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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Amongst Myselves - Auburn Silhouette
STYLE   Ambient spaces and landscapes with percussive incidentals and some beats. Auburn Silhouette contains tracks with smooth ambient sheets, an almost choral tone at times lurking beneath; warm, harmonious synths shot through with brassy strains; booming, dense sonic environments suggestive of roaring emptiness, atonal turbulences, atmospheric disturbance. These sound zones are embellished with subtle snatches of melody on guitar and keyboard, the echoing chirps of birds, sampled sounds, short warbling sequences, jangling metallics ringing and clattering, rich, deep chimes. There is the low, far off booming of a single colossal drum softened by distance, random, arrythmic percussives that sound like processed field recordings, fluttering electro-grooves that don't quite unite into beats and plenty of beatless void, open air weightless, vaporous. Two tracks break the mold - first Hole In The Sky where rock chords and drums with a synth lead deliver an instrumental that could have come straight off a seventies concept album and the final piece Winter Of The Falling Stars with strumming acoustic guitar, electric lead, complete drum kit and electronic enhancements.
   
MOOD   Serene and warm, revelling in wonderment at the earth and the universe and then dark and isolationist, heavy, grey textures overlaid with thin strains and sweeps of tuned air. There are also exotic and global elements such as the rolling, clanging chimes of Munstead Heath and the almost tribal drumming thumping in regular measure on the drifting Southern Lights. A number of tracks create gloomy abyssal underlays that evoke dark depths or universal immensity coloured by delicate surface detail, hints of peripheral light or soft melodic touches. The two rock tracks present laid back, feel good pieces with hints of psychedelic transportation.
 
ARTWORK   Auburn shadows trace the silhouette of an elegant tree onto the rough surface of a whitewashed wall - at one end warm and sun touched, at the other cool and drained of colour in shade. Titles are separated from the imagery by being placed within flat monochrome bands - brown, black. On the reverse tracks are listed each with their playing times. Inside is a two page fold out that takes the front cover wall into closer view, here acting as a backdrop to credits, thanks and website info all sprawled diagonally across the dappled light and soft shadows.
   
OVERALL   

Auburn Silhouette is the fourth CD from Steve Roberts' Australian based ambient project Amongst Myselves following up the 2003 release Sacred Black. The album comes with nine audio tracks and an accompanying three track DVD that aligns the tracks Southern Lights, Up Into The Air And Over The Edge and Star with images of shifting cloud, revolving starscapes and the kaleidoscopic, curling tendrils of computer generated organic models. Promotional material explains that each track of the album "evokes a different environmental experience, with inspiration drawn from outback Australia and twelve months working and travelling overseas .... certainly a headphone experience".

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Lovers of meandering, environmental ambient music will enjoy much of Auburn Silhouette - much of it beatless and expansive. The album contains plenty of variety and so holds the attention well if you want something more than a zone drone.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Mythos - Purity
STYLE   Romantic electronic instrumentals with wordless female vocals and plenty of organic instruments woven into the mix. Mythos return to their signature sound where world instruments and downtempo fusion beats blend with melodic piano, strings and acoustic guitar in a series of warm, inviting compositions. Jenifer Scott's soaring, beaming voice dances across a number of tracks almost operatic in style - sometimes taking the lead, sometimes hanging back deep in the mix. The acoustic guitar that drives quite a few of the arrangements has a Spanish feel often lending a somewhat Latin air, there are classical elements, there are also exotic finger cymbals and ethnic flutes, but really the Mythos sound is a true melting pot of influences with the wide array of voices all bound up into a united vision.
 
ARTWORK   The surrealist dream imagery of previous Mythos albums is maintained here courtesy of painter Gil Bruvel. A woman's head dominates the front cover - alcoved, cut away - smaller faces and statuesque masks populating the larger. A mysterious landscape and moody sky run behind into misty distance. This main image re-appears throughout the package - different details enlarged and presented in their own right. The sleeve folds out into three sections - one side holding simply a section of the cover painting centred on the closed eyes of the face the other side presenting credits and recording information, explanations of some of the tracks' origins and contact details.
 
OVERALL    This is the fourth full Mythos album or fifth depending on how you count - the first two CDs were combined into one in 1998 and re-released as 'Mythos'. After something of a departure on the previous release Eternity, the band returns here to the approach that built their identity. Gentle, attractive, harmonious melodies delivered with grace and skill - themes that are easy to remember and filled with emotional intensity. Promotional material explains that Purity "both moves forward and returns to its roots to provide a powerful collection of songs that evoke a strong emotional response". If you enjoyed the early releases, you will almost certainly appreciate this development of the series - the eleven new pieces presented here are as strong as anything the band has produced thus far.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Deviations Project
STYLE   Classical strings combine with electronic soundscaping, warm synth work and fresh beats. Skilled virtuoso violinist Oliver Lewis performs the instantly recognisable melodies from a series of well known classical pieces and some modern favourites - in keeping with the project title the delivery is flexible and deviates in various ways from the original compositions. Producer Dave Williams brings his complementary skills to the project setting timeless melodies in a contemporary context - programmed beats matching the diverse pace of the chosen tracks, piano, keyboards and electronic effects forming a harmonious setting so natural you'd almost forget these compositions weren't originally presented in this way.
 
ARTWORK   Brian Son's sharp artwork lays out red-brown textured silhouettes against pristine white surfaces - the edge of a violin, the artists themselves - each outlined with tantalising hints of detail, graphic tendrils flailing from the edges. Fonts are sharp and unfussy maintaining a clean presentation. The CD comes with a twelve page booklet containing portrait photographs, composition details, credits and a page given over to generous thanks.
 
OVERALL    Deviations Project presents seventeen new arrangements of music that will be instantly familiar from Tchaikovsky's Four Little Swans of Swan Lake and Paganini's 24th Caprice to Mike Oldfield's theme from Tubular Bells and Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene. Each 'deviation' breathes fresh life into music that never tires, vibrant organic strings brilliantly played with powerful emotion and sensitive variation set against cutting edge technology that is equally emotive and deftly crafted. The collection doesn't take itself too seriously as reflected in the track titles - Tootin' Carmen, Albert Ross, Barking, etc. Promotional material passes on the comparison that once described the duo as Paganini meets Royksopp - if you enjoy jazzed up classics, you might well enjoy Deviations Project.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Sattyananda - Internal Activities
STYLE  

Psychedelic ambient electronica, for the most part mystical and beatless, but having infrequent passages of rhythmic synthwork or some mixed percussion. Internal Activities features deep synthetic zones of swelling tone and drifting sequencer cycles where philosophising spoken voice clips float on the slowly swirling air and Indian instruments hang way back in the atmosphere of the mix. Indeed influences from the Indian subcontinent thread throughout the album, the muted clang of a bell, the wiry drone of santoor or sitar, weightless breaths of flute as well as structural arrangements and compositional methodology. The music often feels about to build into a trance beat, perhaps having more in common with the downtempo chill genre than pure ambient, but as it is beats are sparse and sometimes fragmented; arpeggios do well up at times, gentle ripples among the smoother gently undulating beds of tone fading away once more into the aural haze. There are a couple of quite tribal percussion sections toward the end of the album - real drums, programmed loops and drum talk combining seamlessly driving toward the airy concluding track Space Fields.

 
ARTWORK   Psychedelic colour and meditative imagery on black surfaces - the front cover holds a cross-legged figure with a pastel aura emanating from his head, a heavy lidded face within. On the back, the colours glow more brightly forming a backdrop for the tracklist framed in smooth, glossy black once more. The digipack is three panelled - opening out to reveal more turquoise, pink, lemon and lime graphics on black. There is a sixteen page booklet tucked into the rightmost panel where a series of toned photographs portray aspects of India - one for each track - written thoughts accompany the imagery with emotive quotes and musings. The inside back page pictures the artist and contains a variety of thanks and acknowledgments.
 
OVERALL   

Internal Activities is an unusual album that presents a meditative Goa-trance aesthetic in a fairly minimal ambient format - drifting drones and threads of sound roll like sonic incense, fluid synthesiser environments fade in and unfurl, atmospheric meanderings prompting a voyage of introspective tranquillity and self discovery. Sattyananda is musician Nikhel Kumar Mahajan a central figure in the formation of India’s first Electronic Label, DadA Music aimed at bringing the cream of the world's electronic music to the Indian listener. The result is an album with an authenticism often missing in the genre full of self belief and genuine wonder.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Nest
STYLE   A beautifully wistful album of piano music supported by soft, ambient additional instrumentation and marginal effects. Delicate, sparsely populated melodies seem to hang in the air like the ache of nostalgia or peaceful melancholia; slightly reminiscent of Satie or Sakamoto. Buoying up the lead instruments are an array of subtle textures, sometimes musical, sometimes more like atonal disturbances, some lightly percussive, others environmental, a few harmonious - the plucked strings of the Welsh harp, violins, woodwind instruments, jangling chimes, field recordings. The duo take an almost classical, cinematic approach to their sound, the incredibly blissful track Charlotte exemplifying just how this well-worn instrument can sound both timeless and strikingly contemporary at the same time.
 
ARTWORK   Since this is a download album, the artwork consists of a set of JPEGs that can be printed off and cut for a jewelcase. There is a front and reverse cover along with a single sheet insert. The imagery is of frosted conifers with light orange leaves trailing across the foreground - beautifully atmospheric. Text is minimal - only one word on the front 'nest', a tracklist on the rear, 'nest' again inside - mirrored horizontally. I think this might well be one album that I will take the time to burn onto a disc and cherish in its rightful covers, it's special enough.
 
OVERALL   

The album is released via net label Serein and is freely available to download. The label website explains that "Nest is the collaborative project of Otto Totland (Deaf Center / Type Records) and Huw Roberts (Serein)". This being the debut album from the partnership - it is self titled 'Nest'. Since the website allows listeners to stream the music first, there really is no excuse not to sample this delightful release - click here Serein.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Pushmipulyu - 133 Thursdays
STYLE  

This is a bright, light hearted collection of beaty instrumentals with a couple of understated male vocal tracks interspersed. To pin a style on the album would be difficult since Pushmipulyu draw on a variety of sources - the presence of brass or tinkling vibes at times suggest bluesy/jazzy influences - there are lively tracks that drop a night time party straight into your ears - flowing synths that linger in cinematic restraint - electronic effects and urban attitudes - psychedelic trance leanings that occasionally bubble up to the surface. In addition to the keyboards and electronic craft of the writers, guitars, trumpets, sax, assorted brass, harmonica, and vibes bring their own identities into the mix.

   
MOOD   The mood is in constant flux throughout 133 Thursdays - the compositions unfettered by fixing a single choice of approach. As the whim at the time carried the writing, the music naturally wanders from one genre into another - there is however a powerful unity to the album. Perhaps the fact that the music was conceived and put together at night explains the strong nocturnal atmosphere. The seductive inspiration of the city also breathes through most tracks - a subtle ever-present under-the-surface urban tone. There is a live performance feel to much of the music, the programming mostly transparent. For the most part this is twinkling, uplifting album of unself-conscious joy.
 
ARTWORK   Long exposure night time photographs fill most panels of this jewel case presentation - fluid streams of light mark the passage of nocturnal traffic - urban backdrops bathed in yellow street light - graffiti and street markings brightly illuminated. Other images capture more intimate moments - a crumpled page of handwritten lyrics - the photographer's own feet on a sofa - a lonely rural landscape. The sole tracklist appears on the rear of the package, thanks and credits inside the eight page booklet.
   
OVERALL    133 Thursdays is the debut release from this London UK based project. Pushmipulyu is primarily the partnership Steve Rowlands (previously part of Full Moon Scientist) and Michael Sassen (co founder of Megadog), the name suggestive of the duo's different musical directions. The pair is ably supported on the album by a considerable number of additional musicians and vocalists. Released on Interchill Records, this is a true melting pot of styles and influences - there are hints of psychedelic trance, progressive rock, jazzy elements, chillout, lounge and electro.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Coming from the well known Interchill label 133 Thursdays both fits within the label's established territory and at the same time breaks the boundaries. If you enjoy Interchill's general output, especially if you appreciate urban or nu jazz influences, this CD is well worth exploring. If you want something to transport you into the night, or music to enhance the night this is for you. The band has clips to sample on their website and are also resident at Myspace.