Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review: Alchemy by Crystalline Dream

Alchemy is the third installment of a five-part album series by Crystalline Dream, a musical project conceived and composed by Richard Ross. Incorporating both electronic and indigenous instruments on the album, Alchemy spans styles of ambient, ethno-tribal and electronic-space music variably throughout, as its ten compositions take the listener on an extraordinary journey far-removed from the hustle-and-bustle of daily life.

The album opens with the title track, “Alchemy”, as whistling flutes and ghostly whirling voices are led by echoing electro-tribal drums. Shamanic and ritualistic in nature, the listener is immediately whisked away to an exotic destination – one that I can envision located somewhere deep in the Himalayas. This mood continues into “Pb-Au”, where bubbling synths and buzzing chimes impart a sense of entering a deep cavern encrusted with stalagmites as waters churning below. Electronic sequencing in the style of classic Tangerine Dream takes the foreground on “Enhormonium”, a traveling piece that conveys a notion of traversing the night sky. Kicking things up another notch is “Contrapuntos”, a piece led by a horn-like instrument, which infuses electric guitar and electro-tribal drumming with a bit of psychedelia. The following track, “Aelous”, is quite a stunner and possibly my favorite on the album – once again channeling the spirit of Tangerine Dream (as well as TD protégé Alpha Wave Movement). This classic electronic-space number feels beautifully expansive and majestically nocturnal, with its ethereally melodic chords set upon layers of dreamily rhythmic sequencing. “Musica Universalis” is another particular standout which bears a remarkable similarity to the music of Jonn Serrie. A classic ambient-space piece, it commences with slow-shifting tones and cavernous drones that seem to capture the resplendent mystique of the Aurora Borealis. Ending the album much in the same way it began, the familiar introductory elements return on “Alchemy (Reprise)”. This piece seems to create an impression of venturing through a portal, as if finally having arrived full-circle on our journey to a secret subterranean paradise.

Listening to Alchemy felt like entering another realm, with its otherworldly passages seeming to convey the essence of a culture long past and tapping into its ancient wisdom. In fact, while a couple of tracks on Crystalline Dream’s previous release, Journeyman, inexplicably made me think of the mythical land of Shambhala, such impressions came to mind even more frequently while listening to this album. At times slightly forbidding and consistently trance-inducing, these beautifully sublime compositions seem to have come together quite organically. Immediately becoming my favorite installment thus far in the Crystalline Dream saga, Alchemy is a mesmerizing musical journey simply not to be missed! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit Threshold Studios. This album is also available at Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Review: Chakra Noir by Al Gromer Khan

Al Gromer Khan is a German-born author, sitar player and award-winning composer who’s released a number of albums over the years, which span ambient, electronica and world fusion styles of music. Released on the Rasa Music label, Chakra Noir is essentially an ambient recording comprised of twelve compositions, which incorporate both Indian sitar and exotic percussion, as these elements are woven among intriguing electronic textures to create an overall freeform soundscape of understated elegance.

“A Simple World with Flowers” opens with muted and swathing percussion, as gentle sitar notes float among a metamorphosing and minimal soundscape of earthily warm layers, breezy “ahhs” and subtle textures. Setting the mood for the rest of the album, the compositions possess a characteristically ‘low-fi’ nature, which lend themselves to understated melodies of gently evolving aural patterns. Continuing in this mode is “Degrees of Tenderness”, as it moves into drier territory with its twangy sitar, whistling effects and swishing beat that seem to collectively imbue the piece with a desert-like atmosphere. “Shedding Light” follows next with its muted rhythms, spacious notes and gently repeating guitar loop amidst beguiling suspended chords. One of my favorite pieces on the album, it perfectly exemplifies the often haunting and versatile backdrops that easily lend themselves to any number of visual and environmental interpretations. The title track, “Chakra Noir”, is another strong highlight that includes both sitar and female vocal snippets over a clicking, muffled beat. Here, delicate sparkling timbres provide a hazy ethereal quality to a composition that seems to move throughout the dimly-lit halls of some mysterious chamber. “Rose of All My Days” is another enchanting piece defined by shadowy tonal mists and an understated rhythm, which eventually concludes with gentle and dreamy sitar.

Perhaps what makes Chakra Noir most curiously appealing is the album’s oddly-timed melodic and rhythmic signatures. Al Gromer Khan seems to have taken a rather improvisational approach in crafting these compositions, generally forgoing overtly predictable melodies in favor of more fluid and subtle sound structures. Vaporous tones evolve into variably ambiguous forms throughout their echoing passages, which can perhaps be best likened to that of watching passing clouds as they morph with continuity into variously familiar shapes. Especially well-suited for late-night listening, Chakra Noir is an alluring and innovative album that will likely find most appeal among fans of ambient and minimal music as well as experimental world fusion! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon, iTunes and other music retailer & streaming platforms.