Sonic Curiosity Logo

Ambient: Alio Die, John Lyell, Byron Metcalf, Northern Valentine

decorative rule

ALIO DIE: Deconsecrated and Pure (CD on Projekt)

This CD from 2012 offers 66 minutes of sacred ambient music.

Alio Die is Italian sonic sculptor Stefano Musso, who plays drones, loops, glass, metals and field recordings.

The electronics are mainly textural. Drones are crafted into luxurious tonalities that waft on breezes of their own self-generation. These elongated pulsations interweave with each other, producing a pacific flow of delicate beauty. The result is a vaporous environment of soft sonic definition which expands to seemingly fill the universe. A percentage of these textures are very reminiscent of the tones produced by caressed wine glasses, an eerie resonance brimming with heavenly character.

Medieval chorales enhance the music's overall reverence, bestowing a celestial mood intended to uplift as they lull.

Incidental sounds (chains, bells, rattled bottles and twinkling glass) serve as haunting punctuations immersed within the airy mix.

These compositions transform atmospheric auralscapes devoted to assisting the human psyche to achieve a state of introspection wherein mankind can catch a glimpse of God's handiwork in the world around us. While chiefly harmonic in nature, melodic traces inject the drones with an attractive subliminal presence.

decorative rule

JOHN LYELL: Eternity (CD on John Lyell Music)

This CD from 2012 features 63 minutes of gentle ambient music.

Tender electronics generate pleasant tuneage of an ambient nature.

The electronics are soothing and very low key, almost crystalline in definition. Wispy tones establish an ethereal foundation which is then tempered by melodic threads of an equally ephemeral quality. The notes of lead riffs possess an elongation which makes them melt into the background textures.

Keyboards are utilized to delineate gentle chords, seasoning the flow with pacific movement. These riffs are elegant, evoking amiable sentiments as they ooze across the textural pastiche. Endearing melodies are achieved as the chords sustain and linger in their shimmering posture.

While no actual percussion is present, tenuous rhythms are infrequently created through the use of keyboard notes. In one instance, gurgling liquid sounds provide softly energized embellishment which serves as a form of propulsion.

These compositions luxuriate in a state of sparse certification. Yet for all their minimal nature, the melodies exhibit a durability that is deeply rooted in their tender resonance. Each track promotes a bewitching sense of relaxation.

This recording was digitally mastered by ambient pioneer Robert Rich.

decorative rule

BYRON METCALF: The Shaman's Heart II (CD on Projekt)

This release from 2012 features 71 minutes of tribal ambience.

Metcalf plays buffalo drums, ceremonial toms, frame drums, clay pot, medicine rattles, ambient percussion, voice, wind spirit, and huasca breaths. Joining him is Steve Roach (on didgeridoo, ocarinas, analog and digital synthesizers, analog modular system, looping, and co-composition).

A variety of rhythmics is given a harmonic flow by textural electronics.

Do not expect the percussion to be frenzied dancebeat stuff. Here, the beats are languid and metered to approximate a heartbeat and the consequential pulse. The central tempos remain steadfast, while auxiliary percussives (rattles and softer drums) gently embellish those core patterns with undulant rhythms which vary over the passage of time (or as the music progresses). Escalation of the rhythms generates tension as the body follows the artificial template set forth by the music, just as a decrease in the tempos guides the listener into a more sedate attitude.

The electronics are wholly textural. Atmospheric waves pulsate softly and produce a very organic milieu for the tapestry of beats. Not much happens with this electronic presence, its regularity serves to accentuate the subtle changes that occur amid the rhythmic structure.

The didgeridoo lends a haunting fog to the mix, lifting the soundscape from a basic ambient territory and depositing the listener in a realm of holistic tribal airs.

These compositions are designed to segregate the listener from the material world and put them in tune with their own physiological system. The rhythms create a connection with a person's pulse-rate, providing a doorway to a psychic appraisal of one's own anatomical processes. The tuneage does undergo a steady evolution, moving through various temperaments, although those alterations may be difficult for a casual observer to notice. They do exist, however, resulting in a fluid progression (enhanced by ancillary tempos) from a resting state through diverse levels of relaxation. A few of these cunning changes are reasonably pronounced, such as with the introduction of vocal drones and grunts in one passage, or when the beats vanish for the music's final stage, marking not so much a cessation as a transcendence to focusing on the ethereal wave which lies beneath everything.

decorative rule

NORTHERN VALENTINE: Fin de Siecle (CD on Silber Records)

This CD from 2012 features 46 minutes of airy ambient music.

Northern Valentine is: Robert Brown (on guitars), Amy Brown (on keyboards and violin), Jeffrey Bumiller (on guitars), and Matthew Primak (on keyboards). Joining the band on one track is Ben Fleury-Steiner (on waterphone); he also served as mastering engineer for this release.

With the exception of two pieces (recorded almost fifteen years ago), the rest of this music was recorded live (at a 2011 performance at Bookspace in Philadelphia, at the Electro-Music Festival in 2010 at the Greenkill Retreat Center in Huguenot, NY, and in the living room that serves as the band's practice space).

Fragile resonance dominates this music, whether in the form of tenuous electronic tones or processed guitar sustains. So ethereal are the results that any distinctions between the instruments becomes moot. The soundscapes undulate with a certain gentility that flavors melancholia with a winsome sense of optimism.

Amidst all these tonal waves, the violin's extended strokes emerge with a degree of familiarity, providing a touchstone for human recognition and seasoning the flow with a quasi-conventional presence. Even so, the otherworldliness prevails as the victorious demeanor.

To be fair, occasions do exist in which keyboard notes pierce the dreamy environs to introduce hints of a melodic disposition, generating an aura of organic yearning.

These harmonic compositions establish a gaseous milieu designed to isolate the listener from physical reality. Devoid as it is of any jarring elements, this sonic tapestry fosters a sedate unification between mind and tuneage, intensifying whatever emotional state resides within one's consciousness.

decorative rule
Entire page © 2012 Matt Howarth.
All rights reserved.
Webpage design by Stasy