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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Sealight - Dead Letters
STYLE
 
December 2011
Ambient shoegazer with female vocals and lush guitar.
Sealight combine acoustic folk elements with rich audio processing effects and fragile vocals. Turning to Robin Guthrie (of Cocteau Twins/Violet Indiana fame) as mixer/producer the band naturally inherits something of the sonic flavouring that arises from Robin's musical experience. Opening with clean, deeply reverberating guitar fingering a broad, dreamy atmosphere is established right from the start. Singer Sandra Rossini's voice soon drifts in: a gentle, intimate near whisper. No percussion yet, the first hint of a beat comes almost a minute into track two White Walk - a soft simple rhythm, a subtle heart beat beneath the acoustic and electric guitar layers. This piece builds briefly to a dense crescendo toward the end before dissipating like a lost breeze. Candice Coppéré's trumpet and concertina introduce subtle organic textures among the guitar, bass and synth layers.
 
ARTWORK  

Dead Letters is a smart digipack presentation: two pale panels adorned with almost abstract photographs of fragmenting snow and frost. On the front cover a single leaf of muted orange lies on the mottled grey/white ground. Track titles appear on the rear in white font against a less distinct winter abstraction. Within all information is found on the leftmost section: band credits; recording and design credits; relevant thanks and website details.

 
OVERALL   

Dead Letters is the debut release from Paris-based four piece band Sealight.
Sandra Rossini – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Concertina
Dave Olliffe – Guitars, Drums, Synthesizer, Drones
Candice Coppéré – Trumpet, Concertina
Stéphane Pigneul – Bass, Synthesizer
The EP is delivered by French label Commission 45. The five tracks here are sure to draw comparisons with shoegaze pioneers the Cocteau Twins - but then if Sealight didn't enjoy such a connection they would not have selected Robin Guthrie as mixer/producer. Dead Letters though is no sound-alike wannabe: the band's folk interests steer much of the music in their own peculiar direction. Sealight also has a consistently melancholy and introspective tone that runs like a pale thread through the whole set. Promotional material explains that "the lyrical content of the EP draws upon a collection of letters and texts surrounding the lives of the group’s families in France and Australia." You can explore more of Sealight at the band's website and the Commission 45 site.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Bruno Sanfilippo & Max Corbacho - Bioma
STYLE
 

December 2011
Subtle ambient electronics and vibrant field recordings.
Delicate bird song rises naturally out of silence, avian calls and cries surrounding the listener as if present in a deep woodland. Synthetic embellishments dance among the chirps and twitters almost unnoticed at times; then in tandem - twinkling synthetics in sync with nature; then dense drone textures, the organic material apparently suspended in strange, crawling artificial atmosphere. This shifting balance continues throughout the composition: the susurrating sounds of insects; the rough bleats of sheep; clanking cow bells; distant church bells and an abundance of bird calls - all set against constantly evolving ambient electronica - deftly interwoven into a single long form whole. In places the instrumentation gives way completely to the environmental material, then about halfway a major shift occurs: stronger, more dissonant tones that contrast the serenity of nature; abstract synth forms establish a more disquieting mood as if the woods are seen through a distorting lens - warping and colouring everything in view.

 
ARTWORK   Bioma is a neat digipack release of two panels encircled by an elegant paper slip bearing the album title. The front cover features a near monochrome photograph of a tree arcing in from the right, a bright spot of sun piercing the intricate lacework of foliage just off centre. A pale almost-white flat sky contrasts the textured greys of bark and leaf. On the rear the same flat sky takes up the bulk of the space, a loose canopy of twigs and leaves forming a partial frame. The single track title is here along with website info and a handwritten limited edition number. Inside, the monochrome approach is maintained: heavier grey; woodland imagery; discussion of the project in white font. Three small images and one large (behind the disc) show well placed microphones set to gather field recordings.
 
OVERALL   

Bruno Sanfilippo and Max Corbacho come together again in collaboration over Bioma, their last joint release was back in 2003 when they released Indalo. The album is delivered via the duo's own AD21 label. Promotional material explains "field recordings made in different places in the province of Tarragona, Spain, during spring 2010" a year later the two "composers crafted the electronic soundscapes and effects separately from each other to enrich this natural kaleidoscope of sounds." Biome is a single long form track that lasts fifty nine minutes and naturally loops back on itself if allowed to. The album is a limited edition release of only 200 copies and can, of course, be explored visually and aurally via the AD21 website.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Koan - Circe's Touch Remixes Vols 1 & 2
STYLE
 

December 2011
Lush downtempo and uplifting dance music.
Koan take as inspiration the ancient tale of mythological Circe - 'the loveliest of all the immortals' - and craft a powerfully emotive piece of lush melodic chillout. With strong hooks, heart-rending crescendos and delicate interludes, Koan weave a wordless female vocal thread among the constantly shifting electronica, choral synths and dreamy beats to great effect. The Asura remix retains much of the languid yet euphoric nature of the original, deep sub basses and clean synths. The Krusseldorf Muesli remix is more of a departure: shadowy and grumbling with contrasting spectral washes and glitchy percussion - beatless, approaching ambient in the midsection. Volume 2 is where the tempo picks up: a progressive Soundprank version strips back much of the original material to open up a more sinewy, stabbing dancefloor version. Nick Brennan continues the trance/dance treatment with a solid, thumping foundation and colourful electronica. Petit Ange morphs Circe's Touch into a somewhat icy, minimal techno mix with drifting stratospheric soft-centre. Roeth and Grey (a Koan side project) close the set with the final uptempo presentation: vivid colour, vibrant tone and a sense of fluctuating emotion to match the original.

 
ARTWORK   I'm not sure what artwork accompanies the official version of these EPs - I have a promo copy with small images of both covers - both have the same basic image, different hues and titles. A stone statue with heavy drapery rolling in soft curves sits at the right side of the cover. A traditional Mediterranean pattern forms a border in keeping with the historical Greek flavour.
 
OVERALL   

Russian downtempo act Koan presents Circe's Touch as a forerunner to their full-length album Argonautica ( to be released via Section Records). A pair of gloriously blissful EPs deliver a total of seven versions of the Koan original track with remixes from: Asura, Krusseldorf, Soundprank, Nick Brennan, Petit Ange and Roeth and Grey. The band take their name from the Zen Buddhist term referring to a dialogue, or question, the meaning of which cannot be understood by rational or logical thinking. The music is available as a digital download from Section Records or all the usual online stores. If you'd like to explore the music, visit the Section Records site where both EPs are available to sample along with plenty more background detail.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Erik Wøllo - Silent Currents (Live at Star's End)
STYLE
 

December 2011
Live electronic ambient zones.
Silent Currents opens with a bright spacey drone draped in gossamer layers that gradually gather and coalesce into a deep, dense mass of subtly heaving tone. Further tracks segue seamlessly into more distant evolutionary forms: keening synthetic threads wafting through the expanse; a dark turbulent void with percussive disturbances forming a link; fine airy pads and weightless washes support delicate sequencer structures; celestial synth voices and faint programmed lattices. Track nine sees a more percussive rhythm of liquid clicks and flecks and a low muted beat, complementary electronica coruscating about the central shade. A stronger beat of clattering drums that loom and recede stirs the penultimate piece of disc one before the silky serene finale floats skyward and evaporates so very slowly. The second disc is of similar nature to the first: back and forth ventures into the softness of light and the velvet of dark; fluid peculiarities and watery arpeggios; tinkling chimes and lead lines of a sighing whalesong-like nature looming dreamily out of sonic depths; lush guitar patterns echoing and swelling..

 
ARTWORK  

Silent Currents comes as a two CD package of three fold-out panels. Discs are held in plastic cradles in the two rightmost sections folding face to face. When opened out, the three sections reveal a double panel panorama of yellow/orange fractal channels cut into red earth and a group of performance images showing Erik at the keyboard or guitar. Track titles are simply numbers and are noted along with recording dates and details on the rear. Here too is a two paragraph explanation of the release and a note pointing out that "a portion of the proceeds from this album are donated to CIMA of PA, the non-profit corporation responsible for The Gatherings Concert Series. Internal imagery is shadowy and indistinct: sweeps of darkest olive green with small highlights.

 
OVERALL   

Erik Wøllo presents here a pair of live performances originally recorded five years apart as part of the Star's End radio program. Disc one was initially captured in 2002; a twelve-track single piece that takes a more textural ambient approach than many of his studio albums. Disc two contains another long form ambient real-time recording, this time of fourteen sections. Silent Currents (Wøllo's fifteenth release) comes to us via Projekt Records as follow-up to his 2010 disc Gateway. Promotional material explains that Wøllo builds his live sets from pre-established/pre-programmed grooves and soundspaces augmenting them with improvised passages. The artist says "I brought various sound excerpts, loops and atmospheres, and performed and composed these into long continuous zones, all done in real time." Excerpts of the music can be found at Erik's own site as well at Projekt where a collection of other reviews may also be read.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Justin Vanderberg - Synthetic Memories
STYLE
 
January 2012
Electronic groove and melodic ambient.
Synthetic Memories ranges from massed textural clouds and layered drones propelled by tribal drumbeats and turbulent tides, via glowing ambient zones of celestial tone beaded with smooth sequencer patterns to fragile chime beds swimming in softly shifting synthetic pools. The opening piece From Below is a collaboration with kindred spirit Jon Jenkins: lush and expansive, this evolving piece fades out of silence in unhurried luxuriance, thumping drums and dense grey noise slowly unfolding to reveal a pleasant repeating motif which further expands into beautiful piano harmonies. The piece swells to a massive crescendo of almost orchestral grandeur before ebbing away to the nothingness from whence it arose. In contrast, some other pieces retain a much more 'steady state' structure, or like Dusk develop an amorphous beatless nature the only rhythm arising from a regular tidal surging. Drops is well named: measured piano scales with tinkling embellishments flowing into a lake of rippling flute and smooth synth tones.
 
ARTWORK   Synthetic Memories is a crisp matt-finish digipack presentation of two gatefold panels. The front cover displays an alien landscape with a ragged thread of figures dotting a path to stand atop a curving summit beneath a brooding sky. The rear cover homes in on the sky: here a positively tenebrous cloudscape appears to fracture and splash open with brassy light. Track titles with associated running times form a simple column to the left. Inside there is a solarised repeat of the cover image throwing the shadowy figures into metallic brightness. This backdrop supports credits and thanks to the left and a paragraph of reflections on the album title to the right. No plastic: just a simple card wallet with the disc
 
OVERALL   

US Ohio based electronic musician Justin Vanderberg releases his first full length album since his 2007 debut In Waking Moments. Delivered this time via Spotted Peccary Records, Vanderberg presents a varied exploration of ambient harmony and sequencer driven electronica across eight mid-length compositions. Ranging from the delicate and relatively fleeting four minute nine When I Walk through to the burbling thirteen minute seven title track, Synthetic Memories demonstrates a bold and confident unity of vision. The artist explains "A synthetic memory stems from the safety of our perceived reality vs the fear of our individual truth. Ask yourself to define your reality, and you will most likely rely upon your memories to construct the story of you. However, what you think is true, may not be. And what you think cannot be true, very well could be." Visit the Spotted Peccary site for sound samples and more information.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Solar Fields - Until We Meet The Sky
STYLE
 
January 2012-01-12
Luxurious ambient electronica.
Solar Fields opens his latest album with a smooth, unhurried drone zone that combines synthetic silk with Indian influences littered with interesting effects and echoing hints of voices drifting though the mists. This nine minute seventeen second opener remains beatless for over five minutes before a simple kick pattern pulses in. A confident, introspective lead-in to a massive audio journey. Sonic twinkles segue seamlessly into the next piece where a sparse piano pattern repeats and morphs upon another beatless ambient backdrop. As the album progresses, climactic sighs well up and heave away, complex textural beds thicken and ebb, sometimes dense and huge, throbbing beats submerged deep within, sometimes fine and delicate especially at the crossovers from track to track. There are passages of striking immensity; an unreserved outpouring of passion and expansive vision. Little percussive flecks and glitchy clicks as well as sleeting noise and airy turbulence interact with or supplant the beats, providing an ever-changing rhythmic underpinning. Natural sounds and field recordings seem to arise naturally out of synthetic constructions or blend with dual nature. The final track Epilogue drifts away on a similar fading drone to the one that began the journey – back to the start if you wish with the aptly titled From The Next End. An album that will reward a relaxed and patient listener, or perhaps one to de-stress to.
 
ARTWORK   Until We Meet The Sky is a three panel digipack presentation with a sixteen page booklet hidden away inside one of the end sections. Outside, an intricate montage of tree forms: boughs, branches, twigs looms in and out of focus overlaid with paper texture and fine film scratches. A darker band runs horizontally through all sections bearing titles and technical details. Inside is another panorama of restricted palette: watery blue skies threaded with trails of flying birds. Only the far left section contains a small amount of text providing contact details. The booklet mirrors the cover artwork outside, but within there is a page for each track, emotive, abstract photography, credits and brief additional words. The final double page spread features a glorious cloudscape of impressive depth and variety; thanks and photo credits are here.
 
OVERALL    Magnus Bigersson releases Until We Meet The Sky via French label Ultimae Records as an epic whole comprised of twelve smoothly connected parts. Each track evolves into the next with an unbroken flow of cinematic breadth. Climactic surges and swelling depths are interspersed with fragile weightlessness and minimal structure. Many tracks have only subtle beats or brief percussive sections, there are relatively few sequencers or arpeggiators. One or two pieces develop from gentle introductions into powerful, driving conclusions Night Traffic City burbling with the regular motions of the city into a dynamic crescendo. There is an official video to complement the music which you can explore along with track samples and additional information at the Ultimae website.