Seren Ffordd & Oöphoi - The Martian Chronicles
Artist: Seren Ffordd and Oöphoi
Title: The Martian Chronicles
Label: Hypnos (digipak CD)
The Martian Chronicles, inspired by Ray Bradbury's story collection of the same name, sounds very much like the soundtrack to a mysterious and strange science fiction film that exists only in the imaginations of Seren Ffordd and Oöphoi. These seven tracks, while slow, moody and at times weirdly alien, also evoke a drama and emotional depth absent from much recent ambient music. It's a complex and beautiful mixture of electronic instruments, field recordings and percussion.
These artists will both likely be familiar to Hypnos listeners. Seren Ffordd has released several albums on our Hypnos Secret Sound imprint, and also contributed to the Hypnos compilation Sounds of a Universe Overheard. The name Seren Ffordd (real name Andy Benford) is Welsh for Star Road, Way of Stars or Milky Way.
Oöphoi himself released Athlit in 2002, Distance to Zero (with Paul Vnuk) in 2006, and his Nebulae group project album Path of White Clouds in 2011, all on Hypnos. Gianluigi Gasparetti, the man behind Oöphoi, first became known for creating the excellent Italian music periodical Deep Listenings. His Oöphoi persona burst onto the ambient music scene in the late 1990s and quickly became one of the most talented and prolific sound artists around. He founded the now-defunct labels Umbra and Penumbra, which released the earliest recordings of Seren Ffordd. After working together in this capacity for several years The Martian Chronicles is their first collaboration, but not their last; the pair has already completed another full album worth of material.
We at Hypnos are proud to bring you this collaborative work from two of the most interesting and talented ambient musicians out there, and we hope you'll enjoy it as much as we do.
Track listing with MP3 samples:
Purchase for $12.99 on Hypnos Online Store
Reviews"Drone masters Seren Fford and Oöphoi interface with the spirit of Ray Bradbury on the long-form ambient work The Martian Chronicles. This is an impressionistic work, the sounds and drones carving images of the Martian landscape in your mind. And that landscape evolves across time. At the outset, the scene is sparse, windswept red dust issuing over cold ground. A sense of loneliness gnaws through the sound. Late in the first track, “The Long Years,” the feeling is so stripped down it becomes almost unnerving. The duo carry the unease straight into “Dead Cities,” where low funereal drones moan under a quiet, freezing hush. As the piece goes along it slowly grows in vibrancy and light, moving us into a more inviting landscape. It’s the first sense of forward motion, of narrative discovery. We understand that we’re on the cusp of something, and it arrives in “Blue Fire” with some unexpected percussion. We’re taken through a brief passage with tribal overtones, like a look into some lost civilization’s past or the finding of some indigenous culture’s outpost. It’s a great touch, even as slight as it is, after such a long ambient stretch. This is where the tone of the disc begins to shift toward the optimistic and organic. Water is discovered in “Canals,” the sound quietly burbling over warm ambient cloud formations. Again, the tone here is warmer and more welcoming than in earlier tracks. We’ve arrived somehow at a different, hospitable Mars. More signs of life come with “Flamebirds Waiting for the Storm.” The chittering of a thousand electronic Martian avians bounce and dance over a virtually unchanging drone. Thunder begins to roll in the background. The simplicity of the undercurrent tone is amazingly effective, a straight-line constant against the chaos laid over it. The disc closes with the prayer-like chant of “Unremembered,” a quite straightforward ambient piece, meditative and reverent.
Throughout The Martian Chronicles, the layering of sounds is incredible. Even in the most still-wind moments there’s motion and depth and interplay. This is the kind of disc where you pop on the headphones, lay in the dark, and let your mind start building scenery. The sensations that Seren Fford and Oöphoi are able to convey through their sounds are quite visceral and moving. In addition, the movement of the disc, start to finish, is one of the best examples of creating a sonic narrative that I’ve heard in a while. There is an arc here, and it’s fully developed and completely realized. This is a truly masterful piece of work."
--Review by Hypnagogue
"Speaking of extraterrestrial, The Martian Chronicles, the first collaboration between long-time Hypnos contributors Seren Ffordd & Oophoi, takes its name from a story collection by Ray Bradbury (by the way, Seren Ffordd, the alias adopted by Andy Benford is Welsh for Star Road, Way of Stars, or Milky Way, while Italian ambient-drone composer Gianluigi Gasparetti is the man behind Oophoi). The seventy-four-minute set elaborates on its sci-fi connection in seven ethereal moodscapes the duo recorded between 2006 and 2009 using synths, samples, percussion, and field recordings as the primary sources (the album was mixed at Benford's StarWeb studio, aptly enough). The journey is mysterious, deep, and immersive, especially when the settings flow uninterruptedly from one to the next. The second track, “Dead Cities,” already finds us inhabiting deep space, as suggested by the lulling ebb and flow of the gaseous exhalations that dominate its early goings. A choir seems to faintly intone alongside the instrumental sounds (also during “Canals”), though that could simply be a hallucinatory response to the alien sounds in play. Cavernous rumblings convincingly conjure the vast emptiness of space before “Blue Fire” brings a rather more serene mood to the album. An occasional real-world sound, such as the chirping birds and rain downpour in “Flamebirds Waiting for the Storm,” adds a more concrete dimension to the generally abstract character of the sound design. Regardless of mood, the tracks unfold slowly, a move that in turn heightens their immersive potential, and there's a grandiosity to the pair's material, not to mention drama and depth. Though it's very much in the deep ambient tradition, The Martian Chronicles is also a superb example of the genre and one aficionados would do well to investigate."
--Reviews by Textura
"...this new release really surprised me. A masterpiece, it has brought out the best of the two artists--a true synergy here. This work will be a classic (if it's not one already). Another win for hypnos!"
--Review by Hypnos customer Joseph Pe
"The Martian Chronicles by Seren Ffordd and Oöphoi is an album of sparse, atmospheric electronic music inspired by the classic SF novel written by Ray Bradbury. The album takes its inspiration from the Martian aspects of the novel in particular, opening with a fifteen minute cut 'The Long Years,' which through a combination of perfectly judged drones, synths and deeply reverberated sounds evokes the coldness and distance of the environment. 'Dead Cities' brings in a different set of textures to the mix, based on a drone that sounds like a long, alien breath, breathing in, out, in... haunting and effective. Half way through, the textures change to bring a more technological feel to the sound. 'Blue Fire,' the third fifteen-minute cut, continues the theme of slow drift drones overlaid with mysterious effects, this time sounding like reverberated voices, though they're probably synths. 'End Of A Changeling' plays with the structure of the book and the album, which is presented in reverse order; the cut is brief, composed of sections from all the other tracks mixed by Seren Ffordd into a pivot, around which the album turns. 'Canals' brings field recordings of water into the mix, while 'Flamebirds Waiting For The Sun' features weirdly mutated bird sounds to create a particularly effective and atmospheric track. Album closer 'Unremembered' features a synth drone like a heavenly choir, completing the experience in suitable style. For those who've read the book, this ambient delight will be an intriguing discovery."
--TMC review by Stephen Palmer on Terrascope - http://www.terrascope.co.uk/Reviews/Reviews_October_11.htm#SynthRoundup
"The Martian Chronicles is a 74-minute longform album inspired by Ray Bradbury's short science fiction story by the same name. It is the first collaborative album between Oöphoi (aka Italian drone expert Gianluigi Gasparetti) and Welch soundscape composer Seren Ffordd (aka Andy Benford).
What we got here is a deep and immersive work of cinematic ambient that took about three years in the making. The seven tracks feature vast, dark and slow morphing drone textures along field recordings and percussion, making up an intense trip into a mysterious and alienating world with psychedelic edges.
The Martian Chronicles is a spacious recording meant for deeper and focussed listening, that seems to submerge the listener even more when heard with a good pair of headphones. If you’re into dense ambient art works with both subtle changes along fine environmental sounds, this quality album is for you."
--Review by Bert Strolenberg
"Two drone purveyors are unlocking the gateway of the Void, enter now!!!
Seren Ffordd, in Wales based drone master, has released since 2006 several albums and EPs on Oöphoi's Umbra and Penumbra labels. Now teamed with the Italian drone king for their first collaborative work, "The Martian Chronicles", on Hypnos, where both artists have released several albums (Seren Ffordd on Hypnos Secret Sounds). Sculpted during 2006-2009 and inspired by Ray Bradbury's short science fiction story from 1950, "The Martian Chronicles", released in October 2011 and packaged in attractive 4-panel digipak, is an adventurous and deep sonic exploration merging the talents of Andy Benford aka Seren Ffordd and Gianluigi Gasparetti aka Oöphoi. Nearly 15 minutes long overture, "The Long Years", opens this grandeur voyage with colossally deep drones with invading bells, gongs and extraterrestrial-infused rumblings and resonations. A truly immense soundwalls designed for all aficionados of ultra deep, massive ambience, magnificent!!! With the next, again 15-minute composition, we dive straightly into a chasmic void. "Dead Cities" are painted in the first half with extremely freezing drones and mechanized breathings climbing into the throne of drones, while in the second half the breathings slowly dissolve and some, rather distractive and ominous effects step into the fore and color this ultimate giant drone wizardry. This is stunningly stellar and powerful sound sculpting evoking wonderful sense of spatial emptiness!!! "Blue Fire", another longer piece, keeps on the more active, emerging route, where assorted, mostly otherworldly, at times oddly sounding effects and outbursts enrich the drone. Also few recognizable sounds can be heard, for example something like a trot of a horse. "End Of A Changeling" is shorter, eclectic piece featuring extracts from each track, cut and mixed. "Canals" opens with watery and distant storm sounds that support more free floating drifts, quite relieving and relaxing when comparing to preceding adventurous sonic alchemy. The next composition, "Flamebirds Waiting For The Storm", as its title tells, is flavored with processed bird calls, later the rain and thunder shake the heaven to achieve the most organic environment. Deeply echoed, slow-motion drones with occasional rumblings escape into the darkness of sinkholing "Unremembered" and provide the closing part of this truly absorbing and fantabulous sonic mystery and mastery. "The Martian Chronicles" is purely transcendental listening experience!!! Two drone purveyors are unlocking the gateway of the Void, enter now!!!"
--Review by Richard Gurtler
"'The Martian Chronicles' by Seren Fford + Oophoi, apparently inspired by Ray Bradbury's story collection of the same name, is a haunting and deeply immersive sonic voyage to multiple alien worlds. While certainly evocative of the Martian setting, TMC is just as easily placed closer to home, say, in the romantic lost cities of ancient Mesoamerica or the Central Asian Silk Road; or even within the microcosm of our own minds, in the uncharted bottomless regions of our unconscious, peopled by numinous forces and archetypes, beings as foreign from our normal selves as the remotest galaxies.
Since I'm unfamiliar with Bradbury's work, I enjoy the music best with a sort of visualization.
For example, as the music starts, let's imagine ourselves transported to a bleak wind-swept land/mind-scape (Track 1 - The Long Years). In the wind's furious howls, we make out voices: murmurs(?) or incantations(?) in an unknown vanished tongue.
When the wind dies down and the dust settles, we see the crumbling fantastic architecture of great cities, the ruins of a civilization long forgotten (Track 2 - Dead Cities). As we touch the decaying walls, we feel like walking in a dream or witnessing some secret shamanic vision (Track 3 - Blue Fire). The voices are growing louder; the buildings are taking on a newer sheen. The silent cities are coming back to life!
Night falls; the shadows stretch and disappear into the darkness (Track 4 - End of a Changeling). The weird vision continues, bringing back long-gone sounds and memories, the unfamiliar ghosts of the vanished people (Track 5 - Canals).
Suddenly, our trance breaks. It was just an illusion after all. This world is long dead. Its only inhabitants now are grotesque bird-like creatures that watch us threateningly from the collapsing roofs (Track 6 - Flamebirds Waiting for the Storm).
Yet why do the faces of these beasts bear mournful, almost human expressions? Are they perhaps reflecting on life's brief span, on the vanity of existence and power, as if too much fallen glory had softened even their brutish hearts? No, the noxious alien atmosphere is just playing tricks on our sensibilities. This world died long ago (Track 7 - Unremembered). If there had been any mourners, they didn't have long to await their turn.
End of visualization. Well, you get the idea now. 'Mars' is not a planet, it's a state of mind. The setting could really be anywhere strange and special to your imagination. Wherever you find yourself, TMC, this ambient masterpiece, will work invariably well."
--Review by JLP on amazon.com