Saturday, September 17, 2016

Album 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.