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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Robert Rich - Medicine Box
STYLE
 
November 2011
Lush, colourful, organic ambience.
Robert Rich further defines the trajectory established on Ylang. Serene, graceful and heavenly on the one hand with dreamy female wordless vocals and gliding, airy atmospheres; earthy and exotic on the other with bird-like sounds, global drum grooves and rich melodic phrases. Much of the grounding of Medicine Box stems from the array of gutsy fusion beats where sonorous hand drums, rattling international percussives, metallic chimes and traditional drum kit sounds combine to form timeless rhythms. Strong bass lines deepen the rhythmic patterns leaning almost toward downtempo or dub in places. The melodic content of Medicine Box is vibrant and varied: peculiar synthetic sounds and global flavours buoying up hypnotic themes developed on piano, flute, lap steel guitar or synthesiser.
 
ARTWORK   Medicine Box presents a gorgeous visual palette full of colour, texture and intriguing detail to complement the audio content. A three panel digipack, the front cover nods somewhat toward the steampunk aesthetic with tarnished brass or bronze cogs and windows set into heavily painted wood. Opening out: the leftmost panel shows a black and yellow salamander lizard crawling upon arcane drawings on a yellowing page; the remaining central section displays a track listing and credits upon a sheet of stained squared paper, a painted blue box echoing drawn box forms. The three inner panels have a very different feel: a montaged phantasmagoria of creature parts, serpentine, insectile, winged, furred, veined, coiled, apparently contained within the four walls of worn boxes. Vibrant and beguiling, two such panels bookend a central image where three fiery bugs? pods? seeds? lie on a ground of olive green lichen. No words here inside - just visuals.
 
OVERALL    Medicine box sees ambient master Robert Rich return with the follow-up to 2010's Ylang album. As before, Rich is joined by a variety of collaborators: Haroun on guitar, Cheri Chuang on vocals, Edo Castro on cello and Slim Heilpern on chromatic harmonica. If anything the magic of Ylang is stronger here, the hues more saturated, the scented air more heady. The nine tracks provide just over and hour's listening time, mostly clocking in at around the six/seven minute mark, with the ten minute forty two second Helios concluding the set. Track titles do much to set the tone for the music: Crepuscule, Salamander Quay, Callyx, Pollen, Kaaruwana - haunting; full of introspective wonder; from global to miniscule in scope; expressive and highly personal. The music can be sampled at the Robert Rich website or via CD Baby
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Various Artists - [Ambrosia]
STYLE
 
November 2011
Lush and engrossing psychill.
Ambrosia presents a high quality array of twinkling downtempo gems. Some of the artists here might be unfamiliar to many listeners, but the sound Ultimae vision and standard is maintained throughout. The set opens with a light, bass-emptied programmed groove soon given its bottom end by a deep low frequency pulse. Sweeping synthetics upon many-layered melodic arps and clean chimes ebb and flow in constant flux setting the tone for what is to come. Miktek provides a shady plodding track that throbs insistently, the beat coming and going, finally building into lazy d'n'b busyness. This hint at drum and bass is echoed in the following track, the flutter of high tempo steadied by the more dominant half speed rhythm and ambient soundscaping. Aes Dana leads the album into its more fully psychill core with a lift of pace before a rather distinct piece from Sesen suddenly takes the trip on something of a detour. This track Sun Ritual with its two minute thirty beatless intro has a limited palette of airy tones and echoing effects that suggest a large water filled cavern. Asura delivers another stand-out recording V.A.N.T.A. with choral voice samples lending a sense of the sacred; a chanting crescendo falling off midway into dreamy calm before a second massing begins. The final two tracks have a very hypnotic, dreamy nature, Memphidos especially, with Why finding our voyage becalmed, creaking percussives and oceanic swells before heaving off on a breezy beat. Miktek returns to close the set with the appropriately named Ominous Ride: a crepuscular mood and measured beat supporting minimal piano - we return to port in gathering darkness.
 
ARTWORK   [Ambrosia] follows the current Ultimae format: glossy three panel digipack, generous booklet slotting into and end section. Artwork features intricate water patterns, bright trickling shoreline ripples on the front cover; foam, bubbling tidal patterns and breakers inside; almost geometrical light patterns on clear, shallow water on the booklet cover. All titles sit within darkened panels - tracks and times on the rear cover. Minimal label info is the only textual material inside. The booklet holds to the pattern of a page per track - coastal imagery mostly in keeping with our Greek Islands itinerary. The contrasting final double page spread holds a dark monochrome portrait of Fishimself and a list of thanks and photo credits.
 
OVERALL   

French label Ultimae releases its latest various artists album Ambrosia compiled by 'ambient activist' Haris Papadimitriou - aka Fishimself. The official biography informs us that, among other things, "Fishimself is ...owner of Freeze Magazine in Greece and IT Record shop in Athens, organiser of the first almost ambient only festival in Europe ISLAND OF FIRE ... and last but not least a outstanding DJ." Here the ten selected tracks present a Greek Island odyssey build around the music of a number of lesser known Greek artists plus a couple of Ultimae mainstays: Max Million and Gusk, Miktek, Sygnals, Sesen, Alpha Tek, Memphidos, One Arc Degree, and two French guests, AES Dana and Asura. The sense of a journey is strong here with an approach that will more than compensate any fans concerned that Ultimae's Fahrenheit series has concluded. As usual Ultimae has a fine presentation at the label's web site where you can explore the music and read more about the project.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Steve Roach - Journey Of One
STYLE
 
November 2011
Live tribal ambience.
Journey of One is well named as ambient legend Steve Roach presents a two disc walkabout that showcases the evolution of some of his most engrossing music from the mid-nineties period. Disc one fades out of silence into an eerie electrospace where languidly twisting pads are shot through with wirey threads of tone and keening repeating motifs. Two minutes in, a deep, soft beat arises and, with shattering percussive flourishes, propels the music forward. Ethnic chants echo in the distance, the beat shifts and Steve's rich didgeridoo thickens the texture. Utilizing analog and digital synths, clay water pots percussion, lustrous chimes, butterfly cocoons and seed pod shakers and ocarinas, Roach unfolds a story that looks Janus-like into the remote past and the future. Disc two opens with a cavernous, murmuring drone that is later joined by a hypnotic synthetic beat with tribal undertones. Subsequent tracks reintroduce the unique groan of the didgeridoo deeply integrated into ambient soundscape. Rattles and sonorous hand drums against twilight expanses, lazy, dreamy or energetic and vital, interchange with electronic twinkle and coruscation. Track five sees a synth pattern reminiscent of early Berlin school burble beneath a wash of smooth sonic atmosphere: beautiful, soporific and highly immersive. The set concludes with a stratospheric zone of pure silk: drifting, wandering, weightless and free.
 
ARTWORK   Artwork for Journey of One is made by the artist himself with photographs by Katie Holm and graphic work by Projekt's Sam Rosenthal: a gnarled and pitted earth-amber hued surface where images of the performance appear within murky hand shadows. The rear cover lists simply the two discs against their running times. The three panels of this matt digipack open out to reveal an inside spread where aboriginal dot patterns trail across a second brown texture ground. The leftmost panel holds three photographs of the concert and a discussion of the music along with brief credits.
 
OVERALL   

Journey Of One is a double live album from the Steve Roach archives having the subtitle: "the tribal ambient era Live 1996". The music was recorded during "a vital period of innovation for Steve" wherein his own solo material and collaborations with Jorge Reyes, Suspended Memories, Vidna Obmana and Robert Rich among others extended the boundaries and explored more deeply fusions of ancient and modern sound sources made possible by developing technology. Released on the Projekt label, Journey Of One presents a solo concert captured at Sacramento, California. Each disc contains a little less than an hour of music divided into tracks that flow seamlessly from one into an other: seven pieces on disc one, seven on disc two. "These releases are sign posts at points along the way, the journey of one man rapt in sound." Almost too clear, too well crafted to be a live album: no audience sound; yet with all the power and engrossing individuality of a great, unique performance.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Annie Barker - ... For A Better Place
STYLE
 

November 2011
Dream pop, shoegazer, ethereal female vocals.
... For A Better Place is a beautiful EP of guitar driven songs in the tradition of the Cocteau Twins. Guthrie's distinctive guitar sound and Annie's lush, layered dreamy vocals make comparisons inevitable. But that's no bad thing - this is not a weak imitation from wannabe sound-alikes - the five tracks here are remarkably sound and immersive. The singing is inventive, soaring and passionate exhibiting an exciting range and pleasing variety of approach. The opener Cruel sets the tone with electronic spangles and echoing vibes upon a subtle electro-beat, gentle singing, intimate and heavenly at the same time. Rich guitar patterns drift in a little later, a second verse, then the drums broaden and the vocal reverie deepens: a slow motion crescendo of gorgeous shoegazer majesty. I especially like Ghetto Birds where the wistful, lulling qualities of airy voice and misty soundscaping really come together to enshroud the stark lyrical material in a cocoon of agonising beauty. There's not a weak track on the disc though: Coat Off also astounds with delightful layered singing and So Refined heaves with oceanic crescendos of emotion.

 
ARTWORK   ... For A Better Place arrives in a smooth matt finish digipack of two panels. The pair open out to reveal a single panoramic image where the singer plus two children stand hand in hand gazing across a twilight field; when closed a simple field of long grass and a lone tree fill the front cover. Track titles are on the rear section. Inside, the left section contains lyrics to each track so that the bitter sweet juxtaposition of the songs here can be more fully appreciated. Brief credits and thanks sit behind the dics itself on the right.
 
OVERALL    Singer songwriter Annie Barker returns to collaborate with producer Robin Guthrie (of Cocteau Twins fame) with a stunning five track EP. ... For A Better Place comes five years after Annie's debut album Mountains and Tumult and seems like a great leap forward musically. The five tracks here include a remix of Cruel by Manual (aka Jonas Munk) who gives the opener a subtle reworking, holding the drums back until just after the mid point. If this EP is anything to go by then there could be wonderful things ahead for lovers of this kind of music: where Mountains and Tumult had the raw feel of an artist finding their sound, ...For A Better Place sees Annie Barker truly ascending, confident and bewitching. Sounds can be explored on the Annie Barker website, where there is plenty of information and opportunities to make a purchase.
 
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Zero Cult - Vacuum
STYLE
 

December 2011
Ambient chillout and blissful downtempo.
Vacuum is a delicate and sensitive album of lush, evocative electronica where languid beats and dream-like soundscapes support subtle melodies. These softly unfolding themes heave with hypnotic beauty, yet always retain plenty of complementary shade and dignity. Most tracks have extended, unhurried introductions where Zero Cult's ambient atmospheres can fully spread like multi-coloured mists before the rhythmic material sets everything in motion. There are also plenty of beatless interludes where the percussion falls away completely and sometimes the whole melodic framework too, leaving the listener gliding upon faint air currents ready, anticipating the second coming. Overall, Vacuum has a fine balance of light and shadow, delivering attractive compositions that feed the attention whilst neatly avoiding the clichés of the psychill mainstream.

 
IN DEPTH  

Vacuum opens gradually with a hypnotic interplay of misty pads and lustrous echoing effects; sonic winds curl around ascending tones and a gentle rhythmic structure slowly coalesces: vibes, synth arps, bass pulse and, about three minutes in, a ponderous programmed groove. This track - Muse - establishes what the album is all about: saturated colour; serene harmonies and breezy beats. Heartworks sees the trance elements of Zero Cult's sound solidify around a bubbling bassline and measured beat, but this denser sound quickly evaporates as the next track once again takes on a more weightless approach. The album has at its centre the gorgeous Second Breath, this is a wonderfully transportational piece that revolves around a mesmerising motif that carefully evolves and repeats with a tender, insistent intensity. 8 Hertz introduces a more mechanistic tone arising out of dark drones and reverberating voice samples: here a sparse, thumping kick and grumbling bass line give the track a slightly sinister edge. For the most part this is a purely instrumental album, however, just before the end there is a track that casts a different spell: a soporific, meandering piece of hazy euphoria where an unusual female vocal hangs in the air, haunting the synthetics with a wistful song from New Zealand's Aviatrix.

 
ARTWORK   The cover artwork for Vacuum features a hi-key design where a complex tangle of synthetic grey-white thorns lies upon a smooth, pale, infinite plane. Like some hollow, plastic urchin or structure of artificial cactus spines this jagged, monochrome formation is in stark contrast to the curving, fluid music within. I don't yet have a physical copy of this album and so can't comment on other artwork except to say that I have had a number of Cosmic Leaf releases over the years and the graphic quality is of a consistently high standard.
 
OVERALL   

Israel's Emil Ilyayev returns here with his sixth album of downtempo trance and follow-up to the 2010 release: Clouds Garden. Once more on Cosmic Leaf Records, Zero Cult delivers a maturing sound that luxuriates deep within the reverie of ambient chillout. The ten tracks here include two versions of the deliriously laid back Second Breath: an original mix and a second vocal radio edit featuring Aviatrix with the distinctive voice of Kerensa Stephens. Dying Dolphin has an accompanying video aimed at raising awareness of the plight of these endangered mammals. The footage displays some of the horrors of the 30 000 or so dolphins slaughtered around the world each year. You can further learn of Vacuum at the Cosmic Leaf website or you might like to visit the official Zero Cult pages at Myspace and Facebook.

 
ARTIST'S THOUGHTS   Vacuum is an album of almost two years of creation, it reflects my emotional experience
within that time. I advise listening to the album as one complete whole, then you'll get the fullest pleasure from listening to the music.
   
LABEL'S THOUGHTS   Release Info:
Zero Cult is back with his new 6th ambient chill album, Vacuum.One of the most selling and high feedbacked cosmicleaf artists.His wonderful trance influenced soundscapes that creates, combined with the mysterious downtempo melodies and rhythms, promising a great sound pleasure for the downtempo listeners.

Label Info:
Cosmicleaf is one of a new wave of labels from the global progressive and psy-trance underground that is reinventing dance music for the ambient zone beyond just stripping away the fast tempos. The global talent such labels are attracting is inspiring. Cosmicleaf releases have both darkness and light, familar genre sounds and strange new sounds, a mindset open to genuine variety and which understands "beautiful" is something profound, not cheesy or trite.
The ambient spaces between electro, trance, rock and world fusion are fertile ones, and the richness here suggests a group of artists diving headlong into them with passion, open minds and impressive programming skills.

     
AUDIO  
Go to Beatport.com Get These Tracks Add This Player
     
TECHNICAL   Catalog Number: CLCD038DG
Genre: Ambient,Downtempo,Trance,Electronic,New Age,Electro Ambient,Electronic
Label: Cosmicleaf Records
Release Date: 02 December 2011
Label Link: www.cosmicleaf.com
Artist Link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Zero-Cult/43520643043

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Darshan Ambient - Dream In Blue
STYLE
 
December 2011
Electronic ambient and jazz fusion.
Dream In Blue sees Darshan Ambient infusing his trademark smooth ambient groove with elements of jazz: brushed drums and lazy double bass; electronic guitar, trumpet and piano leads; intricate drum beats and baleful themes. The soft programmed percussion that usually graces Darshan Ambient albums still provides a muted heartbeat to many tracks - tranquil, serene. The pleasant melodies, where soft, keening synths sing against more organic instrumentation are still a feature. There are passages of beatless ambience such as the drifting Waiting On A Dead Man's Horse; the mournful piano, trumpet and strings of Silent Smile (Angelo's Song).
 
ARTWORK   Dream In Blue arrives in a sleek, dark card wallet of two panels; black inside and out. All except one panel hold chiaroscuro portrait photographs of the artist, features stark in the raking light. The rear cover, as is traditional, presents a track list along with credits for artwork and recording dates. The inside left has only another side-lit portrait rising out of darkness; the right panel provides a description of the creative process for the album, pointing out that Michael Allison plays all of the instruments on the album himself.
 
OVERALL    This latest release from Darshan ambient comes as follow-up to last year's A Day Within Days. Once more the album is released via the Spotted Peccary/Lotuspike label. From a history in the 1980's playing bass and singing in various groups (such as Nona Hendryx & Zero Cool, China Shop, Richard Hell and The Voidoids and Empty House) Michael Allison moved on to ambient music around 1992 in order to concentrate on his solo ideas in expression of his interest in self-realisation. Starting out as an homage to such legendary jazz notables as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Dream In Blue seeks to combine the free form elements of improvisation, ambient meandering and global musical expression. There are eleven recording here, all of which can be sampled at the Spotted Peccary website.