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 ------Zer0 0ne - pSy-fI



Rhythmic ambient electronica with hints of dub and trippy, chilled beats all served up with a high degree of polish. Ethnic scales and sounds are simulated subtly here and there, but mainly this is pure electronica unmuddied by too many organic influences. Having said that, the creative use of sound manipulation is so strong that there is a lot of feeling on the album - never slipping into mere emotionless blips and flat tones. There are weird, almost eerie synth effects in places laid like shades and tints across the music and an abundance of ethereal twinkles producing an overall rolling sheen.
MOOD   pSy-fI's mood is mellow and restful but thoughtful - we're either fully awake or conscious somewhere in sleep. The vision here is one of a technological age - where clean electronica and flat-voiced spoken Sci-Fi phrases create a trippy, futuristic edge. Synthesiser arps, washes and swells build a serious sound, not frivolous or sugary or 'easy listening', yet at the same time light and easy on the ear. The beats have a crystal clear depth, are generally chilled and mostly freshly original. Mind you, I wouldn't really call this a 'chill-out' CD - it's too exploratory, too much on the move too interesting and demanding of the attention.
ARTWORK   We have a bit more than the usual here. The front cover presents a simple clean main image juxtaposing distant stars with the intimacy of the sofa and a bright, transparent body. The impression of boundless inner space is matched well to the mind-expanding musical content. The seated figure appears at different angles throughout the package including a nice animation to play on your PC or Mac whilst you explore the bonus mp3s that are included. The textual information on the cover is also reproduced in electronic format inviting you to make full use of the 'enhanced' aspect of the disc.
OVERALL    Not a dull moment on this album, pSy-fI hardly ever repeats itself - instead there are constant variations of pattern and melody throughout, not only the album overall, but equally throughout each track. The sounds chosen to carry the main melodies aren't too obvious, making good use of a wide range of effects, stabs and gurgles. Kevin Dooley has come up with a beautifully produced, clear sound with bright top end and deep throbbing basses that really cut through the mix. A quality product. Not only that - on top of the ten audio tracks on the CD there are 4 bonus mp3 tracks!!
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Ideal for someone wanting electronic music for thought - music to LISTEN to. It's true pSy-fI could work as wallpaper or background music - but really, it's too interesting for that. Space music lovers and futuristic Sci-Fi dreamers should love this CD. Not really for the mainstream audience, but, all the same, easy on the ear, crying out for headphones and a dark room.......perhaps just lit by the animated image of the constantly revolving sofa man on your computer screen.





 ------Ikarus - Breathing Cultures



Mid/downtempo trip-hop ethno-electronica making good use of some rather chilled drum and bass grooves in places. Three tracks have well-chosen English language female vocals, but the majority of the tracks here are comprised of a plethora of world voices and instruments laid out over some absorbing synth work.
MOOD   Ikarus produces generally bright, uplifting pieces. The ethnic samples and voices lend an exotic edge to what are primarily bubbly, acidic synthsiser grooves and lively breaks. The ambient mood established is timelessly Asian, the musical sub-structure, however, is undoubtedly of a contemporary western nature.
ARTWORK   A dark, shadowy exterior featuring sculpted artefacts opens to reveal a glowing, luminescent tropical interior. The carved face on the front cover stares unblinkingly straight ahead out of blackness but bathed in a golden light. The layout and presentation is tasteful and inviting. The text gives us information on each track and - along with the credits - a tiny glimpse into Ikarus' own personal tastes. Ikarus places the ethnic aspects of his music at the fore and this artwork parallels his sound nicely.
OVERALL    A consistently strong, enjoyable album making creative use of the basic global source materials and at the same time presenting sufficient depth and variety of electronica to hold the attention admirably throughout. Not a dull moment anywhere on this light, inventive, thoughtful collection. This CD really should lift Ikarus' profile considerably.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Anyone into world fusion, ethno-electronica, global chill-out (or whatever you prefer to call it) will not be disappointed. Ikarus has produced a classy set of ten tracks here further evolving the tradition of Deep Forest, Delerium, Waterbone and others. The tempos are at times danceable and some would be well suited to a club environment.





 ------Thom Brennan - Mist
STYLE   Pure drifting, ambient, synthesised music with not even the suggestion of a rhythm. The four tracks here are soft, delicate pieces twinkling and meandering - ever shifting. Gentle, glistening chimes and bells enhance long, flowing, densely layered waves and drones of sound. If you listen carefully sounds from nature are present, so carefully placed as to feel almost incidental.
MOOD   Inspired by the rainforest valleys on the coastal west side of the Olympic National Park with its peaks reaching 12 000 feet; Mist is like a sonic haze hanging in the air, serene and beautiful. The mood is relaxing and uplifting. The constantly evolving tonal shadows and resonating veils never suppress the light - rather they filter and refract it into various alluring forms. Not dark then, but not bright sunshine either - moist, open, alive with possibilities as inconstant as the weather.
ARTWORK   The version I possess of this CD has the cover image shown above (a new cover is currently available) - the artwork gels well with the musical concept - distant mountains shrouded in mist. The legend "Portraits from the Olympic Rainforest" evokes perhaps a more intimate, middle distance cloudscape that is well captured on the newer artwork. This is more in keeping with my own reaction to the music - the aural mist I experience envelopes me, swirls lazily around me, parts gradually to reveal stunning vistas and again rolls in bathing my senses in myriad tiny droplets.
OVERALL    Mist is the first release from Thom Brennan for around five years and there is a marked change in approach from previous material. Most of the melodies and sequencer patterns are gone in favour of a more minimal method. The four pieces here are all shaped from a single fluid fabric - sumptuously layered synthetic drones, echoing chimes and the sense of a comfortable, endless ebb and flow. The atmosphere is rich and dense; tracks unfold one into the other with subtle grace. Thom says of the location that inspired the music: "Unlike tropical rainforests, these are dense habitats of moss, ferns, and 500 year old Cedar evergreens. For much of the year, it is under a constant drizzle. It is a place of incredible bio-density, and one can feel the presence of life."

Anyone wanting a sound with which to lie back and drift. Ambient music for those desiring tranquillity rather than darkness. There are no beats, no melodies, no human voices - just gorgeously unfolding pads and washes of sound. If you enjoy walking through nature with headphones on - this music could well enhance your wanderings.






 ------Delerium - The Best Of



A decade's worth of rich electronica embellished with an abundance of ethnic sounds and samples mostly overlaid with soaring female vocals. The Delerium sound ranges from the brooding Flowers Become Screens to the more mainstream, almost pop, sensibility of Paris and the inclusions from last year's Chimera. There are also trance edits that raise the tempo to the dance floor level.
MOOD   At times bright and lively, then lush with arpeggiated synths, chanted vocalisations and global instrumentation. Mostly danceable, but Delerium manage to rise above the usual shallow dancefloor repetition and produce instead highly listenable songs. Most tracks are songs with differing female vocalists - there are a couple of instrumentals too showing just how engrossing this band's electronic melodies can be.

Carylann's usual glorious sumptuous imagery. A beautiful product, combining graphic elements from all four of the last Delerium CDs. The text is partly informative and partly decorative. We get the lyrics from the two previously unreleased tracks and details explaining the origins of each piece in turn. No doubt because it is so visually delicious we get more artwork than is normal - I'd want this CD just for the graphics alone.

OVERALL    I wonder if this CD is anyone's personal 'Best Of' - but what a task that would be given the range of Delerium's output. There is, however, something here for everyone - those knowing the band through the dance floor remixes, the fans picked up recently through the mainstream sound of Chimera and even the long time listeners who have stuck close since Semantic Spaces - each will find something to enjoy.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   A fine introduction to the range of recent Delerium - new listeners will get an idea of what they've missed previously. Just enough new tracks and remixes are here to make this CD appealing to the long-term fan (of course, they'll want the artwork too). You probably won't find anyone agreeing that this is actually 'The Best Of' Delerium - but that really is because this band has such a range of tracks to choose from and such a range of fans that everyone has their own favourites. If you enjoy lavish electronica with female vocals treat yourself.





 ------vidnaObmana - Anthology 1984 - 2004



Ambient soundscapes ranging from the sublimely beautiful to the powerfully, harsh and grating. All are instrumental (although the odd vocal effect is present in places). A number of the tracks have strong percussive elements or beats - sometimes organic instruments are employed such as rainsticks, sometimes pure electronic effects. There are ethnic sounds and synthesised atmospheres, moments of pure beatless ambience and drifting, introspective minimalism.
MOOD   The mood varies as one would expect from a compilation covering some 20 years of prolific output. That said, vidnaObmana's sound is generally a sombre, serious one. Tracks of pure, abrasive noise set a disturbing tone, some dark ambient pieces edge into haunting or depressive, other parts are hypnotic, even floating and uplifting - but never frivolous.
ARTWORK   Grainy black and white abstract photography with sharp, well laid out text. The arrangement reminds me of an art gallery - each track introduced like a different room with its own sonic installation. The track listing is informative and the full-page discussion of vidnaObmana's music ideal for the new listener.

This varied CD covers music from the experimental early cassette only releases back in the mid-80s right up until 2004. If you enjoy peaceful, drifting ambience it's here, but don't get too settled, some tracks might well make you jump right out of your skin. A number of the tracks are unreleased material and will most likely be new to most fans.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This is a fine introduction to a long-standing artist whose style has undergone immense variation over the years. The cover insert uses terms like 'gently atmospheric, post-industrial, minimalistic, abrasive and post-classical' to describe the labels "survived" by vidnaObmana. If you want to explore some truly adventurous musical experiments this is a good starting place. Or, naturally, if you're a vidnaObmana fan - you'll want this CD to fill some previously unfillable gaps in your collection.





 ------Steve Roach - Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces



Floating, oceanesque chords, minimal harmonies and huge spaces - no beats, no rhythms. Listening to this album is rather like being immersed in swelling, curling ambient fluid. Each track a different drifting tonal infusion. There are wispy, glistening synthesised textures and vast meandering, droning fogs all rich in detail yet blurring, indistinct. The heavily layered sheets of sound form into eddies, that languorously shift, dissolve and are replaced.


The mood here is very dependent upon the listener. Each individual is freely able to associate this constantly shifting, ambiguous weaving of tones with their own mental imagery. I tend to visualise a thick tangible darkness shot through with viscous furling colour. At times the darkness amasses substance and can suggest despair, loss or isolation - or instead the listener is immersed in a sonic mist of indescribable beauty, as safe and as warm as the womb.

ARTWORK   The cover art is spread across a beautiful digipack. Ambient colour glows on the front in a vibrant ammonite spiral, almost as you might see it from within, this then disperses into vague forms and lush densities across the additional panels. The CDs themselves are printed with exquisitely subtle liquid textures. The whole package has a sumptuous beauty that makes it immediately desirable even before you've heard the contents.

Tranquil, placid minimal harmonies that float and swirl, thickening and dispersing with a sense of no beginning and no end. The dreamlike torpidity can occasionally suggest ghostly, floating gloom, sometimes flushed, churning colour, or even infinity wrapped up in sound. Here is music to influence your environment and state of mind or, if you prefer, to be influenced by your current dreams and disposition - a canvas upon which to daub your own mental imagery.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This music could well accompany lying and staring up into open space, meditating or simply drifting in the expanses of your own mind. A focus for a unique musical experience, incredibly deep and absorbing. A backdrop for reading or thinking, creating a mood or even study. For the ambient explorer looking for pure sound uncluttered by rhythm, tempo or melody.