by Jim Brenholts, Ambient Navigator
Lamkhyer is a three-inch EP from Remanence - Brian McWilliams and John Phipps. It is also a set of Tibetan slogans that refer to the path of life and to the individual being the sum of all his/her experiences. The electro-tribal atmospheres are mystical and dark. Brian and John approach these slogans from a "tabla rasa" perspective. They have no preconceived notions about the tenets. The title track, a deep rhythmic desert ambient piece, is slated to be on their debut CD - A Strange Constellation of Events. Tracks two and three - "K'an (the Abyss)" and "The Leftward Path" - are unique to this EP and set a tone for Brian and John. They will not allow themselves to be tied to one style. The entire EP has electro-tribal elements. Each piece, however, has its own distinct personality and panache. This is a very nice set [ and ] sets the table for the CD. Listeners [ should ] have high expectations for the debut CD... I would compare this to Ma Ja Le, Tuu, Biff Johnson, Kelly David and Terra Ambient.
by David J Opdyke, Ambientrance
We haven't heard from Brian McWilliams and John Phipps since Apparitions (reviewed here March, 2001); it's great to be able to hear [ them ] again even though it's a teasingly small (20:14) package (though gorgeously designed for a 3-tracker). Here their lush synthtronic sound is even richer, not to mention injected with more rhythmic elements and tantalizingly ominous moods. Swelling in from faraway places, hovering strings are embedded with gradually-growing (and slightly-ethnocized) drums and chimes as they become lovely, moody Lamkhyer (9:10).
Ringing bells reverberate slowly over K'an (the abyss) (5:26), a low, drifting passage of beatless dronestreams. Taking The Leftward Path, one is surrounded by a gauzey ebb-and-flow of delicate mists, which is in turn penetrated by a rhythm that is downtempo-yet-tribalesque, rising in intensity as the background flows churn more deeply, darkly. Fortunately, these tracks are a prelude to an upcoming album which we most eagerly await. A-
by Jeremy Keens, Ampersand Etcetera
Brian McWilliams and John Phipps have been working together for almost a decade, and have put out this ep as a prelude to a new album A Strange Constellation of Events. When Brian emailed me he said it was 'decked out in artsy packaging' and he is right. A tracing paper band encloses the brown card sleeve, which has a soft printing of reeds in water that looks like pencil strokes; two panels open up, details printed on one, to an essay on Lamkhyer, with the cd in a sleeve which has been folded down over the middle panel with a Tibetan mandala - the website has images which are probably more fulfilling than my poor description, either way it is a very attractive package designed by Phipps using a photo by McWilliams.
The music is appropriately delightful. 'Lamkhyer' opens with soft deep pulses of sound with light clattering that grows into a slow ambience - deep tones well, a high tone melody wanders over with a gentle percussion and water sounds. A beat enters and provides a restrained push as it moves nicely to a slow fade. It suggests the album will contain some well constructed tribal/ambience.
With 'K'an (the abyss)' a third member enters - EM who is the Experimental Method, applying some random events. There are animal sounds and lovely deep building tones and crackles and percussive bells - the random aspects is not overt, but seems to be in the appearance of some of the highlights. 'The Leftward Path' gradually emerges with a high tonal wash and a rolling beat that is relaxed and moving.
A tempting taste of [ a ] future release, the non-album half of this, together with its lovely presentation, makes this a very appealing object.
by Al, Aural Pressure
Presentation is everything. Go into any posh restaurant and you'll find the 'so far up their own arses' cooks serving up a portion of peas in the shape of a fucking pyramid surrounded with some indescribable red sauce. Style over substance? You bet. "Lamkhyer" doesn't, thankfully, fall into this category. You can't eat it for a start. Actually you could if you fancied a trip to A&E but I take it none of you reading this are 'Care in the Community' outpatients.
Here the presentation in the packaging is used to show the attention to detail that has gone into this latest recording from Remanence. The 3" CD comes housed in a piece of foldout cardboard, with diagrams and information regarding the meaning of "Lamkhyer', and held together by a banded piece of plastic that screams out 'quality'. "Lamkhyer" is the follow up recording to "Apparitions" which appeared on the Cold Spring label. A quick story. "Apparitions" is the only recording that my brother has ever liked from my collection that he actually requested a copy of. Note: that's copy as in buy him one and not burn him one onto CDR. I swear on my mothers life this is true.
The first track on the CD 'Lamkhyer' is a rhythmic undulating piece of gentle percussion and subtle oscillating electronics which is worth the price of the CD alone. Track two 'K'an' is more experimental and deep in nature with chiming bells and a more threatening disposition sound wise. Finally 'The leftward path' completes the recording with processed loops, beats and electronics and is a fitting conclusion to the recording. You don't need to read about 'Lamkhyer', 'K'an' or 'The leftward path' to enjoy the music but I would recommend that you do as through this awareness you'll realise what Remanence has sought and managed to achieve.
"Lamkhyer" is a natural progression on from "Apparitions" and, although having just over 20 minutes of music on the cd is so beautifully executed and crafted that you'll forgive them the brevity.
by Hans Dinkelberg, Funprox
This is the second release by Remanence, after their debut album "Apparitions" (Cold Spring, 1999). And this 3" mini cd, released on their own mPath label, even surpasses that album in design. It comes in a wonderful earth tone cardboard booklet. Where the previous album dealt with ghostlike apparitions, this time eastern spirituality is on the menu: "In Tibetan [ there is a ] group of slogans known as lamkhyer: lam meaning 'path' and khyer meaning 'carrying.' In other words, whatever happens in your life should be included as part of your journey... Whatever happens, you don't [ have to ] react to it..."
Off to the music then. This mini cd contains 3 long tracks, with a total playing time of 20 minutes. Compared to the previous album, the songs are slower built up and longer spun out. The music is less classical ... in style, but has more stress on ambient elements, reminding [ me ] more of Peter Andersson and Vidna Obmana than In the Nursery. Again there is a nice mixture of electronic and acoustic instruments, combined with field recordings and samples. Whereas the previous release felt like a journey in time, now I have the feeling I am travelling geographically, to distant places, of which it is unclear if they actually exist. A new element in the music is the more prominent presence of percussion and rhythm. This is especially the case in the last song 'The Leftward Path', which gives it a ritual, tribal character. The percussion starts as a background element, surrounded by a mist of other sounds, but it soon intensifies and creates a feeling of movement, making me want to hit on some drums to...
The long title track starts with a dark ambient atmosphere and deep drones, in the best Lustmord tradition. Soon synth layers and subtle layers of percussion join in the background. The overall effect is dreamlike, making you drift away. This is enhanced by the watery sounds you hear dripping now and then. Throughout this song there seems to be a tension between lighter and darker forces, sinister and smooth elements fight for the dominant spot. Towards the end of the 9-minute track the percussion comes more to the foreground, before calming down again with some soft strings and synths. The water really starts flowing on track 2, 'K'an (the abyss)'. Estranging sounds and dark drones create an intriguing atmosphere, in which you can let yourself float... Now and then you are woken up from your hypnosis through little bells. The longer you listen to this and the other songs, the more elements and sounds you notice...
This excellent mini cd is a nice taster for the upcoming Remanence album "A Strange Constellation of Events".
by Richard Gurtler, Bratislava, Slovak Republic
I will nail it straightly, releases such as "Lamkhyer" are the main reason, why I am a nut when it goes to collecting physical releases. Yeah, this is a really great example of a true collector's item, and no matter if available as a pro CDr and not as a glass mastered edition. But the story behind this release is much broader, as the original "Lamkhyer" edition was released back in 2002 on mPATH Records as a 3 track 3" CDr, packaged in a beautifully unique earth tone booklet. Nowadays out of print title. So visual and aural delight was already delivered 13 years ago, but now, Brian McWilliams and John Phipps, the both protagonists behind Remanence, shift "Lamkhyer" into a brand new artful level, again exceptionally crafted and polished in all details. Out since the end of March 2015 on Resonant Effects (mPATH Records' successor), expanded into a 8-track version featuring remastered original tracks and additional outtakes, mixes and demos from that same time period. And on the top of all that, newly repackaged in 5" x 5" real to real tape box with 6-panel gatefold booklet with extensive liner notes, 6 gorgeous black & white wintery photographs (taken by Brian McWilliams in 2001 at Asylum Lake, near Kalamazoo, MI) secured by a velum wrapper and printed velum sleeve. The box is stamped with its number and hand assembled by the artists and it's released in a limited edition of 100 copies.
Remastered version of the title track "Lamkhyer" ignites the ride. In Tibetan, Lamkhyer can be divided in two words, path and carrying, and its meaning can be translated as anything happens in your life should be included as a part of your journey. 9-plus minutes long piece dives into stunningly enigmatic terrains, meticulously merging intricately undulating drones with light percussive tribal essences, lush organic artifacts and transient flute reminiscences, all ingeniously equilibrated into a mesmerizingly transporting listening bliss, deliberately connecting primordial with artifical. Bravo, Brian & John!!! "K'an, The Abyss" is another composition from the initial release, again revisited and remastered with the most current tools. The piece masterfully merges perplexingly tiding and helixing drifts with ear-tickling contemplative tinkles and soothingly embracing biotic traceries, all magnificently surrounded by awe-inspiring abysmal sceneries. Immerse yourself into these deeply fascinating soundworlds!!! This intriguingly flavored journey continues also with "The Left Hand Path", firstly delving briefly into eerily unfathomable depths, but soon warmer panoramic washes sneak in along with gently rumbling tribal downtempos, which quickly steal the show and persistently keep on heightening. This is the third and last piece from the original EP, again remastered. "Reflecting Pool" is a resurrected demo version of the track, which appeared on Remanence's "A Strange Constellation Of Events" album in 2005 (another top-notcher from these guys!!!). It follows the darker path, hauntingly meandering, yet much reverberatively magnified and bleakly rough when comparing with the version from the above mentioned album. "Nocturne" is a longer variant of another piece from "A Strange Constellation Of Events" and the listener is taken deeply into mysteriously adventurous terrains, where meditative gong-infused realms are continuously contrasted with permeating transcendental stratum and disharmonious outbursts. Wow, this an uniquely colored tapestry!!! "Lamkhyer" is back again, this time in the original demo version, which is shorter than the title piece, this one clock just over 6-minute mark. It's slightly rawer, by far more desolately droning, both flat and sinuous, without the tribal and organic parts. And now we can even recognize some ghostly voices hanging above. "K'an, The Deep" is a slightly longer version, as much enigmatic and even more, peculiarly mindscaping with its heavier drone currents. "The Left Hand Path" is an alternate edition, which was remixed especially for this release. The arsenal of percussions seems to paint extra intense hypnotic circles in this one, before tranquilly dissolving into concluding silence.
I should also mention that additional credits are given to Michelle McWilliams (recorder on "Lamkhyer") and Experimental Method (I-Ching text, co-writing "K'an, The Abyss" and K'an, The Deep", random events). Overall, this is a really nice, 48-minute long upgrade of the original "Lamkhyer" edition unveiling some rare recordings with fully-packed artful presentation. Certainly a dream for each true collector!!! With this in mind, don't miss also Aperus' 2013 reissue of "Tumbleweed Obfuscated By Camera Failure" pro CDr edition, originally released back in 2003. Aperus is a solo project of Brian McWilliams. And by the way, he has in the pipeline another beauty, remastered and expanded reissue of 2004 "Hinterland", an out of print 5-track mini album by Aperus, which will feature additional two tracks. I think both, Remanence and Aperus, are strongly underrated projects, unfortunately, there is no justice in this industry. So in case these names are brand new to you, I urgently recommend to give a try to these skilled artists, they really deserve much wider audience!!! So do it now and make the scene more fair, I bet you, you won't regret!!! Last but not least, keep on going, Brian & John, my ears and eyes are always ready for more, distinctively exquisite sonic and visual bliss!!!
Richard Gurtler (Aug 17, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)
by Andre Lefebvre, In The Quiet
QUOTE: "In Tibetan, there is a group of slogans known as lamkhyer: lam meaning 'path' and khyer meaning 'carrying.' In other words, whatever happens in your life should be included as part of your journey... Whatever happens, you don't [have to] react to it..." - Trungpa, Chogyam, Training the Mind.
I received this CD today, Lamkhyer, by Remanence, and felt I had to share a review about this unique band I just discovered... it was about time!
From the packaging to the unveiling to the offering to the "remanence", it was a blessed ritual, with moments of joyful discovery, with rich meditative overtones.
In keeping with the concept of a journey into spontaneity, exaltation of a transcendent origin beyond our ability to notice or measure a brush of the numinous in events or actions, I sat down to write these lines while listening to Lamkhyer, the latest pre-release from Remanence.
The name Remanence itself is one of inspiration, revelation, visitation, touch or imprint, the effects of which carry on after the experience, lingering around like the aura of a fragrance. "When certain materials are exposed to a powerful magnetic field, traces of that influence may remain in the object, even after the field has been removed. These traces are termed Remanence."
Presentation is everything, they say, and in this case, Remanence is presenting a well-thought of artistic concept that one cannot ignore: it's "spiritual art." The promo CD itself was packaged in a fine work of visual art, the colors are earthy, the tones are pastels, the CD is 3" wide and cleverly wrapped within a heavy cardboard envelop, brown, tied on the outside by a thin line of clear rice-like paper.
The CD contains 3 pieces, totaling about 20 minutes. The process of creativity involved an openness to directions from a source other than mere inspiration: "Chance and randomness were treated as valued collaborators, used to select intervals, notes, sounds and direction." Lamkhyer is a pre-release, or "sub-text", the only piece here destined to an upcoming album, "A Strange Constellation of Events". The other 2 pieces on the CD are unique to this collection.
Lamkhyer, offers a focused tension that is at once arresting and enjoyable. But not as a recreational reference. There is an intention in the music, a distinct flow. I would paraphrase the piece with the term "a piercing through". Although all three songs carry similar sounds, they are used in a different way in each, and one can realize the journey-like quality of their essence.
It flows into a valley of experiences of the soul, somewhat familiar as well as strange, finally reaching the other side in a welcomed release, which I particularly enjoyed. Using a mature and personal combination of sounds, Remanence's Brian MCWilliams and John Phipps, developed the "story-line" through means of random synchronicity, and it is marvelously mapped as a unified body.
The textures are strong, dense and full, and there are none of those annoying harmonics that sometimes rip the fabric of the aural sonic "membrane," breaking the spell, making one pull away from the speaker or reach for the level knob.
The suggestion of Tibetan Buddhism is dubbed "subtle" by Remanence, but one cannot miss the trademark Tibetan Bells, the Dung drone and vocal references to guttural monk singing. This being said, these are tastefully incorporated in the music in a most effective and justifiable way, and each song uses them differently.
K'an and The Leftward Path, both working clay and experimental playgrounds for the more refined Lamkhyer, stand on their own as well as the former. Although a bit cruder to my ear, it is not without wild beauty and evocation, and vital dynamics. The energy of the percussions in The Leftward Path will surprise you as they imprint a determination that is both enchanting and inviting to the journey.
A work of great interest and obvious passion, a crossroads for a call to a deeper path, an enjoyable soundtrack to meditation, Lamkhyer carries the seeds of a great upcoming album in "A Strange Constellation of Events". Remanence brings to the world a mature musicianship and inspiration, and a brilliant frugality that reflects insight and "devotion", as alive as the art of calligraphy and ink drawing would be in some Asian cultures... the sharing of their quest is our blessing...
[This review has not been solicited and reflects my first impressions, fresh, spontaneous, and I hope it will inspire you to know more about Remanence, visit their website, and encourage their work through buying their albums.]
by Richard di Santo, Incursion Music Review
Remanence is the collaborative project between Brian McWilliams and John Phipps. This three-track EP, released on their own mPATH label, serves as a prelude to a forthcoming album, A Strange Constellation of Events, to be released at some point in the near future. Remanence make ethno-ambient music in the mould of the masters, Steve Roach, Vidna Obmana, Mathias Grassow et al., whose respective influences on the genre are by now quite recognisable. Smooth, drifting ambience, dark undercurrents, a babbling brook, a compelling rhythm for hand percussion, shakers and drum loops, chiming bells that provide a feeling of ritual, of spiritualism, suggesting something beyond man's reach, beyond rationality... ok, so that's the goal, anyway. Ethno-ambient music has never quite succeeded in transporting me to such heights, and yet when the music is well done, when there's an attention to detail and a certain tension in the sounds, I start paying attention and allow the sounds to wash over me in good order. That being said, these are three nice pieces presented here, nothing very original, nothing significantly new being brought to the table already filled with similar servings, but they certainly do a good job of it. So let's watch out for future offerings from this duo, who are sure to present something sonically rich and evocative in the very near future.
After the phenomenal full length debut on Cold Spring, Remanence are back with a suitably stunning follow up that takes the shape of a twenty plus minutes 3" CD 'Lamkhyer'. Housed in a beautifully designed card sleeve come folder that harks back, in both design and presentation, to their pre-cold Spring days, and the 'Premonition' cassette, comes three tracks that although differ marginally from their work on 'Apparitions', in that it's not quite as instantly full on neo-classicalism, are quite simply breathtaking. The sheer depth of beautifully constructed ambient structures are flooded with subtle washes of classical instrumentation and an ethnic element that is presented in the timely and very fitting percussion. The opening opus and EP title 'Lamkhyer' bridges the gap between Apparitions and this release perfectly, with its dreamlike qualities that are awash with such atmosphere and emotion that you simply can't help but be moved by it, as it flows timelessly from the speakers, creating not only an air of outstanding beauty but also one of great solitude and despair, with the two opposite emotions playing off each other, ying and yang like, but yet creating a perfectly matched final sound and atmosphere. This dark yet compelling aura slowly fades into 'K'an (the abyss), the second and equally stunning track, which this time takes on a more dark ambient feel, before gliding into 'The Leftward path', the third and final composition, which again like the opening track adopts a more ethnic feel due to the percussion, which this time takes on a more aggressive feel by becoming the more dominant element whilst the beautifully moving ambient sculptures continue to flourish beneath them. A simply stunning release that promises to be a prelude to their forthcoming album 'A strange Constellation of Events', which if this is anything to go by will be as good if not better than their debut. My only query about this release and Remanence is why in gods name did Cold Spring not release it and why haven't they been picked up by one of the other major labels in the scene, because when music is this bloody good, it quite simply can't be overlooked. LP+
by Elizabeth Clark, Kalamazoo Gazette
The instrumental pitter-patter of Remanence is perfect day-spa music. The muscles start to relax just looking at the minimalist cardboard-and-velum packaging.
The enigmatic music-making collaborative recently released "Lamkhyer," a 3-inch CD featuring three works from the album "A Strange Constellation of Events," on which the title track "Lamkhyer" is scheduled to appear.
It's the sort of spooky side of New Age that David Lynch goes ga-ga for, and you can just picture the lady in the radiator from "Eraserhead" dancing to "The Leftward Path" at her senior prom. Found sounds -- water trickles, rattles and "random events" -- and percussive and keyboard savvy join together lushly and the many layers don't overwhelm one another or seem to compete.
The resulting ultra-ambient sound is much like Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil and others associated with the 4AD record label, but considerably more subdued. Who knew that was possible?
Remanence is Brian McWilliams and John Phipps, both of whom perform on keyboards, percussion, drum loops and sample manipulation. McWilliams also contributes vocal "tones" and Phipps pitches in with shortwave and 12' tuned resonator, while Michelle McWilliams guests on recorder.
A soothing ambient daydream ... Remanence's [ Lamkhyer] is a good thing in a small package.
by Bert Strolenberg, KLEM Magazine
This is the third very nice and originally packaged release of Remanence alias the ambient duo Brian McWilliams and John Phipps who have been abled to take a prolific dive into the deep end of Tibetan-inspired music. In a way, this is what other musicians like to call in-the-moment-music: music born at the very instant without any borders or limitations, just the outcome of the way things happen.
"Lamkhyer" is the 1st and longest track of the album, delving into some of the same tribal-oriented realms as Vidna Obmana & fellow-musician Steve Roach have been composing a while back, but this duo seems to add some more mysterious undercurrents to it. Hypnotising circling rhythm-structures and soaring synthwashes merge in an awesome way. "K'an" gets in slighly more experimental and harder to understand territory. You can almost feel something foreboding in the slowly morphing drones and creepy fx's fused into it.
"Lefward Path" forms the conclusion of this Ep; again a mid-tempo tribal percussion leading the way for darkened synth-textures before the percussion starts to build bit by bit, without getting out of pace...
Lamkhyer is a mini-album worth to be felt with every spin in your cd-player. Without a doubt it will appeal to fans who love the tribal-infused side of Roach, Rich, Obmana, Parsons and alike.
by Gabrielle Kielich, Music Revue
It may only last for twenty minutes and thirteen seconds, but sometimes, that's all you need. Remanence's ambient, soothing instrumental vibe is equivalent to a very nice massage. The music works as a pair of strong hands, hypnotizing the mind and the body. Suddenly, all the stress that has been building from canceled trips and non-DVD ready TV's is cleansed away. Ahhh can you feel that? The three-song EP is exquisitely produced, giving major label artists a run for their technical money. Equally cool is the packaging on the CD. Since presentation is sometimes the selling point, the decision to wrap the disc in a tiny, earth-toned, incense-esque package was a bonus. The artwork is simplistic and appropriate, creating a mood before the music even starts. Don't be deceived by the tiny, downsized CD found inside--on it is a truly unique sound.
by Rik Maclean, Ping Things CD Reviews
The release "Lamkhyer" by Remanence is packaged with a set of quotations which, in my mind, serve as reference points for the material contained within. One defines the term Lamkhyer as a Tibetan train of thought which gives it's students "a sense of dignity and forbearance so you are not so easily disturbed by life's obstacles". The second refers to K'an, defined by the I Ching as "a plunging in", explaining "it is a situation in which a man is in the same pass as the water in a ravine, and, like the water, he can escape if he behaves correctly." The third and final quotation details the idea of The Leftward Path, the journey that is taken by the individual who is true to their own heart rather than to the needs of a community.
These three quotes provide the basis for the three songs contained on the disc, each piece reflecting the ideas and themes noted above. Opening track "Lamkhyer" features strong, confident tones washing over the listener offset by lush tidal pads overtop a growing percussive pattern. "K'an (the abyss)" portrays a dark liquid flow underneath simple melodies made by minimal ringing tones that slowly create a sense of order within chaos. The closing piece "The Leftward Path", builds from emptiness with a deep wash of pads, bright rhythms gaining strength throughout the track suggesting ritual and ceremony rather than the order of day to day life.
By including the aforementioned quotes, Remanence successfully guides the listener in terms of their understanding of the pieces, directing them towards a certain ideal and a particular train of thought associated with the music. Truly enlightening work that appeals on both cerebral and appreciative levels, "Lamkhyer" by Remanence is a fascinating collection of music who's influence will long remain with it's listeners.
by Matt Howarth, Sonic Curiosity
Remanence is Brian McWilliams and John Phipps. This 3-inch CD EP from 2002 features 20 minutes of dreamy electronics that serves a prelude and subtext to the band's upcoming "A Strange Constellation of Events" full-length CD release (meaning that only one of the EP's three tracks will be on the album).
Expect stately ambience conspiring with sedate drumming and sweeping tonalities to produce an ethereal landscape of mists encountered on a hillside climb. Deeply resounding electronics swell and recede, punctuating the mix with their ominous presence. Rattles shimmer unseen in the vapors, adding an eerie flavor to the sighing harmonics.
The music's mood is a somber one, but richly tinged with anticipation. Blending Steve Roach influences with classical sensibilities, Remanence achieves a calm that evokes majestic panoramas as witnessed from high altitude vantage points.
by Niels Mark Pedersen, Vital Weekly, #358
After the well-acclaimed debut album "Apparations" Remanence have this time reduced the efforts into three tracks lasting approximately 20 minutes. Apparently this beautifully cardboard-packaged three inch sized CD is the first sign of a new up-coming full-length album titled "A Strange Constellation of Events". Brian McWilliams and John Phipps, the duo behind Remanence create an effective mixture of spiritual ambient and tribal percussion with some strong ethnic influence. Title-track "Lamkhyer" opens the set with various hand percussion and wind instruments that penetrate the soundscapes of dark drones. Smooth, drifting and mysterious. On second track "K'an (the abyss)" the listener is confronted with some Tibetan bell ringing that in its own subtle way intensify the dark and eerie expression on this, the album's most non-tribal track. Final track "The leftward path" is the most percussive with some mid-tempo rhythmic textures that reminds of earlier works by Steve Roach. "Leftward path" is also the brightest and most tuneful track where the two previous tracks moved deeply into dark and gloomy territories. "Lamkhyer" is a Tibetan slogan saying that whatever happens in your life must be included as a part of your journey. In that sense I advise any listener of ethno-ambient to include this brilliant CD-EP as a part of their ongoing musical explorations. Especially admirers of Steve Roach and Vidna Obmana will appreciate this work a lot!
by Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire
"Lamkhyer" from Remanence (the duo of Brian McWilliams and John Phipps) is the second fantastic EP I've heard in recent months (the first was Ben Swire's "Equilibrium"). But where Swire explored forlorn urban electronica, Remanence's "Lamkhyer" is an excursion into assorted ambient-tribal and dark floating soundscapes comprised of both ethereal and primal elements. Comparisons abound. In fact, in the liner notes to the special version of the CD (meant for radio airplay since the "official" version is a 3-inch CD) the artists themselves bring up contemporaries such as Steve Roach, Vidna Obmana, Brian Eno, and Roach and Vir Unis (depending on what track is reference in the notes).
Before even listening to the CD, though, you're in for a treat because this is a beautiful CD to just open and examine, packaged in a brown-tone sturdy parchment-like paper sleeve that is elaborately folded yet not in the least bit pretentious or confusing. Liner notes are copious and are a must-read, since the song titles' meanings come into play (everything appears to be focused on various tenets of Zen spirituality). I could go into this aspect of the CD in great detail, but honestly, the artists do a better job of it in the liner notes and on their website. I'll just stick to reviewing the music. I'll merely excerpt this from the Remanence website "In Tibetan [there is a] group of slogans known as lamkhyer: lam meaning 'path' and khyer meaning 'carrying.' In other words, whatever happens in your life should be included as part of your journey... Whatever happens, you don't [have to] react to it..."
There are three tracks on "Lamkhyer". First up is the longest song, which is the title track. Immediate comparisons to the lush yet darkly sensual ambient tribal work of Roach (alone or with either Vidna Obmana or Robert Rich) are obvious. Rainsticks, floating synths, hand percussive effects (wood sticks, rattles, bells), and flute samples (possibly) all snake their way through an undercurrent of dark mysterious drones. The overall effect is both intoxicatingly beautiful and also foreboding and primal. Frame drums enter the song and the power of the track just grows and grows. At a little over nine-minutes, "Lamkhyer" is a tremendous track.
The second song is the non-tribal entry on the EP. "K'an (the Abyss)" has an ominous title and while it has some dark elements, it's also strangely calming. Flowing water gently fades in, along with what sounds like tropical birdsong. A soothing almost melodious drone slowly wafts in while a series of random gentle bell tones are struck and echo into the distance. Minor key shadings to later drones and low register washes contribute to a sense of unease, along with strange heavily-echoed scratching noise effects in the background. Again, while many would find this eerie, for some reason, I think it's more neutral than that (it must be the bell tones).
Ending the album is "The Leftward Path" which signals a return to ambient tribal territory but this time with a hint of Roach's/Vir Unis' fractal groove midtempo rhythms. Ultra-lush synths open the track while alien whirring sounds circle around the periphery. The electronic percussion builds in intensity gradually (actually, everything on this EP builds at a slow pace, which is a big plus as far as I'm concerned). Frame drums are added, along with a few other interesting percussive textures as the track becomes more of an outright tribal tune and less of an excursion into what Roach/Unis refer to as "elegant futurism."
There's not a lot more I can say except that I think this is an outstanding recording and is a must-have for fans of everything from "Soma" (Roach/Rich) to "Blood Machine" (Roach/Unis) to the recordings of Tuu, O Yuki Conjugate, and Temps Perdu. As with any great EP (such as Ben Swire's "Equilibrium") what "Lamkhyer" leaves you with is one thing: a fierce desire for MORE! And if there's a better endorsement for a CD out there than that, I've never read it. Highly recommended - obviously!