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 ------ Azam Ali - Elysium For The Brave
MUSIC    Atmospheric, moody electronics, Middle Eastern aesthetics and gloriously fluid female vocals. Azam Ali here presents a powerful blend of sonorous frame drums and digital percussives that underpin her emotive songs - an array of traditional acoustic instrumentation such as ney flute and stringed lafta ground the album whilst the singing soars and fills the air with a devout clarity, passionate intensity, supremely confident and commanding. Bringing together her schooling in Western classical, Indian, Persian and Eastern European vocal traditions Azam's voice and style transcend cultural barriers stirring deeply emotive visions of hazy mystique and intimate reverie. English lyrics in a very un-English setting, contemporary expertise producing timeless beauty - a new turn into a fresh territory of sonic delights for a singer whose stature is deservedly growing all the time.
ARTWORK   The front cover features a chiaroscuro close-up portrait of the singer, air-brush smooth against an intense blackness - the lustre of a metal bracelet and matching ring. The limited palette makes the colours all the more vivid and vibrant - titles luxuriating in graphic swirls and splashes. I have only the promotional sleeve and so can't comment on the remainder of the packaging, but if what I have is anything to go by, the quality is of a high standard - very tasteful.
OVERALL     Azam Ali is becoming increasingly well known from her work with Vaz, her solo material, her film score collaborations and last year's project Niyaz. The chances are you've heard her somewhere even if you didn't know who it was. Here she presents her second solo CD following 2002's highly acclaimed Portals Of Grace. Here Ali brings a more synthetic backdrop to her music - synthesisers and programming establishing a range of lush shades and silken textures against which the organic elements are all the more radiant. This exploration of electronic/acoustic is most effective and hopefully something the singer will continue to develop in the future. Elysium For The Brave is an excellent album with obvious class and individuality - doubtless this will appeal both to reverential global music purists and fans of world fusion.




 ------Max Corbacho & Bruno Sanfilippo - Indalo

Experimental ambience echoing with alien winds and peculiar spatial resonance. Much of Indalo is beatless textural layering, evocative soundscaping, synths sweeping in calm oceanic swells - but there is rhythm too, the deep throb of sonorous pots sending ripples across the sound surface. Indalo is an album of slow graceful variation, beats fade in almost undetected and later evaporate into distant panoramas and empty flatlands, into nothingness. Some pieces abyssal and dark - shadowy gusts and tenebrous currents folding into one another. Environmental effects enliven the rolling, undulating sonic plains alternately suggestive of unfathomable depths or of imminent presence - cicadas, breezes, ambiguous impacts some immense and way down low.


The mood here is one of enigmatic seclusion - amorphous structures and ambiguous sound sources stir up visions of remote places, mysterious movement and uncertain isolation. There is an edgy calm, a sense of soft energy in restrained langour as though we are in the presence of something powerful and beautiful. Some parts of the CD create a feeling of openness, weightlessness as if the listener were a mote on the air of a vast expanse.

ARTWORK   The front cover of this album is an ambiguous photograph that appears as a crack below a shallow pool or as a twig against the night sky - a glowing orb or a reflected moon is overlaid with leafy textures - Indalo the rainbow man, the man supporting an arc above his head. The reverse of the sleeve booklet explains the project - the Indalo image found on a sheltered rock face inspiring the music. Inside is a landscape image of the Almeria Province accompanied by brief credits. Track titles are on the rear of the jewel case laid out on a graphically enhanced scenic shot - shot through with that same rocky crack.

Max Corbacho and Bruno Sanfillipo team up here to produce a series of seven pieces built around their impressions from a trip to Almeria in 2001. Hypnotised by the 'strange beauty' of the landscape and the cryptic Indalo figure, the pair have created in response a transportational sound that holds an almost ritualistic mystique. The gradually evolving soundworlds here tap into the psyche drawing up half-formed images and stirring, shifting impressions. Released on the ad21music label run by Max and Bruno.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Indalo will appeal to ambient fans that enjoy dense textures and layered washes - mostly without percussion, yet with a tribal spirit. Go for this one if you enjoy music evocative of breath-taking location, suggestive of strange atmosphere.




 ------ Mathias Delplanque - Ma chambre quand je n'y suis pas [Montréal]

Sound installation - beatless, free of melody and imposed structure. The sound emerges instantly on this CD with no build up - hisses and shiftings swell and drop, low droning layers groan below, dull booms resonating through the low frequencies, remote and vast. Coruscating tonalities twinkle and pulsate sounding somewhere between a bell and a whistle. Other noises faintly explosive or reminiscent of air movement occur at irregular intervals - whining pitches arise and tonal build-ups that bleed away into the omnipresent aural haze. This creation has no discernable musical progression, no obvious sign of composition - comprised instead of amplified found sounds presented gallery fashion.

ARTWORK   A textured board sleeve holds both CD and art cards - all presented in grey with a hint of olive. Elegant line art - the drawings of Dove Allouche appear on the front cover, on the CD and on three of the internal cards - the fourth contains an explanation of the project in English on one side and French on the other. Two photographs of the gallery wherein the music was originally installed accompany the wording. Text on the outer cover is minimal - nothing on the front, a simple title on the rear.
OVERALL     Mathias Delplanque here delivers an esoteric recording that was initially a part of the artist's residency at Montréal's Studio Cormier in December 2004. The sounds are gathered 'silences' from the studio - that is, the empty spaces of the studio were recorded without human presence at the quietest parts of the day. Once recorded, the results have been greatly amplified revealing a surprising variety of sound. A ghostly emptiness alive with magnified minutiae, eerie and otherworldly shifts constantly in the ear - at once both familiar with displaced normality and strangely alien and intriguing. This is a CD for fans of experimental sound - consider Lithophonia for something vaguely within similar territory.




 ------Na-Koja-Abad - Deluvia

Submarine spaces, ambient drift and gentle tribal rhythm. Deluvia immerses the listener in deep water shade and slow motion current through careful layering of synthetic tone and well integrated 'organika' - frame-drums, dholak, djembe, shakers, rainstick, sand, pebbles, sea-shells and chimes. The drones that well up, morph and decay are in constant subtle movement, one layer washing its transparencies across another - sonic ephemera hanging in the mass of the tides. Ney flutes and whale-like strains pierce the loneliness, for a while forcing back the darkness, before once again sinking out of ear shot. Long, drawn-out pads and heaving assemblages of sound combine atonal turbulence and disturbances with brooding musical undulations and harmonious flow.

MOOD   Na-Koja-Abad has created a series of inky sound pools that are dark and murky, yet beautiful and appealing in their gloom - like the darkness of submerged caverns, the obscurity of the lowest of sea beds. There is the sense that you never quite know what might next emerge out of the shadows - percussive effects suggestive of ambiguous life forms or time-sculpted natural formations. Mystery, uncertainty - lost in the vastness of bewildering places, fascinating solitudes.
ARTWORK   Graphically enhanced and textured photography fills all panels - ultramarine, indigo, black. Aquatic vistas with emergent forms held in pools of light. Again Na-Koja-Abad produces his own distinctive imagery - rich in texture and luxuriating in background darkness. Rock structures, coral flutes and tubes, text subdued and dim - words working in harmony with imagery. The rear cover presents the track titles and times; credits are on the reverse of the inner booklet, the innermost panels given over entirely to an undersea twilight.
OVERALL    Na-Koja-Abad's fifth album is perhaps his most tenebrous - beats are infrequent or very subtle and the ambient mass is dense and lightless. Imagine the steady sway of deep ocean current, the to and fro pull of an enormity of water - the surface far from sight, uncertain presences somewhere off in the gloom. The seven tracks fade into one another through brief silences softly maintaining a constant mood throughout.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Ambient fans that enjoy smooth isolationist intensity will find this an absorbing composition. This album goes further, lower, deeper into the intriguing and lonely places Na-Koja-Abad has explored on previous CDs - if you enjoyed the weightier aspects of his earlier music you'll appreciate Deluvia.




 ------ Bruno Sanfilippo - InTRO
MUSIC    A mixture of rhythmic and beatless cinematic ambient. Bruno Sanfilippo brings together a broad range of ethnic instruments, environmental sounds and digital effects to develop his underlying musical structures here laid down with synthesisers, strings, bells, chimes and pianos. Ambient zones, soft and faint build into harmonious passages where melody can be dominant, clear and tuneful or at times understated - simple motifs rolling over humming drones. There are introspective piano lines that reverberate against sonic breezes - curling, unhurried bars of dreamlike music, blissful and quite beautiful. There are airy pads and meandering mists and hazes of sound - crisp percussives or droplets disturbing the smooth surfaces. The final track is a delightfully wistful piano piece with an eastern pipe dolefully entwining the main theme - truly emotive and achingly heart-rending.
ARTWORK   Sepia imagery covers the outer panels of this CD jewel case - uncertain montages, small photographs overlaid upon an indistinct figure - shadows and bright lights. Track titles are on the reverse in a simple elegant font. The inner booklet contains a monochrome portrait of the artist on stone steps and recording details and credits. Behind the CD is a dual language portion of text expounding the project in poetic language. A coil of copper wire sits in the frame of the jewel case - delicate and ornamental - a nice touch of individuality.

This series of seven contemplative compositions further explores Bruno Sanfilippo's interest in the unfettered possibilities of dreams. Each piece has a title beginning with the letters InTRO - InTROvoices, InTROpassion, InTROvisions ... There is a collaborative piece with Alio Die (Stefano Musso) InTROsacro which can also be found in a remixed form on Alio Die's The Flight of Real Image. Serene and otherworldly - InTRO has moments of haunting weightlessness, pools of comfortable warmth. In general an inviting and harmonious album that draws the listener into restful reverie - on into emotional swells and wonderfully indulgent quiet melancholy.





 ------Conni St. Pierre - Flower Spirits
STYLE   Impressionist ambient new age flute and keyboard meditations. Flower Spirits features a variety of flute sounds with an improvisational, meandering quality, tranquil hovering melodies that bring the spirit of the great outdoors right into your head on a scented pillow. Gentle pianos, chimes and bell-tone synths form undulating beds of sonic blossom that generally act as a backdrops, occasionally billowing up to steal the attention. Buffalo drum, pueblo drum and other subtle or muted percussion elements laid down by hand propel some pieces along in easy patterns, soft, padding deep within the mix.
MOOD   Introspective and dreamy - Conni St Pierre creates visions of leafy glades and dappled meadows where the vastness of the sky meets the intricacy and slow motion of blooming flora. Very relaxing and natural in loose structure, this is music that could fill your ears carrying you off into inspired reverie, or could equally just tint your environment as subtle background music bringing its calming effects unnoticed.
ARTWORK   In pastel blue, green, pink and white a graphic flower dominates the front cover simple, intricate - deceptive, ring upon ring of irregular regularity. Uncomplicated text appearing almost handwritten rises into the suggestion of sky. On the reverse track titles, instruments and credits can be found along with contact information. Within, monochrome photography juxtaposes the artist against a plain of wild flowers - white panels providing additional background details, each track here accompanied by a brief note on the flowers described in the music.
OVERALL    Ten tracks dedicated to different aspects of wild blossom - a carefully crafted arrangement that seems effortlessly artless and natural. Following after the Legends trilogy, this CD is to be the first of a series inspired by the natural world - delicate themes on fluted breezes guaranteed to soften the atmosphere and perfume the senses. Flower Spirits is released on Conni's own Smash Easy label and was produced and mastered at her own studio surrounded by a private wildlife refuge. The artwork is her own.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This is music that will aid relaxation and periods of contemplation. Flower Spirits will appeal mainly to new age listeners that lean on the ambient side where melodies are understated with emphasis on mood and colour.