A cosmic conjunction has occurred in the dark woodlands of Portland, Oregon, spawning the electronic music of Dweller at the Threshold. From this band comes Paul Ellis, who has chosen to pursue such synthesized grandeur. Drawn into the fateful nexus is Hypnos Records. Normally concentrating on dronish ambience, this well-respected electronic label establishes a side label called Binary to release the more sequencer-dominated sounds of Ellis and his Dweller cohorts.
And the sonic adventure begins...
DWELLER AT THE THRESHOLD: Ouroborus (CD on Binary/Hypnos)
This 70 minute CD from 2001 is the third release by Dweller at the Threshold, whose members consist of Dave Fulton, Paul Ellis, and John Duval. The first half of the CD is comprised of live improv jams, while the last three tracks were born in the studio.
Densely mixed to perpetuate a seething cloud of charged particles, this music layers gritty tones and lush textures, generating a flow that surges with growing harmonics as it moves steadily toward pinnacles of sonic majesty. Keyboards lay down riffs that intertwine to create complex electronic patterns. The synthesized melodies grind and growl on their dedicated paths, mesmerizing and thrilling the listener with the illusion of never-ending cycles that ascend through the air, striving far beyond the terrestrial stratosphere.
This tuneage is propelled by rhythms of a non-percussive nature, utilizing beats generated by rapidly applied keyboards, producing twinkling tempos that are as emotionally evocative as they are devoid of jarring impact.
Older releases by Dweller include "No Boundary Condition" and "Generation, Transmission, Illumination." Also to be discovered is a solo release by Dave Fulton called "Hard Particles." These three CDs are available on Eurock Records.
PAUL ELLIS: Into the Liquid Unknown (CD on Binary/Hypnos)
This 73 minute CD is the second release on Binary Records, profiling the solo endeavors of Dweller alumnus Ellis.
Commencing with delicately fluid tones, this music swiftly evolves more stamina and effervescence with demonstrative riffs that capture the listener's attention. That sonic grip tightens with each passing moment as the melodies swell and grow intricate. The pulsating harmonies never flow over-the-top, remaining active but sedately unaggressive. High-end snarls twirl into engaging textures peppered by astral blooping and the distant clanking of antediluvian machinery. This liquid music seeps like a glistening nebula, immersing the listener in a turgid but pleasant pool of fanciful sound.
Considering this CD's title, it's no surprise that much of this music explores a fluid quality. Keyboard notes spill forth like swift waterfalls, casting melodies out to undulate along invisible streams that splash around the audience with vibrant result. When the songs ease back to allow the listener to catch their breath, the calming passages adopt the vastness of a placid ocean under a night sky of urgent stars.
Completists are directed to investigate Ellis' CD, "Appears to Vanish" on Neu Harmony for further superbly crafted and lively electronic music.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Beyond Me (CD on Neu Harmony)
With the emphasis on sequencer-heavy dynamic melodies, few electronic collections pack as much satisfaction as this 72 minute CD from 2001 (which was organized and compiled by Paul Ellis).
This release features all-new tracks by such electronic music luminaries as: Paul Ellis (from Dweller at the Threshold), Nemesis, Free System Projekt, Robert Carty, Rudy Adrian, Kubusschnitt, Dave Fulton (from Dweller at the Threshold), Synthetic Block, Paul Nagle, Arcane, John Christian (from Airsculpture), and Ramp.
There's no ambience going on here. This music is set on attack mode, and crammed with an inordinate ratio of energetic rhythms and ecstatic riffs.
Worthwhile and essential, this collection may never leave your CD player once you hear it.
INTERVIEW WITH PAUL ELLIS
Q: Your music has been evolving in a more sequencer-dominated, rhythmic direction. Care to discuss your reasons?
ELLIS: What intrigues me about sequencers is their ability to create tightly interlocking patterns that have a hocketing or pointillistic aspect where each sound is part of a greater whole. I deeply love Baroque music for its mathematical precision and think that sequencers are well suited to expressing thoughts and emotion in a similar way. Most ambient music is fairly monochromatic. The elements are mostly pads/drones/long reverb/more pads, which can make for a rather uniform surface... (This is not a qualitative judgement. My favorite photographer is Ansel Adams, a master at monochromatic images.) My music also contains some ambient and spacemusic elements, but by and large I'm simply more interested in creating a wider dynamic range with colorful and contrasting sounds.
I guess the common denominator between the ambient and the sequence driven schools of electronic music are that they both instill a sort of hypnotic sense...Trance/Meditative/Alpha state...whatever you prefer to call it. More common forms of music tend to be fairly brief time-wise, usually three minutes to fit radio formats, where these styles stretch out a bit and there's a common observation that it "takes you on a journey." They also both share a sense of subtlety, which is probably why they aren't more popular. We assume people are going to LISTEN to it.
Q: What are future plans for the Binary label?
ELLIS: There are new CD's coming out by Synthetic Block, and Saul Stokes. I have to say keep an ear to the ground for Saul's next solo on Binary, I heard a three-cut demo that knocked my socks off.
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