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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Boddy/Wöstheinrich - Moiré
STYLE   A mixture of aural abstraction and beat-driven, sequenced electronica. Moiré simmers with rhythmic synthesiser patterns and evolving gutsy beats where bass lines are confident enough to occasionally take centre stage .... then suddenly percussion evaporates into 'Diffractions' leaving effervescent noise scintillating over beds of drifting ambience. There is an improvisational sense that feels at the same time strongly formed and crafted - the range of sounds employed is experimental and inventive. There are voices flickering just on the edge of recognition, three dimensional shapes and effects and interlaced organic textures and multi-layered arpeggios.
 
MOOD  

A prowling tension runs through most of this album be it in the bones and ligaments of tight arpeggiation, in the ephemeral, static that crackles in the air or in the dark creeping layers of sound down there on the lower levels. The abundant use of non-standard voices and unusual effects make Moiré sound very contemporary, complex, detailed. Moods range from militaristic rigidity, upbeat rhythmic cruising through cloistered ethereal lightness to freeform meandering and almost random drifting.

 
ARTWORK  

Artwork is here credited to Ian Boddy, but graphic designer Bernhard Wöstheinrich has also been very much involved in the visual style of DiN's recent releases. Moiré (pronounced more-ay) is the name of the patterns that are created when one semi-transparent object with a repetitive pattern is placed over another ... hence the front cover image is a representation of a Moiré pattern. Indeed the swirling browns of this image fill two panels of the sleeve booklet and the jewelcase reverse. Tracks come with a time listing and all relevant credits and contacts are included. A low-contrast monochrome shot of the artists against fractal twigs and branches fills the inner booklet.

 
OVERALL   

This is an album that has gone through a number of stages before completion - the project was initially a series of improvisations bringing together Boddy's "analogue modular system" and "Wöstheinrichs quirky & organic approach to drum & arpeggiator patterns". Although released under the names Boddy/Wöstheinrich, early editing work involved guitarist Markus Reuter before returning to Wöstheinrich for refinement and finally back to Ian Boddy for completion and mixing. Markus Reuter appears formally on the track 'Fractalise' as scratch bass player and SiReneé is credited with voice on 'Scorpio' and 'Moiré'.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

This is a CD that will appeal to listeners who take their music seriously. As with much of DiN's output the foundations of pioneering seventies synth alchemists have here been built upon taken into the future and given new life.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Marvin Ayres - Cellosphere
STYLE  

Subtle meandering minimal ambience with whispering, echoing tones drifting across soft drones that swell and descend restfully like a calm sea. In places the whispers spread into a consonant yammering as bowed currents flux and revolve, in other places sliding effects and interference fizz over a humming undertow. Cellosphere doesn't sound like the sort of thing you'd expect to come from cello and violin - indeed, deep processing is a major aspect of the compositions here. Working with variations that waft in and out of hearing, Ayres makes good use of low volumes and minute nuances that are thin and light as if produced by the softest of touches. Track four is more readily identifiable as a stringed instrument - melancholy, smooth and somewhat more substantial that the previous pieces.

 
MOOD  

These immersive sound clouds tend to hang in the air, cerebral zones of evolving texture. Cellosphere creates a tranquil stillness; since variation is minimal the attention is sucked into changes of density, shifting frequencies, gentle waves of intensity. The mood is warm and inviting, the technology softened by the organic sound sources.

 
ARTWORK   A simple black digipack with a blurry flame-blue ring bleeding over the edges of front and back panels. Minimal text on the front provides the title and artist info only. Track titles are on the reverse with credits and recording details. The inside of the package is undisturbed by text of any form - the ring hovering again over blackness and a contrasting photograph of the artist bathed in an orange light.
 
OVERALL   

Cellosphere is actually a re-release, the original appearing with only three of the current four tracks on the experimental label Ritornell. The 'bonus track' Sensory blends well with the previous set, yet has a distinct character as mentioned above. Tracks range from the brief three minute fifty-two second Harmonic to the longest piece Jeannie at over twenty-two minutes. Marvin seems to have a strong sense of dynamics and atmosphere, allowing his music to ebb and flow naturally, making as much use of 'distortion, feedback and surges' as he does of bowing technique and melodic content.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Ambient fans with a taste for the minimal. Cellosphere will appeal to those enjoying warm subtleties and slow streams of sound. Doing for the cello and violin what Steve Roach has done with the guitar but with a personality quite different.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Nitin Sawhney - Philtre
STYLE  

A diverse collection and fusion of styles including traditional Indian sounds, flamenco, drum and bass, blues and soul - yet somehow this album maintains a unity that is ultimately typical Nitin Sawhney. Philtre maintains a generally laid-back approach - but within this loose frame tracks can be delicate, clubby, gritty or powerfully emotive. The freshest of beats and some understated instrumentation carry male and female vocals singing mostly in English and Indian languages, but Nitin's collaborative approach ranges beyond the obvious, with contributions from Ojos De Brujo on the pair of tracks Noches En Vela (Parts 1 and 2) among other surprises. Vibey keyboards, strings, absorbing effects, slide guitar, harmonica, santoor, flute, sitar and scratches each take their place in juxtaposition or in smooth blend.

 
MOOD  

Again, a surprisingly consistent mood runs through this sprawling coming together of genres. Nitin Sawhney clearly puts a lot of feeling into what he does, evocative lyrics and passionate arrangements include Nitin's mother reciting a piece of Hindi poetry, the light, sensitive voice of Reena Bhardwaj and east/west beatboxes Jason Singh and Maxwell Wright. An urban sense of street savvy is frequently present whether we're leaning toward jazz double-bass or floating Indian flute strains. Nitin knows his way around all the back streets pulling out whatever takes his fancy for each rich mixture, each bright montage - warm songs, intense performances, contemporary constructions - all flow from one to another with a professional ease and grace.

 
ARTWORK  

The mauves and indigos of a near-night sky suffuse much of the artwork on Philtre - on the front around a long-exposure blurred beach photograph of Nitin and within the fold-out booklet as a backdrop to track details and credits. The rear jewel case has another long exposure image, this time of a swinging flame forming an arc of fire. Track titles are here too with times alongside. The four-panel booklet opens out in two moves, the first revealing a day-time shot of another beach scene - pallid as if the colour has drained away. The title, by the way, 'Philtre' suggests a love potion, a concoction for healing, a charm.

 
OVERALL   

This is the kind of album that could only be effectively produced by someone intimately familiar with more than one culture - the sound on Philtre is authentic even when stringing diverse elements together into new forms. Credits highlight the fact that Nitin shares writing/composing and performance duties with a variety of guests and collaborators - yet he contributes guitars, keyboards, piano, arranges string sections and programmes electronic elements himself. Nitin's musical life is varied - from DJ'ing and touring to working with Hollywood scores and classical arrangements ... eclectic albums are an almost inevitable release. Philtre is dedicated to Andrew Gartland-Jones, a close friend who died last year following a stroke - he was only 40.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Philtre is eclectic and broad - boldly combining styles and genres so varied that you'll wonder how such a unity results. This CD will appeal to listeners of many different persuasions - global fusion, urban down-tempo, chill-out lounge and club ... whatever you do don't just listen to a track or two and make a judgement.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Asura - Lost Eden
STYLE  

Instrumental, atmospheric downtempo with indigenous voices and exotic waves. Asura come from the chillout camp - opening with floating synths and flutes overlaid with a low pitch-shifted voice - the introduction portends a product somewhere between world-beat and ambient trance. Synthetic washes and swells flow over restful break beats and acoustic guitars, with arpeggios playing a low-key role and ethnic voices forming many of the focal points. Lost Eden is relaxed, yet with a coiled energy that occasionally breaks surface and raises the tempo. For the most part, lazy bass lines settle among unhurried cycles and gliding choral voices or fluid drones unfurl as layers roll out one upon another all with a bright, clean sound and tight production quality.

 
MOOD  

Asura have a powerful, epic sound where clear synths and crystal atmospheres combine with voices of Turkish, African and Guinean origin to create an imaginative moody narrative. Dramatic and expansive - drawn out introductions and gradual progressions establish a mood of mystery and expectancy.

 
ARTWORK   A gleaming, sharp digipack in white and apple green. This album was initially released in 2003 with the above cover, then re-released in 2004 with a snake image on the front. The version I have features a simple green apple clothed in a snakeskin texture. On the reverse, another reptilian skin texture floods the whole panel as a setting for the titles and timings. The snake itself curves starkly across the white inner panels - its glassy black eye fixed on the viewer in a challenge. Here a more detailed track listing includes writing credits and sample origins.
 
OVERALL   

French trio Charles Farewell (producer), Christopher Maze (flutist) and Alex Ackerman (guitarist/bassist) have taken a name of Indian Vedic origin to accompany their smooth, exotic blend of world samples, fresh rhythms and ambient electronica. Asura previously had Vincent Villuis as a member before he departed to focus on Aes Dana. Asura maintain the common foundation of atmospheric, meditative music here on Lost Eden. This CD contains two long pieces of sonic scenery around ten minutes each among others that stick closer to the five-minute mark. These two tracks 'Requiem From Nowhere' and The Battle of Devas' allow for deeper excursions into ambient territory, yet tribal percussion and trancey drum loops stop either from becoming soporific.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Ambient trance fans and global fusion lovers alike might well find Asura to fit within their taste bracket. If you enjoy bright synths and plenty of swells and washes, restful beats and global vocals - have a listen .... there are even a few monks in there somewhere.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Pathaan (various) - Universal Sunset
STYLE  

Light beats 'journeying from downtempo through to dancefloor', easy beats and global flavours characterise this eclectic mix brought together by renowned world-dance DJ Pathaan. Opening with the superbly chilled B-Tribe version of Marley's classic 'Sun Is Shining', with flamenco guitars and soft pianos - Pathaan presents CD 1 under the umbrella of 'Sunset' and CD 2 under 'Sunrise' as he has done on previous instalments: Indian Sunset and Global Sunset. The source material really is quite varied across this pair of discs - we have Ikarus' rock edged ethno-electronica, the cool lounge vibes of Jeff Bennett's Lounge Experience, Thievery Corporation's Latin tinted 'Exilio' and some downtempo reggae influenced sounds in Deep Dive Corporation's take on the universally known 'Summertime' with prominent electric guitar and brass lead. Disc two lines up Heather Nova, Depeche Mode, Shpongle and Baaba Maal in a similar disregard for established genres ... nonetheless, this collection works surprisingly well (but then a professional DJ would know that).

 
MOOD   Varied and wide-ranging - strung together with a relaxed mood and a casual lounge attitude. World vocals and English language singing take equal importance throughout - sounding like the sort of mix you'd hear on one evening at an exotic cocktail bar. Indeed Universal Sunset feels like a trip through tropical clubs and bars, lingering a while on an open air dancefloor - we have Uptown Connection's breakbeat sound via Africa, Rachid Taha's middle-eastern oriented 'Rock El Casbah' and Aphex Twin's suitably titled 'Analogue Bubblebath 1'.
 
ARTWORK   The promo copy I have of this album has a warm sunset image on the front with an incandescent glow suffusing sea and sand. A promotional sticker proclaims some of the more well known names and the title sits above a legend indicating the eclectic nature of the mix. Sunrise and Sunset sections on the rear list all tracks alongside a few words on the nature of each.
 
OVERALL    If you have an open mind and don't mind your music taking some wildly unexpected turns - Universal Sunset presents for your listening delight a cool collection of names both familiar across the globe and relatively unheard of. I suspect some might find the scope of the two discs a little broad, but this is bright feel-good holiday music, nothing too heavy weight or demanding (if you'd prefer something a little more focussed Pathaan's other current release Tandava might suit).
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Tropical twilight dreamers will enjoy this mix - Pathaan lays down such a wide selection of tunes that something will surely appeal to everyone here. This is a genre spanning release that builds on the earlier 'Sunset' albums ... if you enjoyed those, you'll know what to expect.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Arc - Arcturus
STYLE  

Long, moody ambient introductions slowly open out into evolving sequences and rhythmic electronica in three lengthy organic/mechanic assemblages. Lush musical drones and melodic strains bedded deeply with synthetic effects counterpoint constantly revolving sequencers that sweep and morph in readiness for percussive overlays that eventually creep in. Nothing remains fixed for long as new voices and new patterns come to the fore ... midway sections are more beat-driven, more rhythmic - the beats dominate for a while, shift, dissipate and are gone, the staccato cycling of the synths leading ultimately into drifting beatless conclusions.

 
MOOD  

From clear and blissful, expansive and floating, Arcturus passes through sections of regimented mechanistic revolution into sparse darkness inhabited by dim shapes that loom, lurk and crawl. Optimistic for the most part and quite human despite the technology - harmonic structures are hopeful in places, wistful in others, shadowy brooding and mysterious in others.

 
ARTWORK   Abstract imagery in textured indigo shades veined with orange and white fill the front cover. The same image appears again on the rear jewel case with the three track titles, contact details and the fact that this is a limited edition release of only 1500 copies. The inner booklet opens out to reveal a bronze/brown flying figure against a stark black and white graphic panel that contains a gear list for both performers.
 
OVERALL   

Acturus was recorded live at Jam III in Hampshire 2004. The complete performance is presented here on disc as Arcturus - Part 1 and Arcturus - Part 2 and the encore piece Helicon. Artists Ian Boddy & Mark Shreeve (of Redshift) have worked together as Arc a number of time previously - Shreeve focuses on analogue sequencing and electronic loops whilst Boddy deals primarily with creation of all the atmospherics and ambient keyboard work. The shortest track on the album is fifteen minutes forty seven seconds long - the longest is over twenty four. The three tracks here follow a similar format, pattern and mood - each builds gradually in density and intensity with unhurried intros and outros - rhythms and loops dominate the central body of the music, book ended by drifting, amorphous abstractions.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Berlin electronica fans will delight in the advancement of the school exemplified on this album. If you enjoy synthesiser music in pure form - this is one to listen to.