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 ------Library Tapes - A Summer Beneath The Trees

Experimental ambient with classical strings and delicate piano. Library Tapes here delivers a series of warm melodic compositions where wistful piano lines hang among the bowed wires of cello, viola and violin - scratchy field recordings break up the smoothness of the traditional instruments ... intriguing disturbances, fragmented interference, unidentifiable rustlings. The rather beautifully doleful piano phrases frequently repeat, rolling around in cycles whilst the string sections tend to curl in brighter patterns bringing touches of glowing sunshine to the mix - indeed in places the string arrangements are positively upbeat and cheery as on The Modest Triumph. There are passages where a more eerie tone dominates - the long drawn out strains of the brief introductory piece The Sound Of Emptiness Part 1 for example, other sections are steeped in delightful melancholy - especially when the piano is in solo. A Summer Beneath The Trees is a wonderful track - here, for my tastes, the three key elements come together most effectively - peculiar creaks and scrapings make the melodic structures all the more touching as if attractively aged - a chance uncovering of musical remnants thick with nostalgia.

ARTWORK   Expansive blue summer skies with white cloud haze fill the panels of this presentation. On the front cover the flat landscape of a golden field spiked by a series of pale modern windmills - simple white type delivering the title. On the reverse is another skyscape - here edged with the tips of twigs, branches and dangling catkins. Within the ground is a plain blue with only minimal text breaking the smoothness - track titles and a list of the musical input from the three Library Tapes artists.

Library Tapes currently consists primarily of Swedish musician David Wenngren. Originally he formed the project back in 2005 with Per Jardsell who left after the debut album; consequent recordings have seen David working with a number of other artists including Colleen, Erik Skodvin, Peter Broderick, Danny Norbury and Sylvain Chauveau. For this latest offering Peter Broderick plays violin, guitar, accordion, trumpet, celeste, viola and banjo whilst Danny Norbury plays cello. The album is released via Make Mine Music and comes as the fourth full length release following the Fragment EP from earlier in the year. The nine tracks here have a somewhat fuller sound than previous material, a classical elegance, a contemporary aesthetic.




 ------Amethyste - Shimmer

Lush enigmatic compositions and breathy female vocals. The music on Shimmer is consistently soft and sensuous - low light nocturnes and crepuscular dreamscapes with a touch of cinematic grandeur. Piano phrases tinkle across smooth synthetic pads and broad sweeping strings; chimes and bell trees glisten in the shadows and whilst flutes, harp-like arpeggios and various programmed sounds build beguiling secondary themes that entwine the primaries. There are plenty of intriguing effects adding to the mystery and theatre of the music - recordings of spoken voices, airy swishes and light peripheral embellishments. Amethyste's singing is delivered in very different ways across the various tracks - beautifully layered into warm choruses of silken oohs and aahs, crystal and clear when delivering her colourful lyrics, heavenly or haunting, whispery or operatic. There is no doubt about is this is a singer that enjoys using the whole range of her considerable talent. Her passion pours through some songs - the soaring 'Stay' streaming fluid crescendo after crescendo into blissful dreaminess, 'Wandering Flame' wordlessly drifting and ethereal, 'Entre Ciel et Mer' smooth and elegantly restrained.


Shimmer has an attractive otherworldly air about it, something of the magic of warm nights and fairy tale places. Everything has a slight soft focus, a richness of sonic hue that adds to the impression of story book nostalgia. A melancholy wistfulness touches many of the recordings here - lifted by an angelic grace that keeps the mood generally uplifting, positive. The dynamic delivery ranges from the delicate beatless 'Desire D'Amour' where the whole tracks feels something like an extended gentle interlude to the dramatic breakbeat driven downtempo of 'Always Running'. Music to close your eyes to - in imitation of the cover imagery - fill your mindspace with the luminous clouds of a summer evening, the imaginary scents of dense woodland glades, the imaginative sounds of Amethyste's inviting fantasy.

ARTWORK   Shimmer comes as a dark jewel case presentation. The imagery and text throughout are black and white with just the slightest of hints of colour. On the front is a tightly cropped photograph of the Amethyste herself, eyes closed, a single bejewelled tear sparkling on one cheek, enshrouded in swirls of hair and night black. Here and there a star twinkles in the background, among the thickly layered tresses, within the focal teardrop. On the reverse, another closed eye portrait, this time in profile, delicate patterns painted in curves and curlicues across the singer's skin. To the left track titles are footed by writing credits and website details. Within is an eight page booklet of strong glossy card adorned with evocative images created by Amethyste. A whole page inside is given over to generous thanks, the centre spread containing a poetic phrase in summary of each track set out over a picture of a huge white bloom and outstretched hand. Another double page layout holds a final shut-eye portrait with the words "Let your dreams shimmer through your life..." hanging in the darkness.

Shimmer is the second Amethyste album and follow up to the 2006 release Ethereal. The disc comes via the relatively new Bulgarian label AMAdea and can be found along with its predecessor on CD Baby as well as a number of other current musical outlets. The music on Shimmer is composed and performed by German Gunnar Spardel who initially encountered vocalist Amethyste through the internet. Around 2006 the pair began to collaborate seriously, exploring a range of styles from trance to ambient. Although continuing to work with a variety of approaches the fourteen pieces here are all wrapped up in a similar mystique, a unifying vision of vivid hue and sonic chiaroscuro.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Shimmer is very much akin to the musical vision of similarly named Amethystium - the shared atmosphere is likely to attract many of the same listeners. There are elements of new age and chill out - but in reality Shimmer isn't really of either of these genres, rather the album resides within that field of romantic musical alchemy explored by such artists as Aria, Blue Stone and Ronan Hardiman. Why not have a listen at the official Myspace page.




 ------Robert Scott Thompson - Poesis Athesis

Serene, graceful melodic electronic music with a pervasive oriental slant. Poesis Athesis is made up of electro-ambient soundscapes with occasional ethnic fusion beats supporting gentle themes carried by bowed strings, piano or diverse synthetic voices. The string melodies sound very much like the Chinese er-hu in delivery consciously drawing on the Eastern associations of the instrument - breathy flutes, metallic gongs and bowl sounds further building on this exotic imagery. In places strange whirling effects stir the air, or sounds suggestive of night insects, ruffling the stiller tones of the silky synths that underpin much of the music. The beats contain a variety of soft hand drums - deep booming skins and muted pads - overlaid with the restrained clatter and wooden tapping of lighter percussives. The pace varies considerably across the album - there are some very slow measured passages where the percussion barely maintains a beat, dreamy swaying patterns creating a mystical impression; other places lose the beat altogether - the music meandering and doleful. The album includes an homage to Erik Satie - sparse piano lines against strings reminiscent of some of the composer's most enduring pieces, although here with a somewhat more brooding tone.


Poesis Athesis arrives in a matt finish digipack. Spread from front to back is a panoramic landscape of frosty pale blues and white. A mirror still body of water makes up the foreground - dark rocks dotting the surface, spotting the inverted mountain. A deep blue band of shadow bisects the image wedge-like, forming a suitable ground for the title. On the back cover track titles are recorded with timings alongside, Lens Records logo below. Framed in fine white borders a series of pale graphic motifs run in a horizontal line - oriental character, long necked phoenix with arching wings. Within the ouside image is repeated - this time with a human figure elegantly posed in martial arts stance right in the foreground. More small framed panels here hold different shots of the same figure - poses and locations varied.


Poesis Athesis is the first album from Robert Scott Thompson to appear through Lens Records. The music here was written initially as accompaniment to a series of films for Chi Kung Master Terrence Dunn. These compositions resulted in over ten hours of music written during a two year period - here honed down to thirteen tracks totalling seventy eight minutes. The pieces on this disc could well accompany massage or relaxation activities, yet these are clearly more sophisticated compositions than much new-age music created for that purpose. Robert Scott Thompson has delivered an absorbing album with ambient roots that ventures into understated, moody melody coloured with the rich sounds of the Far East - eerily beautiful in places, haunting and lulling at the same time.


Deep ethnic percussion, piano chords and strings open the album - a dramatic track with a bright outlook as if bathed with the light of dawn. This rhythmic piece rolls along with an easy serenity, choral hints soaring among metallic jangles and shakers dancing in time.
The soft beats of tablas interspersed with light clashing metals carry broad string progressions and subtle piano melodies - an atmosphere similar to track one, but a slight increase in gravity. This track has a meditative quality that becomes increasingly hypnotic as it develops.
The mood alters here - the strings taking on an oriental nature and coming more to the fore leading in graceful theme. Still the sense of dramatic grandeur - but a somewhat clearer air. The ethnic hand drumming is again present, a gently busy pattern spotted with what sound like faint hand claps.
This is the first beatless piece on the album - a wide open space where electronic piano patterns ebb and flow across smooth synth sheets. An emotional tug can be felt - a sense of nostalgia or of loss, enhanced by brooding currents of sonic turbulence.
Beats still absent, Shen delves further into ambient form - Eastern bell-gongs curling in sonorous regularity. Secondary chime structures meander around the primary sounds, soft washes hanging in the background.
Now the smoothness of silken synthetic pads well up against a shadowy underlayer of drones. Choral tones arcing across, piano phrases here deep within the mix - no beat, little melody - restful, expansive, lofty.
Fading in from the previous track - a mid-tempo groove gradually builds - sibilant high frequency patterns flitting upon booming bass drums. Here the melodic content remains low key - layered tones morphing and shifting in a short series of cycling notes.
The sense of the Far East is strong here - a measured beat with as much emptiness as percussive content. Ringing bowls and chimes and orchestral strains interact with piano touches. A dreamy feel is enhanced by the effective use of some peculiar breezy voices that drift across the music like mysterious winds. This is a lengthy track, the longest on the album - almost eleven minutes in total - extended sufficiently for the mesmerising soundscaping to become fully immersive.
From the first chords the iconic compositions of Erik Satie are immediately caught to mind - but almost as quickly a clear difference is noted. Robert Scott Thompson bending these familiarities to his own will. Orchestral strains well up among the nodding chord forms and harp-like melodies. Again air movements and evocative effects swirl in the space beyond.
This is another beatless arrangement - yet there is a powerful rhythmic content - ponderous piano lines setting the pace, a rich flute periodically coming to the fore, interspersed with shimmering electronic effects. Dramatic once more, drifting and sleepy as lush tones repeat and vary into familiarity.
This piece opens with a low paced beat that runs throughout - bassy thuds, bright taps and delicate shakers in tranquil procession. Hammered strings and low drones build the sense of gentle solemnity - again oriental forms and sounds dominate.
As the strong structures of the previous track evaporate - a dense ambient atmosphere blooms. Ringing with emergent forms and brief harmonious motifs, this exotic nocturne is suggestive of night creatures and empty skies. No beats, no rhythm except for a constant heaving swell.
This fleeting concluding track reintroduces the chiming melodies and intertwined piano lines that have appeared across the album - here unaccompanied except for an almost unnoticeable small cymbal-like rhythm.





 ------John Gregorius - Heaven and Earth

Deft acoustic guitar compositions supported by subtle electronic elements. John Gregorius delivers a set of warm, inspirational pieces that primarily feature acoustic guitar melodies carried by restful beats and beatless ambience. John's playing skillfully moves from softly plucked themes and confidently fingered leads through strummed chords and flicked harmonics to an almost flamenco finger picking style in places. Electric guitars with various effects are employed in places to broaden the strings and vary the palette, nevertheless John chooses a consistently clean sound in keeping with his uplifting approach and thematic content. The accompaniment includes smooth electronic textures, delay loops, ebow strains and some fretless bass work. On the track Inner Room the electronic aspect of the music comes to the fore - a drifting, atmospheric arrangement of tranquil swells and crepuscular drones. The percussion tracks make use of live drums, and programmed grooves as well as some more exotic items such as udu drum and mallet drum.

ARTWORK   Heaven and Earth comes in a jewel case with a series of attractive water surface images filling every panel. On the front cover is a gently luminous sky reflected in a smooth pool circled by overlapping ripples - a hazy tree rises from a dark bank. On the back cover another a darker surface, heavier sky and closer ripple rings. Track titles with times are here as well as website details for O3E. Inside is a two panel insert - a motion blurred water-tree-scape acting as backdrop. To the left an extended track list with credits and gear noted; to the right recording information and a paragraph of thanks.

John Gregorius has worked for some time as a producer, guitarist and engineer producing or playing for artists such as East West, Reel Big Fish, Bionic Jodi and many other Southern California based acts. Heaven and Earth sees this talented musician focussing his abilities onto his own music contemplating the possibility of meaning within life’s mysteries. John releases this ten track CD through O3E Music, a new division of Spotted Peccary, this label being dedicated to "a fresh vision of Classical Impressionism, Art-based Jazz, Electronic, and Post-Progressive Rock." The pieces here are very peaceful and positive, managing to deliver pleasant, harmonious music that touches the emotions without becoming too sugary or sentimental. Whether performing solo guitar or electric lead within thicker ambience, John's creations flow naturally combining his diverse influences seamlessly.




 ------Hibernation - Some Things Never Change

Deeply chilled electronic instrumentals. Some Things Never change is a powerfully immersive experience of multi-coloured electronica, lush sound collaging and imaginative downtempo beats. Literally brimming with a wide variety of synthetic sounds, liquid effects and a generous scattering of glitchy percussives, Hibernation comes across as a highly detailed, many-hued construction that somehow manages at the same time to convey an inviting sleepy effortlessness. Among the bewildering array of lucid digital structures are various organic instrumental and human elements - vocal slices, disjointed spoken fragments, smooth female vocalising, whispering; Seb's love of global sound still enhancing his music in places - subtle hints of international material drifting into the mix here and there. There are a number of jazzy sections with idle brushes sweeping across snares and lolling double bass suggesting late night lounge rhythms where muted trumpet phrases pierce the air, electric piano lines carrying the melody. The most extremely chilled tracks on the album are, for me, the most exciting pieces here - the opener Melt with its unhurried piano touches, loose percussion and floating pads; the deliciously nocturnal Reflect - fractured phrases and soft focus strings meandering over a silky sub-bass line.

MOOD   Very restful and strongly transportational - this is a sumptuous spread of low light exotica that could easily accompany those half waking moments or fill your headspace with beautiful images as you slowly sink under the surface. Fantastic headphone music - Some Things Never Change has so much to hold the attention - makes me think of a fairground in the dark - winking lights, whirling forms and dense colours, the air full of sound - but everything is in slow motion, almost weightless, otherworldly.
ARTWORK   The promo copy that I possess gives a good indication of the top notch artwork enveloping this disc. A burgeoning bouquet of graphically enhanced pink blooms and tightly furled plant forms bursts from the front cover, bright humming birds hovering at the edges. On closer inspection this floral arrangement can be seen to include shiny speaker rims and dangling jack plugs. The backdrop is consistent throughout the package - aged paper, worn and damaged at the edges, grunge marks and grey stains. Inside this fold-out is a tracklist footed by relevant credits and website details. The opposite panel holds a long paragraph outlining Seb Taylor's musical background and varied projects, leading to a few words on the development of this current alias Hibernation.
OVERALL    Seb Taylor is well known to fans of electronic and dance music - if not by his own name, certainly through his aliases Kaya Project, Angel Tears, Shakta, Digitalis and Somaton. Twelve albums into his career, Hibernation introduces a new approach taken by Seb for Aleph Zero Records - here more heavily steeped in the kind of rich, dreamy, low bpm experimentalism that the label is known for. If you are familiar with the Aleph Zero house sound - Hibernation will immediately have a familiar feel. Very hi tech, yet very human - exploratory downtempo for the more discerning listener. That said - although Aleph Zero has established a sonic ethos, this is by no means achieved simply working to a formula - Some Things Never Change has a clearly unique identity. Very contemporary, very atmospheric, very hypnotic.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you have enjoyed previous Aleph Zero releases - don't hesitate to try this new release. Hibernation is ideal for lovers of evocative mood music that appreciate cutting edge chillout. Why not experience the E-flier and see hear for yourself or listen to some samples on the Aleph Zero website.
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 ------John Lakveet - The Last Nine Convoys From Magoria Station

Pure synthesiser music with strong Berlin school influence. The album begins with an evocative build up of steam and squeaking machinery followed by the departure of a train from a station - an appreciative burst of applause reminds us that this is a live album - then the journey is under way. Liquid clean synths with strong rhythms set the pace - swishing effects, tonal shifts and demented bird-like calls enlivening the mix. John Lakveet layers burbling sequences into mesmerising cycles, rolling along in constant evolution, light percussive structures in perfect step, smooth sheets of tone and ambient forms gliding above. The music rises and falls in intensity - building to locomotive pace with all elements percolating, then dropping down into wistful lightness as if we're drifting among the air currents left behind by the speeding train. There are some mysterious pieces - peculiar echoing tones looming out of sonic darkness - as if our musical odyssey were passing into the night, there are also twinkling sections of delicate luminance. The imagery of the moving train naturally is carried throughout the recording - the ripple of sequencers almost constant, yet never the sounding same for long.

ARTWORK   This CD comes in a jewel case package with a photographic montage on the front cover - a shiny steam engine emerging from a layer of mist fades out from a village station - a folded newspaper in the foreground holds the title. The rear cover displays the album tracklist on a small sheet of brown paper floating above a backdrop of various travel stamps. The insert holds the background information about the recording on the opposite panel to the cover image - brief thanks, a second tracklist and John's website are also found here. Opening up the insert a set of performance stills are laid out showing John amid his equipment lit in heavy hues of green and red, light patterns and projected imagery at his back.
OVERALL    John Lakveet is described as the Spanish specialist of the sequencer - it's quickly evident why - masterful sequence structures drive this album from start to finish. The nine tracks on this album are relatively short for the genre - the longest being just over twelve minutes in length, the shortest two minutes forty. All were all performed before a live audience at Magoria Station, Barcelona on September 28th 2007. The music is very clear and well produced for a live album, not only that, there is a lot going on considering that this is the work of just one man. There are nostalgic recollections of Tangerine Dream and other seventies synth workers here, John clearly enjoying further exploration of the musical vistas first traversed by these pioneers. Perhaps where John excels is in his creation of very tight compositions that manage to feel both unhurried in development yet appealingly concise - this train takes you through some wondrous places, allowing ample time to take in the scenery, but making good progress at the same time. The CD is released via AD21 Music as a 10th anniversary marker for the label - available via iTunes and Musiczeit only.