Hello, everyone! This week we’ve marked down a selection of some the last Hypnos jewel case items to be released before we switched to digipak format, so now’s the perfect time to fill out your collection of HYPNOS RECORDING‘s earlier releases!
Robert Scott Thompson – At the Still Point of the Turning World –Regularly $8.99, right now just $5.99
“Robert Scott Thompson writes some of the most provocative ambient music currently available. By provocative, I mean it literally provokes a reaction. His latest release, At The Still Point Of The Turning World, is a wondrous fog-shrouded excursion into melancholy minimalism that can be both eerily calm and forebodingly beautiful. At times reminiscent of Harold Budd or Tim Story, yet never overtly derivative of either of them. On At The Still Point…, Thompson paints sonic landscapes in muted colors, using impressionistic strokes and techniques that demonstrate his mastery of subtlety, nuance, and neo-classical textures. It’s hard to believe this artist is still relatively undiscovered. On the other hand, Thompson’s recordings are almost always unusually sophisticated and intelligent; he does not record “mass market” ambient music. However, At The Still Point…is, most likely, his most accessible recording for novices, although it still challenges jaded listeners (such as yours truly) with unexpected twists and turns and moments of juxtaposition that can startle and amaze.
Opening with one of his most beautiful compositions, the neo-chamber “of mirrored air” (sounding like it would fit perfectly with György Ligeti’s work in 2001), the CD aims for a midpoint between your mind (appealing to your intellect and aesthetic) and your soul (tugging at your heartstrings with honest and sincere emotional resonance).”of mirrored air” features whisper-thin strings and floating textures suffused with a gentle sadness, along with what sound like gently pealing reverbed guitar. Forlorn flute lines and synths flow serenely through the sad landscape of “casual connecting principle” buoyed by subtle panning electronic effects at the periphery and reverberating tones, like Doppler-shifted car horns far away in the distance. The song seems to breathe at times, inhaling and exhaling in a slow cadence. An echoed plucked string sample (pedal steel guitar? electric bass?) bounces through the soundfield amidst the other elements, adding both musicality and a sense of mild tension.
Even more haunting is “airports for shadows and dust,” one of the tracks that combines Tim Story’s chamber minimalism with Harold Budd’s stark musical vision, but with Thompson’s indelible stamp of electronic ambience (of the three musicians, Robert Scott Thompson is the most adventurous when it comes to electronic music). Solitary piano notes strike against a deep dark series of bassy yet melodic drones and washes, counterpointed by twinkling textures here and there. Thompson reveals his penchant for experimentalism on “water out of sunlight” an eleven-minute exercise in subtle dissonance, ethereal and mournful synth chorales (a little like Larry Kucharz here), scratching noise background elements, and arrhythmic sparkles of starry pinpricks in an inky black sky. Swells of dramatic lower register keyboards later in the piece impart a sense of awe and power, although done so softly that one is not lifted out of the main mood of the piece, which I would describe as reflective with a touch of sorrow. “when dreams collide” (Thompson’s titles are always poetic and lyrical) reintroduces the soft flute lines of “casual connecting principle” this time mixed with drones and shadowy textures, crafting a floating sense of broad open vistas. This track evolves into classic spacemusic, evoking images of deserted planets’ surfaces stretching out below you or distant star clusters and nebula as you traverse the backwaters of the cosmos. More experimentalism rears its head on the title track, as vibrating pulses and tones reverberate with a distinct metallic characteristic seeming to encircle echoed acoustic piano notes. Soft and subtle whirring textures come and go, as if teasing the piano’s beauty with quick touches of electronic impulses. One of the more overtly electronica pieces is “tinted in temporal hue” which features Thompson assembling assorted pulsing and reverberating synth tones, melding them together, then breaking them apart, as if they were colored inks in a tank and he was experimenting with watching what patterns emerge as various colors are eye-dropped one at a time into the reservoir, setting them off against beautiful chorales and then taking the music into deep cavernous drones and whistling tones before lightening the mood near the end. Thompson closes the album with another Budd-like piece, “figured in the drift of stars,” in which sustained and echoed piano notes float through a field of synth washes, bell-like tones, and a myriad of shimmering effects. It’s easily the least melancholy song on the album, but is still colored with a palpable somberness.
Will this finally be the CD to get Robert Scott Thompson his well-deserved recognition and sales? If ambient music fans continue to turn their back on this artist’s work, and especially if they don’t check out At The Still Point Of The Turning World, they are missing out on truly breathtaking music. Unlike a lot of minimalism, I fell in love with this album immediately. The depth of emotion in the compositions, the complexity inherent in the blending of classical influences with ambient minimalism and subtle electronic experimentalism, the juxtaposition of beauty with sadness, all combine to form a stunning cohesive whole that surely should land on many a “Best of” list at year’s end. I’m confident it will do so with me.”
–Bill Binkelman, www.windandwire.com
Numina – Eye of the Nautilus –Regularly $8.99, right now just $5.99
We are pleased to announce the second release by Numina on the Hypnos label, the follow-up to his acclaimed breakthrough Sanctuary of Dreams (2004). Eye of the Nautilus is similar to its predecessor tonally, but also explores some different themes and textures. Evocative electronic percussion is present at times, but overall the feel is one of deep-space ambience.
It is with good reason that Numina is one of the few names in ambient music to so quickly gain in reputation and prominence in this new millennium. His work evolves dramatically with each new release, and by now he has surely made the transition from “new name you should watch” to the status of “established artist.” This is an album full of ideas, with a fresh and varied sound design.
Guest artist Rudy Adrian lends his trademark sound to the second track, “Secrets from the Flame,” and as with Sanctuary of Dreams, R. Chris Fraley provides artwork, and Hypnos founder M. Griffin is responsible for mastering and layout. This is the fourth Hypnos CD release of 2005, and is sure to be one of the highlights of the year not only for Numina and Hypnos, but for the entire space & ambient music world.
Paul Vnuk Jr. & Oophoi – Distance to Zero –Regularly $8.99, right now just $5.99
This recording works in roughly the same “slow drone” territory explored by Vnuk and Oophoi on their solo Hypnos releases, Silence Speaks in Shadows and Athlit, respectively. At the same time, it has a different sonic character, at times slow and dark and smooth, but at other moments bright and modern and metallic. Distance to Zero could fairly be described as some of the most daring and experimental work by either artist… a true surprise to these ears when the demo arrived here at Hypnos HQ. It definitely has an “edge” to it, though it’s still definitely easy and smooth listening. I have no doubt this will be a much-loved and much-discussed Hypnos release, and a significant milestone in the discography of both Vnuk and Oophoi.
Vnuk’s Silence Speaks in Shadows and Oophoi’s Athlit are two of the best-loved releases on Hypnos, and now these two great artists have combined their creative and sound-sculpting powers for a new work!
“…a recording that might well be described as more exploratory work by established artists is Distance to Zero, a collab between old hands Paul Vnuk Jr. + Oöphoi that crept out late in ‘06. And crept is an apt word, for this is a surprisingly creepy set. They operate in similar slow drone territory to their last solo Hypnos releases, Silence Speaks in Shadows and Athlit, respectively. Yet their communion results in a work with a quite esoteric sonic character. More arcane and less harmonically resolved than anything Vnuk has done, and near the netherworld lights at the end of Oöphoi’s world, it definitely has a spooky eldritch undertow to it, especially on the unsettling opener, “Distance to Zero I.” “Distance to Zero II” contains recognizable elements of their individual work, notably Gasparetti’s palaeontology with Tau Ceti on Subterranea, evidenced in some trademark suspended bowl-sounds and steepling toneclouds, atavistic rumblings and abyss-hinting upsurges. This is well augmented by Vnuk’s orchestrations of the peripheral familiar from Silence Speaks, dwelling at the threshhold of static sub-vocal drone-float while channelling some eerie chthonics. The sound architecture is certainly denser and chewier than most of Oöphoi’s recent discs, and more timbrally varied, with Vnuk’s influence also apparent in the static grain that occasionally creeps in at the outer limits. Smooth but smudged, with hints of a processed distillate of metal machine music, Distance to Zero evolves weightily but actively, offering a sustaining richness of texture. Do not think of filing anywhere near “new age,” or even “ethereal.” Maybe under “atmospheric electronic” with a touch of “earthen” edge.” –Reviewed by Alan Lockett for ei-mag.com
Numina – Shift to the Ghost –Regularly $8.99, right now just $5.99
Numina’s third album on Hypnos Recordings is “Shift to the Ghost,” a long-form continuous piece with indexed track points. Each song is distinctly different in feel, but the songs evolve seamlessly into each other.
Numina himself states that the album “is about the life and death of the physical self,” hence the title. Whatever the concept, this album contains all the elements Numina fans enjoy, from deep and sombre ambient, to twinkling, swirling space music, constantly evolving. It’s a long, fascinating visual journey, and it never grows tired.
“In crafting a sonic narrative of the journey from life to afterlife, Numina has created a listening experience that is utterly immersive, a set of pieces that pull you in so deeply that trying to find adequate words for them once you’ve surfaced is difficult. This is signature Numina, moving as slowly as sleeping breath, elegant layers laid thickly upon layers with a certain and graceful hand. Sound textures course across the skin and into the spirit, coaxing the listener with warmth, beauty and imagery. This is the sound of the soul departing, and the sense of the journey itself. Rhythms rise only where they’re needed, as in the dramatic push of “Through the Unseen Barrier.” Shift… is heavy with well-realized aural scenery and emotive tones that fully suit Numina’s intent. The slightly serrated drift of “Arrival to Nowhere” points up the disk’s embrace of dark awe, and “Light Travelling” celebrates the upward release from being with some intriguing sonic turbulence. Who knew crossing over felt this good? There’s a distinct sense of the sacred here in hushed hymnal tones and choral whispers. There is the pull of coerced introspection, and a pure, overarching beauty. There’s not a moment on this disk that isn’t eminently listenable, down to the final quiet exhalations of the gorgeous closer, “The Hostless Ghost.” And that’s why Shift to the Ghost is another Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD from Numina.” –Reviewed by John @ Hypnogogue
“A Great album. Calmful and dark beauty, Highly Recommended!” –Parallel Worlds, on the Hypnos Forum
Stephen Philips – Into the Dark –Regularly $8.99, right now just $5.99
Debut release by Stephen Philips on the Hypnos label “proper” following his album Dagboken on the Hypnos Secret Sounds imprint a couple of years earlier.
Into the Dark is a beautifully restrained and elegant piece of ambient music reminiscent of Neroli by Brian Eno, and Entering Twilight by James Johnson. Moving patterns of sounds, varying from bell-like chimes to deep rumbles vaguely-ethnic rattles, interact and react to create an always-shifting atmosphere, a sense of “place” and mood while avoiding ambient music cliches.
Stephen Philips is a prolific ambient music composer, best known as founder of Dark Duck Records, and he has collaborated with such diverse and respected artists as Numina, Austere, IXOHOXI, Ben Fleury-Steiner, James Johnson, Rigel Orionis, Ben Summers, and Isomorph. He has frequently performed live, and has worked in styles ranging from drone minimalism to glitch to deep chill, mostly centering around restrained ambience.
A single, continuously-evolving track of over 74 minutes, Into the Dark works great as a background atmosphere for continuous repeat play. But like the best ambient music, it is appealing enough for careful listening as patterns repeat and evolve, and themes emerge throughout.
“I have had it on continuous repeat since I got it out of the envelope. This isn’t the drone that Steve is known for but instead a very addictive, work of highly refined minimalist ambient–as Mike G mentions very much in the tradition of Eno’s utterly sublime and timeless Neroli–Steve lays down a very catchy main rhythmic motiff that floats over propulses of light chiming exhalations. over and over again for 74 minutes and 29 seconds…. It’s one of the best single track immmersions in a very long time–an immersion that is definitely on the same level as Steve Roach’s recent and appropriately titled Immersion discs (particularly my favorite Immersion I)…”–Reviewed by gearsofsand on the Hypnos Forum
Various Artists – Sounds Of a Universe Overheard –Regularly $8.99, right now just $5.99
A collection of ten tracks exclusive to this CD, created by a cross-section of ambient, experimental and soundscape artists from around the world. Included in this diverse group are more established recording artists who will be known to most listeners to these genres, as well as new, emerging names. We feel a compilation is most interesting when it varies from the familiar to the new. This disc covers all sorts of territory in terms of sound, from more musical and soundtrack-like sounds, to darker ambient, to pure sonic experimentation.
Austere – Solyaris –Regularly $7.99, right now just $4.99
This is a creative peak for this much-overlooked ambient duo, their first release on Hypnos, following their Hypnos Secret Sounds album Pulse in 2007. In their 10 years of productivity, Austere has covered territory from Pulse’s drone minimalism , ranging back through odd and trippy Coil-inspired sonic experimentation, to seamless dark ambient, and occasionally glitchy weirdness. Despite some challenging material in their back catalog, Austere have in this case produced an album as friendly and pleasant as any Austere fan could have imagined possible, and yet without resorting to the usual tricks that make music sound “listenable.”
Bill Binkelman of Wind and Wire said of Austere:
“Austere is an enigmatic duo who record some of the more interesting ambient music I’ve heard in my six plus years of reviewing. From the swirling drones (I was gonna say “dark” drones, but ….) and eerie melancholy of Monodia to the warmth and beauty amidst minimalism of Fade… Austere are less concerned with following the path and more concerned with breaking new ground. However, they are undoubtedly enigmatic, as one would glean from the above, and shun the spotlights of media and personality.”
M. Griffin – Fabrications –Regularly $8.99, right now just $5.99
Generally known as an ambient minimalist, utilizing synthesizers for most of his work, this time M. Griffin took advantage of “real world” sounds, captured with binaural microphones using a portable digital audio recorder. For this release, Griffin built up collages of numerous location recording elements, including cars driving on freeways, people walking in long echoing hallways, the ocean waves in Kona at night, a metalworking factory with heavy machinery crunching away, distant trains, and clothes driers. These elements were manipulated, combined, worked-on and re-worked, and overlaid with looped spoken elements later created by Griffin in the studio. The end result comes out something like the Zoviet France soundtrack to a David Lynch film, that is, a dark and dream-like collage of loops, spoken fragments, disembodied whispers, and the echo of far-off machinery.
While ambient music recordings generally only include a few “layers,” Fabrications has been painstakingly built-up over the years so that all tracks are now comprised of dozens of layers, in some cases upward of 100. The result is incredibly complex, with ghostly remnants of real, concrete sounds filtered one against another. Aural signatures of many real places combine to form sonic impressions of a series of locations that do not really exist. These imagined, artificial locales are in effect, fabrications.
Various – Message from a Subatomic World –Regularly $8.99, right now just $5.99
Having not released any various-artists compilations in the past decade, Hypnos released in 2007 a new compilation Sounds of a Universe Overheard featuring a diverse array of ambient soundscape artists from around the world. We are proud to follow last year’s release with its “mirror image” compilation, which we believe meets or exceeds that high standard.
Here are another 10 exclusive tracks by 10 artists who have not appeared on Hypnos compilations before, though some of these artists will certainly be familiar to followers of our label. Message From a Subatomic World in comparison to its predecessor is perhaps a bit more abstract and deep-space, more mysterious and strange, whereas Sounds of a Universe Overheard is a bit more musical and structured overall.
Various Artists – Echoes of Polyhymnia –Regularly $7.99, right now just $4.99
Polyhymnia was one of the Muses of Greek myth, specifically the Muse of sacred hymn. Echoes of Polyhymnia compiles music in ambient and related genres composed and recorded exclusively by women. This genre is so male-dominated generally that we had a lot of fun gathering interesting ambient sounds, including some works that have one foot in ambient territory and another foot in one of several different, related genres. It covers styles and flavors as diverse as ambient, drone, glitch, vocal collage, goth and electronica.
Hypnos manager (and artist) Lena Griffin curated this specially-themed compilation which gathers an assortment of ambient & atmospheric sound works from around the world. This project reveals a totally new angle on ambient music, more diverse and wide-ranging than all previous ambient compilations from Hypnos. Ranging from ethereal to dark to pretty to spooky to melodic, we think this album displays a solidly worthwhile musical and soundscape content beyond just the curiosity and “I’ve never seen that before” factor of the theme.
“The nine Muses struck up a lifestirring melody. Polyhymnia, nursingmother of the dance, waved her arms and sketched in the air an image of a soundless voice, speaking with hands and moving eyes in a graphic picture of silence full of meaning.” –The Dionysiaca of Nonnus
“My compliments for /echoes of polyhymnia/, great album!”
–Dennis Koepper, Databloem
“A wonderful compilation from Hypnos, featuring women in ambient music. Highly recommended.”
–Scott Raymond, WVKR-FM
Follow links to read more/listen to MP3 samples/purchase.