Posts Tagged ‘ambient

11
Nov
11

A Soundtrack for Sunsets: Tycho–Dive (Ghostly International, 2011)

It’s no surprise Scott Hansen is a native Californian. He’s known by two aliases: Tycho for music and ISO50 for graphic design. The faded warm colors and sixties inspired aesthetics of his visual works undoubtedly correspond to the sun inspired arrangements of his music. Hansen owns a large collection of vintage analog synthesizers including a Minimoog and Korg Mono/Poly, which explains his music’s frequent use of rich timbres and ethereal layers, an integral characteristic established in his debut LP Sunrise Projector (later released as Past is Prologue) and a continued theme in Dive

With shimmery tones floating over celestial pads and down-tempo beats of opening track “A Walk,” my memory immediately revisits a time spent in Santa Monica where I watched the sun slowly sink below the Pacific Ocean’s horizon. Later in the song, an acoustic guitar breaks up the relaxed vibe and switches the tempo, adding claps, more drum fills and swells, almost like going from a calm, pleasant walk to a fast, exhilarating run.

In “Daydream” the title speaks for itself. A simple guitar melody fades in and subtly dwells throughout the majority of the song, underlying the dreamy flowing instrumentation of ambient synth inflections, definitely making it a relaxing, mesmerizing tune. Following the sonic surreality is title track “Dive,” the eight minute atmospheric voyage which in my opinion is the climactic point of the album. Brief, incomprehensible female coos introduce the eighties pop beat and heavily reverberated poly-synths. It sounds like it could be a theme song for an aquatic journey.

Dive is a buoyant, sunny adventure filled with ambient lullabies like “Epigram” and soothing harmonies heard in “Coastal Brake”, a musical interpretation of the experience and need to “brake” when witnessing the beauty while driving on the Pacific Coast Highway. Tycho’s repeated combination of similar synth textures and basic guitar riffs with mellow rhythms is what defines his familiar yet distinct brand of sound.

For me, listening to Tycho is analogous to spending a day at the beach—the tranquil ambience of closing your eyes while basking in sunlight or watching reflections in the waves continuously crashing. It evokes a very meditative and spiritual feeling and is great complementary music for a positive, pensive and peaceful state of mind.

4/5
Advertisements
04
Nov
11

Shpongle Live @ the Hammerstein Ballroom–New York, NY 10.28.11

Experiencing a rare Shpongle live ensemble performance at Camp Bisco X this past summer was a glorious moment in festival history for me. Therefore I knew an indoor headlining show in New York City for Halloween weekend would be another unforgettable night and a fantastic way to start my “Halloweekend.” Marking their 2nd U.S. appearance as a full band, Simon Posford, Raja Ram and company brought even more mind-bending sights, sounds and characters with them to the city that never sleeps. It was a special premature commemoration of a beloved holiday but more importantly, Posford’s date of birth.

Arriving late after 11pm to the Manhattan Center, the entrance was mobbed with people in kooky outfits and ghastly attire. After all it was “Shpongleween”, an appropriate title for this bizarre costume affair and a scene drawing curious gazes of passersby. We entered the ballroom to flamenco guitar, entrancing salsa rhythms and schizophrenic vocals of“Dorset Perception.” The first balcony section was a quintessential location: having the bar and bathroom in close proximity to your seats is always advantageous to the show experience, but not your wallet ($8 cranberry vodkas, you say? Sigh.) Anyways, nobody actually sat in their designated seats so the first balcony was practically a free for all. But that didn’t matter—most of the time everybody was joyously dancing or completely transfixed by the performance onstage.

The stage was a colorful concoction of costumes and acrobatic performers wearing feathers or garments lined with bright, neon shapes and patterns, donning tribal masks. A horned man paraded the stage on stilts. Singers Michele Adamson and Abigail Gorton wore vibrant wigs and glow-in-the-dark tights. Yup, we had reached our far-out destination: Shpongleland, a psychedelic dimension created from visions and adventures inspired by the drug induced hallucinations and experiences of Posford and Raja Ram, akin to a spiritual and ritualistic gathering.

One of the most anticipated songs of the night was “Nothing is Something Worth Doing.” Everybody’s attention was directed to the man dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow (not sure if it was Manu Delago) sitting front and center under a spotlight, playing the rich melodic introduction with a hang. The hypnotic buildup made this a climactic point of the show, the crowd spellbound by the profound music, harmoniously tangled up in bliss.

Then a striking guitar melody ascended from the mystics, conjuring the exotic tones of “When Shall I Be Free” right into “Stamen of the Shaman” off 2005’s Nothing Lasts…But Nothing is Lost. While the latter song was missing the organic sound of a live trumpet, the ballroom went bonkers and current Furthur drummer Joe Russo kept the crowd grooving with pulsating latin dub beats. The next batch of songs were from Shpongle’s latest release Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland. Adamson and Gorton lent their impressive vocal range to “No Turn Unstoned,” while celestial tones of the harp, violinist, cellist and flute added instrumental depth to this ambient piece. Next thing you know, a cryptic Indian chant and deep sitar timbre introduced, “I Am You.” Raja Ram spoke through a processor that fluctuated the pitch of his voice. Ominous violins and metallic synth arpeggios picked up the tempo and the cosmic fantasy unfolded into a dark, psy-trance journey. From there I did not expect them to go into the orchestral centered “Invisible Man In a Fluorescent Suit,” but it was a nice change of pace and wonderfully enchanting once it progressed.

Divine Moments of Truth” and “My Head Feels Like a Frisbee” were two strong closing choices, the former being a popular Shpongle tune that was heavily in rotation during Simon’s Shpongletron tour as well as at Camp Bisco. “My Head Feels Like a Frisbee” fuses so many styles of music, you simply cannot fight the urge to dance. Listening to Raja Ram’s flute part in the closing song was indeed a satisfying experience, but when they came out to perform the encore “Around the World in a Tea Daze,” all senses were stimulated by the vivacious flautist. Gorton and Adamson’s operatic vocals soared in unison over confetti and balloons dropped from the ceiling in celebration of Simon Posford’s birthday and Shpongleween.

Blending indigenous traditional music of Middle Eastern and Asian cultures with psychedelic, trance, dub and ambient styles is what makes Shpongle more sonically diverse than most acts in the world. Additionally the eccentric theatrics, lazer visuals and humorous antics of Raja Ram were essential factors for producing such a unique and fascinating show. This is a stimulating presentation that music lovers from all walks of life wouldn’t want to miss with its mysticism, majesty and moments of musical transcendence. Although the opportunity to catch them in the States is uncommon, I’m sure they’ll be back again after three successful appearances in 2011. And of course, Simon Posford in New York State means chaotic climate as indicated by the subsequent snow storm on Saturday and rain he brings to Camp Bisco every summer.

 5/5

06
Oct
11

Apparat – The Devil’s Walk (Mute Records, 2011)

Sascha Ring, working under the moniker, Apparat, has transcended to a new level of composing as indicated by his latest endeavor, titled after a poem by 19th century romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. The German musician’s 2007 LP Walls showcased a dreamier blend of ambient and electronic pop, suitable for an array of moods. Whereas The Devil’s Walk uses minimal percussive elements and focuses on beautifully crafted pieces; most soaked in melancholy and poetic lyricism while others include smatterings of uplifting string arrangements and tonal progressions.

The album starts with “Sweet Unrest”, which creates an aura of curiosity and wonder experienced when beginning a new chapter in your life. Definitely an appropriate opening track laden with vocal ooh’s, atmospheric textures and a string motif.

Two singles released prior to the album’s release were “Black Water” and “Ash/Black Veil.” (color coincidence or dark thematic implication?) While the former stands as one of the more powerful, cinematic moments on The Devil’s Walk, both tracks are equally poignant and mesmerizing. Once the instrumentation thickens in “Black Water”, a crescendo builds and a climactic point of the song is reached when these lyrics are sung, “Fact isn’t what you see. Not anymore than it used to be.” “Ash/Black Veil” brings string layers and vocals to the forefront, adding a nice touch of progressing percussion that enhances this compositional journey. These two tranquil songs are great tunes to listen to when in transit, especially as day turns into night or when darkness turns to light.

Goodbye” is a song you imagine accompanying a funeral or death scene in a movie. It starts off with ambient noise, when a ritual sounding drum enters, setting the tempo. Then guitar harmonics, prominent piano chords and haunting lyrics sung by Anja Plaschg contribute to the somber tone of this farewell inspired piece.

Another soundtrack style composition is “The Soft Voices Die.” The strength of this song unfolds at the two minute mark, when violins and subtle percussion aid to the bell and xylophone introduction, a nice tempo transition from slow to fast.

There are some truly grandeur sections throughout this album, but it’s lacking the rhythmic elements that Apparat mastered in his previous solo record. Though he began his career making techno oriented beats, even collaborating with electronic heavyweights Modeselektor in 2009 (Moderat), the shift is expected when Apparat mentioned he aimed to “design sounds rather than beats.” Sure, my expectations were high after hearing the first two gorgeous singles but I felt the entire album fell a tiny bit short of its epic potential. Overall, it’s a pensive, ambient soundtrack suitable for rainy and gloomy days.

3.5/5




Contributing Reviewers

Hi-Fi Worldwide

Hi-Fi Swag

Support This Site
Advertisements