eyes cast down

Ambient/electronic composer, musician and writer. Using guitars, EBow, synths, samples, loops, singing bowls, percussion & more, in pursuit of... something infinite. Other projects: Mukunda's Friends, releasing ecstatic, yoga/meditation music; Kalindi Music, my music label and publisher for various classical projects published under my own name; and Ear Brandy, a Music Branding service for businesses.

Homepage: https://eyescastdown.wordpress.com

Divinations – Album Review and Radio Feature

Album cover: Divinations by eyes cast down

Design by Greg M, Photos by Greg M & Dasi.

Much gratitude to John Shanahan (Hypnagogue) for his enthusiastic review of my Divinations album, and to Brian at Our Place Radio for featuring the album on Feb. 25. Reaching such kindred spirits makes releasing the music all the more rewarding!

John says:

eyes cast down speaks in a quietly assured voice on Divinations, a suite of five pieces designed to be used for “inner work, healing and relaxation.” It’s something of a self-compilation, the first four tracks having previously appeared on multi-artist albums on the Free Floating netlabel and the last a recording of a live set composer Greg Moorcroft performed in 2012 and augmented in post-production in 2014. They come together here in a very pleasant, seamless and utterly relaxing flow. There’s no need to turn down the volume; Moorcroft’s pieces are naturally quiet, patiently carved in long, hushed pads and drones. His gossamer layers sit lightly atop one another, and even his most complex mixes of sound or percolations of texture land as more than a calm ripple. Which is wonderful. “Exquisite Divination of Patterns” sets the overall tone straight away with slowly circling ambient whispers, lightly Dopplered and paired against gentle keyboard notes. Moorcroft notes that this track marks his first use of soft synths. You’d never know, and you wouldn’t care; it’s enough to get carried off by the current of sound. And once you’re in it, you’ll stay there for the full voyage. Through the soft surroundings of “Crystalline” and on into “Radiant Perception.” This is where Moorcroft gets his “loudest” and the sound reaches its most active point. The sound here pulses, sounding a bit like a bowed instrument in spots. It’s got an interesting, almost hollow metallic edge and truly asserts itself over the meandering washes beneath it. Moorcroft goes heavy on the layers here, and the effect is nicely hypnotic. Acoustic guitar takes the forefront on “Snowdance in Starlight.” Moorcroft uses the instrument’s resonance beautifully, hitting hard, Hedges-reminiscent bass notes and letting them ring. Again, the layers here build, bringing the sustain and echo of the guitar into a constantly shifting background wash. “Ensō” is the live piece, nearly half an hour of complete immersion. Moorcroft laces in some bird sounds and prayer chant to further deepen the flow. On the chants, his voice is just a touch raspy–in a good way–and intimately close to the mic. It has the feel of ceremony, and the comparative coarseness of the voice contrasts the softness of everything else. A great way to spend half an hour.

I have been listening to Divinations quietly throughout several full work days, and left it looping in the Hypnagogue office. While I do recommend breaking out the headphones to get all the detail work, this album truly excels as an atmosphere enhancer. Whether you use it during your mediation or yoga or just letting it tint the air as you go about your daily routine, this is a release you’ll come back to. Absolutely worth listening to. Excellent work from eyes cast down.

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2014 in Review: Afterimages and Transitions

It’s that time of year again… time for the dreaded Year-End Review. An attempt to make sense of 2014 and formulate an idea of where 2015 might lead.

I’m a little embarrassed to note that I didn’t even do this last year! But 2013 was a quiet year, and I didn’t work on anything solo. I recorded my parts for The Rage of Reason (see below) and Afterimages (from Memory Palace, below), and arranged my odd-meter electronic groove parts for Somewhere the Circle Stops (from Memory Palace), along with a handbell choir version of Arvo Pärt’s Summa. That was it. (Handbell choirs: please get in touch!)

Memory Palace Album - Front Cover

Anyway, 2014 was the most productive year yet! The highlights are, predictably, its two releases, Divinations and Memory Palace (with Chris Russell). Each album was several years in the making, and included work recorded before I left Canada to move Stateside. Both are self-released on my Kalindi Music label, with Memory Palace being a joint release with Chris’ Void Music.

Four pieces were released on three compilation albums. The Relaxed Machinery label‘s collection reBOOT included two duo pieces: The Rage of Reason and Particles and Waves. On the first, Peter James provided a nice drone chord over which I laid a couple of guitar parts, using an original effects patch which I’m really pleased with and will definitely use again. For the second, Chris Russell took a metal-handrail-drumming groove of mine and bathed it in his signature synth atmospheres. (He also did this on Spatial Mnemonics from the Memory Palace album.)

(Details on the other two compilation pieces below.)

2014 was a great year for composition – most of it in the month of January. In the first week, I finished arranging and recording my part for Somewhere the Circle Stops, the ambitious closing piece on the Memory Palace album.

Album cover: Divinations by eyes cast down

Still in January, I took up four improvised pieces from the April 2012 multimedia jam with art painters Royce Deans and Tali Farchi. I had to distill and rearrange the good parts into actual compositions. These will make up most of the next solo album. The artwork will be all from Royce and Tali.

I recorded one of these pieces, Fading Angel, shortly after its performance at my library concert in mid-November, which marked my return to live performance after a two-year break. One of the others, Sirens of Maya, was already recorded, but its live performance (also at the library concert) was so pleasing that I’m going to use that version instead.

Still in January, I applied the same distillation process to three of six pieces from the two September 2012 events (all six of which will make up the second next solo album). One of these, Emerge, was also played at the library concert and the studio version recorded shortly thereafter.

So that was a really good month…

After January, there wasn’t as much composition time as one would like, but I managed to work up three pieces, all for compilation albums.

ShineCoverMister God, This is Taylor was published on the Waiting World Records album Shine Like the Stars. This memorial tribute was curated by Waiting World’s Michael Peck, in honor of a young and dear family friend, someone I would like to have met. Musically, this was a clear step forward in my composition process toward something that’s beginning to emerge as “my sound”. The story begins here.

Driven to Ground is a drone experiment, intended for the open-ended compilation I No Longer Love Blue Skies from Sound For Good Records. This is an evolving synth texture, which I’ve sketched out but not executed yet. I’ll know if it amounts to anything…. when it’s done.

The year closed in a rush, with the library concert and the subsequent recordings. With all that going on, there was just enough time to meet one more deadline: the compilation Power Beyond Fathom, from CRL Studios. This is a benefit for Chicago musician Don Hill and his family. Don, aka Millipede, was diagnosed with Stage 4 renal cancer late in the year. I’m honored to have my piece Transitional included in this 3-part, 47-track collection. Transitional marked my first use of more-or-less normal-sounding drum kits to drive the piece, and was a hallucination of what a collaboration with Don might sound like. Sadly, that now seems most unlikely.

The compilation pieces continue to serve as testing grounds for new ideas and approaches. Almost every one of them is a “first” of some kind.

2014 also marked the release of my first guest appearance, on the album Halla from Ari Porki and Christopher Alvarado. I contributed electric guitar and EBowed fretless electric to one piece, Ruska. My colleagues Jack Hertz, Cousin Silas, Stephen Briggs and Void of Realms also guested. Halla is available from the 45 Echoes Sounds netlabel.

We moved in late September, and the new studio is the most spacious yet. The layout changed only slightly, so v3.1 of The Keep goes something like this:

The Keep Nov 4-14

So what’s on the horizon for 2015?

I’m inclined to be cautious about looking ahead, because very few items from my hope-to-accomplish in 2013 list actually got done that year. So let’s just say what I hope to be working on:

Albums 4, 5 and 6 are all partly recorded, so the priority is finishing these and kicking them out of the nest.

After these, the Concerto for Ambient Orchestra looms as the most likely project to start up next. There are also the covers album and two collaborations, one already settled (with Chris Russell) and the other on a wait-and-see basis. So there’s never a shortage of choices…

There’s also one piece to be drafted for a potential collaborator, which would be the concluding track of a future album – which is part of a multi-album cycle. That one piece could be a year or two down the road; it’s a real case of “if and when”, so I’ll leave it there for now.

So here we are, and there we might go. As always, many thanks for your interest and support, and all the best for 2015! (My year’s already off to a great start, because I’m finally going to get to see Steve Roach play live in February. Hope to see you there!)

Doesn't every Christmas tree need an owl?

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Memory Palace Airplay – Thought Radio

Many thanks to Bill Fox of Thought Radio for playing Primitive and Prime from the Memory Palace album on his Dec. 20 broadcast. Bill has been playing my music from the beginning, and his support is greatly appreciated!

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Guest Blog by Chris Russell: Our Journey to the Memory Palace

Guest blogger alert:

It’s a pleasure to turn the page over to my collaborator Chris Russell, for his perspective on making the Memory Palace album:

Chris RussellThe journey to this palace has been a long, rewarding and sometimes frustrating journey. But so worth it in the end. Greg contacted me late 2010 to work on an album and we were off running. This was to be our first release using drums and odd time rhythms in our music. I have played with loops in the past, but never really applied acoustic or tribal drums to my music until work on this album came up. This immediately took me out of my comfort zone and at times became a challenge that led me to re-do my parts, two, sometimes three, times before I could hand the piece off to Greg.

Life events for both of us would slow production down on this album and it became clear to not rush the music and let this album slowly develop over time. That probably is what helped the most for me, living with the music for brief periods of time and then after a hiatus coming back to the project with fresh ears.

Fast forward to 2014 and Greg and I are at the end of our journey to the Memory Palace, but this is only the beginning of our adventure.

I look forward to the next chapter.

***

Thanks, Chris!

As might be deduced from the above, Chris and I knew, even before Memory Palace was finished, that another project was in our future, and the general direction it would take. Stay tuned!

A shout-out here to (1) the Relaxed Machinery artistic community, where we connected shortly after its inception, early in 2010; and (2) the rM label, which has released most of Chris’ albums to date. There’s a long list of excellent releases which I highly recommend!

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Memory Palace Premiere – SomaFM

Many thanks to Rusty Hodge of SomaFM for featuring the entire Memory Palace album today on Soma’s Deep Space One channel to mark the album’s release!

Gratitude also to everyone who tuned in, and those who joined us in the Relaxed Machinery community chat room. The album has been very well received, and we’re hopeful that the word will spread…

Memory Palace is available on CD and by download. Check out the preview clip on the album page.

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Memory Palace Airplay: Galactic Travels & Night Tides

Thanks to the hosts of two first-rate radio programs for including music from our Memory Palace album in their latest broadcasts!

Bill Fox included Primitive and Prime in the Nov. 27 edition of Galactic Travels. You can see the full playlist here.

Renée Blanche, who recently celebrated her 20th anniversary as host of Night Tides, included Touchstone Array in the Nov. 30 edition. (Night Tides playlists are temporarily offline.)

If you’re not familiar with either of these programs, you would do well to check them out. They both come very highly recommended.

A shout-out to my collaborator Chris Russell, whose other new duo release, Vague Traces with Phillip Wilkerson, is earning enthusiastic reviews and airplay. Here is one from Synth & Sequences.

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Memory Palace Review by Bert Strolenberg (Sonic Immersion)

Many thanks to Bert for his close attention and support! His original post is here. (I added the links.)

*****

The origins for “Memory Palace” go back to Christmas 2010, when Greg Moorcroft (aka eyes cast down) approached Chris Russell with the idea of starting a groove-based collaboration. Greg would take care of the rhythmic side of things while Mr. Russell would be in charge of all additional textures, soundscapes and synthetic sounds. Both musicians focused on a full-album release after the first idea materialized smoothly in a track for the Relaxed Machinery sampler “reBOOT“.

The first half of the the 5-track/70+ minutes album is centered around electric groove patterns using mostly acoustic drum and percussion samples and the sounding of Greg’s much-favored wooden frogs alongside tasty synth textures and circular atmospheres, all creating quite an intense and more upfront sonic statement with a certain psychedelic edge.

The third piece “Touchstone Array” (defined as electron crackle) reveals certain contemplativeness, but evolves eventually into a weird and abstract/experimental effort led by acoustic samples set to a racing tempo with lots of bleeps and sound modifications running alongside.

Fortunately, gentle curling and shifting atmospherics make up the core of the two remaining tracks, with assorted (occasional tribal) rhythmic elements pushed further back in the spacious, transparent sound design on “Afterimages”. The fast but not upfront table-percussion on the final 22-minute piece (which alternates odd-meter electronic rhythms with live tribal drumming) reminds slightly of the Roach-collabs with Mr. Fayman.

The result on “Memory Palace” comes down to quite peculiar ambient, expecting the listener to think out of the box quite a bit.

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