Music Reviews

Chris Russell: Echo

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 26 2018
Artist: Chris Russell (@)
Title: Echo
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
'Echo' is ambient sound sculptor Chris Russell's second release on the Spotted Peccary label, but about his 15th release over all, and that's only since 2010. No doubt Russell is a very prolific artist, but this is the first I'm hearing his work. On the SP one-sheet that accompanied this release it says "Russell's sci-fi inspired audioscape is a stimulating aural environment of immersive spaces that calls to mind the haunting cinematic works of Stanley Kubrick ('2001 A Space Odyssey') or Ridley Scott ('Blade Runner')." That description isn't far off the mark, just don't expect any Legeti or Vangelis cloning. Comprised of 9 tracks of varying length totaling an hour and a minute, 'Echo' is a trip that will take you both to outer and inner space. Beginning with the title track you are thrust skyward at intense velocity rocketing you quickly through the stratosphere to the exosphere and beyond into weightless space. And yes, it begins as noisily and turbulent as a rocket, but doesn't last long. After that, it's a pretty smooth ride. Most of Russell's atmospheres are on the minimal side sound-wise, but complex in their formulation. The music is closer to grey ambient (neutral) being neither particularly light or dark, except on a few pieces. A couple of those have a gamelan-like ambience, most notably "Sparse," a nearly 11 minute excursion into a Javanese dream sequence, as if you were visiting a perfumed garden on a sunny day. Some pieces are overtly extraterrestrial while others seem more reflective of inner space. The last, and longest (13:20) track, "Abandoned" belies the ominous definition of its title. Definitely terrestrial, it sounds like a peaceful vacation day at the lake (or maybe even the beach) where you can hear birds, a barking dog in the distance and other minor ambient activity combined with a generally mellow drone atmosphere. 'Echo' is an enjoyable journey that is high in replay value. Essential if you love ambient music.

Halftribe: For The Summer, Or Forever

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 26 2018
Artist: Halftribe
Title: For The Summer, Or Forever
Format: CD
Label: Dronarivm (@)
Rated: *****
Halftribe is the musical project by Ryan Bisset whose music is a rather canonical ambient music with a certain research of a catchy layer. So, this is music which resonates with the listener in such a way it sounds as something heard a multiple time even in the first listening and without sounding as a tribute band. It's not merely derivative but has a sense of familiarity with the listener.
"Sacred" starts this release immediately depicting a sound framework made out of quiet drones and dreamy loops. "For The Summer, Or Forever" uses also field recordings of birds singing and water flowing. The sounds of "Balm" ebb and flow from a quiet background noise. The gentle melody of "Swimming Off That Sombre Shore" emerges from the loop while "Still" is a dreamy sound watercolor and the simple melody "Imaginery Lines" catches the listener and "Radiant" hypnotizes him with its suspended atmosphere. "Anagram" is a crescendo by accumulation of sound elements as drones and field recordings. "From One Point To Another" uses piano not as a way to mimic a modern classical tune but as a way to add a color spot in a black and white drawing. "The Simple Things" is a slowly unfolding ambient track and "Liberated Lies" uses sustained tones to add a movement to the static background based on a loop. "Until" closes this release with a catchy melody for synth.
This is a really enjoyable release that could upset the fans for new and innovative music at any cost but will be well received by fans of ambient and modern classical. If only it doesn't have that patina of déjà vu...

Ekin Fil: Maps

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 16 2018
Artist: Ekin Fil
Title: Maps
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency
Ekin Fil continues to expand her discography of soft, gentle near-ambient dream-pop with “Maps”. It’s a succinct, 9-track, 36-minute work that’s so consistent it’s often hard to notice where one track ends and the next begins, and it melds into one continuous piece of reverb-drenched keys, soft breathy vocal noises, warm ambiences and super-long echoes.

Fittingly for an album which describes itself as a reflection on small island life, we occasionally get waves, beach and running water noises to further enhance the mood, and it’s interesting to hear how this sometimes evolves towards white noise and develops an interesting counterpoint against the purity of the piano and key noises- a statement about the bustle of everyday life, perhaps. It’s invariably tinged with a tired melancholy throughout, that runs without any grounding in geography or specifics.

It’s an album with a clear vision, and certainly deserves a place on many people’s chill-out or go-to-sleep playlists.

øjeRum: Stilhedens Strømmen I Fuglenes Blod

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 14 2018
Artist: øjeRum (@)
Title: Stilhedens Strømmen I Fuglenes Blod
Format: CD
Label: KrysaliSound (@)
Rated: *****
The title "Stilhedens Strømmen I Fuglenes Blod" (it should be Danish for "the flow of silence in the blood of the birds") could fit to the sound you'll meet in this release by Danish visual artist (I guess he made the meaningful collage of the cover artwork) and musician Paw Grabowski aka øjeRum: initially issued in a very strictly limited edition of 30 self-made cassettes in 2016 and recently re-issued by Italian label KrysaliSound, which kept the hiss of the tape during the mastering, the sound gets unrolled over a one single 30 minutes lasting track, based on repetitive loops of a slightly pinched acoustic guitar, sparse elongated sounds, abstract field recordings and other evanescent resounding entities (including birds, of course!). Paw shows he learnt the minimalist lesson by the way he stacks identical chords through unperceivable (the tonal ones) or clearly (the length of the whole phrase or of single tones) listenable variations, but besides some insertion like the hits on glass (following the same speed of the guitar chords after 7-8 minutes), the fading of music overwhelmed by almost silent field recordings in the middle of the recording and an unexpected flooding of an ambient ghostly pad in the last minutes, the composition is quite flat. It can match a vague sense of loneliness, a romantic (in the authentic meaning of the word...) dazed melancholy or a merely hermetic detachment, but a mushrooming of this dark-tinged ambient-folk in the music (more or less independent) market is getting closer to those cliches, that should maybe have been antithetical in the guise of many musicians orbiting around these sonorities.

Tim Linghaus: memory sketches

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 14 2018
Artist: Tim Linghaus
Title: memory sketches
Format: CD
Label: Schole (@)
Rated: *****
Tim Linghaus' album is another good musical gemstone in the precious collection assembled by Schole, the imprint of Akira Kosemura, who managed to turn the name of his label into the synonym for a sort of platform where a declension of frail and delicate beauty as well as for many intriguing ways to build bridges between contemporary "pianism", French impressionism and sonorities close to contemporary soundtracks for movies could get anchored. I guess that the short length and the strong emotional intensity of the most of the 16 tracks of this album reflects the nature of the cognitive processes that they represent, as you can imagine by a title like "memory sketches": we all experienced the resurface of some of those sketches as sudden electrocutions, which sometimes are like diving bells detaching (and sheltering) us from the more or less stormy waters where we normally dive. Those sketches are evoked by images, words or sometimes tones (according to some studies E and G tones could reactivate some "forgotten" memories... whoever has taken part in sessions of music therapy for old people could have noticed a reaction in their facial expressions) and they're as short as intense just like Tim's little sketches. The memories of his father and his passing seems to be the leitmotiv of this moving album and the longest tracks - such as the specular ones "Me In Your Rear-View Mirror (Boys Don't Cry)" and "You In Our Rear-View Mirror (Cemetery Car Park)", "Funeral For Dad, Pt.II (It Was Nice To Have Known You)" and "I Was Atoms and Waves" - seem to be matched to moments, whose track on author's soul and mind required more time and effort to be processed and turned into these lovely sketches. Besides the passing of Tim's father, there are many other intense moments encrusted into this album. In Tim's own words: "The idea behind memory sketches is to give particular memories a form, to preserve them if you like. So I compiled a collection of my most precious memories like bringing our grandma to the hospital in an RV, crossing the inner-German border in Bornholmer Street for the first time shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the moment of coming home from graduation, my dad's funeral and trying to communicate with him via a radio, just to mention a few. [...] Eventually, this album is like a drive through the years of my past life, and the past lives of family members from one material point to the other, it's a reflection on time, life and death. On the other hand, it is nothing more than music".

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