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Independent Music Reviews / Robert Scott Thompson - Arcana
« on: October 23, 2014, 03:20:48 AM »
Electroacoustic ambient.
Robert Scott Thompson releases here an album that is both full of enigmatic ambient space and elegantly understated melodic forms. The drone textures are intricate and multi-layered, employed in masterfully intangible motion, elements of familiarity and peculiarity within constantly rising into focus and dispersing once more. The melodies at their best are truly sublime: sometimes simple patterns that hang within the ambience, sometimes auditory lattice-works that balance the drone forms, then unexpectedly developing into climactic flushes of emotion that really touch something important inside. The tracks ebb and flow between uncomplicated hovering atmospheres and uncluttered tuneful motifs with a pleasant balance that keeps the attention hooked from start to finish.
IN DEPTH         
Arcana is one of those precious few albums that truly deserves to be referred to as deeply immersive. The complex layers of involvement of this album will both send you into wistful abstraction and draw the mind into attentive examination of constantly evolving detail. Promotional material explains that "the Hartmann Neuron is strongly featured on this recording, as is the prepared piano, acoustic percussion of various types and also extended percussion techniques." Guest percussionist Stuart Gerber is credited with percussion samples and performances, most evident on Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight where his studio performance is further enhanced by Robert's own treatments and modifications. Presented with a professionalism and musical sensibility rarely experienced, Arcana unfurls climactic moments of aching beauty with delightful subtlety. That said, this is not an overly emotional creation: often minimal in structure and form, Arcana at times reveals barely-lit voids that suggest nuances as much as describe them.

The album opener Liminal Worlds is a lazy, gravity-free piece of meandering charm that spirals in the shadows of beguiling possibilities. Near-percussive, ascending phrases repeatedly climb up from a lush, textural bed lured by ethereal voices that move back and forth between the electro/organic divide. The listener is invited in, to cross the sensory threshold...

A searing swirl of layered tone sweeps us into Imagination is Memory. The sombre low-light obscurity that opened Arcana gathers here whilst similar ponderous phrases shift slightly in their upward motion - a little more buoyant, warm and restful. The notes seem comprised of multiple voices: effected piano, struck strings, oriental metallic bowls - it's hard to tell where the ears are working and where the imagination takes over. At just over three minutes, this piece quickly passes...

The air of mystery that wafted through the first two tracks thickens at the introduction of this track as shaken particles fall across discordant piano and cow-bell tinkles. As the great ambient drone bed of this composition wells up a huge sense of depth falls open, yet instead of tumbling in, sonic light beams seem to keep the listener afloat. These gentle, inviting synth strains of heavenly elegance are cast into the air creating a delightful interplay of melancholy beauty and uplifting luminance that seems apt to last forever.

The title track - the longest track at eleven minutes forty eight seconds - retains the radiant beauty of its predecessor. The darkness that surrounds everything is by now a familiar friend perfectly suited to perception of the nuances of gossamer tone that float and drift in shifting flux. Now the strongly-effected melodic patterns seem deep within the mix; piano-like/guitar-like embellished with chimes, peculiar disturbances and snaking air movements. An echoing rhythm sets in as the track progresses propelling the piece onward with an easy, nodding motion that finally fades once more into the expanse.

Whirling winds drop the listening temperature as a weave of harsh metal fibres and atonal threads push through dangling chimes into a night-time emptiness that carries a sense of disquiet and anticipation. Still the sonorous note patterns of previous tracks remain - muted strikings, woody at times, then more like large, thick metal bowls - barely melodic, wandering.

The title is an ancient Greek term describing the theoretical moment where judgment regarding the existence of the external world is suspended. It suggests the act of refraining from any conclusion for or against anything including that of judging whether anything exists or can exist. Robert Scott Thompson chooses this concept as a doorway to a build up of warmth and tranquillity: airy synth breaths and weightless strains floating freely in graceful simplicity.

This is perhaps the most overtly beautiful track on the whole album. Opening with light finger-cymbal, gamelan bell, splashing bowl tones the mood is quite exotic and mystical - swaying rhythmically. But then at about the one-minute fifteen-second mark there is a delightfully climactic release followed immediately by a welling harmonious build toward further such moments. Lustrous, aglow amid the enveloping darkness, this meditative nocturne hypnotically teases the senses conjuring colours and faint fluorescence into meandering spirals that finally fall away into obscurity.

Less percussive than its predecessor, In Situ is a vapourous wafting of fine layers that ponderously heave in slow-motion undulations of pitch and intensity. Very much retaining the uneasy mix of introspective serenity and enshrouding gloom, this track seems to loop and cycle in endless reverie.

The set finale looks back to the melodic approach taken in Arcana and The Last Hours of Sunlight: uplifting, dulcet phrases dreamily wandering through a heady ambient fog. Again the sonic sources are hard to identify, calling to mind struck or plucked notes with Eastern timbre often prominent. The eventual final fade to silence is one of pleasing consonance - aptly titled.
Arcana is delivered in an elegant, tactile two-panel digipack. The front and back covers show details of a painting by Victoria Bearden that is revealed in full within. Brush marks, paint scrapes and sharp expressive movements curve and roll across the surface in almost metallic shades of grey and blue. A classical white border frames the front panel wherein sits the title; on the rear the white ground becomes a central panel holding track titles each with running time alongside. Here too are credits and label logos. When opened out, the inner cover reveals a powerful painting of a female figure that spans the whole spread: brightly lit, yet surrounded by darkness into which the face turns, this enigmatic character physically embodies the album's themes.
California's Robert Scott Thompson delivers his latest release through the Relaxed Machinery label. Taking around two years to complete, the music explores the composer's interests in quantum physics and recent discoveries that are shaping our views regarding the nature of reality: infinite parallel universes, the power of thought, dreams and memory. Infusing his ambient arrangements with a wealth of electro-acoustic instrumentation; software synthesis/signal processing and hardware synthesizers form the backbone of Arcana. Robert explains, "I collect sounds and use them in a variety of ways, from placing them in samplers for compositional use to using analysis based techniques for modification and extrapolation. The nine tracks of the CD release are complimented by "several exclusive bonus tracks" found only on the digital release including the immersive 24-minute ambient track "Zero Point Field". These bonus tracks were recorded during the making of the album. You can explore the music for yourself at Robert's Bandcamp page or via the Relaxed Machinery website both of which provide images, audio and additional information.

Independent Music Reviews / Dan Pound - Life Giving
« on: September 11, 2014, 05:36:24 AM »
Ambient, nocturnal, space music.
Squelching sci-fi zaps and blips in empty space open Life Giving, a dreamy, drifting series of very beautiful ambient spaces and minimal soundscapes. There are rhythmic pieces here where naturally flowing sequences weave among water currents and tinkling chimes; there are light beats that trip within shady expanses; there are burbling patterns that pulse and roll below simple, elegant themes. Some passages hold melodic sections that distantly recall Satie, Close Encounters or even the band Enigma; melancholy, delicate phrases that linger in the air with restful resonance. But Life Giving is primarily a music of subtle drones and lustrous textures; ambient openings that glisten and gleam with overlaid synthetic harmonies more oriented at establishing sublime mood zones than creating firm structures to cling to.
Life Giving is a jewel-case presentation with a single-sheet insert. Artwork is comprised of a series of soft-focus underwater photographs that feature orange, mauve, olive-hued reef life. A closer look reveals another level of depth to the imagery - reflections maybe, motion blur, presences? Text is kept to a minimum: small simple title on the front cover, track titles behind and some brief contact and website details; within there is no written content at all, just water-hazed visuals.
The second release of 2014 from ambient musician/film and multi-media composer Dan Pound comes in the wake of the guitar driven Eros Thanatos. This album of eight spacey expanses is once again released via Dan's own Pound Sounds label and takes its place atop what is now a rather impressive back catalogue. An aim of Life Giving is to facilitate personal meditation and inner visualization; given the right low-lighting and a suitably submersive listening arrangement I would say that Dan meets the criteria admirably. If you'd like to listen to the music you can visit Dan's official website where each track is available to sample as well as all of his previous releases. If you'd like to experience the transportation intended - buy the CD.

Independent Music Reviews / Dan Pound - Eros Thanatos
« on: April 17, 2014, 02:22:26 AM »
Smooth, flowing ambient.
Eros Thanatos is an eminently serene disc of lush, velvety texture and rich sonic colour. Dan Pound uses deeply-effected guitar sounds as the basis for this album - although you would rarely perceive that such a familiar stringed instrument was employed except for perhaps the sliding tones of Between Breaths or the soft fingerings at the start of From Beyond. The meandering, sonorous layers reverberate weightlessly rising and falling from silence: delicate at times, faint, subtle; dreamy and charming in places; mysterious in others, shadowy, inhabited by peculiarly organic presences; there are tribal passages of sober intensity and sparkling sequence dances. The multi-voiced guitar sounds at the root of the music are enhanced by a range of analog and digital synths, piano-like impressions, distant chanting voices, woody flutes, water effects and infrequent lazy, percussive beats.
Eros Thanatos is a jewel-case release with a single sheet insert. Imagery centres on a stark, leafless tree curving sidewards as if frozen within an invisible wind. On the front panel the strong colours of an amber-hued field and indigo mountain range make the lifeless branches all the more stark - grey sky above. On the rear, the image is repeated in monochrome - softer, simpler. Track titles in black hang in the sky; credits and contacts in white lie in the grass. On opening up the case the disc again repeats the cover shot, echoed still further behind the plastic grip. The left-most sheet zooms in on the field, the colours and textures of bright stalks and interlaced blades filling the entire space: word-free.
Ambient musician/composer Dan Pound delivers his latest album of exploratory three dimensional sound in the form of Eros Thanatos - a title suggesting love and death. Dan takes the listener through a range of drifting expanses and textural zones: mostly beatless, faintly primal, spacey, dreamy, down into disquieting gloom and back into celestial light. Eight tracks in all, mostly around the seven to ten minute mark allowing for unrushed development and expression. Dan explains: "After trying on some newly acquired guitar effects, I decided to do a whole album dedicated to these guitar sound worlds I was discovering... I was able to extrapolate a myriad of tonal timbres that resembled other instruments like organ, strings, oboes, bassoons and even human voices. Adding of course some deep layers of reverb, this sound set ended up being one of the most originally challenging and creative projects I've ever done." You can find out more about this release and other Dan Pound music via the official Dan Pound website where there are sound samples and opportunities to download tracks in different formats; there is also Dan's Facebook page where a variety of news and personal details are provided.

Independent Music Reviews / Resonant Drift - Full Circle
« on: July 04, 2013, 03:00:51 AM »
Intricate ambient beatlessness and tribal groove.
Full Circle is a captivating journey through delicately shifting organic atmospheres. For the most part the music here is tranquil, drifting, lustrous and full of wonder. Yet this is not an album of simple synthetic serenity - right from the opening bars there is a sense of something deeper, more disquieting tones lying in the lower shadows. Emerging Currents rises up out of silence like ominous winds ushering in storm clouds across a darkening landscape - yet within the mass of unfurling turbulence there are bright strains. As this opening track progresses the dissonance falls away, bird calls join the more radiant sounds and an immense bank of tone dominated by lighter intensities develops setting the scene for much of what is to come. Track two fades directly out of track one - low, wafting textures thickening into dense currents, again with brighter threads lifting the mood, painting fine mists upon the scene. A silence introduces Aurora Breaking, the warmest track so far. The mood alters significantly on Cross Communication - a brooding zone of sonic breezes and reverberating peculiarities. Track eight sees the first beat of the album roll into place just before the one minute mark - a languid muted affair, crawling across an uneasy surface of keening, haunting electronica. The set concludes full circle back into beatless layered effulgence; floating in reverie; bathed in gentle sunlight; fading into silence.

This three-panel glossy digipack declares its intent via the front cover image: radiant light beams piercing and illuminating the verdant complexity of a dense forest. Rippled reflections on a foreground body of water melt the sharp edges and blur the intricacies into liquid zigzags. The rear cover presents a different forest scene, light rays here falling diagonally in mist banks onto a profusion of curling foliage and tangled undergrowth. Track titles with respective times hang in the pale haze. The third outer panel gives more space to the water surface of the front cover, here thrown out of focus to act as backdrop to a quotation from Lakota Leader Black Elk musing upon the ubiquity of circle forms. Inside is close-up of the rear cover image fading gradually from luscious green on the left to faded pallor on the right: brief quotations, credits, guest musicians and thanks are all here.

Full Circle comes as the fifth full-length release from Californian duo Resonant Drift. Released through Flow Space Music/FloBob Music this album benefits from 'mastering and sonic enhancements' by Steve Roach as well as electric upright bass and five string electric bass by Rod Ratelle. There are eleven pieces here that follow a restless course through expansive, atmospheric ambience, heaving drone beds and subtle tribal beats. Promotional material talks of the music moving "in and out of quiet ambient places, most ... vast and airy and soaring" but that it "also grinds its way through some grittier environments" wherein Resonant Drift's experimental leaning more obviously becomes prominent. You can learn more about the music and listen to each track via the Steve Roach website or you can visit the official Resonant Drift site to uncover more of the project's output and background.

Independent Music Reviews / Birdsong In Mist - Kim Halliday
« on: July 04, 2013, 01:55:44 AM »
Cinematic instrumentals featuring instruments both electronic and acoustic.
Kim's background in film and TV shines through this album of engrossing recordings; uncluttered and atmospheric; transportational and moody. Birdsong In Mist is at times delicate and gentle with emotive piano chords and touches buoyed up on subtle electronica; in other places the music is more strident, dense with dramatic synth textures driving plaintive melodic phrases; there are even passages of heaving, metal-oriented intensity. Many tracks are beatless, having something of a neoclassical elegance, however If I wistfully echoes over a delightful downtempo beat that drags its thudding heels in similar fashion to the aching melancholy of Loss; the disquieting Bleeding Out features an ebbing-flowing sequencer rhythm of pure electronic tones whereas Steel Eye sees a complete drum kit powering electric guitar grunge chords and a darkly pumping theme. Halliday does a fine job of shifting the nature of each piece whilst maintaining a coherence of vision throughout.

Birdsong in Mist arrives in a deeply saturated gatefold digipack: lush green hues bathe everything - a dark bird of shadow ascending across the front cover. Rivulets of dark green run down three of the panels trailing into painterly blotches of foliage - dream-like, evocative. The rear cover presents track titles with times alongside: the uppermost right corner peels away to reveal a small section of a musical score beneath. Here too is note indicating interactive multimedia content gathered on the disc and a QR code that directs willing scanners to the Birdsonginmist website. Inside - the green theme is retained behind the clear plastic disk holder - bird absent. On the left section is a brief biographical note, relevant credits as well as website and email details.

The primary sound of Birdsong In Mist is that of the piano - Kim Halliday fills his works with powerful emotion and this acoustic instrument seems most suited to translating this feeling for the audience. That said, there is a broad range of instrumentation here: orchestral strings creep through Victim Selection; gamelan-like chimes hang in the air of Developments Of Late and lead the exotically hypnotic Eastern Games; there are effected guitars, double bass, tape effects and found sounds. Beyond the music there is much to discover on this packed disc: a further eight pages of digital booklet content; two wallpapers images; ringtones; a musical score for Developments of Late and a video of the artist discussing his work in cinema. The additional booklet pages provide some explanation of the artist's musical approach and attitude; there are notes for each track revealing origins and processes and there is an expanded biography.

Kim Halliday has been involved in writing music for film, television, theatre, multimedia and concert stage. Birdsong In Mist is released as part of a project with PARMA Recordings on Ravello Records, bringing together several strands of his work - filmic, minimalist and dark. As promotional material points out, these recording are effective for both a focussed listening audience or for various media projects. There are fifteen pieces in all on this album ranging from just over two minutes in length through to the five and a half minute opener Developments of Late. You can explore more of this release via Kim Halliday's own website where there are sound samples and in-depth notes revealing much of the artist's output. You might also enjoy a look at the Ravello Records page that provides some additional background and purchasing links.

June 2011
Minimal spacedrone, ambient abstract.
Aurora is made up of two longform recordings; dark, isolationist and spacey. The first of these beatless compositions fades in gradually as a single undulating thread of tone. Almost imperceptibly, additional elements trickle into the mix, percussive clicks and mechanical blip-click patterns thickening the sound. This relatively high pitch ambience alters little for almost eleven minutes before the central drone is joined by a deeper note an octave or two lower. Around the twenty two minute mark a second notable drop in pitch occurs. Gossamer electronic flutters dance faintly through the shadows and other distant sounds appear to hang deep within the music on the edge of hearing. Track two likewise fades out of nothingness to morph and evolve in ponderous, pulsing sparcity. Low beds of shifting tone writhe uneasily: clean and glassy here on 'plasma' as opposed to the more matt textured sound of 'model II'. The dominant texture-drones undulate in subtle rhythmic form, layered with surges and infusions of higher sound; pattered in places establishing partial cadence; atmospheric in others suggestive of faint nebulous colour.
Artwork for Aurora is as minimal as the music: black and white graphics presented in a standard jewel case. The two-tone front cover image centres on the circling dots and blots of what appears to be a spiral galaxy. A second, more intense whorl is contained within two horizontal lines on the rear cover. Here beneath a repetition of the main title are track titles and brief website, email and writing/production details. The insert is a single sheet: the flip side repeating the letterboxed galaxy design with only the two track titles above.
Of Polish origin, writer/musician Kamil Kowalczyk currently resides in Scotland. An early interest in unusual audio and experimental synthetic sound led Kamil to begin recording his own music in 2002 resulting in a series of albums, six released in mp3 format on US Zenapolae net label. More recently he has begun taking on live performances and has established his own record label Prototyp Produktions Ltd. Aurora is Kamil's debut CD album on his own label, containing two long tracks, “model II” and “plasma” at thirty two minutes eleven seconds and twenty five minutes eight seconds respectively. Promotional material explains: "The main concept for album was conspiracy theory about Aurora – a top secret, ultra fast US Military aircraft, also called TR-3B, which has very advanced technology, and special engine driving by plasma… I have used almost exclusively Virsyn Tera for most sounds, which I create from scratch on this stunning synth."
You can hear the music at Kamil's record label website Prototyp Produktions well as purchase the CD.
A debut CD album from sound artist/composer Kamil Kowalczyk. It contains two long tracks, “model II” and “plasma”. The main concept for album was conspiracy theory about Aurora – a top secret, ultra fast US Military aircraft, also called TR-3B, which has very advanced technology, and special engine driving by plasma…

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Tim Gerwing - Chikatetsu
« on: November 14, 2009, 01:38:01 AM »
Rhythmic and ambient electronica. Chikatetsu is a subtle album of constantly shifting emphasis - opening with a pattern of high pitched delicate notes and steady drone, the album gets under way with a sense of unhurried class. Building into a restfully throbbing bass groove this initial track features the kind of tuneful, freeform harmony and artfully layered human-artificial structures that dominate the album. Barely discernable station voices and subway sounds occasionally inhabit the somewhat abstract musical forms that run in narrative flow. Some passages have a strongly mechanical rhythm suggestive of fleeting motion - rolling sequencer forms driving light melodic phrases. Other sections reveal a jazz influence, with lustrous vibes and muted chimes dancing among the synth voices. The music features Tim Gerwing on keyboards, guitars, bass, electronics, vocals and drum programming with musicians Besart Hysniu delivering keyboards, programming, remixing, electronics, David Picking ride cymbals and Terry O'Brien guitar, guitar synths. There is often a mesmerising sense of detachment about the music as if the listener were a lonely observer among busy meandering crowds - at rest among the currents of urban activity.

Chikatetsu comes in a sharp card wallet (these really are so much nicer than jewelcases) of saturated colour. The front image is a motion blurred train caught momentarily passing through a station - broad black borders making the night-time hues appear to positively glow. The reverse holds a tube map layered upon a carriage interior - here are a series of evocative, descriptive terms that might help the potential listener to imagine something of the nature of the music. Within, the two panel sleeve holds track details on the left and additional information on the right. Instrumental and technical credits along with thanks and download details.

Born and based currently in Canada Tim Gerwing has been interested in music since early childhood. Having studied classical piano, Tim branched out to explore jazz, electronic, new age, progressive rock/pop, and Middle and Far Eastern styles. He has been releasing music as a solo artist since 2002 when his debut Being To Being was released under his own record label. This current disc contains thirteen tracks that that work around the theme of Japanese subway travel and experience. Promotional material explains Chikatetsu as 'the “underground iron”, the subway system that is the heart of public transportation in the large cities of Japan'. Further wording suggests "ambient textures -> electronic musical maps -> hyper-cultural leitmotifs -> fractal audio perspectives -> psycho-emotional sonic imagery. The beautifully designed website contains sound samples and further information if you'd like to check it out at

Other Ambient (and related) Music / FIELD ROTATION - LICHT UND SCHATTEN
« on: November 13, 2009, 06:27:24 AM »
Beautiful electronic glitchscapes with various acoustic elements. Field Rotation is a project with a rare sense of elegant beauty. The subtle classical threads that twine through these digital arrangements imbue the music with a dignity and grace that immediately lifts Licht und Schatten above the norm. The melodic content is relatively minimal, yet these sparse soundtracks are highly emotive, heavy with atmosphere and most inviting. Melancholy acoustic guitar hangs over heaving synthetic pads in melodic calm, whilst in other passages tense string swells ebb and flow in dramatic shadow. Plaintive piano and transmission fragments alternate with string snatches upon a bed of sonic breeze, the crunch of footfalls rises and falls behind days-end glow, faint arpeggios morph across rhythmic electronica. Once the understated beats roll in, the music almost sighs at times with a restrained serenity. Click-ridden scratchy rhythms and soft crackle adorn the more regular beats that drive some of the recordings, some pieces have no beat for the most part or none at all.
Licht und Schatten has an otherworldly quality about it, a sublime soft focus warmth. Most pieces have a gentle solemnity, a wistful nature - that beautiful sadness that tugs at the heart. This sense of quietude, however, is not all pervasive - dark moments, ominous regions have their places. Tiefflug has something of a sci-fi theme - bubbling bassline cycling beneath acidic synth motifs.
Fluid Audio have excelled with the packaging of this special edition EP. The disc comes in a four panel tray presented in a hand stitched fabric sleeve. A full colour poster, badge and an additional surprise (I won't spoil it) are all included in the set. A paper slip enwraps the sleeve bearing the title of the album - everything tasteful and with that feel of something special. This might all be a bit suspect if it weren't for the quality of the music - Fluid are not trying to sucker listeners in by means of package overkill - rather this is a fantastic limited edition item that feels special through and through.
Violinist, pianist, composer and producer Christoph Berg s based in Kiel, Germany and began the Field Rotation project in 2008. This limited edition EP of only 100 signed and numbered copies is the stepping stone for Field Rotation to make the leap from compilation appearances to full length album. The Fluid Audio label anticipates a complete album sometime in 2010 - meanwhile this release whets the appetite for a project that seems set to sit among the front runners of the genre. The digital version of Licht und Schatten holds only four of the seven pieces found on the CD so don't wait - get in quickly and experience the whole thing. You can hear the music on the Fluid Audio website as well as getting a chance to see the presentation of the limited edition if you need to.
This is a quality EP that will appeal to fans of both the electro-neo-classic and minimalist chillout genres. Fans of Deaf Centre, Ultimae, Bersarin Quartett and the likes will love Licht und Schatten. 

Sensitive electronic arrangements with dreamy, classical grace. Nova has collected together an exquisite album where artists new and old deliver a series of understated, elegant compositions touched with a rare melancholy beauty that gradually evolves as the various pieces unfold. Beginning with beatless piano and strings, the opener from Field Rotation sets a high standard. This neo-classical grace is picked up in the next track, enhanced here with electronic touches and faint glitch groove. Further pieces gradually see greater emphasis on beat and structure whilst maintaining the initial delicate sensibility - by track six from Cell the tone has moved more into experimental, downtempo trance, a development maintained by a subsequent series of Ultimae regulars perhaps peaking with the restrained intensity of Asura's Longing For Silence. James Murray concludes the set with Eleven (Decades Mix), a restful airy beat and almost ambient theme.

Imaginary Friends has the mood just right. I have to confess I was hoping initially for more along the lines of the opening tracks (having recently developed an only partially sated hunger for glitchy neo-classical electronica thanks partly to Nova) - yet putting aside my own desires each piece here actually contributes to an unfolding journey of exceptional refinement. The somewhat non-lonely isolationist melancholia that wells up with aching beauty through the first half of the album is complemented well by the exploratory chillout of the latter half. The track Gently, Drown the Scene from Offthesky is a gorgeous passage - solemn, serene and blissfully transporting. Murya also deliver a quality piece with the soft focus melody of Gray Daze - sleepy, lovely and quite enchanting.

Imaginary Friends comes in a three panel digipack of glossy shadow, a sixteen page booklet caught in a neat slot within. The luxurious black borders of this package are lit up alternately with curling flames, cave mouth openings and bright text. Inside geometries of photo images present the peacefulness of solitude in varied guises. A page per track inside the booklet allows for generous pictorial accompaniment - each shot with credits and poetic verse. Thanks are reserved for the final sheet with contact and website details appearing on the back.

Nova has delivered some incredible compilations for Ultimae over recent years. The delightful Albedo back in 2005 setting a very high standard and the online streaming mix Things She Left Behind of equal charm. This current album sees the label's big names Aes Dan, Hol Bauman, Solar Fields, Cell and Asura providing the more groove centred arrangements with rising star James Murray, Murya, Offthesky and Kevin Andrew filling out the more fluid sections. There is a remix of the Rena Jones classic Photosynthesis, Nalepa having retained sufficient thematic material within his repacking whilst almost completely redefining the character of the original. Ultimae promotional material includes Nova's thoughts on the project: "With Imaginary Friends I've wanted to speak about solitude but not seen as alienation, disillusionment or isolationism. Loneliness somehow involves the release of human spirit and the consequent building of a new paradigm. Personal moments, like to plug in a pair of headphones and go for a walk in a park, sitting in a café watching passers by or when writing a poem. Poetry is not a simple form of art, no matter what language is. It requires some skill, a bit of logic, and lots of heart: it's about intensity, like ambient music."

If you enjoy beautiful acoustic-electronic blends with wistful serenity then you could do little better than to go for a Nova mix - Imaginary Friends being a top-notch example. Albedo fans will love this collection - stream the sample here if you need more convincing.

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Mara's Torment - Across For Show
« on: September 18, 2009, 10:32:38 PM »
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.
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.
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.

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.
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.
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.
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. 
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.

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.
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'.
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.
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. 
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.
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...
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 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.
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.
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 ...
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.
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.

Synthetic ambient and meditative chill. Living At A Higher Frequency is a delicate collection of instrumental tracks that range from subtle ambient groove, through drifting downtempo into light dance inspired electronica. Most tracks are built around intriguingly airy programmed beats that edge somewhat toward glitch at times with percussive structures that combine sequential tones and inventive electro-hits. The rhythms are generally restful and serene and woven densely into the music. The melodic forms on the album are understated affairs, yet often these are quite, quite beautiful and inspiring. There is a sparse oriental elegance to much of the music, a poetic restraint and sense of wonder with effective use of sonic texturing, and fragile pads and washes. Far Eastern sounds sometimes arise among the electronic cleanliness with a slightly haunting effect (I'm reminded a little of some of the sounds used on Japan's Tin Drum album). Very contemporary and cinematic yet with just enough of that appealing timelessness that helps a recording to endure.
The mood of this double disc album varies across a range of gentle and quiet downbeat emotions. Some pieces have a warm soporific effect, lulling and inviting with hypnotic, morphing repetitions rolling in in tranquil waves. There are some introspective and cerebral passages where the rhythmic forms drive a little harder, and the patterns take on a more crystalline shape.
Living At A Higher Frequency arrives in a tight digipack with the twin discs neatly folded against one another on two of three panels. The outside of the package panoramas out into a triple spread where the dominant colour is that of the broad white borders - letter-boxed in the centre of each panel is a set of four small images that juxtapose blooms and foliage against the cables, dials and sockets of recording equipment. The back panel presents the tracklist and website details. The inner section has one panel to the left of the CDs themselves where credits and a gear list are laid out as well as a thankyou, a dedication and contact info.
US artist Julio Di Benedetto releases his debut Living At A Higher Frequency as a double album of works recorded over the five year period 2001 to 2006. The twenty two tracks of the album are laid out in chronological order as recorded beginning with the earliest. Disc one and disc two both open with a series of ambient recordings that are followed by more dynamic material on the latter halves of the discs, The music deals with some very personal matters and draws on a range of inspirational sources such as Zen poetry and Tibetan literature. Julio's blog provides a wealth of background and supporting information for anyone wanting to learn more about the music and the official website contains samples and purchasing links.
This is a surprisingly high quality release of tastefully melodic ambient beauty. You might well enjoy this album if you are a fan of French label Ultimae - the clear synth work being sufficiently engaging to listen to on headphones whilst also making for a rather blissful sonic backdrop.

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Morpheus Music Reviews
« on: June 14, 2009, 09:45:54 AM »

This is the first Morpheus Music review posted here at Hypnos - hopefully more to follow.

 Resonant Drift - The Call

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.
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. 
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.
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


Where is the appropriate section for me to post music reviews.
At we review a lot of ambient and electronic albums.
Often artists like me to post their reviews on relevant forums.
Is that ok here - if so where exactly?



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