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Archive for May, 2012

EugeneKha is Evgenij V. Kharitonov, a poet, musician, writer, sound and visual artist from Moscow. His music can be found on a number of netlabels. He describes this release as a mini-album, and indeed it clocks in at exactly twenty minutes.

“First Echo of a Rain” opens with thunder and heavy rainfall. A pulsing synth begins, moving in and out of phase, and is overlaid with the sound of birdsong. A slightly glitchy pad moves in, and naive piano notes lie lightly above the pad. Odd, seemingly random discordant sounds appear from time to time, particularly towards the end of the track, and these peal off to the left and right.  We finish with rain and thunder, and distant voices.

The second track, “Anna August” has almost mellotron-like chords with high-pitched, Berlin style sequences burbling to and fro. On the shortest track here, “Legrand’s Umbrella”, the rain returns, underpinned by long pads and a Vangelis-style synth lead. It’s quite moving, though I’d like to hear a longer version of the piece without the rainfall.

There’s an oriental flavour to “Morning of the Moon”. A simple melody calls out in plucked tones, first high, then duelling between high and low, above a long drawn-out chord. A single burst of what sounds like a shakuhachi finishes this brief taste of the orient.

“September Rain” starts by completely immersing us in a downpour, though this fades quickly to a pattern of liquid rhythm with long, new age chords. We end the track once again drenched.

The closer, “Sixth Echo of a Rain”, begins with African-style percussion, and those familiar naive piano notes reappear, albeit with a different melody. Suddenly the listener is lost in a dervish of rotating sounds. Noise whirls around quickly and then opens out to bird calls. The rain has ended at last.

Label: 45 Echoes Sounds   Cat: 45E-008-2012   Artist: EugeneKha   Price: Free

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Phillip Wilkerson – Highlands

Phillip Wilkerson is one of the most prolific composers in the field of ambient music, atmospheric music and soundscapes, having produced and released his work since 2006. Phillip issues some of his albums free as netlabel downloads, and he also sells others commercially on CD. “Highlands” is one of his free releases, this one being his first on the Free Floating Music netlabel.

The opening track, “The Light Becomes You”, is absolutely gorgeous. The listener is completely immersed in a golden glow of warm ambient pads, which very slowly shimmer back and forth across the stereo soundfield. This is ambient music at its very best. It creates a great sense of inner calm. There’s no rhythm in the conventional sense – no percussion – yet the music moves with a slow pulse that’s almost at a subliminal level.

“The Mirror of God” starts quietly, and fades in slowly to a large, complex chord hovering on one side of the soundfield, with a higher, delicate series of tones on the other. The effect is quite extraordinary, especially when listened to on headphones. The music evolves very slowly again here, but carries a much grander, majestic feel than the opener.

The shortest track on the album, “Two Breaths of Forever”, is the only one that clocks in at under ten minutes. It’s sweetly evocative, with a little more motion than the two before it. There’s little in the way of bass on the album as a whole, but there’s really none to speak of here. It’s based on a series of chord sequences. Towards the end, the chords start to unravel, almost into individual notes.  It’s not difficult at all to imagine this piece being used towards the end of a film.

The album finishes with its longest track, “Sweet Eva Lena”. This drifts along in a serene way, with elongated higher and lower pads meshing into lush, spacious, slowly changing textures. It really doesn’t get much more chilled than this. Contemplative music to relax to, to imagine, to reminisce, to daydream.

The cover, by the label’s owner Brad Ross-MacLeod, fits the album perfectly. All in all, a perfect package. Go download it now.

Label: Free Floating Music   Cat: FFM-010   Artist: Phillip Wilkerson   Price: Free

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Cryxuss hails from Italy, and as far as I can tell, this is his second album; his first seems to be Harey on the Torrentech netlabel. First impressions? I have to say I love the cover. If you click on the picture on the right, you can see it in full size on the original release page.

We open with “Tamura”, where a sudden burst of heavy rain and a woman’s voice (Moira Fogarty, reading from a LibriVox reading of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War) lead into dense pads with a chord sequence which stitches the track together. Tinkling keyboards echo above all of this, and it moves forward when a pattern of beats is taken up around halfway through. “Abstract Joke” is very rhythmic, with a driving bass, pulsating percussive effects and short snippets of vocals, which propel the track forward with a huge sense of urgency. Again, around halfway through, the patterns change and the rhythm changes too, with little staccato synth bursts, although the pace remains the same.

Fast fade to “Ethereal Creature”. Again, this one moves along at quite a pace. Layered piano strides a repetitive bass motif, and the percussion, whilst subtle, is always present. That heavy rain from the opening track returns in “This Will Be My Last Submersion”, which starts as pretty much an ambient track apart from periodic clicks which define a tempo. Soon, the clicks are joined by percussion which is subtle, but almost tribal in style. Snippets of Moira Fogarty’s spoken word drift into and out of the mix.

The closing track, “Need to Hurt You”, continues the theme used in its predecessor. Piano arpeggios rumble lazily over distant, high, keening chords. I hesitate to mention Frippertronics in two consecutive reviews, but the influence is definitely here. A few distorted, delayed chords, and suddenly the ride is over.

Label: Silent Flow   Cat: SLNT038   Artist: Cryxuss   Price: Free

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The netlabel We Are All Ghosts, based in Motherwell, Scotland, launched in April 2012. They’ve released two albums to date; this was their first.

Cousin Silas’s “The Path Between the Trees” opens with “In One Corner of the Sky (Jupiter Sings)”, which has some lovely stereo cracks and glitches overlaid on peaceful piano, and immediately gives feelings of innocence and fresh, icy air. “Of Ancient Ways” has electric guitar and piano, set in a wide space, occasionally overlaid with children’s voices; again, some nice stereo delay washes across the soundfield. The two opening tracks are both soundscapes rather than ambient music. “Beneath the Foundations” definitely is the latter, though, and it’s dark, too; dense, and probably best not listened to alone in the dark. Prepare to be startled a couple of times during this one.

The title track leads us on something of an ambient journey, and evokes its name well. “Rediscovered” is the first music on the album that has a percussive rhythm, and it carries a lopsided, almost cinematic feel to it, with clear guitar over a muffled piano. “Strange Qualities” spans across the album’s half-way point, and is eerie, claustrophobic, and once again very dark, with snatches of grim, almost demonic processed speech. It’s uncomfortable and unsettling, which is just how it should be. In contrast, “Lost Images” starts with a clear, almost hymn-like piano, overlaid with relaxed electric guitar notes which seem to offer answers to the questions posed by the piano. It’s very easy on the ear, and very restful.

On “The Sealing of the Pothole”, we’re drawn back into territory similar to “Beneath the Foundations”. Deep bass rumbles of dark ambience drag the listener down with their gravity, while alien chatter heightens the experience of being dissociated from our everyday surroundings. The second of two rhythmic tracks, “Diversions”, is a moody, bluesy and almost conventional diversion. Finally, we close with “Lowland”, where comfortable electric guitar merges with some Fripp-ish overlay and little backwards sounds. Fascinating. It’s a very pretty end to an interesting mesh of light and darkness. I look forward to hearing what else the label has in store for us.

Label: We Are All Ghosts   Cat: WAAG_REL001   Artist: Cousin Silas   Price: Free

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