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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Various Artists - Fahrenheit Project Part 7
STYLE
 
June 2011
Fluid journey through ambient groove and oneiric downtempo.
The final part of the Fahrenheit series delivers another dose of cinematic psybient soundscaping guaranteed to transport the listener to tranquil vistas and exotic dreamlands.
Opening with the burbling bass and stratospheric angelic vocal filaments of Gaiana, the initial phase of the voyage goes on to present the chilled trance and ambient interludes of Asura and Astropilot. Circular dissipates the regularity of the grooves for a while with a spacious, airy composition that glides and drifts on smooth atmospheric currents; spoken words from poet Rolf Jacobsen's "Landskap med gravemaskiner" echoing within the music. Scann-Tec retain something of this expansive approach whilst returning the four four kick beat and transmission type voice samples against twinkling, coruscating electronic textures - very serene, very floatational. Hol Baumann's signature ethnic measured structure leads the way into Cygna's meandering arpeggio riddled Su Abir, where Middle Eastern elements periodically colour the mix. The next shift sees Field Rotation's textural rhythm and peculiar peripheral sounds gradually build into a percolating bass line and fluttery beat which falls away just after midway through the track. Maurizio Piazza's penultimate Hundred Miles is a lustrous piece where sequenced patterns roll round upon a light beat in mesmeric repetition, spacey pads and sound clouds hanging just behind. The set is concluded by the train-like rhythm and drifting, layered drones of Solar Fields' OnFlow.
 
ARTWORK   As with previous Fahrenheit Project releases, part seven arrives in a glossy digipack of two panels; deep, colourful liquid imagery adorning each section. Bright bubbles and elegant graphic forms cluster upon an indistinct yellow/orange form that blurs into rich blackness. The rear cover continues the same visual theme with greater incursion of shadow: track titles are listed here each with its running time; brief credits below. Inside the tracklist is expanded with writing details and credits attached. Here the imagery is shadier still, only the reflective surfaces of the bubble forms parting the darkness.
 
OVERALL    This seventh and final volume of the Fahrenheit Project (although by no means the end of Ultimae output we are assured) delivers more of what has made the project so appealing to Ultimae fans: ten tracks of glowing ambience, sparkling arpeggios, hypnotic grooves and exquisite programming. The range of international artists selected by AES Dana includes: Asura, Solar Fields, Scann-Tec, Field Rotation, Maurizio Piazza and Circular. There is a track by Hol Baumann remixed by Max Million. There are newer artists also: Cygna, Gaiana and Astropilot. Luxuriously unhurried progressions have resulted in tracks ranging from around five and a half minutes up to nine nineteen. As always, you can visit the Ultimae website for a detailed presentation of the album including sound samples of each track.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Time Being - A Dimension Reflected
STYLE
 
June 2011
Pure ambient spaces.
A Dimension Reflected consists of a series of smooth, drifting electronic expanses wherein synthetic drones, flushes and currents of tone and noise gradually heave and lazily whirl. Time Being combine “electronic instruments with deep, rich effects” to create soft-focus mindscapes where time seems to imperceptibly alter in nature: to slow, to pause, to rest? The individual compositions morph and spread like clouds around a single tonal focus; minimal in melodic structure, beatless, meandering, timeless. Liquid blips, sparkling textures, pulsing susurrations and reverberating infusions periodically detail the slowly shifting zones and evolving chordal forms. In general, the various pieces are harmoniously inviting and eminently serene, the dark undertones that well up from below lit from above with warm washes, animated by organic infusions.
 
ARTWORK   A Dimension Reflected arrives in a neat jewelcase with a two panel insert. There is a dreamy feel to the hazy, grainy, colour-saturated imagery that runs throughout the package. Photographs of quiet places, smooth skies and dense nature. The front cover holds a scene of inclement season: the bare trees and heavy hues suggestive of winter’s onset or early spring. Overlaid borders create an impression of photo-chemicals creeping onto the imagery. The rear cover is mostly sky: a graduated aqua-blue to ocean-green (almost as if seen from underwater) with tree tops on the bottom edge mirrored in the chemical blotches along the topmost border. Track titles are here with minimal credits. Within the two-panel spread is given over to an evocative shot of close-up grass heads, soft focus background undulations and blue-green submerged sky. The only text here is a short poetic stanza on the subject matter of the album.

 
OVERALL    Time Being is the project title taken on by collaborating ambient musicians Phillip Wilkerson and Jourdan Laik. Their first release in partnership, A Dimension Reflected explores a shared interest in the nature and perception of time. The album is delivered via the Lotuspike label, a subsidiary of Spotted Peccary and contains eight mid-length tracks ranging from three minutes forty one to eleven twenty nine. Promotional material offers: “Laik and Wilkerson create subtle but purposeful compositions of soundscapes – or timescapes – that guide the listener’s attention to full awareness of the eternal present moment, whilst simultaneously suspending the subjective passage of time.” Experience it for yourself; these attractive recordings certainly absorb the attention in dislocated reverie if allowed to do so. The Spotted Peccary website offers listening opportunities whilst the project's own page provides background information including notes of the album's inception.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Yes - Fly From Here
STYLE
 
July 2011
Progressive rock.
The usual Yes five-piece comes together with a new personnel structure and a fresh approach to the traditional Yes sound. Chris Squire on bass (the only member to have consistently appeared on each Yes release), long time guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White are ongoing threads central to the Yes chronicles. On Fly From Here these impressively skilled musicians do much to maintain the Yes signature sound. Keyboard duties have varied more over the years and so here we have the return of Drama-era Geoff Downes in tandem with producer Trevor Horn. This duo is credited with the bulk of the writing and so a hybrid sound similar to early eighties Yes often emerges. The most obvious difference to the normal Yes line-up is, of course, the inclusion of vocalist Benoît David in place of Jon Anderson following Jon's serious illness in recent years. David can sing the demanding back catalogue sufficiently like Jon, having performed in a tribute band for some time before being recruited to the real thing: however, here he sings mostly like Benoît David apart from a few climactic moments when the harmonies combine to sound very Yes indeed. The style of Fly From Here recalls a range of phases in the history of the band: Drama being an obvious starting point since the almost twenty five minute multi-section opener was initially penned by Downes and Horn for that album. There are pleasing echoes of Close To The Edge and that epic early seventies approach that set such a high benchmark for the Yes team to live up to. Into The Storm recalls the lighter music of Tormato and Steve Howe's acoustic solo Solitaire keeps the nostalgia flowing in a piece that might have come from any of the best Yes periods. That said, this is not an album that dwells in the past, Fly From Here sees the band doing what many of the fans would most want: taking the trademark Yes elements and creating an album that feels very new.
 
ARTWORK  

How pleased I was to find that Fly From Here has Roger Dean as the cover artist. Roger's artwork is as central to the identity of the band as the music to many fans; his colourful landscape visions setting a certain exotic tone that just connects so well. In keeping with the deep historical roots of the audio compositions, Roger began the main painting here way back in 1970 as part of a pair that never were published. The marbled style of sprayed enamel paint upon water that formed the foundation of many early paintings is visible underpinning details in more recent style. Saturated greens in layers of varying contrast adorn every panel, the Yes logo reworked in blue scales and fins for the front cover. On the rear we have track titles and times against a closer section of imagery. More close up sections of verdant scenery fill the back of the sixteen page booklet and the space behind the disc itself. Inside we find a stark monochrome version of the band logo followed by lyrics for each track and individual studio portraits. The latter pages hold a group shot with producer Horn, generous thanks, additional credits and contact details. The jewel case version that I have in my possession is just one release format - the package is available also as a limited edition CD + DVD Digipak, LP and box set with CD, DVD, LP, T-shirt (L size), poster and lithograph of cover art.

 
OVERALL   

Fly From Here is the twentieth studio album from the legendary Yes and the first new material for a decade! The band has been joined by Trevor Horn who sang on the Drama album after Jon's departure: this time though Horn is on board as producer (he previously produced 90125 and co-produced Big Generator) and song writer. Benoît David sings all tracks except The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be where Chris Squire takes the lead. The decision to record with David will surely be a controversial one as Jon Anderson's distinctive vocal style has been such a central aspect of Yes music right from the start. To his credit David does not try to imitate his predecessor - but opinions will surely vary as to whether this substitution is for the best - you can't help wondering "How might that have sounded if Jon had done it?" Nevertheless, Fly From Here treads a deft balance between old Yes epics and Yes music for the present decade. The official Yes website provides a wealth of listening opportunities, background details and links.
Meantime Jon Anderson continues to pursue solo works - we have reviewed his recent release Survival and Other Stories here at Morpheus.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Calmen - Plural
STYLE
 
July 2011
Vivacious electronic music with sinewy programmed beats.
Plural is a bright album of exuberant instrumentals where lush synthetic colour dances upon glitchy electro-grooves with unself-conscious joyful spontaneity. Strident plastic bass lines with frequent slap bass effects jerk and pump in meandering patterns as melodic motifs rise and dissipate at whim. The pace is mostly at the top end of downtempo, bouncing, lilting rhythms of clear kick and snare enhanced with hi-hat and white noise embellishments. Lightly caustic sweeps and lustrous washes heave and buzz beneath the key themes, peculiar voice snatches and strongly effected female musings adding a touch of mystique. At times the melodies rise into near anthemic dance music patterns; in other places the form is less obvious as burbling ripples of sound surround energetic chiming motifs or layered arpeggios tinkle against sharp zaps and electrobabble.
 
ARTWORK  

As I have the digital release of Plural, I have seen only the front cover image seen above left. The vigorous streaks of vivid colour smeared boldly across the image reflect well the intuitive 'free play' approach to the audio content of Calmen's album. The title appears almost to have been casually laid down in curving hand script and equally casually obscured in part by paint overlays. It feels very much of the moment, unabashed serendipity.

 
OVERALL   

Calmen is Helsinki based sound artist/composer Jussi Vento. Plural is his second full length release and follow-up to the 2009 album Bloom, both delivered via the Helsinki indie label Cymbidium Records. There are a total of ten tracks on Plural ranging in length from two minutes thirty one seconds to four forty two. Promotional material explains that "Calmen refuses to be set under any specific music category - the main point lies somewhere else. This music has more to do with space and the concept of space." The album has an enthusiastic, experimental freshness about it that grabs the attention, very instinctive and pleasingly ephemeral. You can listen to the whole album at the Cymbidium web site or you can find out more at Calmen's own site.

 
ARTIST'S THOUGHTS  

Like the title "Plural" suggests, the album is an assemblage of diverse styles and sounds. The names of the tunes might seem quite random and meaningless, but that's just the point. The tunes do not have a meaning in the sense that words do. It's not about saying something, but rather about feeling something, it's about epiphanies and ephemeral auditory events and universes. That all might seem a bit grand, but it's not. It's actually pretty simple and straightforward. That is the moment of play, the beginning of a game. In short, I just wanted to squeeze some playful and spontaneous musical moments and moods into a whole, and at the same time maybe get some feet moving on the dance floor as well. For personal pleasure or collective celebration.
- Calmen

     
AUDIO  

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS


 

 

 ----------Easily Embarrassed - Tales of the Coin Spinner
STYLE
 
August 2011
Electronic downtempo with narrative concept.
The moody chiaroscuro of the cover artwork indicates the tone of the music on Tales of the Coin Spinner, the unfolding tracks gradually telling the tale in unhurried luxury. Opening with evolving arpeggios upon drifting washes of tone, The Truth soon rolls into action with one of a number of deftly employed voice samples; bright beat and warping bass line driving a constantly shifting series of synth motifs. A number of the tracks begin with emotive introductions: dark ambience, echoing child's voice, distorted transmissions, whirling coins, doleful melodic guitar phrases, peculiar environmentals. As the pieces get under way Easily Embarrassed reveal a spread of styles from the beatless, melancholia of Under The Jester's Hat and wistful The Coin Spinner through the dubby organ stabs and gutsy gurglings of Sylphesizer via the dreamy downbeat choral mood, and descending, squelching chords of Blessed Day on Distorted Shape to the heaving heavy electronica and zappy layering of Little Match Sister. Sometimes the band even manage to pull off pretty much this whole range within a single track.
 
ARTWORK   Tales of the Coin Spinner comes in a jewelcase with a three panel insert of atmospheric narrative imagery. The various panels all present different sections of a single painting - only when the insert is opened out fully is the complete story discernible. On the front cover is a contemplative greying figure spinning coins upon a wooden table by lamplight. A leering jester doll looks on as the coins tumble one by one. On the rear cover, the tracklist hangs over a dusky scene where a young girl peeps through an open door. On opening the case the story of the picture is told in five paragraphs and a final sentence ending in ellipsis...
The disc image repeats the child picture and behind the disc, pictures on a darkened wall. Opening out we see that Jester is a jack-in-a-box, animated needing no spring - thanks and credits displayed over his shoulder. Finally the full three-panel view puts girl, toy and spinner into a single panoramic whole.
 
OVERALL    Tales of the Coin Spinner is the third album from Dutch trio Easily Embarrassed; building on the success of the 2008 debut Idyllic Life, and 2009 follow-up Planet Discovery. Released via their own label, brothers Nick and Jeffrey van der Schilden together with Peter Spaargaren here deliver an ambitious ten track concept album that confidently prowls across various sub-genres of the electronic psy-trance and chilled IDM field. In places the music edges into ambient drifting - lose and fluid - at the other extreme there are progressive aspects of clever structure and development. The complete suite of tracks totals just about an hour with a Soundcloud player on the ban's website providing previews of each piece.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------y0t0 - Uriarra Road
STYLE
 

August 2011
Emotive ambient music.
Decadent electronic textures and crackle beds enshroud delicate, sparse melodic threads: no beats, only the subtle rhythmic heave of tonal swell. y0t0 combines field recordings, digital sound manipulation, synthetic drones and processed guitar to produce deeply evocative, cinematic aural environments, mood pieces, narrative snatches. y0t0 is not alone on Uriarra Road: collaborating artists include Downliners Sekt, Jasper TX, Ghosting Season, Field Rotation, Spheruleus, Relmic Statute and Seaworthy; these present personal interpretations of Uriarra Road itself, evenly interspersed between the other compositions of the album. Faint hints of birdsong hang as distantly as the almost ethereal melodies, embedded in mists of static and rain. Snapshots of town life emerge in places: brief moments of activity amongst the eroding winds of time: a passing vehicle; voices on the edge of hearing; human movement.

 
ARTWORK  

This digital release comes with an accompanying short film by Antonymes, a PDF artwork booklet and individual images for each track of the album. The moody duo-tone images are heavy with black shade, many incorporating overlaid text crawling in the brighter regions. Like the music, visuals focus on the optimism within decay: urban edges and architectural vignettes with brooding skies of intense cloud and lustrous light. One image captures what is presumably the artist in similar chiaroscuro, the diagonal shaft of a guitar, bright hands, no face.

 
OVERALL   

y0t0 (Year Of The Ox) is the solo project of Charles Sage. Delivered via Fluid Audio's sub-label Facture; Uriarra Road is the first full length release from Sage who might well be known to many ambient fans from his work as Hessien with Tim Martin. Promotional material points out that the album is "inspired by the 1988 Australian thriller In the Winter Dark." The music "charts the decline of an outback town "drunk on nostalgia" in the wake of a fleeing industrial base." The fourteen tracks can be sampled at the artists Bandcamp page and an associated video along with booklet images is available at Fluid Audio. Uriarra Road is available in all major download formats and the images make fine screen savers.