Over the past months, besides writing reviews, my biggest hobby has been watching documentaries about anthropology and ancient history. I love wandering around in these ancient times with their different scientific knowledge and religions. These documentaries have been pieces of a puzzle I've been working on since I was twelve years old. The atmosphere in all of these eras is pretty dark, mainly because all of them decayed and got lost in time. Yet, it must have been very instructive times. Everything was different in the hightimes of Stonehenge, Göbekli Tepe or the Aztecs, just like everything is different now.
This morning I received an e-mail from Rasplyn, a Chicago based experimental orchestral artist. She asked if I wanted to review her first album; Scenes Through The Magic Eye. I agreed and stated that the review would probably be done by the following weekend. However, when I was home from work, I wanted something soothing, something unobtrusive. Besides, I was pretty curious about this act because it promised "beautiful, and at times intense, symphonic arrangements with electronic elements and thickly layered vocals". Very quickly it turned out that this album was exactly what I needed on this evening.
Rasplyn is absolutely right in what she promises. The music on this album is simply beautiful and somewhat mysterious. It's indeed quite dark, leaning towards some dark ambient acts like Raison D'Etre or Die Verbannten Kinder Evas. Yet it also has a touch of Qntal and even some of the symphonic beauty of Dead Can Dance. Those are some big names for a debut like this but Carolyn O’Neill is clearly no stranger to music. Her know-how and experience with clarinet and organ blend perfectly with the electronics and the often repetitive percussion. The floaty layered vocals add up to all of this, elevating this music out of this time and into ancient history.
Some readers will now realize why I wrote that first paragraph about those documentaries. Some of those were the first things that came to mind when I started listening to this album. This music is perfectly suited for this type of films. It brings the listener back to a time when the unknown and the mysterious lurked behind every tree in the forest. To a time when people could see the stars (loads more than we can see now, thank you fossil fuels!) and wonder what life is all about. Some songs, like 'Priestess Of The Godess', combine these neo-classical and soundscape passages with oriental influences. 'Among the Stars' seems to borrow the trance-like repetitive percussion from Deutsch Nepal and combines it with layers of destressed voices.
As stunning and beautiful as this album might be, I still feel like Rasplyn has been a bit to modest and cautious while writing this album. From what I can hear, Carolyn O’Neill has a lot more to offer than what we can hear on Scenes Through The Magic Eye. It's definately a lot better than the new-age CD's you can find in your local health shop. The remix at the end has that little more I was hoping for. Just a little bit over the edge, towards IDM and electro but still dark and extremely atmospheric. We're clearly dealing with a very talented woman who knows a lot about music and a lot about the esoteric. I'm really looking forward to hearing more about Rasplyn...