Cipher - "One Who Whispers" (Gliss Records 2002, glisscd 007)
Inconnu - "Les Pensées de nos Reves" (Over-Records 2002, over 005cd)
From Aural Innovations #21 (October 2002)
Cipher is a soundscape project from Dave Sturt (Jade Warrior) on bass, samples and sound design and Theo Travis on flute, saxophone, wah-wah sax (cool!) and samples, who space rock fans will know from his work with Porcupine Tree and Gong. Daevid Allen contributes his famous glissando guitar to six tracks and Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree, Japan) plays keyboards on one. The album is co-produced by Steven Wilson. While this is the first I've heard from Cipher, it was formed in 1996 and Sturt and Travis have released one previous CD and performed live. They have also written and performed new scores to silent films by Alfred Hitchcock and Karl Valentin, and are working on a new score for Pabst's Pandora's Box.
The title track opens the set beautifully with haunting gliss guitar from Daevid. Theo's atmospheric flute soon joins in to sing a lovely melody as Daevid starts to take things more into space. And when Sturt jumps in his bass notes are prominent, and brief runs suggest that he might take off into a drum n bass groove, though this doesn't happen. But he does kick up the groove factor a notch on "Panoramic Lounge", while gliss guitar and flute create similarly enchanting atmospherics, though Theo teases us with intricate cool jazz runs on the flute.
Tracks like "The Last Word" and "Absorbed" that feature Theo's sax have a jazzier edge, and each of Sturt's seductively vibrating bass notes on the former will wind their way through your mind. And I love how the sax on "Absorbed" jams along, seemingly unaware of the cosmic storm swirling around it. More purely ambient soundscape tracks like "To The Shelters" float along on slow sweeping winds of sound, functioning more as dark mantras for the mind. "It Did Happen" has a similar effect but is much more intense, creating pulsating waves that rise and fall in volume, the listener dragged along helplessly and given relief only by the flute. "Celluloid" is the track with Richard Barbieri (dig those trippy loops and jazzy chill out grooves) and I was surprised to read in the promo sheet that this is the only track with keyboards, the rest of the album's efx being created by samples, gliss guitar and MIDI bass. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable set of creatively sculpted soundscapes.
Innconnu is a duo collaboration between The Exile (whoever that is) and Kathryn O'Neill. Little info is given even on their web site, but the music consists of ambient soundscapes with some Pink Floyd and prog rock influences scattered throughout. Theo Travis, though not a regular member, contributes flute on 4 of the 6 tracks on this 30 minute CDEP. "Messengers" is one of the highlight tracks, featuring a rocking rhythmic base over which ambient guitar notes, wind tunnel soundscapes, and barely recognizable flute effects sweep their brushstrokes of sound. "Downtime" is the other track that grabbed me, consisting of rolling electronic patterns that give the music a mechanical groove. Theo's flute melody contrasts with the robotic feel of the music and the effect is an interesting one. The pace picks up as the song develops, becoming ever more rhythmic, and while still firmly in soundscape territory it gradually adds "musical" elements that had my head dancing slowly under the headphones. Nice music, though Cipher is the one that stands up to repeated listens.
For more information about Cipher you can visit their web site at: http://www.cipher.f9.co.uk.
The CD is available from http://www.planetgong.co.uk.
For more information about Inconnu you can visit their web site at: http://www.inconnu.co.uk.
The CD is available from http://www.over-records.com.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz