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

Herion’s Out and About – Two Reviews

Here’s a pair of reviews for the Herion album Out and About.

“Pairing classical instruments with field recordings and laptops is nothing new, but the Italian trio Herion coaxes whole restful expanses from the combination on this album, aided also by the violist Piergabriele Mancuso. The understated playing and even more ghostly textures take the form of everything from a soft and distant swell to a looming shadow to a natural, wind-like drift. It’s somewhere between classical and ambient, but with a experimental edge that isn’t commonly heard in either genre.

Although the more substantial viola tends to slice through the rich openness, the musicians’ approach is always changing. That makes it hard to pin these songs down, but that’s an urge you should resist anyway: as with the best ambient music, it’s best to simply sit back and experience what’s happening. There’s a lovely shivering quality to ‘Lindos’ and the more enveloping ‘The Earth’, while ‘Cab’employs a melodica far more sweetly than usual. The low-hung synth of ‘One Minute After the Sunset’ evokes the song’s title image well, ‘Moske Orgulje’ hits upon some almost subliminal repetition, and the shorter ‘The Hanging Glacier’twitches with halted breath, bells, and other random sounds. And true to its name, ‘Solo’ seems to feature just an isolated piano.

All of these subtle shades are forecast in the eight-minute opener ‘Oxg’, a sort of defining statement for the album. There’s a lot to love here, and meticulous new details emerge all the time.”
–Review by Doug Wallen, Celtic Defrost

Even if you do not know them personally, apart from being guardians of their dell’irruenza soft soul, would understand by now with whom I deal. Within minutes of listening and true feeling of the universe opens up right to the heart center. Emanuele Errante, Enrico Coniglio, Elisa Marzorati and Piergabriele Mancuso: Herion. Four artists with different backgrounds, four musicians involved in the difficult task of passing almost forgotten that feeling called emotion. If anyone expects derived purely ambient sound-mail is better to stop the door leaving the door ajar in here because we celebrate the ancient rite of classical music and dance that is immersed in the new trials and does so through the use of piano, viola, harmonica, guitar and keyboards, all instruments that combined the use of machinery and field recordings to be attributable to this release as one of the most modern production / classic never heard lately. A work that is justified and detonates all its force precisely through the contrast of the descriptive parts: one part Errante and Rabbit, manipulators of sound embedded into a laptop and the other Marzorati and Mancuso with their haunting instruments of romantic splendor. I am sure that that output is now fully opened to let this slide … “immobile excited sound in a single drop of imagination, while the delicate flow of things quivers, reflected in silence.”
(rated 9 out of 10)
–Review by Mirco Salvadori, Rockarilla #367

Purchase for $12.99 on Hypnos Online Store

M. Griffin – Fabrications Reviewed by Cyclic Defrost

While we’re posting previously-missed reviews of Hypnos releases, here’s one from an album several years old — my own Fabrications.

It took eleven years for Fabrications to appear, having originally been slated for a 1998 release following Hypnos founder Mike Griffin’s debut Sudden Dark in 1997. In that period the entire work was reshaped and reworked several times, being tantalisingly close to appearing yet never actually emerging.

Griffin’s output of ambient and minimalist compositions on Fabrications takes sounds captured from field recordings and mixes them all together across six long length works. Though Griffin takes pride in the fact that no synthesized or non-acoustic sounds were used in the recording, it takes only a brief look at the title – Fabrications – to see that this ethos is somewhat problematic in examining the merits of the album. By taking all these sounds, be they of running water or late-night walks, capturing them on record somehow renders them as imitations of themselves. The sounds are real in that they have inevitably occurred, but they are copies in the true Walter Benjamin sense; copies that somehow lose the aura of the original.

Listening to ‘Air Sense Space’ brings this to mind, particularly due to the mixture of sounds. With the help of the liner notes acting as a rudimentary guide, lapping waves from the Pacific Ocean in Kona can be heard, along with the dull and constant ebb of an electrical transformer. The sounds exist and they feel as if they are completely believable, but they will always be one step removed from actual experience. It’s an eerie effect that makes the journey somewhat uncomfortable, despite the swathes of near-hypnotic ambience that permeate the recording.

Though the aural space is generally quite sparse, individual segments throughout the album are very dense. ‘Devise’ certainly feels like one of these pockets, with its layered, distorted voices gradually building upon themselves. These “collages”, as Griffin puts it, highlight the intensity of sensation that he is able to pull out of what would normally be commonplace sounds. Fabrications manages to create complex experiences out of copies and triggers sensation from replicas, which is a commendable achievement.

–Reviews by Alexandra Savvides, Cyclic Defrost.

Purchase for $9.99 on Hypnos Online Store

Reviews of Let the Stars Assume… by Caul

A couple of new reviews just in for the new Caul album Let the Stars Assume the Whole of Night on Hypnos. The reviews are by Morpheus Music and Sonic Curiosity.


Melodic brooding ambient with occasional beats.
Let The Stars Assume The Whole Of Night is not one of those ambient albums of drifting, minimal drones or spacey expanses and tribal beats. Actually Caul here reminds me of some of the experimental music of the early 1980s on labels such as 4AD – individual in nature and quite personal; unfettered by genre limitations; dark and mysterious; more guitars than most ambient. Opening with mournful cello strains and strummed chords, A Clear Eye Loves The Shadows As Well nicely sets the tone for the album: melodic and harmonious yet restrained and simple. Track two opens with a light beat and the kind of baleful bassline that would be at home on many a goth-oriented 80s piece developed with delicate chiming tones, and lazy electric guitar. At times prowling through shadows and cinematic in scope; sometimes isolationist and bleak with haunting mechanics and sonic disturbances; sometimes nostalgic and dusty with reverb, sombre piano phrases repeating and evolving. This is a unique album, carefree and confident in its expression.

Let The Stars Assume The Whole Of Night is a tidy digipack presentation of two panels; disc held in a plastic grip on the rightmost panel. Artwork is a grainy still life photograph of wooden boards, folded drapes and thorny twigs cast upon with stark shadows. A flat black border running horizontally along the top crosses both front and back when opened out. The rear mirrors the front cover in a more subdued, ghostly hue of pale green. Track titles with times alongside are here. Inside the left section provides minimal information: brief credits, contact details and thanks. The inner imagery is of a more abstracted nature – corrosive colours and ragged textures – intriguing shapes.


Caul has been around since the mid 90s delivering quite a range of limited-number self-released albums as well as collaborating with other like-minded souls. This latest offering is on the Hypnos label and contains twelve shady compositions of ethereal, ghostly beauty. The tracks are all relatively short, most around the four minute mark. Titles well reveal the tenor of the music We Are Like Heartless Shadows; She Is Holy To Those Who Are Lost Or dead; Bells Ring Softly In The Twilight Air… You can explore the album further at the Hypnos website and at Caul’s own official site – both offering sound samples and Hypnos displaying the cover art both insdie and out.”

Morpheus Music /

“Caul is Brett Smith.

A variety of instruments are employed in conjunction with electronics to generate soothing tuneage.

In one track, piano delineates passages of delicate resonance. In another, guitars establish a mildly bouncy mood. One piece flourishes with cerebral cellos, while another utilizes the darker timbre of bass in tandem with crisply twinkling keyboards to create a gentle flow. Another track combines soft violins with heavenly chorales to achieve a celestial demeanor. While another piece takes a dark turn with remote percussives, grinding guitar chords and ominous tonalities, all of which accomplish a pensive mood more than any sense of dread.

While electronics are definitely present (often in a subtle fashion that serves to mesh everything together) their presence is generally too subliminal to clearly detect.

Despite their versatility, these compositions share a common temperament of pensive melodies. The music is somber, but not dark; relaxed, but not drab. No matter what you want to classify it as, though, the end result is satisfying, rewarding the listener with a pleasant sonic environment. Since the tracks are all short, the type of pleasantness changes in definition but remains constant in its lilting result.”

–Review by Matt Howarth, Sonic Curiosity

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