My backlog is pretty big right now, and I feel bad about that. I wanted to write something about three good albums, each of them quite different from the others. Take a look at my thoughts on Vienna Circle, 4th Eden, and Secret of Elements.
Vienna Circle is a band that I’ve followed for some time. I think I started listening to them in 2013 with Silhouette Moon, and caught up with their debut White Clouds at the time, too. Both of those albums, especially the former, were exquisite, delicate, and addictive. The band is back after eight years with a new album called Secrets of the Rising Sun, but with this record the band is now only a solo act for Paul Davis. He plays almost all instruments and performs the vocals, though Alex Micklewright does provide drums and Gemma Davis guests on vocals on two tracks.
I mention this because the earlier works of Vienna Circle included Paul and also his brother Jack. With Jack absent on this album, the results are somewhat mixed. The band used to play something akin to symphonic prog rock, and they were especially good at long-form tracks with spacious auras and tightly composed melodies. In fact, the melodies on Silhouette Moon are some of the strongest I’ve ever heard.
With this record, much of that is lost. Paul being the guitarist of the two brothers, the album focuses more on guitar, and they are extremely loud and “classic rock” in their sound, though somehow they don’t have much in the way of soul. Most of the songs are based on rhythms and guitar licks, then, and so this feels like a project that should have been named something different.
It’s not a bad album, mind you. The opener “Golden Sunset Roulette” is definitely a catchy song, and Paul has a luxurious voice that I enjoy. But the music is never all that interesting. I do also like “That Night” with Gemma on vocals, and it seems like the most creative and diverse moment on the record. I’d also point to the title track as possessing a great hook on the chorus. Overall, though, I feel like the guitars are way too loud, the rest of music is drowned out, and much of the nuance and subtlety of the first two albums are completely and absolutely lost. It may grow on me, though. We’ll see.
I have started listening to New Age ambient and electronic over the last couple years, and so I’m always on the lookout for good albums in the genre. I think 4th Eden’s new album Metamorphosis is a solid example. 4th Eden is a solo project from composer Martin Eve of the UK.
This album offers quiet, ambient, subtle electronic music that saves its grittier moments, using them sparingly and effectively. The music often hovers and grows, like the rising of the sun, so it is definitely gradual and slow burning in nature.
It is, however, quite riveting at times. A good example of this is the opening track “Transcendence”. This eleven-minute song takes its time to blossom into something classy, melodic, and haunting. I really like it. Other tracks are more “in your face”, though, such as the very next song, “Humanoid”. This track is robotic and textured. And, yet, the next track “Interstellar Avalanche” might be the best on the album with its memorable melody, perfect pace, and cinematic quality.
Other good songs here are the crystalline “Angles of Light”, the rapid “The 10th Dimension”, and the Celtic electronic fusion of “Borealis (Return to Valhalla”). That last track is really cool, I have to say. Overall, the album has some tricks up its sleeve, and it plays its cards with beauty, serenity, and thoughtfulness.
The final record I want to discuss today is a real beauty. It comes to us from Secret of Elements, solo project of Johann Pätzold of Germany. He brings with him several guests to play everything from piano and cello to harp, violin, and electronica. The new album is called Chronos, the Greek personification of time.
Chronos is an album of weight, introspection, and tranquility. It is ambient at times, piano-driven in others, bringing in strings and even beats when appropriate. It relishes quietude and subtle accents over brash ideas, and so the album is best heard in the dark with great headphones. Much of what you’ll hear is a contrast between bright flashes of melody and hazy darkness.
There is a story of here of memory, contemplation, and color. The music reflects this well, such as “Memento”, an eerie song with riveting strings played up against a shadowy atmosphere. It comes across as rich and satisfying. “Astral” is another wonderful track, this one glowing in a fog of melody and mental light. Another favorite is “Cassini” with its delicious electronica and subtle melody. “Aurora” is yet another fantastic track, this one featuring sweeping harp, subtle electronica, and beautiful harmonies from guest Laure Brisa.
Across the record, there are moments of brilliant strings and gracious piano, and I honestly wish more ambient artists incorporated these sounds. These gorgeous instruments really enhance the entire ethereal experience, and Johann brings out so many emotions, colors, and textures gently and graciously using these tools. This is an album that will only get better with time.
Find Vienna Circle online:
Find 4th Eden online:
Find Secret of Elements online: