Friday, April 15, 2016

Album Review: Southern Cross by Jim Ottaway

Southern Cross
is the follow-up to electronic music composer Jim Ottaway’s highly energetic Invisible Vortex album. Named for a distinctive constellation in the Southern Hemisphere, Southern Cross is Jim’s first intrinsically ambient-space album since Liquid Moon, which was originally released in Australia in 2011, and later internationally in 2014. Comprised of six tracks spanning seventy minutes total, the album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Jim, as well as lovingly dedicated to the memory of his mother Madge who passed away in 2015.

“Alpha Crucis” opens the album with a rumbling vibration, followed by expansive chords and a rainstick-type sound, which frequently returns throughout the compositions. Imparting an immediate sense of deep space exploration, it’s fourteen minutes and twenty seconds of pure atmospheric bliss. Alluringly arcane, this mood is carried into “Beta Crucis”, where swirling chimes mimic a galaxy filled with twinkling stars. Moving into the darkest piece, “Gamma Crucis”, linear time seems to dissolve and physical distance is no longer a barrier to the furthest reaches of space. This especially noteworthy piece is permeated by a wonderfully eerie creepiness that’s filled with the sounds of deep drones, ghostly voices, alien signals and glowing pulsars. More traces of light shine through the vast darkness on “Delta Crucis”, as if drifting among a meteor shower – before giving way to “Epsilon Crucis”, the album’s warmest, most ethereal composition. Closing out the album is the phenomenal “Southern Cross (Timeless Motion)”, with its rhythmic pulse beaming like a quasar amidst swirling chimes and a melodious drone, before dissipating into a sea of stardust.

Sitting at the meeting point of both pure ambient and classic space music, Southern Cross is easily Jim’s most groundbreaking album to date. I frequently had to remind myself that the many otherworldly sounds herein were actually coming from a recording studio and not some distant location of the galaxy, thanks to the impressive array of state-of-the-art recording equipment and software detailed in the liner notes. An especially rewarding headphone experience, Southern Cross is a must-have album for both fans of ambient-space music and astronomy enthusiasts! ~Candice Michelle

Available at Amazon, Bandcamp and other music retailers. For more information, please visit the artist's website

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Album Review: Interstellar Love by Darren Rogers

Darren Rogers’ album Interstellar Love is based upon a theme of two soulmates in search of one another as they behold the celestial night sky. Consisting of seven compositions spanning fifty-two minutes, the album explores the hidden depths and desires of the heart – and how it potentially relates to a greater cosmic design.

The title track opens the album and is just over ten minutes long. Cosmic winds and unintelligible muffled voices allude to a petitioning of the heavens, as if being carried into outer-space. Deeply immersive tones and swirling timbres further lend themselves to the piece’s defined sense of mystery. “Wavering” follows next and opens with a Duduk – an ancient woodwind flute indigenous to Armenia. A sensual yet somewhat forlorn melody is carried by the instrument, as it mesmerizingly enhances the expansive, spacey ambience of the composition. “Passion”, the album’s middle piece, is possibly my favorite – perfectly exemplifying how the depths of one’s own heart can seem as unknown and limitless as the universe itself. Like signals of extrasolar communication being transmitted throughout space, they eventually give way to faintly pounding drums as if emanating from a cosmic heartbeat, before gently leading out to the sound of a distant siren’s call. Also noteworthy is “The Love Inside”, with its shimmering celestial tones that glide upon a peculiar muffled distortion, perhaps to mimic that of a radio signal attempting to come through. “Looking to the Stars” closes out the album, characterized by softly rising tones and slowly rotating effects. As if to conclude with a question rather than an answer – will these two destined souls ever find one another in this lifetime?

A classic ambient-space album with a passionate theme, Interstellar Love beckons the listener to simply close their eyes and envision the reality of their heart’s truest desires. Darren has captured a mood that will likely appeal to anyone who especially enjoys Jonn Serrie’s more romance-tinged space music. A uniquely impressive album, Interstellar Love is permeated by a beautiful darkness that’s wrapped in a dream of idyllic love. ~Candice Michelle

Available at Amazon and Bandcamp.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Album Review: Ambient Highways by Keith Richie

Review by Candice Michelle

Few things are as delightful as when a truly remarkable ambient-electronic album crosses my path, and listening to Keith Richie’s Ambient Highways is about as sublime as it gets. Visually interpreted by what just may be the coolest album artwork I’ve seen in a while, Ambient Highways takes the listener on a fascinating voyage from start to finish. Although not derivative, notable comparisons can be drawn to Tangerine Dream, Christopher Franke, John Carpenter, Vangelis and Carbon Based Lifeforms, all of whom Keith cites as musical influences.

Like laser and neon lights flickering and racing across the dark, "Neutrino” opens the album with bubbling sequencers, lush chords, intricately layered textures, and sparse piano sounds. Driven by pensive emotion, this melodically dynamic piece is nonetheless definitively ambient. The mood continues into “V Feeling”, a piece that begins with harp-like strings, followed by vintage and modern instruments, some of which move to the forefront while others remain in the background. Next is the breathtaking “Xenogeneis”, which beautifully unfolds like a spiraling galaxy. This piece in particular exemplifies the album’s overall lonesome, observational quality of being one small person in not just a big world – but a limitless, unknown universe – a sensation that is conveyed throughout. Although it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite, “Weeping Angels” is especially noteworthy; its title possibly referring to the “Dr. Who” series. However, unlike the Weeping Angels of the popular science-fiction television show, there is nothing terrifying about this piece – although haunting it certainly is! Beginning with a windy drone that gives way to emotionally-stirring chord progressions and a melody reminiscent of a cosmic lullaby, the composition feels like an arrival of sorts. The slightly faster-paced “Keeping the Dream Alive” concludes the album, characterized by gurgling angelic voices and alternating sequencers. An optimistic feeling of moving towards a new destination is conveyed, like catching the first glimpse of early-morning sunlight.

Nestled perfectly in-between sequencer-based electronic and atmospheric space music, Ambient Highways is an exemplary display of just how alive and emotionally-riveting electronic music can be. Although possessing a pronounced cinematic quality throughout, the compositions never become overwrought, instead maintaining a contemplative ambience and ever-present melancholy. An amazing headphone experience that transpires like a personal sojourn of self-reflection and external wonder, Ambient Highways has quickly become a personal favorite of mine. This album is an absolute must-have for fans of ambient, classic electronic, modern electronica and soundtrack music!

~Candice Michelle for Journeyscapes 

For more information please visit the artist's website. Ambient Highways is also available at BandcampAmazoniTunes and more.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Album Review: Invisible Vortex by Jim Ottaway

Jim Ottaway is an electronic music composer from Australia, whose album Invisible Vortex was created using an impressive array of electronic music gear and equipment, including several different keyboards and synthesizers. Dedicated in part to the memory of Tangerine Dream founder, Edgar Froese (1944-2015), notable influences of musical styles spanning several decades are evident, in particular, 80s-era European electronic music, 90s-era trance-techno, modern electronica, chill-out and a touch of progressive rock.

The highly energetic “Come Dance with Me” opens the album with a trance-techno dance-floor beat, digital bleeps and scratchy sounds, as the listener embarks on an interstellar voyage through space and time. “Alien Cries” follows next, which is characterized by a pronounced bassline and an electronic rock rhythm. Finally giving way to what is perhaps the album’s pinnacle, is a track called “Takin’ the Time”. Featuring Rick Fenn of the 70s-era British rock group 10cc on guitar, this incredible piece evokes the wonders of the universe, with its intergalactic, otherworldly tone, which is conveyed by swirling chimes, voice-like effects, and a potent driving rhythm. Right from the opening sequencers on “Just Another Dream”, which is a lighter trance-techno track, I could detect the nod to Tangerine Dream; perhaps not surprising, since the piece is a glowing tribute to the band’s soundtracks for "Risky Business", "Thief" and "Sorcerer". “Call for Peace" is another favorite, a slower piece led by a pronounced staccato down-beat and alternating hazy, distorted effects. A bonus ‘Chill Out Mix’ of the same tune closes out the album, clocking in at a full eleven minutes and twenty seconds. This slower-paced alternate version is equably carried along by a muffled breakbeat, until it eventually drifts away into oblivion.

Jim Ottaway has done a stellar job of connecting the past with the future on Invisible Vortex, by combining the sensibilities of both vintage and modern electronic music. The compositions herein explore the limitless bounds of space and time, sending the listener soaring above the stratosphere and cruising into the cosmos. The highly outgoing, dynamic and active nature of this album makes for a thoroughly rewarding sonic adventure, which will certainly appeal to electronic music enthusiasts who enjoy aural concepts exploring science fiction and retro-futuristic worlds. ~Candice Michelle

Available at Amazon, Bandcamp and other music retailers. For more information, please visit the artist's website.