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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Conjure One - Extraordinary Ways
STYLE  

Lush electronica laced with organic layers and plenty of female vocals. Extraordinary Ways has a pop sensibility whilst maintaining a dignity that lifts it well above the mainstream - here we have cascading pianos, wordless vocals, muscular electronic beats and dense shifting atmospheres. Following the pattern of the previous Conjure One album and much of Delerium's output, Rhys creates the musical canvases and a variety of guest vocalists overlay the lyrical content. The greater number of the tracks are accessibly warm songs, although this in no way relegates Rhys' instrumentation to playing second fiddle to the singers - the inventive programming demands its own attention and indeed is given full reign in three powerful instrumental tracks. Unlike a lot of contemporary electronica, Conjure One music doesn't rely heavily on arpeggiators and cycling sequencers; instead emphasis is on structure, harmony, use of intriguing sounds and constantly evolving percussive tracks.

 
MOOD  

Bright and full of feeling. The mood is fairly consistent for most of the vocal numbers but becomes increasingly epic and emotive during the instrumental tracks where wordless utterances soar unfettered into astonishing beauty. Naturally each singer weaves her own personality into the music - from the languid sensuality of Jane (aka Poe), to the passionate energy of Joanna Stevens, the intimate whispered pop of Tiff Lacey and the clear warmth of Chemda Kalili. Early mention of a darker approach than the debut album hasn't materialised here - rather we have a condensation of the initial Conjure One sound, a development of the sonic signature that lovers of Rhys' solo explorations will instantly recognise.

 
ARTWORK   The artist's silhouette flooded with the rich density of a forest stands against the grey of a concrete wall - a contrast picked up and expanded across the remaining artwork. The complete forest image fills the back cover and another mass of trees takes up one of the panels within the four-page foldout. Other imagery is urban and grey, sometimes with the introspective presence of the artist, sometimes simply a backdrop to the lyrics that are recorded in full for each of the songs. A shaggy portrait, closely cropped and monochrome along with a shot of shopping trolleys takes up the remaining space. Naturally credits and thanks are included as well as all the relevant contact and website details.
 
OVERALL    Extraordinary Ways is very much a natural progression from the previous CD, increasingly distinct, more organic perhaps than recent Delerium and less overtly mainstream than Chimera. Most of the tracks sound as though they would work well live. The world sounds are less in evidence now (although still subtly interwoven in many tracks), promotional material explaining that "the first album was more of a Middle Eastern travelogue, whilst 'Extraordinary Ways' is more of an internal journey." Singers Poe (now listed as Jane for technical reasons) and Chemda reappear from the last album whilst Joanna Stevens (who appeared on Poem) and Tiff Lacey join the roster anew. Interestingly Rhys sings for the first time on a cover the The Buzzcocks 'I Believe' - thanks to some inventive rearrangement and a chorus drenched with effects he pulls it off superbly. All in all Extraordinary Ways is an enjoyable collection from start to finish.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This album will be an instant hit with anyone who enjoyed the first Conjure One album for what it was. If you're looking for some well-crafted songs somewhere to the periphery of the mainstream, or you enjoy vivid synth work and female vocals, then this is an album well worth listening to.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Various - Quality Relaxation
STYLE   Largely beat-driven downtempo electronic instrumentals. Dreamy pianos and vibes interplay with ethnic percussion and chants, chilled arpeggios ripple gently and clear basses pulse solidly underpinning everything. Tracks range from the dub touch of Elysium Vs Space Cat through Ishq's deep, beatless floatation piece 'En Soph' to some relaxed higher tempo pieces. Carbon Based Lifeforms' remix of Shulman's 'The Unexpected Visitor' is a highlight - an ethnically slanted track featuring a digitally reshaped Indian rhythm, exotic flute meanderings, thick programmed bass and the most languid of ambient textures.
 
MOOD  

The mood varies within the overall bracket of exotic lucid chillout - global samples adorn Entheogenic's dreamy luminescence, Jaia's pulsing 'Missing' bubbles with cycling arps and twinkling peripherals enwrapped silky sheets whilst mystical voices dapple the distance. Unhurried and tastefully applied psychedelic elements lend a mystical air whilst astral pads create a serenity that at times has us exploring the atmosphere gliding through cloud banks high above the pump of the beat. A fresh feel, unmuddied by over-use of organic material is maintained throughout - echoing electronica, bright production, plenty to hold the attention.

 
ARTWORK   Icy blue photography adorns all panels - two gleaming bottle-green beetles brave the frost on the front cover. The rear of the jewel case provides a track list with full timings set against a cool snowscape. Inside we have a luxuriant eight-page booklet with a half page given over to each artist and their contribution to the project. Biographical details and portraits fill the majority of the space whilst an introduction, thanks and a further track list take up the slack. Plenty to read here and a tasteful aesthetic all adding to the appeal of this quality relaxation compilation.
 
OVERALL    Compiled by Per Kristian Slagsvold on the recently Chill Tribe records - this is essentially a debut album. That said, some big names are involved and some powerful pieces make this an album to take notice of. Most tracks are lengthy affairs from around six and a half minutes to almost ten. Three of the contributions to Quality Relaxation are collaborative - Shulman remixed by Carbon Based Lifeforms, Elysium in the studio with Avi Algranati (Warp, Tripster, Phreaky, Indoor, DNA Productions) as Space Cat and Blue Planet Corporation working together with Jaia under the name Altitudes.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Another one for chilled trance lovers. If you're into the current electronic downtempo scene - this is a professionally turned out collection from a man who clearly knows his music.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Igneous Flame - Satu
STYLE   Rich ambient guitar based textures - beatless, colourful and luxuriant. The sounds on Satu range from cavernous, brooding darkness through lazy, silken layers, intertwining, enfolding to comfortable sonic pillows and soft drones. The nature of the sound here is shifting constantly, never still for long - new tones, different densities, fresh hues. Many of the sounds are of uncertain origin, but there are those that clearly come from guitars - plucked, e-bowed, fingered. Melody as such is indistinct, abstracted, but most arrangements are consonant, harmonic, for the most part appealing.
 
MOOD   A sense of wonder pervades - like seeing the multifaceted surfaces of subterranean grottos and caves, the reflections on underground pools, the twinkle of buried crystal cast in coloured light. Often warm and inviting - the density of sound creates an exotic complexity amongst which semi-familiar elements surface or loom in the depths.
 
ARTWORK   In a broad white border sits a square of bejewelled texture. deep deep red like blood granite. This surface re-appears on all panels of the CDs artwork, filling the rear cover where a black band carried track titles and timings. Inside the booklet against the same rich ground is a portrait photograph of the artist with guitar and a brief explanation of the project.
 
OVERALL    Satu is the fourth ambient album from Pete Kelly under the name Igneous Flame released on Chillfactor 10 Records. The focus is on guitar based atmospheres played on "a variety of guitars including 12 string electric and nylon string models". As the promotional material for the album points out "the original sounds were extensively processed to create a range of textures" - frequently so much so that you'd be excused for thinking no guitar was involved. Pete also makes use of 'environmental sounds' to build up the atmospheres on the disk - thickening the mix, adding mysterious undertones.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Ambient fans that enjoy something a little above minimal - if you'd like something in the vein of a colourful sunrise to Steve Roach's 'Darkest Before Dawn' - give this CD a listen.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Fear Falls Burning - He Spoke In Dead Tongues
STYLE  

Guitar loops and texture beds that repeat hypnotically whilst imperceptibly morphing, degrading. Typically Dirk Serries is happy to explore the gritty organic fuzz and distortion available through the guitar as well as its ethereal or ambient qualities. The approach to a number of the tracks here is to establish a pattern of notes effected via vintage guitar pedals and gradually to allow the incursion of various overtones. The initial notes eventually submerge below blossoming incidental drones which throb, thrum, fluctuate becoming the main focus. Frequently 'dense walls of sound' are set up within which the strum, pluck or touch of strings is sometimes clearly recognisable - sometimes obscure, lost. Changes within the individual tracks are subtle, often unnoticeable - only at the conclusion do we realise how far from the starting point Dirk has led us.

 
MOOD  

He Spoke In Dead Tongues is painted in sonic shades of grey - the abrasive, sabulous sound matching the monochrome artwork. Emergent colour, however, wells up in luminescent pools calling to mind the imagined hues that rise up in Bridget Riley's black and white compositions. The lo-fi approach that draws up these glowing tones also suggests a music of yesterday - sounds from past decades, a familiarity - yet nothing quite like this was ever produced back then. Clicks, ticks and cracks inhabit these aural environments - all part of what is to be experienced as a real-time performance.

 
ARTWORK   Black, white, grey - extreme close-up photography of electric guitar anatomy taken by Martina Verhoeven. Each imperfection of surface, each speck of dust each turn of a wound string is visible mimicking the intense focus of the music. Text is minimal, allowing the imagery to dominate the attention. On the rear cover we have the times for each numbered track along with a small text box explaining the sound sources. Inside credits maintain the uncomplicated approach - two lines across both panels of the booklet.
 
OVERALL   

Fear Falls Burning is the vehicle for Dirk Serries or Vidna Obmana to take a new approach to his music and to steer a new course. He Spoke In Dead Tongues is a 2-CD set with a total of nine pieces in all. Tracks are simply numbered 1 - 9 the longest being thirty-four minutes and fourteen seconds, the shortest a mere seven minutes twelve. Dirk deliberately creates music that sounds 'old and monotonous in reference to the vintage and replica effects' using no overdubs or post-production - sleeve notes inform us that the performances were recorded 'real-time onto digital 2-track' and should be played at 'Higher Volume'.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Ambient guitar fans looking for something different, something outside the comfort zone - Fear Falls Burning is experimental, minimal and innovative. If you fancy hearing what comes from a fascination with the extreme tonalities of the electric guitar, simple repetition and dense sound beds - give this a try.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Entheogenic - Dialogue of the Speakers
STYLE   Psy-chill laden with global samples, rich effects and warm beaming synths. Dialogue of the Speakers develops Entheogenic's experimentation with world sounds entwined around synthetic structures - ethnic percussion, breathy flutes and chanting voices are among some of the diverse elements that frequent the sparkling, luminescent space the band set up. Sequences are light and fluid, basses clean and weighty, effects varied and well employed. Spoken voices - effected and synthetically shaped - speak words of wisdom, rising and falling through the mix.
 
MOOD  

Exotic and colourful with touches of bright mystery. Generally the vibe is effortlessly laid back, comfortable, languid - yet brimming with scintillating detail. The impression is one of studied indolence, reflected in the busy artwork - myriad assembled ingredients all floating in the same direction. Environmental sounds such as birds, sheep, water mirror the graphic hand drums, serpentine coils and undersea growth of the visuals.

 
ARTWORK   Clothed in twining, creeping leaves a cyber-model stares at the viewer - she holds a device in her hand from which a huge flower bursts. This psychedelic bloom fills most of the front panel. A busy green collage acts as backdrop, spreading in varying form across the remaining faces of the four panel fold-out sheet. Across the different quarters we have a full track listing with credits and website details, thanks and production information. On the flip side all four sections support another immense blossom with a spiralling mythological explanation of the project.
 
OVERALL    This third album from Entheogenic 'Dialogue of the Speakers' contains three new Entheogenic tracks and six remixes by like-minded musicians - Ott, Vibrasphere, Youth, Abakus and Shulman. Whilst each artist brings his own individuality to the project, the consistency is still maintained - Ott and Youth bring a dubby weight to the bottom end, Ott's bass lines bouncy and bright, Youth's more of an earthy thickness, forming a steady river of low-frequency sound. A bold claim on the rear cover states: "This is the speakers' aural story of Entheogenic's soundscapes, a gathering of the leading electronic artists currently residing on this planet" - you'll need to decide that for yourself.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Entheogenic fans will doubtless enjoy the maturing sound the band exhibit here and will certainly be familiar with the collaborators involved. If you like psychedelic downtempo trance with plenty of detail, a gliding sound and you enjoy aural flights of fancy - this could well be one for you.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Various - Soul Vibration
STYLE  

Powerful electronic downtempo with touches of dub, ethnic areas and some strong, driving rhythm sections. Soul Vibration is carried in many places by looming bass lines and intense drums - nevertheless, plenty of fresh effects, synthetic motifs and manipulated voices (both spoken and sung) are woven into the mix. This album doesn't sit comfortably in any clear genre - straddling a few boundaries as acidic electronics juxtapose rasta phrases, atmospheric passages sit alongside the bounces and stabs of dub and Middle Eastern instrumentation & singing work beside the omnipresent dense basses.

 
MOOD  

The weight of sound here creates a thick fervour where trippy overtones and psychedelic incidentals float and flicker across the top. Soul Vibration is a relatively energetic album for a downtempo offering, at times presenting an almost tribal ardour, an eclectic gravity all bound up in a celebration of danceable rhythm.

 
ARTWORK   I have a promo copy of this album with only (what I assume to be) the back cover. An undersea photograph looking upward in the direction of a boat on the surface, a bright oceanic weed suspended in the foreground acts as backdrop to the track listing. Liquid records logo prominently featured below.
 
OVERALL   

Compiled by James Anthony (of Liquid Djems fame) - some prestigious talent has been drawn together for this compilation: Greg Hunter (once of The Orb and part of Alien Soap Opera), Gaudi, Ott, Nick Manasseh and Graham Wood are all here among others. Liquid Records (found at www.triskelemanagement.com) are a relatively new label and have set out to make something of a statement with this album - real instruments, passionate vocals (courtesy of Irena Mikhalova), deft programming and well placed world sounds interconnect in a cohesive whole that keeps the pace at the top end of the chill spectrum.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

This CD will appeal to someone looking for 'ambient' dance material with plenty of pace and originality. Not for those wanting drifting, floating chill material - Soul Vibration has more of a festival feel, music to move to.