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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

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 ------Thom Brennan - Signals In Moonlight
STYLE

 

 

This album is something of a departure from Thom's other recent albums - here interwoven among the familiar broad expanses of ambient sound we have sequenced synths, burbling arpeggios and even some soft beats. Having said that, the album opens with the beat-free 'Emeralds In Water', a beautiful soundfield piece positively glowing in translucence. The rhythmic tracks are subtle with sequencer sounds rising and falling like a lazy tide, gentle drums or tablas pattering within and across the liquid mix and always with thick layerings of silken electronic drones - some as deep as the ocean, others adding a sheen, like shafts of natural light.
 
MOOD   Bright in the way that moonlight is bright, floating against darkness in all its densities. Restful and natural atmospheres that sometimes drift as wistfully as a leaf on a still millpond, sometimes shudder on a sonic breeze and sometimes pulse radiantly with languid, gossamer percussion.
 
ARTWORK   I have the orange-blue cover artwork, which is vivid and minimal, with just enough detail to create a representational impression. The banded colours suggest atmospheric vistas - open air, open water, open mind. Text is again minimal and is even completely absent from the inner booklet. The titles are bound to the landscape with such concrete settings as 'Seattle' and 'San Francisco' acting as stimuli or the less specific bearings of 'Waterfront', 'The Fog Unveils' and 'Northward'.
 
OVERALL    Nine tracks of flowing, beguiling 'liquid velvet' sound. All are gentle, glowing pieces rooted in real world locations, full of a sense of belonging - as if they should be looping continually in the air at the place they were conceived. Thom's dense ambient planes are carried well by the rhythmic structures he has created here and the non-rhythmic tracks are as lush and inviting as any of the longer compositions he has produced.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This CD might work well as an introduction to Thom Brennan's work, especially for the listener who hasn't yet delved too deeply into complete drifting, beatless ambient music. Whatever restful thing you like to do - do it to this music ... or better still, do nothing.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

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 ------Bluetech - Elementary Particles & Prima Materia
STYLE   Psychedelic, intelligent, electronic dub music with multiple layers of soft-synth experimentation and whispering hints of ethnic influences. Bluetech produces a busy sound with a fresh digital feel - there is an obvious precise attention to detail both in composition and in production technique. Clearly the artist enjoys re-engineering sound sources, injecting echoing snippets of voice, manipulated world music elements and reverberating textures of computer-generated noise. The overall effect is complex, clear and blissful.
 
MOOD  

The mood is chilled mid/down-tempo, yet thanks largely to the clean, crisp dynamics, frequently upbeat and light in tenor. There are a range of influences evident, with the composor drawing on many musical genres from reggae and dub to jazz and classical. However, everything works together in harmonious unity to form a distinct 'Bluetech' sound constantly shifting, thick with psychedelia.

 
ARTWORK   The artwork on this double CD is in keeping with Bluetech's vision - 'both organic and digital at the same time'. Strings of flowers overlay kaleidoscopic background imagery with deep, glowing colours. The photography is sharp and warm, the composition impelling, whilst the text is simple and clear, not interfering with the graphics and giving us all the information, credits and thanks we need.
 
OVERALL   

This package re-issues Prima Materia (originally released on Waveform) and the Elementary Particles EP (available on Native State) together as two hours of blissful chilled-out psychedelia. There is an enchanting, otherworldly, hi-tech atmosphere as Bluetech aims to capture "that element of the fantastic that underlies normal reality that peers through in dreams". Tracks work as a seductive "doorway for that energy" carrying the listener off on mind trips that work well with the ambience of the night. The track Triangle on disc two is a remix of an original piece by Sounds From The Ground and we also get a guest remix of Bluetech's own Prayers For Rain by J. VIEWZ on disc one.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

This is pure synthetic bliss, with emphasis on trebly dub beats and exploratory electronics. If you enjoy psy-trance all slowed down to a swaying pace, digital experimentation and desk-top mystical wandering - try this double album. Although Bluetech does live shows, his music has a distinct 'studio' feel to it, so this will appeal to those liking painstakinkly constructed sonic architecture rather than 'live' musical performance.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

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 ------Lesiem - Auracle
STYLE

 

 

Choral, orchestral, electro-rock with the choir of the German opera Berlin. Many tracks with solo female vocals in English, courtesy of Maggie Reilly. The Lesiem sound is majestic, soaring and operatic - at times reminiscent of a big rock musical production with electric guitars and powerful drums.
 
MOOD   The mood here is one of grandeur and passion - combining "operatic melodies, diva inspired vocals and worldbeat influences", although the worldbeat elements are not dominant. Heavy string and voice arrangements are interspersed with quieter moments where flutes or pizzicato effects anticipate the next crescendo.
 
ARTWORK   The artwork is suitably heavy and lively, quite a feast for the eye. Thick earth and rust toned textures and scrolling letters merge with historical line drawings and swirling graphics to form an attractive unity. The idea is to stir up "sleeping myths and slumbering fables". The digipack that I have features titles in Latin (but I notice Amazon list all the tracks in the English language) which adds to the overall image of manipulated antiquity. Sleeve notes are extensive with credits for the players and singers.
 
OVERALL    Auracle was initially released in Germany under the title 'Times' - now reissued by Intentcity the music has been remastered and repackaged under fresh artwork. The stand-out features on Auracle are the pomp of the choirs, the bold female vocals and the expansive interplay of orchestra, rock guitar and electronic effects. Despite the suggestions, Lesiem don't really sound like most other acts out there - they fill a niche all of their own. Listen to the samples at Intentcity for an idea of what to expect.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Fans of Gregorian chant fusion looking for something with a feel of grandeur rather than downtempo chill-out. Lesiem would suit those leaning toward adventurous rock rather than pure modern electronica. If you like your choirs live rather than sampled, if you enjoy real drums and guitars - Lesiem combine these well with the orchestral backbone of their overall sound.
 

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 ------Ishq - Orchid
STYLE   Exotic ambient electronica. Orchid is a twinkling jewel of sound, there are subdued melodies sunk into a setting of synth wisps, chimes, bubbles and drones along with female voice effects and the sounds of nature. Jacqueline Kersley is credited as vocalist contributing tones and utterances that complement the overall effect perfectly. Only the first track 'Skyblue' has a beat running through it, the rest are either more subtly rhythmic or just drifting, floating in nature. The synthetic and the organic are very well woven together on Orchid, often being hard to distinguish.
 
MOOD  

Eleven blissed-out digital soundworlds. Sensual, alien, exotic - like a walk in a tropical rainforest dripping with liquid colour and buzzing with glistening sounds. The patterns are often hypnotically cyclic with droplets and trickles, waves and washes of tone all gently blooming and falling. Gulls, waves, breezes, insects, bells, wires, strings, pads and atmospheres intermingle, morph and revolve in layer upon layer of fluid production.

 
ARTWORK  

There are two editions of Orchid, the original released through Interchill Records and the extended two CD version available through Dakini Records. I'm fortunate enough to have the double album, which is a sumptuous digipack. The mental imagery I have, listening to the music is almost perfectly represented in the artwork (is that because the artwork inspired my imagination in the first place or just because it fits so well?) cyan waters, lush greenery, sensuous blossoms, lens flare, bubbles and ambiguous emblems and motifs. The text is simple, telling us what we need to know and pointing to the appropriate web sites for contact.

 
OVERALL   

The ultimate in ethereal, magical soundscape creation. Orchid drifts beatless and weightless like the shadows of clouds, or pulses with haunting beauty amid a myriad water drops or even luxuriates for a while under a chilled shuffling beat. For the most part this is an ambient album, but one full to the brim with detail and understated melody. The depth and texture is enthralling, ethnic instrumentation wafts in and out casting a beguiling glamour and we're buoyed up and carried on meandering currents of digital ecstasy.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Perfect for lovers of dreamy digital/organic electronica. If you want soundscapes of exotica, visions of paradise or sonic incense - this is for you. Ambient music with plenty of detail to focus on, constant variation and some melody. Ethno-electronic fans might well enjoy the use of global sounds and real-world environments.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

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 ------Aria (Paul Schwartz) - Metamorphosis
STYLE

 

 

Light chilled beats and synthwork exquisitely blended with classical sounds. Paul Schwartz takes "small excerpts from powerful moments in opera", both instrumental and vocal, and then builds these into contemporary "ambient/dance soundscapes". The pieces are all very melodic, ranging from soft tranquil, piano and orchestral moments to light, beat driven chillout-opera. The strings and organic sounds of the various live instruments weave smoothly among the electronic structures and the beats move effortlessly in and out without ever sounding incongruous.
 
MOOD   Light and dreamy for the most part, however, there is passion in the arrangements, especially where the classical aspect is most strongly developed. Metamorphosis is largely a relaxing album, sensual in places, with some powerful passages - but the emphasis is on laid back grooves and lullaby sounds that evoke the wings of angels. The sounds used here are not primarily sampled sounds; the feel is that of a 'live' production brought into the studio. A large string orchestra and the vocals of Rebecca Luker bring a living, breathing realism to the various pieces.
 
ARTWORK   I only have the advance copy of this CD so I probably can't do justice to the artwork of the full package. The cover image follows in the vein of the first two Aria CDs - photographic montages of performers, musical symbolism and rich textures. This time the whole affair is tinted in a yellowy-sepia tone. The track list includes two special bonus tracks, one from each of the previous two Aria albums.
 
OVERALL    Paul Schwartz has continued the Aria project now into this third album of the series, which might well be the best of the set so far. Paul is well suited to such a melding of opera and contemporary instrumentation having served as Assistant Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony and Musical Director with a number of musical stage productions. Interspersed among the main pieces of the album are three instrumentals, Metamorphosis 1, 2 and 3 .... these are gentle piano and string excursions highlighting Paul's obvious compositional skill. Along with the two bonus tracks the whole album flow comfortably, rarely straying far from the main agenda - soothing the listener with waves of strings, heavenly voices, synths and easy grooves.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you like the idea of classical-crossover, if you enjoy the sounds of the orchestra, operatic voices and modern electronic arrangements - this album is a quality production. Music to have you carried away by angels - light, bright and full of emotion.
 

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 ------vidnaObmana - Spore
STYLE

 

 

Spore follows on from Tremor as the second part in vidnaObmans's trilogy inspired by Dante's Inferno. An eerie, dark ambient album with mutated ethnic elements and echoes from an industrial heritage. The nine tracks are largely rhythmic, often with strong techno-ritualist programmed beats. VidnaObmana is credited with the following sound sources: Atmospheres, rhythms, various Fujara's, overtone flutes and percussion, dreampipe, recycling & abstract mutations, voices, electric guitar and E Bow harmonics. We also have guest appearances by Marc Verhaeghen on trumpet and Joris De Backer with double bass and strings. Without becoming melodramatic, Spore explores uncomfortable sonic territories and imagery with paradoxically the most unearthly section being the sonorous, muttering human voices on Skin Strip.

 
MOOD  

Discomforting, nightmarish atmospheres thrumming with a strange beauty. Trance inducing repetition and tense electronic mutation gives way to brief moments of calm and grace before the creeping rhythms start up again. A sequence of gothic bass guitar notes like the tolling of a dull rusted bell leads some tracks onward. Some of the sounds are uncomfortable to hear - but the sleeve notes tells us: "All extreme high and low frequencies, feedback and dissonant harmonies are intentional and part of the composition. Please handle the playback of this CD with care".

 
ARTWORK  

The graphic approach is at unity with that of Tremor - Martin Verhoeven's large, textural, grainy photographic abstractions contrasted with razor sharp panels, text and graphics. The quote from Inferno chosen for this album is "Hope nevermore to look upon the heavens; I come to lead you to the other shore, To the eternal shades in heat and frost". Whereas the descent of Tremor was black and white, Spore is sepia toned with highlights of red text - it seems that at the lowest point there is colour....this reminds us that Spore is a musical exploration of a place - a place that means different things to different individuals - hence the hues and tones, although undeniably dark, are no more frightening than you choose.

 
OVERALL   

VidnaObmana is often called an 'ethno-ambient/dark ambient/electronic artist' and I guess they're possible labels (if somewhat simplistic); this CD is certainly dark and electronic, it has some ethnic instrumentation and the structure could be seen as ambient since melodies are not prominent. Truly though - vidnaObmana is a trailblazer, Spore sounds very different from most other music, experimental although not hard to listen to (nevertheless, in places, challenging or even attacking the nerves and senses). As with Tremor, the production is immaculate, each twisted layer and texture having its own frequency space to turn in.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you enjoyed Tremor, Spore is a gratifying development of the same theme. vidnaObmana music at it's most powerful, pioneering and well presented. But beware, you don't have here an album of easy melodies, comfortable beats or drifting ambient bliss - this CD is a dense, gritty post-industrial bouquet of dead roses, alluring and elegant but bleak, rich in symbolism and conscious of its own mortality. If you want to depart the beaten track and visit sound worlds that provoke rather than sooth, that probe new terrains rather than play safe - try Spore.