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 ------Max Richter - 24 Postcards In Full Colour
STYLE   Neoclassical snapshots and fleeting electronic/orchestral soundscapes. Bringing together graceful pianos, elegant strings, distorted guitars and grainy electronic textures, Max Richter presents a series of wistful musical impressions that are tantalisingly ephemeral. The arrangements are delicate, sophisticated, intimate and at times desperately beautiful. Ranging from simple classical piano solos through lush violins, violas and cellos into gitchy static and fractured audio interference – there is a sense of the everyday seen from just the right angle, of life in routine given pause for transcendence. The ‘postcards’ of the artwork are almost monochrome just faint tints of colour washed through the neutrals and this choice of visuals carries back and forth from the eye to the ear suggesting complimentary urban greys for the musical elements. Very contemporary yet drawing on the timeless qualities of the classical instruments employed 24 Postcards In Full Colour releases its faded hues sparingly, masterfully.
ARTWORK   This jewel case package is tastefully laid out with plenty of black and grey – images of heavy light filtering in from thick skies. The front cover carries a grungy view of a city skyline seen from the window of a gloomy interior. The back cover is flat black with regular white text – twenty four titles in two columns. Inside we find an eight page booklet. Three double page spreads are devoted to arrangements of square photographs – four to a page, eight to a view, twenty four in all, visual accompaniments to the music. Windows from within, from without, up close, afar – sometimes themselves the centre of focus, sometimes merely frames for other subjects – almost black and white but not quite. The back panel of the booklet presents instrumental credits, recording details and website addresses. A single thank you.
OVERALL    This is a delightful album that grabbed my attention from the first time I heard it, leaving no doubt that I must request it for review at Morpheus. Coming from Edinburgh based pianist/composer Max Richter the concept behind the album is robust and intriguing – brief ring tone length compositions aimed at a gallery audience as well as the home listener. Promotional material explains "The première is intended to be in the form of a series of installations where pre-registered audience members switch on their phones to receive SMS messages, each message alert playing back one or more of the tracks, so making up the performance. As Max explains: “Thinking about how we listen to music today, I wondered why it is that ringtones have so far been treated as unfit for creative music… Who says ringtones have to be bad?.. It’s like saying LPs or CDs are bad – its just a medium….” There is a strong European aesthetic to the sound despite titles like ‘A Sudden Manhattan of the Mind’ – a truly gorgeous track of darkly disturbed electronica and beautiful, beautiful violin. Good postcards often are designed to make the recipient wish they were ‘here’ – this album achieves this time and again, the scant glimpses of lovely sonic scenes and moody city sketches pulling you in, touching the heart like a brief acquaintance - then they’re gone leaving you wishing for more, wishing you were ‘here’. The label is U.K. based Fat Cat Records and there is a specially established website opened in tandem with the album release, hosting 24 photographic images, one accompanying each track.




 ------Darshan Ambient - From Pale Hands To Weary Skies
STYLE   Soft ambience with gentle rhythmic grooves. From Pale Hands To Weary Skies is an album of muted sonic hues and understated melodies. As if faded through emotional intensity Darshan Ambient lays down dreamy washes of tone with overlaid themes that work somewhere in between the warmth of subtle melodies and the transportational simplicity of gently varying drones. At times beatless and drifting, airy piano touching the surface, then rhythmic almost blissful, ethnic percussion amid programmed beat structures. The tracks here often have a sense of faint distance about them – as if experienced in a semi-waking state … uncertain voices repeating like barely grasped thoughts, mists of reverb obscuring detail, lazy patterns forming and dispersing. Attractive music, deleriously serene and very, very restful.
ARTWORK   A jewel case holds this album and its closely themed artwork. Imagery inspired by the work of Yves Tanguy fills most panels – brushed planes of pale colour inhabited by globular forms curving into embrace or cradled in supportive intimacy. The imagery calls to mind the hospital hues and bed clothes of the artist’s personal experience whilst forming the music. Behind the CD lurks a gloomy photograph of suspended clinical fluid sacs with descending tubes and plastic valves all heavily vignetted to blackness – uneasy and in stark contrast to the surrounding serenity. On the reverse in small font is a timed tracklist . The fold-out sleeve insert contains an explanation of the development of the music, revealing some of the fuel behind the emotional depth to this album. The innermost spread contains a heartfelt section of appreciation, credits and website info. The CD is dedicated to Nicky Allison – evidently a devoted wife.
OVERALL    From Pale Hands to Weary Skies is the ninth album from Darshan Ambient. This time released via Lotuspike, the artist says that he considers this to be his strongest work to date. Sleeve notes explain that during the process of creation, the artist suffered a severe health crisis resulting in a stay in intensive care – comatose. The original concept rooted in the artwork of Yves Tanguy blossomed into creative intensity during recovery. As Michael himself says “it was as though the floodgates had been blown wide open … as though it were writing itself”. The music has a powerful consistency about it – a constant thread, an ever-present diffused light, reassuring uplifting. Watch out for the Darshan Ambient retrospective album also from Lotuspike.




 ------Alpha Wave Movement - Terra
STYLE   Expansive, atmospheric, melodic ambient electronica. Terra is a delicate album of graceful synth music that features elegant piano lines, bright wispy electro chimes, bowl-like phrases and broad tonal swells as the main voices, supported by fine washes and twinkling textures. Synthetic strings keen and swell, fine gossamer threads and films of sound run one into another whilst melodic arpeggios and meandering scales wander over the surface. The depth and intensity of the music ranges from silken stratospheric strains and airstreams to crepuscular drone banks and glimmering twilight ripples. In places simple bass phrases pulse indolently beneath the gently heaving liquid of the drones and breezy sequential structures, but not for long - much of the music too skyward looking and gliding to be bound and grounded by such low frequencies.

The strictly electronic sonic sources for Terra make for a clean, spacious sound that suggests the clarity and tranquillity of dawn, the subtle shifting hues of early evening. Alpha Wave Movement builds tracks around digital synthesizers and MIDI equipment influenced by natural landscapes and scenic photography - here, more than ever I've felt that connection with the earth from Gregory's compositions. A sense of comfortable solitude pervades much of the album, almost plaintive in places, but more generally reflective, calm - enjoying the mental vistas conjured up by this delightfully understated soundscaping.

ARTWORK   Terra arrives in a jewel case with a crimson/pink sunset photograph centred between smooth horizontal black borders. Randomly strewn, partially submerged rocks punctuate the stillness of a mirror-like body of water - dark curves contrasting the brightness of sky and water. On the back of the disc is a large landscape image once again featuring a motionless lake, with three small scenes laid out to the extreme left. Track titles hang in the blue of the sky - simple, white. Within is a single sheet insert that provides an explanation of the project and its limited edition DVD origins. Here too, brief credits and website details.
OVERALL    Terra is the latest in a rapidly expanding discography from self taught composer/arranger Gregory Kyryluk under the title Alpha Wave Movement. This release comes to us via the artist's own Harmonic Resonance Recordings (H.R.R.). Originally conceived as music for a limited edition DVD, now with a bonus track, Terra Infinitus, this release seeks to make this attractive suite of tracks available to a much wider audience. Alpha Wave Movement has been around now since 1992, much of the project's output influenced by Berlin school synth music - however, this disc sees a much less strident approach than say 2003's Cosmology. Here is less rhythmic content, no beats and less of a spacey feel - instead dreamy themes and blissful oceanic undulations.

Terra is the lighter more ambient side of Alpha Wave Movement - plenty to hold the attention, yet eminently easy on the ear, soft enough to induce drowsiness. If you enjoy ambient music with ever so slight touches of early German synth influences - Terra should be on your list. Hear the tracks at CD Baby.




 ------Carmen Rizzo - Ornament of an Imposter
STYLE   Highly polished electronic underground groove with plenty of female vocals. Carmen Rizzo creates velvet smooth electronic backdrops with something of an urban club feel driven by some very contemporary beats that inhabit the mid/down tempo bpm range. Across these tasty sonic vistas come a series of intimate and individual vocal performances (mostly female) from singers Kate Havnevik, Jem, David Lehnberg and Elin Lindfors (The Deer Tracks) and Duncan Attwood (Blueneck) - often the voices are recorded so as to appear close and personal, Elin Lindfors wistful, dreamy, almost whispering. A number of instrumental tracks appear among the songs such as the languid dance floor piece Falling into Place with distant reverberating piano hanging over driving rhythms, the fleeting The Rest of Us once more with that haunting piano, but here little more than an interlude and build up to Sirens - and then the album concludes with three instrumentals in a row - very dreamy and emotive, Through the Sunlight is beautiful, blissful downtempo, Not Enough builds slowly around a flickering, glitchy beat into a pacey atmospheric piece of attractive mood music, the concluding Victrola breaking away into crackling, peculiar, soporific nostalgia.
ARTWORK   Ornament of an Imposter comes in a sharp digipack cover. A slightly grey blue hue covers all panels in even simplicity. Outlines of leaves on stretching twigs trails across the flat surfaces in complimentary shades - elegant, uncluttered. The front cover just delivers the title among the foliage - upright and inverted. On the rear is a tracklist and a cool, muted portrait of the artist. Here too is a promise to donate 10% of all sales to a different charity each month, website address also. Opening up we have a credit list and generous thanks. The various singers and collaborating musicians are detailed here with extra note given to Jamie Muhoberac who shared in the writing, recording and performance of the album.

Ornament of an Imposter comes as the follow-up to Carmen Rizzo's debut solo album The Lost Art Of The Idle Moment and is released on his own Electrofone Music label. Although most will know that this by no means implies that Carmen has been musically unoccupied in the intervening period - this two-time GRAMMY Nominee appears among the credits for such notables as Coldplay, Delerium, Paul Oakenfold, BT, Tiesto, Ryuichi Sakamoto, etc, etc, etc as producer, mixer, remixer, musician, and co-writer. He also composed the score for Michael Apted's movie "The Power of the Game". As if all of this wasn't enough electronic world fusion favourites Niyaz just released their second album and guess what Carmen is co-founder and member of this project too along with singer Azam Ali and musician Loga Ramin Torkian. That said Ornament of an Imposter doesn't give the impression of an album thrown together in the spaces to simply demonstrate Carmen's personal talents - no, this is a strong disc with plenty of heart and individuality where the artist's own vision flourishes delightfully. Listen to it at CD Baby.




 ------Earth Drum - David and Steve Gordon
STYLE   Global beats and world instruments blend with the soothing sounds of guitar and synth. As the title indicates Earth Drum features hand drumming using percussive instruments sourced from all over the planet - thick Mexican thuds, low booming African dun dun drums, resonant Native American thumps, talking drums, shakers, frame drums. These are skillfully played to create evocative tribal beats that stir the imagination conjuring up visions of far off places and distant times. For the most part the compositions are relaxing affairs, the rhythms downtempo despite their frequent intensity and supported in this mood by the choice of instrumentation - airy flutes lines and breathy pan pipes taking the lead; lush synthesiser washes, basses and guitars keeping everything warm.
ARTWORK   This double disc package comes in a hinged jewel case with generous artwork and abundant information. On the front a clever photomontage features a tribal drum the skin of which is a stretched section of the earth. A hand print pushes out at the viewer with an energy mirrored by the stick figures on the background playing flute and drum. On the reverse as well as the track list is a brief explanation of the project and a note that a portion of the proceeds from the album will be donated to the Rain Forest Action Network. The insert within folds out into five panels brimming with reading material. Each track is discussed in detail - the imagery for the music, the ideas and techniques alongside photographs of the players and their instruments. Credits include a full list of each type of drum employed and references to the albums from which each piece was originally drawn. David and Steve list their thanks and website addresses on a final panel.
OVERALL    Earth Drum is a rather special album from the Sequoia label - The 25th Anniversary Collection, Vol. 1. Part of Sequoia’s new "Music and Vision" series, this is a multi-media double disc release. To celebrate the occasion, the Gordon brothers have looked back over a twenty five year career to pull together some percussive highlights showcasing their love of ethnic music and the richness of beaten skins. Eight tracks of tranquil, inviting music along with a free DVD are presented as the result. The visuals are in the form of breathtaking sceneries slowly unfolding before the eye - lush forests clothed with dense mosses, immense canyons and dramatic rock formations, heaving rivers and mist shrouded falls, panoramic plains, rolling ocean waves. Whether this package comes to you as an introduction to David and Steve Gordon's music or as a familiar highlights album, you won't disappointed, it seems that every effort has been put into making this a quality release jam packed with written, musical and visual content.





 ------Ishq - Timelapse in Mercury

The distinctive liquid synthetic sound of Virtual. Timelapse in Mercury contains a series of sound zones, ambient environments - musical compositions where melody, regularity and rhythm are secondary aspects. Layered electronica is delivered in lush, complex arrangements where smooth drones flow in serene currents or oceanic undulation and repeating phrases waft gently establishing hypnotic familiarities - these are overlaid with twinkling sparkles of sound and fleeting consonant patterns. There are no beats on the album but the music is not completely without rhythm, the repetition of certain cycling motifs build some lazy swaying regularities in places before breaking off into meandering freeform. Although much of the album is bright and lucid there are deeper pools here where, for a while, the bottom is hard to make out - thicker tones more density to the lower frequencies. Ishq seems to be peering into endlessness here, contemplating the enormity of existence, creating immense mindspace.


In Virtual tradition this is a jewel case release with everything laid out on flat white ground. Clean simple panels hold a range of discs, frames and lines filled with intriguing scenes - tiny windows into other places. Alien symbols are interspersed among the imagery and text - cuniform dashes, angles and ticks. An English language tracklist appears inside the package for those unfamiliar with the Ishq script along with recording details. The innermost panels open out to reveal more arcane symbols and a pair of graphic windows - icy blue, looking out onto frozen landscapes.


Timelapse in Mercury is the fourth Virtual release and billed as the first in a new deeper series entitled Virtual Space, which the label explains 'will be released alongside the virtualworld series'. This album was actually written some time back under the Ishq title about a month prior to the release of Orchid in 2001. The artist is Cornwall based Matt Hillier who is fast building a reputation for engrossing and very individual electronic music. Promotional material points out that although this album found its way onto the web some time ago in somewhat rough and ready mp3 format, the original masters have been reworked here with more layers added, the result being "a deep and spacious exploration into the slightly darker and cosmic inspired soundscapes of Ishq". That catches it well - Timelapse is certainly more shadowy than much of the Ishq/Elve/Ishvara output. The music here is on the ambient end of the Virtual spectrum too - floatational, drifting and less earthbound than much of the other material. Certainly one for headphones - dip into these unfolding without expecting to be supported by obvious frameworks, let the irregular currents catch you, carry you, leave you becalmed. Don't miss it - this is a limited edition of 500 copies.