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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 


 

 ----------Time Being - A Place To Belong
STYLE
 

September 2015
Beatless ambient soundscapes.
Time Being further their exploration of subtle tonal intricacy with this suite of attractive meandering zones. Very much multiple-depth recordings, the eight tracks here seem open and fathomless in scope whilst infusions of sonic colour and peripheral hazes provide middle distance substance, to the fore gathering waves, restrained melodic hints and more highly contrasting textures detail the surface. Music of this smooth, nebulous, ponderous nature often suggests the cool immensity of space and whilst this is true of A Place To Belong in many passages, there is also a warmth and open-hearted passionate content that grounds much of the music, this is enhanced by small touches such as the peaceful water movement near the start of An Infinite Home and the submerged voice recordings swimming within Every Memory.

 
ARTWORK  

A Place To Belong is packaged in a crisp card wallet of two panels, plastic-free, disc contained in one end. Crepuscular pinks and pallid amber hues flush darkening star-spotted skies above shadowy landscapes captured by Jordan Laik. The front cover is split by a beaming vertical slit of light: a portal, a monument, an ascension? Track titles reside on the rear cover with running times alongside as if rising up from behind the horizon. A panorama of tree silhouettes fills the inside, bathed in light from behind. Here, to the left, is a passage of inspirational text expanding the theme 'a place to belong', placing the various track titles in context, and to the right, simple credits. The music is, of course, available in a variety of digital formats as well as on CD.

 
OVERALL   

Released via Spotted Peccary Music, A Place To Belong is the second collaborative album from Phillip Wilkerson and Jourdan Laik. Promotional material speaks of "sound sculpted micro-space ambiences" and "wide-screen, cinematic moments of grass rippling in wind, sky-sculptures of clouds, and sweeping, swirling atmospheres of another dimension." This nicely captures the pleasing balance of touching emotion, earthly intimacy and other-worldly far-seeing expansiveness that this well balanced duo unfold. This is an album that has more in the way of carefully-crafted structure to hold the attention than much beatless minimalism yet elegantly avoids overt melodic forms. Immerse yourself in the flow of A Place To Belong at the Spotted Peccary website, Philip Wilkerson's blog or the Time Being Facebook page.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 


 

 ----------Perfect Beings - II
STYLE
 
November 2015
Contemporary progressive rock.
II is a highly polished collection of easily accessible songs that might fall into a very different genre if it weren't for the fascinating instrumental work that encases many of the vocal sections. A number of the songs have a lilting, psychedelic pop feel to them, an impression intensified by Ryan Hurtgen's languid vocal style. Musical accompaniment is often subtle, understated and laid back when supporting Hurtgen's voice, but then shifts dramatically as the singing falls away. The playing then is deft and imaginative with clear references to the best traditions of progressive rock - Johannes Luley's guitar work shining especially brightly in this regard. His fingerwork is very varied in approach, distinctive and suitably angular - I could happily listen to much more of his playing. That said, the rest of the band are excellent: keyboards both dynamic and atmospheric, with some especially tasteful piano; a gutsy rhythm section that is capable of some jaw-dropping drive and intricacy when needed such as during the startlingly spiky second half of Cause and Effect. There is a lot to explore here - many partially hidden details and bright compositional gems adorn the memorable hook lines and easy melodies of the main themes.
 
ARTWORK   Perfect Beings' second album arrives in a slick black digipack with lustrous orange and blue artwork. A fiery volcanic orb fills the front panel, radiating into blackness; this is echoed on opening the first panel by a heavily-veined, glowing, orange heart. The rear panel provides track titles floating, bright against a solarised portrait photograph. Further pictures of the band in action are found within, juxtaposed, montaged, layered against a beaming pyramid sunset; a burning volcano eruption, licking flame forms. A generous 6-section fold-out can be found in the right-most panel (extricating it reveals hidden artwork in the pocket itself). The insert contains lyrics, credits, thanks and a touching dedication to the late Chris Squire.
 
OVERALL    Perfect Beings follow up their 2014 debut with II - a ten track album of tight, progressive-rock oriented songs. Ranging from the one and a half minute Samsara to the impressively dynamic The Love Inside, which falls just short of nine minutes, II oscillates back and forth between gentle, melodic vocal passages and cleverly, inventive virtuoso instrumentation. There are moments when the band heaves in gloriously dramatic retro-prog ingenuity (these are my personal favourite sections of the album) such as the momentarily 'Tales' reminiscent Mar Del Fuego opener. There are intimate and elegant piano passages; cinematic pieces with intense crescendos; near-ambient mood zones and some well-crafted shifts and switches mid-track that hold the attention nicely. I'd be fascinated to see what this band might do with a longer epic - I've a feeling that they could be stunning - but then I'm partial to musical enormity when it comes to progressive rock. Explore the ablum via the band's Bandcamp page or you can find much more of Perfect Beings on the official website.
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 


 

 ----------Martin Nonstatic - Granite
STYLE
 
November 2015
Ambient, downtempo electronica.
Smooth-flowing electronic atmospheres and restrained, feather-light grooves wash around the most minimal of dub propulsions. Much of Granite revolves around a series of exquisitely crafted digital beats; these are understated, synthetic structures full of flicks, blips and static sleet at the high end with rich sonorous kicks and thuds pumping below. Melodic content on a number of tracks is comprised of hazy, soft focus textures with subtle themes and sparse phrases deeply embedded. Sometimes it is the bassy rhythmic pulses and throbbing patterns that drive the prime melodies along. There are some strongly effected guitar samples on a couple of tracks and little snatches of voice, broken down so far as to almost become instrumental; waves of delicate white noise ebb and flow; electronic sparkles and flushes of light play across the surface.
 
ARTWORK   The three-panel package for Granite sees French label Ultimae reducing headers and titles in favour of pure imagery: lustrous rock patterns reveal criss-crossed cracks, fractures and crystal inlays in beautifully hued shades of brown, copper, sienna and blue-grey. The inner spread has a similar display, somewhat paler, a little more in close-up. There is a generous sixteen -page booklet tucked into one end panel; no text of any form on most of the pages, allowing the imagery to speak for itself: abstract macro shots, brittle landscapes, jagged details. A tracklist with running times is inside the front cover and brief credits, informational cuts and contact details can be found at the back.
 
OVERALL   

Dutch artist Martin Nonstatic (Martin van Rossum) moved to Austria last year where he has discovered new depths of inspiration in the beauty of the landscape. His third album Granite reflects his enjoyment of the natural world, specifically rock forms. The twelve pieces on Granite leave an impression of deep silken polish and mesmerising intricacy; a sense of intense professionalism pervading the whole album. The music can be explored via the Ultimae label website or via the Bandcamp page for the release.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 


 

 ----------Al Marconi - Alchemy
STYLE
 

December 2015
Nuevo flamenco, contemporary acoustic guitar music.
Al Marconi here delivers a mesmerising collection of lustrous, intricate nylon-strung guitar compositions. Liquid, clear and intimate, the playing/recording style gives the impression that the artist is right there in the room laying on a personal performance. This approach rewards the serious listener, highlighting Al Marconi's obvious technical mastery of his craft as well as his great attention to detail. However, this is an album that would equally appeal to the more casual listener looking for a beautiful, inspirational mood or even providing a meditative or relaxing ambient backdrop. Tracks range from beguiling solo guitar melodies, through layered passages where multiple themes intertwine and harmonise, to pieces with subtle beats and carefully restrained supporting instrumentation. Strings, shakers, world music elements and luxurious ambient reverb effects enhance the colourful compositions without ever overpowering the dextrous fingerwork and adventurous chordal progressions. The mood varies nicely across the album, warm and appealing one moment, serious and introspective the next and then brooding and tenebrous yet always hypnotically engrossing.

 
ARTWORK   Alchemy is delivered in a tasteful jewel case package where muted colours and ageless textures cloak everything in a deeply seductive fog. Elements of landscape rise from the mists of the front cover: a lake, an undulation of land, faint tree forms. The rear cover provides a timed tracklist, a brief description of the project, a portrait of the artist and website details. Inside Chopin is quoted: "Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, save perhaps two." The insert is of four pages, opening out to reveal a more detailed discussion of the music as well as recording information and thanks.
 
OVERALL   

Independent U.K. based player/composer Al Marconi is based in Cornwall where he frequently performs live as well as recording within his own personal studio. Alchemy is released via Ego Recordings as his fifth full length album and follow-up to the 2011 release Insomnia. This time, however, the music takes an approach where the pure sounds of the guitar are more fully explored than on earlier works. This is a project that is clearly very dear to Al Marconi and very personal: here he unfolds ideas some of which have waited for a decade to come to fruition as part of this 'progressive' and raw revelation of a highly dedicated guitarist's musical soul. Fellow guitarists, instrumental fans and those simply wanting to relax and allow shifting waves of delicate sound wash over them will all find something to delight in with this release. Hear the music for yourself, explore, further or purchase at the Official Al Marconi Website. You can also read our exclusive interview with Al Marconi at MorpheusMusic.co.uk.

 
VIDEO  
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS


 

 ----------Green Isac Orchestra- Green Isac Orchestra
STYLE
 

December 2015
Ethno-electronic fusion.
Gentle and relaxing, rich and heady; Green Isac Orchestra soothes and stimulates the senses with a deft blend of electronic individuality and acoustic passion. The ensemble manages to produce music of great serenity and melodic warmth without ever falling into new-age cheesiness. The themes are gracefully understated; the beats languid, tribal; the colours deep and saturated. There are elements here to please fans of entho-ambient music whilst at the same time perhaps appealing to downtempo lovers that enjoy global sounds. The list of sound sources is broad: with electric cello, Variax guitar, shahi baaja, kalimba and Chinese hammered dulcimer interwoven with piano, mellotron, synthesisers and samplers. Beats bring together electronic drums, djembe, tumbadora, shekere and ghatam. This sprawling diversity of sound, however, is masterfully combined and performed with such elegance that there is a great sense of authenticity about Green Isac Orchestra. This is not cut-and-paste sampler music.

 
ARTWORK   Green Isac Orchestra is delivered in a pale gatefold card wallet with something of a minimal approach: colours are simple, pastel hues of limited palette; fonts are unfussy and fine; information restricted to the necessary details of personnel, recording credits and Internet addresses. The frontal image has a lone figure on an endless plane gazing ahead into eternity - only a shadow for company. Track titles appear with running times on the rear cover.
 
OVERALL   

Green Isac have been producing music for around a quarter of a century now; Morten Lund and Andreas Eriksen working as a duo focussing on instrumentation and percussion respectively. Green Isac Orchestra sees the addition of three more players: Frode Larsen on percussion and bells; Tov Ramstad on cello, ukulele, saw and bass and Jo Wang on keyboards. The resultant recordings are engrossing, meditative affairs that do so much more than throw ethnic sounds into the mix as flavours or just for effect. The combination feels very 'right' as if transcending ethnic origins; very 'natural' since expression and performance are clearly central features. Do explore this quality release via the ensemble's own website or by means of the Spotted Peccary label page where you can find listening opportunities, videos, purchasing options and a wealth of information.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 


 

 ----------Mindgames - Paradox of Choice
STYLE
 
January 2016
Melodic progressive rock.
Paradox of Choice is a bright album of tuneful progressive rock with a strongly positive vibe. The concepts behind the music explore psychological impacts and dilemmas of choice and the paradoxical nature of control over our destinies. The music includes a pleasing range of acoustic and electric passages that take the listener from slow-build introductions through grandiose rock highs, dreamy interludes and back to heaving climaxes and some low-key outros. Delicate piano, guitar or mandolin with thoughtful vocals off-set powerful lead guitar, synth, bass and drum dynamism. Paradox of Choice has a fairly anthemic rock feel in many places, the traditional 'prog' nature of the music most evident in the two longer tracks - The Age Of Plenty at eleven minutes eighteen and the closing track From A Drone's Perspective at ten minutes one.
 
ARTWORK  

Mindgames comes in a slick digipack with some rather appealing grungy, surreal artwork. White clouds billow upon a dark blue sky on the front cover; a central red door opens to a pair of shadowy figures into brightness; an infinite ground of wooden floorboards creates a horizon.
The rear cover presents the front image now as the view from an attic window, the clouds of the sky painting the angled inner walls. Here track titles hang above the recess of the window. The third panel opens to reveal a portrait of the band and a list of musical tasks undertaken. Flipping the package around, a broad panorama spreads within: the flat, boarded ground now approaching distant mountains; another figure approaches another huge red door of possibilities. Credits and thanks are here. To the right a faint marble head gazes eyelessly at the viewer - Aristoteles - quoted above on the role of choice in destiny.

 
OVERALL    Belgian band Mindgames was formed in 1997, playing and recording for a few years before releasing the first official album of their discography, International Daylight in 2002. Mindgames comes as number four and follow-up to 2010's MMX. The band is a traditional five-piece consisting of Tom Truyers on keyboards; Maximilian von Wüllerstorff on bass; Sandro Starita on guitars; Bart Schram on vocal duties and Benny Petak on drums. The sound is tight and well-produced with an accessible solid rock foundation underpinning symphonic structures. You can learn more about this release and Mindgames' other material at the official Mindgames website where samples from all tracks are presented or via the band's Facebook page.