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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Various Artists - One Dub
STYLE  
Reggae and dub collection from Interchill Records. One Dub presents a more roots oriented set of dub compositions than usual. These beat and bass heavy pieces feature abundant reggae vocals, both male and female, sometimes hanging little short of complete songs, in other parts more experimental with effects and delays mangling the vox and drawing the singing into something closer to an instrumental mix. All the genre standards are here: the authentic live drumming with reverberating rolls and frills, the big, low looming bass lines, stabbing organ and guitar chords, brass lines and those echo effects that seem to go on forever before spiralling off into the air. Pushmipulyu whilst maintaining the overall flow of the album deviate probably the most from the beaten path with a more programmed approach and vocal snippets effected almost beyond recognition apart from some spoken words.
 
MOOD   This album ranges from angst ridden protesting and bemoaning of the human plight through to hypnotic dancehall music and tropical exuberance. The groove is naturally laid back and incredibly compelling - some tracks so unhurried as to be almost soporific whilst at the same time so powerfully rhythmic as to defy stillness. The music well complements the long lazy days of summer.
   
ARTWORK   One Dub comes in a nice tactile digipack of three panels. The suitably tropical imagery features sunset palm trees and ocean views, mostly bathed in a muted green hue and overlaid with a loose hessian texture. The rear cover tracklist provides just titles, inside, however, this is expanded with full credits, recording details and website information for each artist. The third out panel holds a generous list of thanks.
  
OVERALL   

Arriving as ICHILLCD036 One Dub sees the popular Interchill label expanding the broad dub section of its catalogue with this fifteen track various artists collection. The album features artists already familiar to Interchill listeners: Gaudi, Liquid Stranger, Ashtech and Pushmipulyu as well as a range of top reggae artists Macka B., Sugar Minott, Michael Rose, Luciano and Dr. Israel. The label explains that the album runs "from rootsy to experimental and from steppers to dubstep, this selection takes in the many flavours of dub". The artists gathered for One Dub are a truly international scattering highlighting the global appeal of the artform.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This is a true summer record - with a slight retro feel warming the contemporary techniques and structures. If you like your dub full of the sounds from the early days, yet fresh and inventive - this is one for you.
     
     

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Master Margherita - Hippies With Gadgets
STYLE  

Electro-acoustic global chillout. Hippies with gadgets is a genre mixing downtempo album apparently completely unfettered by convention, there is a sense of 'anything goes' here reminiscent of some of the more exploratory music of the early seventies. There are dub-reggae beats with electric organ, Indian tablas with bird song and liquid fx, meandering flute leads and slide guitar, deep beatless ambient electronics, forest atmospheres with digital soundscaping. Electric and bass guitars and imaginative programming flesh out most of the tracks balancing the 'live' performance elements with the artificial. Rhythmically, the first two thirds of the album frequently take a live drum approach to the percussion, very laid back and restful - that said the beats at times shift into more overtly digitally driven grooves. As the album moves closer to the end, the beats are allowed to slip away, the dreamy feeling that has been present in greater or lesser degree throughout, now welling up and infusing everything with

 
ARTWORK   Hippies With Gadgets is one of those albums brave enough to appear with no words at all on the front over - the insert opening out into a text free two panel montage. The imagery is as rich and eclectic as the music - a graphic elfin profile with a peculiar gadget between its lips leans into the frame from the right - an esoteric mandala-like design seems to act as a hub for a current of purple discs - the backdrop deftly blends woodland photography and drawn elements - everything but for a couple of focal points in hues of lilac, purple and indigo. The rear cover holds a simple tracklist of titles only - the details are within the two panel insert, here full credits appear for each track as well as the respective bpms.
 
OVERALL   

Hippies With Gadgets is the new album from Swiss bassist Master Margherita (Moreno Antognini) and follow-up to the 2007 release Mastura. Master Margherita is well known to downtempo fans for his work as manager at Peak Records and membership of the Peaking Goddess Collective. The label well describes the new music as having a “free-thinking” composition style; what else would you expect from an artist whose musical interests and experiences are so diverse: from reggae to ambient through world beat and psychedelia. But don't get the idea that this is a disjointed slapping together of musical collage items, no; Hippies With Gadgets is well structured and strongly coherent. The eleven tracks flow together in colourful, chilled unity. If you'd like to listen to the album - there are some samples at the Arabesque website.


MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Robert Scott Thompson - Gold Flowers Bloom Mercury Petals
STYLE   Graceful beatless ambient instrumentals. Gold Flowers Bloom Mercury Petals is a suite of interconnected compositions that flow smoothly from one to another with slight shifting transitions. The variation from track to track is subtle and at times almost imperceptible - yet each piece progresses the journey further from its origin passing into passages of fluctuating harmony and atonality, moments of gathering darkness and emergent beauty, transient lightness or deep wells of intensity. The collected compositions all benefit from an oriental sensitivity, sparsity and classically delicate touch. Many of the tracks feature flowing drone beds and swells of smooth synthetic tone either underpinning minimalist melodies or themselves embodying the focal forms. A restful oceanic heave is the most pervasive rhythmic device, rising and falling allowing the more buoyant elements to drift idly with the tides.
 
MOOD  

Gold Flowers Bloom Mercury Petals is an immersive collection of a dozen pieces that form a fluid whole with faint hints of the Far East frequently adding to the placid refinement of the album. The balance of light and darkness here has resulted in music that has an appealing meditative nature yet that avoids all of the clichés of most 'relaxation music'.

   
ARTWORK   Gold Flowers Bloom Mercury Petals arrives as a jewel case package with single sheet insert. The artwork throughout features clusters of white blossom on twig tips with golden anthers emerging from golden centres. These delicate flowers are presented on bottle green backdrops wherein the breakers and foam of rolling seascapes can be faintly discerned. The elegant strokes and angles of oriental characters along with small framed flower graphics complete the design elements. On the rear cover the blooms are closest footing a timed tracklist, with website details in small type to the right. Within the only details are credits for artwork.
  
OVERALL    Gold Flowers Bloom Mercury Petals comes as the latest release from classical ambient composer Robert Scott Thompson. The album is delivered via his own Aucourant Records label and follows in the paths delineated by previous albums The Silent Shore, Frontier and Blue Day. The album holds twelve tracks that flow as a single entity via morphing transitions. The Aucourant Records website holds samples of all tracks.
 
TRACK BY TRACK  

CLOUD PALE AND DREAM DIMMED
The album opener unfurls with sweeping pads and sibilant percussive clacking sounds. The pervasive drifting feel that recurs throughout much of the suite is here right from the start, shifts of intensity at times seeing the music almost disperse into nothingness. Graceful string phrases waft like summer breezes, drawn out strains of scant melody silky smooth against the echoing effects that periodically shudder into earshot.

EVENING LIGHT
A gradual morph opens the second piece, the mood similar to its forerunner yet somewhat darker; a brooding drone humming below further string phrases that swell into being and fade away with unhurried regularity, like the sunshine passing behind clouds. At just over seven minutes, this is almost the longest of the twelve tracks. The ending sees the introduction of wispy air movements that flit across the transition into ...

WATERS AND THE WILD
Voicelike pads and slightly brassy sounds interweave forming rather abstract patterns wherein the previous ebbing and flowing of wavelike melody persists. The serene, attractive nature of the foreground forms are in contrast to periodic builds of dissonance and occasional openings of dark space that form behind.

BLOOM MERCURY PETALS
A wavering tremolo effect leads into this brief two minute fifty four arrangement, an uneasy ambient bed gradually amassing beneath. In time this gathering drone mass becomes prominent, diverse threads lifting out from the current - only the flow remaining.

QUIET LANDS
An air of mystery hangs as the backdrop to Quiet Lands, brief melodic phrases of piano-like notes deep within the aural fog of the piece. The ponderous regular swaying of some of the initial passages is less obvious now - drones more constant, increasingly hypnotic.

UPON RETURN FROM DREAM
The same steady gloom from the last track continues. Emergent fluttering synthetics coming to the fore midway, echoing and spacey approaching percussion almost. Metallic and bright against the ambient shadow behind, for a while approaching cacophony, then consonant, flowing together in an intensity of movement adorned with sounds that resemble effected, muted bell-trees.

FLOWER CLEANING RAIN
Now a stronger theme forms. Expansive and broad, suggestive of open spaces and fresh air. Oriental embellishments echo and reverberate - like distant variations on traditional instrumentation - and the piece is gone, just one minute forty three ...

HYPERSIGIL
The mood runs onward into Hypersigil - the panoramic breadth of the synth sweeps shifting lazily into a section of elegant depth and low frequency classic beauty. Perhaps the most beautiful track thus far - deep string-like phrases moving like large shapes under water whilst sharper drones adorn the surface with meandering currents.

ARC LAMP
Arc Lamp opens with a brightness of higher tones like beams of aural light shining in graceful motion. These shiny strains gather in wavering, almost atonal structures over a faint continuance of the thematic forms from Hypersigil, here slightly lighter and with a growing weightlessness that leave the piece floating in the ether.

CHAOS MAGIC
The fleeting two minutes, twenty six seconds of this track remains without weight - echoing effects and sussurant noise enwrapped about a more sparse thematic thread. Something of the night inhabits this piece - the fizz and sizzle of the treble strains like distant insect communities announcing the darkness, the emptiness of the music like the emptiness of the night sky.

ROUND IN CIRCLES
Here a new melodic structure arises, chimes in ascending scales, gently stepping upward over hazy, drawn out string-drones. Refined and stately, this longest composition lasts for over eight minutes, the constantly rising chimes now and then emphasised with piano touches. As the conclusion approaches a gathering cloud mass of less harmonious texture replaces the scales. A steady amorphous zone of sound that passes across the transition into ...

AMONG THE UNLABORING STARS
The rhythmic regularity of Round In Circles is gone - now a sonic expanse opens out. This composition is strongly textural, multiple layers moving among one another, hiss and noise inseparable from undulating tonal strands. Punctuating splashes of sound reverberate periodically, keeping the piece in motion. The finale drawing near, the layers thin out and soften allowing the air itself to breathe into dominance and it's over.

     
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This is an album of dignified melodic ambience that will appeal to listeners with an appreciation of minimalist music with classical beauty and oriental restraint. Give the music a listen at the Aucourant Records website and decide for yourself.
     
     

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Robert Scott Thompson - Mantra
STYLE  

Serene long-form ambient performance. Mantra is a single track of fifty three minutes and twenty five seconds - luminous and tranquil. The music of mantra is a sensitive layering of minimalist melody, warm, shifting texture and wafting percussives - reminiscent of floating in tropical waters. The rich drone beds flow in idle currents, hang in liquid haze or swell from within in liquid blossomings - vaguely voice-like murmurings with glassy highlights and metallic sheen. Lustrous pads loom and drift in sparse formation through this sonic ocean hinting at melody, harmonious, minimal and subtle. This suggestion of structure is taken up by a final overlayer of meandering notes that rise and fall in graceful slow motion; chime-like, piano like, synthetic - often heavily muted, softened, dulled. For a long while the closest thing to any percussion is the occasional steely ring deep in the mix, then in time the clack and rattle of faint impacts arises for a while, muted chimes afar off, slowly, imperceptibly giving way to a lighter effervescent fizzle. In places there is a sense of descent as if dropping carelessly, deep into an endless abyss, in other places the expanse is almost galactic as if alone under the night sky but for the hiss and sparkle of crickets.

 
MOOD   Mantra presents a sublime sense of well-being and immersive relaxation. The environment is warm and inviting and once the listener is steeped in the sound, the sense of drifting amid peaceful tides and shifting densities is very compelling. For the most part, the surroundings have a fluid nature, the feeling of envelopment maintained by the burbling persistence of the drones. In places the dronescape lightens and becomes increasingly airy, insectile fizz adding to the impression of emergence - the large soft edged forms distantly inhabiting the space alternating somewhere between cloud banks and submerged oceanic behemoths.
   
ARTWORK   Appropriately the imagery of Mantra is simple, ambiguous and beaming with inner light. An azure ground fills all panels illuminated by a turquoise pink brightness that suggests sun beams in clear water. The front cover holds a raised line of script reminiscent of painted stone - stark and solid against the surrounding expanse. The rear cover has only the expanse, minimal text - just titles, timing and label details. The same is true within - a single sheet insert - fluid blue space - 2009 Aucourant Records.
  
OVERALL    Robert Scott Thompson releases Mantra via his own Aucourant Records as a single track lasting almost an hour. The music was created using real-time performance techniques with an interesting approach, promotional material explains: "At the base of the work is a specialized computer program for audio processing which treats vocal sounds as live input from a microphone. The singing is analyzed by the program and a real-time accompaniment is created spontaneously, based on the pitch and amplitude of the sung sounds - among other attributes. Resulting sounds are mixed together by the program and form the main structural aspect of the composition." The Aucourant website contains three samples from the CD illustrating the gently evolving nature of the music.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This is a very relaxing album with a positive spirit, buoyant and warming. The music is ideal for restful contemplation, creating an uplifting space or to take Robert's own words auditory retreat.
     
     

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Open Canvas - Travel By Sound
STYLE  

Electro-acoustic worldbeat. Travel By Sound is, for the most part, an upbeat album of bright instrumentals where synthetic soundscaping techniques deeply intermesh with international beats, textures and melodies. Tabla rhythms, dumbek and Middle Eastern grooves feature strongly - sometimes alone, soft, rich hand drumming resonant and exotic - sometimes in fusion, sharper programmed beats introducing dance and dub aspects. Gamelan, oriental cymbal splashes, marimba patterns and crisp shakers add to the rhythmic content as do sequenced electronic forms. Some tracks are more ambient, the percussive content less dominant or even beatless in places - lazy meandering structures where ethnic melodies, flutes, synthetic harp-like tones and water movement interact. In places the synths take a prominent role, restful swells and washes, gutsy bass lines pulsing against the ripple of arpeggiating cycles, yet even here, international colour is maintained through choice of melody and background detail.

 
MOOD   Travel By Sound has a strong Indian tone for much of the album, sitar, tambura, tabla grabbing the attention, yet the global material is not restricted to the sub-continent, Arabic strings, Far Eastern gongs and clashes broaden the ethnic range. The mood is often one of joyful optimism and openness, there are more sombre pieces, such as the somewhat filmic Carnatic Fusion with its dark key and mildly sinister string swells. The concluding track is a sleepy, cinematic wind-down suggestive of a warm open landscape - the enormity of the sky in slow-motion passage above.
   
ARTWORK   Travel By Sound is a jewelcase release with a single sheet insert. The dominant colour is a sandy clay hue that runs in smooth graduation across each panel. The front cover features a close up photograph of the shiny wooden tuning heads from an unclear stringed instrument. On the back cover the tracklist is laid out in mock Indian font, faint intricate graphic designs underlaid. Inside the credits reveal that not only the music, the artwork too is from the hand of Gregory Kyryluk. Here is a gear list and website information pointing listeners to Harmonic Resonance Recordings for further details.
  
OVERALL   

Travel By Sound is the third release from Gregory Kyryluk in his Open Canvas incarnation. Previous CDs Nomadic Impressions and Indumani on Waveform Records began the international journey taken up by this latest disc, now delivered via his own Harmonic Resonance Recordings. But this prolific, self taught composer/performer has a discography far wider than just his Open Canvas output - Gregory also records electronic music under the name Alpha Wave Movement and as Thought Guild with fellow player Christopher Cameron. Open Canvas is the vehicle whereby the spacey, atmospheric ventures are set aside in favour of a more earthy, acoustic approach - here the familiar digital elements are threaded with the breath of flutes, the twang and drone of wire, the thud and pad of real skin.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Travel By Sound has a solid synthetic foundation that maintains melodic and atmospheric links with Gregory's Alpha Wave Movement albums. But this is also an album that might well appeal to fans of David Lyndon Huff, Deep Forest, Cybertribe and Ikarus. Samples can currently be heard at CD Baby.
     
     

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Kukan Dub Lagan - New Life New Vision
STYLE   Psychedelic dub and downtempo digital reggae. New Life New Vision presents Kukan Dub Lagan's signature sound with greater refinement and maturity of vision than ever before. Here are the familiar off-beat stabs and bright brassy phrases set against quirky programmed beats laced with congas and bongos, the lumbering synthetic basses and rasta vocal snippets embellished with electronic melody lines and guitar phrases. However, the tracks on New Life New Vision reveal increasingly a confident solidity and more clearly defined sonic personality than on previous releases. Introductions to a number of the tracks are used as opportunities to break up the structures and play with more experimental or personal sounds - baby talk, folk strings, zappy electro-fx and glitch forms.
 
ARTWORK   The artwork retains the red, gold, green palette of previous releases with heavy emphasis on shades of green and long swirling graphic forms. The abstract curls of the front cover are echoed in the spotted leaf edges on the rear, the bright lime and olive hues of the design work more softly presented in the unfurling buds hidden behind the CD. The jewel case delivery includes a three panel fold-out insert that contains an extended tracklist, generous thanks and credits, along with relevant website and contact information. A proud father and baby photograph is found on the final panel of the insert with a verse to baby Sofia
 
OVERALL   

New Life New Vision comes as the third full length release from Israel based Itay Berger under the Kukan Dub Lagan moniker. The album is released via the artist's own MikelaBella Records label which has been in operation now for the past two years delivering Electro, House, Techno and Dubstep. The current Kukan album features twelve tracks of retro inspired contemporary dub electronica which promotional material appropriately explains "hail from a rainbow of eclectic musical genres from both the traditional and experimental spectrums of sound, yet belonging to none." Truly Itay's music is distinctive and individual - no-one else makes anything that sounds quite like this - warm, exuberant and infectious.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Mara's Torment - Across For Show
STYLE  

Clean, atmospheric, drifting synth music. Across For Show delivers a series of cinematic soundscapes where silky electronic strains drift like early mists across minimal sonic vistas. This album might be considered a form of melodic ambience particularly as the gentler passages unfold in simple patterns of layered threads, hazy drones and airy pads filling out the suggested space. That said, the beauty of the music mostly lies in the development of subtle themes that gradually permeate the consciousness, repeating and delicately evolving. In places discordant tones well up among the dominant serenity of shadowy harmonies, further darkening the mood. For the most part the music is beatless and frequently floatational, however, the album uncharacteristically opens with a languid programmed groove of light sibilances and distantly tribal scattered hits - all subsequent tracks essentially percussion free.

 
ARTWORK   Across For Show comes with a sleeve of bright celestial blue - crisp tones laid out in smooth gradation, lighter areas at the edges. Titles and information are the only disturbances to this seemingly infinite backdrop - the front cover having a bold horizontal band of deeper blue bisecting its width. On the reverse this band continues, track titles neatly packed inside alongside thanks and website information. The back of the package contains similar details only here freely expanded across the same blue gradation as the front cover.
 
OVERALL   

Rik Maclean has been recording his personal chilled ambient music under the name Mara's Torment for well over a decade now. Across For Show, was originally released as the second CD by Mara's Torment back in 1999, now on the tenth anniversary of that event the album has been re-issued through Vir Unis' well established AtmoWorks label. Available in both mp3 and CD format through AtmoWorks, promotional material explains that Across For Show was initially "produced over a two month stretch of depression-induced creativity the original recordings were pulled at the last minute before production and replaced with a more upbeat collection of work." This current delivery presents the disc the way it was meant to be heard, a dark journey through ambient spaces and secret locations.