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 ------ Na-Koja-Abad - Fleeting Glimpses
STYLE   Deep dark ambience with rich ethno-tribal drumming. Na-Koja-Abad crafts smooth lustrous sheets of sound punctuated with percussive skitterings, shufflings and hypnotic hand-made beats. At times the peripheral sounds resemble strange subterranean creatures lurking in the gloom, at times vast movements of air - the rhythmic percussion dominates the central section of most tracks with ceremonial intensity, repeating and evolving whilst underlying drones writhe and swell. When the beats dissipate, there are moments of ethereal calm or cavernous shadow allowing layered synths to sigh, gasp and breathe.

Cavernous, tenebrous - at times environmental effects introduce nature's serenity, such as the manipulated/manufactured singing of birds, at others human influences both primitive and contemporary produce a devotional solemnity. Sections of drifting softness, harmonious and warm well up and send the listener floating, passages of shade and gravity creep in bringing weight and density. The range of real skinned, struck and shaken instruments - frame drum, darbuka, djembe, rainstick, shakers and rattles - employed with mesmerising skill suggest a ritualistic tone in perfect balance with the often doleful music that spirals smoke-like into the night sky.

ARTWORK   Attractive graphics adorn this package throughout - graphically enhanced atmospheric scenes under a heavy sky, underground and seemingly under water - all produced by the artist himself. The colours are rich and deep, the textures hyper-real, the light magical, beautiful. Text is functional and of an elegant font - track times on the rear cover, credits on the reverse of the booklet and a simple couplet inside - "From a breath, was what the old man said... It is all from the one breath...". Website details are provided and there you can get a look at more graphics and a complete discography

Sarajevo based musician Muamer Music is the man behind Na-Koja-Abad, meaning “land of nowhere”. The term was apparently a phrase taken from 12th-century Persian mystic Sohrawardi to describe a place "that is everywhere, and yet nowhere, a realm of spirituality where existence is solemnly suspended, not reflected on anything but itself". Released on Jungle Jar Records, Fleeting Glimpses is the second album from this interesting project where organic rhythmic patterns and dense ambient drones weave their spell.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Fleeting Glimpses is a professionally executed album that will appeal to lovers of beat-driven ambient. If you like Byron Metcalf's percussive work and the smooth, unfurling sound worlds of Numina or Steve Roach then this is a CD well worth listening to.





 ------ Normal - Lost In Sleep
STYLE   Drifting, ominous ambient darkness, often intricate and detailed. Synthetic drones rumble and heave supporting thickly effervescent layers that twist and well up into overspills of sound. Repeated motifs inhabit the shifting densities alternately dominant and distant. What appear to be guitar textures and distortions add piercing strains that cut through the churning tonal air currents. Percussive elements range from sonic droplets to dull scuffs and lumberings - these never develop into anything quite as rhythmic as a real beat, remaining free and unpredictable.
MOOD   The dominant mood is brooding and portentous - in places weighty and murky, but then the mass evaporates allowing softer drones to float and sail. Whereas Brannan Lane's Sleep Cycles meanders gently with soporific softness Lost In Sleep presents for us a heavier image, a vast lightless environment somewhere truly in which to become hopelessly lost.
ARTWORK   In keeping with the sonic imagery - the cover artwork here is dimly lit, deep reds, indigos and violets all set against infinite blackness. A figure clutches its head in the centre of an abstracted flower, graphic rings haloing out into the void above. The same figure is kaleidoscoped across the rear cover where a track list and credits can be found.
OVERALL    Normal presents a suite of five pieces here, three built around the title Lost In Sleep - parts I to III. The album is released on Jungle Jar records where we're told that "Normal is a person just like you , except probably older ... Normal resides in the Midwestern sector of the USA , near that big lake ...".
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This ambient CD might well appeal to fans of the end of the spectrum developed by vidnaObmana and Alio Die. Dark sounds and dark atmospheres with plenty of detail.




 ------ Marvin Ayres - Scape
STYLE   Two-part ambient album, the first part carried by various beats, the second beatless, weightless. Marvin Ayres establishes here a series of gossamer densities where vaporous tonalities swirl like the currents of airy streams, rivulets and brooks. Vaguely orchestral aspects sometimes hint at the source of these intriguing sounds, but more often than not sonic manipulation disguises everything beyond recognition. For the first ten tracks irregular beats skitter on the surface, insectile and light - only a few weightier rhythms appear. Superficially it would appear that the percussion is looped and regular, but anomalies abound - hits aren't always where they 'should' be, whole patterns drop in steps of tempo - these disturbances and effects create a tension preventing the mind from resting too easily. The second section of 'Clusters' looks toward heaven, caught in a floating limbo where diaphanous sheets waft on ethereal breezes. The absence of percussion initially lulls the listener into a sense of blissful serenity, however, the restiveness of the earlier material remains in subtler form.
MOOD   Detailed yet simple, directionless but flowing, busy although tranquil. Scape presents a positive mood whilst carrying something uneasy. Unfamiliar or unexpected elements lurk at the periphery maintaining a state of unrest. The amorphous otherworldliness of the second half of the CD, whilst inviting the listener to drift, still shares an atmosphere with the rhythmic first half - a disquieting calm, an uneasy rest.
ARTWORK   Presented in a simple coloured card pochette Scape is illustrated with an ambiguous grid of tiny oblongs that resolve into a cityscape when viewed at the right distance. Text is basic and functional - titles only on the front, track listing and credits on the rear.
OVERALL    Scape initially manifested as the series of string-driven 'Clusters' that now make up the second half of the album. These were then adapted for use in the film 'Scape' and subsequently further developed with the introduction of a percussive element (pursuing an 'anti-pulse' approach), resulting in 'a series of radical remixes' found here as tracks one to nine. Promotional material talks of "fusing orthodox and off-kilter beats with city-scape cacophony, yet remaining defiantly ambient in its approach, Scape is a hybrid of music....." this is true since Scape creeps almost toward the edges of chillout or new age, frequently suggests classical sensibilities, lives under the ambient label yet in truth manages to remain just beyond the borders of all of these.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Scape will primarily draw ambient listeners, the beat-driven pieces perhaps appealing to electronic fans looking to explore new grounds. Although, not in a traditional sense, Scape is, of course, cinematic - having a an evocative ambiguity that invites along on a cerebral journey of discovery.




 ------ Gauid:Testa - Continvvm
STYLE   Electronic textures and abstractions encrusted with various percussives and sampled sounds. Most pieces are rhythmic or skimmed along by deeply effected beats - filtered, distorted, sweeping through a variety of degradations or tonal ranges. Ambient planes undulate gently, populated with drowning, spiralling voices - spoken, whispered, murmured. Drips, tape echoes, stalagmites and stones, theremin, tubes and bubbles, bone flutes, water drum, shells and singing bowls - all contribute to this electro-organic continuum. One moment everything lumbers along dub-laden and nodding, strong beats driving across open spaces, the next we're drifting on a viscous curl of hypnotic shifting tone...nothing remaining constant for long.
MOOD   A sense of wonder at the variety and beauty of sounds both natural and manipulated. Just as one may be engrossed in nature with all its enormity or in the fragile detail of its minutiae, a rust formation, a lichen ring - so Continvvm holds the attention with large scale rhythmic structures and sonic landscapes or with the sparkle of a well placed electronic tweak, a sonorous impact a breath. From melancholy to eerie, from ageless dusts to futuristic circuitry, from ritualistic grooves to introspective minimalism - we're allowed to roam the mind at will. The promotional material explains that this release may be "better classified 'space-out' than 'chillout', pointing out the intent to establish a blank canvas "for the listener to explore their own inner worlds."
ARTWORK   Maintaining em:t records' high standard of presentation Continvvm is released as a quality digipack that is a joy to own. The lead image is an extreme close-up photograph of some abandoned agricultural machinery thick with abstract surface detail - water droplets fresh and clean bejewelling a mottled, rusted domed centre. Elegant white expanses dominate the remainder of the three-panel foldout, faintly textured on the inside of the package. A simple tracklisting takes up only a corner of the rear cover with credits floating against abundant white inside. One wing presents the definition "-n. continuum, that which must be regarded as continuous and the same and which can be described only relatively."

Em:t records (pronounced "emit") have been off the scene for five years, having produced a series of seventeen releases between 1994 and 1998. The label has the reputation of delivering music that defies ready classification. Here London based artist producer Gaudi has teamed up with Sound-Therapist Antonio Testa bringing together Testa's love of ethnic, recycled and homemade instruments and Gaudi's electronic skills to create a deeply absorbing series of strangely accessible audio aberrations. Collaborators include, among others, Alio Die on nai flute, Walter Maioli with drones, Opium with voice, Nir Bakshy on cello.


Continvvm works to further blur the boundaries between established genres - fans of pure ambient will likely appreciate the atmospheric departures established here whilst chillout and downtempo lovers that enjoy the experimental edge will be drawn by the colour, depth and exotic nature of this excellent CD.





 ------ Kirsty Hawkshaw - O<U>T
STYLE   A moving collection of impassioned songs with poignant lyrics and bewitching vocals. O<U>T ranges from lazy lounge cool, through drum and bass, gritty beats via ethereal acoustic piano to floating, dreamy a cappella. Instrumentation is not dominant - rather subtle pianos and strings work together with a varied rhythm section to establish a sensitive backdrop. Kirsty's voice is clear and delicate, soaring at times to impossible heights - a wispy allure, vulnerable and finespun. This lady's vocal range is very expansive - happy to explore extremes of tone, intensity, distortion, pitch and emotion. Sometimes high up where the atmosphere is thin, sometimes childlike as if singing to herself and then angry, yelling the chorus word Sci-clone. Tracks ten to fourteen see the percussive material fall away leaving uncluttered, introspective vocal refrains where the term 'achingly beautiful' really does apply. Haunting simplicity thickened by a child's voice pulls at the heart, the album melts away leaving the listener strongly touched.

The thread running through this varied album is one of intensity - although the expressions of such go from heated, stormy, bereft to up-close and fragile, lonely and sore. The pace of the music matches this spectrum - strong beats, downtempo, soft washes, a little jazz trumpet, Satie-esque piano. Kirsty's voice and choice of words weave an intimacy throughout - she's openly, reflectively sharing her heart - the weight of this candour peaking in moments of wistful melancholy. A darkness lurks at the edges of a number of pieces, at times encroaching further, drawing shadows or painting a cast that even the most angelic intonation doesn't dispel.

ARTWORK   The artwork for the white label promotional copy that I received is downloadable from Kirsty Hawkshaw's website ( This replaces the previous design for the 1998 release. In place of the lush organic original Pheugoo's imagery is cool and sharp, icy blue. A graphically enhanced portrait adorns the front cover whilst tracks are listed along with suitable credits on the reverse.

A varied, honest and stirring collection of songs. This solo album is far removed from the early days of Opus III and exhibits a maturity and confidence that has empowered some delightful exploration of themes and styles. Collaborative contributions come from Global Communication's Mark Prichard and songstress Judie Tzuke - a sample of the latter forming the introduction to a sensitive cover. Kirsty's vocal talent comfortably inhabits the core of O<U>T as the centre of attention, the eye of the storm or the focus of loneliness - how good it is that this fine CD is available once more from the official website. But get in quick - it's a limited edition.


Lovers of female vocals will be drawn to this release - whether electronic or acoustic fans, there's something here for all. If you enjoy songs that aim for the heart, music with feeling - try the samples on the website, I doubt you'll be disappointed.

More info HERE AND HERE.





 ------ Robert Rich & Ian Boddy - Lithosphere
STYLE   Drifting spacey ambience alternating with rhythmic sequences overlaid with haunting, droning melodies. The weightless introduction track 'Threshold' briefly sways and shifts beatlessly before a latticework of pulses and chiming synth tones eases in followed by the ghostly strains of Robert Rich's lap steel guitar. The lead sound is distantly reminiscent of huge undersea creatures calling across immense ocean passages whilst the latticed understructures call to mind gamelan patterns - intricate, rolling, tintinnabulous. Scrapes and distant impacts occasionally punctuate the vapourscapes or light programmed percussion binds looser arrangements together maintaining gentle regularity. Tracks interflow into one smooth whole - drifting space giving way to restive flickering beats and then again back to nebulous drones.
MOOD   Whilst Boddy's programming and keyboard work suggest exotic gongs, chimes, resonators and bowls, Rich's playing keens and swells with wistful beauty - the combination at times serene and graceful, at times mysterious and restless. There are passages of remote spacey loneliness where the ambient clouds that have rolled in the background take centre stage, moments where soft, distant pounding impels the eerie darkness into deliberate motion, tracks where cascading jangles and strikings tumble along in constant evolution.
ARTWORK   Echoing the title, an arcing honeycomb of concrete squares curves across the front cover and the rear of the inner booklet - once opened out giving the impression of a huge stony dome. Track titles are found alongside timings on both the rear jewel case and the inside of the booklet. A portrait of the two artists is also within, side by side in monochrome. We have a gear list for both Ian Boddy and Robert Rich alongside some brief recording details.

Lithosphere follows up on the duo's debut album "Outpost" ( DiN 11 - 2002 ). As before the pair worked together rather than choosing a virtual meeting via the internet, convening at Rich's Californian Soundscape studio. Following Boddy's departure Rich then honed and fine-tuned the arrangements before finalising the mastering of the project. As before the central sound is that of Rich's lap steel guitar and the "deep bass rumblings of his analogue MOTM modular system" whilst Boddy brings high quality sampled glass & stone percussion instruments and a variety of "delicate keyboard textures ... together with haunting string & woodwind loops."

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Lithosphere sits comfortably at the juncture of ambient and sequential electronica - try this album if you enjoy serious music with an experimental freedom. Fans of both artists will surely appreciate this collaboration since the personalities of both shine forth and are only enhanced by this coming together of kindred souls.