Review Summary: A mixture of luscious electronics, complimented by exotic acoustic instrumentation, flavoured with distinctive Japanese influences.Ephera
is the shared musical pursuit of Australian musicians Billy Gsellmann and William Baker. The duo experiment with a variety of electronic-based effects, beats and samples which are interwoven with an assortment of acoustic instruments; ranging from a collection of flutes and other woodwind instrument, to the brief inclusion of a piano and the curious application of the Japanese stringed-instrument known as the Koto. Truly the auditory embodiment of a compact journey; this four track EP establishes itself in the subconscious of the listener and takes up a permanent residence in the imagination. The unmistakeable oriental feeling permeates the essence of this album, conjuring up archaic imagery for the minds-eye to savour. Simultaneously anachronistic and modern, the fusion of folk elements, which harken back to the early stages of Japanese culture, superimposed over the electronic beats and samples creates an atmosphere that is ambiguous and difficult to explain. The music is not disjointed, flows fantastically and weaves an amazing story which flits through the decades without ever leaving the antiquated Japanese land from which it seems to spring from. The main issue in conveying the exact effects of this companionship between old and new is, it’s just plain strange
and unless you as the listener experience the outcome, it is nigh impossible to fully comprehend or convey.
Scattered throughout the album are almost imperceptible additions to the main tracks. For example, the second track on the album titled Tora
has a subdued thunder-storm brewing in the background. Never the focus or even semi-attraction on the track, it merely exists and adds another layer to the song which removes some of the hollowness that can be felt on a lot other acoustic-based tracks. There are also the ever-present samples, such as the throaty lions roar on opener Aura
and during the climax of Tora
. No, this is not a metaphor for powerful vocals, from which this album is devoid; this is an actual lion’s roar. Perhaps it is a little over-used during the two aforementioned tracks, which have a combined running time of just over 6 minutes, but it is a harmless addition and a charming quirk of this release.
Opening track Aura
persuades the listener to explore deeper into this EP with faint and delicate chimes, the sound of which is broken by punctuating animal calls and the aforementioned lion’s roar. Dominated for the majority of its running time by an elegant piano melody, the electronic beat and reverberating droning ends the track after two and a half minutes and is replaced with the higher-pitched, Japanese influenced flutes of Tora
. Accompanied by the lower beats of the electronic effects and a more subdued piano undercurrent, this track develops the Japanese theme much further than its predecessor.
Within the first 6 seconds of the following track Sakura
, an unmistakeable Mario Bros. sample can be heard. It’s a little misplaced, but its inclusion scarcely affects the overall track and it thankfully is not a recurring presence on this or any track of the EP. This is the absolute jewel of the album. It not only introduces the listener to the stringed-instrument known as the Koto, but it adds a hauntingly beautiful female voice which soars over the barrage of notes courtesy of the foregrounded Koto, and flickering over the barely audible flutes in the background. The result is ethereal and simply breathtaking; the absolute epitome of what this album has to offer.
Following on from the brilliant previous track, Chakra/Mantra
has the Koto playing much lower and slower than before, surrendering it’s instantly uplifting pitch in favour of a lethargic, bass heavy one, effectively complimenting the sludgy electronic effects. A sample plays in the background during the first part of the song. It tells of an ordinary village, with voices, raised in communication with one another. There are many other tell-tale signs of a content community, but these are so varied and open to interpretation that it is up to the individual to decide just what they might be. Higher, shrieking electronics that remind of symphonic influences, albeit fleetingly, as well as static crackling accompany the already established Koto and flutes on their aural journey throughout this, the final track: and so do you
This album, more than a small collection of songs, is a detailed and beautifully crafted voyage into the past, which also has the unique idiosyncrasy of including qualities of the present. It truly is a captivating experience; one that has to be experienced to be appreciated.