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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 


 

 ----------Unified Past - Shifting The Equilibrium
STYLE
 

January 2016
Powerful progressive rock.
Shifting The Equilibrium is a sharp, tight album of gutsy tracks delivered with bright, dynamism and impressive technical mastery. At their best on the longest of tracks when the band break most strikingly into the arrangements with structural variations and acoustic interludes; Unified Past combine heavy riffs, symphonic synths and a huge, confident, driving rhythm section. Although there are solo sections, the band for the most part plays as an intertwined whole: fast guitar licks, deft keyboard fingerwork and heaving bass layering into a dense, vibrant tapestry. There is one instrumental - Deviation From A Theme (Of Harmonic Origin) - among the songs, an evolving piece of appealing character where the guitar work really shines. Otherwise Phil Naro's sinewy vocals cut distinctively through the mix despite the intensity of the instrumentation: commanding and vital; energetic and certain. Time signatures and rhythms shift so effortlessly that it's easy to miss just how much is going in with some of the pieces here, drawing on the whole range of the progressive genre from its inception nearly fifty years back. There is a clear sense of musical quality to Shifting The Equilibrium that rewards headphone listening and full attention.

 
ARTWORK   A glossy digipack holds Shifting The Equilibrium; alive with complex detail and colourful imagery. A muscle-map figure kneels on the front cover astride a skull carving surrounded by a dizzying tangle of synthetic/organic interconnections. Opening out into three sections, the rear cover presents track titles beneath the gaze of a dusky monochrome close-up of the cover figure. A band portrait fills the third outer panel and a broad fiery panorama extend across the inside spread. Brief credits are here as well as website details and contact information. Pleasingly, a twelve-page booklet is tucked into one end of the sleeve packed with lyrics, individual portraits and generous thanks.
 
OVERALL   

Unified Past deliver Shifting the Equilibrium as their seventh release, having been around in different guises since the early nineties. As with the last couple of albums, the band work here with Melodic Revolution Records, but the addition of Phil Naro appears to have opened some interesting new sonic vistas for guitarist/keyboardist Stephen Speelman, bassist Dave Mickelson and drummer Victor Tassone. The six recordings are all mid-length, from around eight minutes to around twelve allowing the quartet plenty of room for manoeuvre and experimentation. You can sample the album via the MMR Bandcamp page for the release or you might want to view some of the videos found on the official Unified Past website where you can also find links to follow relevant news outlets.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 


 

 ----------Aes Dana feat. Miktek - Far & Off
STYLE
 
March 2016
Downtempo and ambient breaks.
Spacious, airy and expansive - Far & Off presents a beautifully realised sonic escape from the information-saturated intensity of modern life. With a technical excellence that is simply stunning, Far & Off manages to sound so contemporary that it feels almost like listening in to the future. What is interesting about this, is that this in no way conflicts with the artists' reflections recorded in the promotional material: "To be on my own, far, in another context, without technology, an act of protection. Taste real solitude, a state in which no one else exists; cross the line, change rhythm and feel the passing of time." The tranquillity and introspective nature of the music is prominent: deep pads, drifting haze and subtle undercurrents transporting the listener far and off. Rhythmic content is crystalline, glitch-clear and flickering into drum and bass territory, intense and booming beneath, almost sombre at times.
 
ARTWORK   Far & Off feels like a piece of fine art; matt card and monochrome, delightfully visual and tactile. Panoramic imagery sprawls across both outside and inner three-panel spreads; mist-obscured scenery, lonely and inspiring. Track titles are on the rear section and repeated inside the front of the sixteen-page booklet that is neatly tucked into one end of the sleeve. An explanation of inspiration for the music is laid out on page three whilst thanks and credits are to be found on page fourteen. The rest of the booklet is given over to text-free imagery: abstracts, close-ups, fog-scenes all in glorious black and white.
 
OVERALL    Ten tracks from three vinyl EPs and digital releases are brought together in Far & Off: Cut, Alkaline and The Unexpected Hours. That said, the music flows as if composed always for this unified collection, Aes Dana and Miktek proving perfect partners in this exploration of 'contrasted tales'. The tracks have running times ranging from just under six minutes to around eleven and a half allowing for gradual, unhurried progressions, developments of beats and dissipational interludes. If you know either Ultimae or the artists collaborating here - you will know already the kind of cutting edge product to expect, but Far & Off sits right at the apex of the label's output. If you want something edgy to float away to, something to spark your meditation or something to inspire your contemplation of an alternate future - you couldn't do better. Have a listen at the Ultimae website or catch the Youtube video for Far & Off.
 
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 


 

 ----------Fictioncity - The Shell
STYLE
 

April 2016
Ambient chillout, downtempo and gutsy electronica.
A genuine genre-spanning release, The Shell is a fascinating album of engrossing sound that really does hold the attention well and delivers a highly evocative listening experience throughout. At times deeply chilled with lush IDM sensibilities, at others distantly reminiscent of Enigma (no doubt enhanced by the presence of Enigma guitarist Jens Gad), darkly adventurous, brooding and experimental in places, touches of Blade Runner sci-fi melancholia. Fictioncity has done a great job of maintaining a consistent glitchy, downtempo cool whilst including plenty of melodic hooks and highlights and at the same time infusing the music with an uneasy futuristic edge. Cat purrs, calls of gulls, distantly choral voices, waves of the sea, fireworks, wordless female vocalisations, baby cries - the range of sound is broad and adventurous, yet deftly mixed and well-placed in the sonic narrative. The digital bonus track Alive and Shameless has an almost Mediterranean summer vibe to it with languid acoustic guitar, chilled groove and ocean waves, yet this apparent tranquillity is pleasingly undermined with hints of trademark Fictioncity disquiet and shadow.

 
ARTWORK   I haven't seen the CD package of this release and so can only comment on the rather vivid cover art seen above left: a glistening, veined heart with protruding tubes is grafted onto a jagged purple shell. The background is black, a cool curving font spelling out the album title in white.
 
OVERALL   

The Shell is billed as the first LP record from Fictioncity (an EP entitled Nova was reviewed at Morpheus Music back in April 2011). This release is delivered via Ireland's Psychonavigation Records label. Siberian-born Fictioncity talks of the music having "Pink Floyd's or King Crimson's concepts ... put through the prism of contemporary electronic sound". There are contributions from Jovana Djordjevic - voice, Dan Hawkins - bass, Jens Gad guitar and Denis Sedovich of Caravan - guitar vibe. When you add to this the mastering skill of Huby Sea, you get an idea of the kind of high quality product to expect. I'd thoroughly recommend listening to the music via the Bandcamp page for this release, there you can purchase a physical CD or various download options.

 
AUDIO  
 
ARTISTS' THOUGHTS   After 13 years of making music here and there, I decided to sum it all up in these 57 minutes of music. The majority of industry people would probably classify The Shell as downtempo ambient sound with some solid inclusions of IDM and a more than tolerant attitude to live instruments. I'll bow to them with respect and answer that I really did my best at emulating 70s psychedelic art rock or 90s new age musical matters with the means of 2010s electronic music. It's like Pink Floyd's or King Crimson's concepts being put through the prism of contemporary electronic sound - technically, that was the idea. But I believe that the most important thing and the purest goal one can ever achieve by creating a piece of music is another introvert teenager dreaming in his headphones before he falls asleep. Well, not necessarily a teenager - unfortunately, one could hardly identify me as a young man already, but I still visit the Wonderland.
I've tried to create these imaginary surrealistic music worlds of my own - all for you to travel through. I want to tell you a story, I want to speak to you through the music. I hope you like what you hear.
I also want to give a credit to all the people who contributed to "The Shell" and without whom it just wouldn't be the Wonderland I intended it to be. I thank Jovana Djordjevic for her spectacular voice, and Dan Hawkins for his incredible live bass, and surely Jens Gad of Enigma for this guitar magic,and Denis Sedovich of Caravan, for his godlike classic guitar vibe. And to Huby Sea for his out-of-this-planet mastering skills and naturally SETI ears:) And finally, thanks to Keith Downey of Psychonavigation Records for making it possible for me to speak.
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 


 

 ----------Amory Stephenson - First Autumn
STYLE
 

August 2016
Ambient, experimental post-rock.
First Autumn is a subtle EP of fleetingly delicate pieces that are both easy to listen to and rather brooding at the same time. Cloudy drone textures and warm, effected guitar patterns combine into dreamy, nostalgic vignettes that never outstay their welcome. Beds of oceanic hiss and sonic fog are imbued with faint percussive layers and field recordings. The guitars that generally take centre stage are deftly fingered: loose, fractured strums; heavily effected echoing patterns reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins; languid, hesitant arpeggios and the intimate sounds of deliberate finger movement. Considering that an acoustic guitar was used as source material for much of the melodic content - there is a surprising depth and variety to the sound. There is a deep emotional aspect to First Autumn that often calls to mind a melancholy weightless drifting; a submerged meandering in pools of subdued light; a dusty, barely-recalled distant memory...

 
ARTWORK   The cover art for First Autumn is a beautifully understated monochrome image that could well be a processed photograph or could even be a charcoal sketch. Tastefully ambiguous in nature and content, the image could be read in a number of ways so that the eye gradually moves from trying to decode the forms to exploration of the textures and patterns. This well suits the music and encourages a similar approach to listening. On a flat cream ground, no text or unnecessary clutter distracts from the image - simple, profound.
 
OVERALL   

Quinn Wilson is a nineteen year-old college student from St. Louis, Missouri with a decade of experience playing piano and guitar. Forming Amory Stephenson as a solo project in early 2016 he released First Autumn EP in the summer as a debut. There are seven pieces to the collection most hovering about the one or two minute mark, but ranging also from the thirty-two second opener Open Intro to the six-minute sixteen-second Outlines For A Tomb. That said, a pleasing sense of fleeting brevity is maintained throughout as the longest piece is structured so as to move through several distinct phases in its passage. The EP can be found at the Amory Stephenson Bandcamp page or on Soundcloud where you can listen to the whole set and purchase tracks as you see fit.

 
AUDIO  
 
ARTISTS' THOUGHTS   I began recording Ambient music under the name of Amory Stephenson at the beginning of 2016 as an experiment and as the year progressed on so did the music I was curating. I have garnered inspiration from various different genres of music outside of the realm of just Ambient and Experimental music through genres such as Psychedelic Rock, Hip-Hop and Neo-Soul music. After it being the first song I ever recorded, I released "Descent into Madness" in February on SoundCloud and it had a very positive reception so I decided to keep exploring what different unique sounds I could create. With each song release having a different ambiance to it with tracks like "Rifts in the Cloud" and "Fleeing Dimension" I made the decision I was going to put it all on a project. I finished recording my first EP "First Autumn" while in Florida in early June 2016 with the tracks "The Love Song (Interlude)" and "Outlines for a Tomb." The latter track above as well as "Open Intro" feature recordings I took of the sounds of the ocean at night with my microphone while on the Gulf Coast. Every track on this project, excluding "Fleeing Dimension," was done with my acoustic guitar and my different recording softwares on my laptop. I am currently in the works right now of putting together another short project of songs I recorded over the summer using different recording styles, guitars and sounds. The project will be entitled "Summer Tracks EP" and will come out at the end of September.
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 


 

 ----------Martin Nonstatic - Nebulae Live at the Planetarium
STYLE
 

September 2016
Ambient, downtempo electronica.
Nebulae live rises out of darkness into shimmering light; glitch-flecked electronica and rich sonic range. The crystalline clarity of high end effects and the deep, deep throb and hum of the bass brackets the melodic and ambient elements beautifully. Everything is sparklingly sharp with no suggestion of any loss of quality for having been recorded live. This is an album of subtle melodic content in the form of airy pads, understated arpeggiations and discrete tonal touches. Beats gather periodically: sometimes light flickering affairs underhung with blunt bass booms; in other places thud-driven rhythms with minimal hi-hat or click accompaniment come to the fore. There are regions of steady rhythmic regularity, but even in these places, the impression is one of spaciousness and deep expanse. Occasional hints of human voice arise, electronically altered to the point of sounding almost synthetic; guitar notes float in reverb familiar as plucked strings but given a pleasing electronic breadth; other sound sources are less easily discerned - middle-eastern flute, water movement, static and sleet...

 
ARTWORK   The Nebulae Live package is a two-panel, matt-finish card digipack that has a gorgeous tactile quality. On the front cover a rough rock-form is suspended in space, lit with a raking light that throws much into lush shadow. The rear cover presents the track titles and a little recording information. Within credits and a gloom-enshrouded picture of the artist are to the left, the disc to the right imprinted with another strong rock form. Removing the disc reveals a circular panorama curled into the curve of the plastic grip - a lone figure appears to stoop before a lunar craft examining the lunar surface.
 
OVERALL   

Born in the Netherlands, Martin Nonstatic transferred to Cologne, Germany as a child where he developed an interest in synthetic and manipulated sound. Building a repertoire of live music ranging from ambient to techno he began to focus on studio work around 2009 and released the results via such labels as Bine Music, Silent Season, Dewtone, Ultimae and Sub.spiele. Now resident in Austria end Martin finds inspiration in beautiful and peaceful landscapes. The Nebulae live session took place in February 2016 at the Zeiss Planetarium in Bochum, Germany as a "brand new work to introduce a spaced out exploration of his Granite album".
Ultimae promotional material explains that "all tracks were fully reworked to create a vaster atmosphere to fill the dome. You'll recognise the spirit, the story is something else!" If you'd like to know more about the project, you can satisfy your curiosity at the Bandcamp page for the project or you can visit the Ultimae label site where you will find other releases by the artist as well as additional background details.

 
AUDIO
 
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 


 

 ----------Bruno Sanfilippo - Piano Textures 4
STYLE
 
December 2016
Contemporary post-classical.
Bruno Sanfilippo reaches new levels of evocative communion with this fresh suite of aptly named 'piano textures'. Establishing a blissful space between the timeless and the exquisitely contemporary, these pieces float among reverberating clouds, hang against sparse electronic patterns or simply surround the listener with incredibly up-close intimacy. The piano naturally holds centre stage in each piece, Sanfilippo masterfully managing to maintain a wistful soft-focus consistency whilst delivering delightful variety of approach. Some tracks are subtly melodic, beautifully fragile, delicate; others are deeply expressive, impressionist mood pieces. Field recordings and electronic atmospheres, for the most part sit back in the mix, understated, inconspicuous - one or two tracks though bring bright flourishes, string swells or dull bass booms to the fore. Piano texture IV is recorded with a pleasing vintage feel that recalls old black and white films of the early twentieth century; piece IV wells up into heaving climatic swells of emotion; track I feels like something from the ambient end of a downtempo, chill album with its low percolating bass burble and occasional glitchy flecks.
 
ARTWORK   Tastefully packaged in a two-panel digipack, Piano Textures 4 matches the musical grace, dreaminess and timeless-modernism with simple, near monochrome imagery. An elegant, tightly cropped mini-skirted figure appears to drift amid urban hued mist. The album title is framed against the girl's legs in a small turquoise box - sharp and tight. The rear panel echoes the image of the model, this time full length, lace draped-arms flung high like angel wings. Track titles are listed here, again simple: I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX. Within, the upper half of the cover figure fills the left section with brief recording details and credits above.
 
OVERALL   

Bruno Sanfilippo builds further upon his excellent catalogue of Piano Textures with the fourth in the series Piano Textures 4. Released, as usual, via the artist's own AD21 label nine new recordings showcase what really are some exceptional compositional and performance skills. The music can be explored via the Bruno Sanfilippo bandcamp page and of course Brunosanfilippo.com where there are a range of listening and purchase options. As well as the current release a limited edition of signed and numbered collector’s items can be found containing the four Digipack CDs for Piano Textures 1, 2, 3, 4 plus postcards and download codes.