Category Archives: Ambient


Engineers_-_Always_ReturningAlways Returning by Engineers (KScope Records)

Until speaking with electronic producer Ulrich Schnauss for an interview for the last album A Long Way To Fall, the music of Mark Peters and his band Engineers had flown under my radar. Little did I know how much I’d love his music.  The band is multi-instrumentalist Peters, Schnauss  and drummer/keyboardist Matthew Gilbert Lindley (who releases music as “Gilbert“).  Always Returning is full of pretty songs that would float off into the clouds if it weren’t for the talents behind their making. There’s a sense of sadness and longing permeating the album giving many songs a compelling emotional weight.

engineers band shotOne of the many incredible songs on Always Returning is Fight or Flight where synths swell and wash over the song, electronics perco-lating and dancing throughout.  One of the most blissful songs you’ll likely hear for years to come. It Rings So True showcases a mesmerizing guitar lead, lightly accompanied by keyboards, Peters’ close-mic’ed voice drawing you in and building suspense and mystery.  The final minute of the song is an understated prog rock masterpiece.

Drive Your Car begins with pretty piano and Peters’ quiet vocals, acoustic guitar and swirling synths join in, rising into a rocking climax with a buzzing electric guitar lead dueling with an energetic piano performance.   Innsbruck presents a tight and bright guitar pattern that is played off of by Schnauss’ keyboards and powerful drumming by Linley.  The song is reminiscent of New Order’s instrumental Thieves Like Us with its cautious optimism and colorful outbursts of guitar and piano.

Smiling Back is a hazy nostalgic song with echoes of early Pink Floyd in their slower more introspective moments.  On Smoke and Mirrors Peters’ piano and guitar and Schnauss’ motorik synth loops meld wonderfully.  A Million Voices is a straight-up rock song, though one coming from the corner of synth-pop, Peters’ whispy vocals float through a peppy beat, shiny keyboards and a thrumming bass guitar.

Closing Always Returning, the title track offers so many memorable melodies that I found myself humming the piano refrain this morning. The song somehow sounds both sad and uplifting until the final third where the guitars, bass and piano riff off each other fading into the heavens.

Peters and Schnauss have also collaborated on two albums under their own names.  Both albums released on Bureau B, link below.

(Review by Bret Miller)

Bureau B Records


SPC ECO to release Sirens and Satellites on Saint Marie Records 9/9/14

Dean Garcia, formerly of Curve and daughter Rose Berlin release their fourth album this September.

SPC ECO are a duo from London, they formed 8 years ago and have released 5 albums and 7 EPs to date. S E record and produce all of their albums from a small home made studio in North London. SPC ECO consists of vocalist / lyricist Rose Berlin and multi instrumentalist / Producer Dean Garcia. They have been making music together for more than 20 years. Rose is Dean’s daughter, Dean is a maverick record producer with an illustrious, diverse and colourful career performing, producing, composing and recording with a wide range of very well known artists (

Rose-pop2-crop2-1024x682Rose is a Sound and Light artist and recently graduated with a first class honours degree from Camberwell College of Arts. Rose experiments with the potential for sound and light to be used as atmospheric mediums, her intention is to bridge the gap between art and music. Rose sees her voice as an atmospheric instrument and uses it to take you to a world of your own. Rose is a gifted and unique artist with a strong creative grounding within music and sound recording that dates back to her very early years recording songs with Dean in their front room studio. Their musical pairing was simply meant to be. S E is best described as an amalgamation of experimental and genre bending musical ideas, although diverse it’s always recognisable due to the S E branding of Rose’s distinct voice combined with Dean’s ability to wrap multi fractal sound around her.

SPCECO-Sirens1000xSirens and Satellites is SPC ECO‘s 4th full studio album, like any well designed – provocative music you are undeniably and mysteriously lost in its glow from the moment it drifts into your consciousness. This effect is not a fleeting moment of beauty but all encompassing throughout the entire record, the album unfolds like a great book, the songs effortlessly merge and flow leaving you in anticipation of the next song right until the very end. As with previous S E recordings there has always been collaborators involved, this time around S E team up with Jarek Leskiewicz, who has co-written / co produced half of the Sirens album. Dean connected with Jarek via an impromptu Facebook chat from there they decided to work together and quickly began sound pooling ideas back and forth, three summer months later and Sirens and Satellites was realised.

Everyone wants to know what or who a band sounds like, where do they fit in? S E can fall within many different genres like Dreampop, Shoegaze Electronic etc but somehow they have transcended them all and developed a genre-sphere of their own. When you listen to songs such as Fallen Stars or Zombie followed by Delusional Waste or High On It it becomes very clear that this band do not believe in musical boundaries and are very much a force unto themselves. Sirens is not for the faint of heart, it’s big, brash, sentimental and noisy all at the same time. This is a record that likes to be loud, so just plug it in, turn it up and let it breathe its magic.

SPC ECO Sirens and Satellites will be released by Saint Marie Records on the 9th of September 2014. Pre-order here!


The Glitch Mob

Glitch mob coverLove Death Immortality by The Glitch Mob (Glass Air Records)

On Love Death Immortality, the trio of ediT (Edward Ma), Boreta (Justin Boreta) and Ooah (Josh Mayer) have punched up the more visceral qualities of their past efforts, bringing to mind big beat giants The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers and Crystal Method.  If you hear the young punk vitality of Howlett, then the trio are doing something right.  The Glitch Mob want you to dance and nod your head.

Mind of a Beast opens the album with guitar slashes and skittering piano & synths then lively drums kick in.  A hard-edged synth line takes you by the ears and throws you into the mosh pit.  Nico Vega vocalist Aja Volkman adds her impassioned voice to Our Demons which starts soulful then becomes something epic, speeding up to a fast pace, dropping out and getting ever bigger, those itchy synths grinding into your psyche. Skullclub will get you dancing uncontrollably with a brilliant blend of rock and electronics.  The lead synth lines become The Glitch Mob’s signature sound on the album, taking the place of lead guitar.  

glitch mob skullsCan’t Kill Us is an industrial stomp with hard-hitting drums and metallic synths slicing and sawing away with a little soulful break just so you can catch a breath.  On I Need My Memory, Back Volkman’s vocals are chopped up for the Mob’s nod to Daft Punk, lighter drums and looser synths are set to a funky beat that will get your hands in the air and a goofy smile on your face.  One of the most captivating songs on the album is Fly By Night Onl,y which features Yaarohs’ lovely vocals.  This dancefloor filler best utilizes the guest vocals, letting her flow direct the song more than the beats.

Love Death Immortality’s closing track Beauty of the Unhidden Heart features the vocals of Sacramento duo Sister Crayon‘s Terra Lopez.  Her quivering and emotional delivery is backed by spacious ambience, chiming strings and booming percussion, a powerful meeting of talents.

Love Death Immortality is a big leap forward for The Glitch Mob.  These new tracks are made to be heard live where the speakers can vibrate the air of a large room.  See them on tour this Spring. They will play Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles on May 10, 2014 with Ana Sia and Penthouse Penthouse. Wear your dancing shoes.

(by Bret Miller)



Sunn O))) & Ulver

Terrestrials by Sunn O))) & Ulver (Southern Lord Recordings)

sunn ulver terrestrialsSunn 0))) played their 200th show at the Oya Festival in Oslo in 2008.  Two days later Ulver’s Krystoffer Rygg invited core members Stephen O’Malley (guitars) and Greg Anderson (bass) along with British multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan (who had performed at that show) for an all-night jam at Crystal Canyon, Ulver’s recording studio.  After recording the instrumental jams O’Malley and Rygg edited and worked on the parts, O’Sullivan visiting over the years, adding strings and trumpet.

Ulver’s Childhood’s End album from 2012 reminded listeners that they could indeed rock with their energetic covers of psychedelic bands from the 60′s and early 70′s.  But Rygg and Ulver, with Daniel O’Sullivan joining the band after the Terrestrials sessions, have veered towards a more ambient, piano/keyboard led sound in the past decade.  So it is with much relish that fans of heavier music get to hear Sunn 0)))’s guitars on a release associated with Ulver.

Let There Be Light begins quietly with much portent as strings scrape and effects hum in the aether.  A throaty trumpet is introduced as the guitars build in their electrical crackling, along with the occasional bass thrum.  A piano tinkles in the background, the trumpet blurts and warbles , the guitars drone as if signalling sunrise, an outpouring of pent-up energy.  Then at the eight minute mark, the sounds drop except for a light trumpet burble, and a few seconds later drums roll and cymbals collide, the trumpet exulting in the rising of the sun.

Western Horn opens with bass moans, drum thumps and guitars slowly jangling as something darkly compelling develops in the mix.  Eerie metallic effects flitter and swell, Anderson’s bass thuds ominously and sounds are piled up like anguished moaning and crying voices.

Eternal Return puts some of Ulver’s atmospheric dark beauty into the alloy with O’Sullivan’s languid keys softening  O’Malley’s sharp guitar strums and drones.  As the music surges, violins and trumpet float in.  At about the halfway mark the arrangement segues to a looping and vibrant synthesizer and Rygg’s velvety voice.  The finale drifts in with sawed violins, percussive guitars and menacing atmospheres.  Quivering strings fade out at the end.

(by Bret Miller)

Southern Lord
Terrestrials on Bandcamp
Sunn 0))) Facebook
Ulver Facebook



junius Days_of_the_Fallen_SunDays of the Fallen Sun by Junius (Prosthetic Records)

The man was a creature of shadow, of the world created by the obstruction of a light source, of the dark lands, of the early morning and the twilight.  Even the moon cast light and sometimes that was too much for him.  He reveled in the dark places yet understood the necessity of light.  When others got depressed over the shorter days he eagerly awaited that time of the year.  On those, and truly, all other days, but these times the most, of dying leaves and colder days, he picked a clear view of the sunset.  He knew when to find his perch and thought of the variation of colors and play of contrast in the clashes in the clouds as the orchestra performed a prologue to the story ahead.

Junius-Sutter-e1299615297870As the last piece of the sun was firmly tucked into bed, he settled in as the expectations of the night took over not just himself, but of his part of the world.  From his vantage point he watched the people go home from work and change their persona with their clothes, prepare for frolic and
bacchanalia or business meetings over dinner.  Lovers greeted in each other’s arms, or friends grasped hands before armoring themselves for seeking new mates, or to be entertained by acting and music, or some planned the conquest of a country.  He breathed in deeply the smells of freshly cooked meals, of perfume and musk, felt a pleasant chill as the trees and plants exhaled their life-giving oxygen.  Then the trumpet announced the arrival of the night and the audience got to their activities with a crash of cymbals.

After the heat of the sun on the earth was expended, the man would look up a the lights above, wondering if there were others in these distant places who enjoyed the symphonies of the dark places.  As a cloud passed over the light of the moon the man embraced the shadows until the next nightfall.  All was right in the dark.

(by Bret Miller)

Prosthetic Records



alcestshelter1_400xShelter by Alcest (Prophecy Productions)

Listening to the new album by Alcest, you might get the impression they’ve been listening to a whole lot of Sigur Ros.  Alcest leader, singer and multi-instrumentalist Neige and drummer/percussionist Winterhalter travelled from their home town of Paris to Iceland to work with Ros’ producer Birgir Jon Birgisson, using Amiina, the string section featured on a few Ros albums.

Neige was inspired by the idea of shelter, his being the sea.  Everything about the album Shelter is warm, comforting and uplifting with mystery and dramatic melodies sure to gain them many new fans.   A bright, optimistic feel is heard from the short opening track Wings, which leads to Opale‘s heavenly vocals and chiming guitar work.  While the lyrics are sang in French, the message is clear.  Le Nuit Marche Avec Moi features beautifully plucked guitars backed by a chorused guitar that sounds like keyboards.  Neige’s vocals are sexy and drawn out in a sense of longing.

alcest2013Voix Sereines starts slowly with a strummed guitar, evolving into a catchy rock ballad with light string accompaniment by Amiina.  Then the pace quickens and the guitars electrify and distort for a cathartic finale.  Neige’s vocal approach changes to suit each song and in the blustery guitar effects of the darkly beautiful L’ Eveil Des Muses his voice deepens and his pace slows to accentuate every nuance for maximum dramatic effect.

The title song is also the most accessible, with a stately drum beat, percussive piano and epic guitar work.  Neige’s vocals make you believe anything is possible, that all is full of love.  Away has some nice acoustic guitar and features vocals by former Mojave 3 and (recently reformed) Slowdive member Neil Halstead.  He’s joined by Amiina as Winterhalter taps on his snare drum for a wonderful little ballad.

Shelter closes with Deliverance.  Beginning very quietly, guitars evoking a contemplative mood., violins join a background guitar melody as Neige sings high and wistfully.  The song builds to a hackles-raising plateau, filling  your head with visions of  fireworks and flames or waves crashing on rocks or some other bold elemental activity as the echoplexed guitars sing like a choir to the stars.

(Review by Bret Miller)

Alcest Official Home Page
Alcest on Facebook
Alcest at Prophecy Productions



Vali_-_SkogslandskapSkogslandskap by Vàli (Auerbach Tonträger / Prophecy Productions)

Presented here is the type of recording that this critic will be playing incessantly long after the initial review – and when the year comes spinning to its foregone conclusion, Skogslandskap by Vàli will surely be a surprising yet logical choice when the time arrives to create a Top 10 List of 2013.  Vàli is a Norwegian composer whose instrumental folk tapestries are enchanting to behold. Relaxing and cinematic, the 15 tracks contained within send the listener on a journey through the sentimental and the obscure.

A fragrant potion of acoustic guitar, keyboards and cello, the composer Vàli will sweep you off your feet, and into state of absolute bliss. Fans of acts such as Empyrium and Neun Welten are sure to delight in what Vàli has to offer, while all other adventurous music aficionados looking for a masterwork of imagination and intrigue should check into the sonic halls of Skogslandskap as well.

From the gorgeous opening strains of Nordavindens Klagesang, the Skogslandskap experience is sure to captivate the senses and send your imagination in flight. Running 45 minutes in length, the richly rewarding Skogslandskap is a magical time well spent. Tracks such as I Skumringstimen, Langt I Det Fjerne, and Stein Og Bark are perfect examples of the quiet majesty featured within Vàli’s wondrous art.  When the blast beats and the demonic screams of the modern era rage beyond trite, wander into the world of Skogslandskap by Vàli and prepare to be thoroughly dazzled by the sweeping reveries at hand. You may want to linger within its gorgeous landscapes for a lifetime.

In addition to the lingering sonnets of Skogslandskap, be sure to check into Vàli’s previous album Forlatt to uncover the first chapter of the composer’s visionary expeditions in sound.

(Review by Ken Morton)

Vàli on Facebook



EtterlatteEtterlatte by Havnatt (Secret Quarters)

Havnatt is the exceptional neofolk collaboration of vocalist Cecilie Langlie and guitarist Tom Simonsen, whose other heavier projects include the likes of Omit and Vagrant God. Last year, Havnatt’s superb debut Havdøgn was released through the Secret Quarters label, receiving a good deal of worldwide acclaim. Starting out as a work commissioned by the family of the late Norwegian author Tormod Skagestad, Havnatt has risen into a thriving entity well worth seeking out. Etterlatte is the name of their brand new full length, an astounding masterwork of sheer artistry once again featuring the vibrant writings of the noted Skagestad.

Once the gorgeously melancholic strains of the first track Sovande Gard (Tolkning 1) commence, the listener is whisked away into the world of Tormod Skagestad as lushly interpreted by the Norwegian duo known as Havnatt. Even if the lyrics are a mystery because they are presented in a different language, the intrigue and mysticism to be found in the stunning vocals and wistful instrumentals will leave you breathless. The exploration through idyllic darkness continues with tracks such as the haunting Et Blinkfyr Våker I Vest, the gorgeous title cut Etterlatte, and the sweeping single Var Je Solblesten leaving a lingering impression.  Another highlight is the grand finale Folkevise, clocking in at over seven euphoric minutes, showing Havnatt at the very height of their creative invention.

Cecilie Langlie of Havnatt -  Photo Credit: Tom Simonsen

Cecilie Langlie of Havnatt – Photo Credit: Tom Simonsen

Cecilie Langlie delivers a wondrously expressive performance, and remains a vastly underrated vocalist who transcends time and genres. Tom Simonsen guitar work is subtle yet rapturous, with an imagination that is beyond compare. Other instruments weaving throughout the lush soundscapes include piano, clarinets, violins and cellos, among others. Etterlatte is epic and ambitious, while retaining an intimacy that will sweep even the most cynical music critic off their feet and into an extraordinary state of tranquility.

The CD version of the album comes with a beautifully crafted 28 page booklet with hand drawn illustrations for each of the tracks. Tormod Skagestad’s original lyrics have also been reprinted in the booklet with permission from the Skagestad family. Also available on ITunes and CD Baby, Etterlatte is required listening for all seeking a splendid respite from the mundane. Highly recommended!

(Review by Kenneth Morton)

Havnatt on Facebook
Secret Quarters Official Home Page



Kore by Dperd (My Kingdom Music)

Presenting an exquisite brand of ethereal dark wave, there is a captivating world of melancholy and intrigue to be found within the compositions of Dperd. Based out of Enna in Italy, the two members were in Fear Of The Storm in the 90’s, and have been progressing with Dperd for nearly a decade. Kore is their third full length effort for My Kingdom Music, and it’s destined to enchant adventurous musical types the world over. Fans of Bjork and Cocteau Twins may want to explore to deceptively serene depths of Dperd and prepare to meet your next big musical obsession.

The disc spins you gently into an icy orbit with the glistening sounds of Non E’ll Cielo, where entrancing piano, treated guitar, and tender vocals collide with magnificent results. Fa Male then swirls into your consciousness with its solemn low-fi meanderings.

You’ll Be Watching Me is haunting and sensual, destined to gently tickle the senses. Tree Song then shows an epic side of the Dperd experience that is glorious to behold.

The imaginative guitar and lingering keyboard soundscapes combined with poignant vocals render Io Sono Un Errore a short yet effective standout. The ominous strains of Catena Cieca follows, sweeping the listener into an otherworldly dimension, jolted only by the vibrant singing that commences midway.

Mi Riaccendero possesses an earthly quality and yet still has an abstract and obscure fascination about it. Risaldo Il Buio is dramatic and memorable, with gorgeous keyboard work spinning throughout.

Sono Qui presents Dperd at their most intimate and captivating, a slower cut that could be ringing out from a remote smoky café. And then closing out Kore on a near mesmerizing note is the sweeping Train Song, a spellbinding conclusion to a sweet and intensive journey.

The duo who make up Dperd place a good deal of heart and imagination into the proceedings. Valeria Buono’s evocative vocals and subtle keyboards elicit a good deal of passion and mystery – and while the lyrics are in Italian, the deep feelings are definitely universal. Carlo Disimone plays a wide and wondrous range of instruments – keyboards, guitars, bass, percussions, cello – unleashing a mystical atmosphere that is pure sonic artistry in motion.  Kore by Dperd is another masterpiece from the folks at My Kingdom Music and is well worth seeking out.

(Review by Kenneth Morton)

Dperd on Facebook

My Kingdom Music on Facebook


Colin Edwin / Jon Durant

Burnt Belief by Colin Edwin / Jon Durant (Alchemy Records)

So, much like Y2K and many other end of world predictions, December 21, 2012 began and ended the same way every other day did: the sun rose and the sun set and the world kept spinning around the sun, no one died, nothing changed. Thankfully we get to listen to Burnt Belief and not drown, burn, or worse, so that’s good.  Burnt Belief is the new album and collaboration between Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin and guitarist/composer Jon Durant.  Edwin had previously performed on Durant’s last album Dance of the Shadow Planets but this is a true collaboration.  The title of the project and album comes from the Leon Festinger book When Prophecy Fails, an account of the UFO cult craze that began in the 1950′s and where we get the term cognitive dissonance.  How does a treatise on delusion, religion and science translate into an instrumental album?  The duo’s music crosses cultures and genres with Edwin’s fretless and fretted bass and electronic rhythms coupled with Durant’s guitars, keyboards and effects, creating a thought-provoking and soul-invigorating audio journey.

The album opens with Altitude, swirling effects meet synth pulses, bass thrums and forlorn sounds, keyboards and dance beats step in, guitars soar, gaining in intensity, lifting the spirits, then cooling off as if the sun is setting on a warm day. Balthasar’s Key puts a little slink in your step with hand percussion by Jerry Leake, backing a noirish setting of jazzy bass and keyboards and a flute lead by Geoff Leigh, Durant’s grinding guitars helping to bring to mind visions of an exotic desert locale at night, the sand blowing down dark alleys as underhanded deals are made in shady bars. Impossible Senses continues the mysterious, mystical feel with a more direct percussion loop, lively guitars and Durant’s dramatic guitar lines taking center stage.

Prism begins with hesitant keyboard chimes and spare percussion, the duo laying on bubbly bass, guitar effects and fills, going in circles in a pleasant way, Durant finishing up with a haunting vinyl-stringed guitar melody.  Semazen opens with quiet piano and Leake’s light hand percussion,  joined in the melody by Edwin’s propulsive bass and an insistent beat as Durant plays a ghostly guitar lead.  The playing picks up in intensity, the guitars building a sense of wonder, playing off the keyboards as your mind starts to swirl into a dervish of colors.  Uncoiled is appropriately named, as piano plunks, percussion drips, guitars whisper and vibrate, bass slithers in and flutes fly around the sound-scape.  Melody and rhythm appear from the ether at their leisure, as the performances compress and intertwine like people slowly filling a party, meeting and starting conversations, arguing and laughing and moving about the room in an unchoreographed dance.  The Weight of Gravity closes the album, the first half dark and slow, you’ll be looking for movement out of the corner of your eye, segueing into a thrilling second half with Edwin’s bass laying a repetitive rhythm to Jon’s scrawling, scratchy and soulful lead, electronic percussion pumping the blood, the song then fading out with a final flute flourish.

Burnt Belief is hopefully the beginning of an ongoing musical relationship between Colin Edwin and Jon Durant, and their self-titled debut is a wondrous and moving adventure of the senses.

(by Bret Miller)

Alchemy Records
Burnt Belief on Facebook