Remanence: Apparitions

by David J Opdyke, Ambientrance

Gloomy beauty wafts in the lush pseudosymphonic movements of apparitions. An interest in pairing electronics with parapsychology is evident in the attractive packaging and comes forth in the disc's haunting compositions, which transcend mere musicality by sparse touches of experimentalism. remanence are Brian McWilliams (bass, drums, keyboards, programming, piano, shortwave radio and tape treatments) and John Phipps (acoustic & e-bow guitar, drums, keyboards, percussion, piano and tape treatments).

The droning brass and stirring stringsounds (with buried spoken words) of apparitions lead into the mediavalistic thunder of drums and lilting woodwinds of lovely The Lack of Permanence; sonorous violin strands churn in single and multiple streams, from a more fluid beginning into a waltzing tapestry of sound, backed by booming drumskins. Piano notes reverberate through Now Can I Feel?, backed by synthchoral drifts.

The achingly bittersweet piano notes and electronic haze of Be Careful What You Wish For embodies yearning, even in the brief shortwave radio transmission. With comparatively funky basslines and more-modern drumming, Violence in Chinatown rings with oriental-ish chimes, and a few samples (in the "was-that-in-the-recording-or-was-it-outside!?!" variety). Grand, adventurous and cinematic, Where the Shadows Lie (6:54) could be an Arthurian soundtrack to a knights-preparing-for-battle scene; rousing drums and strings eventually trail off into an abstract soundcloud which fades.

In The Hurt Heals Slow, soft spoken phrasings in an unknown tongue sound like a faraway memory beneath plaintive ivories, spaciously applied over a hushed void. A rather abbreviated session of bright xylotones filters through an Ominous Sky (0:49). A slowly rippling soundwash comes alive with 3rd Wave's layers of mechanical throbs, drifting synths, plucked guitarstrings... all lovingly rendered.

So lustrous, the more overt illumination of Watched Over By Angels flies dangerously close to new age territories; radiating this feelgood warmth makes for a happier ending perhaps...

Summoning phantasmal images from an unknown past, apparitions blends classical instrument sounds into paranormal panoramas of subdued majesty. The moving neo-orchestral arrangements of remanence are morose, but not morbid; these 8.5 tracks would perfectly accent a cold autumn day, a stormy night or your own candlelit quarters.

by Ken Wronkiewicz, Gearheads

A mysterious album. It is difficult to classify Remanence as any specific genre of music. Filled with synthesizers, classical instruments, acoustic and bowed guitars, and tape treatments, Remanence could best be called experimental instrumental music, mostly because experimental is such a wide category to begin with.

Brian McWilliams and John Phipps comprise the major instrumental and creative center of the band. Aided by three other instrumentalists, they produce an atmospheric album that still manages to grab your attention without vocals or a major instrumental hook. Some songs create a definite texturing effect while others are less subtle. As a whole, the differences in songs over the entire album work with each other, like acts in a play.

Remanence are also fascinated with the supernatural. The liner notes consist of pages and diagrams copied out of books on supernatural activities. The cover sets the mood. Underneath the ricepaper cover, there is a picture of a translucent form descending a staircase.

Of the thirteen songs on the album, three stand out as being the most memorable. The Lack of Performance is almost a marching song. Its groove is driving and powerful. Violence in Chinatown features an oriental beat matched with weird synthesizer sounds. Finally, Where the Shadows Lie reprises the military beat in The Lack of Performance with a completely different song.

The music has no vocals, however, elevator music this is not. Almost an hour of music is on Apparitions and each song is an individual creation. Each song is complex and multifaceted. Truly, like the liner notes warn, "Some unexplained sounds may reveal themselves after repeated listenings."

My recommendation? A wonderfully subtle collection of music. This album is great for sitting in an easy chair with a book.

by Gordon Taylor, Infectious Unease Radio

Remanence are from the USA. The band consists of two members, Brian McWilliams (bass, drums, keyboards, programming, piano, percussion, short wave radio, tape treatments) and John Phipps (acoustic and e-bow guitar, Drums, keyboards, percussion, piano, tape treatment). "Apparitions" is a beautiful CD for relaxing the mind, allowing the listener to sink into the realms of the subconscious. It consists of dark ambient, native and refreshing natural soundscapes.

"Apparitions" features samples of Ted Serios, the man who tried to capture his imagination on camera. It also consists of march-like drum beats and ambient sounds mixed with string instruments. I would describe the entire composition as a dark ambient soundscape that allows the listener to feel a variety of emotions and experience a diversity of images.

"The 1st Wave" is a combination of north American Indian drum beats, saxophones and keyboards. This was an enlightening, superb composition that allowed me to visualise ghost-like images on a forsaken moor.

Another touching composition, "Where The Shadows Lie", has a medieval military sound that brings to mind images of nature coming alive. It consists of percussive drums and keyboard sounds.

All the compositions on this album were outstanding and touching. It is an album to listen to while relaxing, something to ease the mind and the pains of everyday life. "Apparitions" is a album that opens the mind and allows you to feel emotions that you have never felt. It is an album I highly recommend as an addition to your collection.

Judas Kiss

It seems that every now and again an unknown band comes along unexpectedly and presents us with an album that would put many established artists to shame. Apparitions is one such album. From the very first track, you become instantly entwined in the emotively beautiful neo-classical music that ebbs from the speakers. The music contains great depth and a feeling of solitude but with an icy warmth manages to keep you engrossed until the last note leaves the speakers. Although this CD manages to personify the entire feel of a release within this genre, Remanence also add a few little quirks of their own, a military snare, use of radio samples etc, that although are not overly original they execute their inclusion in the layering and structure of the tracks perfectly. I find the music on this release, in some respects, reminiscent to that of In the Nursery, but with a more sullen and melancholic depth to it. The CD comes with a gorgeously printed opaline outer cover which seems to capture the beauty and isolation that the music contains. An excellent release and one that Cold Spring should be proud of and one that admirers of neo-classical music should track down at all costs.

Kansai Time Out (KTO)

Otherwordly is a word that describes well the ethereal atmospheres created by Remanence on their stunning debut CD 'apparitions'. The eye-catching cover of the CD does not misrepresent its contents. Muted tones of grey and sepia envelope images totally in tune with the sound of the album. Even more impressive is the fact that the musicians themselves designed this beautiful sleeve, a work that revolutionary ex-23 Envelope designer and video director Nigel Grierson would be proud of.

Although the sound of the album touches base in the middle-period 4AD camp, paying homage to the original instrumentals of both This Mortal Coil and the 'Medusa' album by Clan of Xymox, it never plunders those ideas and is essentially a startlingly original work. Most of the pieces are instrumentals, although some use seemingly "found" voices that whisper through the textures like ghosts from a world beyond the walls. This appears to be less than a coincidence upon reading the liner notes of the booklet, as Remanence multi-instrumentalists Brian McWilliams and John Phipps have more than a passing interest in the paranormal.

Many of the pieces suggest a longing that is both ominous and comforting but never melancholic. One has the feeling that other forces are at work in this music, as it both pulls on the heart strings and plays with the mind's tendency for nostalgia and reflection, 'The Hurt Heals Slow' being the most obvious example with its filmic use of sparse piano and the voice of a nonchalantly weary speaker. 'Letters From Home' achieves a similar effect from entirely different elements - an orchestral wash and a "choir" beckon the listener into a world of warmth and comfort, an almost spiritual home. None of the musical or vocal motifs should be taken as being dark by design. In fact I believe that the dying stages of the final track, 'Watched Over By Angels', indicate the true direction of the work as a voice asks "What's going to happen?". The answer - "Something wonderful".

A definite recommendation.


Debuts don't come much more impressive than this. Remanence, Cold Spring's new American discovery, are an elegantly experimental neo-Classical act whose style embraces elements as diverse as snare drums, piano, guitar, radio feedback, cello and saxophone. The theme of this gorgeously packaged album is ghostly manifestations and the afterlife, with the booklet describing various scientific attempts to contact the dead and thanking a university parapsychology department for their assistance.

While one might reasonably expect a bleak and sinister interpretation of such a theme, 'Apparitions' is sumptuous, joyful and deeply spiritual, reflective rather than depressing. The use of obviously sampled voices to the complete exclusion of live vocals gives the music both humanity and a solemn sense of detachment, further heightened by the crackling radio hunting in vain for a signal. Musically, Remanence are somewhere between The Protagonist, In the Nursery and our own Seventh Harmonic, working symphonically with all of the instruments in the best classical manner, but with the addition of experimental electronic and smoky jazz touches that are all their own - including saxophone solos! Their sound has such a strong cohesive character and the musicians and composers so versatile that they can change style radically even within the same track, flowing between quasi-military march, piano or string driven lament, dark ambient or even Mortiis-like droning keyboards effortlessly and gracefully.

Remanence are quite simply brilliant. If your tastes are catholic enough to match their wide-ranging and emotional style you will adore this album.

by Nicolas, Recycle Your Ears

"Apparitions" is the first release from the band Remanence. Re-release of a previous demo of the band, it's also the first one on which this american duo use their new band name, giving up the name of "Arcana", already taken by a famous oher neoclassical Swedish act.

"Apparitions" is a conceptual record, focusing on the theme of ghosts and spirits of the deceased coomunicating with the living. The booklet cover, amazing, as the texts taken from various psychology reviews, deals with this topic. The music, very calm and filled with melancholia, fits very well this theme. Very slow soundscapes overlayed by fine piano melodies and some drumming constitute the basis of Remanence's music. The mood invite you to think of these old black and white postcards from the beginning of the century, or of some forgotten relics from a dead relative, kept somewhere safe and dusty.

The tracks of the CD, even if they all basically have the same rhythms, differs in the instrument used. Synthetic tunes are present throught the record, but a bass or some real drumming bring some variations on some songs, like the Changelings-like "Violence in Chinatown".

It is obvious that this band has been influenced by Dead Can Dance and In The Nursery, but Remanence manages to writes some very fine music, which deserves that anybody in this scene pay them attention. Their piano lines are among the finest (for example on the sad "Be careful what you wish for", my favorite song of the CD), and their use of stranges samples (probably from some experiment with ghosts) give a very pleasant mood to the whole.

by Chris Christian, Sonic Boom

This is the debut album from a musical project from my home town by the name of Remanence. The majority of the material on this album is brand new. Only three tracks appeared on an obscure self-released cassette EP and all of the tracks have been remixed and remastered on this new album. Musically the band has strong ties with the likes of In The Nusery with their use of snare drums and stringed instruments. Many of the tracks contain acoustic drums and other instrumentation rather then their sampled counterparts. Other tracks favor strong usage of samples either derived from natural sources such as rain, or more modern sources such as shortwave radio. For the most part the music is totally devoid of any vocal work, yet does contain an occasional vocal sample buried in the mix. Also included with the album are extensive liner notes on a variety of scientific and parapsychological methods of obtaining and recording sound. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this release is that it was totally self designed from the music and engineering to the layout and design of the liner notes. This release is definitely something that classical, industrial, ambient, and experimental fans alike should listen to simply for the sheer quality of the end product.

Spectrum Issue 4

From the brilliant packaging (sepia toned booklet with transparent over wrap) to the compositional tunes (premier neo-classics) everything here is top notch. The music spans 13 tracks of stunning, emotive beauty, which appear to take vision and inspiration from ghosts and afterlife phenomenon, rather than being produced under a militant guise of many other artists in this genre. Parallels could be drawn to some of Shinjuku Thief's albums, or perhaps the works of Ontario Blue or Ildfrost. Orchestral passages, piano interludes, and classical percussion are just some of the elements to be found. In regard to specific tracks, '1st Wave' appears to have captured the depressive pulse of time in its core essence - a sweeping of classically inspired keyboard layers, clarinet and partly tribal (treated) beat, all perfectly understated. 'Be careful what you wish for' is not as sinister as the title would imply, and features a slow piano melody with the accompanying background sound of a rainstorm (however, the title is obviously referencing crackly vocal sample asking ' there anyone on the air?'). 'Where the Shadows Lie' sees the adoption of a militant guise containing striking percussion and both shrill and brooding string/brass accompaniment (although is probably the track where the synthetic elements are most recognisable). With combinations of instrumentation ranging from the real to the synthesized, overall it assists in the sound having an authentic vibe rather than if the whole album was keyboard generated. The flow of the album is likewise quite stunning, navigating slow depressive (almost dark ambient) pieces to more mid-paced neo-classical percussive works, meaning that there is never danger of this album being one dimensional or derivative. Additionally, when selected segments are repeated throughout the album, they appear to be echoing fragments of time and emotion (such as with '1st Wave' being repeated as '3rd Wave', but now resplendent with acoustic guitar). Not much else to say but search this out.

by Mattias Petersson, Surrealistic Zine

This is an album from an american band called Remanence. I must say that this album has become one of my favorites in the genre lately. I started listening to it very much about a month after I got my hands on it. And now I can't stop listening to it! This is just such a versatile album, shifting in both tempo and style. It ranges from the classical strings with almost military-style drums on the second track of the album, to the slower, beautiful piano parts on later tracks. The music also gives a great quality feel and it never sounds cheap the way many albums do in this style of music.. Also there are some sounds from movies or something like that cut in to the music in a very nice way. Usually I'm no fan of that, but here it fits the music perfectly and adds even more to the atmosphere. Very subtle and also the clips are very well chosen. For musical references i would say this sounds quite a lot like In The Nursery, which in my opinion is a very good thing.

I think this is a very recommended album to anyone liking the neo-classical genre with all it has to offer. This is a very modern and up-to-date album which still contains the elements that makes classical music grand. Alongside The Protagonist's A Rebours this is probably my favourite album in this genre. I rate it 8/10

by Troy Southgate, Synthesis

THIS beautiful recording is almost like some kind of Light Ambient synthesis between The Phantom of the Opera and BBC testcard musak. Apparations - the brainchild of Brian McWilliams and John Phipps - is a great title, too, because if this CD was judged purely on appearences it would win the affections of most punters hands down. Its outer covering is a unique opaline design which slightly obscures the spectral centrepiece of the cover itself. Ghostly images, in fact, are utilised as the very theme of this initiative and the sleeve notes allude to man's scientific quest to open up and explore the gateways between our own domain and the hidden dimensions of the spirit world. Characters like Ted Serios, who is said to have transferred his thought-patterns into tangible images on videotape; Ingo Swann, who could alter the temperature of distant objects; and an obsession with diodes, circuits, aerials, microphone recordings, sound frequencies and a whole range of psychical monitoring devices. But what of the duo's own sound techniques?

The title track opens with a drone-infested discourse on electromagnetic energy and the visual representation of the soul after death, using as its serenic centrepiece the appearence of a ghostly figure upon a stately Victorian staircase.

The rat-a-tat of snares which follows underscores a mellow-cello interlude known as The Lack of Permanence, which has a crisp waltz-like serenity all of its own.

Now I Can Feel is a slightly faster piano piece, with a sustained electronic chorus emanating from the keyboards until its echoed climax.

Next up comes 1st Wave which, apart from the slow saxophone, has a distant but slightly frenetic drumbeat which reminds me somewhat of the excellent film soundtrack to The Mission.

In a torrent of rain and thunder comes Be Careful What You Wish For, a plodding melody in which the dreamy piano creates a feel of true peace and contentment. The references to a silent airwave frequency around which, presumably, a group of psychical investigators are gathered in anticipation of contact with the Occult plane, bears a quiet confidence which somehow heightens the feeling of tranquility.

Violence In Chinatown is slightly more upbeat, although not quite in the way that its fierce title appears to suggest. REMANENCE have used a very deep tenor sax on this one, interspersed with what sounds like an irate chef from your local Chinese Takeaway before concluding with the marching footsteps of an army on the move. The Red Army, perhaps?

Brutality is another vehement title but, once again, lacks the musical connotations which are implied. In fact the only violence on this track appears to be taking place on the dolphinesque whistles and shrieks of a short wave radio. But another great track, nevertheless, and followed by an even better one.

Where the Shadows Lie could match ENDURA or PUISSANCE at their very best, conjuring up a cross-section of military snares with an ear-splitting kettle drum pounding away in the background. In an electronic sense it is very reminiscent of DEPECHE MODE. Play this one at full volume.

The Hurt Heals Slow begins with an unusual linguistic recitation which, given my own ignorance of foreign languages could be the angelic or Enochian utterances of John Dee for all I know.

A mere 49 seconds in length, Ominous Sky contains the hollow, tinkering of hammers upon a wooden xylophone.

This is followed by 3rd Wave, similar to the percussion-laden 1st Wave but with the addition of an acoustic guitar, rumbling backdrop and barely distinquishable speech.

Letters From Home employs the crackling effects of needle upon vinyl to announce its dramatically uplifting surge of keyboards. The alluring nature of this track proves that electromagnetism amounts to far more than a scientific term.

Finally, Watched Over By Angels is a combination of light Noise and rhythmic Ambient, the former drawn from yet more soul-searching on short wave radio. Great ending, too: 'What's going to happen? Something wonderful.'

Rather like this CD which, overall, may be described as VANGELIS meets KRAFTWERK with a couple of BRIAN ENO cocktails thrown in for good measure.