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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Deaf Centre - Owl Splinters
STYLE
 

Feb 2011
Dark, cinematic and modern classical ambient. Deaf Centre build upon their highly respected reputation with this latest release of deep, brooding ambience built around the organic richness of cello and piano. The rustle and flutter of recorded disturbances periodically contrast the sonorous reverberation of bowed strings and the muted rumble of bass hammers. There is often a sense of enormity wherein the shadow and disquiet of Deaf Centre's sonic thundercloud is at times touched by the brightness of echoing piano such that delicate beauty drifts all the more touchingly against so tenebrous a backdrop. Between the weight and sobriety of the longer recordings Erik Skodvin bows a lone cello with such intensity that every drag and push of hair on wire rings out with creaking fidelity. Otto Totland's solo piano in turn has a plaintive, haunting attraction; huge, slightly distant bass notes and soft percussive pedal motions underscoring the elegance of the higher notes. The concluding track Hunted Twice rings in the memory with a nostalgic interplay of strings and ivories that hangs in the air long after the album concludes, leaving the listener with a restless yearning - ready for a further journey into sonic chiaroscuro.

 
ARTWORK   There is an appropriate murky ambiguity and classy simplicity to the artwork here. The cover image presents vertical strands with faint hints of light threaded across darkness except for the lower left quarter. Here an illuminated pale blue/orange form hides behind the hanging strands or perhaps is projected upon them. This lustrous focal region is hazy, undefined such that it could be any one of a number of lurking things. The rear cover image is similar; this time symmetrical in form, contrasting in hue; a grey blue form to the left, orange right. Within, the central spread is flat brown black: titles alone and small on the leftmost panel; recording information and brief thanks rightmost.
 
OVERALL   

The 2004 Deaf Center delivery of Neon City set Norwegian musicians Erik Skodvin and Otto Totland on a steep upward trajectory that has seen the duo gathering intense appreciation for their somber soundscapes and inevitably inspiring various imitators. Further releases: the 2005 full length Pale Ravine; separate projects Svarte Greiner and Nest have added to the magnetic gravity and mystique of the duo. Owl Splinters has a lot to live up to and the high quality studio recording and engineering evident here seems to provide the required step upward. Hard to believe the guys entered the studio with little in the way of fixed plans and managed to create Owl Splinters in just three days. The beloved lo-fi textures of previous material are developed with impressive high fidelity attention to atmospheric detail and striking clarity. If you have enjoyed previous Deaf Centre recordings, Owl Splinters will surely not disappoint. You can listen to the music at the Type Records website you can buy the album at Boomkat.

 
   

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Bio + Larkian +Les Poissons Autistes
STYLE
 

Feb 2011
Electro ambient with post-rock leanings and traditional hints. This self titled album draws together some diverse sounds from remote collaborators and stirs them into a viscous, meandering melange. Under an experimental ambient umbrella, the seven recordings here roam through lulling layered dronescapes; heavily effected guitar and crunchy slow beats that suggest a bit of 80s vinyl spinning at 16rpm; peculiar folk-noise fusion where European yesterdays haunt wistful electronic cycles. Often there is a sense of nostalgic depth not just from the echoes of recycled retro sounds but from overlaid noise and haze submerging other forms far below as if recalled distantly, uncertainly. On the few recordings where beats are present, these are mostly restrained, distant affairs eroded and muted into hazy softness. Other passages establish faltering cadence from the gathering of atmospheric intensities, rhythmic momentum ebbing and flowing in and out of sync.

 
ARTWORK   A truly cool card envelope holds this disc. Matt black ground with a sharp spiderweb of radiating grey threads emanating from the central title. Two panels, track titles with associated times on the rear. Inside consistent grey/black line visuals frame the various text sections: credits and thanks and a break down of artist input for each recording. The disc is neatly slotted into a lateral compartment in the right hand panel.

 
OVERALL    Three Swiss projects unite via the medium of file sharing to present a unique electro-acoustic collaboration. Guitarist, composer Julien Baillod aka Bio, guitar alchemist Cyril Monnard aka Larkian and Les Poissons Autistes, Philippe Simon and Stéphane Babey release their shared vision through three:four records. There are seven mid-length tracks in all, ranging from just over five minutes through to around ten and a half. The three:four records website provides more information including a Soundcloud link for listening to each track.
 
   

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Johan Agebjörn - The Mountain Lake
STYLE
 

March 2011
Ambient groove and spacey electronica. The Mountain Lake is a warm, melodic album with an obvious love of sci fi themes fuelling many of the compositions. Airy synth pads and dreamy washes float around invitingly uncluttered phrases, various layers of harmony interacting with each other in question and answer or deftly entwined. Agebjörn's nostalgic appreciation for the 1980's is evident in both the sharp synthesiser arrangements and the retro drum machine beats; however, this looking back is balanced Janus-like with futuristic audio imagery, smooth cinematic scenery and blissful, floatational reverie.

 
ARTWORK   The Mountain Lake arrives in a jewelcase with a two panel insert. The front cover presents a vertical horizon that is appealingly ambiguous; heavy, dark mass to the left; effulgent silky green to the right. The rear cover reveals something of the source of the front image: here we can see the green light to be the sky interrupted by mountainous forms, the waters of a night time lake barely breaking the darkness. Again shifted by ninety degrees, this photograph backs the track list, footed by website details. Within, a soft focus greenscape presents a lengthy discussion of the project to the left: to the right a discography and an appropriate poetic quote.
 
OVERALL   

Swedish musician Johan Agebjörn has a pretty substantial discography to date that can essentially be split into two main projects: the electro ambient side (of which The Mountain Lake is the latest release) and a 'neo-italo disco studio' project featuring singer Sally Shapiro. For this album Johan has returned to Lotuspike to follow up his Mossebo collection of 2008. The thirteen tracks on The Mountain Lake explore personal themes, taking the title from the English language translation of the Göteborg suburb where he lived between the years 2007 - 2009 when the album was under development. The album features collaborative input from Sally Shapiro and Lisa Barra on vocals, as well as Glass Candy, NeonCoil, Sylwia van der Wonderland and remix guru Steve Moore. You can listen to tracks at Spotted Peccary or at http://www.johanagebjorn.info/.

 
AUDIO

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Phutureprimitive - Kinetik

STYLE
 

March 2011
Prowling, energetic electronic downtempo. The initial impression given by Kinetic is one of controlled aggression balanced fastidiously against a languid, cyber-punk sense of brooding cool. The bold, acidic sound palette is full of elastic zaps, muscular synth tones and gutsy bass lines. Bright melodic patterns, gated airy threads and lush pads glide through the growling machinery; often these are quite beautiful in stark contrast to much of the raw energy of the rhythmic content. The juxtaposition of harsh, gritty frameworks, dark shadowy imagery and dreamy themes built around downtempo bpm's results in a surprising overall serenity. Kinetik has a very professional feel to it, exquisitely produced and intricately crafted; excellent dance floor material with sufficient class and character to reward the home listener equally.

 
ARTWORK  

I have only the promotional electronic version of this release and so have only seen the above left cover image. An appropriately synthetic android profile with a sensual poise fills the front cover. The introspective mechanoid gazes downward comprised of complex graphic details and mechanistic patterns.

 
OVERALL   

Phutureprimitive is the project of American Northwest producer/songwriter Rain. He released the debut album Sub Conscious back in 2004 on Waveform Records. A three track vocal oriented EP entitled Luminous appeared last year featuring Alyssa Palmer on Rain's own Native Harmonix label. There have also been a series of singles on various compilations. Now we have the full length ten track sophomore album. The artist's own comments explain: "This album is a reflection of the times we are living in … hard and aggressive, lush and beautiful, kinetic, frenetic, distorted, ever changing … but with each passing moment, a chance to move through life and make it a better place than we found it."
You can find this release at phutureprimitive.bandcamp.com as a digital download as well as all the usual outlets. Should you want a physical copy - catch the promotional live shows where a limited number of discs will be distributed.

 
   

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Chronos - Inspirational Power
STYLE
 

March 2011
Downtempo psychill, lush electronica and acoustic performance. Inspirational Power opens with a gentle, beatless melodic piece built around a cycling, sequential pattern; distant male vocals hang wordlessly in the bright Autumn air; warm atmospherics; tranquil harmony. Chronos appears to be revelling in the beauty of digital sound on these tracks: gradual developments and expansive interludes in no rush to a final destination; beats that seem to inhabit the music rather than dominate; attractive melodic phrases and the intertwined twinkle of arpeggiators. There is a distinct sense of a musical journey to the album as the earlier restfulness develops into more climactic pieces with heavier grooves around the midway mark. Finally the music ascends spaceward via the synthetic sci-fi tones and philosophical musings of Optimistic Future and the meandering, ethereal, beat free concluder Forgiveness.

 
MOOD   The shifting mood here is often one of deep serenity and unhurried reverie. The intricacies of the beats are frequently offset by drifting ambient progressions and mesmerising evolving repetitions. There are spacey sections in places where the electronics take on a more sinewy, sharper-edged nature. Occasional global elements introduce touches of earthy exotica; most prominent on the folk remix of Sky Path: here flamenco style acoustic guitars juxtapose tribal drumming and Indian vocals before the track breaks wide open with an Irish reel played on distinctive uilleann pipes. There is even a progressive section with flute improvisation and a brief but distinct nineteen seventies vibe that arises during Deus Ex Machina.
 
ARTWORK   A jewel case presentation, Inspirational Power is fronted by a sharp graphic image of running figures upon interconnected cogs. Bold, black, dynamic - stare long enough and the whole things aches to move - set against a sleek icy grey ground that reflects the man machine in the foreground. The rear cover tracklist includes writing, production and collaborative credits laid out over greys and gears familiar from the flip side. Within, the double page spread of the insert is a rich presentation of photographs and text. There are performance shots highlighting the acoustic/electronic blend of Chronos' music with colourful instruments displayed and engrossed players at work. As well as the usual contact and technical details there is an interesting paragraph of background information on the artist.
 
OVERALL   

Russian musician and sound designer Nick Klimenko delivers his third album as Chronos. Having collaborated back in 2009 with Catalizer on the Ajana release Quid est Veritas? he now follows up his debut solo of 2007 Steps to the Greater Knowledge. For Inspirational Power Chronos has turned to the Beats & Pieces label. There are ten tracks in all here that rise out of restful introspection gradually into dynamic downtempo psychedelia and global chill before floating right off through the stratosphere into infinite space. This album reveals Chronos to be a multifaceted project with both carefully crafted studio work and live performance aspects in evidence. The depth and colour of sound benefits from Nick's work developing virtual instruments and sound libraries as well as his collaborative relationships that give rise to some engrossing instrumentation threaded through the electronica.

 
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM  

Inspirational Power is one of those electronic albums that transcends the usual genre limitations; promotional material rightly claims that "it explores the paths between ambient, chillout, ethnic music and psychedelic hypnotic trance vibrations." Fans of colourful, deeply chilled psytrance will enjoy this release, so too will those with an interest in global dance music. The Beats & Pieces website holds listening material if you'd like to see for yourself.

 
AUDIO
 
VIDEO

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Various Artists - Cloud 11 (Cartesian Binary)
STYLE
 

March 2011
Eclectic downtempo and IDM with subtle classical elements. Sharp, contemporary electronica and fractured downbeat grooves unite this gathering of blissfully experimental artists. Quite a cerebral sound here as the tracks range from tranquil glitchscapes to dissonant drones and blip flecked noise. Jazz and lounge elements inhabit a few pieces, yet bent to the extreme, given new shape, submerged within a bed of welling bed of disquiet, amid hi-tech peripherals and crystalline programming. There are some blissful, drifting passages along the way such as the hazy, soft focus guitar meandering of Helios' Stasis and the spacious EVAC collaboration with Rena Jones on What Once Was West. Field Rotation combines evocative environmental recordings with deliriously effected strings, sparing piano touches and airy electronics on Life As A Paper Sail Boat as the album winds down into serious dreaminess. The Moving Dawn Orchestra's Your Light pretty much has the listener floating blissfully with its ethereal atmospherics and lilting melodic subtleties; building to a climactic ascending conclusion in readiness for the excellently titled final track Cloud Architecture from Phidelity.

 
ARTWORK   I just have the digital promo copy of this release and so have only seen the cover artwork displayed above left. A muted grey blue graphic of receding hills with a distinct depth of focus highlighting the pair of central integers. Simple yet absorbing.
 
OVERALL    Cloud 11 is the first compilation album delivered via Rena Jones’ own label Cartesian Binary Recordings. For this project a number of familiar names were gathered: Funckarma, Helios, EVAC, Komposit, Hands Upon Black Earth, Ben Milstein, Phidelity, gasp, The Moving Dawn Orchestra, Field Rotation and the Abominable Twitch. To add to the appeal Rena Jones herself supplies strings that lace evocatively through the music at various point on the album. For me the collection begins with something of a US feel, recalling Native State releases and then meanders toward Europe toward the latter half of the thirteen piece set as a more timeless quality emerges. The Cartesian Binary website holds a Soundcloud for the album so treat yourself to a listen.