Winner Best Electronic Album 2004
New Age Reporter / Zone Music Reporter
And in the final actual-world review, Soundician recur with their fourth album, the third reviewed here (2001_16, 2003_d). Multi-instrumentalist Odette Johnson and partner Kit (mixing and producing) have produced Seven Sisters (www.soundician.com), a suite inspired by a Neolithic burial site near their home in Sunderland, whose trees are known as the Seven Sisters, which they have combined with the Greek seven sisters, the Pleiades. The sisters are introduced with a piece that builds layers of chimes, slow beats, rubbing rumbles, washes, a simple melody and organ in a spacey ambience. Each sister then gets a dance, each with a different flavour: Alcyone is tzingy with water sounds, an Asian feel over a darker base, Merope is slow guitar and harpsichord, languid with vocoder swirls for Taygeta, a fast Celtic/Greek one with crickets opening and closing is Celaeno (also the longest piece), Asterope has an appropriately sapcey feel while Maia is stately layered descending tones and slow melody. The final sister, Electra, billows into a groove (that reminded me of early Oldfield). A folkloric Procession, bazouka, hand drum, tones and pings before Doves to stars with a sprightly melody returns us with a whoosh into space. Soundician describe themselves, too deprecatingly, as not my normal fare – and that is very true of this issue. But their grasp of the structure and vocabulary of intelligent ambient music is firm, and their albums are positive, enjoyable and beautiful. Enjoy this album, let it wash over you and join the seven sisters in their dance. (For a slight negative, and what the Johnsons want to do with Soundician is their concern, obviously, But I would like to hear more deep low sounds on the album (like the rumbles of the title track) or the minimalism of the soundtrack to their artists statement on the web-site).
Jeremy Keens – Ampersand Etcetera – Seven Sisters (2004)
R E V I E W SOUNDICIAN Seven Sisters Soundician (2004) Review by Bill Binkelman Try as hard as I did, I can’t warm up to the latest release by Kit and Odette Johnson (Soundician) to the same degree that I embraced their first three albums. While there is nothing inherently wrong with Seven Sisters, and I appreciate the different direction the husband and wife team are heading in with this CD, some of the tunes lack the inherent friendliness and warmth that I heard on The Beauty is Knowing, Tranquilicity, and their self-titled debut. On the other hand, the engineering and production are good examples of integrating disparate elements in such a way that the whole is heard as a cohesive musical vision. It just happens to be a vision that leaves me somewhat cold. The opening title track joins darker swells and a slow tempo booming rhythm with upper register twinkling bells which have a carnival sound to them, but slightly off-kilter as if this were a carnival in a Tim Burton movie. “Alcyone” begins with the sound of wind and an ominous drone before quasi-glitch beats are introduced under the surface of a ebbing and flowing wavery tone. Things are fine at first but the introduction of a sampled koto playing a light-hearted melody feels like a forced juxtaposition. Things begin picking up on the fourth track, “Taygeta,” with undulating synths imparting a liquid sense of movement accompanied by gentle shimmering bells that sparkle like the sun on the surface of the ocean. The track perfectly mixes “pretty” with a solid dose of European chill-out of the type one associates with the Ibiza crowd, but sans the techno beat. “Celaeno” opens to the sounds of crickets and, in the distance, a pealing church bell and what I can only describe as a Mediterranean-influenced hammered dulcimer. The song picks up steam and becomes a sunny bouncy composition, dominated by both the dulcimer and joyful hand bells. Spacy electronica can be heard on “Asterope” but melded with strummed guitar at the outset (the track becomes wholly electronica-based later on, with a flowing melody line on lead keyboard and the spacy textures underneath it). Another track that has a world fusion element to it (much more of one than “Celaeno”) is “Procession” which features something that sounds either East Indian or Asian (I’m guessing it’s a sampled sitar). Once again, the traditional world instrument is interwoven with electronic music elements, this time being fluid keyboards, spacy electronic effects and a shuffling beat. The last song, “Doves to Stars” introduces quasi-Berlin EM sequences and delightful retro sounding synths. It’s too bad this song is so short (two and half minutes) because it’s excellent – full of a lively sense of joy, in marked contrast with some of the darker earlier tracks. If you were among those who thought earlier efforts from Soundician were too “pretty” or too close to straight up new age music, than perhaps Seven Sisters will do more for you than it did me. It’s certainly their most “complex” work to date and some songs even approach “challenging” in the way they mesh disparate parts to forge an unusual “whole.” I know the album has met with solid radio airplay results, so I’m betting my reaction to the CD is in the minority. Summing up, this is still a Soundician album so be assured that it’s well produced and not in the least bit mundane. Postscript: The term “seven sisters” has two meanings. The Seven Sisters are the stars that make up the astronomical object, The Pleiades. The tracks on the CD correspond to the stars’ names. However, there is also a Seven Sisters neolithic burial site near their home. According to what I’ve read, the inspiration for the album has to do with a combination of the two objects: one celestial and one earth-bound. Kit and Odette visited the park, saw the “earthbound” Seven Sisters” and this album was the result. firstname.lastname@example.org SUPPORT INDEPENDENT MUSIC!