Steve Brand - Avatara
Artist: Steve Brand
Label: Hypnos (digipak CD)
Steve Brand got his start releasing experimental music under the name "Augur," and more recently switched over to releasing music under his own name (both solo and in collaboration with such artists as Ishq and Disturbed Earth) on the Atmoworks, Hypnos Secret Sounds and Relaxed Machinery labels. He's quickly established himself as one of the more interesting and distinctive artists working in ambient music, and having released two albums Bridge to Nowhere and Children of Alcyone on Hypnos Secret Sounds in 2008 and 2009, we're very excited to follow up with Steve Brand's new album Avatara on the main Hypnos imprint. This album has a ritual feel common to many of Brand's recordings, though Avatara is more ambient and less percussive. The recording starts out in a place of low-key contemplation and evolves through distinct stages and moods, though it is always gentle and meditative.
Steve Brand describes some of the inspirations behind this album:
Avatara is Sanskrit for "descent" in the sense of a deity's descent from heaven to earth. Avatara is inspired by the various avatars of various ages and cultures...Yeshua, Quan Yin, Buddha, Brigit, Krishna, Saint Germain, White Buffalo Calf Woman, and others. I’m fascinated by the idea and the various stories in various ages and cultures of humans becoming "ascended masters," or avatars, non-human beings that still are attached to humans and choose to returns to Earth to assist them. The stories vary, and almost every culture has its masters, but one thing is consistent throughout each of their stories, they've realized a more expanded expression of being and awareness, of what we are and what we are capable of, and return to assist other human beings.
Track listing, with mp3 sample clips:
01 - Avatara - 5:09 MP3 clip
02 - The Far Shore - 8:45 MP3 clip
03 - Morning Glory - 12:09 MP3 clip
04 - Still Here (breathing space) - 13:38 MP3 clip
05 - Act of Creation - 14:26 MP3 clip
06 - Avatara (deathless) - 7:10 MP3 clip
Purchase for $12.99 on Hypnos Online Store
Purchase for $12.99 on Hypnos Online Store
Reviews"Steve Brand's "Avatara" seriously impresses me. It's a beautiful release that envelops me as I listen, a circular cycle of music where an organic atmosphere is formed by a delicate blend of echoing drones and quiet percussion elements. Smooth pads weave around each other while warm tones echo throughout the soundscape, punctuated occasionally by brief bursts of sound and the occasional field recording. It's all really quite appealing.
It's an album that's not afraid to use silence as an instrument as well, where spaces are just as poignant and meaningful as the sounds that surround them. While many artists attempt to fill up the spaces in a track Brand uses that empty space as a complement, as a way to both clearly distinguish sounds and to further develop the tension of a piece. It makes for more active listening, where I find myself constantly pulled deeper and deeper into the work until it becomes an almost meditative experience.
I quite like Steve Brand's work as a rule but to reiterate my earlier comment, "Avatara" really impresses me. It's a beautiful, polished, artistic release that appeals to me on a variety of levels, and I have every faith that it will continue to find itself in regular rotation at Casa del ping things."
--Reviewed by Rik / Ping Things
"Brand follows two previous Hypnos recordings (on Hypnos Secret Sounds), Bridge to Nowhere and Children of Alcyone, with Avatara, a Sanskrit word that stands for “descent” in the sense of a deity's descent from heaven to earth; the title also takes its inspiration from avatars such as Buddha and Krishna and from cultural myths about humans who've become “ascended masters,” non-human beings who choose to return to Earth to assist others. In keeping with such concepts, the album's six tracks are deep ambient in style, often long-form in design and conducive to meditative drift and elevated states. “Morning Glory” unfolds in a series of irradiated exhalations with pauses generously spaced between them, while the aptly titled “Still Here (Breathing Space)” arrests the pace to near-stillness, with percussive rustling seeming even more active when heard alongside the track's streaming washes and tones. At fourteen minutes the album's longest piece, “Act of Creation” perpetuates the meditative mood with the quiet chatter of newly born life-forms audible in between church-like synth tones. Largely downplaying percussion, Brand's becalmed material emphasizes long trails of synthetic chords, their ethereal character heightened by their pristine synthetic design, throughout its epic, hour-long journey."
--Reviewed by textura.org
"This CD from 2010 offers 61 minutes of cosmic ambient music.
Synthesist Brand is accompanied on one track by Matt Hiller (from Ishq) and Charity Masters (from Holon).
Pensive percussives match introspective electronics to produce gentle auralscapes of a cosmic milieu.
The electronics are mainly textural in nature, harmonic vapors that generate a seamless realm of celestial clarity. These atmospheric vistas are augmented by additional tonalities that flesh things out without achieving an intrusive density. Changes deceptively occur in the flow, hidden by their gradually evolution.
These tenuous drones approximate an extended breathing pattern for reality, allowing the listener to slip through gaps between molecules and find themselves adrift outside of space and time. The listener's perceptions of the textural flow becomes intensified by this removal from conventional tangibility.
While rhythms are present in one track, they generally manifest in processed form in other pieces, often transformed into beatless sounds (like gongs expanded into infinite stability) that suitable fit with the textural sonic foundation.
These compositions exhibit a stately character, a soft authority that derives its puissance from subliminal influence rather than any boisterous bias. Presented in songs confined to lengths of five to fourteen minutes, this music doesn't indulge in protracted growth but instead swiftly establishes its gist and elaborates on that ethereal structure without undue delay."
--Reviewed by soniccuriosity.com
"To state that AVATARA (61'16") is "Experimental" is only half the story. While it is an album of sonic experiments, it is not just a random organization of sound. Ambient artist Steve Brand tells a story - although AVATARA does bring more questions than answers. As it wanders the terrain of the possible this work asks you to adjust your sensitivity to music and its possible variations. Some of the pieces are controlled collisions of carefully rendered tones, while others breathe and expand beautifully across a brain-churning expanse of space. Opening with a curious metallic clamor Brand sets an unusual atmosphere. By continually introducing new timbres and captivating designs, across six tracks he sustains a striking sense of wonder. Moods range from dark and questioning to luminous and hopeful. Born of digital, this experience gets better with each pass. The mind seeks patterns, in the world and in music and art. Works like AVATARA at first seem formless. But one must tolerate being lost to appreciate this music. Through active listening we find this work's structure and then its meaning - grasping the whole from the sum of its parts."
--Reviewed by Chuck VanZyl, Star's End Radio
"If you’re looking for a contemplative ambient release with a minimal framework, Steve Brand's "Avatara" (inspired by the various avatars of various ages and cultures) could be an appropriate choice. I for one would classify it as high-quality contemplative music, due to its ongoing gentle flow of textural pads with occasional mystic undercurrents and nature sounds. The six meandering tracks feature spacious music for slow, silent times and meditation, smoothly opening the gate to a world of splendour and wonder.
"Avatara's" longform soundcape music, devoid of any rhythm, is great to escape from the rat race of modern life, as it makes the busy mind settle down bit by bit along the way."
--Reviewed by Bert Strolenberg, SonicImmersion.org
"Following the abundance of the name Augur, Steve Brand now works under his own name. I must admit I didn't hear a lot of his solo music, which was released solo as well as in collaboration with Ishq and Disturbed Earth, and hearing Augur is a long time ago, but there have been some changes in his music too. Augur was more on the experimental edge of ambient music, whereas his current direction is more along the lines of what Hypnos is in general about: long sustaining patterns of sounds, based on synthesizers or perhaps any type of sound processing which goes on for quite some time (maybe field recordings?) and on top there is the rattle of percussive sounds. 'Avatara' means 'descent' in Sanskrit, 'in the sense of a deity's descent from heaven to earth' and this the main idea behind the album, the descent of avatars in various cultures. Now that sounds all a bit too new agey for my liking, but its easy, I guess, to see the music by itself. On a somewhat grey and cloudy day, like today happens to be, this ambient music in which the element of percussion is kept to a minimum, compared to his previous 'Children Of Alcyone' (see Vital Weekly 712), in favor of more drone like music, makes perfect sense. Majestically it unfolds itself. Great one."
--Reviewed by Frans DeWaard, Vital Weekly