English new electronic music experimentalist Jonathan Sharp returns with his own Cumbrian based label CEMusic (or Cumbria Electro Music!). This inaugural release features four artists (Vent is another Sharp alias) sharing the disc, with Congavata taking the first five tracks, Ku the next two, Takla Makan have one track (in three movements) and Vent just the one.
Carl Matthews' Congavata project is simple in essence but provides a strong opening. Sun and Sea in particular is a deft first track choice. Chilled electronica with a slight jazz tinge, Matthews has a knack of finding sublime, minimalist short loops, repeating them for six minutes and yet keeping you engaged throughout. His pieces conjure up images of unnatural landscapes awaiting cultivation from a civilisation of unknown origin. Boards of Canada seems to be a touchstone at times.
Men From Atlantis is a pumping, bass-driven instrumental piece of tribal electronica that briefly reminds one of Juno Reactor's Shango album. The track title gives little away about the music. Occasionally, there's a muted, almost underwater tone to the mix, but other than that, there's nothing to link the two. Which is fine - cause what we've got is simply a great track. Time Travel neatly follows on - a natural successor - but lacks the a distinctive edge of its predecessor.
Takla Makan is Tony Allgood with sister Rachel providing moody female vocals. The twelve minute Sto Helit Trilogy is broken into three sections: Part One: Grandfather, Part Two: The Dark House, Part Three: Susan. Don't worry, this isn't pretentious as the title might suggest. In fact, this is quite firmly rooted in the earth. Takla Makan slide in nicely alongside Enigma, and the Rhys Fulber projects Conjure One and Delerium. And there's a real sense of carefully crafted structure to these twelve minutes too. Part One is most overtly Enigma with the shadowy ambient middle section perfectly reflecting the Dark House title. Finally, Susan is a refrain of Grandfather that develops into a sequel, with bell chimes, mellow beats and Rachel Allgood's neatly pitched voice.
Sharp's Vent project is an unexpected but entirely successful melange of chilled jazz drum and dub influences somehow blending with Magnetic Fields era Jarreisms and SF anime soundtracks. This ambitious shift occurs gradually over time (the track runs for over thirteen minutes in total) and never seems audacious. There's something decidedly effortless and logical to what Jonathan Sharp has done here yet the result is pure inspiration. O'Hare is the Cumbrian at his very finest. Clever, subtle, essential.
I've not heard anything else from CEMusic since this release. It would be a crime if this were the only entry into their discography. Music this good makes you glad to be alive. 8/10
Rob Dyer (April 2004)
CEMusic website: http://www.fluidstudios.net/CEM/cemusic.htm