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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Shulman - Random Thoughts
STYLE   Beautifully rich electronic downtempo brimming with the latest tweaks and tones, alive with organic waves and carried by deft, ultra-modern grooves. Setting the scene - Random Thoughts opens with some deep flute work, a chanting voice and a gradual build through serene psychedelic effects, rhythmic arpeggios and motifs, until finally an eminently chilled beat languidly enters, carrying the assembled elements onward. Painting layers with confidence, laying down vibrant electronic structures that sparkle over lush pads, Shulman brings together material from widely separated sources - Middle-Eastern instrumental and vocal performances, Celtic singing, jazz aesthetics, the bubbly dub of Bluetech among others. Cycling arpeggios and sequencers don't dominate this music, rather they adorn and embellish the strong musical arrangements beneath. Sub and dub basses plumb the depths, effected voices drift on the currents, delicate pianos coruscate and twinkle, programmed and hand made percussion alternately fluttering and pounding.
 
MOOD   The mood is bright, very colourful and exotic. Middle Eastern and international elements of a traditional nature integrate smoothly with current synthesised sounds - ethnic percussion and vocal bytes often given a digital twist. It would appear that Shulman makes excellent use of the latest technology; a highly polished technical finish giving the music an expensive, contemporary feel - clear and spacious.
 
ARTWORK   Artwork is as bold and vivid as the music - photomontaged details swept together onto a dense olive-green backdrop alive with fish and plant forms. The front cover features an ethereally lit girl adorned with a crown of twisting tongued leaves and finger-like flower buds - she boldly stares at the viewer, confident, aglow. Inside we find information on the Shulman project and an explanation of the coming together of Random Thoughts. A tracklisting, credits and contact details naturally are all present.
 
OVERALL    This is the third CD from Shulman to date - but perhaps this album should be viewed more as a digression. Random Thoughts is a collection of pieces "in different tones that accumulated in Shulman's studio independently of any specific album project." The result is a diverse coming together of influences and styles. There are collaborations with fellow downtempo masters Entheogenic and Bluetech, Turkish giant Omar Faruk Tekilek, Israeli trance act Sub6 and vocalist Lee Triffon. Overall, there are some very graceful and transporting pieces such as Zero Degrees - weaving a gorgeously chilled ethno-electronic charm, there are some surprises too, not least an organ break that recalls 70s prog-rock. Keep your eyes open for a new Shulman album toward the end of 2006.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Shulman fans will be intrigued by this eclectic, exploratory presentation - the quality you've come to expect is all there. Chillout fans that are open to novel approaches will revel in this one - likely the variety will draw some new fans too - there's pretty much something for everyone here.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Various - Arcana
STYLE   Exotic chillout with abundant global sounds. Arcana is a powerful collection of mystical, downtempo excursions from some of the best names in the business - and a few you might not know as yet. There are tribal loops fused with bright programmed beats, synthetic pads and floatational flutes, ringing gamelan and bells alongside rippling arps and energetic Indian drum talk. The collection includes some heavy dub pieces, some delightful drifting ambience and a few low-key dance tracks. There is a truly monstrous bass line lumbering along with Middle-Eastern percussion on Kaya Project's One God Dub here remixed by Dubsahara. There are some gutsy rhythmic pieces taking up the central section of the album where ethnically slanted grooves and chants support some colourful musical motifs.
 
MOOD   The emphasis is clearly one of global glamour - the sound is rich and dripping with atmosphere. Overall the tone is peaceful one - but not without a bit of grit and shadow - a heady mixture designed to set your mind aswirl. The tone is set straight from the start with Tripswitch's luminous, smooth Calabi Yau ... a hypnotic, meandering piece of mood music. As tracks go by Arcana builds into a very rhythmic heart where Don Peyote, Eat Static and Hibernation present a series of mesmerising grooves. The latter half of the album increasingly winds down, Eastern strings and international voices playing among chimes and softer drums. The final piece by Jairamji features a gently droning didgeridoo and delicate bansuri against a meditative, sleepy backdrop of hand drums and crystalline tinkles.
 
ARTWORK   A very evocative series of images fill a three-panel fold-out and jewel case. Imagery is built around the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether - dense photomontages steeped in rich hues. Tangled ancient roots, swimming turtles, insects, graphic bubbles, succulent plants and carved figures all cluster into fantastic environments for the imagination. One the rear - the track listing forms a spiral, inside it appears with ample credits and recording information. A whole panel is given over to a discussion of 'arcana' and a bank of generous thanks. Websites for artists have been included where possible so that listeners can follow up on their favourites.
 
OVERALL    Compiled by Naasko - Arcana is Interchill's latest offering in a series of downtempo compilations. Magical, dreamy electronica complemented by rainsticks, Indian classical vocals and all manner of tranquil psychedelia. The concept is to fuse "sounds from past and present, near and far, solid and ephemeral" in a fashion inspired by "the alchemical process of transmuting raw elements into the mythical transcendent object". You'll find well known international artists Kaya Project, Adham Shaikh and Eat Static among others, Seb Taylor's new project Hibernation and Greg Hunter's Dubsahara too.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Arcana will likely draw listeners from varied preferences - there's plenty here for the worldbeat fan, there's a suitably laid-back vibe for the chillout enthusiast, and there's a wealth of suggestive imagery for the mental traveller. This is one of the strongest collections of its type in some time - try the samples above.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Various - Psymeditation 2
STYLE   Organic-electronic downtempo instrumentals with deep tribal and meditative atmospheres. Psymeditation 2 is a strong contender for the soundtrack to your dreams - dubby basslines propelling placid yet insistent beats and lush synthetic layers where lulling effects and indigenous instrumentation dance and perform their magic. There are some emotive introductions where shadowy ambient textures and spacey departures unfurl gradually before rolling into the themes and motifs that form the bones of the compositions. Distant chants, birdsong, didgeridoo, flamenco guitar, effected flutes and spoken voice samples provide variation. Rippling arpeggios enliven underlying arrangements without dominating the sound, complementary percussion intertwines global beats and programmed drums - most pieces wander far from being simply downtempo trance - some tracks leaning more toward trip-hop.
 
MOOD   This is a truly serene and beautiful collection of tracks - the tone here is one of cool moodiness, laid back and soothing - transportational, evocative of otherworldly vistas and intangible mindscapes. The programming/playing is sparklingly clear and heightened further by Chris Organic's "patented 32bit sonic manipulation technique" aimed at creating "a greater sense of depth in the stereo field". Psymeditation 2 has a contemporary sound that also manages to feel somehow timeless - the arrangements establishing soundscapes that act as sonic environments as much as melodic patterns.
 
ARTWORK   Artwork is all hand-drawn by artist Tim Smile and features Organic Records' trademark bio-mechanical sound devices - here the familiar starfish-like speaker creatures inhabit structures rising up from a sea of pink mists. A psychedelic piece of hi-fi flora supports a series of striped trumpets brightly coloured against a soft sky. Track titles are on the rear flanked by a two more ambiguous tendrils resembling a stethoscope. The usual contact information is here too. Within are some of the original sketches for the cover art acting as a backdrop to information on other Organic CD releases.
 
OVERALL    As the second is the series, Psymeditation 2 presents a liquid-smooth coherent selection of tracks; not falling into the trap of trying to please too many audiences - the sound is focussed and unified. Released on the widely acclaimed Organic Records, artists include a number from the previous Psymeditation outing such as Pale Moon Rising & Chris Organic (here working under the title Organic Substance) Perpetual Loop and Noodream among others.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Try Psymeditation 2 if you enjoy real chillout music - this isn't simply a mixed bag of pieces from the slower end of the dance floor - the music here is a spellbinding assemblage of rapturous ambient -groove.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Psyfactor - Endless Universe
STYLE   Pure, spacey electronica with a chilled psytrance aesthetic. The Psyfactor sound is one of layered synths with plenty of rippling arps and repeated motifs, smooth pads constantly unfolding below. The pace varies across Endless Universe from beatless ambience where the sound twinkles, lustrous and drifting, to some quite upbeat danceable pieces. The mix is quite rich with some attractive interludes and wind-downs at the end of a number of tracks. Despite the almost complete absence of any organic sound sources, Psyfactor still maintains a human feel, especially during the low-key regions where rhythms and arpeggios fragment into dreamy lightness.
 
MOOD   The squeaky clean sound aptly suggests the space connection that Psyfactor is after here - high quality effects maintaining and enhancing the imagery. There is a clear European heritage to the sound here though reflecting the artist's roots. The mood progresses from floatational expanses, breathing, glittering through pulsing basslines and cycling patterns where a restless business develops and the tempo lifts considerably. The trance elements gather around the central part of the CD - at times energetic and mechanical. Useless Planets, on the other hand, is a blissful trip on lush pads and a restful groove. The album becomes increasingly airborne toward the end where the dynamic and percussive aspects of the sound give way to a gentle melodic ambience.
 
ARTWORK   In keeping with the vision for the album, the artwork features spacescapes and planetary orbs all bathed in deep greens and blues. The front cover holds a hazy portrait - contemplative against the stars and graphic sky maps overlaid. The reverse is quite beautiful - multi-layered spheres and nebulae glowing against an infinite vacuum. Track titles are here and again inside the booklet. Thanks and contact details also are found within where another montage of galactic items almost conceals a second portrait.
 
OVERALL    Psyfactor is Russian born Dmitri Korablin, currently resident in Moscow. Dmitri releases this album through respected chill label Ajana Records who describe his usual sound as "hard and dark twisted with kicking drums and fat basslines". Here he explores his more tranquil side following a successful contribution to the compilation 'A Magical Journey'. Endless Universe is not the first full-length Psyfactor release - a previous album appeared in 2005 on Trishula Records.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Endless Universe will suit fans of space music that would like to hear more psytrance elements in the mix than Berlin school references. This CD covers a variety of bpm's and so is suitable for night-time listeners wanting something easy on the nerves and invigorating in equal measures.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Psicodreamics - Azhdark Passion
STYLE   New age instrumentals with strong melodic content. This is an album with a strong cinematic approach with gently dramatic, sometimes sweeping compositions where often there is only a subtle beat. Psicodreamics employs plenty of choral synth voices, chimes and simulated pizzicato/harp effects to build lullaby tunes for imaginary worlds, dreamy themes for sunset myths and legends. I could easily imagine this music as the soundtrack to a fantasy production. Quite a lot of the lead lines are carried by pianos and the final track on the album features a female vocal and a stronger beat than most other pieces. In general the sound here is one of idyllic tranquility and ethereal harmony.
 
MOOD   Twilight tones and evening hues imbue this CD with a magical aura - the tracks are passionate affairs, emotional and sensitive. Climactic swells and surges frequently build the mood, whereas soft interludes explore the allure of the shadows. Indeed Psicodreamics is at his best exploring the low-key aspects of his music, the delicate sensual passages where beats are minimal and melodies subtle maintain the spell most effectively.
 
ARTWORK   Promo copy sent - no artwork to review.
 
OVERALL    Psicodreamics is Spanish musician and visual artist Salva Moreno. Azhdark Passion is the latest in a series of CDs that Moreno has produced since the early 1990s. Over the years Psicodreamics has explored "easy, relaxed, spiritual ambient" music as well as "progressive electronic and trance" - here though we find him firmly in new-age mode aiming for a sound that conjures up fairy tales and fables.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Azhdark Passion will appeal to new-age fans that enjoy the down tempo end of such artists as Amethystium or Ryan Farish. If you're looking for something musical to accompany your flights of fancy - give this CD a try.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ Various - Beneath The Surface
STYLE   Crystalline, clean ambient explorations with ultra-modern beats and delicately restrained arrangements. The album opens with a beatless atmosphere from Irwin's Conspiracy, fleeting and gentle leading into the bulk of the CD where the senses are faintly caressed by gentle melodic structures allowing ambient fluidity plenty of space in which to unfold fully. Tracks develop one into another seamlessly, well selected to work together as integral parts within a constant vision. Lo-fi beats and digital rhythms accompany elegant, fragile melodies - piano, cello and chimes among gossamer synths. Beneath The Surface has a 'pure' feel to it - the organic aspects of the music are well placed and subtle further enhancing the gentle beauty of this incredible album.
 
MOOD   Eminently restful and tender - Beneath The Surface is a sensitive presentation of sublime pieces playing at the edges of consciousness. The occasional strings lend a doleful tone at times - wistful and weightless. This is one of the most deeply chilled collections I've heard in a while, electronic music at its most emotive and quite, quite beautiful.
 
ARTWORK   Artwork is equally light and insubstantial - airy folds of transparent drapery swirl around a blissful female figure cocooned in layered films, flowering tendrils spiralling from her hair. This multi-layering of twisting veils recurs on most panels - a canopy to the track tiles on the rear, a shroud for the CD compartment. Inside the three section fold-out we find a complementary verse entitled 'Weaving Within', a generous thanks list and an expanded track list with website details for most artists.
 
OVERALL    Native State have excelled with this collection - a pleasantly consistent vibe is developed with no attempt to present a little of everything, nothing to dilute the overall grace of this delightfully innovative album. Major names Bluetech and Shulman are well matched by the contributions from lesser-known artists ... Rena Jones providing an exquisite piece called Aurora Borealis in anticipation of her own solo album scheduled for release later in the year.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Beneath The Surface is an album for chillout fans wanting something right down the extreme end of the chill spectrum. Ultimae lovers will find plenty to delight in here for sure.