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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Midival Punditz - Midival Times
STYLE   Classical and traditional Indian sounds fused with the Punditz' razor sharp programming and production. The flutes and drones on the opening track 'Morning' appear to be something of a statement of intent very much like the introduction to a Bollywood movie of past decades. Midival Times retains the Punditz' crystal clear beats, but the drum and bass emphasis of the debut album have softened somewhat. Electronica, vocoders and appregiators blend beautifully with tablas, saarangi, flutes and various voices. There are more recorded 'performances' here on this album too - with vocalists such as Ustad Sultan Khan, Vishal Vaid and some masterful sitar work by Anoushka Shankar (daughter of Ravi Shankar). The duo recently worked on a Bollywood soundtrack entitled 'Let's Enjoy' and this project seems to have had more than a passing influence on the current sound - indeed track 8 on Midival Times 'Kesariya' is taken from that project.
 
MOOD  

Modern aesthetic meets traditional class; East meets West with a shared vision and in a chilled mood. Midival Times is an uncluttered pulling together of pieces that are driving and dance floor oriented one minute and calmly meditative the next. The use of vocal and instrumental performances alongside sampled sounds enriches the Punditz' colourful sonic palette, whilst the expert programming establishes a lucidity, a simplicity or a sense of the dramatic as required.

 
ARTWORK   A tangerine glow suffuses the whole package with a transcendent warmth. Tapan and Gaurav pose for the camera on the front cover against the circuitry and architecture of a beaming corridor of arches. The twin panels of the digipack unfold to reveal a track listing that includes the various performers, samples and publishing details. Thanks and 'a big shout' to all those involved or otherwise appreciated covers one inside panel and a simple track list with times fill the back.
 
OVERALL   

The artists have said that they desire to widen out both Western appreciation for Asian music and Asian Appreciation for Western music - this album certainly should do that - I can imagine this CD selling just as well to the Hindi film market as it will among chill-out and club lovers. Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj have created a softer album than their debut, with Indian roots more fully explored. Where previously they sounded like a d'n'b combo weaving waves and samples among their electronic structures, now they sound more complete, with Indian elements as deeply employed as the synths and grooves themselves. Samples are still deftly applied such as on Hold On (Thaarey Rahiyo) where vocal samples of Lata Mangeshkar taken from soundtrack to Bollywood classic Pakeezah.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

If you enjoyed the lighter side of the first album and would appreciate a stronger Indian flavour with less drum and bass Midival Times should suit. This album will probably draw new converts though from Bollywood theme enthusiasts and ethno-techno fans. The Punditz are well liked in chill-out circles and will not disappoint anyone looking for a bit of top class Indian electronica.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 ------Ryan Farish - From The Sky
STYLE  

Crisp beats, strummed guitars, gentle electronics and ethnic samples combine with Ryan's dulcet piano tones on this 'feel good' collection of bright new age instrumentals. From The Sky is full of simple beaming melodic patterns that build into warm crescendos and fall away into thoughtful interludes where the pace drops momentarily or the layers disperse. The programming on this album is subtle with delicate arpeggios, balmy synth harmonies and soft bass lines underpinning Ryan's uncluttered piano leads. Celtic-sounding vocals and flutes from around the world along with a little global percussion bring variety to the collection, yet not the extent of creating a 'worldbeat' album.

 
MOOD  

Serene, warm, upbeat and welcoming - Ryan Farish's music has a similar affect to pulling open the curtains on a summer's day and letting the sunlight in. The elegant simplicity of the melodies here range from brilliant blue skies, cloudless and clear, to lustrous lower tempos, enchantingly lit with choral voices that sigh and breath bringing a softness and a mystical quality.

 
ARTWORK   I have an advance copy with just the front cover - but the image and graphics there are well in keeping with the content of the CD. Gleaming sunlight falls on a golden field where a girl holds her arms out to feel the warmth of a breeze. The textured panel to the left of the image suggests a classical grace and we know that we're holding something tasteful. Track titles hint at certain convictions behind the tracks - Living Water, Rejoice, Legacy - but these are open enough to be taken in any way the listener chooses.
 
OVERALL    Ryan seems able to weave a myriad interlocking joyful piano themes that all gel as a unified whole; From The Sky continues the exploration of friendly, easy listening piano moods that was presented on the previous album 'Beautiful'. Most pieces consist of single lines of melody with few supporting chords that, at the high end send the heart soaring, carefree and light or at the lower tempos pulsate glowing and dancing among magical shades. The promotional material from label Neurodisc says that From The Sky provides a glimpse into the artist's mind "where the sky is always blue, the grass is always green and the melodies always bring a smile" - that sounds about right to me.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you're looking for music to brighten your day and you like the sound of the piano - From The Sky could be a good choice for you. This CD will suit those who enjoy upbeat new age sounds or who might appreciate instrumental music with break-beats.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Magna Canta - Sanctuary
STYLE  

Choral voices, chilled beats and rich synths combine to create a series of ethereal mood pieces. Magna Canta build electronic canvases of vivid colour with fresh-sounding grooves ranging from pumping euro-dance beats to soft, gentle breaks of wispy delicacy - then woven throughout are Gregorian Chants of individual or massed voices. The whole album is drenched in a thick cathedral ambience that generally works very effectively.

 
MOOD   From heavenly and fragile to deep and bombastic, from effulgent radiance to mysterious shadow - Sanctuary is lush, intense and brimming with full-blooded fervour. Many pieces have an anthemic grandeur that will send you soaring; others have a devotional restfulness that will have you floating on the wings of angels. Track titles maintain the spiritual imagery - Kyrie, Pater Noster, Credo, Close To Heaven.
 
ARTWORK   The artwork is as vivid and laden with devotional references as the music. A dense purple hue bathes a montage of stone faces, angelic wings and imposing edifices in dramatic gloom. The Magna Canta logo powerfully combining an upper case M and C sits in the centre revelling in gothic splendour. Indeed the lettering forms an important part of the imagery throughout the package - bright and clear against the density of the graphics. Inside the digipack wings are some inspiring words, relevant credits and thanks.
 
OVERALL   

The over-riding pace of Sanctuary is somewhere mid-tempo with a couple of exceptions either side. Voices constantly hold centre stage, but the synths are by no means background elements - melodies on this CD are bold, strong and colourful. The odd ethnic tone or percussive hit punctuates the air at times, but the focus is one of sacrosanct grandeur, an echoing architecture where electronic alchemy and chanting voices spiral up and down conjuring up images both traditional and contemporary.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Magna Canta will appeal to dance or chill-out fans that fancy a really thick layer of Gregorian chant daubed over their synths and breaks. This might well suit the post-Enigma congregation that finds itself looking for more monasterial electronica.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Nicola Hitchcock - Passive Aggressive
STYLE

 

 

Smooth strings, wistful pianos, sparse, languid beats and Nicola's incredible, breathy, feather-light vocals. This is a classy album of subtle instrumentation sensitively lit up with passionate lyrics, always delivered with intimate intensity. Programming takes a back seat to musical performance on Passive Aggressive where the electronics sound very contemporary and prominent basses thicken the penetrating sense of gravity. Trip hop beats give way in places to dance grooves and are absent entirely on the final track 'Morning' - but throughout, our attention is held appropriately by this unique voice wavering and whispering - analysing, confiding releasing.

 
MOOD  

Plaintive, melancholy and full of feeling; Nicola's songs have an honesty that you can feel in her voice even before you hear it in the words. The singing here is soft, close up, often little more than a whisper. The uncluttered arrangements on this CD add to the mood, at times just drums, bass and minimal pianos or electronica. The more intense musical structure of 'I Forgive Me' combines with sweet vocals to create a sense of brooding, a weight that carries over into the following track 'Cloudy Skies and Rain' where the drums are stronger and looser than most of the album. There is a beautiful surreal quality to the final piano and strings track 'Morning' where Ryuichi Sakomoto's composition is enhanced by Hector Zazou's strings

 
ARTWORK   Black, glossy, sleek and elegant - a portrait of the artist hangs in the darkness of the front cover and again behind the CD itself like another little secret waiting to be shared. Lettering throughout the package is in a curling white brush-script ... the only colour anywhere is red, used to pick out individual words - one from each song, the website address and 'aggressive' in the title. The whole affair feels very polished and highly professional.
 
OVERALL   

This CD is first and foremost a collection of beautiful songs, as one would expect from an accomplished singer/songwriter. Nicola's former band Mandalay split in early 2002 allowing her to work as a solo artist. On Passive Aggressive, we find her collaborating with a variety of talented artists who provide the musical structures from which Nicola suspends her candid poetic musings. Collaboration with Sounds From The Ground produced two songs “Moving Into A New Space” and "I Forgive Me” the latter being a song previously written by Nicola and reworked by the band "transforming a small intimate song into a mega dance track". Producer/DJ Lenny Ibizarre, Echo, Michael J. Ade and Chris Brann all lend their talents to the album along with Hector Zazou who soundscaped "Surrender" and introduced Ryuichi Sakomoto's piano piece which, Nicola says "brought the vocal and lyric for “Morning” from me in one take", with Hector adding strings later.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you enjoy songs brimming with feeling and delivered with conviction - accompanied by sympathetic, uncluttered trip-hop influenced music ... Passive Aggressive will stand out in your collection. Mandalay fans will certainly not be disappointed - but this CD is quite a step forward.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Gaudi - Bass, Sweat and Tears
STYLE   Dub reggae and nu-beats, bass lines that you feel deep inside and uncomplicated instrumentation form the backbone of Gaudi's global excursions. Around forty-two musicians and singers from Sardinia to Papua New Guinea, Pakistan and India to Burkina Faso, from Pygmy flutes and water drums to Michel Moglia and his ‘Orgue a feu’, Gaudi has certainly gathered a wide range of collaborators. Bass, Sweat and Tears isn't the kind of worldbeat album that might come from someone like Deep Forest though - this is more club, dub or Ibiza-chill oriented. The emphasis is largely on the rhythmic aspect of music with low, blunt basses and catchy drum loops fused with international percussion. Spoken voices frequent many tracks, talking through the mix incidentally or appearing as DJs, voices of disparate ethnic origin sing and chant whilst sitars, sarangi, oud, berimbao, theremin, turntables and scratches fill in the gaps.
 
MOOD  

Gaudi's laid-back grooves and pervasive dub bass-lines create a compelling central thread whilst the geographical references stray dizzyingly from Spanish flamenco, Qawwali singing, voices from the Amazon rain forest through to French language rap courtesy of African rapper Erik Dah 'Mozieu'. Even if you're listening sitting down, the beats on Bass, Sweat and Tears will have you moving.

 
ARTWORK   A digipack of brown-paper and muted inks suggests traditional artefact meets 21st century consumerism. Brushed washes and a tribal icon swirl alongside soundwave graphics and functional typography. Although this package has a feel of simplicity, there is certainly no lack of information - the fold-out booklet credits a huge list of musicians and co-writers/producers and there is a small paragraph accompanying all the tracks on the album explaining something of the origins of each. Thanks, contact details and further credits fill the remaining panels.
 
OVERALL   

Gaudi really seems to have done his research and audio-gathering well for this album, citing an ethno-musicologist, a botanist/anthropologist under the influence of 'Ayahuasca', a classical Indian singer Meena and a Farsi poet (among many others) - all credited and described in the sleeve booklet. Martin Luther King, Jr's 'I Have A Dream' speech lies hidden among the other meaningful messages Gaudi presents for consideration. We have a creation story from Southern Italy, environmental jungle sounds and a 76-year-old Sardinian farmer - "recognised as 'the last of the cantadores'" - since passed away. The Spanish cult band “Ojos De Brujo” appear on Babylon Flamenco and if you'd like a look at the world's only two-ton Orgue a feu (fire organ) - the web site is HERE.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

This CD will likely appeal to the ethno-chill audience that enjoy club and lounge music as well as worldbeat fans. The emphasis is primarily rhythm and dub, but the cross-planetary performances are sufficiently genuine and engaging to interest anyone who likes to hear the fusion of Western music technology and international musical traditions.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------ ------Kaya Project - Walking Through
STYLE   A largely instrumental, downtempo album of world fusion from Seb Taylor (one half of Angel Tears). That said - there are a couple of vocal tracks courtesy of Irina Mikhailova and a number of international vocal waves and samples that have been tastefully manipulated and served up afresh as inherent parts of the overall mix. Natasha Chamberlain provides some more subtle vocal input on 'Slide' and 'Rise Above' - whispering and chanting softly. Strings, pianos and guitars overlay a variety of fusion beats whilst shakers, hand drums, marimbas and flutes add global colours and tints.
 
MOOD  

Fresh earthy and dynamic with a geographical leaning towards the Middle East and Asia. A bit more intense than Angel Tears, 'Walking Through' features some sturdy basses, drums presented with tribal fervour and a Western chillout aesthetic. The rhythmic aspect is a highlight of this album, sounding natural and infectious, the programming is unobtrusive with an organic feel and production is clean and sharp.

 
ARTWORK   Front cover artwork features an ethnically inspired collage of two figures by Suzanne Brady that is in keeping with the Kaya Project image. Track titles and times along with record label Interchill's website address fill the back cover whilst inside the booklet some landscape photography acts as backdrop to various thanks and credits.
 
OVERALL   

Seb Taylor has worked on a number of different projects over the years such as Psytrance projects Shakta and Somaton and the more drum ‘n’ bass inclined Digitalis project, Angel Tears with Momi Ochion, however, is the closest in sound to Kaya Project. On 'Walking Through' Seb plays guitars, flute, darboukas and kalimba as well as handling all the programming and production. Seb met Irina Mikhailova whilst on tour in Mexico, at the time she was singing with Medicine Drum - this meeting led to Irina recording vocals for 'Labess' in Moroccan Arabic. Another track featuring Irina's voice is the Kaya Project remix of 'Nightflower'.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

World fusion fans that like the emphasis on rhythms that blend global loops with western beats - little in the way of dub or psytrance here. If you enjoy Middle Eastern sounds and subtle electronic instrumentation - Kaya Project is well worth a listen. Angel Tears fans will likely be pleased with this not-so-dissimilar side project.