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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Magic Sound Fabric - Freedom Star
STYLE

 

 

Chilled-out beats and strong basses carrying ambient layers and buoyant, cycling synth melodies. This is primarily a smooth, electronic, instrumental album, where scattered ethereal voice samples appear throughout, sometimes in the form of a dreamy female or male voice uttering various cosmic musings. The album cultivates a programmed sound as opposed to that of 'live' instrumentation, with burbling sequences and bright spiralling leads. The bass lines occasionally venture into rolling dub and ethnic elements such as tablas enrich the catchy rhythms that energise most tracks.

 
MOOD  

An ethereal and sanguine tone is set throughout Freedom Star. Water drops and synth sweeps interweave vocal waves that aim to expand the mind suggesting "We are all connected". There are bird sounds and subtle ethnic mouthings, plenty of echoes and reverb interspersed with a variety of the special sound effects that todays music technology creates so well. The mood is consistently (but not repetitively) downtempo and serene with an optimistic warmth.

 
ARTWORK   The cosmic aesthetic is powerfully dominant throughout this package. The front cover image combines and glowing figure, a lotus flower and intertwining spiral staircases all hung over a backdrop of infinite space. The use of computer graphics as opposed to photo-montage enhances the psychedelic feeling of the CD. Inside, above a campfire-side photograph of what I assume to be the artist himself (Cameron Akhunaton) is the quote " In this instant I am free, I am forever still as I ride the cosmic currents to the holographic centre." Track titles such as Cosmic Consciousness, Flight of the Purple Energetics and Edenexus are all in keeping with the overall mood of the project.
 
OVERALL    Freedom Star is a tranquil album where the unhurried evolution of tracks incorporates trance-like repetition, drifts and washes of dulcet syn-strings, the odd thick dubby pattern and comfortable tripping grooves. Most tracks build up gradually with different elements subtly appearing, until morphing lead cycles and clear harmonies dance easily above the programmed beats. Beats in turn drop in and out of the music, at times leaving the listener thinking that all is over only to return with fresh variations. As with the introductions pieces tend to ebb away like the receding tide, voices calmly fading away one at a time. Production quality is excellent, creating a warm, clear, well-balanced sound.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   An incense and inner space audience seems most likely for Magic Sound Fabric. The vibe is consistent with other Spiralight releases and will likely appeal to fans of other label-mates. This music to listen to under dimmed lighting doing whatever you enjoy doing.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 ------Alpha Wave Movement - Drifted Into Deeper Lands
STYLE

 

 

Melodic, floating and rhythmic electronic ambience. Drifted Into Deeper Lands is well titled since the delicate, meandering structures, lightly pulsing cycles and sparse melodies really do tend to carry the listener to places elsewhere. The rhythms created by sequencers and programmed percussion are on most tracks in no hurry to appear and in places the beats are so soft as to barely disturb the liquid surface of the music. Repeating, evolving patterns gently revolve forming differing thicknesses of sound, shifting densities and ethereal cloud masses from among which subtle themes emerge and disperse.

 
MOOD  

Ever so slightly dark, expansive, immersive - the tone is serious and often quite beautiful. There are tribal suggestions in the percussive elements such as rainsticks and dull thudding drums. Effective use of echo and reverb bring a feeling of distance and scale whilst fragile electronic murmurings and warping dissonant undertones produce an appealing sense of the organic.

 
ARTWORK   Silhouetted tangles of twigs and branches against a saturated red sky suggest a small part of an uninhabited, wild landscape. The feeling is one of welcoming, tranquil emptiness and twilight isolation, but clearly these 'deeper lands' are those of the psychonaut not the earthly traveller. The black/red graphic layout credited to Robert Marselje is simple with minimal text, adding to the overall impression.
 
OVERALL   

Six lengthy tracks ranging from 7.05 to the 13.58 title track make up this moving, atmospheric collection. Along with writer/performer Gregory T. Kyryluk, Guitarist Jeff Pearce is credited with 'ambient guitar atmospherics on the tracks "Awakening" and "Another Time... Another Place". The pieces on this album are all serene ambient soundscapes with well-matched airy grooves and absorbing spacey resonance. The long introductions and leisurely developments will have you imperceptibly wandering off so that when you look back your starting point has gone and you're quite lost.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Anyone wanting something truly transporting with a variety of understated melodic elements to accompany them will enjoy this album, as will ambient fans who enjoy unobtrusive percussion or rhythm within their music. Space music lovers will find 'Drifted...' appealing for sure, as might German electronica fans that prefer the 'floaty' end of the spectrum.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

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 ------Steve Roach - Midnight Moon
STYLE

 

 

Sparse, extended ambient guitar atmospheres. Lush with reverbs, harmonisers and delays Steve Roach explores the guitar, fretless bass and Ebow in real time arrangements that were all created in the depths of night. Here are seven inter-related pieces that unfurl and curl slowly in sustained, lonely drones and foreboding wafts of sounds.

 
MOOD  

The mood on Midnight Moon is somewhat desolate and mournful. These intense pieces seem to wrap subtle, keening strands of phosphorescent sound around the listener, beguiling, lulling him into submissive acceptance. Although the tracks are quite minimal, they are yet powerful and absorbing - desolate, hazy environments that are restful and inviting yet never quite allow the listener to fully shake off a sense of uneasiness.

 
ARTWORK   Dark swirling eddies of blue and black centre on a full moon. Plenty of space is given to Vir Unis' moody images so that the abstract qualities of each is fully emphasised. Text is minimal, providing the essential information that any listener would want to know. Although released in 2000, we are told that the material was recorded between 1997 and 1999
 
OVERALL   

Incredibly Steve had not really played the guitar before this album - in an interview with Ambientrance he said "My approach was really just feeling my way around it with intuition and open intentions. I had nothing to go on but pure feeling and what sounded right to me in my own space. It was a very personal process, drawing the direct experience of one moment feeding the next." This intuitive exploration of sound through a new instrument is evident in the truly peculiar sound of the album - like something alive and breathing in the darkness, the music wells up in leisurely swirling harmony, forms an individuality, basks in the beauty of its existence and drifts away.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Ambient minimalist listeners. Anyone wanting to hear the guitar approached in an innovative manner, somewhat like a keyboard in the hands of a deeply intuitive sound painter. If you like Streams and Currents - this is the darker cousin.
 

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------Steve Roach - Streams and Currents
STYLE

 

 

Environmental ambient guitar zones, employing live looping and bathed in sustaining effects. Steve again feels his way around the stratocaster guitar and Ebow, although you could be forgiven for thinking that these sounds could never have come from such familiar sources. Pieces generally drift gradually into hearing like the front of a storm cloud - at times rumbling with depth, at others luminous with silvered edges. One track - Spirit Moves - has a gentle rhythmic underpinning that feels organic and vaguely tribal, in time this dissipates leaving the sound currents floating alone growing imperceptibly fainter, with less movement and fading so very slowly.

 
MOOD  

More relaxing than the darker Midnight Moon that was created around the same time, this ethereal collection of restless drones and shadowy swells has moments of intensely delicate beauty. Like shafts of moonlight on the surface of something huge below water Streams and Currents is in constant flux, looming into close proximity and then meandering far and remote heavy with distance.

 
ARTWORK   Very attractive artwork based around an ammonite fossil bathed in heavy blues and purples. Text is minimal, leaving the imagery simple and undisturbed. This album was recorded over a more concentrated time period than Midnight Moon "in the deep hours of night between August and September 2001" according to sleeve notes. Track titles such as 'ebb', 'flow', 'slow rising' and 'almost touching' indicate the abstract nature of the musical content.
 
OVERALL   

Six solo pieces that are closely connected in nature to Midnight Moon although here perhaps more sonically crafted and developed. You can almost picture Steve heavily lost in sound, exploring, experiencing the guitar - letting the notes form and lead him where they will. The masterful use of space makes you conscious of the role of silence, appreciative of quietness as an element of sound - noticing that the sleeve directs "created for low volume continuous playback". These two albums are the original charts from which such diverse later journeys as Darkest Before Dawn, Mystic Chords and Sacred Spaces and Fever Dreams would emerge.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Intimate ambient minimalists that enjoy music that flows directly from the musician's subconscious to your imagination. If you enjoy ephemeral flowing sound zones drawn out in a way that you are not used to hearing from a guitar - try Streams and Currents. If you want a warmer Midnight Moon, this is for you.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 

------Aes Dana - Memory Shell
STYLE   Passionate, dreamy, ultra-modern, atmospheric downtempo. [ Memory Shell ] has a fragile beauty that is unmatched in this genre - delicate, relaxing ambience threaded through with organic warmth. Whispering voices tell enigmatic stories, heartbeats, shells, the sounds of the sea swirl like scented mists in the air, whilst gentle electronic structures breathe in and out alongside evolving beats and warbling synths. There is a cinematic space created across this album, unfolding imaginary landscapes that feel at the same time as intimate as your own body sounds yet hauntingly desolate and unfamiliar.
 
MOOD  

Light, breezy and ephemeral yet rooted and solid, [ Memory Shell ] has all the melancholy, wistfulness of a deserted beach. Undulating soundscapes and flickering, skittering beats are adorned with hanging shells, electronic hisses, radio interference and lonely voices. There are plenty of beatless interludes and chilled airy grooves among passages where pulsing basses and bright beats pump with occasional tribal hits and sampled noise.

 
ARTWORK   A sumptuous digipack that has the usual Ultimae feel of sophistication and quality. Beautiful cover art consists of a purple beach/shell montage hugged by a thick black border - inside is a lush 16 page booklet with a page for each track containing more stylish photomontages, track credits, background info and story snippets ... you want to like this album from the minute you pick it up.
 
OVERALL   

Twelve tracks of classy electronic ambient trance created by Vincent Villuis with Mahiane (aka Sunbeam) assisting with composition and storytelling and ethereal vocals by Pascale Auffret (Cox 6, Hum drum Drama, Mister O). The cycling sequencers, phat basses and programmed grooves associated with the euro-dance scene are all present, yet applied subtly like watercolour layers - [ Memory Shell ] is at its best when allowed to wander farthest into the haziness of ambience and atmosphere. Production is, as expected, flawless and crystal clear with mastering credited to Huby Sea.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

This is a CD for lovers of electronic chillout; music for the early morning (either before or after sleep). If you enjoyed H.U.V.A. Network, Vincent was a major contributor to that project and if anything [ Memory Shell ] exceeds Distances in many areas. This is surely one of 2004's best albums of the genre - don't miss this one.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 

 

------Hungry Lucy - To Kill A King
STYLE

 

 

An effective mixture of trip-hop, brooding electronica and dark pop all strung together with Christa Belle's low-key ethereal vocals. Although produced by a duo, Hungry Lucy go for the feel of a band rather than a programmed computer construct. This album is primarily a collection of songs - the musical structures have wide variety and strength, but it is the vocal narrative that carries the listener along. Tracks range from simple piano and voice arrangements to rich synthetic darkwave and virtual guitar driven downtempo.

 
MOOD  

Melancholy songs of abandonment, loss, deception and oppression tell a story that binds individual tracks together as united whole. The emotional vocals have a flawed beauty that fittingly emphasises the vulnerable quality of the lyrics. War-N Harrison creates a dramatic backdrop of programmed percussion, synth and piano lines, moody strings, guitars and the occasional world sound.

 
ARTWORK   Cover art consists of shadowy photography that works around the theme of a damaged king/queen relationship - on the front, a jewelled crown is clasped in a woman's hands with the title 'To Kill A King' emblazoned above. Inside the sorrowful 'Once upon a time ....' story of an unloved queen's plight is laid out across two complete panels. Credits for additional voices and players are included along with contact details.
 
OVERALL   

Seventeen tracks of fairly wide ranging musical styles that nonetheless gel comfortably. Along with the Hungry Lucy originals, To Kill A King features four remixes: we have the F9 Mixes of The Chase and Shine, the Null Device Mix of You Are and the TriggerI0D Mix of To Kill a King. These four additional pieces retain Hungry Lucy's gothic aesthetic whilst upping the tempo into the electro-dancefloor zone.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   To Kill A King will appeal to listeners wanting dark pop, gothic trip-hop songs or moody female vocal pieces. The remixes widen the appeal with a more overtly synthetic approach.