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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

JOHN LYELL: Planetary Artifacts (2017)

“Planetary Artifacts is Space Music at its best”

1 Arrival 3:54 2 Traversing the Portal 5:39 3 The Visions 6:16 4 Red Shift 2 7:01 5 Echoes of a Distant Past 8:32 6 Planetary Artifacts 5:24 7 Adrift in Time 5:02 8 Another World 4:56 9 Searching for a Moment 6:24 John Lyell Production

(CD 53:15) (V.F.) (Cosmic Space Music)

Definitely, 2017 looks very promising in the spheres of EM, in particular at the level of Cosmic Space Music. Three years separate this PLANETARY ARTIFACTS from Reflection of Time; one of the good albums of cosmic music in 2014. And the wait, for the fans of John Lyell and for the aficionados of the genre was worth it! If this last opus of the American musician, who is a passionate of astrology, always stays in the field of music which makes-us-dream-the-ears-wide-opened, goes adrift from time to time towards territories of psybient and of slightly steady rhythms. These wonderful somniferous rhythms appropriate our ears with structures of sequences which roll smoothly. Always supported by Robert Rich at the mastering, John Lyell lays the bases of a music of which the sibylline atmospheres with points of intensity which roam such as shadows of worry all along the 53 minutes of his last album.

Arrival begins with a choir of drones from where escape the first thin lines of psybient effects. If the main envelope scatters some waves which buzz of an uncertain heat, the effects which are grafted to it give the impression of organic drone which crawl as centipedes to which each leg is tied to bells stuffed of hoarse voices. This intro of abstruse ambiences puts our ears in appetite which rather encounter instead the wonderful undulatory rhythm of Traversing the Portal. Ethereal voices wrap this structure which gambols with an ambient flow and an analog beauty. Effects of synth supplant these voices with layers as much seraphic, while that effects of scattered percussions, which slam like wooden clogs on a street immured of bricks, add more depth to this title which seduces from the first listening. This is a track to add on your 2017 playlist! The synth layers, which lament as the slow sighs of a slide guitar, are its ideal complements. Sometimes they dominate the atmospheres, as The Visions and its rhythm which scampers like a solitary cowboy in plains full of reflections of fire. We are in the core of this album which beats of its ambient rhythms. The smothered steps which feed the sneaky structure of Red Shift 2 draw an approach of wolf steps which scrutinize the horizons swept by winds of sound effects. The shadows of these steps give more liveliness to this always ambient rhythm which moves forward furtively under a sonic sky covered of not too psychedelic effects but not rather conservative. It's this beautiful nuance between these two antipodes that feeds the beauty of Red Shift 2 of which the structure of rhythm continues its charm operation since the end of Arrival.

Other element in this John Lyell's 6th opus is this perception that each title follows the precedent while borrowing from it a few its perfumes. This is how the sneaky structure of Red Shift 2 roams like a specter exhausted in the first moments of Echoes of a Distant Past, the longest title of PLANETARY ARTIFACTS which begins its long journey of atmospheres and mysteries. Delicate, the rhythm is pulsatory and supports first of all some beautiful layers with a nice scent of flute which evaporate in mistier layers. One would say a rhythm which breathes and which feeds on elements of atmospheres which are more and more outside of a conservative reach. The synth lines quaver in opalescent colors whereas arpeggios ring like sonic souls in search of a procession in an intersidereal vastness. And the life stops while Echoes of a Distant Past plunges into a void dug by the strength of the winds and of the drones, bringing the title towards horizons where things define themselves by a more attentive listening of John Lyell's astrological poetry. The title-track revives the music with a slow rhythm sculptured by pulsations of which every expiration gives the effect of breaths in a universe of psybient with its fauna and its organic noises. The flutes develop seraphic chants to where gets grafted a choir of tortured souls and rings musical prisms locked into the oversight. More silent but nevertheless just as much effective at the level of the ambiences, Adrift in Time follows the same tangent of Echoes of a Distant Past. Another World follows with singings of astral whales which float among discreet winds and beyond a symphony crumbled by arpeggios in search of a rhythmic structure which will not come. Searching for a Moment ends this last John Lyell's opus with this small concerto for delicate arpeggios which refuse to merge in order to create a steady rhythm, preferring to keep the comfort of a never completed melody and which evaporates in the forgetting of its last ringing.

Very lyrical indeed, PLANETARY ARTIFACTS is a beautiful journey in the country of John Lyell. A journey into the lands of Cosmic Space Music with a just balance between the atmospheres, the still melodies, the ambient rhythms and the effects of a slightly psybient universe. Robert Rich's mastering just breathes of a small paternal dose where his ambiences and that of Steve Roach don't harm too much John Lyell's ideas, bringing even his music near the dreamlike borders of John Serrie. A must for the fans of the genre and a rather beautiful front door to those who look for distant horizons regarding ambient music.

Sylvain Lupari (April 4th, 2017) *****

Available at John Lyell

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