Archive for category Album Reviews
After over a decade, John is putting aside the Reviewer’s hat to undertake new ventures. His enthusiasm, keen observations and support will be greatly missed.
“It may not matter to you that Souls Adrift, in Disrepair began its life as a set of live improvised pieces to accompany an art installation. It’s nice to know, sure, but not necessary to take the voyage this album offers. All that really matters is how easily you got lost in the sound. Ambient guitarist Eyes Cast Down (Greg Moorcroft) provides five nuanced soundscapes in this “…spiritual journey, facing down sorrow and loss, in order to see through them and beyond…” There are long stretches of grim shadow, passages of optimistic light, and a mostly seamless sonic topography that gives your mind’s eye plenty to gaze into as you go deeper. “Fading Angel” opens the album in a light space, presenting floating ambient washes. It’s the lightest Souls… gets–or, at least, its longest sustained stretch of lightness, and as you get more into the album, you understand that this is something of a cleansing breath before it’s time to get deeper and darker. Impatient listeners may have issues with the mist-wrapped, near-static drones of the next track, “Astral Drift.” Moorcroft keeps the voices very low on this piece, both in volume and in timbre, and although there are shifts of sound and the emergence of fresh textures and directions, they come at a glacial pace in this 17-minute journey. Those who appreciate drone work will go deep into this one. I find myself halfway between. On different listens I have alternately been pulled completely into it or gotten to a point where I want something to happen. Regardless, its dark and mysterious flow makes a fine counterpoint to the lighter tracks. In fact, “Sirens of Maya” leaps into your head after that down-the-well experience with high, bright tones that bounce into view. They get somewhat smoothed out as they go along, but also spend some time working through a hint of dissonance that rolls through the space. I pick up chime tones in the wash, and wavering pads that ripple across the piece’s surface. “Transcending Memory” is a Steve Roach-style piece, the kind that blends moody darkness with a bigger stellar sense–The Magnificent Void comes to mind. It’s a dynamic ambient work, its pads in constant morphing motion like swirling storm clouds. The Roach sensibility rears up in sudden dramatic swells, and the whole thing has an ominous tone. That carries into “At This Body’s Final Hour,” which frankly is where Moorcroft loses me a little. He shoots for upping the dramatic ante, but chooses to do so by dropping in some big kettle drum tones. I understand the idea, but it comes across as out of place from what has gone before, and he’s already using super-heavy bass notes to give the piece the cadence and gravity of a funeral march. He offsets that weight with a rising, tonally brighter piano line, creating a powerful mood that doesn’t need the extra bombast.
“I like the balance of light and dark that runs through Souls Adrift, in Disrepair. I think there’s just enough of a challenge in the heavier pieces, and Moorcroft skirts the edge of alienating listeners who don’t want that kind of experience. As droning as “Astral Drift” gets, Moorcroft gives it enough dynamism to make you maybe want to keep listening even if it’s not your thing. We can all use a little darkness now and then. It sets you up for the next step of the voyage, and that path the album takes makes excellent sense overall.”
Big thanks to Chuck van Zyl for his review (original post here) and support! I’m looking forward to working with him in October, for performances at the Gatherings and on Star’s End Radio. As I’ve said many times, it’s the deep listeners like Chuck, who really hear and understand what I’m trying to accomplish musically, who make it worth all the effort to get music out there in a very crowded market.
“A soundtrack from out of the middle distance, Souls Adrift, in Disrepair (73’52”) uses stillness to superb effect. Eyes Cast Down (multi-instrumentalist Greg Moorcroft) asks that you give his delicately layered performance your patience. Once we adjust our ears to the minimalist arrangements, what emerges is a slow steady tempest of sound. The five stark compositions found on Souls Adrift, in Disrepair evoke different questions from the ones we are used to. We are asked to look within, and think about what feelings and sensations we experience while listening to this album’s sustaining drones, breathing chords, and dense forms – things large enough to swallow you whole. Whatever drama does arise on Souls Adrift, in Disrepair, does not come from harmonic displacement, melodic invention, nor counterpoint, but from contrasts in the sounds themselves. Stripped of almost everything, but for the subtlest shifts in atmosphere and light, this work opens up a space for one. Moorcroft relies on a myriad of electronic processing devices to transform his guitar playing into the textural masses found on this album… and a learned musicianship to direct this technology. Beautifully restrained moments, borne in improvisation, extend in slowly decaying ripples beneath gradually undulating contours. Aural details come in and out of focus, in shades of twilight and sepulchral frost. As each tone breathes into our listening space, we feel a slow force of momentum. Near album’s end, a reverberant piano enters, repeating its question again and again. When shadows pull together, ethereal voices add to an enfolding darkness. The reason this album seems so quiet is because there are so few other people saying these things. The unadorned beauty of Souls Adrift, in Disrepair relates to human fragility. The dark alliance of unmodulated sounds imparts a haunting force. As ideas and emotions cross borders, the outside world remains an abstraction – possibly a parallel present to the loftier firmaments of the mind.”
Progressive rockers Yes’ 1974 release Relayer was one of the first albums that opened my ears to what was possible in music. Pretty difficult to overstate the importance of that – especially to an impressionable teenager.
This was in the mid-70s. I didn’t know anything about Yes and hadn’t heard a single note. I was fascinated by Roger Dean’s amazing cover and bought Relayer partly for that, and partly out of curiosity to learn what these guys were about. Of course, seeing only three song titles on the back cover really piqued my curiosity.
I was blown away at once, listened to Relayer many, many times, and naturally dove into the rest of the classic Yes catalog. On my commute this morning, I heard Relayer for the first time in at least 25 years, and was almost in tears of joy. I had never forgotten it; it was just one of those things that drift out of your life somehow…
Some of those things we come back to, and find that their attraction has been lost. Relayer has lost nothing for me over time; it’s still incredible.
Gates of Delirium is one of the handful of absolute Yes masterpieces. Epic in scope, prodigious in moods, brilliantly executed, with passages of intense power and sublime beauty. It has always blown me away. This is what music is supposed to do. I began to know it then, and that conviction has only grown over the years.
Sound Chaser has the strongest fusion elements and bears the largest stamp of Patrick Moraz’ input – though the band was already well down the fusion path, as composition and arrangement for Relayer was well underway before he came on board. The three-way interplay (not to say flat-out battle) between Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Moraz just explodes all through this track, and Howe’s solo section is a gem.
To Be Over closes on a more mellow note, slowing to a pastoral and dreamy – but somehow still well-grounded – vibe. It fully embodies the opening line “We go sailing down the calming stream.” Beautifully done.
This was Patrick Moraz’ only album with Yes. Rick Wakeman is surely Yes’ Keyboardist of Destiny, but it’s tantalizing to try to imagine where Yes would have gone if they’d stuck with Moraz for a few more albums. The possibilities were surely unlimited. The next album with Wakeman, 1977’s Going for the One, was definitely another masterpiece, but Moraz’ departure closed off a path of exciting possibilities.
Yes’ best work remains a huge influence on what I do, and I expect that to be heard in my work going forward. Thanks, guys!
Somehow I neglected to include Richard Gürtler’s May 2013 review of The Separate Ones here. Definitely an oversight, which I’m happy to rectify now. Many thanks, Richard!
Eyes Cast Down is Greg Moorcroft from Chicago and The Separate Ones is his debut work released on his own Kalindi Music label at the end of February 2013. As mentioned on Greg’s website, the album was recorded during the time span of 7 years. “First Day Apart”, a composition based on the longer separation with daughter, unfolds with sublime and sparse guitar dreamscapes, slowly meandering like a feather in the breeze. Strong longing feel is explored throughout this hazy and introspective soundscape, smoothly cascading from quieter contemplations to slightly more intense soars, yet still remaining enough consonant and allowing each listener to dive deeply into Eyes Cast Down’s own sonorous cavern.
“Rebuild From Memory” keeps its reflective dimension, but it’s surrounded by diversely scattered dissonant vibrations. “Knife Of Karma”, with 17 and half minutes the second longest composition, is invaded by fragile tinkles and mysteriously flavored drones, enhanced by diverse eerie fragments, cavernous rumbles and disruptive, nearly cacophonous embellishments. Here and there distant tribal groove fade in and out, and also occasional fanfares do their highly distinguishing work within this uniquely fragranced soundsculpting. All in all, it’s quite disturbing, but also as much challenging, a real masterpiece!!!
Celestial voice magics by guest singer Alannah lead “Expanse Of Heart” along with rather minimal and slowly shifting, organ-like drones create a truly mesmerizing reverie taking the listener on a soothing mind journey. The next composition, “Like A Riven Cloud”, clocking over 21-minute mark, reveals with deeper organic drones, enhanced by low rumbles and ghostly female whispers by another guest, Greg’s wife Dasi. Composed as a dedication to a friend that committed suicide, it paints a truly mysterious and grieving sceneries, especially when deeply evocative washes merge with the reciting voice along with expanding mournful violin expressions by Ezra Azmon. Few piano subtleties tranquilly float through too. Thoroughly gorgeous!!!
“Radha’s Tears” closes the album with coiling and resonating, hypnotic guitar drone, again conjugated with Dasi’s celestial chants. Overall, this is definitely not your ordinary accessible ambient recording, for sure The Separate Ones album craves for numerous listening sessions with deeply dedicated attention and immersion, but then it offers huge amount of fruitful and joyous moments filled with highly reflective, but enormously distinctive and intriguing palette of sounds and atmospheres. The Separate Ones is your ticket to magnificently perfumed and anomalously mindscaping sonic realms, a must have!!!
Photographs by Boris Lelong and Kris Tilbury nicely accomplish this album, while the credit for mastering goes to Bobby Jones. For a debut work like this, I won’t hesitate to say, this is a virtuoso performance!!! And since Greg Moorcroft was working during the last 7 years on several other albums, some of them are scheduled for this year’s release, so make sure you will keep an eye and ear on this highly capable and crafted ambient venturer!!!
Here is Richard’s full review, which can also be seen here:
Four years ago Chicago based Greg Moorcroft, the sole protagonist behind Eyes Cast Down, debuted with his album “The Separate Ones”, which I was fortunate to review several months later, in May 2013. In the meantime, during 2014, second solo album “Divinations” saw the light as well as collaborative recording “Memory Palace” with kindred soul Chris Russell. “Souls Adrift, In Disrepair”, the latest album by Eyes Cast Down, which is out since July 12th, 2016, was released by artist’s own Kalindi Music label and it’s packaged in a 4-panel digipak featuring stunningly immersing paintings by Royce Deans and Tali Farchi. This strongly enrapturing interaction was firstly born during a spontaneous, improvisational setting before premiering on a live art show in Chicago at April 1st, 2012. And four of five pieces presented on this album are connected to this multimedia jam.
Nearly 10-minute “Fading Angel” reveals layers of longing guitar drones, which drift, meander, reverberate, mesmerize… Introspective, smoothly sinuating passages distinguishably commingle with intricately high-pitched ear-tickling dissonant vistas. Although the mood might be rather minimal, hidden inside are lyrically enveloping nostalgic canvas, which masterfully amalgamate with the album’s visuals.
17-plus minutes long “Astral Drift” straightly dives into jaw-droppingly gargantuan depths, humming ultra deep drones briskly invade the scene and steal this magnificently transporting spectacle. A splendiferously dronescaping powerhouse is fully activated here!!! Ephemeral overtone-like groans sneak in here and there, but the magmatic flow is devastatingly adventurous and undeniably unlocks the gates of eargasmic transcendental Eden. Around 10th minute slightly relieving glimpse arise, but that’s just an “optical” illusion as the scenario quickly finds its tracks and resurrects all drone ghosts. Eerie ocarina calls arise as well and I am still swamped with ominously unfathomable drone walls. Even my weirdest expectations were surpassed with this composition, this is certainly Eyes Cast Down at its most exquisite, monolithic and desolate, a Drone Hall of Fame awaits!!! Enter now the Void!!!
The next piece, “Sirens Of Maya”, takes me back to earthier terrains sculpted with kaleidoscaping electric strings wizardry and painting thrillingly reflective and isochronally spiraling spellbinding images. As much rawly dazzling as harmoniously engrossing!
“Transcending Memory”, another longer track clocking to nearly 16-minute mark, maintains the deeply evocative route, where subtle monochromatic drone guards above, while relentlessly helixing desolations peculiarly bridge with poignantly magnifying, yet sinisterly traversing meridians. Aberrantly engulfing listening experience awaits here each devoted ears, this is obviously another epic composition superiorly exhibiting Greg Moorcroft’s extraordinary soundsculpting techniques. Bravo!!!
Transient pounding bass drum quite unexpectedly announces 18 minutes long “At This Body’s Final Hour”, which closes this highly astonishing journey. Mysteriously labyrinthine drifts are knottily counterpointed by poignant, yet evanescent piano patterns. Hallucinatory groans and voices are hanging above, interrupted occasionally by drum outbursts. Auxiliary female chorus (credited are Dasi, Greg’s wife, & Leyla) surreptitiously sneak in and numinously augment this ambiguously shapeshifting aural phenomenon. A grand finale indeed!!!
Greg Moorcroft, who mostly utilizes 6- and 12-string and fretless electric guitars, EBow as well as synths on this tour de force recording, has shown an enormous creativity and potential. This is a sensationally prodigious album, a truly triumphant 74-minute showcase of a challenging ingeniousness by its visionary force. I somehow can’t remember what my predictions were before exploring this album, but this doesn’t really matter, because as mentioned earlier, Greg Moorcroft has blew them all away with such glorious performance. A true gem, and still enormously hidden, among the most gifted pinnacles of 2016!!! Darker than the darkest, deeper than the deepest, hats off to Greg Moorcroft/Eyes Cast Down for this milestone, which must be encountered and applauded!!! A non-glass mastered format is the only limit here…
Regarding the latest updates, the next album by Eyes Cast Down is already recorded, it’s entitled “The White Island” and it should be out during the spring. The final mixing and artwork still has to be done. And last but not least, if you live near Philadelphia, mark in your calendar the date October 7th, 2017, because Eyes Cast Down will open for the iconic ambient guitar virtuoso Jeff Pearce at The Gatherings, which celebrates its 25th year. Then, after the concert, an hour live to air on Star’s End at WXPN Radio at the University of Pennsylvania will follow. Greg, you truly deserve such exposure!!! I really wish I could join…
Many thanks to John Shanahan (Hypnagogue) for his deep listening and enthusiastic review. The support of deep listeners like John means more to us than we can say!
John’s original post is here.
Me, upon receiving Memory Palace: “Excellent! A collaboration between two artists who do lovely, quiet stuff.” Me, after listening: “Wow! That was not what I expected!” Perhaps my expectation was skewed; both artists, Chris Russell and eyes cast down (aka Greg Moorcroft) do tend to work shades of darkness, hints of dissonance and touches of tribal into their individual work. But here, they ramp all that up into a pulse-driven, drum-loaded outing that still speaks most often in a restrained voice. Having called out another artist for adhering a bit closely to the Steve Roach model, I would note that bits of it show up here as well. The opener, “Primitive and Prime,” is familiar territory, pushed along on space-opening drum work from Moorcroft and wide, misty atmospheres from Russell. The influence is clear but the piece stands alone based on its deep groove and the deliciously hypnotic quality of the electronics. You get it again at the end of the disc with “Somewhere the Circle Stops,” which sounds much like a lost track from Roach’s Trance Spirits. Moorcroft takes the front here, weaving several drum lines into a complex and potent structure. Russell’s soundworlds here move as slow as incense smoke, soft washes that sometimes take on a growling, almost didgeridoo-like edge. Outside of that, while the influence still colors the proceedings, Russell and Moorcroft head off into their own zones. “Spatial Mnemonics” has an industrial clatter to it, all serving more of the kind of interlaced rhythms that are the centerpiece of the album. It’s a little dark, and it works. “Touchstone Array” is a fast-paced piece with an up-front analog feel. Glitchy snips of sound tap out a rapid-fire rhythm over slow pads for a nice contrast. However, my only complaint on the whole album comes from this track. The lads play with some high-pitched sounds, one of which sounds—to me—like a kid’s party favor bring blown in one ear over and over. Just like that, I’m pulled out of the track. (It’s playing as I type this out and, honestly, I just want to punch it.) Luckily, that passes and I let myself focus on the cool electronic rhythm work. “Afterimages” quiets things down with an ambient flow lightly touched with (I believe) rain sounds, shakers, and the lightest touch of percussion on the whole album. There’s a very cool effect late in the track where it rises up just a little—a nice touch. On these five tracks, the artists allow themselves a wide time frame in which to craft each piece; the two shortest run about 11 minutes each. Within that frame, they explore and codify their chemistry and justify their initial decision to challenge themselves to do a beat-based album. Memory Palace is an excellent deep listen; Russell and Moorcroft both love their details, and they are plentiful here, so dig into them. An excellent collaboration between two good artists. Well worth listening to.
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!
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.