rik maclean has posted an extensive review of Sounds of a Universe Overheard
on his ping things
and he's OKed me cutting and pasting it here...
With the release of "Sounds of a Universe Overheard", the well respected Hypnos label has put together an excellent collection of work representing some of the brightest talents in the contemporary ambient music scene. Drawing from a variety of styles and tones, it's a fine compilation offering some valuable insight into not only the Hypnos label, but the ambient scene as a whole.
"The Language of Rocks" by Jonathan Block opens the disc, a lightly melodic track where pads and sounds bend back and forth. There's an elastic feel to some of the tones in use here, a feeling of stretched notes and elongated sounds that pull against each other to create a fascinating study in tension and texture. A wonderful way to start the disc.
"Somna" by M. Peck is up next, beginning with a dripping cave-like environment where tones shift throughout the soundfield, phasing in and out within a well-crafted atmosphere. The space is really well defined here, an area clearly established by the use of carefully placed tones throughout. As the track continues new sounds are added, keening drones, backwards loops, a variety of others, all of which contribute to the environment, effectively and expertly shifting it to new spaces and locations for the listener to discover.
Freq. Magnet's contribution, "Nitrous", is a beautiful drone-based piece where sounds ebb and flow throughout. There's a hint of melody just on the edges of the track that make it a really intriguing piece for me, giving me something that I can wonder and speculate about as it plays. There's also a brightness to this work, a light that permeates the sound to create something hopeful and optimistic, something that sounds to me like being born. Don't ask me why, I can't put my finger on it, but there's something about it that suggests possibility and newness and warmth. Certainly a lovely track, whatever you might hear in it.
"Scarecrow" by Kirk Watson follows, featuring a slow opening that builds from silence to reveal a vibrant soundscape where languid pads weave through more abstract sounds. A sense of slow drift plays throughout the piece, a feeling of movement in a defined space suggesting a planet's rotation. It all contributes to a very space-y vibe in this track, a really nice sensation of floating amongst the stars.
"Ghost Nebula" follows, a dark and hallucinatory track from dreamSTATE, a piece of music that begs to be heard with your eyes closed so you can give yourself over to it's visual nature. I've always felt their work is very cinematic, very rich in mental imagery and this track is no different. Pads blend with each other in a seamless mix to create a web of sounds, rising and falling within it's own space. Listening to it, I'm filled with images of solar systems and nebulae, the sounds of stars being born and dying. Certainly a wonderful piece of music from two of my favorite ambient artists.
"Strange Attractor" by Seren Ffordd is a dark and haunting piece, very subtle and mysterious. Sounds play on the edge of the senses, deep down where you have to listen a little more actively to hear them. And I appreciate that effort required as it allows me to pick up on the nuance of the track. It's a piece of music that requires examination and thought, rather than one that can be heard as a personal experience. As you listen to the track, sounds become more distinct, more focussed as it progresses, until you find yourself surrounded by what's happening. Quite an engaging piece, one that particularly stands out for me.
Dwight Ashley's "Behold the Trampled Wheat" begins with a quiet drone that intertwines in and around itself with subtle melodic work. As the track progresses the drone begins to oscillate, creating a new sense of almost oblique movement to the piece. The drone is paired throughout with minimal melodic work, leading up to the last minute of the track where a string section plays a mournful tune. Lovely work.
"Infection" by Justin Vanderberg has a ghostly sound to it, tones and pads in the upper register creating a mournful feeling to the track. A variety of haunted sounds blend in, fluid and crinkly, that fly through the soundfield from one side to the other. There's an effective use of space in this track, resulting in a very nice sound that really appeals to me.
"Pandora" by Igneous Flame is up next, a beautiful piece that blends drones and nicely organic pad sounds. Another bright and hopeful track that I quite enjoy, something more akin to the sound of natural earth scenes than something from beyond the stars. I imagine waterfalls and blue skies, soaring eagles and the promise of a wide open space. Excellent work that brings to mind the majesty and beauty of the Grand Canyon. Another track that stands out for me.
"Float" by Tau Ceti finishes the disc, a slowly moving melodic piece where pads stretch out and elongate, creating a beautiful tapestry of sound. The whole effect is wonderful and inspiring and I imagine I could drift in it's beauty for considerably longer than it's 5:37 length. A lovely piece of music.
The release of "Sounds of a Universe Overheard" confirms my belief in Hypnos as a musical leader, and also provides an excellent insight into the sounds and ideals that represent the ambient genre today. It should come as no surprise then that this is a disc that has been in constant rotation on my CD player for some time. An excellent collection from Hypnos that is sure to be appreciated by both new fans of the genre, and older fans who like to discover new sounds. Highly recommended.
rik - ping things