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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

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 ------The Spirit Level - Of Earth And Sky
STYLE

 

 

Light, groove-oriented, airy world fusion with the geographical emphasis on Asia and the Far East. Of Earth And Sky is filled with bright, danceable breakbeats, ethnic instruments and uplifting electronica. Female vocalists Kyoko Kigasawa and Annie Lai bring a further exotic, ethereal element to the mix, singing, whispering and talking among well-chosen samples from Thailand and Nepal.

 
MOOD  

Dreamy multi-cultural soundscapes with a hypnotic elegance. The electronica drifts into floating ambience at times, and at others, bubbles along over delicate drum loops - warm and inviting. The overall effect is sensual, soothing, occasionally spacey even heavenly.

 
ARTWORK   The artwork is a definite draw to this CD - an imaginary computer graphic scene leads us in to the package. Oriental pagodas on a deeply furrowed bank catch the sun near the sea whilst a heavy sky with three green planets adds weight to the image. A fairly accurate description of the music can be found on the back cover. The inside of the booklet is in black and white with separate credits for each track.
 
OVERALL    This is certainly one of the more appealing global fusion albums out there; the exotic aspect flows quite naturally and leaves the listener with a sense of floating peacefulness. Shamisen sounds interweave with clear synths and angelic voices. Mark Adams Allison who also records as Phobos and currently as Mysteria released this CD in 1998 on Neurodisc Records.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Ethnic electronica enthusiasts looking for an oriental flavour. This is worldbeat that leans somewhat toward tranquil ambience, but at the same time is gracefully upbeat and positive. This music would work equally well as a calming background sound or as a focussed listening experience.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Steve Roach - Places Beyond: The Lost Pieces 4
STYLE

 

 

A collection of ambient pieces recorded between 1997 and 2001 - some beatless and drifting, others driven by persistent, mesmerising grooves and rhythms. Most are relatively minimal 'soundworlds' that capture and present intriguing snapshots of possible 'places beyond'. Percussive loops originally created by Byron Metcalf and Vir Unis work as part of the trance-inducing beats on Resolution Point, Trancefusion and Serpent's Birth, whilst collaborating artist vidnaObmana brings his own unique slant to Calm Before The Storm. Most pieces are vaporous and warm, some emanating a throbbing, urgent heat - not a cold album by any means.

 
MOOD   Each piece has it's own distinct mood - some feel mechanically organic or organically mechanical, others roll lazily along among languid beats like oil twining around upon water, some passages are completely beatless like soft masses of sound ruffled only by the odd rainstick. There is a solemnity, a gravity about most pieces that stops even the most unstructured ambiences here from feeling insubstantial and floating too far away - something like the way that early morning mist sits in the valleys hugging the earth.
 
ARTWORK   The computer-graphic front cover image reminds me a bit of an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture. A spiral of stones linked by bridging sticks is set out on a desert floor graven with electronic circuitry. Similar circuit layouts on the other panels appear as wall carvings and mystic scribings. In places the circuitry suggests primitive figures surrounded by purposeful hieroglyph diagrams. Sleeve notes explain the original projects that spawned the individual compositions, crediting the appropriate collaborators.
 
OVERALL    Although written originally for a variety of different projects the chosen tracks here have taken on "an interconnected life of their own". Steve describes the selection process "like shuffling through a large box of puzzle pieces looking for the shapes and colors from which to begin telling a particular story that I'm discovering along the way. It's very much a mosaic, formed out of the richness that each piece or soundworld passage holds on its own." The result is a compelling collection of ambient music that has interesting variety yet sufficient consistency to work well as this single entity.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  
There are tracks here with strong 'hybrid grooves' and rhythmic elements, pieces with tribal hints that would appeal to ethnic ambient fans and there are deep beatless ambient soundscapes that purists and aural drifters will surely enjoy. Collectors of Steve's work will find that this is no gathering together of second-rate left-overs ..... Places Beyond has some very beautiful moments.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Alpha Wave Movement - Cosmology
STYLE

 

 

Pure spacey electronica effortlessly gliding from dark moody ambience to sequence-driven and melodic synth work. There are pieces with up-tempo drums and electric guitar strains reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream, retro-analogue patterns and moments that linger around the edges of 'lounge' music. Deep, moody sonic beds support sparkling melodies and twinkling loops. There are plenty of well-placed sweeps, swishes and special effects woven into the rich synthetic fabric of this generally relaxing collection of nine tracks.

 
MOOD  

The tone, of course is one of, overwhelming interstellar imagery - bathing in the sublime, slow-motion beauty of planetary movement; soaring, weightless through infinite starscapes; cold and isolated far, far from earth. One moment gently pulsing sequences punctuate drifting synth textures, carrying the listener into restful reverie, the next nimble drum loops light up the night sky and the electronics burble, sparkle and coat everything with a bright sheen. Easy to listen to, easy to drift with in the lighter passages - Cosmology surrounds the listener carrying him away to places so distant that it takes a while to mentally return.

 
ARTWORK   The dark, sharp, dense-blue imagery of technology sunken deep among the stars is shot through with an orange radiance and a bold title. A perfect balance for the sounds of Cosmology, Pablo Magne's graphics convey an alien sense of mystery pervading distant human exploration. Track titles maintain a consistent atmosphere - Sailing Orion, Deep Outpost, Astral Navigator and The Far Side of I.O.. Sleeve notes explain that the tracks Sailing Orion and Teutonic Voyage were actually recorded "live direct to CDR".
 
OVERALL   

A comfortable album with some beautiful moody clouds of ambience that are brimming full of atmosphere. Lively drum programming is plentiful and sequencers are in abundance - but the abiding impression is one of gliding serenity, of willing abandonment to the infinite. Ghosts of the past float in and out of this mix of synthesisers reminding us openly of the musical heritage that Gregory T. Kyryluk has so ably built upon.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Smooth pads and resonant arps make for an album that will be enjoyed by those liking melodic spacey electronica or programmed synthetics transmitted from the other end of the galaxy. Cosmology will appeal to those who like to hear hints of an electronic musical history that has been picked up and developed with a twenty-first century polish.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Zer0 0ne - Zer0 0ne
STYLE   Zer0 0Ne's self titled debut could well be described as intelligent digital-chill, ambient-groove or Electronic beats, burbling sequencers, crystal clear electronic leads and sampled voices combine to form a CD that feels like 'pure' programmed electronica. This is computer music taking the analogue synth music from a decade or two ago and reforming it in present terms. Bass lines are sharp and at times almost dubby.
 
MOOD  

There is a feeling of mathematical precision to Zer0 0ne both in the tightly structured patterns and the choice of synth voices. However, the mood is not cold and lifeless - Kevin Dooley has managed to weave bleeps, pulses, swishes and evolving cycles into a warm whole. The vocal snippets that punctuate the tracks add to this warmth - sometimes these are spoken phrases, at other times wordless singing.

 
ARTWORK  

The mathematical theme is highlighted in the artwork and sleeve notes - the phrase "calculated adventures in electronica" is centrally placed on the rear jewel case artwork. Rows of digital zeros and ones are juxtaposed against a very organic photograph of green islands in blue/mauve water. Information on French mathematician Pierre Simon de Laplace is included inside the CD booklet. Overall, a tasteful package with vibrant colours on the outside, black and white within.

 
OVERALL   

A solid album of thoughtfully composed crisp beats, sparkling beeps, deep basses, and sci-fi sound effects. Pure, clean electronica with a generally laid-back groove and introspective tenor. Tracks tend to build gradually as harmonising sequences are individually set out in parallel, musical intensity rises and falls away into soft moments where the beats click softly before fresh melodic climaxes are hit. Most pieces fade fluidly away into nothingness inviting the swell of the following piece.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

If you like clean electronica with an almost clinical precision - yet humming with human feeling, then Zer0 0ne is well worth checking out. Lovers of seventies and eighties synth music might well find that this album develops the tradition in a pleasing direction. Restful, thoughtful, well produced music. Visit the Zer0 0ne web site to hear some samples.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Thought Guild - Context
STYLE

 

 

Spacey cyber-ambience and sequence based retro-electronica. The official web site describes the musical intent this way - "Context suffuses the sound of Berlin-school electronics circa 1976 with a global consciousness". There is undoubtedly a strong mid 1970's European influence in the choice of sounds and compositional structures employed, nevertheless, Thought Guild wrap all of this up in a contemporary package that is clearly at home in the new millennium.

 
MOOD  

Context is primarily a gentle, tranquil album where warm ambient clouds swell and swirl like backlit mists, where bright, crystalline sequencers mesmerisingly revolve around and around, where the digital percussion is light and the programmed melodies optimistic and pretty. The mood is spacey but not as strongly so as Alpha Wave Movement, here there is also an earthbound sense of looking inward, a sense of the wonder of existence, a cerebral flight of fancy.

 
ARTWORK   The front cover photograph is suitably ambiguous, the textures of metal and glass glowing under the sun. Darkness bathed and bleeding with orange light. Text here is minimal, not competing with the imagery. Inside we have a solarised image of the musicians and their studio, clearly proud of the vast array of equipment surrounding them. Track titles suggest the distant, the esoteric and the technical - Distant Star, Lifepools, Silicon Alchemists, Moebius Phase.
 
OVERALL   

Gregory Kyryluk (Alpha Wave Movement) and Christopher Cameron came together to become Thought Guild with Johannes Neuer playing guitar on the final track Memento. The result is an delicate, atmospheric collection of pieces that could have been painted with light - at times flushed and subdued, at times glittering, pulsing, shimmering, just occasionally incandescent, aflame. Many of the tracks are rhythmic carried either by bubbling sequencers or deft electronic drum loops. Sampled sounds introduce some subtle organic elements to the mix and there are some beautifully presented textures layered in certain passages.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you enjoyed 70s/80s Berlin electronica and wonder what it could sound like revisited, if you like flying around inside your own head accompanied by warming synthesiser music, if you enjoy Alpha wave Movement - this could be just what you need.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Thom Brennan - Silver
STYLE   Eight of the most beautiful, dense, evolving ambient beds, full of shifting, fluttering depths and scintillating variety. Thom's new album builds confidently on the pure, floating ambience of previous releases, but here the liquid smoothness is constantly shot through with myriad pulses, bells, twinkles and submerged voices like veins through marble. There is a lot more movement in 'Silver' than in some earlier CDs, distant melodies drift in the heady atmosphere and bright sequences ebb, flow and cycle in and out of earshot. Some pieces have elements of rhythm and occassional sounds of nature are expertly immersed into the mix.
 
MOOD  

An inviting, embracing silky warmth adrift amid a vast shimmering cold. The working theme for the album was originally "The Fall of Winter" and this is evident still within many of the heaving, fluid pieces. If now 'silver' is the embracing concept, then it is not simply a polished silver trinket, it is silver in all its rich association and imagery - a shafting gleam of moonlight full of airborn ephemera, the clutching fingers of a glassy, frozen waterfall, the crusted crystal sheeting of a fresh hoar frost, the cracked sheeting of layered ice over deep, dark waters. Thom said of this CD "I tried to tie all the pieces together by recurring similiar chords, and similiar timbres making up the sounds. This is my most composed album from the standpoint of relating the tracks to each other, and creating a "story" that resolves with the last track "AfterGlow"."

 
ARTWORK  
The inspiration for the music is reflected in the atmospheric photography that floods all of the graphic panels. On the front cover crystalline, skeletal twigs and branches vein a grey-pink mistscape silvered with winter's breath. Text is minimally functional creating as little disturbance of the imagery as possible; elsewhere this same pattern is followed, listing only titles and credits. The inside booklet opens out to reveal more of Thom's photography with bare trees forming a lattice work looming over some beautiful purple rushes. If you enjoy the pictures have a look at more of Thom's visual work on his web site HERE.
 
OVERALL   

Released in January 2005, this album is right at the forefront of modern ambient music - a sparkling clear sound with top notch production. Abstraction from nature again forms a canvas to work with. Thom says "A lot of my music is inspired by seasons, landscapes, and environments. An image as simple as the skeleton of a tree against a gray background is enough to inspire something, and thats where the original idea came from." The eight pieces of silver are packaged up into relatively short tracks similar to Signals In Moonlight making them easy to listen to and emphasising the pleasing variety on the album.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Thom's fans will be spellbound - I think this is one of his most instantly appealing and enjoyable albums. It is certainly among the most readily accessible of ambient music. If you enjoy variety and movement in your ambience, if shorter themed soundworlds appeal to you - then Silver might be just the thing. You can read our interview with Thom HERE and you can hear samples of the new CD on Thom's web site HERE.