Aperus: Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure

by David J Opdyke, Ambientrance

When Brian McWilliams (of Remanence) experienced technical difficulties in both photographic and musical endeavors, the two projects became linked. Undeniably organic, desert scenes and sounds are only part of "tumbleweed obfuscated by camera failure" by aperus.

After a stormy entry, low, rolling waves stream from atmospheric Dark Moon (Initiation) (7:13), their sprawling undulations etched with skittery patterns and glimmered upon by higher wafting ephemera... nocturnally sedate, yet majestic. The spaciously melting drift of Magnetism (3:55) is dappled with the more-humanistic sparkle of piano notes; then, the everywhichway currents of Earth & Clay (3:56) also take a more-musical route, this time via bass and clanging/clanking percussion.

The vaporous sheens of Echo Canyon (8:52) lead into Leaves, Waves (3:23), which rustles as if heavy winds were on the rise; echoey accompaniment is sparsely applied to the sizzling environment. Vanishing Terrain (11:16) is swallowed by a blend of gossamer electrosymphonic gusts and rather irradiated waves, all just melting together in wide to-and-fro sweeps...

The disc comes to an end with the rhythmic-yet-subdued All Good Things... (3:28), interlaced with soft strums, radiant glows and glassy beams of sound.

Much like wandering through the creative process, eight tracks take various dreamy detours through an imaginary desert soundscape which could be anywhere you want to think it to be. aperus is McWilliams with John Phipps, Carolyn Koebel and Michelle McWilliams. A-

by Phil Derby, Electroambient Space

I was really taken aback by this disc. First of all, it is beautifully packaged, especially as CDRs go, with a handsome set of photos (the subject of the title, by the way) slipped inside a DVD case. Second, the breadth of compositional styles and the talent displayed by Brian McWilliams and his guest musicians is considerable. There are soft floaters ("Echo Canyon" and "Radiant"); tribal pieces ("Earth & Clay" and "All Good Things"); ominous moments ("Dark Moon (Initiation)"); beautifully arranged piano ("Magnetism"); and nature sounds ("Leaves, Waves"). Regardless of the sound, the style, the mood, it all has a sure handedness to it, a clear sense of musical vision - much unlike his work as an accidental photographer! It simply sounds marvelous from beginning to end. I hear hints of people from Steve Roach to James Johnson and Brian Eno, but in the end Aperus is his own unique voice, a welcome newcomer to the ambient scene. This was an easy choice to put among my top ten best ambient CDs of 2003.

by Ben Fleury-Steiner, e|i Magazine

On first listen to the first few tracks, it appears as though the opener "Dark Moon" (initiation) is misleading. Its very slow moving and rather dark mood seems to suggest the beginning of an ominous journey. Yet many of the tracks on Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure (TOBCF) are far more grounded by soothing melodies. But when considered in the context of the cd's metanarrative of mistaken discovery, it makes sense. Aperus's (Brian McWilliams) purpose on "Dark moon" is not to go anywhere in particular, but to evoke a deep and ghostly sense of reflection in the listener. Mission accomplished. And once this track fades out, the rest of TOBCF like repeated inspections of McWilliams's curious cover photo taken at the sprawling Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, takes on a much more amorphous vibe. In many ways, the overall ghostly tone is quite reminiscent of the 2002 Hypnos-Binary release Hell's Canyon by John Duvall. For a lack of a better description, both are works of very melodious dark ambient played by obviously well trained musicians. But unlike Hell's Canyon, there are also moments of uplifting beauty on TOBCF.

Tracks like "Magnetism" with its soaring piano score demonstrate that McWilliams is a sucker for Enoesque, softer ambient stylings. On the other hand, adding to TOBCF's overall unpredictability are far more unpredictable tracks like "Echo Canyon" with its strange rhythms and hollow, metallic undercurrents. McWilliams is apparently a great lover of many different sounds and textures, as he never seems quite content to ride any one theme for too long. Indeed, the closer "Vanishing Terrain" seems to come full circle as its subtle melody is bled over with deeply atmospheric white noise and various mechanical stirrings.

While TOBCF may seem at times a bit unfocused, overall McWilliams's willingness to constantly take risks pays off. Far from "failure," the CD cover image of a tumbleweed on a dark, foreboding cliff bathed in soft red hues, is an accurate analog for the interplay of dark and light sounds. Like the unexpected camera glitch that created this beautiful visual, TOBCF captures an artist with a willingness to make mistakes and, as it turns out, to capture moments of often stunning sonic artistry.

by Hans Dinkelberg, Funprox

People who follow this website a bit may have encountered the name 'Remanence' now and then. This American duo creates contemplative ambient music of high quality, with a lot of ear and eye for details. I'm fond of their rather neo-classical album "Apparitions" (label: Cold Spring) and their more ethno-ambient, self-released mini cd "Lamkhyer". As I hoped for (and expected), this high standard also applies to the first solo offering by Remanence member Brian McWilliams. Under the name Aperus he has created a moving album full of tranquil ambient tapestries. This album was "inspired by the obscured photographs resulting from camera problems during a trip to New Mexico".

"Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure" comes in a nice dvd-case, which holds not only the cd, but also a series of photo prints, of a barren landscape blurred by strange and unplanned photographic effects due to camera trouble. This resulted nevertheless in interesting images, and a similar effect is the case with the compositions on this album, as is explained in the accompanying notes: "From concept to song, I tried to achieve one result but ended up with another."

The compositions flow very subtle and serene, almost angelic. There are no sudden turns, sharp edges or heavy rhythmic elements. Still it manages to keep my attention, probably through the emotional intensity. It avoids the danger of being trapped in the easy new age path. The music is bleak, a little bare at times, but not too sad or dark, just slightly melancholic.

'Magnetism' is very lovely. Delicate piano, tranquil compositions and soft choirs in the background make you slowly drift away. 'Earth & Clay' has more rhythmic elements and a more ethnic feel. For this song various field recordings of organic sound sources are used, taking you [ to ] the rocks and plants where McWilliams found his inspiration for this release. 'Echo Canyon' then again sounds very barren and empty, giving you the impression that you are the only living creature in a gigantic rock structure. 'Vanishing Terrain is a long bleak industrial soundscape, giving me a cold feeling. Luckily the slowly evolving and more melodic 'All good things' lifts my spirits a bit.

In conclusion, this is a very worthwhile ambient album, making you feel relaxed and close to nature. It gives faith in the abilities of human creativity, which both consciously and unconsciously can lead to fine things. You also do realise that you can feel very humble next to [ the ] overwhelming manifestations of nature.

by Bert Strolenberg, KLEM Magazine

The music of ambient composer Brian McWilliams - also known as one half of creative brain behind Remanence - has taken a new shape by the name of Aperus. Aperus brings us a recording inspired by obscured photographs resulting from camera problems during a trip Brian undertook to New Mexico. A happy accident you might say, as every disadvantage in the end turns out to be an advantage.

Very nicely packaged in a DVD-case (which seems to be the new standard at distributor Atmoworks since a few months or so) we encounter an overall organic sounding piece of art, full of morphing atmosphere and textures. Magnetism e.g. is a great introspective track with echoing piano and textures - a delight to absorb in the moment - while the following track Earth & Clay turns to an organic experience which brings elements of Steve Roach to mind, before the impact of Echo Canyon leads you into the direction of Roach's great desert music.

This is music which must be felt, I personally think it's not much use going into details of how Aperus reveals its own magic to the listener going through every single track. "Meet & experience the unexpected, find inspiration in what you will encounter", that's what this albums brings when it comes over you...

Well done Brian!

by Rik Maclean, Ping Things CD Reviews

"Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure" is a very impressive collection of songs by Brian McWilliams performing under the name of Aperus. Travelling along roads of both light and dark ambient, Brian has created a fantastic release well worth further study.

"Dark Moon (initiation)" brings to mind a sense of ceremony and ritual performed under night skies. Rumbling and shaking tones play beneath a steady simple melody of rather foreboding sounds.

"Magnetism" in contrast is a much brighter track, a beautiful piano melody played over a steady drone. Simply beautiful, bringing to mind the twinkling of stars in the night sky. Wonderful.

"Echo Canyon" features floating percussive tones slowly swaying through the soundscape, drifting tones passing like water, the call of a buoy, metal on metal scraping against each other. Submarine sounds, underwater at night. Slowly giving way to more fluid tones, a greater organicism. A stirring piece.

"Radiant" floats above the ground, gently moving back and forth through the clouds, tones effortlessly melting into each other. Wonderful work.

"Vanishing Terrain" brings a sense of mystery, subtle tones play throughout, interspersed by more mechanical noises, sounds, pulses. A sense of beauty being lost, replaced by something less organic, more constructed. Slowly the organic elements begin to win over, taking dominance between the two, creating a blend, a synthesis.

Packaged in a DVD case along with a series of beautiful photographs which inspired the music, "Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure" is an excellent introduction to the work of Aperus, and is sure to delight fans of the ambient genre.

by Richard Gurtler, Bratislava, Slovakia

Aperus, a project of Brian McWilliams, was already mentioned in my review on Remanence. I must say that I feel really ashamed I didn't explore these talented sonic and visual sculptors much earlier. Even if released on own mPath Records back in 2003, I would like to take a closer look on this exciting collection of atmospherics.

As guests appear on this recording Remanence member John Phipps and also Michelle McWilliams and Carolyn Koebel. Inspired by the photographs taken during the New Mexico desert trip when some camera problems occurred, the album starts with obscure experimental organics "Dark Moon (Initiation)" that soon convert into more gentle soundscapes. The next composition, "Magnetism", features a very pleasant piano tune while the next piece, "Earth & Clay", attracts us with minimal tribal percussions.

We can hear lots of diversity on this album, however, each composition fits nicely into this natural adventurous journey. "Echo Canyon" slowly transforms into highly imaginative tone, desert ambience at its best! "Leaves, Waves" contains mostly location recordings and "Radiant" moves again into beautifully floating territories.

"Vanishing Terrain" nicely blends gloomy atmospheres with various sonic outbursts, another highlight on this deeply immersive trip! Closing "All Good Things" is more tribal/industrial styled composition.

"Tumbleweed Obfuscated By Camera Failure" is another highly attractive work from this talented sonic and visual hiker. Yes, the visual part of this CDr release is another bonus, packaged in oversized DVD case containing printed velum envelope with original photographs that inspired this precisely crafted and intoxicating recording. More please!!!

by Matt Howarth, Sonic Curiosity

This release from 2003 offers 47 minutes of soothing ambience.

Aperus is Brian McWilliams, with assistance from John Phipps, Carolyn Koebel, and Michelle McWilliams.

Pensive atmospherics establish a luxuriant foundation for artificially induced thunder on the horizon. More dramatic (but still languid) harmonic tones emerge, adding definition to the ambient soundscape with ethereal textures and tenuous keyboards. Metallic rhythms provide subtle modern tribal disposition for one piece, while subliminal basslines assert a geological demeanor in several instances.

Generally, McWilliams endeavors to generate a sonic interface between man and earth, reminding us all of our inert origins.

Although harmonic throughout, this music exhibits a delicate presence of melody that is often absent from most ambient music. Textures merge with graceful ease, blending melancholy piano notes with flowing electronic airs. The electronics rise and ebb, guided by aerial currents that strive to evoke a placid temperament. The desert terrain receives an intimate portrayal through these gentle sonic structures, allowing colors to manifest in sound, inciting moods to unfurl through elongated chords, urging the audience to augment their human senses with an inanimate perspective. As man unifies with earth, the cosmos enters a focus that encompasses a totality of being.

The CDR comes in an oversized case which contains some desert photography (exampling how the tumbleweeds were obfuscated by camera failure) and text (that delivers impressions of the prairie).

by Daniel D. Stanisic, Spiritual Profit Radio Programme

It has been almost a fortnight since I received the packet containing the Aperus CD... I am ... quite overcome with it, and have come to regard it as an indelible experience of contemplative nature. I find it truly admirable for both its musical and visual contents, with numerous distinctive features already prominent and a great deal more that is conducive to one's intellectual and spiritual growth yet to unfold.

Compositions such as 'Dark Moon (Initiation)', 'Magnetism', 'Echo Canyon' or 'Vanishing Terrain' - let me enumerate but a few - do indeed make Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure a work of great merit, capable of exciting emotions subtle and soothing, occasionaly even disturbing, thus providing sufficient contrast by way of a musical chiaroscuro, given entirely new form and meaning. I think it not inadvisable to predict - as there is excellent ground for such expectations - that Aperus bids fair to claim that advanced position allotted to, say, Jeff Greinke, Vidna Obmana or Alio Die. Perhaps you will not be reluctant to agree with me, even though, as an artist, you might be of the mind that it lies upon others to estimate the value of your work.

I would also like to express my admiration of your excellent craftsmanship with regard to the package housing the Aperus CD album. Everything about it suggests a great care for details; the photographs, in particular, well become the entire album concept. I was delighted to find them in an envelope made of elegant tracing paper, which, in my mind, has become some sort of indispensable feature with Remanence releases. Please do try to keep it on all your future releases as well, possibly slightly differing in size, shape or purpose.

by Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire

Brian McWilliams (recording here as :aperus:), one half of the ambient duo Remanence, has released an eerie, moody, yet also intriguing and inviting solo effort with what has to be the most obscure (until you read the liner notes) album title of 2003. "Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure" contains eight tracks that traverse the boundaries of forbidding primal soundscapes ("Dark Moon [initiation]"), cross over into Tim Story-like piano and synth-textured minimalism ("Magnetism"), walk amongst potently sensuous dark tribal rhythms ("Earth & Clay"), glide into the cosmos on billowing waves of classic spacemusic synth washes (the first half of "Radiant") and crawl through dramatic and subtly dissonant subterranean caverns filled with both rustlings and roarings ("Vanishing Terrain"). There is also a visit to "Echo Canyon," a place of glurping and glooping sound effects, primal percussive effects, and ominous drones and textures, before settling into quasi-serene washes of Roach-ian keyboards, as well as a brief stop to listen to "Leaves, Waves" which creates compelling blankets of sound (as if thousands of rustling leaves were mixed with waves crashing against the shore) from assorted organic and electronic sources.

McWilliams plays a variety of instruments: keyboards, piano, bass guitar, assorted ethnic hand percussion, and some purely electronic studio wizardry effects. A few people help out on some tracks (John Phipps on keyboard textures and guitar, Carolyn Koebel on rattles, and Michelle McWilliams on "rocks and objects"). As with almost any ambient recording that is formless and shape-shifting, it's hard to "hear" who does what, so I'll just tip my hat to everyone and say "Well done!" because it is all very well done. "Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure" is a voyage through myriad musical mysteries; this is one of those rare CDs that reveals itself oh-so-slowly, delighting the listener who patiently wades into it slowly and purposely. That's not to say you couldn't enjoy it as background sonic coloring in a room, but its relative lack of continuity might prove to be off-putting in that respect. The same patchwork of shifting moods and motifs (from floating to rhythmic, from primal to ethereal) that breaks up continuity also makes headphone listening that much more enjoyable, though. And I sure did enjoy listening to this recording on headphones. McWilliams, who produced the disc, and was assisted in mastering by James Johnson, crafted a dense, multi-layered musical experience. The percussive effects, in particular, echo and resonate deliciously. The drones and washes of keyboards are blended in with the other elements perfectly. Basically, from a technical standpoint, the album is textbook perfect.

From an artistic standpoint, the CD is an amazing and rewarding journey. From the opening crashing sound that ushers in "Dark Moon (initiation)" and morphs into haunting swells of synths and clicking rainsticks to the eleven-plus minute long walk into darkness ending amidst powerful swells of both dissonance and majesty on "Vanishing Terrain," McWilliams is your expert guide on a trip to musical vistas that will evoke images both vast and intimate. Here is a recording you can sink your psychic teeth into; it has tons of substance and will leave you sated (until your next itch to visit these mysterious lands snags you once again). Highly recommended.

Postscript: Worthy of special mention is how this CD is presented and packaged. It is packed in a DVD case, which also contains a collection of photographs taken by McWilliams while on a geologic/photographic hike. The images are sometimes quite startling and they also fit in nicely with how the album got its name.