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."
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM
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.