Music Reviews

[.que]: Wonderland

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 05 2017
Artist: [.que]
Title: Wonderland
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence
Tokyo-based Nao Kakimoto’s eighth full-length album is ten tracks of ideas spun off from the composing of the soundtrack to the short film Kurokawa Wonderland. While these ideas have evolved and are no longer the soundtrack album to that album, the sense of atmosphere and mood underscore persists throughout the 36 minutes of gentle super-warm-sounding electronica with folky and acoustic elements.

It’s second track “Faraway” that really sets the tone, with its gentle super-soft kick patterns and simple bassline keeping a steady and not too leisurely pace while piano and Rhodes-style keys twinkle casually on top. There’s a strong sense of journeying, which continues through the backwards-guitar-laden “Drip” and the opening-titles-of-road-movie-friendly “Vast”. Heavy use of reverse effects and artificial vinyl noise give “Laputa” a slightly more prog rock feel.

Inbetween these are piano pieces like “Quiet” and “Forest”, which are simple and plaintive unprocessed piano poems supported solely by ambient noises. Among the weaker pieces are “Afterglow” and the title track, both of which sound like production library music by-numbers more suited to corporate video than home listening.

“Wonderland” never really wrestles for your attention, preferring instead to be relaxed and soothing, background wallpaper if necessary. But while it’s a little generic in parts, it has some lovely deft electronica production touches and an undoubtable quality pervading through it that makes it a very enjoyable and mellow listen.

MIR8: Perihelion

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 04 2017
Artist: MIR8
Title: Perihelion
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Shhpuma
“Perihilion” may be MIR8’s debut album (or mini-album, at 32 minutes) but the international crew making up the four piece have CV’s stretching many pages. So despite being a debut, this is a confident, accomplished and tightly woven work, combining mellow electronic drones with live, carefully measured drums, bass and trombone.

Across the four pieces there are a variety of shades. Opener “Longharms” is for the most part a relatively open, sparse and freeform soundscape, whereas “De Orbit” is underpinned by a very steady rumbling drum track that keeps everything grounded in dark cinematic tension. Hilary Jeffery’s emotive trombone work takes centre stage on second track “Scabrough Sky” to great melancholic effect, whereas finale “Event Horizon” opens with a driving tempo and an anachronistic sense of urgency which makes the trombone and electronics sound like warning alarms or distant declarations of war, before gradually edging down a few notches into something less frenetic yet still firmly mechanical, followed by one last evolution into a sparse cinematic sense of closure.

Overall the result is arguably lacking a unique MIR8 character, perhaps this will evolve over time, but nevertheless it’s a beautifully smooth listening soundscape with an accomplished breadth.

Ekin Fil: Ghosts Inside

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 30 2017
Artist: Ekin Fil
Title: Ghosts Inside
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency
Turkish drone-pop creator Ekin Üzeltüzenci’s latest solo album is a melancholic affair channeling personal anguish into deeply sad arrangements where organic guitar and piano sounds meld with synthetic atmospheres and slow, dream-pop vocal hums. Wind tones frequently wash over the top for added texture. The result is an introspective sonic expression of misery that’s at times quite powerful, at other points bordering slightly on the self-indulgent.

Highlights include the extremely filmic and deceptively simple “Episodes”, with its glass melodic notes and windy atmosphere, and “Final Cut” which has a similar make-up but more piano driven. It’s a strong formula that goes unbroken across the forty-minute release.

Tracks like “Like A Child” and “Before A Full Moon” have a strong ballad heart to them, but it gets washed away by production that sometimes seems wilfully muddy, designed to make the individual stems less distinct as though lacking in confidence somehow.

“Ghosts Inside” sits somewhere between two stools- dark and inaccessible in some ways, yet not allowed to explore its full potential for longer or deeper experimentation. It’s one of those releases that actually feels too consistent. As such it feels almost like a gateway listen for people not yet adjusted to full-on ethereal soundscapes.

Daimon: s/t

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 26 2017
Artist: Daimon
Title: s/t
Format: CD + Download
Label: Metzger Therapie (@)
Rated: *****
This one seemed to have slipped in when I wasn't looking; I can't find the one-sheet or any promo material on this CD if it was ever accompanied by any. Be that as it may, Daimon is an obscure deep drone audio-visual project run by Paolo Monti (The Star Pillow), Nicola Quiriconi (Vipcancro, Lisca Records), Simon Balestrazzi (T.A.C., Kirlian Camera, Dream Weapon Ritual, etc), and this is their self-titled debut release. Tracks are titled "a call," "he's seeing you," "take the telescope and go," "almost blind," and "by this basement." As you might surmise, they are fairly lengthy with nothing under nine minutes. The music is somewhere between dark ambient and dream ambient, fairly grey and minimal for the most part. Although there is a somber tone throughout, I would call it more ominous than malevolent. Sometimes these dronescapes have subtle incidents or events such as distant children's voices, whispers, clicks and taps, squeaks and squeals, and other nebulous indeterminate sounds. These are rather hazy isolationist environments best listened to at low volume. Some tracks give the impression of small workshop environments without being mechanical or machine-oriented, more along the lines of minor physical manual labor. Various types of reverberation as well as feedback play a role in making these ambiences sound dramatic and all-encompassing, It's possible that this was created to be accompanied by some type of visual stimuli, but you can imagine it in your own head. For a debut release, 'Daimon' has merit and is well worth seeking out.

David Arkenstone: Beneath a Darkening Sky

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 26 2017
Artist: David Arkenstone (@)
Title: Beneath a Darkening Sky
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Perhaps there is no other New Age artist who has a larger discography than David Arkenstone. With sixty-one studio albums, one live album, and four soundtracks, this is a composer to be reckoned with. Arkenstone has also been included on four compilation albums, and released an additional four albums with his trio, Troika. Additionally, he has composed a number of songs for the game World of Warcraft. He's been at this game a long time since 1987, and 'Beneath a Darkening Sky' is a long way off from the glimmering shimmer of albums such as 'Valley in the Clouds,' 'Spirit Wind,' and 'Atlantis.' Then again, without creating some of these symphonic opuses, Arkenstone would never have been able to come up with 'Beneath a Darkening Sky'. While not what I would call a true dark ambient album, Arkenstone embraces enough elements of shadow to make you think this couldn't possibly have been made by such a high profile New Age composer. There is less attention to melody and more to atmosphere than on many other Arkenstone releases giving him the opportunity to go in deep, and weave long sonorous ambiences that are not at all cheery and star-twinkly. For the most part, the seven tracks are cinematic, melancholic and Gothic; a certain sense of mystery, and ominous foreboding permeates the music. From the deep drones and breathy voices of "The Fog," to the swirling icy ambiance of "The Wind from the North," Arkenstone conjures chilling atmospheres that transport you to other realms; places where danger lurks and survival is something not taken for granted. Forget fairy castles and enchanted forests; Arkenstone's world in 'Beneath a Darkening Sky' is much gloomier and cimmerian. In a cinematic way it seems to relate more to a Game of Thrones than Lord of the Rings type environment. (Although David dedicated the track "They Are Coming" to J.R.R. Tolkien.) Celtic and Middle Eastern flavors are also combined here and there giving the music an exotic quality. Choral voices as well. Arkenstone spares no attention to detail with his sound palette here. I really don't care much for New Age, but this music is "Another Age," and for that we can be wistful Beneath a Darkening Sky.

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