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 ------Oophoi -An Aerial View
STYLE   Warm ambient drones in slow-motion drift for a cold impression. Oophoi presents an album that floats beautifully through the Ice Age without taking the usual route - meandering strains from a theramin interweave subtle drones and sonic turbulence to create a vision of frozen expanse that is lonely yet not foreboding, that conjures up images of endless white vistas without the gloomy immensity of rumbling spaces and heavy wind movement. The use of the thermin seems appropriate here - an instrument invoked without the touch of the player's hands - motions of the air, drifting, shifting, minimal. The album hangs buoyant, unhurried, carried peacefully on frosted winds through sixty five minutes and seven seconds of slight harmonious variation - attractive, highlighting the beauty of this extremity of inspiration. The term Würm comes from a river in the Alps where what is believed to have been the most recent glaciation of this world was first identified.
ARTWORK   A crisp digipack presentation that opens out into two beautifully designed panels - broad white borders letterbox a panorama of very unwhite snow. Blue shadowy folds and indentations brown discolourations zig-zag and weave across the crests of motionless pale waves. The text is minimal outside, inside simply a statement from the artist outlining his thoughts on the composition of the album. The inner backdrop crystalline pale blue stretched icily across both panels - a simple vein of brown marking off a whiter facet.

An Aerial View is delivered to us as the first of the Würm series through Alessandro Tedeschi's Glacial Movements label. Alessandro himself might be well known to ambient fans through his own project Netherworld - his label is dedicated to releasing high quality ambient music that describes "places that man has forgotten...icy landscapes...fields of flowers covered eternally with ice... icebergs colliding amongst themselves...". Oophoi is the work of the prolific Gianluigi Gasparetti - another Italian ambient musician. On the sleeve notes he describes his approach to this album "I had to describe with sounds the white landscape, the blinding light reflected by the frozen oceans, the abyssal silence. I have imagined myself in flight over this Sleeping Earth, a solitary winged-being surrounded by winds, air, water and ice. This led me to compose an airy drone with minimal variations and delicate tones, an homage to a pure, incontaminated and remote land."




 ------BLVD - Digital Disorder

Energetic electronic instrumentals, danceable downtempo. BLVD present a fusion of melodic psy-trance and house synthetics with powerful breakbeat rhythms that are clearly influence by the band's enjoyment of live performance real instrumentation. That said - the aim here was a challenge the band set themselves "to put down their instruments and create soulful music strictly through the use of ideas and electronically generated sound" whereas previous albums have focused on a combination of live and programmed music. The ten tracks on Digital Disorder are driven by strong beats with gutsy basslines - these support a sharp array of electronic arrangements that mostly avoid the traditional arpeggiators in favour of crisp phrases, liquid motifs and smooth pads. The result is a lively collection of focused digital disorder with a heart of of soul.

MOOD   Bright and upbeat, Digital Disorder is dancefloor music for sure, especially when the bpm rises and the synths start to really percolate. Nonetheless this album is very listenable away from the clubs - bringing something of the urban night wherever you fancy taking it in. The sound is clean and lucid lifting the listener, energising, motivating.
ARTWORK   My copy of Digital Disorder comes in a card sleeve that is fronted by an amber tinted photograph of a suitably tangled musical technology collection - leads strewn across various bits of kit, jackplugs and switches in abundance. On the rear is a second similar image and a simple tracklist. For anyone wanting a bit more information, the band's website provides abundantly.

This release is the third from West Coast based BLVD, presented via San Francisco's eclectic Cyberset Records. The group is known for their live performances and extensive touring, stylistically straddling the divide between dance club culture and the live music community. Consisting primarily of a three piece combo made up of guitarist Curtis Sloane, drummer Dylan McIntosh and Tripp Bains on bass guitar, BLVD formed back in 2001 and have since worked in collaboration with other artists and vocalists. The ten tracks here draw on funk, instrumental improvisation, psychedelic chill and so forth yet dance on unfettered by any specific genre - all instrumental, all rhythmically infectious, all one coherent whole.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This is an album for anyone liking electronic groove with a touch of soul, give the tracks a listen at the Cyberset website. Cyberset fans will find this to their liking as BLVD fit neatly into the established roster of artists adding a new shade to the house sound.




 ------Heyoka - Pineal Dub

 Spacious melodic dub electronica. Heyoka has a deeply psychedelic sound full of squelches, blips, sonic flickers and all manner of effected sine waves, corrosive synthetics and acidic programming. Driven by huge, lumbering bass lines and gritty programmed drumtracks Pineal Dub draws on elements of IDM, glitch, downtempo and displaced hip hop binding them up into a consistent dub framework, with a very low centre of gravity. The overall sound is uncluttered, with repeating phrases and tuneful snatches cycling, alternating and cross layering. Naturally the keyboard stabs and echoed percussion that mark the genre are present, but Heyoka brings something of a dancefloor approach to the mix, promotional material suggesting that the disc be filed under 'Downtempo, Dub, Breakbeat, Grime and Dubstep'.

MOOD   The most enduring impression throughout this album is one of cerebral structures and visceral rhythms. The musical arrangements are overtly synthetic, with an almost sci-fi palette of sounds flung down in glitchy fragmentation and conscious dislocation, but the beats are intuitive, nodding affairs with thudding kicks and shattering hi hats. Pineal Dub clearly has a humorous side, taking a playful approach to a number of pieces, not taking things too seriously, yet never losing its cool.
ARTWORK   To date I have just a print out of the front cover image for this album designed by Victor Olenev. A deeply green alien figure in DJ stance fills the main image bordered by more layers of the same green. Maintaining a consistent hue, the titles are the only other front cover details.
OVERALL   San Francisco based Heyoka takes the name from the word in Lakota, that means ‘contrarian’ - contrary one or the ‘sacred clown’. Their apparent foolishness raises important questions by fooling around, others are thus helped to think about things not usually thought about, or to look at things in a different way. The Pineal Dub album is released via the relatively new Muti Music label and there are samples of the band website at Myspace where the music is aptly describes as "psytellgibientglitchdubwhomphop" - with emphasis on the 'whomp' part I might add.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you enjoy dub you'll find this album worth checking out if you enjoy a departure from the reggae roots of the genre in favour of trancey psychedelia - but don't think that means that the dub is by any means downplayed, this is one of the deepest immersions into dub that I've heard in a while.




 ------Entheogenic - Flight of the Urubus

Highly polished downtempo psychedelic electronica. The latest offering from this greatly loved act delves deeper into their personal world of increasingly progressive chilled trance where carefully collected digital ephemera and hypnotic synthesis blend into a rich heady brew - a bewildering array of sonic colours rising like mists from the mix. Wobbling synths, squirts and light touches form the basis of much of the musical framework along with strongly melodic basslines, these are then overlaid with bright lead improvisations and abundant effects. Among the meandering synthesiser lines are Indian stick zithers, summery acoustic guitar work, acidic organ keyboard slides and various ethnic gatherings. International percussives and loops embellish the drum tracks whilst all manner of vocal snatches slink out of the depths, spoken phrases presented in conversation, international vocalisations, monastic murmurs, some slightly creepy assemblages and even some contributions from the musicians themselves. Entheogenic continue to work the more upbeat end of the downtempo genre - their beats energetic and invigorating enough for dancefloor delivery whilst at the same time remaining low key enough to be relaxing night time chill music.

ARTWORK   My copy of Flight of the Urubus comes in a card envelop bearing the legend "biodegradable eco sustainable edible packaging" - I'm tempted to test this out - it does look good. The front cover image drapes the Entheogenic logo across a circular leave design - a gossamer white dove in caught in the act of leaving the spot. Behind the colourful centre-piece is a muted green woodland photograph that rolls across to the rear of the package where a flowering cactus lurks improbably in the shadows of the undergrowth. Here on the reverse is a tracklist along with web details and brief production notes.

This latest release Flight of the Urubus (a type of black vulture I understand) comes as the fifth instalment in the Entheogenic series - recorded between Brazil and the U.K.s Dorset. This time the band departs from previous label Chillcode in favour of Universal Symbiosis Records. U.K. born Piers Oak-Rhind and Austrian Helmut Glavar use terms like coloristic electrophonics and impressionistic orchestral-like to describe their music - and the lovely choice of words 'ocean deep bass'. The ten tracks here delve into atmospheric chill, mid-tempo progressive, global-fusion and funky psychedelia. The updated website contains sound samples so that you can get a feel for the album before you buy it and you might also enjoy checking out the B Sides music that can now be found at Last FM.




 ------Sleepwalker - Amenti
STYLE   Timeless world vocals and instrumental performance blended with smooth, chilled electronica. Sleepwalker works the territory of romantic electronica originally established by artists such as Deep Forest and Enigma, however Amenti has a unique sound - Neo-classical, strongly European and with a rolling cinematic breadth influenced by global folklore and the imagery of distant civilisations. Violin, guitars, piano and synthesisers work alongside more exotic sound sources such walnut and cedar Native American flutes, oud, timbals, djembe and ceramic bongos. Sweeping strings frequently swell up adding an air of classical grandeur that complements much of the vocal material. Singers deliver operatic soprano performances, Native American chants and European traditional vocalisations.
MOOD   The mood of Amenti is mostly one of serene grandeur - whilst the compositions are relaxing and mostly downtempo, there is also a somewhat theatrical vibrancy to the music. Middle-Eastern strumming and percussion bring a sense of exotic drama; soaring vocals, harp-like plucks and airy violin strains carry the listener heavenward; Native American flutes waft across complimentary chants, environmental recordings underpin gentle hand drumming. At times dreamy, sleepy - Sleepwalker soothes the mind, restful and easy on the ear; at times stirring, more upbeat tinkling piano phrases and electric guitar getting the foot tapping.
ARTWORK   Amenti comes in a neat digipack with lush, evocative artwork. The front cover shows a double row of ancient graven columns heavy with shadow, backlit with a burst of sparking light emanating from an unseen source somewhere behind the central structure. Turning over, the rear holds a vignetted shot of more columns, this time shot from below as though gazing up from underneath. There is a tracklist here that is repeated inside with timings alongside. The final outer panel of the pack contains a dual language explanation of the project, whilst inside there is a detailed credit list of vocalists, musicians and Sleepwalker's own expansive contributions.
OVERALL   Amenti is the second full length album from Bulgarian musician Lyubomir Yordanov, in the interim between albums Sleepwalker also released the single A Tear For Kursk. There is a marked development in both style and production on this latest project - Lyubomir delivers a polished, unique vision that is lifted above the average by his own well crafted compositions as well as by the involvement of so many other skilled contributors. The updated Sleepwalker website is a visual delight with lots to explore, containing plenty of information and sound samples as well as a store should you wish to buy the album. This project has just stepped up to a whole new level - give the album a listen at CD Baby.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Amenti is fronted with the words 'Mystic, Enigmatic, Spiritual, giving an idea of the audience aimed at. If you have enjoyed the music of Sacred Spirit and Deep Forest's Boheme, you might well appreciate this CD.




 ------Mara's Torment - MT96061
STYLE   Subtle dark ambience and deeply chilled grooves. MT96061 is a collection of instrumental electronica that explores beatless and gently rhythmic ambient soundscaping. Soft, breathy washes and wistfully airy sweeps underlay rich synthetic chimes and occassional lowkey arpeggios to create understated melodic themes that gradually leek into the consciousness - soothing, restful and hinting at rich mental imagery. Mara's Torment often draws on inconspicuous repetition to impress his material on the mind. There are a few programmed beats - blissfully soporific affairs that lightly caress the musical content, lifting it into meandering motion - downbeat, lazy. Peaceful and lulling, at times drifting and circling like thermal currents in a body of fluid. Some tracks are incredibly beautiful - although the tone is somewhat dark, this is an inviting darkness - no sense of menace here.
ARTWORK   I have a promotional copy of this CD in a slimline jewel case. The front cover artwork forms a double page spread with the back cover - curling mermaid/merman figures hang suspended in deep blue water. Male and female - her in the security of a dreamy caress, him reaching a hand above the surface where the pair's tails entwine into a heart before the moon. The rear section contains a tracklist and a peculiar aquatic bird peering through a big round hole in its own body.

MT96061 is a retrospective album highlighting ten years of music from Rik Maclean otherwise known as Mara's Torment. The album comes as a special limited edition double disc collection of unreleased tracks, compilation work, and classics. There are some new tracks here as well as some previously unreleased items and outtakes - all surprisingly united and coherent for work collected over such an extended period. Rik desrcibes his music as "the sounds that subway cars make on rainy days, the sound of when you're holding hands with somebody you've just met, walking on the way back to their place, the noises you hear on the morning after the night before when you're still asleep and you don't have to wake up for at least another hour, the way your cat purrs when she's happy to see you've come home after a long day away from home, the sounds of secret smiles and solopsisms and truths and lies and a million other mysteries..." - this choice of words hints at the dreamy vision-inducing approach taken by Mara's Torment.