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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Northcore - Desatero
STYLE
 

September 2012
Downtempo electronica and ambient dance.
Desatero is an album of highly individual, meandering wonder. The music seems very mood focussed, luxuriating in lush, beguiling character ambience. The range of sound sources is impressive: a sprinkling of ethnic instrumentation - whistles, chimes, kalimba, hand drums; various synthetic elements such as swish and hum, liquid twinkles, sequencer patterns, techno effects and bass pulses as well as an intriguing selection of found sounds like footsteps crunching in the snow, birds singing, simulated hospital sounds, city hum from the 19th floor of a Bangkok hotel, various antique time pieces, and scientific recordings of the magnetic fields of Jupiter converted into sound. A number of tracks also feature vocal material, be it in the form of spoken word samples and phrases; morphed electro-speak, international vocalising or understated male and female singing. There are some beat driven tracks such as the psytrance tinted Green Fridge with muted kick and peculiar laboratory vibe. There are pieces with subtle rhythm and texture made up of both percussive instruments and field recorded ephemera. There are tracks where beats almost drop away into the mists and soft focus hazes of the music

 
ARTWORK   Desatero is delivered in an eye-catching card wallet of two sections. The front cover image shows a striking white face painted almost to androgyny, a blood red clutch of berries held in the teeth. Against the pale backdrop the berries and the smudge of red upon the lips burst in vibrant contrast. The rear cover holds a similar picture to the left in a vertical slice; the remainder is ivory white ground and simple fonts, providing track titles and label details. Inside the same pattern is followed with harlequin diamonds framing the same face, gazing across the inner panels. Here are words for the lyrical pieces to the left and credits to the right.
 
OVERALL   

Northcore is a UK based duo comprised of producer, composer, performer Carl Gibbons and composer, performer, lyricist Jana Tillotson. Northcore has built up a solid reputation for live psytrance and techno performance, but here we are introduced to the more contemplative, downtempo nature of the project. Taking the Czech term Desatero, meaning “a set of ten works” - the ten pieces here are very evocative, personal and atmospheric. The album is released via the Spotted Peccary O3E label and can be obtained in a variety of electronic formats as well as CD hard copy. You can listen to the music on the Spotted Peccary website or you can discover more about the band via the Northcore official wordpress page.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Sol Tek - Steps Into Space
STYLE  

September 2012 (Released - December 3/4.12.12)
Spacey ambient with occasional downtempo grooves.
Steps into Space is a far-reaching double album of highly immersive electronic expanses designed in such a way as to lead the listener through a journey to the far reaches of the cosmos. The music is mostly beatless and elevating: dark and obscure intergalactic regions warmed by faintly choral pads or distant shifting colour; weightless, meandering atmospheres given evocative narrative touches through well applied effects and speech samples; arpeggio structures that burble or flicker against sighing washes of tone. That said, there are downtempo passages of lulling beats that provide measured regularity within the vastness of the spreading universe. Both light and velvet darkness arise within the passage of this aural odyssey: for the most part, the tone is one of hypnotic shadow dipping at times into tenebrous depths; yet the darkness is always touched by varying degrees of luminance. Sometimes the subtle ambient textures do little more than tint the emptiness; sometimes amorphous forms glow or gently coruscate; but at times the whole expanse positively beams with heavenly rays.

 
IN DEPTH   The album opens with a ponderous, rubbery bass pattern that steps tentatively across a lustrous ambient void. Astronaut voices, crisp with static, mouth technical matters as a rippling sequencer rhythm opens up - suggestive of motion, synthetic structure or unseen active mechanisms. Track two has a brooding, drifting introduction with a brief section that plays out like overheard music from another place - nostalgic, afar off - a baby's cry pierces the reverie. As the album progresses the sense of an immense journey underway is very powerful: we are awestruck passengers experiencing the wonders of space, at times noting flight details as crew, technical equipment or machinery make their presences felt. The final track of the first disc features a gorgeously soft programmed groove that seems to somehow intensify the cinematic dreaminess of the music to even greater heights - the tinkle of chimes, sonic winds and layered drones rising gradually to the fore as the track ends. The second disc takes the willing traveller further afield, continuing the arcing trajectory of the first - the ship's computer system revealing that "The captain is not on the ship" and "The automatic pilot system is not functional" - so we are adrift. Indeed the sense of floating thickens; the soundtrack soporific, inspirational, wide and open. Some delightful moments of sleepy beauty here turn the eye inward as astronauts blur into psychonauts.
 
ARTWORK  

Steps Into Space is a double digipack release featuring an eight-page booklet which of accordion style. To the fore is a gleaming multi-faceted, many coloured 'Camera Painting' - intriguingly spacey and attractive to the eye. Titles are all together on the rear and external artwork presents a dedication and thanks. Apart from the front cover, imagery luxuriates within a smooth, eternal black field displaying the luminescent 'Camera Painting's of Masashi Kitazato to best effect. These images are photographs taken through a mysterious transparent polyhedron object that has a holographic structure. Track titles for disc one and disc two have their own panels inside the booklet, little kaleidoscopic jewels of colour alongside, but the greater part of the booklet is given over to the mesmerising visuals.

 
OVERALL   

Sol Tek delivers his latest twin disc album via the independent UK Electronic Soundscapes label. Originating from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Albert Borkent is a seasoned musician with over two decades' experience - a fact evident in the excellent production quality of Steps Into Space. Previous Sol Tek albums Lightscapes I and II as well as a pair of EPs also came via Electronic Soundscapes, but assuming other musical guises over the years such as Lingua Lustra or Dodecahedron, or with collaborative projects Albert has appeared on numerous other labels: Practising Nature, Databloem, Speedsound Records, Baksish Music and Spiritech music. Here we have a total of sixteen recordings that range in length from the brief two-minute-fifty-three-second disc two opener Calisto through to the The Light Pours Out Of Us at just over thirteen minutes. Steps Into Space can be discovered on release via the Electronic Soundscapes Bandcamp page or the Electronic Soundscapes portal where purchase and download information will accompany further background details.

 
ARTIST'S THOUGHTS  

Sol Tek_______
Sol Tek aka Sol is the brainchild of Albert Borkent, ambient and experimental musician from Amsterdam. From early age on he was fascinated by the sounds of electronic music, playing records from Tangerine Dream, Giorgio Moroder and so on. When young, a television series that impressed him most was Star Trek, so, electronics and sci-fi were always around. Being an enthusiastic record collector he closely followed the evolution of synthesizer music, and the use of synths in general. As ambient house was born in the early 90's and ambient music became widespread, Al knew this was his style for life. 2006 marked the launch and release of his other project Lingua Lustra, with two albums on Practising Nature. A string of releases followed, on Spherical Records, Databloem Records, Bakshish Music, Silent Flow and many self released albums on Spiritech Records, the label he runs together with Blue Bliss. In 2009 Albert gets in touch with Arash Atman from Electronic Soundscapes, the start of a long standing cooperation. Sol's Astroman is first released, later Sol Tek - Satellites and Lightscapes I & II follow. The Sol Tek sound can best be described as very futuristic, but also melodic, harmonic and delicate. Magnum opus is the double cd album Steps Into Space to be released december 2012.

About Steps Into Space______________________
The epic seven part opening track The Path features arpeggio interlaced synth washes, slow beats and deep atmospheres. Suspended into space, floating through the cosmos, this is a journey out there. As this double album enfolds different aspects of space travel are put into sound, the fantasy, the reality, the mystical and human side of this grand adventure.On reaching destination the listener is touching down on a monument for space exploration.

 
VIDEO  

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Longing For Orpheus - Somnia
STYLE
 
October 2012
Female vocals and downtempo electronica in the vein of Blue Stone, Sleepthief and Delerium.
Somnia sees Longing For Orpheus reach new heights in the pursuit of ethereal beauty and sensual grace. The increased involvement of singers adds a greater passion, feminine elegance and sublime dreaminess to the music this time. Rebecca Smootz, Lisa Alexander, Heather McCrocklin, Meredith Ruduski, Karlyn McKutchan and Michelle Haché provide some highly emotive performances, amply demonstrating the lush compatibility of the female voice and well-programmed synthetics. Project master Derek Smootz also takes up singing on a couple of tracks showing him to be man of diverse skills. The programming and playing here has a gorgeous twilight richness to it: tracks like Then and Ghost delivering the kind of enigmatic nocturne that fans of this kind of music will find irresistible. Down-tempo electronic grooves drenched in reverb and punctuated with unusual percussive matter call to mind the more inventive beats of Amethystium. Melodic material is often subtle, yet keening strings (courtesy of violinist Virginia Davis), meandering piano lines and thick flutes along with silky synth layers provide plenty to hold the attention.
 
IN DEPTH  

The album opens with a breezy synthetic texture and crepuscular twinkle of chimes and piano. Soon the liquid clear voice of Rebecca Smootz weaves in multiple layers through the night air in a style somewhere between Celtic and operatic - the perfect soundtrack to a Pre-Raphaelite fairy-tale fantasy epic. Subsequent tracks maintain this tone of lush mythic passion - earthy and firmly rooted in the moss, leaves and branches of the woodlands on the one hand; climbing to heavenly heights of brooding cloud and moonshine on the other. The percussive side of Longing For Orpheus really complements the dreamy instrumentation and haunting/soaring voices: Smootz combines tight electronic kicks, soft crunchy hits, glitchy touches, light hats and taps into patterns of drowsy languor and tranquil reverie. A stand out track for me is the blurry, slow motion Then with Heather McCrocklin's plaintive vocal set deep within the mix as if carried from afar - a deliciously distorted digital beat cracking the reverberating washes and vibes. By way of contrast The Walk has a clear day pop optimism: mid tempo beat, blissful arpeggios and strong chorus hook. Somnia concludes with Ivory Towers - here the bpm drop down low again and the heart tugging sense of yearning wells up strongly ... memorable, catchy, very beautiful.

 
ARTWORK   Longing For Orpheus clearly has ambitious vision for Somnia visually as well as sonically. The cover art by Consuello Parra is delightfully suited to the music - very cinematic and brimming with dark fantasy associations. A lone lady draped in flowing white stands before a dark lake, the beautiful outlines of leafless trees black against a lustrous, grey night sky. Twinkling like myriad stars a rain of floating seeds drift all around the central figure. The back cover provides track titles upon a backdrop of a timelapse starscape, the arcing tracks rolling into endless concentric circles. The flip side of the single panel insert lists singers and performers against each track, other credits below - a single seed, its delicate filaments lit in chiaroscuro style sits in darkness.
 
OVERALL    The third full-length release from Longing For Orpheus sees this project really soaring. Having begun back in 2003, almost a decade of musical development and well planned collaboration has resulted in a most powerful release. Operatic and classically trained singers bring a depth of emotion previously hinted at - soporific wistfulness, ecstatic elation, melancholy reverie. The eleven songs are well arranged and delivered in tight unity making for a consistently pleasing listening experience. You can find the album at CD Baby or you can explore the music and other albums from Longing For Orpheus at the project's Bandcamp site. If you enjoy Balligomingo, Achillea or any of the other artists refered to in this review, then you will likely not be disappointed by this rising contender in the genre.
 
ARTIST'S THOUGHTS   While I’m not at all unhappy with the previous Longing for Orpheus albums, I think Somnia represents what I’ve really wanted to create the whole time I’ve been writing music. It’s true that music is its own language, and a very unique one in that it can communicate emotions directly and purely, and with a tremendous range of subtlety and complexity. But, for all that, it’s very limited in that you it can’t communicate any of the real, material concepts that spoken language can. The magical thing about songs is that you can speak in two languages at once, and rather than clashing and confusing the listener (as would any two spoken languages), they complement each other, and end up saying more than either individually. I hope that you’ll find something human, and something beautiful in the stories, both emotional and narrative, that have been intertwined on this album.
 
AUDIO  

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Dan Pound - Return To Other Worlds
STYLE
 

October 2012
Ambient and ambient groove retrospective.
Return To Other Worlds by definition presents the full range of beguiling ambient styles employed by Dan Pound over the past decade: there are dreamy tribal environments flowing with silken smoothness among ethnic voices and lazy, padding drum tracks; up-tempo compositions where bright electronica burbles upon throaty didgeridoo drones; serene new-age piano melodies that tinkle against a rich worldbeat and distant chants.
Disc one opens with a twilight wilderness atmosphere where boiling synthetic textures roll in layers upon nature noises and shifting shakers - deep sonorous drum booms and breathy flute bursts punctuate the heavy air. Stick and hand drumming fuse with electro-beats driving the music through three pieces taken from Other Worlds. Return is next explored, with global flavours increasing in presence both though percussion and instrumentation - clanging bells and chimes reverberate against a heady cloud of synthetic sound; again three tracks. Door Beyond Time provides another trio of pieces that allow the darkness to thicken increasingly toward the title track of Return and Last Wave seeing the disc conclude with an uneasy feeling - strange impacts cracking amid a restless stick-driven rhythm.
The second CD opens with wandering harp and dramatic piano - a murmuring voice beckoning a Middle-eastern influenced beat. Beautiful synth washes and dynamic drumming open the panoramic vision wide, drifting drones and lilting harmonies at times carrying the listener skyward. Here are excerpts from Heart's Core, Horizon, Door Beyond Time, Return and In A Hummingbird's Dream - not grouped according to source as on the first disc, but laid out as a journey of unfolding wonder.

 
ARTWORK   Return To Other Worlds comes in a jewel case with single sheet insert. Swirling hues of deep yellow, orange and buff crawl around a dark hole on the front cover. The rear sheet presents all twenty two track titles along with running times and original album details. Inside is an account of Dan's musical background that explains the development of this release from musical origins through to what the future holds.
 
OVERALL   


Return To Other Worlds sees ambient artist Dan Pound looking backwards toward five previous albums that were originally recorded between 2004 and 2006. Remastered and remixed into a fluid whole, these carefully selected pieces provide the perfect introduction to Dan's music on the one hand or an enjoyable escorted journey through the archives for those already familiar with his work. In addition since all of the tracks from Door Beyond Time are included here - we have a complete remaster of that album. This project sprawls across two discs and twenty two recordings allowing us to get a feel for the period that Dan currently refers to as Pound Sounds. A visit to the official website will allow those interested to listen to the various pieces selected for Return To Other Worlds as well as discover other reeases from this prolific musician.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Atrium Carceri - Reliquiae
STYLE
 

November 2012
Dark ambient and brooding dronescapes.
Atruim Carceri delivers a very well crafted album of 'dark' ambient and downtempo music that can work on various levels - for me a bleak science fiction vision of eroding futures seems most pervasive. Infused with evocative atmospheric recordings of disquieting spaces and obscure presences, the initial impression is one of crawling shadow and futuristic/ancient depth. That said the sparse melodic content of Relquiae can be quite beautiful - indeed all the more so in juxtaposition with such looming obfuscation: Unveiled sees a restrained piano express a plaintive theme upon a bed of crackling glitches, low synth tones and muted thuds. Much of the album though wanders through more dimly lit passages where dull footfalls, peculiar disturbances and grumbling voices inhabit the gloom. Subtle rhythms and bass pulses drive Knowledge of the Few; vast empty booms contrast the distorted male speaker of Injection; the clash and strain of arcane machinery of Recovering Fragments struggles around smooth pads and the hush of moving air.

 
ARTWORK   The download of Reliquiae comes with an eight-page HD digibooklet of suitably tenebrous artwork. Shades of black - well greys really, but they behave as blacks - cover each page corner to corner. Rich textures and partially obscured images appear to be graven into aged walls or floors, older material appearing beneath eroding surfaces, refusing to crumble and fade completely. The front cover touches familiarity with carvings from lost American civilizations emerging faintly from darkness. Subsequent pages suggest complex tiling arrangements where light reflections lift black designs into relief; poetic reflections on chaos, existence and control fill two of the panels providing concept material for those wanting accompaniment on their exploration.
 
OVERALL   

Reliquiae is Simon Heath's seventh album in his guise as Atrium Carceri, a project that he has been developing since around 2003. Simon also explores a number of other sonic personalities including Krusseldorf, Za Frûmi, Abnocto, Couchlock, Alembic, Sojobo, Dorf Unit, Preponderance and Knaprika. This release is a download album of nineteen comparatively short tracks in a choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or "just about any other format you could possibly desire". Most of the pieces clock in at around the four minute mark and can be sampled at the project's Bandcamp page. Further reviews are posted on the official Atrium Carceri website.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Connect.Ohm - [9980]
STYLE
 

November 2012
Ambient downtempo.
This collaborative album from the composers behind Cell and Hybrid Leisureland does very much what you would hope for from such a project: two powerful sonic personalities with much in common building upon the musical vision of one another. The structures here are both robust and delicate. Strong melodic forms - sometimes amassing into downtempo rhythmic deliberation - carefully constructed, build and cycle, creating gathering familiarity in the mind. Intricate details emerge, often in tantalisingly brief flashes of beauty, catching the mind's eye, holding the interest - the gorgeously plaintive piano toward the end of Snow Park; the tiny glitch-clicks that fleck 9980. The beats are excellent: ranging from fragile, semi-crystallised constructs that barely solidify and then melt, through sequencer or bass-pulse patterns to full-on driving electro-grooves - yet never falling into rhythmic cliché and always at a pleasingly leisurely pace. The distinct natures of the players meld and entwine flawlessly, each occasionally moving to the fore and revealing their signature sounds in a perfectly choreographed slow-motion dance. One special benefit of this coming together is the enriched sound palette employed - although drawn upon with tasteful restraint, the range of instrumentation is broad and luxuriant.

 
ARTWORK   [9980] is a three section digipack presentation with sixteen-page booklet and matching postcards - very beautiful, as is true of pretty much everything the talented Ultimae designers put their hands to. The outer panorama holds a dimension-bending montage of skies and mirroring windows in the most colourful of subdued greys - fading from gun-metal blue grey through to a faint bronze tint. Simple track titles are on the rear and are expanded upon inside the booklet. The inner spread picks up on the bronze of the outer cover placing interconnected skyscraper facades into illusory juxtaposition. Technical details and label information are scattered across the package such that they barely disturb the imagery. As is usual with many Ultimae releases, the booklet, tucked into the end of one panel, contains a page for each track of the album - attractive urban abstracts in hues matching the cover. Toward the end is a portrait of each artist followed by a simple block of thanks.
 
OVERALL   

Connect.Ohm [ 9980 ] is a collaborative release featuring the combined talents of Hybrid Leisureland (Hidetoshi Koizumi) and Cell (Alexandre Scheffer) based respectively in Tokyo and Paris. Promotional material explains: "The composers discovered each other's work through solo albums previously released on Ultimae, and on a brief meeting in Paris in 2011 decided to blend their worlds of sounds and textures." The album contains nine tracks of a sonic standard second to none - yes you can put this music on in the background to create an atmosphere of tranquillity wherever you might choose - but attentive listening, giving yourself over to the music is even more rewarding. Explore the tracks at the Ultimae presentation page or have a look at the preview video.

 
VIDEO