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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------V/A - The Celtic Lounge II
STYLE   Songs and instrumentals bound together with Celtic roots. Most of the tracks here have an acoustic structure - folk guitars and pianos either featured in their own right or supporting mesmerising female vocals. There are a range of other sounds to broaden the appeal - delicate harp, mandolin, soft strings, a keening whistle and even some deft electronic programming. A series of graceful singers deliver emotive performances in that distinctive style that draws on timeless folk influences, ethereal sweetness and cinematic colour; sometimes free of percussion, sometimes driven along by traditional rhythm instruments, a full drum kit or a digital groove. Solo instrumentals are provided by compilers of this CD Steve and David Gordon - rich, sharp steel string guitar from Steve, tranquil piano from David.
 
ARTWORK   Lush montages flood this attractive package in vibrant shades of green. Celtic knots twine across engraved jewellery, distant hills and fields dimly visible as a backdrop. Some glowing, textured lettering holds centre stage on the front cover set out in an appropriately antiquated font reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts. A tracklist and an explanation of the project fill the rear cover. Within, the tracks are laid out in more detail with full credits and relevant websites for the artists. There is also a page devoted to highlights from Sequoia's back catalogue pointing out the original albums from which many of the songs here have been taken.
 
OVERALL    Sequoia Records have put together here a strong compilation of talent both new and well established - Jens Gad's Achillea provides the digital elements, artists Singh Kaur, Tina Malia, Alquimia, Stephannie, Sharon Knight and Wendy Rule the various voices, whilst an array of timeless instrumentation maintains the atmosphere of lonely places and beautiful countryside. Founder of Sequoia Records David and Steve Gordon are well known in the genre, not only for their visionary releases, but also for their considerate approach to music distribution - this CD donates to The Rainforest Action Network, is printed on recycled paper and uses soy ink. The Celtic Lounge is also an enhanced CD containing a video of Sharon Knight performing her contribution to the album Song of the Sea.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------V/A - Music From The New Edge - Vol: 01
STYLE  

A showcase of the current Cyberset Records roster. The music is mostly in the form of enhanced instrumentals with some notable vocal contributions from Foxgluv, Irina Mikhailova and Artemis. There elements of world music with ethnic chant and global instrumentation woven into electronic structures. Atmospheric flute lines drift across synthetic drones and electrobeats, Middle Eastern percussion underpins vocal snippets and twanging strings, violins contrast African utterances and programmed beats. Some pieces are more purely electronic - Electric Skychurch's rhythmic synthesiser work, Single Cell Orchestra's blips, bleeps and ambient pads, Welder's digital-organic montage with spoken voice musings. There are some experimental passages - whispering words against fragmented beats and distinctive effects and there are other tracks that are more of a lounge nature - sleek contemporary arrangements and female singers. The collection touches on dub courtesy of Lunagroove's off beat stabs and electric guitar lead and finally almost drifts into floating new age ambience with Ayman's shakuhachi and swelling keyboard work.

 
MOOD   The mood here ranges from exotic worldbeat colour inhabited by ethnic chant and indigenous instrumentation through to smooth, urban, cafe/bar sounds with an elegant nocturnal laziness. There are passages of mechanical clarity or lucid digital cleanliness - bright arpeggiators or sequencers and programmed beats rippling along in harmonious regularity. Overall the tone is uplifting and warm - the variety of approach introducing a sense of mystery and exploration.
 
ARTWORK   A smart digipack fronted by a graphic design lurking among brown leaves and heavy shadow. Cyberset's usual disc and triangle logo is here brought to life with glowing circular nodes and metallic frame. The reverse maintains the brown-black tone of the top side, here presenting a timed tracklist and distribution details. Inside the CD sits on a dual leaf photograph with a heavily textured background. Opposite is an expanded tracklist - this time each track is accompanied by full credits and information explaining the origin of each track.
 
OVERALL   Cyberset presents here the label's first compilation in a coherent gathering of diverse styles that nicely outlines the united vision of the company. There are names that you will probably be familiar with if you know your electronic downtempo music and there are some that will likely be new to you. As the promotional material explains these artists "blend musical elements of world, ambient, dance, vocal, and urban genres into fresh sounds that share the positive intentions and global reach of modern New Edge culture". That said the quality is consistently high and the track order flows comfortably and logically making for an enjoyable excursion through the various genres. The catalogue covered here includes music from Divasonic, Electric Skychurch, B.Smiley, David Satori, Welder, hands upon black earth, Single Cell Orchestra, Artemis, Irina Mikhailova, Foxgluv, Aphrodesia, LunaGroove, The Wolfman, and Ayman.
 
 WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

If you are aware of Cyberset's vision - this album aptly summarises the current state of affairs there. If you're new to the label - this sampler will introduce you to an exciting group of artists working the chilled end of the electronic spectrum ... there's something here for worldbeat fans, lovers of ambient chill or trip hop and anyone into electronic soundscaping enhanced with organic additions.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------V/A - Anchor
STYLE   Experimental ambient and rhythmic electronic collection. Anchor opens with deep, spacey drones and dark washes of tone, a beatless cloudmass introduction. As the album progresses there are tracks with broken beats and sputtering percussive incidentals, repeating phrases rhythmic and layered, often expansive and thick with reverb. Pan-scrape clatters, murmuring voices, techno squelches and a variety of indistinct synthetic effects litter the soundscape with plenty of detail. At times the peripherals appear almost to be snatches of found sound or field recordings. Further on there are some increasingly melodic pieces - glitchy squirty beats still fractured and loose but with gentler themes.
 
ARTWORK   The album comes in a creamy white card sleeve, the CD itself thoughtfully placed on a soft mat to protect the surface. Simple line imagery of dwellings on hillsides appears on all panels - the strokes pixellated, no colour. The tracklist is on the rear of the package indicating the list of contributing artists. There is no additional information, the text is minimal - only SAAG Records web address and a credit for the artwork.
 
OVERALL   

Anchor is the debut release from Japanese label SAAG Records which has been releasing "quality recordings since 2002". This collection of electronic ambient music from Far East comes as a limited edition of only 400 copies. Among the artists is label manager Sabi - secreted well among a gathering of current Japanese talent and here delivering a misty sound montage with scintillating motes and a constant passage of amorphous floating forms. "Pills for your ears" is the label's description of its output - a good image that well fits this introduction to a world of sonic texture, beguiling, organic structure and inventive rhythm.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------KXL - Accelerator
STYLE  

Electro soundscapes with globe spanning chutney-reggae aesthetic and male vocals. The songs here are sung by KXL in a low key, half spoken rap style brimming with street speak and rasta influences. Often the vocals are strongly effected to heighten the rough edge or to create a contrast between verse and chorus. Guest singer Noush Skaugen brings a feminine touch to Moment of Silence - again laid out in juxtaposition to the male lead. The beats are programmed affairs mostly at a mid tempo with dub and dancehall elements, running as high as a bit of drum and bass at one point - there are Indian percussives woven into the rhythms hinting further at the cultural mixture from which Accelerator has arisen. The electronic sound palette is quite a stark one - sci-fi / techno buzzes and zaps along with squelchy bass - softened at points by a little guitar or sitar.

 
ARTWORK   I have only a promotional sleeve with the front cover as seen above. Here we see the artist in a posterised monochrome pose set against a passing train - the dripping KXL logo sharply picked out above. On the reverse is the fourteen track tracklist on a graphic backdrop flanked by palm trees and ink spatter.
 
OVERALL   

KXL is another incarnation of Rohan Sukhdeo who released the considerably gentler album Roots a short while back. Both albums indicate the Jamaican / Guyanese / Indian background of Rohan - but this time instead of the smooth sounds of Roots we have a bass and beat driven party CD that especially emphasises Rohan's lyrical interests. This clash of genres draws on two strongly rhythmic sources - the tablas and dhols of the East and the ragga dancehall electro grooves of the West. Give this one a go if you want something to dance to and some youthful philosophies to chant.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------V/A - Midnight Soul Dive
STYLE  

Deeply chilled downtempo/ambient collection from Aleph Zero Records. These smooth sound paintings breeze along on lazy crepuscular beats that drift in and out of consciousness - digital loops blink and pulse, a blend of traditional drum sounds, programmed percussives and weightless cybergrooves - then the beats are gone, off into the gloom, or lost in sleep. The electronica is clean and expansive - restful nocturnes with cool reverberating phrases cycling around in constant evolution. The emphasis is on the hues and shades of the night - serene pads welling up behind synthetic chimes, muted bell tones and flute-like voices. Tracks breathe in and out of rhythm, buoyant and vaporous developing naturally one into another. Liquid rainsticks, scintillating static crackle and airy effects add detail - Omnimotion including a ghostly female voice, Ishq and Shulman blending bird calls and silken string sounds, Rena Jones playing delicate clarinet and cello somewhere off in the depths.

 
MOOD   The low light serenity of this album puts me in mind of that state of semi consciousness in between wakefulness and sleep where thoughts pass into dreams and vice versa. The dispersal of low key rhythm into beatlessness and back again, the comfortable oceanic swelling of soft drones, the indistinct voices and part identifiable sounds all work toward this common mood. That said, this is not a soporific CD of easy listening music - there is also an enjoyment of darkness, the artists here exploring the musical edge between melodic manipulation and ambient shapelessness - a serious experimentation with sonic states to touch the soul.
 
ARTWORK   The front cover is a pool of midnight black - tangled plumes of rising smoke swirling across one another in a knot of light are frozen in sculptural smoothness. On second glance a shadowed eye stares out from the centre of this intertwining of insubstantialities - ice blues, ashen tones, indigo depths. On the reverse is a track list - fine white against black, more spiralling fumes dimly visible in the deepest ultramarine. An expanded tracklist appears inside providing writing details and website information for some of the artists. An attractive package that is ideally suited to the accompanying sound content.
  
OVERALL   

This latest compilation from Aleph Zero Records presents the more ambient side of the label - twelve tracks of subtle synthetic beauty that twist and hang in the air like sonic incense. Big names in the world of downtempo chill appear alongside less well known artists - all so closely united here in vision that this could be a single artist release - yet the diverse personalities each offer a unique viewpoint on this midnight excursion. Bluetech, Rena Jones, Elve and Omnimotion build the album to a dreamy, hypnotic climax along with a blissfully ethereal collaborative piece by Ishq and Shulman. Other musicians include Unoccupied, Cord, Krill.minima, Hibernation, Cosmic Fools, Anahata and Vataff Project. The promotional material explains the project as "a nocturnal journey starting in any other evening of everyday life and going through mysterious musical back roads and unknown sonic paths, spiralling down and diving deep inside your soul - a Midnight Soul Dive".

 

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM    Aleph Zero here deliver an album that dives further into ambience than their previous releases - if you enjoy the more floatational side of chill, this is one for you. Working the same rich vein of sleepy downtempo as Native State's 'Beneath The Surface and Ultimae's 'Albedo' - if you liked those albums you might want to check out the E-Flier for the album HERE.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Robert Rich - Music From Atlas Dei
STYLE  

Beautiful, melodic and minimal ambient music with a strong cinematic thread. Spacey expanses of dark amorphous tone sit alongside floating flute lines that waft across silken drones and burbling sequencer structures. There are roiling pools of cloud spotted with unidentifiable disturbances and peculiar percussives that sound like distant resonant bells or chimes. There are smooth vaporous passages with clinking shell-like peripherals, hints of deeply processed garbled voices, gentle waves of noise and gatherings of sonic turbulence. There are unnerving moments of atonal surging, shiftings of air as if looking right into the face of the open universe and then softness breathes in like a velvet tide, the most languid of tribal beats accompanying echoing, oriental sounding flutes.

 
ARTWORK  

This attractive package makes good use of broad black borders - the front cover letterboxed between such presents an enigmatic montage of dense orbs adorned with star motifs and planetary designs. The central sphere is backlit like an eclipse of the sun, shafts of light radiating out like spokes on a wheel. On the reverse is what appears to be an oriental brush stroke image of a mountain, again rich with texture and overlaid detail. The track list appears below on another black border along with a brief explanation of the project. Within the radiating lines of the front cover are echoed both behind the CD and inside the two page sleeve - criss-crossed circles and spokes, lush textures. The inner tracklist explains the sources for each piece.

 
OVERALL   

This latest CD from ambient master Robert Rich delivers music from the film Atlas Dei, a feature length graphic film by Daniel Colvin that takes the viewer on an audio visual journey through space and time. A number of the tracks were created specially for the project, whereas others have been reworked in varying degrees from previous projects. The reworkings include edits, remastering, remixes, additions, altered transitions and montages. Known for his use of individually created instruments and his interweaving of electronic and organic source material Rich here employs his techniques to release a powerful collection that is fully emotive enough to evoke its own journey.