CD (ltd. 500)
Muzyka Voln in cooperation with the Moscow label Monopoly Records and the Voronezh label Shadowplay Records presents the solo album of one of Cyclotimia members - Sphere Rex.
The word "ambient" came into the musical culture after the same-name solo album of Brian Eno, a member of the British art rock band Roxy Music. Legend has it that the musician was in the hospital and had nothing to do but to listen to the noises behind the window, and so he noticed a certain structure and musicality which he later started to imitate with the use of tapes and musical instruments.
Of course Eno wasn't the one who discovered this music style first, as before him the ideas of "background music" were developed by the French composer Erik Satie, and the concept of "the art of noises" was stated by the Italian futurist Luigi Russolo. However it was Eno who recorded in the 70s a series of albums with compositions which, so to say, laid the foundation of all contemporary ambient music in its boundless variety: from inelaborate "new age" to club "chill out" to harsh and experimental "dark/drone ambient".
Sphere Rex plays ambient in this uncommon for today traditional vein, combining minimalism and "background"-style of electronic music a la Brian Eno and piano improvisations based on proto-ambient ideas of Erik Satie. This music is able to calm down and lull to sleep like alpha-wave rhythms or paint weird images guided by the surreal titles of compositions in one's imagination. For the goals of complete authenticity only analogue devices were used in recordings, as well as tube preamps and compressors from 60s-70s.
Three Russian labels united to release the solo album by the member of rather well-known Russian project Cyclotimia. For CD For Electronics And Piano besides pseudonym Sphere Rex he use analogue sound equipment of 60s - 70s and creates 5 long-lasting abstract compositions - synthesis of background electronics and modest matt piano improvisations. Such deliberate "analogueness" is planned to emphasize moving to ambient sounding of the time of its conception as musical style... In this connection, they emphasize its belonging to the traditional Eno's ambient. In press-release label write about "background music" in the album - and they really don't lie. I would say that all electronics on this disc, besides its archaism, is rather simple and predictable, no revelations and unexpected discoveries. Though it sounds the way it must sound, I should say, very enveloping. The musician obviously knew what he was doing. He didn't discover America before eyes of Columbus-melomane, but he did so, that his music can cover bare walls with pleasant, furry nap and obscure clear mind. It can envelope a listener with several layers of soft sound cloth. And if it is that what you want to get while listening to ambient, then release For Electronics And Piano must be interesting to you.
The solo album by Cyclotimia member Sphere Rex opts for an overall brooding ambiance in its settings, with a darker undercurrent offset by the bright glimmer of electronics and piano overtop. There's lots of activity in play—the electronic elements in particular are restless—so the material is never static. Yet with dynamic contrasts kept to a minimum, For Electronics and Piano settles comfortably into an even-keeled state of lulling ambient drift for its forty-two minutes. It's old-school ambient, by the way, with Sphere Rex using analogue devices, tube pre-amps, and compressors from the ‘60s-‘70s in the name of authenticity. During “Do Not Forget to Put on Your Silk Hat Before Swimming” and “Sphere in a Triangle,” tiny electronic flourishes and piano noodling intertwine. The quiet sweep of waves, or perhaps wind blowing through the trees, echoes throughout “Lenin is Still Asleep” alongside a sleepy percussion pattern. That old-school feel is also reinforced by the presence of a simple drum machine beat in “Why No Plasma TV in This Forest?” In keeping with its title, “It's Been Raining... Just Like Any Other Day” is downcast but also the most affecting of the five pieces. After an opening juxtaposition of squiggly electronics and sombre piano chords, the piano tinkles threaten to fade away into nothingness, until a soft, ghostly wail appears. There's a nice display of tension, too, in the way Sphere Rex slows the tempo until the piano playing reaches a state of near-stillness. Here and elsewhere, Sphere Rex creates his own particular brand of “discreet music” in drawing upon the ideas and legacies of Brian Eno and Erik Satie.
[...] FOR ELECTRONICS AND PIANO contains five tracks that I could file under ambient minimalism, even if this definition would be reductive. The fact is that Sphere Rex approached the recordings with a straight conceptual idea in its mind. Focusing the sound on piano and analogue devices (with the purpose of keeping the original sound idea, tube preamps and compressors from the 60s and 70s have been used) the tracks have been recorded combining minimal ambient electronic sounds (following the path that Brian Eno explored) and piano improvisations based on the proto-ambient ideas of Erik Satie. The final result is quiet and destabilizing at the same time, because while little melodic piano parts "fluctuate" here and there, waves of electronic bleeps create a little more experimental ambience.
Sphere Rex is the solo project of one member of Cyclotimia. It is very minimalist ambient, where on top of a very thin, retro-style machine background is played a slow, sparse piano. On a few tracks, there's a bit more machine, in things such as wind-like waves, but those are nevertheless just small extra elements. The result of all of this is a fine ambient album, sleep-inducing in the best sense of the phrase. It is very hard to describe the feel produced by the music of Sphere Rex. Its tone is very melancholic, yet bright. Any of its songs would feel just as appropriate in art galleries, concert halls and dark living rooms.
A definite gem, the shades of which both are fully contemporary and yet pay definite homage to the pioneers of ambient music.
With Sphere Rex, Max Khachmanukyan of Cyclotimia presents us a solo album, which is also a debut under a new moniker. The name of the album should give an impression what instruments are used on this recording; a piano and electronics. On the cover there’s a quote by Guy Debord; "The spectacle is the bad dream of modern society in chains and ultimately expresses nothing more than its wish for sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of that sleep." With all this information we should expect perhaps a kind of deep ambient recording.
The album starts very atmospheric with ‘Do Not Forget To Put On Your Silk Hat Before Swimming’, which uses minimal piano keys and electronic sounds. It has a kind of serene mood, but also some dark mysticism between the layers. The piano sounds also have a Satie like quality. Because of the somewhat bleepy sounds, it has the feeling of a soundtrack for a kind of psychological sci-fi movie. ‘Lenin Is Still Asleep’ continues with this sound, but adds some deep drone layers that work very well. It has a very surreal and dreamlike quality. ‘Why No Plasma TV In This Forest?’ is a very interesting chosen title. This track is more rhythmic and has a kind of tribal sound to it, albeit made with basic electronic sounds. It also uses some very effective soothing soundscapes with beautiful piano melodies. ‘It's Been Raining... Just Like Any Other Day’ uses some mildly schizophrenic-sounding female choir elements amidst minimal piano melodies and soundscape elements. The album ends with ‘Sphere In A Triangle’, which is again a very lush soundscape with beautiful piano melodies.
This is a great recording which sounds like Brian Eno, Robert Rich and Erik Satie come together to collaborate on an album. ‘For Electronics and Piano’ is a very fitful title, and even seems like a reference to Eno’s album titles, which combines lush soundscapes with beautiful piano melodies. This is very much an ambient release stripped down, very much the opposite of most work of Cyclotimia, but still contains the same kind of immersive sound. This release uses analogue sound equipment of 60s and 70s for an authentic sound, which it generates very well. For an ambient release it’s fairly short, just above 40 minutes, but it’s a trip you immediately want to take again. Also a good album to put on before sleeping. Highly recommended!
This album has been presented as a collaboration between different labels resulting in the solo album of Sphere Rex (member of Cyclotimia). To understand this album and analyze the content we’ve been invited to go back to the pioneers of ambient music. ‘Ambient’ has been introduced by the “Ambient”-album of Brian Eno. However, Eno wasn’t the first one to have ever composed this kind ofmusic . That’s is what they are trying clarify. We have to go back to legendary composers like Eric Satie and Luigi Russolo while I’ll also mention Luciano Berio (in a rather orchestral way). Sphere Rex is ‘for electronics and piano’! Well, here we’ll easily make the link with the aforementioned composers as this project brings a mix of astral, psychedelic elements and neo-classical piano experiments. It all results in a neo-classical approach with a few fascinating cuts. We can’t get away from a clear experimental touch, which might be confusing when evoking ambientmusic. “For Electronics And Piano” comes closer to pure soundtrack music, but in the end we’ve to admit that it’s precisely what ambient music is often used for!
I was left guffawing by the hilarious reinvention of the “legend” surrounding Brian Eno’s conception of “ambient” narrated in the press release, according to which Mr. St. John Le Baptiste De La Salle had nothing better to do than clutching at the echoes from the outside world while hospitalized, thus having the first impulse for a hypothetical album called Ambient Music (it was in fact Discreet Music – and he was bedridden at home, trying to listen to a record that a friend left playing at low volume). Jokes aside, the subject of this review is a nice outing, particularly useful after a sleepless night like the one this writer just experienced. Sphere Rex utilized vintage electronics and synthesis to concoct a number of charming – but not mellifluous – tranquil pieces that produce a beneficial soothing effect whatever side you approach them on. Points of similarity, rather obvious from this angle, are Roedelius and Cluster; streams of quietly throbbing waves, soft rhythmic pulses and a general fluctuation enriched by the transparency of the piano figurations make sure that the 41 minutes of the CD don’t squander our time. Unfussiness without added stupidity: that’s fine with me.