Shulman: Endless Rhythms of the Beatless Heart
[aleph zero]   review from daniel oberbauer  

Shulman's Endless Rhythms of the Beatless Heart is a lush and beautiful soundscape that combines the rich natural sounds of traditional Semitic instruments with pure synthesis. Every second implants the listener with images of the most amazing natural wonders and emotions, enveloping them in an aural paradise. The disperate elements of the songs merge so seamlessly that you're left without question that the composers are true musical masters.

The opening song "Retroscape" blends a very rich sounding violin, Indian vocals & a crisp down-tempo beat with a smooth flowing bass line. Later a vocoded voice fades into the mix, adding a rough granular texture to the song. A great deal of precision and timing went into this song and I can't think of a better way to open this album than with the brilliant textures used here. The sheer number of varying synths and beats that flow in and out of this 11 minute intro to the cd is testament to the ride every listener is about to enjoy.

In comparison to their previous work, it's quite evident that Yaniv & Omri (together Shulman) have matured quite a bit in musical style and taste. The masterful weaving of ambient world, psy, jazz & electronica into one manifest sound takes pure talent. Plain and simple. And they are backed by a slew of adept musicians on traditional mideleastern instruments like the shehnai/zorna/ney to compliment their programming skills. Examples of this perfect union abound, but "Invention" is a nice instance where it becomes nearly impossible to tell where played instruments, programmed synth stabs and vocal melodies begin and end. The reggae breakdown into operatic organ work two-thirds of the way into this burner is pure genius.

Perhaps the most notable track in the album is "After Silence" for how innovative it is. There is no percussion for most of the song; the tempo is established by bizarre bleeps that fluctuate up and down in timing with the bass. The only natural elements in the entire song are a reverberant piano and an intense sounding violin melted with very wet vocals; everything else is expertly crafted synthesis. It's a truly emotional piece of music that expresses a feeling of desolation and solitude. Near the end of the song two powerful sounding drums are struck, making the end of the song just as epic as the beginning.

The closer "Eternal Bliss of the Grateful Souls" is like a sweetly sung lullaby that sings you to sleep. It takes you back to your crib days when your mother tucked you in under a mobile of stars and read you a bed time story while you drifted off into a world of endless possibilities. The strings sound as if they were played by angels, slowly sweeping in and out of beautiful chords. A slow harmonious riff plays in the foreground like a small wound up music box playing a familiar tune.

Endless Rhythms of the Beatless Heart is what every ambient lover dreams of, with all of the emotion and intensity intact. This isn't just another album to be put on Muzak for café-goers to hear as they sip their morning coffee. It's not just another typical down tempo beat that you've heard a hundred times over. It's the very soul of ambience, the musical embodiment of serenity and utter bliss.

ethnotechno rating: 5 out of 5
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  1. Retroscape (pick)
  2. Transmissions in Bloom
  3. Odd Reflections
  4. One Step Closer
  5. After Silence (pick)
  6. Invention (pick)
  7. Mia Nihta Mono Den Ftani
  8. Eternal Bliss of the Grateful Souls (pick)