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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Jesus In Japan - Traces
STYLE  

Delicate ambient minimalism. Traces delivers a suite of six tracks where muted drones and edge of perception melodic forms well and waver in rhythmic fluctuations. Soft synthetic textures form an undulating sonic fog wherein dulled piano touches or swelling pads lazily unroll into sparse, reverberating themes. There are sometimes multiple patterns playing at the same time, their individual measures overlaying one another - hard to pick out at first, emerging in time as the ear comes to rest. A layer of faint crackle at times sleets into the sonic haze or lightly sibilant disturbances shift across the relative smoothness, remote suggestions of percussion. The occasional peculiar noise blooms almost imperceptibly as if afar off - lost within the music - just traces.

 
MOOD   The mood here is a restful, an almost sleepy calm - the hints of melody warm and inviting. As the tracks work their charm upon the listener they have a buoyant effect - setting everything afloat. The opening pieces A Moment Before and Dhanus have an optimistic, uplifting air about them, a slightly more sober quality arriving from the third track onward - although Next To Me You Slept has some incredidly beautiful moments - its barely caught rhythm faintly churning like the beat of one's own body, soft breath hanging in the air toward the end. The concluding track, The Ice Bridge has a wistful, ethereal nature that grows as the track unfolds - a tenuous beauty borne on the slightest of melodic structures, the serene flow of warmth washing over everything.
   
ARTWORK   Since Traces is a digital release the cover is the sole piece of imagery for the package. This is a well chosen graphic - minimal, flat dusky yellow ground with simple title and single visual element. An insectile form to the right of the text, an unidentifiable scribble of twisted limbs around a central knot, crumpled white sail-like blot on top - captured with limited depth of field so that the various parts rise and fall out of focus.
  
OVERALL   

This is the debut album from US ambient artist Kevin A Brooks otherwise known as Jesus in Japan. A download only release, Traces comes as a series of six related compositions of glowing minimalism. The open, hazy nature of the music is very transportational, inspiring the listener to daydream, reminisce or imagine. Currently the album is available through iTunes (US, UK, Japan, AU/NZ), Amazon, Napster and other online music shops. The artist's Myspace page also has some samples that you can explore.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   The artist cites as his influences Eno, Glass, Reich, Fripp, Lanois and Budd among others. I feel there is something of the softness of Thom Brennan's work in these tracks too. You will appreciate this release if you enjoy ambient music that is warm and uplifting.
     
     

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Robert Scott Thompson - Motets For Michelangelo
STYLE  

Long-form electro-acoustic ambient. The natural sounds of air movement and the wind disturbing leaves and branches, along with other less distinguishable environmental noises, act as a constant thread through Motets For Michelangelo. The ongoing hiss, rush and gentle turbulence rises and falls in wave-like undulation, flows in rippling currents, bathes the expanse in sonic haze. Atop this tranquil soundcanvas are overlaid a variety of musical effects that often have a similar sense of random distribution and delivery to the breezes beneath. The jangle of chiming metallics, welling pads and atonal surges, vocal strains distantly reminiscent of far off choral chants, deep muted bell tones, plaintive strings and synthetic effects all ascend from the air forming each track into a distinct passage of the unfolding story. Percussive ephemera and sibilant motes along with a wide variety of peripheral detail enhance the main structures so that this minimal album is never without plenty to catch the ear. Melodic content is sparse and very much understated when present, yet there are moments of quite touching beauty as passages of harmony do float to occasional prominence.

 
ARTWORK   The artwork for this package is built around the same theme as the music - Michelangelo Antonioni's film Blow-Up. The front cover features a shot of a tree-lined scene similar to that in the film - here empty, blue sky dramatically enhanced. The same image recurs on the rear cover with titles overlaid. Flipping the single sheet insert, we now see a movie still - the familiar photographer in the foreground framing his subjects from the cover of a tree trunk. A brief explanation of the project foots the imagery. The disc itself holds an image of the film maker at work - gazing at a length of celluloid held up before his face.
 
OVERALL   

Robert Scott Thompson releases his latest 2009 album Motets For Michelangelo once again via his own Aucourant Records label. This disc is divided into eight tracks ranging in length from just under three minutes to almost fifteen, yet the interconnected flowing nature of the music is clearly intended for continuous playback with each piece seamlessly running into the next. The foundation material for the album is a field recording of wind in trees that runs throughout the whole composition, intended as the sleeve notes point out for listening at relatively low volume - a mood, an atmosphere, an ambience. Since the material was developed as a tribute to the late Michelangelo Antonioni with open references to Blow-Up - the mood of the film bears strongly on the slightly haunting tenor of the music. Robert Scott Thompson's broad range of experience is clearly evident both in production quality and in the confident, experimental nature of this album - when we spoke about it, he said this release is "a bit out there" - so it is. Have a listen at the website.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Rena Jones - Indra's Web
STYLE   Lush electro-organic instrumentals featuring beautifully integrated cello playing. Indra's web is a strikingly elegant album that is as appealing for its inventive electronica as for its gorgeously expressive bow-work. Rena Jones creates shimmering layers of programmed sound that blend brief twinkles of tone, sequential patterns, bright swishes, warm pads and deep languid basses. Her highly refined soundscapes brim with intricate detail, constantly on the move and melodically very subtle. The inventive, glitchy percussion has a highly contemporary feel - plenty of unusual hits and clicks worked into some blissfully serene beats. Crackling scratch textures and sonic surface damage gently work among the musical and percussive elements. The sweeping strings contrast the digital complexities exquisitely adding a level of sublime classical sophistication - fluid, graceful lines that don't simply sit atop the music, wiry textures, repeating cycles and sonorous peculiarities, all are coaxed from Rena's cello, yet never relegating the synth work to secondary, rather the orchestral material is inseparable, the organic and the synthetic tightly enmeshed and in constant interplay.
 
ARTWORK   Indra's web comes in a sharp digipack with a cover image that appears as web of complex light lines twisting and spiralling out from the lower right hand corner. Opening into three panels, the rear of the package contains a tracklist and download information. Inside is a full-length portrait of the artist, cello in hand, a generous paragraph of thanks below. Here too is an expanded track list with credits indicating the collaborative input on the album. The disc itself holds a dizzy design of concentric fractal circles endlessly repeating.
 
OVERALL    Indra's web is the fourth full length release from highly respected classical downtempo recording artist Rena Jones. For the first time she releases her music via her own new recording label Cartesian Binary Recordings. The eleven tracks on this latest release benefit from an upgrade of Rena's studio allowing her to implement her mastery of digital and analogue synths to the full. The concept for the music draws on Buddhist and Hindu imagery wherein "Indra’s Web is a profound metaphor for the structure of reality, representing the interconnectedness and interdependency of all things, describing a rich and diverse universe where infinitely repeated mutual relations exist between all its elements and entities". The album can be previewed on Rena's own website www.renamusic.com where you can also purchase the CD or download the music in a variety of formats. This release is a musical highlight for this year - don't miss this one if you want something special that will have you noticing new details with each visit.
     
     

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Resonant Drift - The Call
STYLE  

Smooth beatless ambience (mostly). The Call is a silky soft album of delicate pads and airy textures where subtle synthetic melodies and understated phrases unfold in graceful, ponderous restraint. Ambient but not quite minimal, there is plenty going on among the shifting undulations, tonal flushes and the rise and fall of the drones - ethnic rhythm elements: shakers, rattles and padding drums - sequencer patterns that burble effortlessly or distantly, afar off in the atmospheric distance of the music - environmental sounds: the twitter of birds, insect-like chirrs and susurration. A number of tracks drift with a tranquil fragility as if immersed in radiant cobwebs of sound, gossamer sheets wafting in the undertow of unseen celestial currents - luminous, tranquil, calm. Plaintive strains well up here and there vaguely suggestive of the cries of sea creatures, breath-like movements heave as if heard from within, chime lattices clank in cycles, barely discernable low booms and static motes punctuate and pierce.

 
MOOD   The mood of this album shifts gently from track to track - there are heavenly passages of ethereal light and weightlessness, earthy sections where the faint, ephemeral clatters and granular disturbances of field recordings spot the sound surface, some shadowy expanses of woofy texture or spacey gloom. The dominant character of the album for me is one of an uplifting sense of warm floatation - this pleasant recurrent feel often has the listener blissfully entranced, bathed in the glow of a quiet sunshine.
   
ARTWORK   The Call comes as a jewel case presentation with a three panel insert. Artwork throughout consists of controlled depth of field photographs where the soft focus forms of the artists are frequently present in middle distance. The front cover is divided into three broad bars - rock textures, hazy vistas, the comfortable presence of the Resonant Drift duo partially blurred into their environment. The rear cover holds a tracklist with time for each; website details and a credit to Steve Roach. The insert when unfolded has an outdoor side given mostly over to more location based imagery and an indoor side: here a large studio shot enlivened with motion blur forms a spreading panorama with a smaller monochrome studio still to the top right. Each artist has a paragraph of thanks at the extreme left whilst brief recording details are placed at the right.
  
OVERALL    Resonant Drift here release their fourth album and follow-up to the 2006 release Flow Mingled Down. The Resonant Drift project was formed in 2004 by Bill Olien - the debut album was self titled with Version 2.0 coming soon after in 2005. It wasn't until 2008 that the second member arrived in the form of multi-instrumentalist Gary Johnson. The current CD features twelve tracks of shorter ambient recordings - from two minutes fifty to seven minutes fifty two seconds. Citing as their influences such ambient masters as Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Jonn Serrie, Paul Ellis, Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno - you get an idea of what to expect from this album. Indeed Steve Roach is credited with 'mastering and sonic enhancement' - the touch of the Timeroom evident in the impressive depth and quality of The Call.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you enjoy ambient music that uplifts and warms the soul this is an album for you. That said - The Call is not all soft clouds and warm light, there is abundant variety and contrasting shade too. This album is certainly worth sampling via the band's Myspace page.
     
SOUNDS  
   

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------D. Batistatos - Weeper On The Shore
STYLE  

Downtempo chill and melodic instrumentals. Weeper On The Shore is a beautifully tuneful album of cinematic electronica that draws on elements of dub, worldbeat, ambient dance and sunset lounge. Tranquil beats drive most tracks at an easy pace - lazy downbeat dance and breakbeat patterns with a bright crunchy feel to them. Most of the compositions here have strong melodic content - dreamy piano lines, thick echoing flutes or lush synthetic tones. The dub oriented pieces naturally see the basses come to the fore, pumping blunt pulses supported by reggae influence drum rolls and off beat stabs - although Dimitris tends to soften the impact with tinkling vibes or layered harmonies. Acoustic guitars are present in many places, lightly fingered phrases and crisp strumming rolling across smooth synthetic pads. Global instrumentation adds further colour to the music - violin strains, pipes, international vocals deftly threaded into the mix.

 
MOOD  

Weeper On The Shore has a warm, tropical evening vibe about it, a subtle Mediterranean lounge flavour running through much of the album. The generous ambient spaces that introduce a number of the tracks in combination with the chilled piano themes and faintly wistful melodies establish a somewhat filmic quality, an evocative mindscaping that invites the listener to drift to imagine.

   
ARTWORK   Thus far I have only seen the front cover art for this package - an attractive shot of twin jellyfish on a smooth sea of blue. Like two glowing curls of bronze, the aquatic forms ascend from the lower right of the image, bright streamers and spinnakers trailing behind. The familiar pale horizontal borders of the Cosmic Leaf label frame the image and carry the legend "Sounds and impressions of underwater colors."
  
OVERALL   

This is the second full length CD from Greek born Dimitris Batistatos and follow-up to his debut Architect back in 2006. Sticking with the Cosmic Leaf label for the latest album Weeper On The Shore contains eleven tracks including remixes by Cydelix and Zero Cult s well as a remix of the Red Eye Express track Vin Del Mar. Having a broad musical background in sound technology and audio engineering as well as playing various instruments himself Dimitris has worked with a number of popular artists and Greek singers beyond his own solo projects.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Weeper On The Shore falls somewhere between the fields of psychedelic downtempo and worldbeat lounge - you'll enjoy this album if you are looking for something deeply chilled in style yet colourfully warm in tone. The best thing would be to try out the samples on the label's web pages: http://www.cosmicleaf.com
     
     

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Zero Cult - Dreams In Stereo
STYLE  

Downtempo electronica and spacey ambient dance. Dreams In Stereo is a dynamic album of lush synthetic sound that has its roots in chilled psychedelic trance. The beats are mostly blissed out programmed affairs with various digital blips and manipulated hits incorporated - in places the intensity of the rhythms rises to the edge of techno, but more frequently the tempo takes a less hurried pace. Zero Cult is perhaps less dependent on arpeggiators than some in the genre, yes the basses pulse and throb in sequenced patterns, but the synth structures are mostly melodic - brief secondary phrases and lead lines are carefully played and overlaid creating a strongly emotional sense. There are generous ambient passages and abundant use of atmospheric pads as well as diverse enhancements such as birdsong, echoing voice syllables, strongly effected guitars, ethnic hints.

 
MOOD   Dreams In Stereo immediately impacts with a rich sonic palette - the synth settings focus on liquid clarity and brightness, the more acidic sounds and muscular tones working just below the surface highlighting all the more the beauty of the lead lines. Zero Cult is obviously a project in pursuit of musical beauty since most of the tracks have gorgeous themes of enigmatic elegance touched with a spacey melancholia.
   
ARTWORK   I have only the digital version of this release and so have just the front cover seen to the above left to refer to. The image is simple yet striking - large black rectangular blocks form a diagonal geometric pattern that on closer inspection turn out to be dark speaker cabs. The scale of the picture shifts dramatically when the tiny figure is spotted alone. Now the sense of an impending enormous sound.
  
OVERALL   

Emil Ilyayev aka Zero Cult from Israel began electronic music making in 1997 and having passed through various stylistic experiments settled into downtempo forming Zero Cult in 2002. The debut CD Art Of Harmony came in 2006 with the follow-up Ikebana being released the next year. This latest offering is delivered again via Cosmic Leaf Records and contains ten energetic chillout tracks including a remix of Side Liner’s Once Upon A Time. High sound quality and musical inventiveness are assured from Zero Cult as this ascending artist draws on his considerable experience and musical maturity to deliver a very powerful third album. The label's website contains sound samples if you'd like to know what you're getting. The intention is for the album to be presented live 12 July 2009 at the chill out stage of the PNF Festival in Israel.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Dreams In Stereo is an album for downtempo fans that enjoy beautiful melodies among their psychedelic elements without sacrificing the muscular edge of the genre.
   

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Kirsty Hawkshaw - Face To Face
STYLE  

Face To Face is a set of five dance-floor oriented tracks - the original recording with Ken Loi of Elucidate plus four additional remixes. The original mix sets the tone from the start with the regular thump of a kick drum: - the synth work is clean and often quite subtle. Light arpeggios trickle against sweeping pads, beaming swishes and deep, grumbling, buzzing basses. In places space is given to allow a slightly oriental lead line to come to the fore or to pass pretty much the whole sound through broad morphing effects. The tempo remains consistent, yet the intensity straddles a wide range - dying away to beatless synthetic percolation, thinned out tonally until all the low frequencies have evaporated, and pounding at full pace. Kirsty's vocals are confident and strong - a little of the trademark wispiness is gone, yet none of the emotion is missing. Sinking in places to reverberating whispers spun into ethereal layers, then low - a little above spoken word, into powerful climactic peaks. Of the five tracks here, the Seba remix is most distinct from the others - the flickering d n b beat contrasting some airy atmospherics, the Matt Lange mix pounds in solid dance beat measure as does the Timothy Allen arrangement. The Ken Loi reworking opens the expanse up somewhat, more ambient elements, some drifting interludes among the grooves, more heavily effected vocals, some dreamy piano phrases.

 
ARTWORK   I have only a digital copy of this release with the image shown above left. This features a monochrome photograph of the singer in black shades on the south bank of the Thames with a camera pointed her way in the immediate foreground. The viewscreen of the camera holds the information about the mixes contained in the bundle.
 
OVERALL   

Kirsty Hawkshaw releases her latest single as a new collaboration with Elucidate. The first cut is eight minutes fifty seconds long with the four additional mixes each not far short of that. Other versions included are by Matt Lange, Timothy Allan, and Swedish Drum & Bass label owner of Secret Operations, Seba as well as a reworking by Ken Loi. The music is released directly via Kirsty's online store with the intention to utilise also the services of Beatport, iTunes, Audio Jelly and Amazon etc.