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BEATTOPIA

by William Hancock.

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relaxation

Another Fine Day – A Good Place To Be.

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“Another Cult-Classic From Solo Downtempo Producer Finds It’s Place”.

21 years after Another Fine Days’ Tom Green released the ambient-dub, cult-classic Life Before Land, he returns with a fresh basting of ambient-jazz styling in their latest release A Good Place To Be, out now on Interchill.

Fusing natural soundscapes with jazz, percussion and a smattering of instrumental electronica, the ambient and downtempo styles embraced in A Good Place To Be provide the listener with a captivating journey into the realms of natural music and sound. Birds and insects blend with jazz infused keyboards, ambient percussive punctuations, atmospheric synth pads and halting time signatures. Covering a spectrum of musical styles and genres this album doesn’t fit into any narrow slots, with synthetic and natural sounds and music creating a collage of sonic artwork across the board.

Greens’ colourful and varied past is apparent in the composition of this album. Rising from a post-punk outfit in the late seventies, blending with outfits including Baka Beyond, The Orb and Natacha Atlas and writing screen music for the likes of the BBC through his music production company Apollo Music, he contributes regularly to quality music libraries for Universal Music, EMI Production Music and Accorder Music. Tom also dabbles in various unique side projects including an ambient commission released in 2012 called Music For Tai Chi and a composition designed for installation in a new MRI scanner complex at the Royal Infirmary in Bristol, UK; Music For MRI Scanners.

Track 2 on the album A Good Place To Be, called And Dream of Seals blends affected bird calls with melodic keyboards and mallet percussion to create atmospherics that sit delicately over a bed of subtle beats, set back in the mix. Rising to an excited cacophony of oscillators supplying the playful seals in a wash of percussive waters, this downtempo creation is topped by an icing of electronic synthesis.

Enfolded is an ambient piece, wrapping the listener in temperate washes of electronic waves created using progressively arranged atmospheric synth pads, punctuated quietly yet powerfully with almost a hint of angelic brass in the wind.

From Tiny Acorns embraces Eastern-influenced strings and mallets in a percussive melody lifted by a bed of progressive, oscillator-effected beats. Atmospheric pads complete the palette as the track rises to the rhythmically melodic crescendo of a string-infused summit, all while the beats track nicely through the piece.

The influence of World Music on A Good Place To Be should not be overlooked. Subtle yet distinct, the instrument selection and devices used in the composition reflect a global connection transcending cultural boundaries and merging into a cohesively international blend of sound. Greens background producing with the likes of Abdul Tee Jay and his side project Newanderthal clearly influence this albums creation and its Remixes.

Even at these early stages of release, Another Fine Days’ new album A Good Place To Be obviously has the heavyweight staying power to become another cult classic in the lighter and more delicate styles of the ambient and downtempo music genres.

by William S. Hancock.

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Marconi Union – Weightless (Ambient Submissions Vol.2).

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“Ambient Heavyweights Keep The Juggernaut Rolling”.

The best way to describe the music of Marconi Union seems to be not so much in terms of jargon or lingo relative to the music industry but in terms of watercolour-painting techniques in the art world. Illustrative and impressionistic the colours and washes associated with these sound-scapes are both dark and bright, vivid and cloudy, coloured and contrasted yet always textured, balanced and spacious. If their paper is wet, the colours bleed together to form new blends and boundaries. Brushes are changed, sometimes the paper is dry and allows for more defined borders. Yet throughout their creations the standard of composition is astounding, the production and mastering impeccable. True artists in the very sense of the word.

Their new album Weightless (Ambient Submissions: Vol.2), released 22nd of September 2014 on the Just Music label levers off the back of their 2011 release Beautifully Falling Apart (Ambient Submissions: Vol.1). This album, combined with the seminal, heavily career- defining and until now unreleased track Weightless, created on the 16th of October 2011, was a defining moment in the bands career for many reasons and is still being written about to this day.

Beautifully Falling Apart was a junction in the career of the band, indicating a departure from the darker, more percussively punctuated albums including A Lost Connection (originally on the bands own digitally-based label Mu Transmissions in 2008) and an embarkation into deeply-ambient soundscapes with almost no rhythmic bed. Although risky in terms of career choice, this decision was well-received by critics and indeed the industry at large, obviously bolstered by a unique and until then unrecognised approach to collaborate that would see the band rise in terms of production, composition and acceptance into a standing applause from the mainstream.

Marconi Union created the first Weightless track when a representative from the British Academy of Sound Therapy approached them to create a piece of relaxing music. The piece was to be tested by the Mindlab Institute to try and ascertain its effectiveness for relaxation. Marconi Union jumped at the chance to be involved in such an interesting project and began writing in earnest. After testing was completed involving many subjects, scientists concluded that the music indicated reduced blood pressure, a slowed heart-rate and decreased levels of cortisol, a stress related hormone. Immediately after the results were published there was huge media reaction with some channels reporting that Weightless was “the most relaxing song ever!”. The track was reported in Time magazine as one of the “2014 Inventions of the Year” and one newspaper even warned motorists not to drive while listening to it. On the recent September, 2014 release the track is labeled as Weightless Part 1.

The band came together in 2002 when Richard Talbot met Jamie Crossley at a record shop they both frequented called The Polar Bear in Birmingham. It wasn’t until after the 2010 re-release of their now CD format album A Lost Connection that the band formally welcomed Duncan Meadows as a full time member. Meadows had previously played with them at a number of live gigs and 2012’s release Different Colours (again on Just Music) was the first for the now three-person outfit.

The culmination of this historical evolution has resulted in the release of Weightless (Ambient Submissions: Vol.2). An album that while not particularly lengthy at 42 minutes more than makes up for in terms of quality. Released at the same time was a video clip for the first and title track on the album, the 2011 juggernaught Weightless (Part 1). The video shows a remote-controlled ‘drone’ flying above the lake district, lit up with LED lighting at night. The frame-rate has been slowed and effected to create an hypnotic and highly effective piece of video.

Inspiration for the band comes from many places. The more usual books, films and travel but also cities (their 2009 album Tokyo), buildings and even records they really don’t like, using them to inspire adaptation and change.

If the pop charts are the fast food empire of the music industry, then Marconi Union are the a la carte, 5-star restaurant. The soundscapes are designed to inspire and relax, pulling you forward into an adventure in the air, rather than a journey on the ground. With tones one could be forgiven for believing are relatively simple, this complex and highly engineered sound design is of a calibre only masters could create. Both relaxing and highly-invigorating at the same time, the tracks create a timelessness divorced from the bondage of this dimensional body. A dimension that while necessary for our earthly survival may one day become simply a step into the greater universes bound by the forces of sound.

Max Chillroom – Downtempo Electronica Album Review.

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“Downtempo Electronica Compilation Enjoys a Dubstep-infused Frizzante.”

Max Chillroom. A chillout electronica compilation, produced by Lloyd Barde of Backroads Music is out on the now defunct New Land Music record label.

Comprising of artists from countries including Israel, France, Sweden, Bulgaria and the west coast of the USA, this international compilation of downtempo electronica with a dub infusion is enjoyable, tasteful and delicate. Suiting the yoga-end of the spectrum the album, with a nicely arranged progression draws the listener through an array of sub-genres.

Hawaiian-based producer Bluetech makes an appearance with Kingdom of the Blind, showcasing dance-diva Alyssa Palmers vocal abilities (Afro-Jack, Steve Aoki). Sounds From the Ground (Elliot Morgan Jones and Nick Woolfson) make an appearance with their track Clover. Bopping smoothly with a slight break-beat style, complimented by a successful brass section from Crispy Horns. Warm synth-pads and interesting highlights make this a standout tune. Swedish outfit Kritikal Audio’s (Martin Skogehall and Robert Elster of Uppsala) downtempo appearance with Springbreaks is great. A progressive chillout tune from the UK based outfit, this uplifting piece with inspiring melody lines has hints of the dub-step sound smattered through the chug-a-lug style bed. Also of note is Bulgarian outfit Vataff Project, the brainchild of Victor Marinov. The group encompass an all senses show-style that includes visuals. Carpet Sounds gently dips from deep, synth-laden downtempo and into the more ambient styles with spacious soundscapes and delicate production. Shen (Noah Pred of Primordial Nature) with the dark almost spooky track called Descendant again draws on the dubstep inflection to punctuate the paragraph of sonic landscape we drift in.

Released in February 2007 this now somewhat outdated album is still worth a place in the collection. The selection and arrangement of tracks are enjoyable if not stand-out and make for solid background sounds or pleasant relaxation journey. At 75 minutes it makes itself worthwhile.

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