Steve Brand’s Avatara Reviewed by Vital Weekly

Just catching up on posting reviews of Hypnos CDs, this review by Vital Weekly’s Frans DeWaard.

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. – Chuck van Zyl, STAR’S END Ambient 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. – Bert Strolenberg

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. 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

Purchase for $12.99 on Hypnos Online Store

Another Two Reviews for The Deception of Reality

It’s time for a couple more reviews of Numina’s latest Hypnos release, The Deception of Reality.

“Judging on the basis of The Deception of Reality, Numina’s deep ambient is about as deep as ambient gets. American ambient composer Jesse Sola takes the listener on a seventy-five-minute journey through the outer reaches of space on his fourth Numina release on Hypnos and his first since 2007’s Shift to the Ghost. Though five tracks are indexed and titled, the material plays like an uninterrupted travelogue of epic proportion and immersive character. As a purely listening experience (and played loud enough for maximum impact), the material exudes a grandiose quality and registers as the sonic equivalent of a towering classical architectural structure.

The Deception of Reality carves out an immense reverberant space within which radiant synthetic elements resound and where impenetrably dense textures form backdrops to shimmering electronics and serpentine melodic patterns. Percussive strikes intermittently emerge, though they have less impact in this context when the non-percussive elements are already pitched at such a high level. Long swaths of synthetic sounds stretch across the vast spaces and ethereal choral voices occasionally surface, too. The intensity level remains feverishly high throughout the opening parts, “The Illusion Transmission” and “Our Elegant Experience,” which makes “In Cerulean Haze” all the more appealing for providing a ten-minute interlude of relative placidity and quietude. The nearly twenty-minute “Empire of Nothing” perpetuates that serene state in its swirls of washes and softly whistling tones, after which the luminous “Translunary Return” provides an equally soothing resolution to the project as a whole. That the album is heavily synth-based is borne out by sleeve info that lists the synthesizers (eight by my count) that Sola used to generate the tracks’ sounds. Production details aside, The Deception of Reality clearly suggests that lovers of deep ambient will find Numina’s material satisfying in the extreme.”
–Reviewed by

“From the labels notes on Jesse Sola’s concept release “The Deception of Reality” I learned it’s about introspective escapism while balancing light and dark themes, with the music transporting the listener to wherever they wish the music to take them.

Jesse’s previous two albums already opened the doorway to a much deeper and darker-flavoured sonic environment, something that nicely continues on the five lengthy, uninterrupted pieces on this 75-minute album. We’re talking about spacious, slighty melodic but overall expansive soundscapes here that venture into alternate realities with lots of mystic caverns and longform dwellings into the vast unknown.

Besides occasional undercurrents of mourning and melancholy, Numina’s expressive, constantly evolving and overall emotive textures paints beautiful pictures, all fitting in a grand, transparent design.
I though can imagine the drifting flow making up the rather Roach-oriented 19-minute “Empire of Nothing” may be a bit too minimal for some. Fortunately, the smooth, warm and dreamy waves of the final track “Translunary Return” again pull things in a different direction.

All in all, if you love imaginary and in-depth ambient soundscape music, the excellently mastered “The Deception of Reality” won’t disappoint the least.”

–Reviewed by Bert Strolenberg, Sonic Immersion

Purchase for $12.99 on Hypnos Online Store

Two Reviews of The Deception of Reality by Numina

As before, catching up with posting some reviews of recent Hypnos titles. This time it’s The Deception of Reality by Numina.

“The Deception of Reality is the fourth Numina release on Hypnos, the first since 2007’s Shift to the Ghost. Still present is Numina’s trademark sound, combining abstract deep-space textures with subtle melodic and rhythmic elements, but with a new emphasis on more vivid sonics. Listeners seeking smooth, creamy synthesizer background textures will still find them, here overlaid with more “up front” accents. Extra care has been taken in the mixing and mastering to preserve the separation and placement of individual instruments, and we believe the result is the best pure sound experience Numina has ever come up with.”
–Review by Lloyd Barde

“From the opening moments of his new release, The Deception of Reality, ambient artist Numina creates a true sense of spaciousness, of a vast and immeasurable place that collects and holds sound, and then proceeds to immerse you in it. This disc is filled with big, rich pads that draw long arcs across the sky, their vapor trail remnants crossing and playing off each other. The strata run very deep here, and superbly dense, paired in places with a sense of melody pulled out to the distances, to create phrases that reveal themselves over time.

The disc opens in tenuous territory with “The Illusion Transmission.” Dark curls of sound, moaning vocal samples, and a persistent bass drone lay the foundation. The movement is languid and dream-like, but the dream is dark and brooding. With his usual finesse, Numina slowly tweaks that feeling, and by mid-track the mood has lightened and lifted. The change is so subtle that you likely won’t notice it until you feel it–and that’s testament to the effect of the music. The shortest offering here is over nine minutes long, so Numina is giving himself ample room to stretch out what’s he’s got to say, and cover a lot of sonic and emotional ground. It’s a seamless flow; the “tracks” are just index points marking time along the journey, because you will, in fact, become lost in it. Each track also has its own distinct sensibility, and the movement through them feels sensible and solid. Light and buoyant notes sing across much of “Our Elegant Experience,” perfectly airy against the thick wash behind them. As the track rolls along, Numina changes the texture of this repeating pattern, keeping it from going stale. This simple mantra of notes marks waypoints in the depths of a very mesmerizing flow. “In Cerulean Haze” takes another extended bass drone as it launching point, then widens out into broad ambient drifts, quiet and calming and quite affecting.

“Empire of Nothing,” the longest track, carries on that meditative flow, but adds a more distinct touch of melody in glittering high notes. A slowly rising and falling waveform threads its way through the track like a breath. It ends with a rush of synth wind that takes us into the final track, “Translunary Return.” The character here is one of slight melancholy, borne on that wind (which packs a nice classic electronic music feel) and more vocal pads singing in a soft chorale. Once again, the layering is splendid; you can listen to it build here quite well, new elements dovetailing into the mix as the piece progresses.

Like all of Numina’s work, The Deception of Reality is a disc I would be glad to just leave playing on infinite loop. It takes on stunning dimension in headphones, and I find myself wanting to listen to it at volume. It’s got a real visceral quality to it, thanks to his excellent hand at creating textured sounds, and the emotional potency of the work as a whole is undeniable. A truly outstanding
–Review by Hypnagogue

We have some other recent reviews for this fantastic album, but don’t want to post them all at once — more soon!

Purchase for $12.99 on Hypnos Online Store

Ping Things Reviews Avatara by Steve Brand

You can read the full review of Steve Brand’s Avatara by Rik of Ping Things HERE. An excerpt:

“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.”

Follow the link above to read the complete review. Our thanks to Rik for the coverage!

You can also purchase Avatara from Ping Things via that link above (may be advantageous for those of you in Canada) or from Hypnos at this link: Avatara for $12.99

Urbs Review by Electronic Music Mall

Here’s a recent review of Urbs by Bruno Sanfilippo, by Electronic Music Mall.

“Experimental ambient and expressive field recordings.

STYLE This deeply evocative album centres upon carefully selected urban field recordings gathered by Bruno Sanfilippo from such diverse locations as churches, train stations, subway platforms, streets and bars. Apart from sounds of Grand Central Station in New York, the recordings were obtained within the cities of Europe using just an iPod Touch. Not just textures to add interest to the more crafted sounds of music; these ghostly audio presences are the main forms within these blurry ethereal soundscapes. The opening track blends intriguing noise and dream-like musical abstraction from the very start: delicate tonal swells, twinkles and electronic burbles harmonise with soft footfalls, percussive disturbances, metallic clatter and echoing human hubbub. The second track The City Reflected has a somewhat harsher sound for the first fourteen minutes or so than its predecessor – distant voice fragments and turbulent movements hang among dissonant bell tones and uneasy synth pads. The conclusion softens into hypnotic harmony and leads comfortably into Chaotic Order a twenty-five-and-a-half minute nocturne of welling beauty and environmental sounds presented as if refracted through a heavy veil of sleep. The relatively brief end piece drifts in elegant meandering half slumber – muted chimes and far-off social interactions beclouded by sonic fog.

ARTWORK This glossy two-panel digipack follows the current Hypnos format: broad black upper border with expressive photo-imagery below. Ambiguous urban abstracts of turquoise and red light patterns fill both inside and outside spreads. Repeating fluid swirls pool and flow in and out of shadow like a night-time city in the drenched in rain. Cover notes reveal that the imagery was “captured inside a bus in Berlin City.” The rear cover lists the four tracks against their respective times with a quotation from Aristotle musing upon the relationship of an individual to society. Inside, the right panel supports the disc in a clear plastic grip; the left delivers recording information; thoughts on the nature of the music and relevant contact details.

OVERALL Bruno Sanfilippo plunges further and further into the abstruse depths of ambient experimentation with this new release – leaving his more melodic new age origins far behind. This is the first release by the Spanish musician on the renowned Hypnos label and a mighty introduction it is: bold, confident, luxurious and expansive. Here Bruno Sanfilippo has softened his sound palette into such subtle tones that it is pleasingly difficult to define “the boundary between [musical] sound and noise.” The usually inexpressive noise of the city becomes another instrument in the arsenal of this skilled audio-sculptor. The four tracks are of fourteen minutes forty-one; twenty minutes twenty seconds; twenty-five twenty-nine and six minutes fifty-eight seconds respectively. You can explore the music at Hypnos or the official Bruno Sanfilippo website.”

–Review by Electronic Music Mall

Purchase for $12.99 on Hypnos Online Store