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Tracklist: 1. One Who Whispers 5:34 2. Celluloid 5:31 3. Love, Death, & Drowning 6:49 4. The Last Word 5:21 5. The Apparent Chaos of Snow 6:44 6. Panoramic Lounge 6:28 7. To the Shelters 5:07 8. It did Happen 5:12 9. Absorbed 5:51 All tracks: by D. Sturt & T. Travis, except: 1 & 9 - by Sturt, Travis, & D. Allen, & 2 - by Sturt, Travis, & R. Barbieri. Line-up: Theo Travis (also of Gong, Solo) - flute & saxophones; samples Dave Sturt (also of Jade Warrior) - sound design; programming; sampling; bass Guest musicians: Daevid Allen (of Gong, Solo) - glissando guitar (on 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, & 9) Richard Barbieri (of Porcupine Tree, JBK) - keyboards (on 2) Produced by Cipher & Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree). Recorded by Toby Robinson, D. Sturt, & Tim Stone in London & Derby. Mixed by S. Wilson at Nomansland. Mastered by Andrew Jackson (the long-time Pink Floyd engineer)
Prologue. "One Who Whispers" is the second album by kind of a supergroup Cipher (see line-up). Their debut album, "No Ordinary Man", was released in 1999. Theo Travis also has five solo albums to his credit. Here are some excerpts from the "One Who Whispers" CD press kit. "The new album further explores Cipher's individual sound world, mixing live flute, sax, and bass with dark soundscapes and hypnotic layers of looped instrumental atmospheres. Six tracks feature the "glissando" guitar textures of Gong's Daevid Allen. The guitar signal is heavily processed through echoes and loops of different lengths, which can then be reversed or played at different speeds. The result is a hypnotic sound that is both textural and expressive. Many of the soundscapes and samples are in fact performed by Dave Sturt's MIDI-bass, by which different notes on an electric bass trigger washes of sound, beats, or abstract noises." Once, I asked Mr. Travis to send me one of the Jazz-Fusion related albums by him instead of any ambient projects, yet, unexpectedly, I received exactly that which I always try to avoid meeting.
The Album. Certainly, this music has almost nothing to do with Progressive. I have written dozens of reviews of truly progressive albums that bring to the listener "a healthy dose of hypnotism". (Last week's review of Nice Beaver's CD is only one of them.) Of course, where could one hide a hypnotism in those randomly built up soundscapes that dominate throughout the "One Who Whispers" album? (Or, maybe, I should take a 'healthy' dose of LCD to feel it?) This opus is almost entirely filled with an incredibly slow and tedious music, which affects me like a real somnambulant. (Maybe, this kind of hypnotism is implied in the CD press kit?) Yes, each of the 'whispered pieces' (a very silent sound is rather typical for this album) features also the live parts of either a flute or alto saxophone (the "wah-wah" sax is really noticeable only on Love, Death, and Drowning). However, almost all the solos of these wind instruments are as incredibly slow as the sound sculptures themselves, which, in their turn, are almost as inanimate as real sculptures. Only two tracks here remotely remind me of those that could've been left by Prog: The Apparent Chaos of Snow and Panoramic Lounge (tracks 5 & 6). These are more or less structured and rich in sound, thanks to overdubs of the parts of wind instruments. Also, only these two pieces are free (almost free, at least) of the tiresome 'sound's-capes' (the slowly moving islands of sound, to be precise) that, along with annoying effects and noises, dominate on each of the other tracks on the album.
Summary. IMHO, there are no real compositions on "One Who Whispers". The album is filled with nothing else but pushbutton music, which, moreover, would've been completely dead without the parts of real wind instruments and a few solos of bass. (Personally however, I consider all of it just a dead music, anyway. Though especially, I am curious why the pages of the best progressive magazines are occupied with positive reviews of the albums that were really just sculpted?) Music must be composed by composers, and not built up by engineers and designers. Any sugary AOR and even pop music performed by a real band is much better than all the so-called sound designs and sculptures. Honest.
VM. August 7, 2002
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