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 ------ThiePaul Berry - Slow Motion Pictures

Retro synth music with male vocals. Paul Berry creates electronic tracks with a strong eighties influence fuelling the arrangements - echoes of Ultravox, Tubeway Army and Human League can be discerned in the mix, the music for machines aesthetic of the decade subtly humanised with various organic touches. For the most part the tracks are laid back downtempo affairs - rippling arpeggios and smooth sweeps are enhanced with a range of slightly spacey effects, chord stabs and the occasional guitar slash. Driving the music are programmed beats with a mix or real drum sounds and synthetic hits. Paul's singing is delivered with the restrained cool that characterises many of his influences - John Foxx, Gary Numan - slightly mechanical, low-light musings.

ARTWORK   Slow Motion Pictures is a download album and so artwork is in appropriate form. A front cover image of graphic spider-web swirls runs in a bold diagonal. Bright red highlights across greys and black. The CD case (a limited number of which are available from Paul's website) holds a rear image that blows up a portion of the front cover - spikes and curls here filling most of the panel - a track list in the upper left quadrant.
OVERALL    This is the second album from UK based Paul Berry. Slow Motion Pictures follows the debut album Parallel and is available from Paul's own website HERE. The album comes as a free download with nine tracks, a colour pdf of the lyrics is also available from the lyrics page of the site should you wish to explore further. Paul's music will appeal to fans of the slightly darker end of the synth clone sound that was popular a couple of decades ago.




 ------ThieNeil Campbell - Ghost Stories

Acoustic guitar instrumentals with vocal and electronic enhancements. Over the streaming sibilance of the wind comes a delicate guitar melody - clear fingering, virtuoso classical style, moody of nature. Wordless vocalisations from singer Anne Taft add to the crepuscular atmosphere - effortless soarings and ethereal meanderings that hang in the air. The electronics are very subtle - almost invisible for the most part, faint soundscapings that highlight the guitar work and at the same time emphasise the mysterious quality of the themes. Neil's deft instrumentation has Spanish elements in the delivery, elegantly plucked melodies atop secondary patterns that ring with a comfortable clarity that belies the dexterity need for such beautiful form.

ARTWORK   This CD comes in a jewelcase with a two panel insert. On the front a burst of light beams over a dark backdrop with a partially hidden square of a darker hue - simple titles here, barely any text at all on the rear cover. Inside is where we find the information - plain black double panel - a quote from Beckett to the left; track titles, credits and website details to the right.

Neil Campbell is a man of diverse interests and pursuits having worked as free improviser, singer songwriter, systems music composer, band leader and virtuoso guitar soloist; being influenced by progressive rock, krautrock, ambient, systems music, jazz rock, French impressionism and all sorts of electronic music. Ghost Stories comes as the follow-up to Particle Theory released early in 2008 but has a quite different sound - here almost a solo guitar approach, reflective, enigmatic. Actually this album is more akin to Neil's 2004 release Night Sketches - almost picking up where that album left off. Four compositions make up this latest release - the first Ghost Story Suite being broken into ten distinct sections over almost half an hour. Following this come three additional short pieces of a similar nature.




 ------Max Corbacho - Breath Stream
STYLE   Expansive, drifting ambient zones - beatless, minimal. The series of compositions on Breath Stream are smooth, flowing sonic states that fade seamlessly one into another creating an unbroken listening experience. Airy drones and steady velvet washes gently rise and fall in graceful slow motion, the sound thickening into harmonious even tone in places, then dispersing into almost atonal enormity. At times the intensity of the music drops down low as if the listener were increasingly isolated, distant, remote - or perhaps simply more profoundly at rest, wholly immersed and almost motionless. Beguiling effects burble or flutter on the peripheries, little motes and flickers some barely perceived, sonic breezes drifting through the aural space.
MOOD   The most pervasive mood here is one of almost blissful submission - a captivating serenity imbued with a sense of enveloping immensity. The track titles effectively draw together strands of galactic isolation and deeply personal inner experience - The Great Breath, This Luminous Space, No Day nor Night, Pure Being. Max's music suggests the tranquil euphoria of being suspended weightless among morphing luminous nebulae, warm clouds of shifting colour, beautiful dreams and faintly recalled memories.
ARTWORK   The Breath Stream jewelcase is a deep, dark spacey blue package. Initially the main image appears as a view of infinite space - closer inspection reveals a horizon, one bright spiralling arm laid out like a flat plain stretching away into the distance. Above starlike clusters form further spirals, spirals of spirals - clusters of imaginary galaxies. Similar visuals fill the rear cover - an unobtrusive tracklist hanging in the upper left quadrant - times alongside. The two panel insert opens to display a closer view of the front cover image - here focussed on the foreground - a little like a glass bottomed boat to the universe. Information is minimal - credits to the left a quote from Vietnamese Monk Thich Nhat Hanh to the right - "Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts."
OVERALL    Breath Stream builds upon the solid foundation laid down by Max Corbacho's previous release The Talisman. Coming now as the eighth release from this rising Spanish ambient star - the new album exhibits a formidable depth of sound unveiled with masterful restraint. Much of the music arose from long improvisational sessions utilising Max's collection of hardware synths, catching those moments of magic - selecting and arranging the most absorbing passages into unbroken flow. The album is to be the first of a series of digital releases, offering downloads at iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, eMusic and Napster, among others, and, also, full CD quality downloads through the well respected new download platform Catch some samples at the Musiczeit page.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you enjoyed The Talisman then Breath Stream will take you further into the rapture and beauty of Max's enormous musical space. This is a release for fans of warm, inviting, minimal ambience with the soft sonic density of Thom Brennan, Numina and Steve Roach. No beats - just infinite space - effulgent, dark, rich in colour, perpetually black.




 ------Australis - The Gates of Reality

Dramatic enigmatic instrumentals full of emotion and imagination. Australis knit together a broad range of evocative sounds and stirring atmospheres on this second album. At centre stage are sweeping themes of synthetic sound - string-like, chiming, electronic - but all turned somewhat away from the obvious with deftly applied effects. Piano, electric and programmed guitar melodies also feature along with operatic female voices, soaring and heavenly. World sounds frequently appear, yet these are not overdone - tracks are not centred on global ephemera - rather these are introduced as sonic seasoning, associative flavouring. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this album is found among the marginal sounds and interludes - peculiar secondary lines rippling behind the leads, shadowy textures billowing in quieter corners, touches of musical theatre such as creaking, dripping and other environmental recordings - Australis has done a great job of setting a suitable mood for each piece through these surrounding details. Human utterances pepper the various tracks; child-like speech, whispered words - male and female musings, there are even some distant monks at one point.

MOOD   The Gates of Reality has a magical story book feel running throughout. This is one of those albums to conjure up dreams and fantasies - especially suited to low light listening. Many pieces have powerfully climactic passages where the music peaks into moving heights before dispersing gradually away, others carry a less obvious emotional melancholy - downbeat compositions that tug at the heart evoking a sense of nostalgia or dimly grasped memory.
ARTWORK   The artwork accompanying the album is well produced and in keeping with the tone of the music. A wire bird cage, door open tilts into a rippled dune of sand each contour heavy with the shadows left behind by a setting sun. Inside the cage is a sunflower - barely perceived - almost in silhouette. The arid panorama is beautified by this low light crepuscular mood - heavy grey cloud underlit with orange. The whole image has effective antiquing textures and fine scratches that further develop the mystique of the package. On the back a close up of the cage before a deeper sunset acts as backdrop to the tracklist - each with time alongside. The insert opens into three panels - on the outer spread is an alternative cage and sand image below a somewhat more fiery sky - here is a second tracklist and a quote from The White Codices contemplating the nature of reality. The flip side of the insert is full of information: credits and thanks leftmost, words and explanation centre and to the right; contact and website details rightmost.
OVERALL    This second CD from Utah based Australis comes four years after the debut album Lifegiving. Clearly there has been a lot of growth in the intervening period as this latest release shows a considerably greater depth and maturity of sound. The Gates of Reality is released via Essential Noises and contains fourteen tracks mostly around the five minute mark. Dream-master Oscar is joined by a number of collaborating artists on the album; poet Virginia Luna, Andean musician/singer Alvaro Aguayo, composer/producer Roger Subirana; and singers Mornie Sims and Rebecca Farraway. Overall this is very solid presentation - it does deliver the fantasy, it does touch the emotions and it does have themes that you will remember, unconsciously humming as you go about your day or drift into sleep.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you enjoy music that will likely be labelled 'new age' but has that something extra; that romantic drama; that sense of musical theatre; that fairy tale setting - this is an album well worth exploring. The Gates of Reality will appeal to fans of Enigma, Amethystium, Mythos, Achillea. Have a listen at the Australis website - but be warned it's an absorbing site, you might not come back quickly.




 ------Kaya Project - ... And So It Goes
STYLE   Lush global fusion instrumentals and stirring international songs. The third album from Kaya Project deepens the multinational sound tapestry and instrumental juxtaposition that has been a hallmark of much of Natasha Chamberlain and Seb Taylor's music. Male and female vocals in various languages lead a number of tracks - not sampled - full songs performed with a passion and feeling that sample montaging often fails to deliver. Other vocal performances are wordless - wavering Asian utternaces, gentle oohs and aahs and Middle Eastern soaring. Indeed this whole album has a more organic feel than before, more acoustic instruments; guitar, slide guitar, flute, clarinet, classical Indian violin and Arabic mowals fused with tribal percussion, breakbeats and Gypsy jazz. The clear twangs of wires, the soft thuds of hands on drum skins, heady flute breaths, jangling shakers, expressive piano and clarinet lines - all are subtly buoyed up on almost transparent electronic structres. The effect is well picked up in the cover art - warm and expressive, transportational and engrossing.
MOOD   ... And So It Goes strays somewhat further from its chilled roots than Walking Through and Elixir. The borders are more confidently blurred, the different genres more deftly interwoven. The project has come a long way from the early days of the chilled worldbeat when ethnic wavs were cut and pasted into electronic soundscapes as exotic flavouring - Kaya Project have built up a sound that feels genuinely global in scope, that feels authentic and natural. Tribal drum beats underpin Romany violin, orchestral elements walk side by side with ethnic recordings, Indian singers are accompanied by flamenco guitar, tablas carry slide guitar and harmonica - the atmosphere is like a world festival, shared cultures, common vision, joy of music.
ARTWORK   A rather sumptuous digipack holds this disc. Four matt panels open out into a broad panoramic spread. On the front cover and running across to the rear a painting with the bold look of indigenous art shows a row of twisting trees against a yellow orange red sky, huge leaves trail as a border along the top; the tightly coiled roots of the trees curling into the earth as a lower border. A faint track list appears on the back cover. Opening out to the first level - a flat beige ground holds a long list of thanks from Seb and from Interchill, track by track writing credits and cover shots of the two previous Kaya Project albums. A further turn of a panel and the disc is revealed along with performance credits and website details. A final outfolding exposes a rich branch and leaf design in similar style to the outer image. Very vivid earthy hues, strongly textured and confidently lined.
OVERALL    Following on from the highly successful Elixir - for the third time Kaya Project deliver their evocative music via Interchill Records. This has been a creatively fertile period for Seb Taylor clearly, the release of the Hibernation debut Some Things Never Change (a different sonic identity focussed more heavily on electronic sound and deeply chilled glitch) only weeks back. Here with Natasha Chamberlain on vocals, keyboards and flute, the attention is on a more live sound with acoustic instruments including Seb's guitar well employed and mostly dominating the mix.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Straying across so many boundaries it's hard to keep up ... And So It Goes will likely appeal to fans coming in from the downbeat club scene enjoying global sound, but so too fans of Deep Forest, Real World, Afro Celts and other worldbeat acts will find plenty here to enjoy.

Languid lounge piano, guitar fingering and fret motion, flitting clarinet lines and violin strains interact with smooth electronic drones across a restful tabla rhythm fused with a light drum beat. International voices wail and croon in unison. This drawing together of diverse sound sources setting the tone for all that is to follow.
Slide guitar, harmonica and Marco De Luca’s spoken words introduce and lead this lazy downtempo track. Clarinet duets with bottlenecked and bowed strings atop another ethnic-Western drum track.
Solo clarinet and wordless, sensual female singing open this piece, then continue as elements among orchestral flourishes, double bass and jazzy beat. The dreamy tempo is maintained, the melodies understated and appearing somewhat improvisational.
Double bass, lightly strummed acoustic guitar and piano support Randolph Matthew’s gentle singing in what is the first ‘song’ of the album. Again the percussive material is laid back, combining hand drums and kit work – unobtrusive and buoyant.
A light breakbeat, electric wah wah guitar and some deft mandolin fingering work around the voice of male Indian singer Deeyah. Violin played with Asian intricacies maintains the exotic nature of this piece – easy on the ear, something of a tropical sunset feel.
A tribal beat with echoing shakers and flute flutters gradually builds - guitar rolls in smoothly and a delightfully meandering Indian flute takes the lead.
As might be expected the bowed moan of the saranghi leads this piece - an energetic tabla and pacey drum beat driving the rhythm. Sabiha Khan and Natasha Chamberlain both sing airy phrases among the twisting saranghi melodies. Bright and lively.
Deeply oriental - this track is the first to be structured without a main beat. Delicate pucks and strums steeped in the traditions of the Far East support faint flute swells. Highly atmospheric and meditative - an introspective interlude in the centre of the festival.
... & SO IT GOES
The title track wells up from a bed of crickets into a juxtaposition of slide guitar and busy flute glissandos. The beat and bassline are more danceable here - male yells and calls adding extra emphasis. Violin joins the mix - rapid scales in pace with the flute parts. Typical of the album ... & So It Goes is a melting pot of genres; Western structures join global sounds and instruments associated with both classical and pop culture work in unison. Crickets fade.
An easy rhythm introduces Randolph Matthews' next song. Lolling double bass and idle slide guitar are given slightly magical touch as twinkling chimes and sensual female vocals brush the surface.
Aptly titles - a brooding tone inhabits this track. Sabiha Khan's voice in contrast with the low acoustic guitar patterns. In further contrast clarinet and Indian violin play off one another. The beat is mid paced - a further fusion of tabla and drum kit ... hypnotic and cycling, the various elements ebbing and flowing, taking turns at centre stage. Surprisingly coherent blend of such diverse instrumentation.
Lifting the pace a little - the now familiar ensemble presents a sound that here feels Middle Eastern. A cinematic aspect is heightened by broad string sweeps and strongly effected voices bathed in reverb. In places the beat disperses allowing the hand drumming to come to the fore - the worldbeat nature welling up ever more powerfully in these interludes.
A second beatless space unfurls. Synthetic pads and contemplative piano over rippling guitar fingering. The main melody comes in the form of a rather plaintive clarinet. The blissful, sleepy tenor of Drift is heightened by the Natasha's wordlessly breathed vocalisings.
As the carnival reawakens - low toned drums set a very slow pace. Rapid acoustic guitar patterns dance lightly with beguiling ease as a female voice and stabbing violin glissando stretch the laziness of the rhythm. Just as the wave of energy feels about to break, the music almost sighs back into restraint. A spoken female voice leading us off into the next track.
Bekhudi continues the soporific state built up over the last few compositions with a drawn out introduction. When the beat begins and the various instruments take their turns, the unlikely band of widely gathered players now sound as natural as if these are sounds that have always been side by side. This is a pretty representative track - very effective downbeat global lounge music.
Randolph Matthews sings for the last time - the slide guitars, tablas, strings, supporting female voices all in passionate harmony. A dramatic weight energises this piece - broad and filmic - a touch of theatrical magic in the air.
The album concludes with a much laid back track - Seb's clean guitar playing rolls across a gentle shaker rhythm. Natasha Chamberlain's dreamy utterances float above - soporific - beautiful Asian violin equally unhurried takes its turn among the fairy tale chimes and fades...





Janet Robbins - Carrying the Bag of Hearts Interpreting the Birth of Stars Vol.III

Lush electronic soundscapes. The four pieces here shift and twist throughout their length - narrative themes that take the listener on a journey of imagination. Filmic strings sweep across a lazy downtempo beat, electronic twinkles and air movements dancing across the underlying pads. A dark ambient zone slowly shifts until an elegant piano solos across grey synthetic textures - shifting once more an electro groove deep within chimes leads the way into another passage of slightly acidic melody tones. Electric guitar fingering, frets squeaking, juxtaposes airy drones of a somewhat heavenly nature - this expansive piece seems to be the first track to maintain identity from start to finish - then just when you have concluded that the harmony of the piece will continue until the end - a flex - a shift - a fresh beat fades in guitar fades out. The Train To Rhinecliff works in reverse to the previous arrangements - rhythm setting in quite early, a sequential synth pattern that is soon joined by a dramatic programmed beat. The image of a train is suggested effectively as the mechanical cycling structures roll around against a tractor-like bassline. But midway the grunting low frequencies are left more alone to carry the beat - gradually ebbing away into ambient space. A gloomy emptiness wells up briefly before a warm clarinet sound carries in the beat once more, finally dispersing into a more atmospheric beatlessness. Like drifting above the clouds - light and harmonious, the album concludes smoothly, gently.

ARTWORK   Once more Janet Robbins' own artwork adorns this jewel case package. The now familiar image from volumes one and two of this series shows a female figure with bright auburn hair bent sideways at an improbable angle floating across a landscape of green torn in two by a brick red stream. On the rear the spreading green, grey, black cuboid projections again accompany a tracklist and contact information. Inside is a single sheet insert - the female figure here in black line art, a glittering heart hovering just above her nearly touching hands. Text fills the image: a note from Janet about the project, notification that part of the proceeds go to building an animal sanctuary, credits, tracklist.
OVERALL    This is the third and final part of the Carrying the Bag of Hearts Interpreting the Birth of Stars trilogy. Once again an ambitious album of cinematic scope and widely varying tone. Environmental recordings combine with deft synthesiser work, gutsy basses, live guitar playing, Tibetan bowls and semi-classical string arrangements. The four pieces on the album are relatively lengthy compositions from six minutes twenty seconds through to nine minutes thirty six - allowing plenty of space for narrative progression within each track. This is a powerful conclusion to the set - all the dark beauty and symphonic grandeur of its predecessors. If you own parts one and two - part three is a must.