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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Unoccupied - Everyday Life
STYLE   Downtempo electro songs and alternative, ambient pop. Unoccupied present an album of fresh synthetic melodies, clean guitar textures and heavily effected voices. The sound is distantly reminiscent of the synth music of the early nineteen eighties, yet these simple retro roots support a growth of contemporary expression and a deceptively sophisticated depth of sound. Liquid chimes, electric guitar and digital tones deliver gentle themes over clear washes and faint atmospheres. The mostly unobtrusive beats have a bright programmed sound - sometimes bouncy, uncomplicated affairs, sometimes subtle structures of spacious blips and clicks. The vocals are loosely 'songs' in that lyrics are sung (they are also spoken, narrated, whispered and almost chanted), but the words are drenched in FX, vocoder distortion sometimes stretching the human origins of the sound to the edge of recognition.
 
MOOD   Everyday life has a pleasant, wistful quality about it - accessible and inviting, touched with a thread of light lament. The low pace to the music builds on the somewhat nocturnal mood that many tracks create - restful and introspective (musing narration expanding the reflective aspects) and even invitingly soporific, sending the listener into dreamy drifting. At times there is a hint of the machine music of a few decades back, but Unoccupied consistently soften this side of their sound, happy to be human - organic and
   
ARTWORK   A warm indoor evening orange bathes the artwork of this album. Shiny apples softly lit against rich hazy backgrounds. The red fruit on the front cover is encircled by a tape measure that bears the title of the disc. My promo copy unfolds to provide a description of the project on the rear with a bit of background information on the Unoccupied artists. Inside three green apples, two red - strong colours on a dark ground. Track titles are here as well as a more detailed discussion of the personalities behind the music.
  
OVERALL   

Unoccupied are Israel based musicians Nadav Katz & Eitan Reiter. Nadav plays guitar, keyboards, bass and drums as well as working as a sound engineer, programmer and mastering engineer. Eitan is also "a multitalented genre-crossing artist" writing techno, electro, downtempo electronic and psychedelic chillout music under his own name, with his debut album to be released in Aleph Zero in 2009. Everyday life is released via Aleph Zero records. Initially this album might appear to be of a different nature to the label's previous output - however, the sharp electronics and deeply chilled nature of the music actually is very much in keeping with Aleph Zero's house sound. Not only that, Aleph Zero is label that is committed to widening its musical field of output, delivering high quality, visionary sounds that both stretch and blur the traditional boundaries.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Everyday Life takes the blissful clarity and chilled beauty of downtempo electronica and presents it with something of a pop approach. If you enjoy subtle songs and well produced chillout why not explore the album e-flier. All the tracks on the album can be sampled here and there's plenty of background information too. Alternatively - give the player below a click.
     
   
Go to Beatport.com Get These Tracks Add This Player

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Blind Divine - Queen of Venom
STYLE  

Evocative downtempo songs with a haunting, gothic aesthetic and filmic sensibility. Blind Divine play alternative guitar based songs, but the music is far more lush and emotive than the average band. The guitar playing is very varied, plenty of suitable FX drench the strings in distortion, depth or sustain, clear acoustic strumming and fingering too, sharp fret squeaks preserved for effect. In addition to the guitar work there are keyboards, pianos, orchestral strings, recorded voices, chimes, subtle crackles and sonic aging. The beats are excellent: idle trip-hop rhythms that drift along entwined with blissful baselines that work together to maintain a consistently dreamy quality with sufficient muscle and sinew to keep the mix from becoming sugary. Paula's singing retains the gently brooding emotional impact of previous work, she sings with a casual restraint that hints at hidden depths, with a sensual warmth and touching honesty shot through with a vulnerable fragility. Sometimes low and almost spoken (even whispering), rising to passionate highs, layered choruses full of feeling.

 
MOOD   Blind Divine do a good job of setting a mood throughout this album - there is an otherworldy quality to many tracks, a feel of timeless nostalgia. There is a cinematic breadth to the music that readily stirs up mental imagery and associative recollections. Plenty of colour, variety and peculiarity here, the lyrics open and revealing - like exploring a forgotten attic brimming with personal treasures and abandoned keepsakes. Indeed Blind Divine are experts at making unusual mood music that is sufficiently catchy for you sing along to.
   
ARTWORK   Queen of Venom arrives in a sharp digipack full of combined words and images. The three outer panels of the package have a similar theme - shades of brown and buff with black and red features designed with the bold lines and form of antique woodcuts. The imagery is strongly gothic, old English fonts for text in Latin, lush curlicues and graphic borders surrounding everything. The inside of the package is a contrast - here black dominates, grey words and pictures. To the left lyrics for each track, centrally a shadowy portrait photograph of Paula, to the right the disc on a backdrop of subdued floral tessellations. Below the lyric section is a paragraph laying out credits that include additional musicians, some thanks and contact information.
  
OVERALL   

Queen of Venom builds upon the strong foundation of Desire to Destroy, released once more through the band's Mysticus Publishing label. The twelve new tracks range from the gorgeously chilled pop sound of Invisible (a song that has a strong hook and instant impact), to the reversed beats and dense guitar textures of Faces Fading, to the delicate pianos, strings and wistful words of Words That Have No Meaning (what appears to be a spoken male voice here poetically behind the lead vocal turns out actually to be Paula's lowered by an octave). The band has been involved in a lot of work for film and television in recent months and this shows in the emotional depth of the soundscaping. The production quality continues to improve and the clarity of sound is top notch. There's a player on the band's web site so you can get a feel for the album there.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Fans of the previous material will love this new album it retains all the signature sounds from before whilst deepening the impact and improving the sound quality. If you like artists like Falling You or Collide - Blind Divine come somewhere between these two in terms of their artistic approach. If you like emotive songs and appreciate the more artistic elements of gothic subculture - why not have a listen.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ThieNandara - Angels Weep
STYLE  

Ethereal female vocals with gentle new age grooves. The voice of Sarah Jones is the focal point for Nandara's music - light, warm and clear; Sarah has a good range and touching expression, delivering wistful yet dynamic melodies and passionate lyrics, buoyed up in places by additional layers of angelic, wordless soaring. The soundscaping that surrounds the singing is subtle, directing attention first to the song, second to the instrumentation - delicate piano phrasing, soothing synth textures, violins and acoustic guitars. The beats are generally mid to downtempo breakbeats with just the right amount of lift to propel the music without losing the tranquillity. There are also beat free tracks where piano takes a more prominent role with supporting strings, plucked, layered in faint washes or arranged in cinematic breadth. Time With You is an instrumental piece of easy going synth music - the shortest track of the album at just over three minutes.

 
ARTWORK   Angels Weep is fronted by a powerful monochrome picture of a dandelion seed head touched by its first gust, a trail of tiny parachutes taking flight before a bright sun, lifting effortlessly away and off to the right. As I have a promo copy of the album, I have only the rear of the package in addition to the cover - here the floral clock is repeated with the addition of a tracklist to the upper left (times included) and brief credits to the lower right.
 
OVERALL    Nandara are primarily Sarah and Stuart Jones, this the first release under the current name coming through the U.K.s GAP Music label. The Nandara project may be new, but the talent behind the title comes with years of experience in the field. Stuart Jones having released a number of successful albums under various aliases mostly in the new age genre, here brings his abilities to bear in highlighting Sarah's vocal work. The promotional material from GAP explains "this is no ordinary album where you have the token three and a half minutes of manufactured sounds ... the music of Angels Weep is well crafted ... a captivating album of genuine songs straight from the heart". This disc might appeal to fans of the softer edge of Blue Stone or Amethyste.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ThieJames Murray - Where Edges Meet
STYLE   Downtempo and ambient sounscapes effectively blending synthetic and organic sound sources. James Murray has created an engaging album of very individual electronic music, a wide variety of unusual sounds inhabiting his crystal clear soundscapes, brimming with subtle detail. Static hum and light crackle warm the head space wherein attractive synth melodies and luminous washes dance and turn. The music is not overtly melodic, yet there are many beautifully understated themes and harmonious phrases. Strings well up in places, oriental snatches of sound and barely discernable voices, peculiar digital twitters, turbulence and metallic chimes too. There are plenty of drifting downtempo beats; deep muted kicks pumping lighter hits along littered with all manner of dreamy effects, softer hits and textural percussives all adding additional levels of interest. These broken breaks ebb and flow, minimal in places, just sufficient to suggest rhythm, absent entirely in other passages, then often welling up into languid regularity. Various influences hint their presence from far off jazz and neo-classical to more obvious chillout and low-key dub; achingly melancholic in some instances, wistful and hazy, urban sensibilities with natural frailties and imperfections.
 
ARTWORK   The Ultimae team maintain their familiar black borders and lush panoramic imagery. This package bringing together the faded grey of the city and the gently luminous turquoise greens of nature. A darkly gleaming black butterfly clings to dangling stalk strands on the front cover of this three panel digipack. When fully opened out, the complete image extends across all sections with a tracklist in the centre. The inner design looks down on a deserted industrial space, a single shadowy figure away in the distance, the right side sees snow falling onto this same space, the middle image criss-crossed with the trails of passing feet and wheels, the makers of the tracks long gone. A generous sixteen page booklet accompanies the package - rich with imagery, there is the usual page per track of gorgeously atmospheric photographs. Credits and thanks are toward the back of the booklet, with contact details on the final page. In all a very high quality, attractive delivery.
 
OVERALL   

James Murray is the latest artist to join French label Ultimae and his sound fits the label ethos perfectly. He is not entirely new to Ultimae, having appeared on the album Oxycanta - Winter Blooms, indeed this album has a similar feel to the ambient aspects of the Oxycanta releases. Where Edges Meet is Murray's debut following various compilation contributions on em:t, psychonavigation and part2 records. London based Murray is described as an "electroacoustic sound artist, producer and multi-instrumentalist. His productions weave together elements of electronica, downtempo, jazz and dub in emotive explorations of how the organic and electronic interact". If you enjoy the Ultimae house sound, Where Edges Meet is a natural for you - why not stream the tracks at Ultimae.

     

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------ThieSolar Fields - [Movements]
STYLE  

Blissful, lush downtempo electronica. Movements is a lustrous album of exquisitely crafted digital beauty. Liquid melodies, ambient forms and silken textures revolve and meander among some of the most dreamy beats imaginable. Magnus has the ability to deftly tread the knife edge between gentle melodic music and more acidic or less harmonious elements, managing to deliver themes of great warmth without ever straying into playing it over-sweet. Frequent arpeggios well up and dissipate, rarely repeating long enough to dominate, looming basses grumbling and pulsing below the surface, coruscating effects and splashes of distortion dancing above. Frequently the music falls away into airy lightness or into low-key, moody shade before sighing back into tranquil waves of climax and further soft interludes. The level of repetition is expertly managed, mesmeric phrases cycling round sufficiently to carry the listener along, but never so long as to become over familiar; constant variation and flux absorbing the attentive ear.

 
ARTWORK   You might for a moment think that Ultimae has broken the pattern with this package - the generous black content of the imagery disguising the usual broad horizontal borders that letterbox the cover graphics into the familiar long panoramas. Loose knots of coloured light arc across each main panel of this glossy digipack, blue, green, muted orange, gold. A sixteen page booklet is found within - here inside the blackness parts and a series of coloured photographs fill each page from edge to edge. The pictures are visual atmospheres - accompaniments to the music, simple credits footing the pages. As is normal, thanks, credits and contact details are to the rear.
 
OVERALL    This is the sixth album from Swedish artist Magnus Birgersson, Solar Fields - as previously, delivered via Ultimae Records. Solar Fields unarguably produces some fine uptempo music - as the recent Earthshine disc demonstrated, but for me it is his chilled output that most outstandingly dazzles. It seemed at the time, that the last Solar Fields downtempo release Leaving Home would be hard to best, setting the bar so high, yet here is Movements. The musical structure of this album is second to none, the peaks and troughs emotively distributed, the melodies carefully laid out, not too predominant, not too easy on the ear too often - but with some passages of intense beauty. Whilst holding true to his chilled-out trance roots Magnus has built elements into this music that might appeal to a wider audience, I could imagine fans of Enigma's more electronic side finding plenty to enjoy here. Movements seems a distillation of this outstanding artist's craft, delivering all we have come to hope for from a Solar Fields album and more. Perhaps the best downtempo album ever released.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Helene Hørlyck - A Nordic Room
STYLE  

A Nordic Room is an album of effulgent female vocals and chilled soundscapes. Helene Hørlyck has a beautifully clear voice that seems effortlessly to capture the dramatic, heavenly highs and bold crescendos of operatic soaring, the touching wistfulness of atmospheric ballads and the confident intimacy of ambient pop all with equal aplomb. Somehow she manages to sound faultlessly pitch perfect and masterfully disciplined whilst at the same time revealing spine-tingling glimpses of fragility and delicacy. Frequently choral layers support the main songs - these being performed by Helene herself and incredibly all recorded on the built-in mic on her laptop computer! The songs on the album are quite varied - on some every word is as clear as crystal, on others the vocalising is wordless, bathed in ethereal effects or even whispered. There are doleful strings, solo piano accompaniments, smooth electronic arrangements with blissfully chilled beats and some pieces with a more traditional drum sound and energetic basslines, although semi classical touches and flourishes are never too far away.

 
ARTWORK   A Nordic Room comes in a glossy digipack of soft muted colours and gentle ethereal light. The front cover image is of the singer against a distant hazy landscape, luminous sky aglow behind the fair tones of Helene's form. The rear cover presents a tracklist with times, once more set out against a misty, far off scene, the third outer panel holds two smaller casual portrait shots - these are continued within on the leftmost panel. Centrally, behind the CD a photograph of a single house on the coast set among empty fields. Rightmost is an explanation of the project with notes on the origins and recording of the music. Here too are relevant credits, thanks and website details.
 
OVERALL   

This is the first solo album from the highly acclaimed classical crossover vocalist Helene Hørlyck. Visitors here might well have encountered Helene's incredible talents through her work with Jens Gad and the project Achillea - the album The Nine Worlds was co-written by Helene and Enigma member Jens to enormous international success. In addition collaborations with such artists as Paul Oakenfold, Basement Jaxx, Alessandroni, Jimmy Cliff, Valgeir Sigurdsson and Apollo 440 along with work for television and live performance mean that Helene Hørlyck is becoming a well established artist. This solo work will go a long way to cementing that foundation - revealing not just a singer with a stunning range and immaculate control, but a vocal personality with beguiling depth and hauntingly emotive sensibilities. There are eleven tracks here plus four bonus mp3s that were jointly composed by Helene and John Tonks (who also collaborated on Achillea) - I suspect that these extra pieces will delight Achillea fans since they lean much more in the direction of electronic ambient chill. In fact Water will be immediately recognisable from Othila - The Rune Masters.