Tag Archives: ambient

Eye of the Soundscape

Released:  October 21, 2016

Tracklist:

CD 1

  1. Where the River Flows
  2. Shine
  3. Rapid Eye Movement (2016 mix)
  4. Night Session Part 1
  5. Night Session Part 2

CD 2

  1. Sleepwalkers
  2. Rainbow Trip (2016 mix)
  3. Heavenland
  4. Return
  5. Aether
  6. Machines
  7. Promise
  8. Eye of the Soundscape

(Triple vinyl tracklist is in a somewhat different order)

When I first discovered Riverside, I really had no idea what I was getting into.  I was astonished: this music grabbed me in a way none ever had before — emotionally, intellectually, even physically – I listened in an enraptured transcendence that never seemed to fade.  A friend of mine likes to say: “The music of your life will find you”, and it was only with the discovery of Riverside and Lunatic Soul that I truly understood what he meant.  I’d listened to and loved a lot of music and artists over the decades, but nothing like this.

I eventually realized that I had also become part of an extended family, that there was a real connection – something I had never experienced before – between the band and their fans, and the fans with each other.  We shared anticipation, accolades, joy, and alas, the tragedies.  In this year especially that connection became manifest, where we came together, sharing our shock, our loss, our memories.  The line between the band and the fans blurred in the tears.

I discovered the experimental side of the band early on with the REM bonus material, and those tracks became among my favourites from that album. Fast-forward to the release of Shrine of New Generation Slaves and the spectacular “Night Sessions” bonus tracks: surely here was a direction that the guys should explore — in fact it would almost be criminal if they didn’t. Of course, the “Day Sessions” tracks just reinforced this. Piotr Grudziński was openly eager to do a dedicated ambient experimental project; his excitement was palpable.  And then, it became a reality.  The guys – at least Piotr, Mariusz Duda and Michał Łapaj — headed into the studio to make this special album, this anticipated addendum to the Riverside discography.  Good news indeed.

recording

Then…early in 2016 came that devastating blow to band and fans alike; and instead of being a celebratory exploration of a beloved genre of music, the project became a memorial.  A poignant tribute to an unfinished journey, a legacy of love and loss.

Continue reading Eye of the Soundscape

Music Inspired by Alchemy

Released: April 2016

 Personnel

Artur Szolc: drums and percussion

Robert Srzednicki: keyboards, guitars, programming

Kris Wawrzak: basses, wave drum, programming

 

Guests:

Mariusz Duda; Anja Orthodox; Anna “Anucha” Piotrowska; Katarzyna “Dyba” Dybowska; Daria Druzgala; Mariusz “Maniok” Kumala; Barbara Piotrowska; Agnieszka Sobolewska; Igor Szeligowski; Tomasz Chmielarz

 

Tracklist:

  1. Alexandria
  2. Hermes Trismegistos
  3. Albertus Magnus
  4. Nicolas Flamel
  5. Transmutation I
  6. Trithemius
  7. Agrippa von Nettesheim
  8. Transmutation II
  9. Faustus
  10. Alexander Seton
  11. Sendivogius
  12. Transmutation III
  13. John Dee
  14. Edward Kelley
  15. Transmutation IV
  16. The Philosopher’s Stone

Music Inspired by Alchemy is the third in what appears to be an occasional series of albums released by the members of the Polish prog outfit Annalist, but not, apparently, under that name.   In the liner notes they call themselves “Inspire”.  To be precise the first album, Music Inspired by Tarot (1998) involved only Artur Szolc; the second, Music Inspired by the Zodiac (2001) involved all of the guys.  Certain listeners will be familiar with Robert Szrednicki in his role as producer of Riverside and Lunatic Soul.  At any rate, Annalist and Inspire have the same lineup.

…Alchemy is an album of short, largely instrumental prog/ambient pieces, full of atmosphere and melody, with rich arrangements of synths, strings, guitars and percussion. Plenty of guests contribute everything from vocals to strings and horns; it is clearly related musically to the other two Inspired by… albums, but with more mature production values. Most of the track titles take the names of various historical (and perhaps not-so-historical) alchemists and occultists.

However (yeah you saw this coming, didn’t you?)…while it makes for pleasant listening, there is very little that is especially gripping about this album.  The standout tracks are clustered near the beginning:  “Alexandria” is a powerful opener with sweeping synths and orchestration, and a vaguely eastern rhythm and flavor, and the next two tracks manage to maintain the interest by being different enough but also very atmospheric.  Of course, one must give special mention to the three tracks on which Mariusz Duda provides vocals (not words, mind you): “Transmutation I”, “Faustus”, and “John Dee”.  His voice is a thing of such extraordinary beauty and emotion that it really can elevate even the most conventional piece above the ordinary.

Overall though, the album does not live up to the promise of these songs.  The tracks range from experimental ambient to almost conventionally poppy — and almost all of them are simply way too short.  That is the major problem with Inspired by Alchemy – instead of a sweep of emotion carrying the listener along through track after track, it comes across as more a compilation of movie or game soundtrack snippets than anything else (in fact, “Hermes Trismegistos” sounds like an outtake from the soundtrack of the movie Serenity).  The pieces are barely long enough for the ideas to really develop: as soon as something begins to sound interesting, it ends – only reinforced by the fact that “Edward Kelley”, one of the few long-ish tracks on the album, manages to sound like a full-fledged song.

This would make for good background music, but even then it doesn’t work completely: there are very nice moments, and ones bound to grab attention for a brief time, but overall it is just too disjointed-sounding—its brevity works against it. Given that this is the third effort in this series, it is strange that it strikes one almost as a freshman effort with the kinks still to be worked out.  However, it has also been more than a decade since Music Inspired by the Zodiac so maybe it’s like starting over, I don’t know.

7/10

Au4: …And Down Goes the Sky

Released: 2013

Personnel

  • Ben Wylie: Vocals; keyboards; guitars; sequencing
  • Aaron Wylie: Vocals; keyboards; programming
  • Jason Nickel: Bass; vocals
  • Nathan Wylie: Drums; percussion

Contributors:

  • Melanie Krueger: Vocals
  • Anna Vandas: Vocals
  • Daniel Moir: Electric guitar
  • Niki Piper: Violin
  • Clara Shandler: Cello
  • Malcolm Aiken: Trumpet

Tracklist:

  1. Everyone is Everyone (and Everything is Everything)
  2. Lost Her Way Home
  3. The Propagation of Light (Through the Ether of Emotion)
  4. So Just Hang On, Beautiful One
  5. In Three Seconds I’ll Be Gone
  6. Forever Dancing Under a Fallen Sky
  7. Wherever We Begin to Fall (Broken Glass Will Surely Follow)
  8. The Empty Gorgeousness of All
  9. Planck Length
  10. Over the Edge It Goes

The great thing about social media is the sheer amount of music that can be found, via recommendations and links from friends, from various genre-based Facebook groups…Youtube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp…there is more great music out there than I will ever get to hear if I live to be a hundred. The disadvantage of social media is, well, the sheer amount of music… yeah.  I could spend my entire day online just clicking links.  It is both exciting and daunting at the same time. I simply have to bypass most of the stuff that people share: no time, no ability to focus on it, whatever.  I know I have missed a lot.

But eventually there comes some time to poke around, to sample the links that folks seem to be most excited about.  On one day I decided to try out a video shared by a few of my friends who were so enthusiastic they were almost incoherent. The band had a strange name seemingly taken from the Periodic Table, and the album cover was a rather beautiful bit of art.

This, the very first track I heard — which I believe is the last track on this album — stopped me dead in my tracks.  I could not quite fathom what I was hearing.  All I knew was that I had to hear more of the album, and when I did I had to hear it again.  And the more I played it, the more I had to play it.  It dug in deeply and insistently and relentlessly, like some musical version of Cordyceps, and zombie-like I was compelled to play the thing. Over and over.  This does not happen very often, and usually if it does, the album does not last for very long.  It gets overplayed and then set aside.  But so far there seems no evidence that I can overplay …And Down Goes the Sky.  This album seems to have found a special niche in my soul.

Continue reading Au4: …And Down Goes the Sky