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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Marvin Ayres - Cycle
STYLE  

Natural piano harmonics collected and manipulated into a series of beatless ambient 'cycles'. The sustained drones here embody the residue of two separate piano sounds, reverberating away after the initial sound source has gone. Effects distort and reshape the basic tones, sometimes softly like gentle waves on water, at other times wildly - swaying like the top of a ship's mast on a stormy sea. Some pieces are very brief - barely a minute in duration, whereas the longest is in excess of eleven minutes. If it helps to imagine the sound - promotional material describes cycle as "involuntary psycho acoustics .... processed and manipulated".

 
MOOD   Minimal variation in the base material establishes quite a stark sound for much of the album - the wave-like movement of the resultant drones often suggestive of disturbances of water. The cycles occasionally take on a mechanistic tenor, the regularity and rate of oscillation hinting at some artificial intervention. There are 'cycles' where the sound is particularly dense, dissonant, sombre - others are contrastingly warm, harmonious and drifting.
 
ARTWORK   A simple card sleeve fronted by a graphic abstract grid image that looks like a close-up of pixels on a computer screen. Natural in hue - green-blue-grey. Alongside a tracklist and all the relevant credits is a detailed explanation of the process undertaken for Cycle.
 
OVERALL    Cycle is a series of compositions from which pieces were extracted for the DVD film 'Sensory'. Sleeve notes explain that the music was created by recording only the harmonics from chords played on two different pianos. One was an 'immaculately tuned grand piano' recorded in pristine conditions, the other being a 'slightly out of tune baby grand piano in an empty room.' The recorded harmonics were later 'merged and re-assembled in their pure form.' What we hear are the resonant combinations laden with overtones and their 'emergent' transient random melodies. Cycle was premiered at the ICA in London.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This is music for lovers of experimental beatless ambient. Cycle will especially appeal to listeners that enjoy music derived from an interesting concept - willing to absorb the beauty of process and product.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Na-Koja-Abad - Black Serpent Dreaming: Rites of Passage
STYLE  

Long form ambient drone music with percussive ephemera. Opening with mysterious wind sounds and distant tones coming in waves - Black Serpent Dreaming: Rites of Passage builds a very organic sound by skilful combination of synthetic and abstract elements. Environmental samples of birds, water and wind enliven the space established by the tonal material. Other sound sources include frame-drum, bamboo-drum, shakers, rain-stick, various improvised percussion (pouches filled with sand, rocks, sea-shells, wind-chimes etc.), and some vocal effects (breathing). Water effects and various impacts maintain an absorbing sound surface, constantly in motion, whilst the synthesiser work is dark, oceanic - although at times rising heavenward into near ethereal serenity.

 
MOOD   A mysterious desolation is conveyed, water drops suggesting a setting below ground or beneath derelict structures. Thuds, shakings and shufflings bring unpredictable disturbances to the more regular movement of the swelling drones. Midway through the aquatic content shifts somewhat and the tone becomes increasing submarine as if we're drifting deep below the surface through submerged caves, over strange marine formations.
 
ARTWORK   Beautiful - as are all of Na-Koja-Abad's covers. Enigmatic streaks of colour creep across dense blackness - suggestive of tinted smoke, lustrous rock structures or night skies. Front cover text is unobtrusive and elegant - inside, no words at all inhibit the whorls and swirls as they roll across two whole panels. Credits and background information can be found on the rear of the booklet.
 
OVERALL   

A single track of tranquil ambience, nothing overtly melodic, consistent and meandering. This is Na-Koja-Abad's first album given over entirely to the development of just one piece of music. Sixty-two minutes and forty seven seconds of interwoven 'organika' and 'synthetika' - granular and vector synthesis and algorithmic soundscaping working alongside bottles, seashells and hand drums. The music is evocative, subtle, inviting - creating ambiguous imagery that allows the listener to fill in the spaces. Black Serpent Dreaming will certainly transport you to distant and wonderful depths if you allow it.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Building upon the previous 'Fleeting Glimpses - this album shows Bosnia's Muamer Music to be capable of holding the attention over an extended duration. If you enjoy beatless, tune-free music that inhabits a restful gloom - give this one a try.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Netherworld - Otherworldly Abyss
STYLE   Dark and ambient with a minimalist leaning. Gloomy waves of tonal and atonal sound swell and wash over the listener in constant restless waves. At times the music is suggestive of moribund winds shifting through a vast space - truly abyssal, certainly otherworldly. Dissonant effects and percussive impacts inhabit the environments Netherworld sets up, sounds that could be either organic or engineered, that could simply be the natural elements are arranged and carefully placed within the aural depths. There are no melodies, no beats - the overall effect hovering somewhere between the regularity of human artifice and the randomness of field recordings.
 
MOOD   Dim and disquieting - Otherworldly Abyss feels timeless, formless - writhing within its own enormity. The title is certainly appropriate as the music builds a mood of grim isolation - any colour here is muted, weathered, shadowed. There is a sense of industrial desolation - bleak and cold - something of abandonment.
 
ARTWORK   Presented in a DVD sized plastic wallet, Otherworldly Abyss has a single sheet of artwork - on the front a horseshoe curve of light floats against bottomless darkness, simple text providing the title and artist name. On the reverse is a track listing along with recording details, credits and contact information - in suitably minimal style with a single line given to each.
 
OVERALL    Otherworldly Abyss is an intentionally heavy album and although it is melodically minimal there is, nonetheless, plenty going on. Netherworld is Alessandro Tedeschi and presents this recording via Umbra Records who can be found on the Deep Listenings website. The five tracks on the album are all over ten minutes in length, the longest being sixteen minutes fifty three seconds. Track titles are simply A, B, Y, S and S.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Dark ambient fans would do well to check out this powerful CD. Likely if you know Umbra Records, you'll have an idea of what to expect. If you enjoy challenging music with bleak enormity - this might be one for you.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Solar Fields - Blue Moon Station
STYLE   Ambient and downtempo trance arrangements brimming with detail yet smooth and highly polished. Flutes, ethnic percussion and sampled sounds weave among electronic peculiarities and programmed irregularities - these frequently begin with mesmerising, fluid introductions before resolving into rhythmic structure. There is a constant shifting from ambient floatation into beats and sequences that become regular and powerful one moment, falling away into fragmented loops and broken beats and then back into floatation. The synth work is intricate and blissful - transparent washes and swells bejewelled with scintillating effects and waves born along on vivid melodic threads. Solar Fields makes good use of evolving cycles, establishing a pattern and then breaking it down to bare bones or reinforcing it into thunderous revolution.
 
MOOD   Trance inducing and absorbing - Solar Fields sets up aural environments that invite the listener to surrender and be transported. The mood throughout Blue Moon Station varies from track to track - drifting, liquid, oceanic, then flickering, systematic and cyclic then again pulsing, weighty and driven. At times the drum tracks become almost tribal, occasionally anthemic - but never still for long.
 
ARTWORK   Three panel gatefold in stiff card. Snuggled between black horizontal borders a morphing photomontage spreads panoramically across the whole package. The imagery is almost abstract with cityscape details bust apart with a beaming sunburst. Inside the artwork is a tasteful grey - panels opening out to reveal a second track listing (expanding the one on the back cover) and relevant contact information.
 
OVERALL    This is the second complete album from the incredible Magnus Birgersson. Blue Moon Station showcases Solar Fields' amazing loose trance creations and ambient spaces. As usual the CD is on Ultimae records (a label synonymous with class) and maintains the high standards of the team.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Ultimae regulars will already have this album as it's a must for anyone into this style of music. Give it a try if you enjoy chillout music that rises above the pack - something a bit less predictable and repetitive than the pack.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Carmen Rizzo - The Lost Art of the Idle Moment
STYLE  

A lazy downtempo lounge mood suffuses most tracks here - laid back beats, dreamy vocals (mostly female) and delicate instrumentation. Mr. Rizzo though, is happy to explore outside the chosen box, seamlessly incorporating diverse scratching, rap, pop and jazzy influences. Playful effects, orchestral moments and subtle global elements lift further the mix out of any danger of becoming soporific. There are a couple of instrumentals with understated dramatic themes - these owe less to melodic lines than inventive harmonic structures. There are two appropriately languid male vocal tracks that sit comfortably in the collection without breaking the spell that sometimes is maintained only by a feminine voice. The pace is largely leisurely, picking up for 'Farther' - a trancey dancefloor piece carried by the strong, seemingly wordless utterances of Diedre Dubois (Ekova).

 
MOOD  

As restful as the title intimates - applying a soulful club aesthetic to late-night chillout. Lost Art seems very cool and collected - a studied casual air brimming over each tasty track. Most pieces glide along on warm instrumentation - vibey keyboards, weighty strings, playful effects and synthetic grooves - a fluid serenity. Track 9 - 'Indigo' has something of an urban feel courtesy of Ladybug Mecca's distinct vocal style.

 
ARTWORK   A two-panel digipack adorned with a series of illustrations possessed of a peculiarly casual nature that matches the music well. I assume the roughly brushed waist-up portrait on the rear is the artist himself. The rear cover carries the usual track list, which is expanded inside with further writing/publishing credits. Guest musicians are also listed within along with thanks and contact details.
 
OVERALL   

Carmen Rizzo is already very well known as producer, mixer, writer, engineer - lending his talents to artists such as Coldplay, Paul Oakenfold, Delerium, BT, Ryuichi Sakamoto and many others. Here he brings together a bright gathering of collaborators including - Esthero, Kate Havnevik, Jem, and Grant Lee Phillips. Lost Art highlights Carmen's distinct style, which runs like a thread through the various pieces - restful, electronic pop music, with emphasis on the word 'music'.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

I suspect that this is an album with a wide appeal - accessible enough to draw pop lovers but intricate and moody enough to appeal to listeners that appreciate something above the mainstream.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Various Artists - Chillogram
STYLE   Ambient ethno-chill with a deep mystical vibe. The collection sets out with a dreamy French female voice explaining that 'gravity is a state of mind' - then we're off into a series of atmospheric downtempo trance compositions. Quirky effected beats, peculiar synthetic architecture and tribal aesthetics abound - a distant church bell, various chimes, ethnic violins shakers and flutes all are woven into the dense musical fabric. The pace is generally low and insistent - even weighty in places, one or two tracks completely beatless. Moody, shady arrangements combine echoing guitars and flutes, choral sounds and lush pads hinting at the sacred - hypnotic - swelling into nodding crescendos.
 
MOOD  

Built around themes such as gravity and floatation, Chillogram explores the mystical and the meditative - not quite dark, but certainly only dimly lit. Kick Bong's off beat stabs introduce a little dub, which is more overtly delivered by Dymons later in the set. Global elements embedded in a number of tracks suggest a timelessness that works to greater effect here than is often the case. Some beats owe more to world music than to ambient trance and at times the global sounds build into a thick heady infusion of wires and breath that dominate the accompanying liquid synths. This is an album that fells like it has been illuminated by firelight - glowing, flickering, full of feeling.

 
ARTWORK   Deep, deep orange pervades each and every panel - intriguing textures and graphic motifs embellishing the rich surfaces creating a modern yet ancient impression. Text complements the design in pale yellow - a soft font with heavy drop-shadow. Suggestive language adds to the spell of the music - a blue winged figure drifting above the words - 'I float into the infinite mystery of lightness beyond the void the universe expands in glorious sparks of awareness a radiant sphere of forgiveness and love I bear the likeness of a feather blown in starbreeze - gravity is a state of mind'.
 
OVERALL   

Chillogram comes to us from Peak Records as follow-up to the acclaimed 'Chilling Goddess' of 2005. Again the set has been compiled by DJ Master Margherita and is indicative of the sets he presents when performing live. Artists (as is often the case these days) come from all over the planet - U.K., Macedonia, France, South Africa, Turkey, Greece, Sweden and Switzerland. A stand out track for me here is Hol Bauman's gorgeous 'Ocean Kingdom' - brimming with ambient aura, technically crisp and swirling with choral voices. Chillogram is mastered by Huby Sea and Vincent Villuis from Ultimae.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Chillout lovers that enjoy mind trips into the obscure and exotic. If you enjoyed Chilling Goddess you won't be disappointed with this one.