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 ------Single Cell Orchestra - Celldom V.1: Opt

Electro grooves and synthetic melodies - Single Cell Orchestra here presents a series of appealing pieces where lo-fi beats full of hits of sculpted white noise, blips and clicks roll along mostly at a smooth downtempo pace - whilst a restricted palette of synthesiser voices reminiscent of the 80s sound paints overlapping melodic arrangements. The sound and aesthetic suits the band name admirably. Effected pianos and music box voices tinkle and echo against the circuitry of programmed rhythms creating sometimes an air of wistful melancholy. The occasional snippet of human voice, brief, fleeting contrasts the hypnotic electronica. Lush washes of tone and harmonious, tuneful leads make for some attractive themes and memorable moments.


This album has something of a retro techno mood due to the choice of instrumentation. Yet there is a tinge of sadness in a number of places. These feel at times like android themes for Bladerunner cityscapes, visions of a future seen from decades past. Single Cell Orchestra creates a sophisticated brand of computer music, hi-tech chillout with catchy patterns.

ARTWORK   Having only a promo copy of the album I am able only to comment on the striking tree-frog green of the front cover. As you can see from the image above, this is arranged in stark simplicity with only the text breaking the uniform surface.

Single Cell Orchestra is primarily the project of San Francisco musician Miguel Fierro, released in this instance on Cyberset Records. Having been around since the early 90s and being involved in releases for Astralwerks, Asphodel and Reflective, he has recently also teamed up with Bass Kittens "to do a bunch of singles". This album is intended to be the first in a series of three or more releases under the title 'Celldom', the idea being to deliver a set of different aspects of Single Cell Orchestra's unique sound. A deceptive simplicity pervades most tracks - both in sound and structure, but the fresh, slender musical quality here is compelling and quite often dreamy and transporting.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Electronica fans with a love of melody and an appreciation for uncomplicated synthesiser sound will enjoy this album.




 ------Various Artists - Chillicious

Downtempo, moody soundscapes with a nocturnal urban flavour. Chillicious prowls along with measured dark rhythms, subdued melodies and gutsy basslines. A number of tracks feature male voices - radio transmissions, spoken, whispered, low chants and restrained singing. There are elements of trip-hop, dub, ambient and electro threaded throughout the collection - but always with a gritty, shadowy nature underpinning the arrangements. Most pieces lurk in this atmosphere night-time city cool, some taking the somewhat lighter lounge sound approach like Timewarp inc's 'Top 5 feat.Rxn' whereas Chris Zippel presents a track that is slightly reminiscent of a chilled remix of something by Enigma. The set concludes with a piece of ambient groove by R.O.U.D.O.S. entitled 'Know Some Things' that slinks easily along as the album's longest contribution at eight mnutes and four seconds.

ARTWORK   Chillicious comes in a luxuriant dark digipack - lush black panels with ash blue imagery hanging in the heavy gloom. The photography presents late-night venues with silhouetted figures and low lighting - the excellent logo smoking in the foreground with icy fumes, frozen and lustrous. The track listing on the rear cover is expanded inside providing credits, recording details and websites for each piece. The Waveform back catalogue is listed behind the CD and previous release Smooth Chill is highlighted on the remaining inner panel.
OVERALL    Waveform presents here a compilation arranged by label manager and DJ Forest carrying the legend 'deeper, darker, sensual soundscapes cool and refreshing'. Promotional material describes the intent behind the project - "we remain true to the spacey, dubby, psychedelic roots of authentic chill music and herewith present some of the best of the genre with this collection of deeper, darker recordings by various talented artists from around the planet". This is an album for fans of low-key chillout music that lurks in dusky corners, that drifts like black clouds across the moon, that hangs like a distant refrain on the downtown air.





 ------Honest Touch - Memories From A Dream
STYLE   Melodic new age piano music with orchestral, rock and pop influences. The central element in Honest Touch's sound is the lively piano work of Fofi Maniadaki - this is presented with accompaniments of electric and acoustic guitars, strong live drum tracks and striking string arrangements. Choral voices from the Fons Musicalis Choir and neo-classical vocals from Marita Paparizou combine with a variety of orchestral sounds to broaden the musical palette and add to the romantic drama on a number of tracks. The singing on the album is soaring and bold, much of it wordless, suggestive almost of a rock musical at times. Sounds of the sea, babbling children, radio transmissions, birds and traffic noise all bring an ambient background to various points on the CD.
MOOD   Dramatic and warm - Honest Touch have quite an emotional approach where sweeping surges of feeling and climactic peaks well up and overflow against a pacey set of bright musical structures. Often quite beaty, edging toward rock at one end of the spectrum with flamboyant, grandiose themes and then dropping to gentle, almost plaintive interludes and delicate moments all within a single track. At times cinematic and frequently ardent, Memories From A Dream presents a vision of opulent, optimistic romanticism.
ARTWORK   I have only a promotional copy and so am able to comment on just the front cover imagery you see above - a well chosen photograph of a lonely wooden jetty shot so as to capture a limited range of hues and a frozen narrative moment.
OVERALL    Honest Touch refer to themselves as "a project rather than a traditional band". The project being established by Fofi Maniadaki and Samy Elgazzar based in Athens, Greece. Supporting the two person nucleus is an impressive array of collaborators - a five-piece band, the Amadeus Orchestra and on some songs the Philarmonia Bulgarica, the Fons Musicalis Choir and guest artists Vasilis Garoufalidis on violin and vocalist Marita Paparizou. The band often performs live having debuted in 2000, their set comprising a combination of both original and cover music.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Honest Touch will appeal to piano enthusiasts that enjoy strong melodies and an upbeat new age aesthetic. This album includes an instrumental cover of ABBA's 'Lay All Your Love On Me' which perhaps hints at the tuneful stylistic choice of the band.




 ------Five Thousand Spirits - Quantum Consciousness

Opening with dramatic gongs, murmuring voices and cinematic sweeps - Quantum Consciousness establishes an expansive warm soundscape where intermittent electronic bleeps and flickering static play across the smooth surface. Various effects fluctuate in levels of dominance - surges, mechanical clickings, burbling electronica. The warm tones give way in a number of places to less comfortable patterns of notes, darker atmospheres, ambiguous zones where puzzling noises come and go. There are low, garbled voices and fluttering pitch-shifted breaths along with rhythmic heavy breathing - sometimes dropping to little more than a faint movement of air. Simple musical motifs recur in places, becoming mesmerising in repetition - there is even a soft beat at one point. Frequently the mood drops almost to a sombre introspective level - but always there is a sense of wonder and mystery, chimes and percussive objects reverberating, unidentified environmental recordings stirring up dirt and murk..

ARTWORK   Designed by Hic Sunt Leones - the whole package is suffused in a flat, deep green with gold imagery. Serpents twine in a deathly struggle on the front cover - simple and stark against the sea of green. The jewel case reverse carries an archaic image of a world surrounded by clouds, blown into movement by cherubs. The legend 'Prepare to have your reality shattered' proclaims the intent of the music. Inside we have another serpent design - this time black against green - framing the tracklist, gear description and recording information.
OVERALL    After seven years of silence from the release of their last collaborative work Raffaele Serra and Alio Die here create together an absorbing series of moods. This music was composed between 2004 and 2005 with Raffaele Serra working with analog and digital synthesizers, tapes and electronics and Stefano Musso providing drones and loops, editing, zither, field recordings, valvular radio. Saffron Wood is also mentioned in the sleeve notes, having provided a flute sample on the track 'Green Desire'. The album consists of five lengthy tracks of organic ambience and electronic atmosphere. For those familiar with the work of Alio Die - the earthy nature of this release will be familiar - mystical and thought provoking.




 ------Max Corbacho - The Talisman
STYLE   Expansive beatless spacey ambience created by the establishing of immense translucent zones of overlapping tonal masses. These swelling multiple layers are lustrous and dense like massive backlit clouds drifting in darkness. A warmth breathes into some pieces, still panoramic and open, but with waves and undulations of harmony and serenity. In other places the sound drops away into unfathomable depths where fractal lights play lazily on the surface of the abyss. The density of the music almost impenetrable at times - suggestive of enormity and endlessness. Amnios contains whispering voices, echoing sussurations, a hint of humanity adrift on meandering tides. Ruby For The Sun builds on a rumbling weight of sound, the glisten and shimmer of gossamer membranes unfolding their colour above - electronic washes bathing everything in gliding radiance. Cellular Memory contains near percussive flashes of white noise and trickles of glassy synthesiser, liquid clear amid the oceanic swell and pull of steady drones - the track fading almost imperceptibly, slowly, off into infinite distance ...
MOOD   The Talisman engenders a definite sense of awe and wonder - a feeling of universal enormity pervades the whole album shot through with delicate filaments of light and colour. In general the mood is one of ponderous, harmonious drama, the occasional dissonant tones and grumbling clouds usually brightened by shifting unseen luminaries. Rather like a series of aural nebulae - each track has its own distinct personality but all clearly share a common structural nature.
ARTWORK   The imagery on this album is very beautiful - fractal swirls and organic loops and skins laid out one on top of another - all in luscious hues of green, olive and pale yellow. The designs were apparently created using Apophysis 2.04 beta - a neat piece of software ideally suited to producing abstract graphics. Subtle olive lettering disturbs the visual impact as little as possible - tidy and tasteful. Internal panels make use of black and white versions of similar images - with an explanation of the project, recording details and contact information laid out in a simple white font.

Max Corbacho seems to be growing in stature with each release - this is a very ambitious sound presented with a high degree of polish and attention to detail. There are eleven compositions on the album, each created sometime between 2004 and 2006. Max's promotional material explains that "most of these songs were composed during various, long, deep meditative improvisation sessions". Equipment used for the project included "my beloved Korg Triton & Korg Z1, and sound processing outboard expansion units such Reverbs and Delays, as well some other esoteric gear". The results are timeless, placeless, progression free infusions of harmony, floating as if suspended in the vastness of eternity. The Talisman is released via ad21 Music - a label set up in 1998 by Max and fellow musician Bruno Sanfilippo to showcase their own ambient and contemporary electronic music releases.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you like Steve Roach's work, The Talisman might well be right up your street. Professionally produced ambient grandeur - free of beats and melodies, but thick with tenebrous drones and glowing textural density.





 ------Max Corbacho - The Resonant Memory of Earth
MUSIC   Smooth, synthetic ambient zones. This is an album of immersive atmopheres without beat or melody, designed to set the listener adrift. Welling up like waves on the shore, washes of tone arise and roll one over another in constant succession - some deep and sonorous, some light, thin, others full of sonic detritus caught in the tide - percussive rattles like churning pebbles. Ever-receeding surges of sound drain back into the next wave. As the album pulls away from the shoreline the electronic ocean becomes dark and obscure in places, floating forms drifting by, heavy masses of tone heaving and pulling. Tracks blend one into another, the only indication of a progression usually being a lessening of intensity, a lightness as if surfacing momentarily. New tracks subtly intorduce fresh voices into the mix and some shifts of scale.
ARTWORK   Liquid ripples and solarised reflections fill two panels of the cover booklet in rich blues, turquoises, terracotta hues and dark shadows. The title text sitting in a heavy border of shadow near the base. On the reverse an ambiguous out of focus photo-image works as backdrop for the titles and an explanation of the project. Within we find a gear list, recording details and credits, some special thanks and contact information - this is presented on a white background with an accompanying monochrome reflection image.
OVERALL    For his third album, Max Corbacho presents four longform pieces ranging from just over six minutes to thirty eight minutes fifteen seconds. Designed for continuous playback - the tone is generally a serious one drifting somewhere in between warmth and cold. The concept behind the music is that of the "earth call" - what Max describes as "that feeling pulling us away from the cities to seek contact with the rock, the earth and water ...". A strong sense of space with something of the viscosity of liquid pervades this album - the listener is able to feel suspended in sound, surrounded in all directions, afloat, immersed.