Sonic Curiosity Logo

Ambient: Alio Die & Martina Galvagni, Marvin Ayres, Chad Kettering, Bruno Sanfilippo & Mathias Grassow

decorative rule

ALIO DIE & MARTINA GALVAGNI: Eleusian Lullaby (CD on Projekt)

This CD from 2008 features 61 minutes of sensual ambience.

Alio Die (aka Stefano Musso) plays psaltery, zither, kalimba, cithara, metals, sitar, drones and loops and field recordings, Galvagni contributes voice.

As one might expect from the above instrumentation, this music displays an ethnic demeanor, blending Asian and Middle Eastern influences and channeling them through a distinctly modern lens. Galvagni’s rich voice lends a neo-classical air to the placid tuneage.

Softly buzzing strings share the same sonic stage with bonging bowls and pittering, almost elusive tempos. Meanwhile, nearly intangible atmospheric textures drift lazily overhead, shadowing the most distinct sounds with a lulling temperament. Environmental samples serve as grounding elements, connecting the breezy melodies with their planet of origin.

The vocals are delicate and heavenly, rising to stand in elongated formations that convey a gentle yearning. There is no lyrical content, only harmonic airs of ethereal viscosity.

The peculiar union of the trembling ambience and the droning voice creates a visionary sense of pastoral delight. Surges of density occur, but the mien remains the same: sedative and relaxing.

While mainly harmonic in definition, these compositions achieve a melodic influx with the sensual crooning of the fem vocals. With only three songs comprising this album, each piece is afforded ample time to establish a dreamy panorama and explore the territory within those invisible boundaries. Each track becomes a lullaby with adult audiences in mind.

decorative rule

MARVIN AYRES: Eccentric Deliquescence (CD on Mandalic Records)

This CD from 2008 features 60 minutes of classical ambience.

Marvin Ayres plays cellos, violins, violas, piano, overtoning, and voices.

While abounding with orchestral instruments, this music accomplishes a serious ambience, transforming the classical sounds into textural layers that combine to generate a luxurious atmospheric flow.

The strings achieve a somber presence that drifts like a low cloudbank, masking the sky with a gentle vapor of burred resonance. In some instances, the violins reach a more commanding level of expression, but the mood remains a sedate albeit dense one. At other times, the instruments are plucked to season the tunes with more strident punctuation, creating a slightly fanciful demeanor.

Delicately sawing cellos provide a bottom drone which supports the airier strings with their gentle rumble.

The piano appears in many forms. Sometimes the chords are suppressed into a tonal drone that blends almost imperceptibly with the violin overcast. Sometimes, the notes are exceptionally traditional, generating recital passages immersed in the foggy ambience. Other times, the keys establish a thickened bulk that lingers beneath everything like a bass foundation.

Ayres generally uses his voice in a non-lyrical manner, supplying the tunes with a chorale layer that suitably fits with the overall tenuous qualities exhibited by the tuneage. On one occasion, lyrical content is employed in a haunting voice crafted with multiple echoes.

In a few pieces, Ayres sheds his calming disposition and applies the instruments to produce a very edgy sound, escalating the dronish quality to a scraping intensity. For the last track, he lets loose with a piercing almost oppressive severity.

These compositions are fragile and moderate, stirring amiable sentiments with their ethereal cadence. The music tends to sound moody but rarely doleful, pursuing instead an intellectual measure which carries with it a subtle flavor of inspiration and soothing optimism. The tracks are usually short (3 or 4 minutes long with a handful of 6-7 minute exceptions), compelling the melodies to establish themselves right away and get to the point without unduly protracted progression.

decorative rule

CHAD KETTERING: Into the Infinite (CD on Soniclayers Music)

This CD from 2008 features 50 minutes of noble ambient music.

Kettering plays analog and digital synthesizers, samplers, piano, and various acoustic sources. Vocal sounds on two tracks are provided by Susan Whitaker. The music was mastered by ambient pioneer Steve Roach.

Lavish electronic textures sprawl with expansive scope, establishing cosmic skyscapes that shimmer with dignity and pulsate with charm. Dreamy tonalities waft with regal authority, combining with lesser atmospherics to achieve an impressive panorama of gentle resonance. Growling electronics serve as a tasty counterpart to the smooth fragility of the ethereal waves that comprise many sections of this tuneage.

Sweeping tones of a ponderous nature blot out the sky with their climactic drone, while hesitant keyboard notes strive to restore illumination to the soundscape. Heavenly chords generate a sustained presence as they loom in the delicate mix.

Bell tones add a certain flair to various passages, bestowing a celestial majesty on the soothing musical flow. Although unnecessary to most of the tracks, percussion marks one piece with a tribal drama.

One track exhibits a darkness with creaking hinges and ominous portents lurking ahead in the mix. Twinkling keyboards introduce an optimistic vantage that guides the tune through to a woodland pool of visionary glory.

Environmental sounds are frequently utilized to ground these buoyant songs, gurgling water and impending thunderheads and bird calls deep in a mystical forest.

These compositions possess a distinct grandeur beyond the ilk of most ambient music, a stately quality that warms the audience’s heart and massages their soul. These harmonic structures tickle the mind with a form of sedation that carries with it a subtle exhilaration.

decorative rule

BRUNO SANFILIPPO & MATHIAS GRASSOW: Ambessence Piano & Drones (CD on AD21 Music)

This release from 2008 offers 62 minutes of cerebral piano tunes seasoned with haunting ambience.

While Sanfilippo plays a sampled and processed grand piano, Grassow contributes synth drones, glass harp and bow chime. A distinct combination of tradition and modernism.

As one might expect, the music generally consists of piano laced with textural flows. The keys are stroked with tenderness, evoking cerebral melodies steeped in a soft serenity. The notes are far from repetitive, utilizing a classical recital touch that comfortably generates lush tunes of gentle beauty.

Meanwhile, the electronics bestow an airy disposition on the tuneage. Languid atmospherics settle upon each song, immersing the serious piano chords in a fog of ethereal majesty, enhancing the overall elegance of the music. These tones drift with little variance, maintaining a sighing resonance with the central tunes, following their congenial progress with subtle association, ebbing and rising in tandem with the piano’s emotional state.

A certain transference goes on between the piano and the tonalities, flavoring each other with their personal character. The piano adopts a discrete intangibility, while the wafting ambience picks up a touch of regal eloquence. This trade-off serves to further unify the music into an undulant presence of pacifying mien.

Yet there are instances where the textural atmospherics move beyond their fragility and attain a notable substantiality, sometimes rivaling the piano’s lilting occupancy.

The compositions are tranquil and stately, crafted for appreciation by an intellectual audience. The application of ephemeral atmospheric electronics only increases the music’s introspective demeanor. There are no surging tempos here, no surprise crescendos, just steadfast structures of soothing influence.

decorative rule
Entire page © 2008 Matt Howarth.
All rights reserved.
Webpage design by Stasy