Music Reviews

Fovea Hex: The Salt Garden 2

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 21 2017
Artist: Fovea Hex
Title: The Salt Garden 2
Format: 10"
Label: Janet Records
“The Salt Garden 2” is a 20-minute, 4-track EP from Fovea Hex, the Clodagh Simonds-fronted ensemble that count David Lynch and Brian Eno as part of their fanbase. Indeed there’s an ambiguous implication (or possibly a typo) in the press release that suggests that Brian Eno may have contributed something to this particular EP.

Simonds’ pure, folksy vocal ambles gently and plaintively over arrangements which blend acoustic percussive patterns with a selection of strung-out drones, synthetic chords. The electronics are beautifully understated, often only just present enough to detach the listener from the organic elements of the performance and give the whole affair a sinister touch at times.

The first three tracks are all strong, with a powerful emotional thread. Opener “You Were There” is the highlight, a strong sense of journey and scale being evoked in a manner that feels very cinematic. Final track “Piano Fields” does give a slight sense of being filler, just a meandering gentle piano noodling over soft chords and bordering on cliché.

Ultimately there are part of the EP which can’t escape comparisons to artists like Enya, and I know that that comparison will have people facepalming and complaining that it’s “just because it’s Irish” but it really isn’t just that. Like it or not, the slow, bold yet melancholy singing style over expansive synth washes, particularly on “All Those Signs”, reminds me of the barren Atlantic-swept landscapes west of Galway. It’s a stereotype but honestly there’s something in it.

It’s a strong and emotional EP that is rich in quality, and leaves you wishing it had expanded and evolved into a full-length album.

Mark Templeton: Gentle Heart

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 20 2017
Artist: Mark Templeton
Title: Gentle Heart
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Graphical
The final part of electro-acoustic musician Mark Templeton’s ‘Heart trilogy’, arriving four years after the previous installment, “Gentle Heart” is a collection of short, wallowing atmospheres made up of slowly looping found sound patterns, distant indecipherable vocal noises, gentle sustained drone notes, tape effects and brief extracts of melodic elements.

It’s very languid and in parts rather muddy-sounding, as though underwater, giving the whole work a very lazy feel. Pieces like “Range Road” exemplify the lethargy- truly chilled-out, with a barely clockable tempo under 70bpm well in line with a sleeping heart rate. “One Last Encore” has a slightly less passive breathing rhythm, while other pieces like “Pond” are tempo-free ambiences.

“Valley” has a more distinct guitar (or guitar-like) melodic pattern at its core, but retriggered and gently twisted. “Voice” brings ramping digital bleeps and bloops to the fore before getting weirdly squelchy as it ends. Album closer “Gentle Story” has two parts, the first a very smooth and pure ambience with a familiar feeling of closure, the second initially a more blippy and bubbly number with a sliding bass tone that’s a less orthodox, but more fitting, way to wrap up.

At only 34 minutes it’s barely more than a mini-album, with most pieces curtailed at the three-minute mark, left static without the opportunity to evolve, but it’s a nicely immersive, sleep-friendly listen- as perhaps acknowledged in the title “Horiztonal Plane” [sic].

Torn From Beyond: If The View Freezes

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 18 2017
Artist: Torn From Beyond (@)
Title: If The View Freezes
Format: CD
Label: Krater Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
If you've never heard of Torn From Beyond, then maybe you've heard of Bert Lehmann's other project, Mortaja, which has had a couple of releases since 2011 on the Audiophob label. I've never heard of either before but no matter; it's what's now that counts. Like Mortaja, Torn From Beyond is dark ambient, although a little different from Mortaja from what I understand. The music on 'If The View Freezes' sounds simultaneously spacey and deep underground, as in chasms and crypts. Here the dead feed off the living, and visa-versa. Here the Elder Gods rub shoulders (or should I say, tentacles) with Dream Daemons in the nightmares of your deep subconscious. It's not apparent until track 2, the title track, that that's the case. Here it's feeding time for some great abominable beast, something beyond Balrog but not quite Cthulhu. No question that cosmic horror is in play. It's the fourth track, "According to Ancient Custom" where the similarities to Raison D’Être begin to emerge, at first with some repetitious evil worshipers chanting, and later in "The End Begins" with monkish Gregorian chants. In fact, if you heard the latter track by itself, you'd swear it was Raison D’Être. There is quite a variety of ambiences and atmospheres on this album, and it's as dark as dark can get. The only concession to something that isn't totally steeped in ancient evil is the last few minutes of the eighth and final track, "Finis Terrae," with it's classical piano and mild seagull squawking. A highly unusual way to end a dark ambient album of this nature, but quite effective. For a debut album this is absolutely amazing. Highly recommended!

Keosz: AVA

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 18 2017
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Artist: Keosz (@)
Title: AVA
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Keosz continues along the path of "Be Left to Oneself" with his blend of dark ambient and melodic element. This time the guitar is added so it's now closer to rock than modern classical and it's even more distant from the canonical form of the genre.
There's a layer of noise that takes the first track of this release, "Aquitted from Illness", out of the usual framework of the genre and creates a complex spectrum for the listener to decode while "All I Had To Do" and "AVA" are closer to the canon as they revolve around carefully crafted drones. "Downfall" tries to create musical movement with his succession of quiet moments and thicker ones. The strings of "Nothing Left But Gloom" are evocative and create a sense of narrative as they follow a melody rather than be a layer of the drone and this path is confirmed in "Consigned To Limbo" where the strings are substituted by the guitar. "Behind The Horizon Of Preconceptions" is a reassuring return to form while "Resurrection From The Dust" continues in this research of elements borrowed by rock music as it sound as a sort of shoegaze above a dark ambient landscape that is followed, after "Equanimity Of The Senses", by "They Took All I Had" where the ambient element is even less present. "Farewell To Hollow Space" closes this release with a return to the form of the first track leaving with a sense of completeness.
This a release is a bit uncertain between a rock oriented and a ambient oriented form but this aspect creates a sense of variety that is an antidote to boredom. Recommended.

Ian Hawgood: Love Retained

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 18 2017
Artist: Ian Hawgood
Title: Love Retained
Format: CD
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
This lovely output by Ian Hawgood, the man behind the curtains of Home Normal came out on the label's store as a gift for Christmas, but it reached stores after one month. Maybe the way I described Ian in the previous sentence could summarise the floating of his musical soul and his memory by which he watered "Love Retained" - the 100th release of his imprint -, as it's a moving evidence of humanity and got composed during days when Ian was somehow behind the curtains. He masked his depression to the eyes of his friends and family till the moment a particularly stressing moment, related to his decision of leaving Japan together with his wife in early 2015. In his own words: "The intensity of the move and the reasons behind it caused a huge amount of stress for us both and due to our backgrounds we were unable to communicate just how hard this was to any of our friends and family. By early autumn, my mother and sister one day had come over to find me curled up in a ball, unable to speak and in an uncontrollable fit of tears. This was nothing new after a life spent in and out of severe depression but it was the first time family had seen this directly in my adulthood.". Dedicated to the women of his life (mostly his wife and his sister, I guess), Ian initially composed the piano sketches he included in this album for future collaborations, but he finally decided to keep as they were with no editing or mastering. They got recorded on cassette and looped on low levels in the nighttime or when his mind was wondering or wandering, as he told in the introductory words for "Love Retained", and his decision of offering them incomplete is a meaningful gift, as incompletion is "a beautiful and freeing thing" in Ian's viewpoint. Some of the piano loops are really good for nocturnal meditations, other ones sound like sonic heartfelt portraits of people that helped Ian to come out of that state of mind, but the whole release got imbued with an intense and catchy emotionality. In the introduction of "Love Retained", Ian focused on a very important aspect of depression, that got often misunderstood by people who try to support them, but in a wrong way: "Silence is the real killer. It feels embarrassing and shameful to speak of such things as it shows weakness, which leads to awful judgement from most people. This may sound negative, but the simple fact is we all judge others whether we want to or not. And those who suffer from depression have a stigma attached to them. That stigma's name is 'pity' and it isn't very helpful in truth, albeit understandable. People who suffer from depression can feel joy, can laugh, and can connect deeply to others, but they also need friends and family to support them now and then in a world where people are growing increasingly alien to one another.". All the profits from this album have been and will be donated to Mind (check their website here:, a charity organisation helping people suffering from mental diseases.

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