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Richard Bone - The Spectral Ships

Artist: Richard Bone
Title: The Spectral Ships
Label: Hypnos Recordings

Nocturnal and spooky. The most spacious and daring work yet from Richard Bone.

Track listing, with mp3 sample clips:
01. The Serpentine Arcade
02. Nocturna
03. Fata Morgana
04. Palantine
05. Waterton
06. Voltiguer
07. The Wild Hunt
08. Astrea
09. Ephemera

The Spectral Ships CD is out of print


"Shades of Harold Budd's PLATEAUX OF MIRRORS, updated for the 90's."
A Produce


"...one of the premier ambient recordings of the year; uncharacteristic warmth for ambient-noir, yet genuinely scary at times."
Bill Binkelman, Editor & Publisher, Wind and Wire Magazine (on the rec.music.newage newsgroup)


"Top 20 of 1998."
--Scott Raymond / "Secret Music" / WVKR Radio


"Top 25 of 1998."
--Chuck VanZyl, Star's End Radio, WXPN, Philadelphia


"Top 30 of 1998."
--Eric Meece / Mystic Music / KKUP Radio


"Top 20 of 1998 (#4).

New England's Richard Bone probes the deep vastness of electronic minimalism. You'll find yourself floating along, cloud-like, on a consistent mix of soothing, cascading synth washes. Nine original compositions that rival the best of early Eno or Budd."
-- Starstreams Radio 1998 Top 20 List


"This is a class of ultra-noir ambience yet divided into 9 unique compositions. One might think Eno listening to this but not quite, a sampled voice speaks causing Bill Nelson to come to mind yet again - not really. Next piece and I envision sonar blips, scuba divers, and an old submarine flick. Then schizo voices go abuzzing with assorted metallic titterings augmenting the spectrum. This is complex, somber, dark but curiously relaxing.

The way Bone weaves so many akilter textures and shadings into a cohesive whole of H. R. Gigerian beauty is difficult to imagine even being possible. He does it over and over. Be it alien wind-storms or flocks of Lovecraftian night gaunts sailing overhead, their mournful cries drifting down from jet-black skies - Bone does it all.

This is not dinner music nor is it recommended to anyone low on Prozac. Darknesses ineffable and distorted despairs slither amongst ruins of soundworlds. Bleached Bone scatters the smoldering remains. Echoes of the Underworld? A Stygian muse? Yea verily, I pronounce this Goth-Ambience, an Enoesque Music for Films #666. Visit dead planets, forbidden realms of occultic tomes' openings.

On track 8, "astrea", a slight bit of noir-space music bleeds through yet holds forth more complexity and denseness than any of Serrie's works. "ephemera" wanders into the final void, voice samples for an OOBE and pathways into dark forests of mystery cult. A nod here to Nelson and Skinny Puppy? While Enoscapes of piano meander, loops, flanged and phased synths and echoes bring the end to this amazingly creepy journey.

If you enjoyed David Storr's Invaders from Mars soundtrack, this will feed your head much, much more. Bone has crafted a perfect descent into the Pit of Deep Nothingness; acrid, caustic, and deadly but tasting of honey and dizzying like a tainted wine. Highest recommendations! Spooky stuff."
--John W. Patterson, EER


"I remember one of the early films by veteran horror director John Carpenter called "The Fog". It was about ghosts from a wrecked ship returning to a seaside village during a mysterious fog to take revenge upon the unsuspecting inhabitants. The film was rich with atmosphere, the same kind of atmosphere evoked on this album from US composer Richard Bone.

The nine tracks are all named after actual ghost ships of nautical folklore, which would appear on the horizon at dusk or dawn. But to call the The Spectral Ships horror movie music would be crude, not to mention inaccurate. Bone's album is a work of eerie, lovely abstraction. These non-rhythmic pieces don't begin so much as evolve. A tentative piano melody appears out of a bed of droning synth chords and then vanishes. Electronic winds circle and envelop you. Sonar-like beeps guide you though a foggy landscape.

Occasional voice samples are used to striking effect, notably on "The Serpentine Arcade" in which a staid British voice tells us that "the blessed in heaven will often walk to the battlements and look down and delight in the justice of God being properly carried out in hell". Eerie stuff indeed. But it won't hurt you..."
--Mike Watson, Ambience Magazine, Australia


"Richard Bone, an American from Rhode Island, demonstrates with his ninth album THE SPECTRAL SHIPS a new testimony to his faith in electronics.

Unlike Bone's previous work, THE SPECTRAL SHIPS lacks any beat or rhythm and concentrates instead on atmospheres. The electronics are minimal, the music quite smooth and flowing, the atmosphere one of an infinite softness.

A state of tranquility gradually overcomes the listener, the ambience reinforcing the music's cosmic aspects. The lunar environments of THE SPECTRAL SHIPS sounds like a countdown to the third millennium."
(translated from French by Monsieur Griffin)
--David Fabre, Continuum (Orleans, France)


"While only his debut on indie label Hypnos Recordings, The Spectral Ships is, in reality, the tenth full-length cd released by Rhode Island’s reigning ruler of all sounds electronic - Richard Bone. Exceeding, by far, even this rabid fans’ eager expectations, Bone’s latest musical musings gently, yet deliberately, submerges the listener into deep oceanic soundscapes encased within bubbles of eerie darkness from which the ghostly mutterings of bewildered shipwrecked souls slowly rise and where melancholic gusts of ‘the calm before the storm’ quietly swirl into existence. While primarily one of his darker, moodier works, Bone somehow also instills a strong underlying current of this being a place where peaceful passages to the ‘other side’ begin. Deep, huh? Well, I guess that’s one of the joys of listening to Bone’s music - you never know where he’s going to go next, but you can always count on it being a most enjoyable experience! 9 hauntingly beautiful tracks!"
--Egg Magazine, Disc Frisk column


"The music of this album is different from the style typical of Richard Bone, although it maintains the same spirit of sonic electronic exploration. As the title suggests, the music is mysterious. Using synthesizersto create an icy, ghostly world, Bone takes us to the immense quiet of wide, dark spaces. Listening to this album is travelling throughout musical tales whose soundscapes are set in remote oceanic regions of a supernatural charactor. These stories in a musical form are comparable to movie soundtracks, and stimulate the imagination of the listener to re-create the facts and scenaries that the music suggests."
--E. Kogler, Amazing Sounds


"...a true electronic ambient recording in the vein of early Tangerine Dream and other space pioneers. Bone constantly amazes and delights."


"This is one of those works that slowly chills you from the base of your spine up to the hairs on the back of your neck. It's not overtly scary (though you do hear ghosts wail in parts), and it's not overdone or obvious. You won't sleep with the lights on, but you might check under the bed before turning in."
--David Hassell, rec.music.newage internet newsgroup


"The Spectral Ships is Richard Bone's ninth CD release, but only his first for Hypnos. Having not had a chance to hear his other work, I'll accept that this release moves the artist into more "atmospheric" territory as his bio suggests. His earlier releases are described as more "rhythmic" in nature. Indeed, The Spectral Ships is an ambient, atmospheric electronic release that relies less on rhythm than, well, space. Though named for the 'spectral ships' of nautical lore, a few of the nine tracks actually evoke the vastness and, at times, the aloneness of the heavens. The tracks play like a soundtrack to some cerebral space flick, alternately mystifying and inspiring. The other tracks make it easy to imagine those spectral, ghostly ships on the far horizon of an endless sea. I settled in for the long voyage with this record, but found the trip over much too soon for my liking."
--Ken Masters, New Age Voice magazine


"Richard Bone keeps re-inventing himself musically. After the trippy, fun- filled Electropica, I never expected the dark and spooky release I'm listening to right now. Talk about versatile -- yikes! What's next? The first ambient blues CD?

Spectral ships are ghostly images of ships that appeared on the horizon at dawn or dusk. If that description doesn't chill your blood a little, listening to this great collection of drifting ambient soundscapes, which walks a line between eerie beauty and downright terror, will help the chill factor along nicely.

The CD opens with "The Serpentine Arcade," an almost elegiac haunting synth number, anchored by soft chiming bell-like tones in the background while dark deep bass tones rumble ominously. A vocal sample at the end talks about heaven and hell and at that point you'd better buckle up. It's a deliciously dark ride ahead.

"Nocturna" starts out with what sounds like a sonar-blip repeating out to the horizon. Very ominous deep bassy synths float in and the mood turns foreboding. Beward listening to this with the lights out, kids! "Fata Morgana" is even darker to my way of thinking, as deep rolling synths are mirrored by the sounds of waves. It's fascinating what Richard brought to this party. Lots of dark ambient music is not necessarily "beautiful" or "pretty." The Spectral Ships, however, is brimming wiht a dark beauty as it weaves its mysterious and haunting spell over you. Richard's keen sense of melody and composition add a new dimension to music that can leave me feeling cold and sterile. While this recording is quite unnerving at times (check out the opening to "Palantine" with its ghost moaning effects and synthesized wind and some of the deepest rumbling bass I've heard in a while), it has a fascinating musical appeal. Dare I say it -- this is an accessible dark ambient recording!

One of my real guilty pleasures in film is John Carpenter's earlier work, The Fog. While his (and Alan Howarth's) score for that film was pretty damn creepy, trust me -- this is the real soundtrack for a tale of ghost ships. If you want to scare the pants, skirts, or whatever, off of your Halloween party-goers, get The Spectral Ships. But, make sure you keep a keen eye on the horizon. If you see a shadow in the night, take care."
--Wind and Wire Magazine


"Ghost ships sailing endlessly on vast, rolling seas have inspired these enchanting electronic apparitions by Richard Bone. The results are more beautifully mysterious than scary, though in most cases, darkness looms very nearby.

I love a well-done "theme" project, and this definitely is. Each track is named after an historic phantom seacraft from maritime legends; the spectral ships were ghost vessels which would appear on the horizon at dusk or dawn.

Dense patches of sound are embellished with the light tune from some haunted music-box, when brighter woodwinds blow in to fill the sails of the serpentine arcade. The track closes with a twice-repeated spoken word passage about the blessed in heaven looking down in delight at the justice of God being carried out in Hell. Radar blips announce the sighting of nocturna, which resides within a fog which gives way to lighter, more musical tones. Other sounds and activities are barely perceptible, like hazy memories. The fata morgana sways on deep, slowly oscillating currents reminiscent of a winter wind blowing through the cracks. Drawn out synth passages rise and fall as the honking geese fly by.

palantine is definitely the most "ghostly" visitation, what with all those lost souls moaning eternally. There must be dozens of them... wailing over the delicate electronics and unintelligible radio voices that set the stage for a sorrowful piano. From some unidentifiable miasma, the waterton sails, accompanied by an electronic string section. Bass notes as deep as the sea interplay with skywardly sailing high notes. Swirling winds and stormy weather surround the voltiguer, as do enveloping layers of synthstrings. An electric ebb and flow rises above the clouds, letting in the sun and majestic horn sounds for this longest piece of 6:53.

A rich, hazily thrumming bass is behind the wild hunt. Between the strings and light electronics, one can barely perceive sea sounds and clanking ocean bells in another lovely melding of the nautical and the ambient/electronic. The astrea blows in on a cold wind and inky black waves of sound. Though the mood rises from darkness to an icy beauty as the piece expands, that chill breeze permeates throughout. Distant rising/falling tones and a distorted voice point the way to the ephemera. Sparse piano notes are sprinkled upon the delicately shimmering airwaves in this short (4:18) track.

The Spectral Ships is actually my introduction to Bone. And I must say, I'm impressed with this gorgeous phantom fleet which sails on modern electronics and neoclassical waves. One Enthusiastic Thumb Up! "
--David Opdyke / The AmbiEntrance


"A spectral ship is apparently a nautical wraith - a ghost ship, appearing on the horizon at dusk or dawn. Richard Bone uses this theme to present nine rich, abstract although far from formless images. This is of course also the result of the setting of the pieces; a thematic album, each of the tracks is respectively christened in the name of nine spectral ships drawn from seafaring lore. Thus there is a concrete reference point in the listening experience, at times further emphasized by the sound of ebbing and flowing waves ("The Wild Hunt") or blowing gale ("Astrea"). On the whole, however, these tales gain their narrative strength more through Bone´s accomplished and suggestive musicianship; the waters seem becalmed, but what lurks beneath the surface ? The sample, twice repeated, with which the first track, "The Serpentine Arcade", concludes, sends shivers up this reviewer´s spine each time it is intoned: "The blessed in Heaven will often walk to the battlements, and look down, and delight in the justice of God being properly carried out in Hell". Still, what more suitable theme for an ambient CD than the amorphous waters of the seven seas and the incorporalilty of ghost ships?"
Stephen Fruitman, Umea, Sweden (on the Ambient Mailing List)


"Bone's 9th album, but his first for Hypnos. It features 9 tracks, all named after 'spectral ships' from nautical lore - ghost ships which appear on the horizon at dusk or dawn. He is a USA musician who has reputation for producing a completely different album every time he steps into the studio, making him the States version of our own Ian Boddy. This time round, it's deep into space music territory. Here you will witness layers of cosmic synths and delicate echoed piano lines (that remind me of someone from the past?), on tracks averaging five to six minutes a piece with flowing waves of rippling synths washing gently on the shores of your consciousness. All have a soothing quality akin to the most cosmic parts of early Burmer/Braheny music. Some tracks boom out bass synths and spacy cosmic layers, while elsewhere the controls are set on space mode. Others are quite eerie and unnerving with some passages coming over as vast and filmic with louder synth layers that unfold and flow lazily across the landscape, producing some of the best music on the CD. An engaging disc at the top flight of atmospheric space music."
--CD Services Newsletter (Scotland)


"Richard Bone's latest, THE SPECTRAL SHIPS, is a pretty outstanding disc. Coming as it does after his wonderfully cheerful (at least to my ears) ELECTROPICA, this may represent some kind of record for a 180 degree turn between records. THE SPECTRAL SHIPS is haunting, mysterious, and even creepy at times, in the best possible way. Again, to some here this may be closer to ambient than space music, although to my ears it's pretty much a toss-up. This is not ambient noir to me, although it is dark at times.

Anyway, kudos to all involved with this one. I may have to ammend my policy to not allow any one artist more than one release on my "best of the year" list. Or I'll simply have to choose which one makes it.

On my scale of spooky experiences, I give this two bony skeletal thumbs up. "
Bill Binkelman, Editor & Publisher, Wind and Wire Magazine (on the Ambient Mailing List)


"At first impression, The Spectral Ships marks a striking departure from Richard Bone's last several albums. Voice samples are very sparingly used (only on the first and last tracks), the characteristic pulsing, bassy electronic rhythm elements are absent, and the sardonic humor is missing. Spectral ships is the most ambient and subtle album in Bone's discography. The songs are quiet, mysterious, and eerie. It is darker and more introspective than Richard's other ambient effort "The Eternal Now". The ambient audiophile will find some fresh and fascinating music on this album. The spooky electronic background in "Palantine" is overlaid with a sweet melancholy piano, the environmental treatments on "Nocturna" and "Fata Morgana" interweave with pseudo-environmental electronics such that origins of the sounds are murky and confusing, and the melodies of many of the tracks can be simultaneously dark and inspirational, an ambiguity delightful to my jaded ears. Richard Bone has created a work of sophistication and finesse, demonstraing again his originality among ambient music composers. The Spectral Ships should please his fans and new listeners alike, and will play well on electronic, space, and ambient radio. Instrumentation: Synthesizers, samplers, loops."
Jeff Johansen, New Age Voice magazine


"Mr. Bone takes the mellow-ambient route on his latest release The Spectral Ships. While I prefer his earlier releases due to their more upbeat, tribal-earthy soundscapes, this Eno-esque piece does hold its own. This is the type of disc you want to put in the CD player after a long stressful day. Key word for this disc: relaxing. If it doesn't sooth your soul, may I suggest taking a hit of da ganja."
--Digital Artifact


"Mike Griffin from Hypnos seems to be on a winning streak as of late, in relation to bringing out consistently interesting releases. This one is a bit out of character with the other releases I have heard and grown to like very much over the last two years. Not to say that this is dull, it's not.

Richard Bone tackles the eerie subject of ghostly ships doomed to sail on the oceans of eternal time, turning up when you least expect them and in the process no doubt giving you minor heart palpitations. Bone creates nine slowly unfolding , low key, funereal, ghostly and at times majestic soundscapes in regards to his subject. There are little if any vocals. Must say when he does record what I assume his voice, it's slowed down and processed to sound quite demonic. I've often like this effect in music. Sonar blips converge with slow and graceful ambient textures to meet in a swirling fog of sound, straight out of an Edgar Allan Poe story. The musical themes themselves are quite simple and a lot of this is based on repetition. What I really like about this though is the fact that Bone has chosen to keep this low key and not turn it into a big dramatic production, which many would have done. If you like your music darkly mysterious and unsettling, this may well be for you."
Hans Stoeve, 2RES Power Spot Radio, Australia