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MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Shane Morris & Mystified - Epoch
STYLE
 

May 2012
Ambient drone and moodscape.
Epoch creates a shadowy realm of naturalistic zones flecked and clattering with percussive peculiarities. In conjuring up the mysteries of the remote past Morris and Mystified have steered clear of melodic forms and instead woven dense tapestries of evocative texture. The album uses no synthesisers or other electronic sound sources - although you would swear otherwise, rather field recordings and heavily processed acoustic instruments are twisted and shaped to purpose: trombone, didgeridoo, vibraphone, bass drums, bowed gong and scissors. Apart from the guttural growl of the didgeridoo it is hard to identify the sonic origins of most elements as heaving beds of tone mass and squirm. Bird-like shrieks and cries dance over the heavy canopy of sound, a didge barks, turbulent noise, the whirr of insectile motion, water movement. A serious tone, a subtle evolution, a dark and absorbing environment - somewhere to get lost.

 
ARTWORK   Epoch is pleasingly packaged in a plastic free card wallet of two panels. The disc lurks within one half - and to my delight, the artwork includes a textured design on the inner surfaces. Imagery centres on timeless forest scenes of murky rock and moss, dark slender trunks of trees stabbing upward seeking pallid skies. The surfaces all have scuff damage laid upon the photographic base lending an air of age and individuality as if someone previously passed this way, fingering these pages or perhaps the package has been lost until now. Track titles on the rear include timings and lettering is neat and small. Within there is a paragraph explaining the music and the advice "Think: lots of brass, lots of bass. Giant reptiles in stereo."
Website information is here too.
 
OVERALL   

Released via the Lotuspike subsidiary of Spotted Peccary Records, Epoch brings together US synthesist, percussionist, and ambient musician Shane Morris and atmospheric dronescaper Thomas Park AKA Mystified. The album holds four tracks of music designed to explore the theme of prehistoric time and evolution. Sleeve notes point out the Epoch is the first of a trilogy of releases to be presented under the title Inspired Evolution. The decision to build upon a solely acoustic foundation of trombone and didgeridoo drones and bass percussion effectively strips away the present and stirs the primitive. You can read more about the album and listen to samples at Spotted Peccary. Shane's website also holds a promotional video.

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Solar Fields - Random Friday
STYLE
 
May 2012
High tech ambient trance.
Random Friday sees Solar Fields pick up the thread deftly spun through 2007's trance oriented Earthshine album. Here dreamily evocative introductions quickly throb or pulse with welling rhythms, lucid synths and sweeping atmospheres bathing developing dance floor beats in luscious shifting light. Vivid and crystal clear, Solar Fields' uptempo tracks have a silken gloss that retains much of the subtle complexity of his downbeat and ambient works. A leaning toward melodic and climactic understatement lends an air of quiet dignity to Random Friday's blissful, pulsating reverie. Blunt kicks and urgent basslines heave the music onward, complementary sequencer motifs and sibilant punctuating effects emphasising the muscular drive of the beat. The ten minute plus penultimate Perception allows a more gradual drawn out build up than most other pieces - faint rhythmic measure percolating into percussive fullness over three or four minutes before quickly being dismantled and then reconstructed over the remainder of the track. The eight centre pieces are bookended between the beatless shorts Light Control to open and Polarity to close.
 
ARTWORK   Random Friday is a digipack release of three panels - each outer section holding a distinct image of effulgent sky and looming landscape. The front cover recalls the sharp tower blocks of Earthshine, the rear encircles a gleaming sunburst with shadowy tree forms - track titles are here. The inner triptych morphs a hazy synthetic surface into what looks like a planetary arc, dark space beyond. Minimal information is provided on the sleeve since a sixteen page booklet is secreted within the rightmost panel. The standard Ultimae layout of a page per track is adhered to: moody urban vistas; tight natural abstractions and complex organic patterns selected to accompany each recording. The centre spread gazes up at the sky from among a field of deep blue cornflowers matched in saturation by the huge sky of the final double page spread - Magnus' portrait half in shadow to the far right.
 
OVERALL   

[ Random Friday ] comes as the uptempo aspect of Swedish composer Magnus Birgersson's renowned Solar Fields. Released via the iconic French label Ultimae, quality of sound and exquisite atmospheric development are assured. The ten wistfully restrained uptempo trance tracks here are intelligent, dynamic and powerfully immersive. Promotional material refers to the album as "a fine mix of progressive, acid, electro & ambient influences - pushing the audio spectrum production one level up." There is a free download of the album's third track Cobalt 2.5 available at the Solar Fields Bandcamp page and there is a promotional video that you might like to check out at Youtube. Finally the Ultimae website provides more information and audio material as well as purchase links.

 
VIDEO  
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Steve Roach - Groove Immersion
STYLE
 

May 2012
Ambient groove.
Steve Roach further develops the Immersion series, picking up the thread left from Immersion Five - Circadian Rhythms. Whereas the first four albums in the series focussed on "harmonic meditations and glacial forms" the fifth introduced rhythmic structures to the mix. Here again, a series of hypnotic grooves are juxtaposed, interwoven or overlaid (depending on your perspective) upon synthetic beds and morphing zones. The beats are subtle affairs, soft percussives and padded tonal thuds, shifting imperceptibly; brighter dancing percolations flitting about the central grooves at irregular intervals providing some higher frequency detail. The rhythms seem to be roughly paired so that tracks one and three have similar measure and tracks two and four likewise for the most part - that said, these aren't so much separate tracks as point markers in a continuous seventy minutes plus progression. Beneath hangs a sinuous curl of music: twisting, swelling washes set within a great expanse. At times distant turbulence stirs the empty air surrounding Steve's musical core, at other times the central sound is immediate and intense.

 
ARTWORK   Groove Immersion arrives in a pleasingly tactile matt finish digipack of three sections. The outer three panels open out into a vivid panorama of swirling yellow-orange curves and dark holes haloed with fiery rings. There is minimal text throughout the whole package: on the rear cover the expanded title Groove Immersion in Four Parts - 73:59; within, brief credits and the observation that the music was "created with hardware instruments only." The artwork on the inner panels zooms in on the outer imagery brightening from deep orange on the left to warm lemon yellows on the right.
 
OVERALL   

Groove Immersion is released as either a stand alone recording or as part of the Steve Roach 2012 box set - the latter pairs Groove Immersion with the recently released Back To Life within an "elegant German-made black box with faceplate. Each box is signed and numbered, limited to 500 copies. Includes cover art micro posters exclusive to the box." The four part Groove Immersion itself might be considered as part six of Steve's Unfolding Immersion series. The set opens with one of the more pacey tracks - the music shadowy and introspective yet bathed with silken beams of sonic light. Section two is ponderous - a lazy rolling pattern that has a heady tribal mood. The final piece begins with a similar groove to the opening part and then deftly morphs into something more akin to the more languid measure of section two. Drifting away at the end - slowly - slowly ...
Listen to an excerpt at Projekt or via the Steve Roach website.

 

 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS


 

 

 ----------Rick Wakeman - In The Nick Of Time
STYLE
 
June 2012
Progressive rock electronica.
In The Nick Of Time is a live album recorded back in 2003 that showcases some of the outstanding solo material composed over the decades by keyboard legend Rick Wakeman. Supported by The New English Rock Ensemble, Rick's music here takes on a massive live rock character. The drums are thunderous, the lead breaks (both from Rick on synths and Ant Glynnes on guitar) are masterful and grandiose, the vocals are those of dramatic rock opera epics and even bassist Lee Pomeroy gets to dazzle during a blinding spotlight section of the concluding Wurm. The heaving progressive pomp and unashamedly extravagant arrangements give the music a dynamic enormity firmly rooted back in the seventies.
 
ARTWORK   In The Nick Of Time is a jewelcase presentation with a generous twenty page booklet included. The Front cover sets a galactic tone that is expanded throughout the package with effulgent red orange nebulae vomiting out stars, planets and snaking keyboard ribbons. Rick's image hangs in the void to one side of the titles semi-transparent. Track titles are listed with times on the rear along with publishing information. The booklet opens with a five page section "Rick's Attempt at a Definition" wherein Rick explains the title of the album; thoughts on prog; something of his personal history: a bit of a rant about Yes and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and plenty of thoughts on the development of the man's music. There are numerous live performance photographs, posters, biographies of the band and a whole page of credits and thank yous.
 
OVERALL    Rick Wakeman is surely one of the most well known keyboardists alive - his work with various rock and pop giants (David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Yes) as well as some huge early solo releases (The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth ...) establishing a loyal following that would remain for decades. In The Nick Of Time is an archival live recording that sees the maestro in fine form back in 2003 promoting the Out There album. Tracks include developments of favourite solo compositions such Catherine Parr/Beware Your Enemies and White Rock; pieces written for vocals such as No Earthly Connection; a reimagining of the Yes classic Wurm as well as pieces from the then newly released Out There album of 2003. For more information you can visit the official Rick Wakeman website or you can purchase the album directly from the Gonzo Multimedia website.
 

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Amongst Myselves - Fragments
STYLE
 
June 2012
Ambient soundscapes and spacey expanses.
Fragments plays as an unbroken fifty-seven minute whole wherein nine distinct sections segue seamlessly from one to the next. Dark spaces with subtle sonic light currents mirror the cover art: brooding and isolationist in places; hauntingly beautiful in others. Roberts employs silken synth textures, electric guitar forms and various field recordings as well as glitchy sound beds. In places guitar fingering ascends out of abstraction, chiming tinkles and rhythmic fragments fanning the gentle warmth of melody. Sparing keyboard patterns move against keening guitar threads; oceanic turbulence juxtaposes wafting vocoder shreds; low sonorous drones roll below graceful shafts of synthetic tone; nature noise - chirps of birds and insect whir - busies itself behind strongly effected chord strums. Fragments evolves constantly, playing with brightness and gloom; emotionally stirring up delicate twists of wonder, evocative transportational suggestions and disquieting zones of obscurity.
 
IN DEPTH   The ten minute twenty four second Morning in the Bowl of Light is the longest track here - a slowly unfolding emptiness where subtle electronics wash around faint cricket-like coruscation and bird sound. Midway (as with a number of pieces here) the mood shifts and dreamy synth tones meander upon a deep breath-like rhythmic pattern. Toward the end of the track the mood again alters abstract threads and somewhat less melodic waves leading the way into the subsequent piece. City of a Hundred Gates is the shortest fragment at three minutes twenty eight - this track revolves around a relatively dense mass of warm drones, interwoven with delicate hypnotic swells before dissipating into atmospheric space.
 
ARTWORK   Fragments arrives in a shiny jewel case with minimalistic yet vivid artwork - deep, saturated greens; colour in motion; long exposure light streams. On the front cover various horizontal bands of verdure smoothly flow - single white streak; heavy black ground. The title doesn't break this abstract simplicity, but sits within the transparent spine. On the rear, a more energetic sweep of colour curls around the track titles. Titles are repeated on the flip side of the gatefold insert - the green sweep of the front cover continued here. Inside to the left are simple credits, contact and website details as well as a small number of genuine thanks. To the right, green light shafts hang vertically, reminiscent of grass blades viewed close up.
 
OVERALL    Fragments was recorded by Australian ambient musician Steve Roberts between 2008 and 2010. As the title hints, the music draws upon previous material - inspirational threads taken, reimagined and embellished. Three earlier studio albums are revisited and absorbed - now unrecognisable in fresh form. Although nine tracks are listed, the nine titles more accurately identify point markers within a single longform composition. Often the nature of the music makes a change at the point markers - perhaps an interlude where field recordings move to the fore - many times though tracks vary more dramatically part way through. You can explore this unusual release at the Amongst Myselves website, where there is plenty to read and opportunity to listen to samples of the album.
 
ARTIST'S THOUGHTS    
 
VIDEO  

MORPHEUS MUSIC REVIEWS

 

 

 ----------Craig Padilla - The Heart Of The Soul
STYLE   May 2012
Rhythmic ambient, melodic instrumental.
The Heart Of The Soul is an emotionally intense album of delicate, romantic electronica. Velvety synth washes and smooth chordal arrangements underpin piano melodies that meander in solitary introspection or strain with touching melancholia. Often the thematic leads are developed with synthetic voices - liquid chimes, beaming chorals or bright string effects keening tenderly or drifting in deep reverie. Much of the music here is comprised of beatless, organic soundscapes with their tranquil poetic leads; there are however, some notable digressions - the opener You Were Here dancing in rhythmic sequences, a padded beat hanging behind; New Directions delivering a more dynamic evolving keyboard motif that takes up a ponderous beat of understated drama somewhere around the three minute mark.
 
ARTWORK   The Heart Of The Soul is a beautiful digipack presentation of earthy hue and semi-matt finish. There are two panels, the disc neatly slotted into one end - no plastic to be seen. Outside, two intimate photo images with restricted focus show vivid red flowers against the curving relief and rough texture of wood. The rear cover has a light sheeting of rain - track titles here with times alongside. Within, a two panel panorama shows snow draped mountains lurking in distant mist beyond an undulating grass plain. A single red-leaved tree catches the light off-centre to the left. Here sparse text provides credits and thanks.
 
OVERALL   

Released on Spotted Peccary Records, The Heart Of The Soul is Craig's latest solo album following a four year gap after Below The Mountain. There are ten tracks that range in length from the almost three minute opener to the powerful Midnight Encounter that clocks in at thirteen minutes ten seconds. Craig has said regarding The Heart of the Soul "This music was created during a series of major life-changing events that I was experiencing. I had taken a new path in my life, focusing on my work, my kids, myself, and choosing to be surrounded by only positive people and things. This led to a deeper appreciation of the love in my own life, both within myself and in the world around me." You can discover more information and listen to sound samples both at Spotted Peccary and at the official Craig Padilla website.