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Sankhara: the new ambient release. Fragments of fragile melodies amid beatless soundscapes that explore our inner and outer lives.
"cyberCHUMP – the duo Mark G.E and Jim Skeel - describe Sankhara as a collection of tone poems, and aural sculpture, and indeed it is. To achieve their sound a lot of sources are used from treated guitars and keyboards to Uilleann pipes and digeridoo, plus a voice. It's a rather abstract work and sonically clever because often the sources aren't obvious to the listener, even the voice is used very subtly.
The overall feel of the album is set in the first track "Anticipation (Something Out There)". Humming drones create a backdrop over which resonant flutey refrains add to the pensive atmosphere. A variety of washes and almost melodic sounds fill out the soundfield.
An exemplar of the cyberCHUMP sound can be found on the longest track "Lay Your Head". Warm tones like embers from a fire form a subtly shifting background in a way reminiscent of an Exuviae track called "Silencia". Against this plucked guitar, gentle tinkles that echo off to the distance, and bass notes all go to create a slightly spooky yet calming mood.
Most of the time the mood just about stays on the vaguely unsettling side of things. The album rarely becomes dark per se, instead it tends to hint and look toward those aspects rather than forges ahead to explore them. What also works for me is how a mystery is hidden by the music, indeed the piece "Tremor" with its ghostly teasing melody, brief use of voice and rhythm, and spooky effects hints at all kinds of things without revealing them.
Sankhara is a pleasing and intriguing work from an artist I'll be looking out for in the future. It should have plenty of appeal to those who like amorphous ambience with little in the way rhythmic structures.
"Sankhara" is a Hindi term whose meaning is "that which has been put together". The album isn’t as pieced together as that might indicate however; instead the recording is an organic and breathing organism that is as complex and intriguing as it gets. Ambient soundscapes dart in and out of focus while the electronics are tweaked and turned over. A subtle duo, cyberCHUMP seems content on producing coherent yet hazy ambient loops that could easily have been the soundtrack to the Big Bang.
I must admit that I wasn’t prepared for cyberCHUMP’s Sankhara. My last exposure to the duo of Mark G.E. and Jim Skeel was their excellent outing, Scientists in the Trees, a delectable pastiche of upbeat electrogroove that I described as a "perfect sonic cocktail." By contrast, Sankhara is a meditative blend of gently drifting synth washes accented with guitar, flutes, and voice. It is warm and calming yet thick with the kind of aural detail that is the mark of a cyberCHUMP recording. Each of Sankhara’s ten pieces start at the surface, with elements that warrant notice, and then slowly dive down and mellow as they spread and flow. The quietest piece here, "Waking in the Dreamtime" is a subtle masterpiece of understated drone. Dark in spots and constantly shifting, it pares itself down to a veritably unwavering low tone and quiet, hypnotic drums. "Contemplation (A Cadence of Thought)" uses drums to create a similarly reverent feel. In fact, much of Sankhara has a certain sacred-music timbre to it. Low-volume repeat play is a must for this CD—as it rolls on it becomes a lulling sonic mantra. Kudos to the lads of cyberCHUMP for mixing it up so very well.
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