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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Various Artists - Hope
STYLE  

Electro-acoustic downtempo instrumentals. This is an album of inspiring digital delight - the collaborating artists have worked under harmonious vision to produce music of Hope. Here smooth drones and light washes interact with environmental recordings; melodies ebb and flow in understated restraint, moved by glitchy structures entwining 'found' percussive sounds and delicate beats. The melodic content often has a classical beauty about it - overtly through the use of wistful strings and elegant pianos - also through a recurring tone reminiscent of the grace and pensive nature of the nocturne. Introspective voices hang in the mix in places, musing in the misty headspace of the music. Static flecks and sleeting noise enliven the textural content. Acoustic and electric guitar meanderings thicken the synthetic elements and bring additional colour to a number of tracks.

 
MOOD  

The title well describes the mood here - ‘Hope’. The artists involved were asked to create compositions that reflected their interpretation of the term - the results, uplifting and optimistic. The attractive fragility of the music, imbued with frequent warm currents capturing something of the positivity and aspirational nature of our imperfect species. There is also a thread of pensive melancholy running through much of the music - a reminder that this album has a serious back story and deals with disturbing issues that should rightly not go unnoticed.

   
ARTWORK  

The delivery of the CD is strictly in keeping with the visionary theme of Hope, all the artwork and packaging having been crafted with exceptional care. The disc manufacturing is eco-conscious: ISO 14000 & 14001 compliant CD manufacturing with 100% re-use of scrap polycarbonate salvaged from CD & DVD replication. Printing too is responsible: sourcing of papernic Compound (VOC) emissions from inks or coatings, and use of quick dry glues with ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) being eliminated. Collection and recycling of paperboard, inks, coatings and other waste from printing processes. 60,000 tons of pa stock from FSC Compliant (Forestry Stewardship Council) mills and printers. Wood fibre procured within the Sustainable Forest Initiative guidelines: every acre harvested is reforested – 400 Million tree seedlings planted each year. Paper products are typically recyclable, compost-able, and under the right conditions biodegradable. No wood from old-growth or endangered forests. Vegetable based inks. 100% alcohol-free printing. The premise used to create the CD/Packaging is also 100% carbon neutral and powered with green electricity, and business travel emissions are also offset.
The cover imagery itself is handcrafted - a green boat afloat on the curling waves of an indigo sea, each breaker tipped in sparkling gold. The bright sky holds a sun of glitter and runs from the front cover across to the rear where a cooler glitter moon disc sits centrally. Here is a tracklist and a web address for each artist. Inside the boat and waves are seen in close up - turbulent, dark and unnerving - yet brightened by the twinkle of golden edges and semi-submerged stars. Slipped discreetly into the sleeve is an eight page booklet that contains a series of slightly sepia toned chiaroscuro photographs of children. Accompanying information draws attention to the plight of some of this world's unfortunate young ones. Information is also here regarding the charitable nature of the project along with relevant thanks and credits.

  
OVERALL   

Hope is the debut album from the new Fluid Audio label - an impressive introduction with an admirable mission and honestly awe-inspiring content. The thirteen tracks here present established artists such as Ishq, Digitonal, James Murray, Hol Baumann and Bersarin Quartet alongside rising stars Field Rotation, Iambic, Snakestyle, Playb, Halogen and Ben Beiny. But this is not just a collection of music from genre sharing musicians; Hope is a tightly themed concept album of exquisitely complementary compositions. Promotional material gives some insight into the artists' motivations: Iambic explained "My two tracks were intended to give the listener a blank canvass to paint their emotions of Hope on". Playb commented "Children who are born in disadvantaged situations stir up so much admiration within me. I see sadness in their eyes but at the same time a passion to live." Snakestyle put it this way, "With the music I make, I try to create something that gently catches your attention, hypnotises you, helps you think, and takes you to a place where you feel reassured". The resultant music has an evocative depth and maturity about it that you don't often hear. Mastering by Vincent Villuis at Ultimae provides the stamp of guaranteed sound quality. In addition fifty percent of all sales from this release will be donated to Toybox Charity committed to providing hope for the most disadvantaged children, young people and their families, principally in Latin America.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

If you enjoy classical beauty and ambient downtempo you will be hard pressed to find a stronger collaborative album than Hope this year. This is an album for anyone that loves intelligent, transportational, dreamy electronica. This is an album for anyone into deeply chilled soundscapes looking to support a good cause. If you still aren't convinced that you need to buy this album now - have a listen to the samples at the Fluid Audio website.

     
     

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Various Artists - Feeding The Transmitter
STYLE  

Electronic drone and glitch ambient. Feeding The Transmitter is a tight collection of tracks that have a very contemporary feel. Faint melodic forms and understated themes unfold blissfully beneath veils of sonic fuzz and crackle. The glitchy percussion structures give the album much of its character making abundant use of all manner of sibilant disturbances and near-rhythm: clicks, scratches, tuned blips and beeps, electrostatic, hiss and fog, reverberating clatter. Sometimes these acts as textural material, sometimes as disjointed beats, often as fragile assemblages somewhere in between. The musical elements have a dreamy, minimalist nature that range from wistful melodic meanderings and impressionist experimentation to spacey synthetic zones and alien atmospheres. There are some peculiar sounds at times, often submerged deep within the mix, found recordings and transmission snippets, acoustic guitar and fiddle, organ trills, music box and baby (the greatest concentration of these appearing in the rather eclectic 'no good day's as under' from a love and below standards); these add unexpected flavour to the more obvious electro-acoustic effects and embellishments.

 
ARTWORK   Feeding The Transmitter arrives in a sharp card sleeve. The package is a two panel gatefold with no plastic anywhere, the disc sits within a neat pocket cut into the inner right panel. Artwork is consistent across every panel - pale girders lit by the sun form rigid arcs and latticeworks against smooth blue sky, the lightest of clouds dust the air almost utterly insubstantial against the geometry of steel in the foreground. The rear of the cover presents a simple tracklist in diagonal steps, with website and contact details vertically running down the right edge. Inside the left section opens up the tracklist somewhat - this expanded list providing credits and websites for each of the artists.
 
OVERALL    This album comes as amp004 - the fourth release from U.K. label amp bit<if//go recordings. This is the label's first various artists project comprising tracks from such established artists as Maps and Diagrams, Autistici, Michael Santos, Poborsk and Pleq as well as a number of pieces selected from artist submissions sent in response to an open call for music put out by the label in 2008. As mentioned above, the album has a very contemporary sound, the fourteen pieces fitting together naturally with great coherence. The amp bit<if//go website provides samples for five of the tracks if you want to listen before you buy.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Aes Dana - Leylines
STYLE  

Immersive ambient trance. Aes Dana offers a deeper excursion into his own unique downtempo territory. The Ultimae label co-manager is distinct from his fellow artists in maintaining a more even trance beat throughout his album than most - of course there are lulls and beatless introductions and interludes, there are gradual builds and dispersals of intensity, yet the music of Aes Dana lives on a regular pulse that throbs in the mind even when the actual beat has gone. The percussive sounds are far more subtle and varied than most downtempo trance, enhanced by various sibilant scrapes, aural sleet, sudden bright movements and various field recordings. The most even part of the musical content comes from the subtle basslines - higher up the frequencies the colours are elegantly abstract; deep pads and dark ambient expanses creating an overriding feel of mesmerising mystery. Signs is a completely beatless track where the full beauty of Aes Dana's low-light atmospheres can be appreciated - echoing female vocalisations ring among drifting clouds of tenebrous tones, minimal almost, with a brooding cinematic intensity. In places arpeggiating forms come to the fore and the full intensity of multiple rhythmic structures percolate together before dissipating into open space. There are some tastefully manipulated ethnic sounds within the mix - rich moody flutes and hints of Indian wires - altered so that their original forms are difficult to distinguish. Familiar musical motifs appear in places - recollections of Memory Shell and other previous works - these work well in anchoring Aes Dana's individuality.

 
ARTWORK   As expected Leylines is beautifully delivered in traditional Ultimae format. The packaging is a glossy digipack with sixteen page booklet. Imagery is primarily in soft earthy hues beaming with light as if internally illuminated. Two lightly cupped hands meet on the front cover with the concentric circles and sharp lines of arcane photograms overlaid as if painted in mehndi patterns. The two remaining outer panels link into a panorama of similar forms fading into dense darkness at the edge. The rear section holds a tracklist with times attached. Opening out the inside another panoramic design is revealed - the designs here are in negative effulgent against the umber textures behind. Inside the generous booklet follows the pattern of providing a page for each track - evocative imagery and sometimes a brief accompanying note. The front page holds a paragraph of thanks and inside the back cover is a shot of the artist. Credits and contact details are also here at the end of the booklet.
 
OVERALL   

Leylines is the fourth album from Vincent Villuis - Aes Dana - and comes naturally via his own Ultimae Records label. Having just recently delivered the sophomore H.U.V.A. Network CD in collaboration with Magus Birgersson Vincent now focuses on his personal sonic identity. Promotional material explains "Throughout the album, the artist builds upon the concept of connections that exist between various musical genres and influences, interlinks between the elements surrounding us, the feelings of life. Sound becomes organic matter, clay". I enjoyed the description used by Ultimae, talking of sound: "Tapped, scraped, plucked, stretched, it transforms into rich rhythms, spatial acoustics, sustained harmonics, hypnotic morphing pads and profound basslines," Leylines employs all of these methods so that the textural quality of the album is lush, dynamic and multifacted. Mastering of the album has been done by Mastered by Magnus Birgersson at Studio Jupiter. If you have appreciated Aes Dana's previous releases - give this one a listen at the Ultimae website - you won't be disappointed.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Ambient Intelligent Application - Physical Moments
STYLE  

Lush electronica and ambient downtempo. Ambient Intelligent Application (A.i.A.) create deep freeform soundworlds of strongly saturated colour; there is something of a sense that almost anything might emerge from within the mix on these tracks - sweeping strings, moody piano, disturbed voices, cycling ethnic vocals and plenty of less easily distinguishable sounds. The music is mostly built around richly layered atmospheres of synthetic pads and reverberating effects wherein smooth chord progressions gradually emerge rising and falling like gentle waves. Programmed beats stir these musical pools into motion - downtempo grooves that give a feeling of purposeful direction to the less tightly structured meanderings of the music.

 
MOOD   These colourful, psychedelic sound constructs spiral and flow with mesmerising intensity - the effect is bewilderingly hypnotic. Like sonic kaleidoscopes, disparate patterns and luminous pieces come together, form into regularity, shift and reform - Physical Moments is constantly on the move. At times the rhythms take on a dreamy tribal quality, hand drums softening the digital elements, spacey drones and sweeps of tone dancing lazily in time.
   
ARTWORK  

I have the CD wallet presentation of Physical Moments. The front cover well captures something of the music - loose globular forms in abstract relation and of vivid hue apparently rolling in grand unity. The rear cover provides a tracklist wound into a tight spiral, with brief credits. Here too at the foot of the panel are website details and contact information.

  
OVERALL    A.i.A is new Greek ambient-downtempo group from brothers Konstantinos and Nassos Kousouris. The duo present their debut album here via Dutch independent label Ajana Records, eleven tracks running from around three and a half minutes up to almost ten. Claiming influences within chill out, dub, ambient, downtempo, IDM, electronic, triphop, trance, techno, ebm, industrial, goth, psychedelic rock, the duo take a fairly open approach to their compositions resulting in a unique signature sound. Promotional material explains that A.i.A. began producing their own music subsequent to travelling around the world and enjoying many open-air festivals and collecting music. The Physical Moments album is described as a product of half live composition and half studio recorded content.
 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Physical Moments is something a bit different within the chillout, ambient genres. If you're looking for something deeply saturated and psychedelic with less rigid structure than most downtempo trance, then this might be the album for you. Ajana provide sound samples on the label website.
     

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Terra Ambient - Wanderlust
STYLE   Ambient worldbeat fusion. Wanderlust is a dramatic album of cinematic ambience and globally influenced rhythmic soundscaping. The lush textures on the CD are formed through a combination of dense layers combining synthesisers and treated guitars, yet despite this emphasis on artificial sound sources, the music here is very organic in nature even before the additional international instruments make an appearance. The beats are a somewhat hypnotic blend of programmed sounds and hand percussion - Taos drums, frame drums, congas and other real skin surfaces softening the distantly tribal grooves. Sequencer patterns tinkle, shakers rattle, bansuri and didgeridoo lift or deepen the drones.
 
MOOD   The mood of Wanderlust is at times one of dramatic expanse - the thick beds of sound suggestive of immense vistas and open skies. In other places the mood darkens and Terraambient wanders into shadowy freeform zones of mystery. The general pace of the album is ponderous, unhurried - the bulk of the tracks welling up gradually around beatless introductions, the percussion arriving well along into the music. The final two recordings are beatless - the concluding piece featuring some gentle piano and environmental recordings evoking visions of the sun emerging after rainfall - a very attractive piece and the most overtly melodic of the suite.
   
ARTWORK   Wanderlust arrives in a jewelcase with a two panel insert. Front cover imagery appropriately features a sweeping landscape open to the enormity of a cloud thickened sky. A somewhat more intimate scene of similar tone appears on the rear - here smoothed out with motion blur. The track titles and brief credits find a place here as well as website and Myspace details for Terraambient. The Insert holds what appears to be a candid image of the artist in a private home on the remaining outer section. Opening up an effulgent spray of sunbeams descend from dark, dark clouds - a panorama filling both panels. Further information is on the leftmost - a paragraph on the Wanderlust project followed by a gear list, thanks and other explanatory snippets.
  
OVERALL   

Jeff Kowal otherwise known as Terra Ambient returns after a five year gap with his latest album Wanderlust released via Lotuspike Records. The 2004 album The Gate was initially the springboard for the new work with the intention being to build on the strictly live and acoustic approach employed for that album. However, things change and music tends to go where it will - consequently the new material has a heavy synthetic content, a blend of world instruments and programmed sound, rich fusions of percussion sources. Jeff has been making music now for over fifteen years and the seven new compositions here benefit from his formal training, multi-cultural musical interests and forays into television, film and galley installation.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Wanderlust might well appeal to fans of Steve Roach, Na-Koja-Abad - less minimal than extreme ambient by a long way. The Lotuspike site includes samples of a number of tracks and the Terraambient site includes a video of the artist discussing the album.
     

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Loverush UK Featuring Molly Bancroft - Fountains of Youth
STYLE  

Chillout, House and Trance variations. Last year's hit Fountains of Youth is released here with fresh remixes. The chilled original mix hears Molly Bancroft's languid vocal delivering a memorable chorus and dreamy verses in blissfully laid back style with something of a Mediterranean mood. Molly Bancroft might well sound familiar if you know Gabriel & Dresden's 'Tracking Treasure Down' or Gianluca Motta's 'Not Alone'. Smooth synths and strongly effected guitar melodies support the singing whilst a restful break beat brings a breeze to this attractive piece of downtempo pop. The new mixes extend the progressive house reach of the package - coming from Hybrid Heights who delivers a rather cool version with insistent throbbing bass and a soaring atmospheric remix from Timothy Allan.

 
ARTWORK   I only know the front cover artwork shown above left - cupped hands folded around a splash of bright water frozen in time. Warm sepia tones and limited depth of field highlight this crystal fountain - fresh and clear. The various remixes are listed at the foot of the image.
 
OVERALL   

Loverush UK - are UK producers Kinky Roland and Mark Loverush. Currently ascending rather quickly in the dance music arena, the pair began working together in 2005 and delivered their debut You're Not The One with Boy George on vocals in 2007. Further releases have seen Loverush UK working with such top artists as Kirsty Hawkshaw, Shelly Harland, Tiff Lacy, Marc Almond and Marcella Detroit among many others. This current presentation of Fountains of Youth now has a total of six mixes: the downbeat original and versions from NYC's Hybrid Heights, Timothy Allan, Chicago based 2Bit, Kinky Roland and Damien S.

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------KiloWatts - Undercurrent
STYLE  

Downtempo electronic instrumentals. Undercurrent is an album of pure electronica where subtle melodies dreamily unfold against equally subtle drones and textures. The main themes cycle and repeat, evolving, varying - fractured effects and electronic embellishments often delicately jar the flow of the music, punctuating the rhythmical wavelike sway with fleeting surges and builds. Some tracks have serene electro-grooves propelling the synths, sometimes with bass pulses or light arpeggio patterns rippling in accord. For the most part - Undercurrent is warm, playful album, as the title suggest though, there is something of an undercurrent of shade and mystery most obviously on blip-beat driven Nightshade and the beatless, spacey Couette.

 
ARTWORK  

The download version that I have features the front cover artwork only - a peaceful drawing by Ray Massini of dragonflies over a pool of water. Grasses and leaves adorn the foreground whilst behind the water, the horizon curves off too the right in a gentle arc. The physical item is a tactile package printed with soy inks on recycled paper, sewn and sealed in wax.

 
OVERALL   

Undercurrent is the latest recording from accomplished producer KiloWatts (Jamie Watts) whose previous material has so far made up five albums covering IDM, techno and downtempo. He has released music via such labels as Artificial Music Machine, Harmonious Discord, Thoughtless Music, Native State Records and his own outlet KilloWatts Music. This limited edition CD comes via Somnia as SOMN009 - only 777 copies to be distributed worldwide. The final track The Moment just before dawn is the longest at twelve minutes twenty seven, other tracks range from around three to eight minutes. The artist explains “With this album, I wanted to focus on the essence of melody and expose it in a raw form through the electronic medium. The source of the main melodies came from repetitive hooks I found myself sporadically singing or humming during day to day business. In this case, it felt that the source of them all must absolutely be love.”