightfully climactic release followed immediately by a welling harmonious build toward further such moments. Lustrous, aglow amid the enveloping darkness, this meditative nocturne hypnotically teases the senses conjuring colours and faint fluorescence into meandering spirals that finally fall away into obscurity.

Less percussive than its predecessor, In Situ is a vapourous wafting of fine layers that ponderously heave in slow-motion undulations of pitch and intensity. Very much retaining the uneasy mix of introspective serenity and enshrouding gloom, this track seems to loop and cycle in endless reverie.

The set finale looks back to the melodic approach taken in Arcana and The Last Hours of Sunlight: uplifting, dulcet phrases dreamily wandering through a heady ambient fog. Again the sonic sources are hard to identify, calling to mind struck or plucked notes with Eastern timbre often prominent. The eventual final fade to silence is one of pleasing consonance - aptly titled.

ARTWORK    Arcana is delivered in an elegant, tactile two-panel digipack. The front and back covers show details of a painting by Victoria Bearden that is revealed in full within. Brush marks, paint scrapes and sharp expressive movements curve and roll across the surface in almost metallic shades of grey and blue. A classical white border frames the front panel wherein sits the title; on the rear the white ground becomes a central panel holding track titles each with running time alongside. Here too are credits and label logos. When opened out, the inner cover reveals a powerful painting of a female figure that spans the whole spread: brightly lit, yet surrounded by darkness into which the face turns, this enigmatic character physically embodies the album's themes.
OVERALL   California's Robert Scott Thompson delivers his latest release through the Relaxed Machinery label. Taking around two years to complete, the music explores the composer's interests in quantum physics and recent discoveries that are shaping our views regarding the nature of reality: infinite parallel universes, the power of thought, dreams and memory. Infusing his ambient arrangements with a wealth of electro-acoustic instrumentation; software synthesis/signal processing and hardware synthesizers form the backbone of Arcana. Robert explains, "I collect sounds and use them in a variety of ways, from placing them in samplers for compositional use to using analysis based techniques for modification and extrapolation. The nine tracks of the CD release are complimented by "several exclusive bonus tracks" found only on the digital release including the immersive 24-minute ambient track "Zero Point Field". These bonus tracks were recorded during the making of the album. You can explore the music for yourself at Robert's Bandcamp page or via the Relaxed Machinery website both of which provide images, audio and additional information.

My most recent album, Arcana, is in what I sometimes describe as the “classical ambient” style. By this I mean a more a traditional type of ambient music, rooted in the origins of the genre, that eschews to a large extent beat-driven architectures. While there are elements of percussion on this album, including prepared piano, the main style of the music is one of languorous drift, crafted nuance and subtle design. In some ways, my ideas for musical structures in Arcana are referential of modern chamber music. Of course, I use an extended sonic palate here. One that invites melodic lines, harmonic possibilities and chord structures into a context together with more abstract sounds derived from synthesis and also from the transformation of acoustic sound sources.
I always try to create recordings that invite listening at different levels of perspective – from rapt attention to casual regard. Arcana shares a kinship with some of my previous recordings in this sense, such as The Silent Shore, Frontier and At the Still Point of the Turning World. It is my hope that close listening will reveal subtle layers of detail that on first listening might be missed and that a longer engagement with the album might bring the listener a reward in discovery.


With Arcana, Robert Scott Thompson delivers a carefully crafted, subtly nuanced ambient album. Languidly drifting textures, prepared piano, and an array of synthesized and acoustic sounds make this a rewarding listen.