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Paul Ellis - Into the Liquid Unknown



Hypnos Recordings has established a reputation as a reliable and yet daring explorer of atmospheric and minimal ambient recordings. But some of us are interested in more dynamic electronic music, both from the perspective of the listener and the recording artist. Our customers have requested, more than anything else, that Hypnos give expression to more dynamic forms of electronic music, everything from experimental electronica, to more rhythmic ambient music, and classic European-influenced e-music. To that end, the BINARY sub-label has been established, to give voice to artists both new and familiar, who were previously working in forms more kinetic than would have fit with Hypnos. Hypnos is pleased to announce the debut release of the Hypnos/Binary sub-label.

INTO THE LIQUID UNKNOWN by Paul Ellis (best known as 1/3 of Dweller at the Threshold, a group whose new disc OUROBORUS is the other new release on Hypnos/Binary -- see below), a bright and distinctive piece of modern electronic music. Those of you who are more interested in true e-music -- shifting synthesizer patterns, beautiful resonances, expressions of the soul of the machine -- will delight in this fantastic, fresh recording.

Using a dash of classic European e-music as a reference point, but never for a minute sounding like an artist exploring any path buts Ellis's own, INTO THE LIQUID UNKNOWN supplies that modern synth music "fix" for listeners who remember their excitement at first hearing Wendy Carlos, Jean-Michel Jarre, Synergy, or early Tangerine Dream... but for people who already own all those albums and don't want to hear them re-done. Like the first albums of Alpha Wave Movement and Synthetic Block, this album utilizes just the right limited measure of "classic" and moves on from there to create something new.

Working within a theme of the exploration of the ocean's depths (see the title), Ellis takes the listener on a nearly exhausting musical roller-coaster of pulsing arpeggios, cascading mechanistic sequences, lilting melodic passages, and gradually to brief interludes, before cranking the energy level up again. Definitely not for people who hate synthesizers that sound like synthesizers!

Track list with MP3 samples:
1 Bend in the River 06:52
2 Into the Liquid Unknown 13:35
3 Moonlit Stream at the Mouth of a Cavern 00:58
4 Under the Waves, a Sky of Water 05:15
5 Slowly Rowing Through Ghost Melodies 05:49
6 Undines 03:38
7 A Roaring Player Piano Left Burning on the Beach 06:04
8 Glistening 09:11
9 Drifting Shards from an Ice Floe 03:22
10 Luminous Depths in a Sapphire Sea 04:53
11 Suspended 03:48
12 The Underground River 02:55
13 Dissolve 02:47
14 Alexandria 03:14
15 Drop Becomes Ocean 02:03


Purchase direct for $10.99

Reviews

"Top 50 CDs of all time."
--Bill Binkelman of windandwire.com, on the Ambient Music mailing list

.

"Paul's prior solo work, 'Appears To Vanish,' was a great foray into both familiar territory and new electronic ground. Influences of Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream were present, with more active and melodic elements. He ventures more into his own on this release, which he likens to baroque minimalism. And if it ain't baroque, don't fix it. Seriously, this is a nice diversion from typical Berlin school sequencing. Oh, yes, there are loops and sequences aplenty, but this isn't relaxed space music with a simple pulse or two. It is very active, always on the move. 'Bend In The River' and the title track begin with almost twenty minutes of rapidly shifting up and down electronics, surrounded by solid bass lines, and lots of synths and effects. Though energetic, it is also manages to be relaxed at the same time. The bubbly, cascading sequences are a familiar theme throughout. But the disc features some really cool atmospheric pieces as well, such as 'Moonlit Stream At The Mouth Of A Cavern,' a teaser that is almost shorter than the time it takes to read the title. It serves as the intro to my favourite track, 'Under The Waves, A Sky Of Water.' This is so reminiscent of Jarre's active works, such as 'Magnetic Fields,' a real treat. The flutey synths are great. 'Slowly Rowing Through Ghost Melodies' has a meandering quality befitting its title. Next up is another favourite, "Undines," a tale of underwater nymphs that swirls in circular atmospheric textures. The rapid opening theme from the disc is revamped slightly in the next track, which then leads to the very pretty 'Glistening.' Crisp, clear bell tones bring Schulze to mind, but the composition seems tighter, not just loose improvisation. It's airy and beautiful but not at all schmaltzy. Wonderful stuff. A really strong yet restrained sequence appears toward the end, one of the few places where I hear something like TD. Mostly, though, Paul has created something that will definitely please electronic music purists, without just rehashing those who have gone before. If you must have your retro fix, then check out 'Luminous Depths In A Sapphire Sea,' with mellotron flutes and lots of warbly e-sounds. Paul does a great job arranging the musical highs and lows, as upbeat tracks flow into midtempo tracks, slowing down to textural pieces, and ratcheting it back up again, all seamlessly flowing together. Well done."
--Phil Derby, Synth Music Direct

.

"The sound of German electronic space music from the 70s has held a powerful sway over any musician twisting knobs on a synthesizer. A quarter century after Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze codified their sound, people are still making music like they stepped into a Berlin time warp. And it's not surprising. The sound of rolling sequencer patterns, swirling effects and laser burst melodies still sounds fresh. To put on Phaedra or Body Love is to be transported once again. Paul Ellis is one of many who were mesmerized by that sound, as evidenced by his group, Dweller at the Threshold. But with his second solo album, he's finally breaking away, making a music that, while still reflecting his roots, moves into a space that hasn’t been trampled. INTO THE LIQUID UNKNOWN is built around analog synthesizer sounds and interlocking sequencer patterns that build into maze-like designs. He drops the simple 4/4 rhythm, plodding drum machine patterns and smothering synthesizer string pads that plague most post-70s space musicians. Instead, his lines are clearly etched into black space, rhythms are suggested more than played, with melodic lines squeezing through delays and filters, morphing in endlessly fascinating timbres. of Dweller alumnus Ellis.

INTO THE LIQUID UNKNOWN is an 'ESSENTIAL ECHOES FOR 2001' selection."
--John Diliberto

.

"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."
--Matt Howarth, Sonic Curiosity

.

"This is the first recording in a cooperative agreement between the excellent {@Hypnos Recordings} label, and the {@Binary} label. This is worth mentioning before the review because the music that is going to be released with the new {@Hypnos/ Binary} label is nothing at all like the music of {@Hypnos Recordings} which specializes in dark, almost clinical Ambient. {@Hypnos/ Binary} has put their focus on more dynamic forms of electronic music, everything from experimental electronica, to more rhythmic trance, and classic European-influenced e-music. This is an important distinction to make when listening to their first release {$Paul Ellis’} {^Into the Liquid Unknown}. {$Ellis’} {^Liquid Unknown} is as close to classic Berlin-school electronic music, i.e. Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze, as one can get, without actually being from the Berlin-school. The mechanical sounds of classic analog synthesizers and sequences pulsates on this recording from the beginning and until the end. Fans of {$Steve Roach’s} early rhythmic and sequencer-based work, such as {^Empetus} and {^Now/ Traveler} will verily enjoy {$Ellis’} {^Liquid Unknown}. {$Ellis} has crafted this recording into a long-running and cohesive work that drips of electronic music nostalgia, while at the same time creating a work that is truly representative of his own voice. This is a fine recording, and for those that have a thirst for German electronic music that has longed to be quenched then this is certainly a disc worthy of your time."
--Reviewed for All Music Guide by Matt Borghi

.

"Paul Ellis is a third of the American trio "Dweller At The Threshold" who will be seen this coming spring at the Alfa Centauri Festival. After letting me know about this upcoming performance, Paul sent me his most recent solo CD (he had previously made the magnificent "Appears to Varnish") plus a CD from DATT. After I had listened to both discs several times, I had to conclude that there is not very much difference in style, quality or mind-space between Paul Ellis solo and that of DATT: Thus "Into The Liquid Unknown" also breathes an atmosphere of TD's "Stratosfear", but it is certainly not a pastiche version of that music: it is lovely spacemusic, with wonderfully dramatic swells smashing through the stereo image, restrained sequencers and other enjoyable elements. Not music which roars out of the speakers, where everything has been chucked in and let loose, but instead a lot of attention and restraint has been payed to something which in the hands of others could have been much rougher. A sort of long, enjoyable and evocative introduction to something very beautiful, as you (hopefully) will be familiar with and love..."
--Frits @ KLEM

.

"The press release for Intothe Liquid Unknown categorizes the disc as classical Berlin School e-music. Paul Ellis has longbeen, by his own admission, associated with that style of music. this is the first release on the Binarylabel, a division of Hypnos. Thus, it is fitting and appropriate that Paul has added some newtwists to the old school.. Being a huge fan of the Hypnos label, I was eager to hearthe new light that Paul and Hypnos would shed on thesubject. I dearly love the heavysequences and deft synth washes of the German brand of e-music. I am overwhelmed by Paul's cross-genreapproach. His dramatic sequencessurround subtle atmospheres and minimalism. This is similar to the style that Groove artists have beenexploring. Ron Boots, in fact, has perfected the technique. Paul adds something to the mix for a unique sound. Paul achieves sequenced drama without anorchestral or symphonic overtone. Therhythms drive the minimalism for an extremely chilling effect. I felt goose bumps and calmness at the sametime. I was drifting and dancing. It was definitive biorhythmic meditation. It would stand to reason that Mike Griffin and Hypnos are promoting and encouragingnew styles. I have said it before andI'll say it again -- if it's on Hypnos, it'll be great!"
--Jim Brenholts

.

"And now for something completely different - a disc that is full of sequencing and electronics, but is NOT Berlin school! How is this accomplished, you ask? Well, if your name is Paul Ellis, you do it by having your own vision of exactly how you want your music to sound. Doing what he describes as baroque minimalism, this is a foray into a musical fantasy world, with familiar elements from Teutonic leanings, but used in a different manner than most. Beginning with "Bend In The River," an active main sequence bubbles and rolls along nicely, in keeping with the "liquid" theme. Good spacey elements underneath to give it some balance. Thicker synths join the rolling pattern, and there is a good build-up in intensity. I like the way all the sounds just sort of drop out one at a time, albeit quickly, at the end. The title selection features a very similar pattern to the first track, with the rapid rolling up and down sequencing. It's not your typical hypnotic looping style, it's more active than that. The simple electric piano chords in the last couple minutes of this track work especially well, sounding really good in the mix. Next comes "Moonlit Stream At The Mouth of a Cavern," whose title is practically longer than the song. It's short, but man, this one is cool. I love the deep space atmospheric mood. Next is "Under the Waves, A Sky of Water." I really like the gradual fade in of the main sequence as it transitions out of prior track. A key change midway through adds good variety. When the key changes back, a strong synth string lead line appears, cool vintage sound. The flute adds a nice touch, too. This is part Jarre, part Spyra, part something else. Great track. Though the focus is on more structured and active pieces, some of my favourites are the delicate, atmospheric floaters, like "Undines," which is wonderful. Another ambient track is "Glistening," which begins with cool bells and synth birds. The title is perfect, really capturing the essence of it. The sequence that starts at 4:16 is fantastic, perfect Tangerine Dream imitation - that's a good thing, in my book. "Luminous Depths In A Sapphire Sea" has an opening sequence and vintage synth sounds that hit me as very Jarre-esque. Then the flute synth comes in, and I love the way it meanders through the rest of the piece. Ellis inserts accomplished piano playing very nicely into some of the latter tracks, like "The Underground River," still with ample doses of synthesizers to please the electronic purist. There is a very natural flow and progression to much of the music, particularly in the later tracks. "Drop Becomes Ocean" is a perfect, understated ending to a wide-ranging e-music journey."
--Sequences

.

"Paul Ellis (he of the synthesizer group Dweller at the Threshold) has released an album on the new Hypnos "sub-label" known as Binary. His recording, Into the Liquid Unknown, features fifteen cuts, so don't expect a blow-by-blow description of the music! What I will tell you, though, is that this is a stellar effort of neo-Germanic EM that is positively KILLER music on headphones. In fact, until I donned 'phones, I couldn't begin to appreciate the dense mix, exciting layers of synths, and overall intoxicating mixture of mystery, exhilaration, and power that pours forth from this CD. It is simply a fantastic exploration into Berlin soundscapes, analog bliss, and sequencer sensuality.

What really makes this album stand out, though, is how Paul never stops evolving a piece. "Bend in the River," which opens the CD, is a good example. If your idea of German-school EM is anchored in the notion of slowly mutating synthesizers that take forever to make their intentions known, or even if you are expecting endless sequencers pounding out one repetitious series of notes after another, hang onto your helmet! This CD cooks with a variety of spices and a lot of fire and that's no lie!

The album's centerpiece is obviously the over-thirteen-minute title track - and it is a stunner! Laser zaps, synth arpeggios, spacy effects, bubbling sequencers, bassy beats - hell, it's the freakin' EM bible! And by god, it's FUN! I just love this track (and the rest of the CD too). The refrain on this cut is so infectious that I can't get enough it. And the sound of this CD - I mean, it's textbook. There is shit going on everywhere!

With so much constantly fluxing music and a technical mix this dense (in the best possible sense of the word), it's somewhat pointless to try to actually "describe" the music except in the most general terms. At times, sweeping and dramatic, and at other times propulsive and energetic, Into the Liquid Unknown is filled with so much to recommend it that I could write a review just of the title track and it would still be 500 words long! But it does feel necessary to mention a few other songs. "under the waves, a sky of water" starts slowly and quickly erupts into a near orgasmic explosion of sequenced beats and sensual synths, bringing to mind the image of racing down a twisting road in the Swiss Alps, being chased by the bad guys from Ronin (one of my favorite flicks, by the way). Juxtaposed with that frenetic pace is the next cut, "slowly rowing through ghost melodies," (has Paul been studying Tim Story's knack for cool titles?) which is one of the more evocative numbers of the CD, full of floating washes, muted synth beats, and quirky repeating melodic refrains. Another cut I like is "drifting shards from an ice floe" which is appropriately icy (very cool heavily echoed digital piano and whooshing synths). A lot of the song titles make some kind of literary allusion to water, but the only constant on the album to my ears is the excellence of the music. The brilliant EM flows from track to track like a cyber-river of musical circuitry.

Paul Ellis is da man when it comes to mapping the current terrain of neo-Germanic EM. Or, at the very least, he is the guide you want at your side if you go exploring the land of sequencers, synths, and pulsing analog soundscapes. I can't remember when I was confronted with an album that I couldn't get enough of yet was almost impossible to describe and do justice to (actually, I can - it's the last one I reviewed by L. Gaab, although his and Paul's music is world's apart). But when words fail me, I fall back on pure blathering rhapsodic rambling. In short, Into the Liquid Unknown kicks your ass, takes your name, and leaves you exhausted in the gutter wanting more - I guess that metaphor makes the CD appear to be a drug of sorts. In that case, just call me "junkie Bill."
--windandwire.com

.

"This is the real deal, essential pure blooded sequencer music at its best! Rarely do I get this kind of hit of inspiration from other music where I want to get in the studio and kick start the Doepfer and let it rip. Really Paul, it's a beautiful statement that feels vital and fresh at the same time with the roots running back to historic cornerstones of sequencer based music."
--Steve Roach

.

"Paul Ellis is making a music that , while still reflecting his roots, moves into a space that hasn't been trampled. Into the Liquid Unknown is built around analog synthesizer sounds and interlocking sequencer patterns that build into maze-like designs. His lines are clearly etched into black space, rhythms are suggested more than played, with melodic lines squeezing through filters and delays, morphing in endlessly fascinating patterns"
--John Diliberto, Echoes

.

"Ellis, a remarkably talented synth programmer, gives us the silky smooth pads and authoritative commanding e-rhythms associated with good spacemusic. The emotional side comes out too in the albums insightful harmonic selection and progressions. As you listen to any of the pieces on this album you are in the midst of a thought process as Ellis attempts to bring order to the cosmos into the chaos of life. Into the Liquid Unknown was created through the intertwining of technology, aesthetic and individual quality. The relationship between Ellis and his music is a complex one and drawn onto disc for us to contemplate that which is held in the mind of the artist."
--Chuck Van Zyl, Stars End radio

.

"Into the Liquid Unknown is absolutely wondrous! You just keep getting better and better. I have to say this one is your best yet."
--Robert Carty, Deep Sky Music

.

"An instant classic on first listen"
--Paul Lawler, Arcane

.

"That's the way God intended synthesizers to sound!
--Jim Johnson, Designer: seq-303

.

"Now THAT'S a great piece of work and I strongly recommend people pick this album up. I've had it now for a couple months or so, and it's still in heavy rotation in my listening time. Nice retro sounding arpeggiated synths and melodic pads weave their way into my own personal liquid unkown! FWIW, this CD can be purchased frm Hypnos. I think my favorite track on this release is "Slowly Rowing Through Ghost Melodies", very very nice."
--Jesse Sola aka Numina, on the Space Music mailing list

.

"a great listen, lots of variety..."
Bill Binkelman on the Ambient Music mailing list

.

"There's a "European" quality to his work with the inevitable comparisons to Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre, but this is less pretentious. Ellis is more interested in tracery and texture and interweaving strands of sound, a kind of abstract electronica.... If there's such a thing as "Classical" electronic music, this is it."
--Hannah M.G. Shapero, EER-Music

.

"This is a stellar effort of neo-Germanic EM that is positively KILLER music... exciting layers of synths, overall intoxicating mixture of mystery, an exhiliration and power pours forth from this CD. It is simply a fantastic exploration into Berlin soundscapes, analog bliss, and sequencer sensuality...It's the freaking EM bible! Into the Liquid Unknown is filled with so much to recommend it that I could write a review of just the title track and it would still be 500 words long! The brilliant EM flows from track to track like a cyber river of musical circuitry. I can't remember when I was confronted with an album that I couldn't get enough of and yet was almost impossible to describe and do justice to. In short Into the Liquid Unknown kicks your ass, takes your name, and leaves you exhausted wanting more."
--Bill Binkelman

.

"This entirely electronic offering from composer, performer, and arranger Paul Ellis delivers a varied swirl of electronica-influenced pieces that subtly capture and reflect the many states and capabilities of water. Ellis alternates smooth synthesizer surges with a non-stop almost Bach-like round of electronic statements.He need only to add some beats to work this album into regular rotation at your techno club. Into the Liquid Unknown will quickly assimilate you in to its watery landscape, floating you through underground caverns of warm supportive waters while your breath echoes in your ears. Ellis plays with a spacey treasure trove of electronic toys, he creates mild trance like effects floating the listener into the next track."
--Joe Dierderian, Massage Magazine

.

"I dearly love the heavy sequences and deft synth washes of the German brand of e-music. I am overwhelmed by Paul Ellis's cross genre approach. His dramatic sequences surround subtle atmospheres and minimalism. Paul adds something to the mix for a unique sound. He achieves sequenced drama without an orchestral or symphonic overtone. The rhythms drive the minimalism for an extremely chilling effect. I felt goose bumps and calmness at the same time. I was drifting and dancing. It was definitive biorhythmic meditation."
--Jim Brenholts, Ambientrance

.

"The echoing meandering sequences and strange patches show an effort to remove the sound from the familiar. As the album progresses, one marvels at Ellis' skills with sequencers, both in his choice of melody lines, and his abilities to change the timbral qualities of the sequences in fascinating ways. Of course, all is not overtly sequenced, as the swirly orchestral sounds of "Undines" demonstrates, but they are everywhere in varying syncopated fashions."
--Mike McLatchey, Expose

.

"Into the Liquid Unknown breathes an atmosphere of TD's Stratosfear, but it is certainly not a pastiche version of that music, it is lovely spacemusic with wonderfully dramatic swells smashing through the stereo image. Restrained sequencers and other enjoyable elements. A lot of attention and restraint has been payed into something which in the hands of others would have been much rougher. A sort of long, enjoyable and evocative introduction to something very beautiful you will be familiar with and love.
--Frits Couwenberg, KLEM

.

"This is a nice diversion from typical Berlin School sequencing. Oh yes, there are sequences and loops aplenty, but this isn't relaxed spacemusic with a simple pulse or two. It is very active, always on the move. The bubbly cascading sequences are a familiar theme throughout. Though energetic it also manages to be relaxed at the same time. Crisp, clear bell tones bring Schulze to mind, but the composition seems tighter, not just loose improvisations. It's airy and beautiful, but not at all schmaltzy. Wonderful stuff. Paul has created something that will definitely please electronic music purists without just rehashing those who have gone before. He does a great job arranging the musical highs and lows as upbeat tracks flow into midtempo ones slowing down to textural pieces and ratcheting it back up again, all seamlessly flowing together.
--Phil Derby, Synth Music Direct

.

"Commencing with delicately fluid tones, this music swiftly evolves more stamina and effervescence with demonstrative riffs that capture the listeners attention. That sonic grip tightens with each passing moment as the melodies swell and grow intricate. High end snarls twirl into engaging textures peppered by astral blooping and the distant clanking of andeluvian machinery. This liquid music seeps like a glistening nebula...
--Matt Howarth, Sonic Curiosity

.

"Yet another aquatically-oriented release... Armed with synths and sequencers, Dweller at the Threshold member Paul Ellis dives Into the Liquid Unknown like an audio Jacques Cousteau. The classic electronic music stylings on this disc also represent the first release from a new Hypnos offshoot, Binary (dedicated to exploring more dynamic, less ambient forms).

Upwardly trickling energies seem to arise from bend in the river, tiny notes spiraling and bubbling within faint, shimmery drifts. Coasting along on deep currents, the similarly percolating twinkles of into the liquid unknown (13:35) receive additional propulsion from the low end. The level of activity leads to almost (but not exactly) tuneful explorations with several moments of brooding intensity. The longest track empties into the shortest; monstrous drones issue from a moonlit stream at the mouth of a cavern (0:58). Squiggly synth strands twirl through glowing radiance in the enigmatically entitled a roaring player piano left burning on the beach. Chittering bird-like cries twitter from the gently wavering/tinkling loveliness of glistening.

Drifting down the underground river, piano sounds are heard along with the usual less-identifiable synthforms, like those buzzing with warm sing-song playfulness in dissolve. The disc concludes on the whispering washes of too-brief drop becomes ocean.

Often when ambient explorers go "underwater", the results convey a sense of murkiness, but Paul Ellis' subaquatic visions are generally of a crystalline clarity, sparkling Into the Liquid Unknown while capturing the shadowy depths as well. I generally avoid unknown liquids, but having tested, can tell you to come on in... the water's fine. An 8.4."
--The AmbiEntrance (www.ambientrance.org)

.

"A bright and distinctive piece of modern electronic music. Those of you who are more interested in true e-music - shifting synthesizer patterns, beatiful resonances, expressions of the soul of the machine - will delight in this fantastic, fresh recording. Into the Liquid Unknown supplies that modern synth music "fix" for listeners who remember their excitement at hearing Wendy Carlos, Jean-Michel Jarre, Synergy or early Tangerine Dream..... but for people who already own all those albums and don't want to hear them re-done. This album utilizes just the right amount of "classic" and moves on from there to create something new. Ellis takes the listener on a nearly exhausting musical rollercoaster of pulsing arppegios, cascading mechanistic sequences, many layered melodic passages, and gradually to brief calm passages before cranking the energy and complexity level up again."
--Mike Griffin, Hypnos press release