Crafting a concept album is an incredibly difficult task. Tying together a cohesive narrative across a record’s worth of songs isn’t just daunting, it’s an endeavour that even some of the industry’s finest have failed to do memorably. This task, however, becomes notably more difficult when you’re dealing in the abstract via instrumental soundscapes. That is what Chronotope Project, the moniker of composer Jeffrey Ericson Allen, attempts to do with his latest project, ‘Ovum.’
‘Ovum’ “is a concept album that poetically reflects on the nature of beginnings, seeds, and primordial states of being,” Chronotope Project muses in their liner notes. The project is Allen’s attempt to explore the depths of time and space utilizing complex sonic landscapes. Surprisingly, ‘Ovum’ does this particularly well, conjuring longform instrumental pieces that are worth listening to - an impressive feat.
As with any concept album, ‘Ovum’ is best served by being listened to in its entirety. This is quite the commitment given the length, but it gives the best insight into Allen’s creation. The first track, ‘Olduvai Dreams,’ clocks in at ten minutes, making in the album’s most weighty effort. It introduces a very ethereal, mystifying sound. In this track, though, it’s also a very earthy sound. The sound is chock-full of African tribal influence, Native American flutes and percussion, and so much more.
Throughout its ten minutes, ‘Olduvai Dreams’ proves completely enthralling. The title track, on the other hand, proves less accessible, digging its heels deeply into long, drawn out synthesizer sections. The track is best served by a quality sound system due to its slight variations as time goes on, but it’s definitely more nuanced in its accessibility than its predecessor.
‘Mariposa’ is very similar to ‘Ovum,’ providing a sublime dive into angelic, soft-spoken synthesizers. Some of the instrumentation draws very thin parallels to, perhaps, Nordic influence, but by and large ‘Mariposa’ lacks the earthly qualities of ‘Olduvai Dreams.’ The track culminates into a much stronger finale than ‘Ovum’ as well, one that builds as synthesized choruses and a percussion section enter the fray in a beautiful fashion.
‘Primordial’ is a rather beautiful tune, one that harnesses soft, cricket-like sound effects over soft orchestration. It feels like a combination of ‘Olduvai Dreams’ and its familiarity and ‘Ovum’ and its otherworldly nature.
‘Epiphany,’ too, proves a fairly compelling listen, the synth-driven experience is a fascinating one. The same could likely be said for the finale, too, ‘Starry Messenger.’ It is a wonderful ending that pulls flute back into the forefront, likely to strike a contrast to the first song.
‘Ovum’ is, for the most part, a strong effort. The songs are surprisingly intriguing to listen to, which can rarely be said for ten minute instrumentals. The conceptual part of ‘Ovum’ is very subjective and abstract, but it does do a fine job exploring the dichotomy between earthly and celestial sounds. On the whole, ‘Ovum’ is a treat for experimental instrumental fans worth spending time with on a good sound system.
Ali Murray is an ethereal folk songwriter/musician from the cold isle of Lewis in the north of Scotland. He writes dark atmospheric folk music with lush sweeping dreamy soundscapes and Celtic-twinged instrumentation. His new album LAND OF EVERGONE strikes a balance that is intimate and soaring, peaceful and haunting, sad and quietly joyful, delicately reverberating with Murray's dreamy voice and guitar playing.
Orellana is a neo-classical/post-rock collective hailing from Bristol, UK. Their new album “52”, released in late December, brought in the new year with it’s explosive and intricate sound. The project’s music transcends genre definitions in order to focus on a broad, diverse concept that is more emotional than tangible. This particular release is full of rich and diverse arrangements, but it is also a powerful exercise in minimalism, one that showcases the strength of very few notes placed in the right spots. The simplicity of the arrangement is actually one of the strongest aspects of this entire release: there’s a palpable stillness created by the long, drone notes in the background, which almost makes you feel like the world is happening in slow motion. When the chords and notes change, it feels quite monumental due to the beautiful contrast between the stillness of the background textures and the expressive sound of the guitar-based melodies.