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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------David Helpling . Jon Jenkins - The Crossing
STYLE
 

Melodic electronic music. The Crossing is an album of expansive panoramas of sweeping beauty and elegant drama. Electric guitar textures and synth pads work together to form warm soundscapes of touching grace and impressive grandeur. Here synthetic tones luxuriate in epic melody; multi-layered themes that evolve and recur, sometimes building to intense crescendos of heady magnificence; in other places languid and unhurried, falling away into minimal ambient space. There are airy beatless passages of floating bliss such as The Same Sky with its high up atmosphere and meandering, weightless repeating lead motif. There are dense emotive sections where echoing drum beats clamour in rolling patterns like breaking waves whilst powerful, soaring refrains positively beam and sparkle.

 
ARTWORK   The Crossing is presented as a three panel digipack, a format that, I must say, really is made for atmospheric music of this sort. The package opens out into a glorious pair of panoramic vistas designed by Michal Karcz (whose visionary imagery is appearing with increasing frequency on the covers of interesting CDs of late). The external scene is of a jagged peak clad in thick snow rising out of a turbulent sea of mists. The full view when opened out sees a second peak in the left foreground a gulf to be crossed between. In the rightmost corner another foreground crag stands dark and solid, the eye finally picking out a tiny figure in silhouette looking into the distance. Lovely grey, purple tones hang over a lustrous orange sky behind. The inner view is of a snowy path snaking away through the central panel, dusky, frosted grass filling either side. Track titles are on the rear, credits and website details are within.
 
OVERALL   

Not so long ago this talented duo delivered the album Treasure, and now, building on the success of that release, we have the results of two years' work in the studio presented in The Crossing. The eleven tracks here see Helpling/Jenkins developing their broad sound more fully and picking up just where they left off. Jon Jenkins says of the new album "We wanted to take all of the ingredients that make a great movie or book sequel - more action, more intensity, and somewhat darker with more daunting challenges - and express them through the music on this record." David Helpling continues, "The Crossing is a title with more than one meaning. Not only is it a metaphorical representation of an arduous and inspired journey across an unfathomable hardship and distance, but it is also a crossing of two paths, of two currents; the result of which is complex and beautiful as well as powerful and intangible."
The Crossing is put out via the Spotted Peccary Music label and excerpts of all tracks can be sampled on the label website. Additional information on the music of Helpling/Jenkins can be explored at the Deep Exile website.

 
   

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Cell - Hanging Masses
STYLE
 
Downtempo and ambient electronica. Cell takes the intensity and drive down a few notches from his previous full length studio album Phonic Peace - and what a fantastic result. Hanging Masses has a beautifully warm, delicate sparcity to it. Unhurried, beatless introductions and wind-downs feature some elegant expanses where lush synthetic effects and micro-detail enliven glistening, lustrous pads and layered washes. The beats here are leisurely structures, light frameworks littered with fragile crunches, flickering clicks and tweaks, muted hits and deep, padded kicks. For the most part, percussion and bass lines are subtle, woven tightly into the mix; often holding back until well into the development of a track, sometimes barely there at all. Melodies are understated and retrained, often just simple thematic motifs that hang among the undulations of the textures and drones. The title track picks up the rhythmic side somewhat, still relaxed and downtempo, but with a stronger groove and accompanying lead line lifting the euphoria to a more dynamic climax
 
ARTWORK   The usual Ultimae black borders and panoramic imagery adorn this rich digipack. Deep, sharp, metallic blues bathe a montage of urban shapes and sky fragments in glorious colour. Track titles are on the rear cover section with times alongside. Inside the imagery becomes appropriately interior in nature - an underground station of similar hue to the cover, emphasis on the cables, planes and structures. A sixteen page booklet is held in a card slot to the right of the disc; same blue tones throughout. There is a page for each track with brief credits at the foot. The final pages contain thanks and a portrait of the artist. Website information and contact details are at the back.
 
OVERALL   

Alexandre Scheffer first appeared as Cell on Ultimae back in 2001 as a contributor to the Fahrenheit Project. He has since delivered a series of 'live' recordings and the studio album Phonic Peace which was released via Indica Music. With an evolution in style well in keeping with the label's sonic philosophy, Hanging Masses appears on the genre leading Ultimae Records. The eight tracks include a collaboration with Aes Dana and generally clock in around the ten minute mark, give or take a minute. Promotional material points out that Hanging Masses is something of an homage to Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Steve Reich. As is expected, the Ultimae website contains a full presentation for the album with a player for each piece and some background information. This is a very much welcomed progression for Cell, a gorgeous, mature sound that must establish his reputation ofr ambient-chill beyond all question.

 
   

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Hybrid Leisureland - Scroll Slide
STYLE
 
Ambient electronica with subtle percussive elements. Scroll Slide is one the most delicate, lustrous albums of synthetic sound I've heard. The melodic phrases and patterns positively twinkle like sunlight through layered foliage. Light and airy, understated yet beautifully detailed - these tunes demonstrate just how full of feeling and humanity a digital sound palette can become in the right hands. The odd piano sounds slightly melancholy and touching among the programmed textures - Breeze Is Nice really pulling at the heart strings. Sparse bass touches and dulled kicks see Hidetoshi making full use of the frequency spectrum as little frills and crackly specks dot the surface like motes in the air.
 
ARTWORK   An utterly captivating package here from Ultimae - you almost want to own this album even if you don't fancy the music, it's that appealing. But, I'm pretty sure that if you're a downtempo fan that tends toward the ambient end of the genre, you will love this release for the music too. The usual three panel panorama unfurls a delightful scene of twig tips and spider threads caught in the sun, perfect depth of focus and lovely colour. Track titles are on the rear cover with times for each piece. inside is a second narrow slice of nature in a different hue - again beautiful. No text here to spoil the view except contact details in the black border below. The accompanying sixteen page booklet holds a series of abstract photographs each offering an ephemeral visual to match a track from the album. Credits are on each page as well as a brief inspirational phrase.
 
OVERALL   

Hidetoshi Koizumi from Tokyo, Japan is the man behind Hybrid Leisureland. You might have caught his previous Ultimae tracks on the Oxycanta collections. The label refers to his music as "micro environments, delicate yet intense," that captures the impression well. Having been composing since 1995 it comes as no great surprise that Hidetoshi appreciates Erik Satie - a similar minimal, grace and beauty shaping Scroll Slide throughout. The nine pieces here are mostly just over the five/six minute mark - unhurried developments that gently dance in the air making their emotive mark and flitting away. The artist himself says of his work: "I picture the original world, investigate my own, and express it as delicate whispers..." You should listen to this one if you enjoy detailed ambient environments - the Ultimae website provides samples of all the tracks.

 
   

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Hessien - Obelisk | Stelea
STYLE
 

Hazy, ambient audio-environments. Obelisk | Stelea consists of a set of four original tracks and four reworkings by collaborating artists. The first series of four features layered guitars textures, understated phrases and harmonics as well as soft veils of female vocal from Jane Williams and various field recordings of barely discernible human voices. There are some sparse bass lines and hints of rhythm; peculiar disturbances and muted clatter, echoing patterns and pulsing reverberation further establishing semi-conscious beats. Blankets of hiss and mists of lo-fi noise soften much of the music, bathing everything in a dreamlike blur. The emphasis on acoustic sounds gives way somewhat to an increasingly synthetic tone as the collaborating artists bend the source recordings to their diverse individual will; muted washes and soft focus drones eroding and gelling around the earlier clarities.

 
ARTWORK   For the purposes of this review I have only a digital download to hand and so will likely not do justice to the exquisite presentation that we've come to expect from Fluid Audio and Handstitched*. The package arrives in "letter pressed covers that slip nicely into organic silk screened cotton pouches," and comes as a strictly limited edition of only 200 copies. There is an 8-page full colour booklet included that features a series of exclusive images and 4 specially commissioned poems by Estela Lamat, themed around the 4 original songs by Hessien. There are generous images of the packaging in all its glory at the Fluid Audio website.
 
OVERALL   

Hessien - is primarily Charles Sage & Tim Diagram who recorded this music on location in Queanbeyan, Australia and Cambridgshire, UK. The project releases the EP Obelisk|Stelea via Fluid Audio and Handstitched*. The four reworkings of the original source material, intercepted in various states of formation, are by Solo Andata, Jasper TX, Zelienople and Konntinent. Promotional material describes the EP as: "Four pieces becoming eight tales of dislocation, separation and musical connectivity." You can listen to a sample from the EP as well as download a free bonus track at Fluid Audio. There are also some listening selections and discussion of the release at Handstitched*

 
   

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Solar Fields - [Altered] Seconds Movements
STYLE
 
Ambient downtempo electronica. Solar Fields here delivers a development of the music on Movements - not a remix album by any means, but an evolution of that source material, allowed here to open up, to meander and explore the more ambient aspects of the sounds. It is almost is if Altered rises mist-like, incorporeal from the solidity of Movements. The sound is lush and intense, full of the multi-layered complexities and subtleties that we have come to expect from Solar Fields. Static and crackle fleck the quieter moments, gently heaving pads and washes of tone shifting in ebb and flow, hints of rhythm arising like a lazy tide. Very emotive, very beautiful - electronic music at its most moving, stirring best.
 
ARTWORK   [Altered] Second Movements arrives in an Ultimae digipack of three panels - a puddled concrete surface looming away in a string diagonal. At the bright right-most extreme, the forms of clouds can be made out in the reflections on the water; to the left, the panorama fades gradually into complete blackness. Titles are on the rear with associated times, the third panel a void of darkness. Inside the imagery is mostly cloudscape - a sharp architectural facade of old windows to the right. Only one inner section holds any text - the left - here are brief credits and recording details as well as website and contact addresses.
 
OVERALL   

In the wake of [Leaving Home] Magnus Birgersson released the follow-up [Extended] as a limited edition, doing as the title suggested, extending the initial concepts and opening up the structures of the tracks on [Leaving Home] into deep downtempo freeforms. Here a similar approach has been taken with [Altered] Second Movements - this time the beats and tight arrangements of [Movements] have been carefully altered, resulting in a series of drifting, floatational moods. Promotional material explains: "For Swedish composer Magnus Birgersson a work of music can take many paths, and so this album is purely interpreting another way to move through sound ... as in the reminiscence of a dream, Solar Fields subtly recalls [Movements] harmonies and melodies in a widely stretched manner with low resonating pads providing a soft texture upon which electrified and crunchy interferences glide." That describes the intent and result of the project well - as you listen to Altered, you'll catch forms and sounds that you distantly recognise (if you've heard Movements that is) here luxuriating in the depths of colourful sonic atmospheres. Far removed from their initial incarnations - these familiar variations are ideal for anyone appreciating the more beatless, loose nature of Solar Fields. The Ultimae website offers the usual selection of samples to explore before buying.

 
   

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------relapxych.0 - City Nightlights
STYLE
 

Ambient soundscaping and experimental environmental music. City Nightlights is a strongly atmospheric album of hazy ambient tone and subtle rhythmic undercurrents. There is a soft-focus mist bathing all of the smooth drones and peculiar field recordings that are so deftly blended here. Rhythmic patterns of varying wavelengths form among the shifting densities as layers combine and reinforce, hints of vocal utterances reverberating periodically in soft juxtaposition. Muted beats on occasions hang deep within the oceanic drone-beds often barely discernible, at times massing distantly into pulsing regularity, more often drifting away back into obscurity. Within the expanse far-off disturbances and faint percussive shufflings emerge to agitate the surface bringing some interesting sibilance to the mix.

 
ARTWORK   City Nightlights arrives in a slim jewelcase with a single insert of artwork. The outer cover is without text: a dreamy photograph of washed out tones presents a view of grey/brown buildings, upper windows reflecting a pale sky. Centrally a pool of fountains catches the eye with a statue of a female figure that initially appears to be floating above the water. Only on closer inspection is it obvious that a tall base lifts this frozen lady into the air. The flip side of the insert provides the tracklist and some background information on the project along with website details.
 
OVERALL    relapxyxh.0 is an alias of Stockholm based Anders Peterson; freelance sound designer and engineer. In this incarnation Anders records abstract ambient music with organic field recordings and subtle electronic percussive structures. Anders also runs the label by means of which City Nightlights is released: Ghost Sounds, aimed at "exploring the deeper realms of soundscapes and ambience, often incorporating elements of minimal techno and idm related rhythmic patterns into the mix". On this disc are a total of six tracks that work around a united theme; mid-length pieces that you might like to explore via the label's Myspace page.