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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Flooting Grooves - Upsyde Downe
STYLE   Downtempo trippy, chillout with some imaginative organic performances on flute and other instruments. The album opens with some beautifully atmospheric flute lines and echoing exotic percussion - breathy phrases curl and breeze through the air. The album delivers a well balanced fusion of electronic programming and organic instrumentation. The drums often have a 'live' sound to them, embellished with a variety of ethnic and synthetic layers. There is plenty of repetition employed in the track structures, brief motifs and arpeggios rolling in hypnotic revolutions - the emphasis often on rhythm and mood rather than melody. Abundant use of sharp effects creates a depth and sense of distance, the occasional spoken voice sample meandering between tracks, introducing what is to come. Most tracks interfade creating a fluid listening experience from start to finish.
   
MOOD   Upsyde Downe delivers a busy series of psychedelic aural environments where the quality or nature of the sound is of equal importance with any tunes being unfolded - the lush multilayered tracks are dripping with detail, surrounding the listener, mesmerising and beguiling. There is an underlying global thread taken up by instruments such as the didgeridoo and ethnic percussives - but also the electronica itself has an exotic nature to it, unusual voices and tribal patterns thickening the spell.
 
ARTWORK   The artwork here is firstly hand drawn, but with some additional graphic manipulation. Complex figures, delicately patterned with a style in places not unlike traditional Aboriginal art, swirling backgrounds and informal fonts combine to form images of mystical gardens and arcane forests. The CD is presented in a jewelcase with a two panel foldout sleeve - inside are credits and a page of thanks acknowledging, among others, Miles Davis, Ian Anderson and The Grateful Dead.
   
OVERALL   

Coming via Switzerland's Peak Records (renowned for quality psychedelic trance and psychedelic chill releases) Upsyde Downe is Flooting Grooves debut CD. The man behind the project is actually Pearce Van Der Merwe, born in Cape Town and having grown up in South Africa and Italy. Building on an early interest in seventies psychedelic music Pearce connected with musicians Dan Symons (a.k.a Dymons) and Ajja Leu (one half of Yab Yum) who both contribute to Upsyde Downe. He is also a part of The Peaking Goddess Collective (PGC): the organic chill and psy trance band formed in 2003 by Ajja, Dymons & Master Margherita, which combines laptops and synths with live instruments: Flute, Guitar, percussion, Bass & Fx. The label describes the music as "ethnic-ambient-groovy-downtempo-psy-progressive-cyber-chill-floaty-flooty" and this is as good a summary as anything.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   If you enjoy downtempo or midtempo psychedelic chill with tribal atmospheres and organic performance - Flooting Grooves is a cut above the average for the genre. Deep, colourful music with emotive flutes - this is an album for headphones or for flinging your arms up and moving.
 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------V/A - Hiro
STYLE   Quirky electronic instrumentals from a variety of Japanese experimental artists. Abstract, digital themes are set here against glitchy, fragmented beats full of grit and computer generated noise. For the most part the music is harmonious and delicate - luminous airy pads and textures floating and fluttering in sonic sunlight. There are also some more edgy, jittery tracks, the rhythms disjointed and jagged such as Ent's Hi! Sempai. Many of the tracks have an underlying ambient nature, the music soft and fragile flecked with melodic fragments or brief repeating motifs the beats and rhythms rising to the surface.
 
ARTWORK   Hiro comes in a sombre package - heavy greys shadowing architectural imagery, simple white fonts and minimal text. Structural details loom out of darkness on each panel, the front holding only a single line of text, the reverse laying out track titles and times for each. Inside is a single sheet insert - just the word 'HIRO' picked out in gold with a complementary gold disc below.
 
OVERALL   

Hiro is SAAG Records second release following the debut compilation Anchor. SAAG Record is an electronic music label based in Tokyo, JAPAN, founded by musician Sabi (Taro Peter Little) and the like-minded Jemapur (Toshiaki Ooi). The label describes its primary concept as "Pills for Ears". This particular release delivers fourteen tracks of a common nature - mostly scratchy beat driven, understated airiness.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Neodrone - Extended Horizon
STYLE  

Twilight, cinematic electronica and captivating female vocals. Extended Horizon breaks into two sections - the first part sees gentle downtempo beats and complementary arpeggiators propelling romantic piano melodies and attractive ethereal vocals. The latter tracks step up the pace introducing a driving dance beat with a steady thumping kick. Singer Johanna E Martell leads most tracks with her soaring vocal style that comfortably ranges from operatic drama to a hint of folk nostalgia almost reminiscent of All About Eve's Julianne Regan. The vocal performances are sometimes lyrical, sometimes wordless. Musically the sound is lush and sweeping, synthetic strings and layered keyboards underlay the rich themes, constantly varying programmed percussion creating momentum and neo-classical structures lending a graceful dignity throughout.

 
MOOD   Sensual nocturnes tinged with shades of melancholy or hints of nostalgia. Extended Horizon seems bathed in the lush hues of eventide - the mood consistently one of enchantment and passion even throughout the uptempo pieces toward the end of the suite. Neoclassical influences recur from the onset, most obviously in the operatic vocal style of a number of pieces and, of course, the interpretation of the two compositions by Mozart and Handel.
 
ARTWORK   Artwork maintains the crepuscular moodiness of the music - a dramatic photomontage fronting the package titled in a gothic font. Here dark waters fade ambiguously into trees mists and distant hills, everything tinted indigo blue. Two birds lift into the air and a windswept tree seems to lean after them. A darker version of this image re-appears on the reverse of the jewelcase track titles tastefully arranged centrally alongside their respective timings. Inside is a two panel fold-out sleeve with lyrics printed within opposite a page of credits.
 
OVERALL    Neodrone presents here their debut album, released on Sweden's Mambus Records label. The band consists of composer/keyboardist Magnus Tak and classically trained singer Johanna E. Martell with lyrics written by Brent Swarthout. As well as their own original material the album also features adaptations of two classic arias "Lascia Ch'io Pianga", from the opera "Rinaldo" by G.F. Händel and "Vengeance Aria" based on excerpts from the "Queen of the Night" aria by W.A. Mozart.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

This is a strong album that will likely appeal to listeners that lean toward the 'enigmatic' genre. Neodrone works territory similar to Amethstium and Achillea -check out the Myspace page if you'd like to hear some samples.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Khooman - Is AFlexible Liquid
STYLE  

Serious downtempo synthesiser chill with an air of cosmic mystery. Is A Flexible Liquid is an album of almost pure electronica - additional material blending seamlessly into the overall digital architecture. Brooding, squelching basses or blunt sub frequencies lumber and prowl at the low end, a rich and varied selection of lustrous synthetic voices delivering the melodic substance. Khooman makes full use of repeating phrases that alternate and cycle round and around gradually permeating the consciousness, inevitably building into powerful familiarity. There are some moody introductions - the melodies arising slowly out of ambient mists and shades to dramatic impact. There are some evocative airy effects spread across the sequential materials that have a slightly ghostly feel at times - moaning sheets of tone, heavily effected chants or pitch-shifted murmurings.

 
MOOD   Most of the album has a somewhat shady, sombre tone - drawn out introductions establishing this mysterious gloom, order forming little by little from dark, amorphous sound clouds. There is a spacey sci-fi side to much of the music too - programmed sequences and arpeggios burbling and revolving in engineered regularity, hints of circuitry and glowing control panels - but the gutsy beats maintain a connection with earth, a tribal drive anchoring everything to the ground.
 
ARTWORK  

A very attractive package designed by Anna Ignatieva features a series of beautifully enigmatic images. The front cover shows peculiar floating figures with lithe blue limbs and smooth, blank faces set against a black void. Luminous yellow eyes suggest alien visions and patterned skins decorate elegant body forms that vaporise at the extremities. These creatures and their accompanying blue auras appear throughout - sometimes alongside the subdued text as with the rear cover tracklist, sometimes as a backdrop. Inside is a two panel insert filled with generous thanks and some brief credits. If you'd like to see more of the artist's work - there is a website here.

 
OVERALL   

Khooman is Moscow based musician Edward Trunov who has apparently been creating music since around 2000. As Khooman he has been performing live on stage since 2005 and here presents for us his full length debut CD. Focussing on chill out, ambient and psychedelic trance this release fits right into the sound that we have come to expect from the fascinating Ajana Records label. Promotional material describes the music as a story of eight tracks that "connects to your emotional state easily, exploring the depth of the mind ....a unique world for exploring the sounds of the soul.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Khooman will appeal to lovers of psychedelic trance looking for something downbeat and moody. Perhaps fans of Phutureprimitive, Psyfactor or Androcell will be drawn to the shadows and twilight sparkle here.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Deborah Martin / J. Arif Verner - Anno Domini
STYLE  

Ambient electronics and associative hallowed voices combine in dignified, restful harmony. Sonic winds and tonal sheets drift across soundscapes of tranquil expanses and sacred spaces. Bell trees and chimes tinkle jewel-like in the air, the weighty metal clang of a tolling bell and the boom of an enormous gong - sounds well chosen to enhance the tone of sacrosanct luminosity. Choral voices and the clarity of a single singer chanting Latin lyrics are interwoven with the music, sometimes overlaid, sometimes picked out in stark isolation, always with cloistered tones and celestial light. There are gentle, meditative passages breezed through with atonal turbulence, for the most part beatless and without rhythm, but there are a few tracks such as Illuminata where a low pulsing pattern is joined by hand drumming and Dona Nobis Pacem with a more traditional drum line and hi hats. The album concludes on a more overtly melodic note where brassy synths and thin electronic strains interplay with fingered guitar lines and bright cymbal splashes.

 
ARTWORK   Fronted by an image of a heavy wooden door opening within a sweeping arch - Anno Domini immediately defines its musical intentions as a glowing yellow effulgence bathes one half of the cover and deep shadow bedarkens the other. On the reverse and within religious images are montaged against strong textures and architectural details. The back of the jewel case lists the seven tracks along with times for each. Inside are credits indicating the musical contributions from the writers and supporting performers - Rev. Chester Head on vocals and Jon Jenkins with digital editing and drum track work.
 
OVERALL   

Both Deborah Martin and J. Arif Verner are established artists in their own right, each with a string of releases to their credit. Multi-instrumentalist, J. Arif Verner has worked as a professional musician and composer for more than 20 years and Deborah Martin is currently one of Spotted Peccary Music's highly acclaimed top selling artists. Here the two come together (as promotional material explains "to create a haunting work that blurs the line lying somewhere between darkness and light; between apprehension and calm". The combination of synthesisers, guitars, evocative vocals and percussive elements ranges here from heavenly bliss and weightless gliding to mysterious shade and esoteric exploration.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Kukan Dub Lagan - Step Ina Rasta Step
STYLE  

Reggae influenced psychedelic chillout. Kukan Dub Lagan's downtempo electronica is built primarily around a dense dub reggae framework littered with all the trademark sounds of the genre - echoing keyboard stabs hit the off beats, rubbery basses loll along at the low end, sampled voices and effects dripping with delay embellishing the surface. Voices of Afro-Caribbean origin broadcast philosophies and beliefs - both male and female - fervent phrases periodically punctuating the synthetic backdrop. There are a couple of tracks that stand aside from the bulk of the album - the almost new age wobbly melody of Feel Life the CD opener complete with what sound like electronic geese and the one minute forty five second tribal beat and reverberating spoken voice of It's All About Her complete with night time cricket/bird ambience.

 
MOOD   This CD has a positive, uplifting vibe, the strong reggae elements introducing an exotic, tropical feel suggestive of smooth beaches and pleasant sunshine, a mood that is enhanced by the brightness, cleanness and warmth of the primary electronic structures. The laziness of the dub beats and swaying basses create an easy going pace, an attitude of indolent calm coupled with an urge to move that inevitably comes from such powerful rhythms.
 
ARTWORK  

The front cover image is of a lone walker on a beach seemingly unaware of a huge wave towering above and about to crash onto the shore. Itay says that the big wave symbolises nature "that we don't treat it nice - so step ina rasta step in hope of keeping the atmosphere and vibe alive". The jewelcase reverse uses a similar tropical scene bordered by palm trees as a backdrop for the album tracklist - here we notice more easily that all the imagery is tinted with a red, gold, green cast - the same colours more vibrantly featured on the Kukan Dub Lagan logo - proclaiming the obvious musical affiliations. The inner booklet contains an expanded tracklist, various thanks and contact details along with a paragraph presenting the artist's positive outlook.

 
OVERALL   

This is Kukan Dub Lagan's second album, following the 2004 release on Candyflip - Life Is Nice. This time the label is Jerusalem based MikelaBella Records set up around the beginning of 2007. This is actually Itay Berger's own project established with the idea of releasing original music in the dub and electronic genres, supporting existing artists as well creating opportunities for new talent. Promotional material for Step Ina Rasta Step explains that "the listener will get into a dub journey, that will start with soft melodies, continue to a unique electronic sound that is surrounded by the dub rhythms". That pretty much describes the album - twelve well produced tracks of laid back sunshine all tinted red, green and gold.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Step Ina Rasta Step will suit listeners into dub and chillout that want something warm and Caribbean woven into their music. Since it follows naturally in the footsteps of Kukan Dub Lagan's debut - fans of the previous album will surely enjoy this further instalment.