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 ------Various Artists - Cryosphere
STYLE   Bleak beatless windscapes in all their stark sonic beauty. Cryosphere brings together nine ambient artists sharing a monochrome vision of smooth glacial isolation. Toneless sweeps and aural air movements share centre stage with atmospheric drones and subtle electronic patterns and peripherals. Panoramic abstract arrangements are enhanced by variations in intensity and density of sound - at times thin, sheeting drifts of noise arise in gossamer veils, at others rumbling masses of sound suggest enormity of substance flickered across with delicate effects - some points are harmonious, soft, consonant - others

This is not a dark album, although similar in a number of musical techniques, the overall effect is quite different - here palid light casts an ashen haze and wan horizons gleam in the low radiance of a boreal dawn. Glacial Movements have pulled together a creation of remote solitude in shades of grey and white. Peaceful, expansive, timeless and elemental.

ARTWORK   Cryosphere comes in a slimline jewel case with elegantly sharp graphics. The front cover image is rolling polar landscape presented in shades of grey - although this is one of those delightful grey tone pictures that isn't quite grey. The cover opens out into a two panel booklet - a legend and contact details on one face, tracklist and credits on the other. Each contributing artist lists some recording details along with website and email information.

"GLACIAL MOVEMENTS is a new label devoted to the description of icy landscapes." This exciting debut album from the label is exquisitely presented as a limited edition of 300 copies and features tracks from Lightwave, Troum, Tuu, Oophoi, Netherworld, Northaunt, Tho So Aa, Closing The Eternity , Aidan Baker. The artists have managed to establish and maintain a fresh musical zone for themselves - a barren space of desolate magnificence, frozen air, lonely quietude.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This CD is a must for fans of beatless ambience that enjoy minimal soundscapes of deep seclusion. If you enjoy the approach of dark ambient artists but want something without the gloom - try Cryosphere.




 ------ Huski - Love Peace Pain
MUSIC    Electro-pop songs of retro synthwork and dreamy female vocals. Huski present here a series of vocal tracks that range from bigbeat and robotic electronica to engaging downtempo ballads. The programming style has an early eighties feel, often suggesting a futurist vision from a bygone decade - clear instrumentation and regular structures overlaid with effects hinting at a passionate love of sci-fi. Piano and guitar bring a more organic nature to some pieces with Pike's organ and musical saw strains maintaining the yesterday's tomorrow effect. Maple Bee's voice wanders from baby doll to sultry siren to ecstatic balladeer - bringing an individuality and intimacy to the music, polished and perfectly presented.
ARTWORK   Love Peace Pain revisits the night-black background and neon light aesthetic of Soft Cell - the front cover image picturing the Huski duo in cabaret poses against pink and turquoise florescent tubes. The same approach fills the rest of the package - a twelve page booklet littered with glossy portraits of the suited Pike and Maple Bee in sequined dress, blue shine on one side, pink glow on the other. Lyrics for the songs are all here along with generous thanks and credits.
OVERALL     Huski is the result of a chance encounter between producer Pike and singer Maple Bee at a party in a Turkish restaurant. The songs are all co-written with Pike playing most of the instruments and taking on production whilst Maple Bee lays her voice down in multiple layers or gently intones languid lyrics or suggests that female computer voice of tomorrow's airports and space stations on the techno electronica of 'Urtica'. Covering a variety of musical genres Love Peace Pain is primarily an intelligent pop album of melodic synthesisers and strong beats with strong and flexible voice of the unique Maple Bee.




 ------Banco De Gaia - Farewell Ferengistan
STYLE   Experimental dance and downtempo electronica. Banco's latest album features his trademark multilayered synths, world voices and powerful rhythmic accompaniments. Farewell Ferengistan has a strong melodic aspect with emotive chord progressions and harmonious musical patterns laid out across a range of tempos from the chilled title track to the big beats of Ynys Elen, the beatless 'The Harmonious G8' and a on to number of more uptempo pieces. Indian vocals, Latin yells, clattering ethnic drumming and breathy flutes are among the global flavours expertly woven into the electronic foundation here. Banco uses stabbing piano sequences, smooth pads, ambient effects and organic samples to develop his themes - deep basses warm and abdominal range from sub-bass depth to dubby bounce.
MOOD   Generally uplifting and tuneful, Farewell Ferengistan tells a series of musical stories each with its own personality. Kara Kum thumps along under a heavy rhythmic regularity, We All Know The Truth (You Have God) presents a gentle female vocal cusioned among strings, Flow My Dreams, The Android Wept is a variation based upon the 16th century John Dowland composition 'Flow My Tears'. There are some long atmospheric intros where no percussive disturbance enters for a long while, passages of hypnotic repetition and subtle variation, intertwining vocal improvisation and plenty of electronic guts.
ARTWORK   A bold photomontage fronts the digipack - Ferengistani life spattered in snapshots across a blue skyscraper backdrop. The blues of the architecture are continued across the rest of the external panels and behind the CD kaleidoscopic and in sharp perspective. Track titles appear on the rear with primary contacts and credits - within, each track is laid out with an accompanying story or curiosity - tales from history and the modern world, lyrics, inspirational details, origins.
OVERALL    This is Banco's seventh studio album to date and shows Toby Marks refining the approach that he has built up and developed over the years - more confident with maturity, still inventive, experimental in places yet still unmistakably Banco De Gaia. Farewell Ferengistan will probably be very well received by the fans since it's a consistently solid album with all of the familiar elements and with the usual flair for unpredictability - not playing to fit within a muscial mold, playing what needs to be played.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you like edgy, electronica that covers a range of bpm's centred around world dance, if you enjoy well produced synthetic music that is about as organic in approach as it gets - then this might well be one for you.




 ------Max Corbacho - Moontribe
STYLE   Deep spacey ambience with powerful resonant beats. Moontribe consists of a series of confidently developed electro-atmospheres that slide past with velvet smoothness - clean synthetic sweeps and dense multilayered pads, embellished with mysterious bubbling effects and sonic turbulence. The percussive structures combine natural drums with electronic patterns in evolving cycles that are at times tribal, insistently mesmerising, then soft, dispersed to a trickle. When the beats drain away the inventive depth of Max's electronic soundscaping is most apparent, luxurious rolling densities and luscious drones full of shifting aural strata
MOOD   The mood is mainly one of manipulated primitive rhythm and spacial ambiguity - ancient futuristic immersives, distant, yet touched with familiarity. The organic individuality of Max's compositions stops the music from feeling cold or remote - rather a hypnotic warmth pervades everything, glowing sonic colour suffusing silky beds of ambient cloud.
ARTWORK   Water surface patterns with graphic enhancements fill all panels - on the front, vivid greens and blues ripple around pinks and bronze shades. Text on the external packaging is uncomplicated - only titles and basic information. Within we find an explanation of the project, a list of sound sources, thanks and contact details.
OVERALL    Moontribe is "a collection of previously not published tracks, destined originally to collaboration projects that finally did not see the light, plus two totally new pieces". This is Max Corbacho's sixth CD and shows the composer to have developed an engrossing and mature sound - the final two pieces 'Across The Spectrum' and 'Moontribe' were written two years after the earlier pieces and betray a glorious absorbsion in texture and groove structure. The clarity and transparency of these tracks is a delight to the ear - pulling the listener into beguiling worlds of liquid reverberation and interwoven crystal impact.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Moontribe is a CD for ambient lovers fond of electro-tribal beats and lush, polished soundscaping. With similarities to Na-Koja-Abad and Steve Roach's rhythmic material.


Janet Robbins - Carrying The Bag Of Hearts, Interpreting The Birth Of Stars Vol 1

STYLE   Ambient electronic soundscapes both with and without percussion. Broad orchestral synthetics with interlaced melodic patterns typify Janet Robbins current style, cinematic and luxurious. The first track 'At The Heart Of A Spiral Galaxy (M51's Close Encounter)' is propelled gently by a varying beat - not dominant, rather snug within the mass of instrumentation. Tracks two and three are beatless. Musical themes seem to grow in stature during the passage of these tracks, at times dramatic and visionary, then soft, quiet, meandering. Different synth voices take on each of the interlocking melodies entwining, ebbing and flowing in enthralling motion - Janet clearly has a great compositional skill, aware of how sounds enhance one another, how to progress an idea through different stages.
MOOD   Enigmatic and enchanting - this first volume in Janet's series establishes her as an able creator of evocative soundworlds of partially hidden depths and constant flux. The mood is often introspective, dimly illuminated and full of sonic shadow - pianos, strings and chimes enrich the lush sound, peculiar effects mystifying and thickening the spell. The beatless tracks are no less rich in harmonious interplay, multiple layers coruscating, circling like oil on water.
ARTWORK   Janet's own hand-drawn imagery fronts this album - with a dreamlike quality, a female figure clutching red heart floats above a green plain which is split open by a deep stream flowing red. A panther mouths the ground, eying the viewer only partly absorbed in the white pool before it. More of Janet's drawings are within - here black and white line art, the curving forms filled alternately with words and textures. The project is explained here along with credits and contact details.
OVERALL    This is the first in a series of CDs - the intention being to release "one CD of three songs every few months ... some will be without vocals, others with". This initial outing shows the writer moving away from the guitar based material of her previous release 'All The Worlds' and plunging right into computer based digital arrangements - nonetheless, this environment obviously suits Janet well. Carrying The Bag of Hearts... is an adventurous project with an ambitious palette that succeeds beautifully.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Give this CD a listen if you enjoy melodic ambience that would work as a film score for a Dave McKean project. Anyone appreciating low-key electronica that prowls the shadows, twinkling as it goes, music that tells stories and produces magical oddities from a black hat will appreciate this music.




 ------ Beese & Brtschitsch - ...In The Long Run

Beaty electronic chillout instrumentals with aspects of "elektro meets breaks meets dub meets jazz meets funk meets rock meets triphop". In The Long Run is a very rhythmic album - beats often consisting of two layers, bright sibilant hats and snares light and crisp at the top, deep thudding kicks at the bottom end along with equally punchy basslines. Piano lines and chords and snatches of melody are accompanied by a variety of quirky ephemera - droplets, vocal bytes, breath sounds. Although mainly instrumental 'Guilty' is an almost spoken male voice track and 'Hush!' is built around a transplanted Indian vocal. This CD though is concerned primarily with solid rhythmic material, the gutsy grooves often embellished with additional sounds worked into the percussion arrangements.

ARTWORK   A feminine cyborg figure sprawls across the front cover - gleaming metallic and criss-crossed with structural patterns. It's only upon closer observation that the artists are noticed - at work within cockpit-like extensions to the figure. A closer view on the reverse confirms the presence of the duo - again the silver form is laid out upon infinite sands, hazy as they roll into the distance. Inside - the booklet and inner jewelcase insert make up a single image of panoramic mixing desk controls montaged onto another sandscape, again the artists are included in the scene. Brief credits are found within - here presented on a final image, this one presumably detailing the inside of the cover figure - Beese and Brtschitsch stand here against the contoured walls of their vessel, tinted green, flanked by screens and dials.
OVERALL     This is a clubby album with a laid back European feel - gritty downtempo tracks that could equally fill a dancefloor or your headphones on a solitary night. Melodic content is mostly comprised of brief, almost abstract patterns. The album is released on the c.o.r.n. label. Watch out for the hidden track at the end of the CD - a remix of 'Guilty'. If you enjoy chillout music that explores rhythm rather than ambience, then this might be one for you.