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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Mythos - Surround Sound Offensive
STYLE   Lively high end electronica in the German Berlin-school tradition. Mythos presents here an album aimed at showing just what electronic music can sound like when making full use of the technology currently available. Full surround sound recording is used to establish a rich spatial arena with crystal clarity and dynamic acoustic effects. The Mythos sound is well suited to this approach - bright synthesiser themes and sequential patterns dance with luminous warmth, multi-layered, deftly crafted, melodic; airy effects swish and swirl throughout the soundscape; stirring programmed beats littered with variously manipulated hits, blips, splashes and zaps drive the music energetically forward. Kaske weaves the odd snatch of vocal ephemera into the mix - tribal chants or strongly effected speech, choral swells building the intensity to fever pitch. This latest Mythos album fills your headspace from end to end - demanding your attention - music on the offensive.
 
MOOD   The mood of Surround Sound Offensive is in keeping with the title - dramatic, stirring compositions full of energy and aural detail. The European heritage shines brightly - this is music of the machines bent toward their futurist potential - unashamedly synthetic whilst at the same time full of feeling and theatrical grandeur.
   
ARTWORK   Arriving in a slimline jewel case the artwork is uncomplicated and eye catching. A strong yellow sun-burst fronts the package. Sharp black lettering presenting the title and between the lines a pithy explanation of the intent of the album. Inside is a timed tracklist and German language discussion of the project in greater detail. For English speaking fans the insert opens out to reveal the relevant information in English.
  
OVERALL    This latest Mythos release is presented as the first in a new series of Mythos albums "offensively and consequently custom-made, matched and fine-tuned to YOUR wishes right from the start of the composition". In other words the artist Stephan Kaske is aiming to satisfy the desires of synth fans that are not content with mp3 quality sound or even common CD quality - Stephan explaining "the multiple psycoacoustic effects, binaural dummy head recordings and numerous surround elements appear and work best with the equipment adjusted to DOLBY PRO LOGIC (TM). We choose this format because the vast majority of fans have it available in their hi-fi systems, cars and home cinemas. It is also, of course, totally stereo compatible; many spacious events are already impressively effective in stereo". Eleven tracks in all make up this releases - the latest in an impressive Mythos discography that dates back into the early nineteen seventies!
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Mythos is building on the colourful tradition of electronic music that the project has pioneered since the early days. This is an album for musical technophiles especially, but will doubtless appeal to all fans of the genre that enjoy the more energetic end of the Berlin-school. You can listen to samples from all tracks at CD Baby.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Thom Brennan - Stories From The Forest
STYLE  

Ambient electronica with subtle melodies and occasional rhythmic structure. Stories From The Forest sees Thom Brennan constructing a suite of his trademark lush, sonic sound beds and then overlaying these with delicate melody lines carried by piano and keening sustain guitar in an evolutionary step that impressively deepens the artist's sonic mythos. The music begins gently - a misty build up of smooth drones winding like fingers of fog among light echoing piano and tinkling chimes, everything is in soft focus, steeped in colour, touched with mystery - subsequent tracks thicken the sound, rhythmic sequences welling up within the ambience, at times rising into a dense current of musical movement, sometimes little more than a breeze barely rufflling the stillness. Associating the sound with the theme - the listener 'sees' the unity of the surrounding forest in the broad pads and swells, 'feels' the swaying of the branches caught by the measured rising and falling of intensities and tone, the minutiae of twigs, leaves and underfoot tangle are gathered up in the rhythms and detail within the mix - short susurrations and chirrs echoing in fractured patterns. The tracks flow from one to another in a natural progression - shifts in the light, changes in weather, a fresh aspect, an altered viewpoint - the focus remains constant though; awe of nature, wonder of being there, drinking in the senses, complete absorption.

 
ARTWORK   My copy of Stories From The Forest comes in a simple glossy card wallet. The imagery beautiful and hazy - a yellow/amber front cover photograph catches the glow of the sun on a water surface glimpsed through black silhouettes of branches and boughs. A similar shot on the reverse darkens toward the top - red into darkness - to hold the text. Information is functional - tracks unlisted, simply recorded as Parts 1 - 11, total time shown below at 72:30. The only other distractions from the scenery are credits, web details and bar code.
 
OVERALL   

Thom Brennan has such a solid history in the ambient music genre, his extensive discography now is a compact and highly professional body of work reflecting a deep commitment to his art. Personally I enjoy the lightest aspects of Thom's work especially - parts one and seven of this latest album being an utter delight, drifting and ethereal, lifting the listener on silken currents that spiral and twist in sleepy reverie (I'm quietly hoping for more like this sometime). But these most blissful of passages are well located among the other intensities and densities of the album. In connection with this release the website holds the quotation "Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven" - Rabindranath Tagore. The CD is released through Thom's own TMB Soundworks, it seems that he has everything well sewn up right now - the website looks classy and elegant, there are plenty of listening options, music on disc or mp3 format and a new album that will cement his status as ambient heavyweight beyond question.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Niyaz - Nine Heavens
STYLE  

International songs built around a fusion of traditional Middle Eastern instrumentation and subtle electronica. Niyaz brings together three complementary talents in enthusiastic unity - vocalist Azam Ali, player Loga Ramin Torkian and digital wizard Carmen Rizzo. The resultant sound is a cross cultural album that doesn't use world sound merely as flavour or simply for effect. The compositions are rich with Iranian, Turkish and other Middle Eastern arrangements - strings twang in deft wiry fretwork, chime in clear patterns or wind in bowed ectasy whilst energetic hand drums boom and clatter. Indeed much of the album is powerfully rhythmic, showcasing the distinctive beauty of this evocative percussion. Ali sings Turkish and Urdu poetry, folk verses from Khorassan and timeless Persian lyrics with her unique passionate, cinematic approach. Free of the heady beats and thump of the drums for a while on the atmospheric Iman, Ali's voice floats and swirls among airy flutes and synthetic drones in echoing reverie - reminding us why she is currently of such international renown. Guest musicians bring tablas, bendir, darbuka and flutes along with additional vocals to the mix. Carmen Rizzo manages to achieve an almost transparent smoothness to his electronic contribution - his synthetic underpinning warming the music, his carefully crafted FX dropping intriguing little shifts into the sound.

 
ARTWORK   Nine Heavens comes in a gatefold digipack that folds out into four sections, twin CDs in the centre two panels. On the cover the artists pose for their audience in serious serenity - three well matched gazes that hint at the musical intensity within. Behind the trio a decorative design forms a frame, the central ring nimbus-like encircles Azam Ali's head. On the back twin tracklists show the times for each piece, a dark architectural photo image of columns and graven embellishments behind. The first twist of the package opens out two sections of information - to the left an explanation of the project and a dedication to new born son Iman Ali Torkian - to the right extensive credits and recording information along with thanks and website details. Opening once more we find innermost tessellating graphics and more photographs of the artists. Here too is a little information about each track and a translation into English of the lyrics.
 
OVERALL    Nine Heavens is the sophomore album from Niyaz, follow-up to the self titled debut and once more released via Six Degrees Records. The name Niyaz meaning "yearning" is recognisable in Farsi, the language of Iran, and Urdu, a major language of northern India and Pakistan. The album comes as double disc release - one disc of the complete arrangements, one of the same tracks stripped down to their acoustic bones - pure and simple. Sleeve notes explain "in order to offer listeners with a predeliction towards acoustic music a rendition of the album more suited to their preference, as well as to share with our fans the source elements upon which we build and integrate our music". This is a highly professional pair of CDs, very classy and genuine, with a refreshing honesty and seriously desirous of bridging the cultural divide - as the Niyaz website puts it - world music for the twentieth century.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Brannan Lane - Answer The Sky
STYLE  

Soft tranquil ambient zones and huge shadowy spaces. This is initially a very gentle, serene album of floatational minimalism that gradually shifts in character with the incoming night and opening up of infinite space. Brannan Lane uses light undulating drones and meandering phrases to create airy expanses and broad, atmospheric head spaces that relax and lull the listener in a similar way to cloud gazing on a warm evening. Underplayed melody lines on xylophone-like wood chimes, synth voices and blurry pads sometimes take a prominent role, at other times operating further back in the mix as if carried on the breeze. Effected chimes and reversed wavs glisten when sharp or lustre dimly, muted, subdued - sonic turbulence ruffling the softness. Indistinct shufflings and disturbances inhabit some of the darker corners as the music fades to black - cloud gazing becomes star gazing, the earlier nearness of crepuscular hues in the sky eventually replaced by an abyssal vastness. Percussive thumps and metallic booms appear toward the end, rattling shakers and tapping lattices working in uneasy rhythm - eventually echoing in emptiness.

 
ARTWORK   Answer The Sky comes in a standard jewel case with sunset imagery throughout. The front cover sees a bright disc of sun balanced atop a silhouetted hedgerow, red glow bathing the dark fringe of twigs and leaves, smooth grey sky spreading upward into infinity above. The same image reappears on the back slightly closer, slightly darker - this time with track titles overlaid, each accompanied by its relevant timing. The insert within holds some simple credits and website information. On the innermost panels is a double page spread listing Brannan Lane's solo releases to the left and collaborative works to the right.
 
OVERALL    Brannan Lane releases this album on his own Ambient Circle label. The CD contains fifteen tracks that range from just under three minutes to seven minutes. The music is effectively laid out in such a way that the listener becomes absorbed in a sonic setting of the sun and almost imperceptible amassing of darkness. The album opens with attractive restful breeziness and for a while almost approaches melodic warmth with the pair of tracks entitled Answer The Sky Parts 1 and 2. Shortly afterward the Fade to Black series of eight compositions marks the transition from easy harmonious tones into creeping gloom and increased dissonance - the mood becoming markedly different and building into the final pieces that ultimately look spaceward - Sidewalks of Saturn and Pyramid of the Moon.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Johan Agebjörn - Mossebo
STYLE   Ambient groove featuring soothing female vocals. Johan Agebjörn runs through a diverse range of ambient and electro stylings on Mossebo - steady drones and environmental sounds support timeless vocal chants that echo and soar in Gregorian fashion, tranquil piano phrases lie down among soft evening synth strains, digital beats lightly flicker beneath warm synth and voice duets or join with programmed bass as on the track Ambient Computer Dance where ambience almost gives way to dreamy downtempo. Toward the latter part of the album the pair of tracks Siberian Train Parts I and II deliver a somewhat darker, colder sound - no singing here, rhythms are more shuffling, the spaces broader, the outlook more isolated - distorted speech samples thick with sonic mist announce travel details, breathy mouthings join the idle beats maintaining the peculiar juxtaposition of organic/mechanic that pervades most of Mossebo. The concluding piece has a more spacey feel than previous tracks - Lisa Barra's clear voice once more melting into a bed of melancholy sweeps and welling pads.
 
ARTWORK  

The artwork for Mossebo comes in a jewel case mostly adorned with colourful abstract imagery. The front cover is bisected by a ragged black strip parting indigo from orange that almost looks like a landscape turned on its side - heavy sky to the right, sunset sea to the left. On the back cover deeper, more saturated hues in abstract formation similarly suggest possible resolution. The tracklist is here each with a writing credit alongside - below more brief credits particularly drawing attention to the vocal work of Lisa Barra. Inside the album opens out to reveal first a photograph of a snow covered house (I'm guessing this is where the music was recorded in keeping with the album title). The insert further opens out to reveal a track by track discussion of the music, explaining influential ideas, recording details and various thoughts from the artist. A paragraph of thanks follows and finally Johan says 'Be kind to animals,' good advice.

 
OVERALL   

Johan Agebjörn has been recording for some years now, perhaps he is most widely known for his work with Sally Shapiro the neo-italo electronica dance project; however he has also produced solo music through his personal label Husmus Media, named after the mice that formed his earliest audiences. That said Mossebo is presented as Johan's first solo album 'proper' - and brings together tracks composed mostly during the years 2004 through to 2007, with one earlier track initially written as far back as 1996 beginning life on an Atari sequencer. Based in Gothenburg Sweden, this time Johan releases his album via Lotuspike choosing the title Mossebo after the name of the house where he lived during the creation of the music. Eleven tracks in all make up this strong disc of diverse electronic terrain united by an interest in folk tradition and ambient expression with a slightly melancholy northern chill to the air.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ------Numina - Shift To The Ghost
STYLE  

Smooth, luminous, mostly beatless ambience. The music here is frequently of silken softness, gently heaving beds of tone, welling drones and velvet textures. The CD opens very gradually, the music drifting in like mists from the ocean, undulating rhythms unfolding into easy motion. The surface is warm, consonant, harmonious, yet somewhere just beneath, the darkness holds uncertainty, a touch of coldness that might unfurl and envelop everything. As the album progresses various musical devices allow the sound to surround the listener with different environmental effect - liquid motion and burbling sonic bubbles suggest submergence, sequential patterns propel the listener through the soundscape, ethereal air movement and spiralling wispy vapours evoke enveloping weightless swirls. The density of the sound thickens in places to a heavy mass where lighter threads swell and glide within the pitching gloom - an almost choral tone lending a sense of dramatic mystery - before falling away once more into a thinner airy vastness. The final tracks are incredibly restful; serene meandering washes of tone as soft as sighs and delicate strings touched with a melancholy beauty establishing a blissful environment that eventually ebbs wistfully away back into the silence that opened the album.

 
ARTWORK   This CD arrives in an attractive jewelcase package - colours rich and saturated. The imagery is made up of a series of rippled amber abstractions that either fold into curving planes or stretch into endless pools. The front cover holds its image within broad borders of black - a mushroom-like curling form, wrinkled like weathered skin - the hint of a foetal face hidden among the folds. This image is repeated on the reverse, larger, no border - tracks and their times overlaid. Within the imagery appears more akin to a liquid surface seen from below. Text here provides credits, thanks and contact details for both artist and label.
 
OVERALL   

Released in 2006 Shift To The Ghost is the third album from Numina released via Hypnos Recordings. Made up of seven evolving compositions, each unique and having its own distinct character, the album nevertheless runs seamlessly as one long-form continuous piece. The concept behind the music is to do with the life and death of the physical self - but of course, music of this nature is sufficiently open for the listener to let that mean what he will. Perhaps the most powerful impression conveyed is through the pervasive serenity and enduring peace of the latter pieces - this eternal possibility is welcoming and familiar. Jesse Sola manages to create a synthetic depth that in places rivals the richness of orchestral music, multiple layers and multifarious underlying detail, at times almost imperceptible, making for an engrossing listening experience. Building upon the powerful foundation laid down with Eye Of The Nautilus Shift To The Ghost further establishes Numina's creative individuality as one to watch.