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 ------Amethystium - Emblem
STYLE   Ethereal daydream electronica beautifully adorned with female voices, world sounds and distinctive effects. Amethystium builds tracks around twinkling liquid arpeggios, misty synthesiser washes and lush programmed beats - around these basic structures wordless voices weave various spells - gregorian choirs, breathy female tones, ethnic chants - then across everything keening, wistful melodies or emotive piano lines fill the air with memorable themes, audio fantasies that ignite the imagination. Oystein is as adept at creating soft magical interludes of gentle quietude as he is at building swelling climactic passages of grandeur - Emblem delivering the best of these from across three albums. One thing I always enjoy about Amethystium's music is the inventiveness evident in the rhythmic structures - muted hits, pitchshifted loops, effected crunches, frequent variation and shifts of emphasis - a lot of attention has been given to making the beats interesting. Singer Lee Nisbet, Joyelle Brandt and Martha Krabye are credited - only one track has English lyrics though with words taken from poems by Steven Hewitt.
MOOD   Amethystium has created a unique fairytale sound that conjures up visions of twilight woods and lush visionary landscapes. Ideas from Tolkien are scattered across the album and Oystein has skillfully captured something of the stuff of legend and the mystique that such imaginary worlds encapsulate - Most of the tracks here are gentle arrangments with flushes of nostalgia, moments of melancholy introspection or solitude - but there is also an uplifting optimism that brims over, an anthemic grace.
ARTWORK   Emblem comes in a card sleeve with jewel case inside - all elegantly presented. The outer cover features the familiar dragonfly here embossed with a subtle shine against a matt background. The colours are the yellow browns of antique documents giving the package the timeless appeal of uncovered artifacts. Inside, the jewelcase front is free of all type - not a word disturbs the shady monochrome lake image where a silver dragonfly hangs before silhouetted trees and heavy cloud. Again the imagary has been treated and textured to give an impression of age. No words once more inside the case - the booklet and CD support simply presenting more complementary visuals. The jewelcase rear has a simple tracklist white like hoarfrost in the gloom of a winter forest. The inner booklet has twelve pages where further tasteful scenery and timeworn textures support a wealth of information - an explanation of the collection overall and a brief anecdote for each track, credits, thanks and the first portrait photograph so far of Oystein himself.
OVERALL    With three albums under his belt, this is not so much 'best of' as a condensation of Amethystium's first phase, summing up of the 'dragonfly trilogy'. The album is an effective vehicle, the atmosphere is very strong throughout this collection - Emblem capturing nicely the central essence of Amethystium. It is clear from this CD that at his best this is a talented artist with a vivid vision - his compositions put me in mind of evening vistas, forest glades, floating lights, purple nights and storybook memories. How impressed I was to learn here for the first time that the debut Odonata was completed in Oystein's teen years, released on a national scale by the age of twenty! The whole album has been remastered for a fuller sound and includes pieces not available elsewhere - the brand new Anthemoessa and a rerecorded version of Meadowland (previously a part of the five track demo Autumn Interlude released through
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This is the perfect introduction to Amethystium - an elegant delivery of the highlights from the past six years. Fans will want this album for the extra bits and pieces - it's worth it.




 ------Omnimotion - Dream Wide Awake

Dreamy chilled songs and instrumentals with a variety of female vocals. Omnimotion has developed a peculiarly intimate sound, his compositions have an up-close warmth and individuality that frequently pulls the listener right into the lucid dreams that he seeks to share. The music is quite varied - electronic pads and sequences, smooth strings, languid guitar lines, subtle ethnic flutes, struck strings and samples, various unique effects and peripherals. Many tracks have female voices either woven into the fabric of the sound with wordless utterances or else singing, whispering, breathing across the surface. Percussion tracks are inventive, pots overlaid with a light creaking, fragmented trip hop, live drumming, electronic quirks and white noise hits.


The mood is one of luminous, hazy light-headedness - often with a strange sense of detachment as if drifting untethered through a series of delirious, meandering daydreams. There is a strongly organic feel even when most of the instrumentation is electronic - Omnimotion presenting a sound that feels performed, played rather than programmed. Indeed a number of guest artists contributed instrumental parts - violin, accordion, guitar, harp, flute. A European flavour tints a number of pieces in differing degrees - a French lyric, a familiar continental sound or perhaps a choice of musical phrase.

ARTWORK   Having the promotional version of the album, I haven't seen the complete package - but I can tell you that Dream Wide Awake features a series of pastoral photo-montages. The front cover presents (what I assume to be) the artist's face bathed in soft light, crystal blue eyes holding your gaze, pulling the eye back centrally from the surrounding foliage. There is a discussion of the album with a description of how it came about, there is also a brief Omnimotion biography that explains Stephan's skill with orchestration and string arrangement having undertaken a course on classical composition.
OVERALL    This is Stefan Lundaahl's second CD under the name Omnimotion - the first appearing on Waveform Records back in 2002. This time Aleph-Zero delivers the goods and reveals an Omnimotion that has evolved greatly over the intervening years - the hypnotic individuality, however, is still there, if anything Stefan is drifting further off onto a course of his own. No-one sounds quite like this and yet Dream Wide Awake is accessible and appealing, drawing on familiar elements of downtempo, glitch, jazz, dub, ambient and lounge. Eight different vocalists bring their talents to the album as diverse as rapper and opera singer.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Dream Wide Awake will appeal to chillout fans and probably lovers of enigmatic new age music. The album is strongly melodic and features some excellent songs. Try this one if you'd like an unusual take on the world of downtempo electronica.




 ------John Lyell - Dimensions
STYLE   Rhythmic electronic space music with clean synths and a warm floating ambience. Dimensions presents a series of tracks with smooth washes and airy swells, unhurried and uncluttered propelled by gentle pulsing sequences and sonic breezes. There is no percussion to most tracks, no drum beats, but lucid melodic rhythms cycle and roll along with sufficient emphasis to keep the music in constant motion. There are static effects put to use in places, a measured crackle bright and crisp, providing a top layer to the delicate atmospheres and soft transparent hues. When a beat arises during 'Enter The Light' it is sparse, light and flickering. The overall effect is very floatational, as the cover imagery suggests - more a drifting in the upper reaches of the atmosphere than in the remote emptiness of deep space.
MOOD   The mood of Dimensions is one of gentle celestial radiance, delicate shafting light free from the restraints of gravity. There is something of the stillness of dawn, a suggested solitude, a comfortable freedom from distraction, from care, from the weights of the world. John Lyell masterfully spins endless sheets of subtly graduated tone, expanses of sound that meander effortlessly away into remote distance. In harmony with the cover imagery there is often a sense of hanging high in the atmosphere, gliding through empty space, stretched out in the emptiness of air.
ARTWORK   Some lovely complementary imagery adorns this CD - high, high above the clouds a weightless pyramid hangs, a trail of spheres trailing loosely in its wake. Salmon pink mists and orange-pink cloudbanks sheet through a flawless steely blue-grey sky. This design appears with variation throughout the package - on the jewelcase rear, no clouds, rather a dark fractal hole apparently attracting multiple pyramids, spheres and planets - here is the single tracklist. Behind the CD and on the reverse of the booklet similar fractal magnetism distorts pyramids, clouds and sky into swirling curves. Within there is only the lone pyramid and accompanying spheres against a graduated sky - delicate details alongside brief credits, a gear list and website details.

Dimensions is the third CD release from Minneapolis based John Lyell who has been a musician since 1984. This being his first solo album, previously working with friend Brent Reiland to produce "Wormholes" in 1998 and "Synthetic Universe" in 2002. John's music and graphics here reflect his keen interest in astronomy, time travel, and related cosmic subject matter, he writes, records, engineers, and produces everything with mastering credited to ambient legend Robert Rich. Promotional material describes Dimensions as "an Ambient-SpaceMusic Experience that is a mixture of "Rhythmic Pulses" as well as "Floating" SpaceMusic pieces". This is a CD for anyone enjoying tranquil electronic music that defies gravity and stills the mind.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This is an album for lovers of ambient silk, fans of sonic softness and grace. Not a minimal album, yet one uncluttered with plenty of space.




 ------Craig Padilla - The Light In The Shadow
STYLE   Long form deep spacey ambience. Craig Padilla presents here an arrangement of heavenly pads and celestial synths unfolding and washing in in constant waves. Beatless and weightless, swell after swell of bright tone forms an undulating sea of sound. Periodically sonic turbulence or air shoots through the smoothness - sibilant streamers clear and sharp against the layered hazes. There are passages of shorter sequenced notes, pulsing against the longer pads, introducing rhythm and a sense of tempo. The synthesiser settings fluctuate often so that the sound is strongly electronic one moment, akin to angelic voices the next, then glassy, chiming. In time the whole tonal range is employed, low urges of bass adding mass at the bottom end.
ARTWORK   Abstract photographic imagery is well employed here - the front cover grey, blurry and ambiguous - a shot of an empty chair catching the light in the shadow. The main image is distressed and textured, three overlaid panels of lighter tone further obscuring the subject matter. On the reverse, once more scratches and surface damage seem to hang on a separate plane to the photograph behind. Within, the chair image is present again with more blotched overlays having the appearance of sheets of glass. Here inside we find credits, thanks and website information laid out in a simple presentation on the lower half of the rightmost panel.

North California based Craig Padilla  has been recording for around sixteen years and this CD is the latest in a rather impressive back catalogue. The Light In The Shadow is released through the well respected Spotted Peccary label and harks back to the approach employed on the album Vostok. The single track here is sixty three minutes in length passing through numerous distinctive phases during that time. Not a minimalist recording by any means, but as the promotional material explains "its lack of jarring dynamics makes it perfect for relaxation and meditation". This is an appealing piece of electronica that straddles the grey area between pure ambient and electronic space music - you can preview a sample on Craig's own website





 ------DaKsha - Ascendent

Romantic electronic instrumentals with strong melodies and world elements. DaKsha's music has a synthetic foundation with colourful keyboard work built into harmonious themes embellished with warm strings, twinkling peripherals, and the added mystique of various bright effects. Each track has a clear tune carried by pianos, programmed voices or wordless female vocalising. The instrumentation is quite varied - accordion, didgeridoo and flute threaded through the synthesiser work, world sounds appearing periodically both as tonal flavours and among the percussion tracks - castanets, tablas, tribal drumming contributing to what are for most part vibrant drum arrangements.

MOOD   DaKsha have a vivid , theatrical sound that suggests flamboyant masked performers, bright lights at night and rich painted colour. There is a European flavour to a number of pieces, but that said we also have touches of Asia, South America and various other geographical references from track to track. The sound is quite heady and emotive, drawing the various stylistic references together into one clear vision of dramatic artifice.
ARTWORK   Spot lit golden masks - wide mouthed and wide eyed lie bejewelled with multiple graphic layers in kaleidoscopic business. Everything has the feel of the circus or the stage, swirling artificial faces and curling scrollwork creeping up one side and trailing from above. On the jewel case rear is a description of the project laid out alongside the tracklist. Inside, the cover image is repeated behind the CD - this time with no text. On the inner booklet the colour shifts to red - lurid, saturated, similar subject material now brought into monochrome, within another horned mask large and sharp among many others looks across at another red panel of credits and website details.

DaKsha (meaning God's Country or Land of the Gods) take their name from Nicolae Miulescu's 1978 book about life in the rural villages of Romania. The band was formed by guitarist/engineer Alexandru Nuca and pianist George Constantinescu with composer/musician Catalin Truta soon joining in 2000. They are joined on this album by Hans Hvass on soprano sax, Angelus on didgeridoo and Mihaela Cretu with vocals on Nights In Serampur. Ascendent is the result of three years in the studio and shows the artists' interest in folk sounds and international music set into a contemporary presentation.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This is an album that will likely appeal to lovers of label mates Amethystium and Blue Stone. The sound is gentle and tranquil for the most part with bright beats and melodies that hang in the air.





 ------Mystical Sun - Deeperworlds
STYLE   Chilled instrumental electronica with rich layering and serene atmospheres. The label describes Mystical Sun's sound as 'atmostronica' highlighting the lush, ambient quality of the music. Beats range from downtempo restfulness through minimal interludes to pacey dance beats - yet the overall impression is one of tranquillity and unhurried easiness. A female voice echoes in some tracks - spoken words bringing a human touch to a generally synthetic canvas - that said, Mystical Sun's sound is by no means sterile or overly sanitised, the melodic structures have a lot of feeling and emotional impact.
MOOD   There is a slightly psychedelic tone to Deeperworlds, however, the sound is perhaps somewhat deeper, the pace more chilled and the colours more saturated than most psychedelic downtempo trance. Mystical Sun leans in the direction of cinematic soundscaping, world influences tinting the sound with a colourful exotica at times - yet always with tasteful subtlety, there aren't frequent global samples or chants as are often used, rather the flavours are invoked by musical structures or by choice of synthetic voices along with some world beats threaded into the programming..
ARTWORK   I have only a promotional package with no artwork and so can only draw attention to the front cover image shown above. The dense hues, translucent above a black infinity match the musical content well.

This is the second full length release from Mystical Sun, coming in the wake of a huge number of compilation appearances. The music arises from the capable hands of California based musician Richard supported by the voice of Dawn, and is released in this instance via Cyberset Records. Promotional material explains that "Mystical Sun is an artist who creates cinematic sound worlds. He uses a wide array of audio sources in his productions and builds his own custom software instruments to explore the frontiers of sound design. The sound of Mystical Sun could be described as a deep and mystic tone emanating from a radio transmitter in a parallel dimension. Minimally expressed with a potent essence, Dawn is the vocals of Mystical Sun; leading one to their spirit's calling."

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Mystical Sun will appeal to the downtempo fans that have taken the term 'ambient' and adapted it to their own purposes - lovers of deep electronic sequencing and texturing with plenty of rhythm.