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Hypnagogue Review: Souls Adrift, in Disrepair

Big thanks to John Shanahan (Hypnagogue) for his review of Souls Adrift, in Disrepair (original post here).

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.”

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Star’s End Review: Souls Adrift, in Disrepair

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.”

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The Separate Ones: Richard’s Review

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!!!

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Review: Souls Adrift, in Disrepair

Big gratitude to Richard Gürtler for his review of Souls Adrift, in Disrepair! It’s deep listeners like Richard, who thoroughly understand and love the music, whom I’m always hoping to reach.

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…

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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 Roachcollabs 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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Reviews of The Separate Ones

The Separate Ones front coverUpdated April 21…

Many thanks to John Shanahan (Hypnagogue), Chuck van Zyl (Star’s End) and Bert Strolenberg (Sonic Immersion) for their generous reviews!

John writes:

Given that the recording of The Separate Ones, the debut full-length release from Eyes Cast Down, took place over seven years of part-time work, it’s no wonder that the finished product comes off as very intimate and personal. Surprisingly, considering its spread-out pedigree, it also manages to feel like a sensible, continuous narrative. Through six tracks, composer Greg Moorcroft moves his work from warm, straightforward guitar ambient to fever-dream ruminations graced with Sanskrit chant. The journey runs, by turns, from calming to halluncinatory, but keeps the listener engaged throughout. Starting as it does with the quiet ambient structures of “First Day Apart”, it would be easy to dismiss this within the first five minutes as simply that–quiet ambient. As much as I enjoy the rich guitar tones here, it’s when Moorcroft begins imbuing the work with more texture and drama that things get even more interesting. “Rebuild from Memory” retains the sighing notes at first, with Moorcroft rippling their surface with wavering treatments. It’s a very classic sound, broad and calming. “Knife of Karma” glides in on rich waveform pads, then adds a metallic clatter, creating moments of percussion that come and go. Mid-track it turns slightly toward a dissonant feel, like shadows falling across the sound. Sharp guitar notes cleave through the mix. Echoing, chanting vocals from singer Alannah drive “Expanse of Heart”. There’s a wonderful, gut-shaking bass chord that comes and goes throughout the piece, a great counter to the skyward-reaching vocals. And then there is the centerpiece here, “Like A Riven Cloud”, a piece composed of improvised parts, used as a conduit for Moorcroft’s feelings about a friend’s suicide. This is a bared-soul piece of work, extremely vulnerable, with the feel of an unsettled dream. Moorcroft’s wife Dasi recites part of a Sanksrit prayer for protection in the middle of a scattered wash of sounds, and the raw sadness in her voice, at times sounding quite on the verge of tears, cuts straight into you. Violin from Ezra Azmon – whom Moorcroft found busking on the street in Toronto – cries and calls from the distance and adds a fiery anger in spots. At 21 minutes, this is a long time to spend washed over with someone else’s potent emotions, and it’s hard not to come away a little changed from the experience. The disc ends with “Radha’s Tears”, pairing a solo processed guitar with vocals from Dasi. The guitar sounds swirl and resonate, and I find it interesting that the vocals come off as the sharper element here, not interruptive, but at times almost boldly challenging the instrument.

Quite honestly, I struggled to find words for this review. I have probably listened to this disc more than 20 times in the past couple of weeks, and it has lost none of its potency for the repetition. While all music is personal at its core, The Separate Ones stands out for the extreme intimacy it conveys and the remarkable depth of effect it carries. It is profoundly intense in its honesty. I highly recommend reading Moorcroft’s extensive background notes on his pieces. The very good news is that while this disc was seven years in the making, Moorcroft says cracking this ice has opened the flow, and there will be several more Eyes Cast Down releases in 2013. This is quite a good thing for ambient music fans.

Chuck writes:

Eyes Cast Down is the ethereal music project by Greg Moorcroft. Using various guitars, synthesizers, computer programs and acoustic sources, Moorcroft has produced The Separate Ones (73’34”), a fascinating album of six sustained atmospheres. The Separate Ones provides the listener with intelligently directed soundscapes, within which we are almost certain to become lost. Measure upon measure of slowly changing, undulating chords advance and recede along a musical arc of vague dimensions. The slowly breathing tones summon interesting variations in mood and space. Yet these dark sonic clouds cannot keep the sacred from shining through. There are areas of minimal sound, which move on to a thick density of contrasting timbres and emanations in a striking drama of dynamic range. Other pieces dwell in restful sonic colors, luxuriant in their repose. The two final pieces are dreamy – truly depicting the often strange and surreal landscapes and images generated by the dreaming mind. Random voices speak softly amidst reverberant guitar plucks and swells as distant ringing percussion and deep rumblings meet to transform this section into abstraction. This sophisticated collection of Ambient realizations proves to be a delight of wit and wonder in its minimalist phantasmagoria of sounds. The Separate Ones seems felt rather than reasoned out, proving seductive in its use of musically dramatic forms – and achieves an uncanny haunting intensity equal to if not exceeding that of Moorcroft’s predecessors.

Bert writes:

The sole musician behind Eyes Cast Down is US-based ambient/electronic composer, musician and writer Greg Moorcroft. The Separate Ones (that demanded seven years of hard work to complete as life got in the way on many occasions during the process of creation and sculpting) is a concept album featuring a set of reflections on attachment, separation and loss. This automatically made me think of Paul Sauvanet’s Tristesse, along with an album by Boris Lelong (that I reviewed a while back), who also appears to have provided the artwork for The Separate Ones.

Work started with lots of trial and error of ambient improvisation and composition for which Greg stuck to synths only for about two years. Next, he decided to try his hand at composing for electric guitar. This turned out more effectively and satisfying, eventually leading to four guitar-driven works on a total of six compositions.

The 73-minute The Separate Ones features airy, drifting and lush textural worlds along gentle loops that now and then bring the older releases of Jeff Pearce to mind. Moreover, it’s an entrance into a slowly curling and flowing world of contemplation and inner thoughts despite a constant undercurrent of movement. Things go even deeper on the 17-minute “Knife of Karma”, where drifting pads, Tibetan drone chimes and soft bells run the celestial edge.

This moody sphere continues on the elevating “Expanse of Heart”, on which a heavenly female voice joins the gentle soundscapes. The 21-minute “Like a Riven Cloud” is the longest take on the album, entering a spacious dream sphere with soft mourning and wavering violin. But as the track progresses, a surreal/psychedelic world opens up as well, something that’ s also found in the final piece “Radha’s Tears”.

All in all, The Separate Ones is a peculiar but also fascinating ambient album needing a couple of spins before one can judge its real sonic impact.

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Album Review: All Around Me by Bob Ohrum

Bob Ohrum’s albums combine urban field recordings with drones, bass and keyboards in a highly personal, alchemical fusion. (I’ve reviewed Bob’s albums Elevated and Subliminal Listening.) Bob’s latest release (Relaxed Machinery 0020) is All Around Me.

As he always does, Bob carefully weaves each piece from a few simple, minimal elements. There’s nowhere to go – you’re already there; it’s a sonic portrait of a location. As with Elevated, there is a strong melancholy element here, at least to my ears – but Bob’s music is quite like a mirror: your mood will greatly influence what you hear. The music can be alternately serene and depressing.

Last Breath Before opens the album with a downpour. As usual, we know we’re in the city, with Bob’s characteristic urban, industrial-humming atmospherics sketching our location. (I almost said “echo-locating”, which is how bats navigate – it would be apropos since this is a nocturnal cityscape.) A key element here is a single high note which echoes away over two dozen times. A set of three-note piano motives in the bass move the piece to an unexpected (but appropriate, given the title) cut-off.

For Dan (Excerpt), from a recent EP of the same name, is a memorial for Bob’s brother Dan, who passed on in 2008. A melancholy line sings over a hollow-metal low chord and a pitch-bending buzz. This grows to a searing intensity before the piece fades away.

Overpass Symphony #2 (All Around Me), the album’s longest piece at 17 minutes, is also saturated with water, streaming by over a quiet hum, which slowly blossoms into a harmonium-like chord. Scudding effects skid by on alternate sides.

The Mess (You Left) has the strongest industrial feel on the album, with a buzzing, crackling, rotary-saw drone. A swelling bass drone that takes over late in the piece is one of my favorite elements on the album. A chord progression on bass guitar closes it out.


Beauty in the Aftermath by Bob Ohrum

My favorite piece on the album (and one of my favorites from Bob overall) is the closer. Beauty in the Aftermath begins with birds and chiming, and a high hollow tremolo, before a wonderful power bass drone kicks in. This isn’t constant, it comes and goes, which is hugely effective here. It’s only one note, and that’s plenty. A bass guitar melody carves out a tranquil space. The mood here is the polar opposite of the rest of the album: it’s the morning after a big rain, and the sun and birds are out. The power drone and bass playing are perhaps Bob’s strongest tools. I would love to hear a whole album from him of just drones and basses.

As always with Bob’s music, in the dead of night it’s the city that’s real; we are the shadows. The city’s not permanent, but it will be here for quite some time. We, on the other hand, are just passing by.

If you like your atmospherics urban and minimal with an industrial touch, you should definitely check out this album.

All Around Me is available by download from CD Baby, and is coming soon on CDR from Hypnos and in FLAC from AD21 Music.

Wallpaper: All Around Me by Bob Ohrum

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