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In just four notes, Steve Brand effectively sets the tone for his new release, Avatara. Within this one phrase at the beginning of the title track there is a sense of mystery, of revelations to come, of the curtain being pulled back as Brand opens his exploration of the persistence of the presence of the Avatar–the earthbound manifestation of deity–throughout cultures. For this portrait Brand chooses big, expansive synth pads that hang in the air and slowly fade for a classic ambient sound. At the same time there’s intimacy in the details. Brand is skilled at pulling the listener close to isolate the effect of small moments before releasing them back to see the bigger picture again. Brand’s timing is also impeccable; in “Morning Glory” he lets his drifts quiet to silence or near-silence, then suspends the moment before the next note, giving that stretch of time an air of contemplation and expectation. When that next note does arrive, it’s like an awaited, cleansing exhalation. Even when his constructs are at their biggest, they remain delicate to the touch. In the spacemusic-flavored track “Still Here (Breathing Space),” windchimes add an earthy accent to whispering electronic winds. The bold chords that form “Act of Creation” rear up to make themselves known, but then blend together readily on the way back down. There is power, and there is peace, side by side. Expertly, Brand revisits those first four mysterious notes in the closing track, “Avatara (Deathless),” and the listener understands that the story has come around to its conclusion. This also lets the disc seamlessly take hold of its own tail and begin again.
Avatara is a deeply immersive disc, a warm and vast blanket of meditative sound that’s a pleasure in which to find yourself enveloped. Repeat listening is a must, and the piece is ideal for low-volume play.
Rik - ping things
Steve Brand's "Avatara" seriously impresses me. It's a beautiful release that envelops me as I listen, a circular cycle of music where an organic atmosphere is formed by a delicate blend of echoing drones and quiet percussion elements. Smooth pads weave around each other while warm tones echo throughout the soundscape, punctuated occasionally by brief bursts of sound and the occasional field recording. It's all really quite appealing.
It's an album that's not afraid to use silence as an instrument as well, where spaces are just as poignant and meaningful as the sounds that surround them. While many artists attempt to fill up the spaces in a track Brand uses that empty space as a complement, as a way to both clearly distinguish sounds and to further develop the tension of a piece. It makes for more active listening, where I find myself constantly pulled deeper and deeper into the work until it becomes an almost meditative experience.
I quite like Steve Brand's work as a rule but to reiterate my earlier comment, "Avatara" really impresses me. It's a beautiful, polished, artistic release that appeals to me on a variety of levels, and I have every faith that it will continue to find itself in regular rotation at Casa del ping things.
To state that AVATARA (61'16") is "Experimental" is only half the story. While it is an album of sonic experiments, it is not just a random organization of sound. Ambient artist Steve Brand tells a story - although AVATARA does bring more questions than answers. As it wanders the terrain of the possible this work asks you to adjust your sensitivity to music and its possible variations. Some of the pieces are controlled collisions of carefully rendered tones, while others breathe and expand beautifully across a brain-churning expanse of space. Opening with a curious metallic clamor Brand sets an unusual atmosphere. By continually introducing new timbres and captivating designs, across six tracks he sustains a striking sense of wonder. Moods range from dark and questioning to luminous and hopeful. Born of digital, this experience gets better with each pass. The mind seeks patterns, in the world and in music and art. Works like AVATARA at first seem formless. But one must tolerate being lost to appreciate this music. Through active listening we find this work's structure and then its meaning - grasping the whole from the sum of its parts.
If you’re looking for a contemplative ambient release with a minimal framework, Steve Brand’s “Avatara” (inspired by the various avatars of various ages and cultures) could be an appropriate choice. I for one would classify it as high-quality contemplative music, due to its ongoing gentle flow of textural pads with occasional mystic undercurrents and nature sounds. The six meandering tracks feature spacious music for slow, silent times and meditation, smoothly opening the gate to a world of splendour and wonder.
“Avatara’s” longform soundcape music, devoid of any rhythm, is great to escape from the rat race of modern life, as it makes the busy mind settle down bit by bit along the way. - Bert Strolenberg
Richard Gürtler (Jun 13, 2011, Bratislava, Slovakia)
Steve Brand has already collaborated with Hypnos before when releasing his "Bridge To Nowhere" and "Children Of Alcyone" albums on Hypnos Secret Sounds during 2008 and 2009. This time he landed on the main Hypnos imprint. I was very curious about this one since the very beginning, when the album was announced on Hypnos. Now finally in my hands, with gorgeously looking cover artwork (by Kati Astraeir) and ready to be fully exoplored and enjoyed. "Avatara" opens with mysteriously beautiful and unique title track, amazing echoed intro I must say! The next one, "The Far Shore", is more slow-breathing ambience later unfolding into slighly more monumental, but tranquil mood, at times more gloomy or meditative. "Morning Glory" is by far more active piece nicely crossed with silent interruptions and aerial ethereal washes, another huge one, a real masterpiece! "Still Here (Breathing Space)" takes us to exciting outer space voyage, later on enriched by crispy bell sounds. Credited for additional sounds on this masterfully absorbing composition are Matt Hillier/Ishq and Charity Masters/Holon, carefully executed! "Act Of Creation" with its longing feel is the most organic and resonant piece, colored by environmental recordings. "Avatara (Deathless)" is even more mysterious than the intro part of this title track and also perfectly fitting closer for this album. "Avatara" is certainly one of the best and most polished, if not the strongest, works of Steve Brand. Last but not least, it's well deserved for this highly creative sound artist to have his album finally released as pressed CD and packaged in nicely looking digipak, so extra points go also to Mike & Lena of Hypnos. "Avatara" is without any doubt absolutely breathtaking listening experience!!!
Brand follows two previous Hypnos recordings (on Hypnos Secret Sounds), Bridge to Nowhere andChildren of Alcyone, with Avatara, a Sanskrit word that stands for “descent” in the sense of a deity's descent from heaven to earth; the title also takes its inspiration from avatars such as Buddha and Krishna and from cultural myths about humans who've become “ascended masters,” non-human beings who choose to return to Earth to assist others. In keeping with such concepts, the album's six tracks are deep ambient in style, often long-form in design and conducive to meditative drift and elevated states. “Morning Glory” unfolds in a series of irradiated exhalations with pauses generously spaced between them, while the aptly titled “Still Here (Breathing Space)” arrests the pace to near-stillness, with percussive rustling seeming even more active when heard alongside the track's streaming washes and tones. At fourteen minutes the album's longest piece, “Act of Creation” perpetuates the meditative mood with the quiet chatter of newly born life-forms audible in between church-like synth tones. Largely downplaying percussion, Brand's becalmed material emphasizes long trails of synthetic chords, their ethereal character heightened by their pristine synthetic design, throughout its epic, hour-long journey.
This CD from 2010 offers 61 minutes of cosmic ambient music.
Synthesist Brand is accompanied on one track by Matt Hiller (from Ishq) and Charity Masters (from Holon).
Pensive percussives match introspective electronics to produce gentle auralscapes of a cosmic milieu.
The electronics are mainly textural in nature, harmonic vapors that generate a seamless realm of celestial clarity. These atmospheric vistas are augmented by additional tonalities that flesh things out without achieving an intrusive density. Changes deceptively occur in the flow, hidden by their gradually evolution.
These tenuous drones approximate an extended breathing pattern for reality, allowing the listener to slip through gaps between molecules and find themselves adrift outside of space and time. The listener's perceptions of the textural flow becomes intensified by this removal from conventional tangibility.
While rhythms are present in one track, they generally manifest in processed form in other pieces, often transformed into beatless sounds (like gongs expanded into infinite stability) that suitable fit with the textural sonic foundation.
These compositions exhibit a stately character, a soft authority that derives its puissance from subliminal influence rather than any boisterous bias. Presented in songs confined to lengths of five to fourteen minutes, this music doesn't indulge in protracted growth but instead swiftly establishes its gist and elaborates on that ethereal structure without undue delay.