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The Ambient Classical Music of Marvin Ayres

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British musician and contemporary film score composer Marvin Ayres specializes in strings, but lends a modern touch to such instruments with electronic treatments that expand and enliven the sound of these traditional instruments.

A founding member of the cult band the Government, Ayres has spent the last decade contributing to recordings by members of Culture Club, Simply Red, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. In 2001, he toured with ex-Can member Jaki Liebezeit's band Club of Chaos. In 2003, he co-produced former Curved Air vocalist Sonja Kristina's ambient jazz album "Cri de Coeur" and has continued to work with her and explore new musical horizons.

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MARVIN AYRES: Neptune (CD on Burning Shed)

This release from 2004 features 58 minutes of modern classical music.

On this release, Ayres plays electric cellos, violins, and violas. Organ is employed on one track.

Blending traditional orchestral expressions with ambient string applications, this music caters to both fundamental and futurist audiences. The conventional pieces provide buzzing orchestral swells that hang overhead like black velvet, rippling with the denser timbre of the cellos. While there’s a melancholic edge to this music, Ayres often ventures beyond sorrow into strictly sobering terrain with reflective pieces that inspire optimistic contemplation. The more abstract compositions utilize a liquid quality, allowing the strings to accrete gradually until the audience is thoroughly immersed in a fog of relaxing vibrations. The peaceful chords ooze so delicately as to supplant the passage of time, transforming instants into epiphanies that endure with sedative capacity.

With three exceptions (7, 8, and 17 minutes) the tunes are all short, focusing Ayres’ performances into compact compositions that heighten their impact.

This CD includes two video tracks, short films by Pete Gomes.

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MARVIN AYRES: Cellosphere (CD on Burning Shed)

This release from 2004 features 49 minutes of long-form classical pieces.

This time, Ayres applies his creativity to longer tracks, allowing his cellos and violins to build gradually, their notes drifting in the air and creating a tension-easing atmosphere. The instruments interact with subtlety, adapting to the transparency of air and mimicking that near invisibility. The melodies are elegant, unhurried and fragile. The harmonic flow merges with intangibility, evoking an ethereal tapestry of soothing content, minimal yet charged with a soft strength.

One short track offers darker pulsations that add an eerie intensity to the calm string-work.

While conventionally considered background music, compositions like this exemplify the potential of modern sensibilities to explore more traditional genres, resulting in easy-listening fare for individuals who want to surround themselves with something more substantial than ambient electronic drones.

The CD includes a bonus track, “Sensory,” in which the strings achieve a thicker presence, filling the air with a palpable sonority of meditative properties. This piece is also featured on the “Sensory” DVD (also available on Burning Shed) which features films by Pete Gomes set to Ayres’ ethereal music.

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