“The Separate Ones from our good rM friend Greg alias eyes cast down is a grand journey to inner peace and tranquility. Traditional ambiences, percussion, guitar and voices in a sublime merge.” – Jaja, ambient musician, Köln, Germany.
The maxim that a musician’s first album has taken up his whole lifetime to that point certainly holds true with this release. Taking nearly seven years to compose and record, this debut from eyes cast down is a deeply personal set of reflections on attachment, separation and loss.
From the melancholy solo guitar of First Day Apart, the intensity builds, finally exploding through the requiem piece Like a Riven Cloud, which features a searing performance from violinist Ezra Azmon. Radha’s Tears closes the circle with another quiet, plaintive meditation.
By turns soothing, exhilarating, sobering and uplifting, The Separate Ones is ideal for deep or background listening, meditation or contemplation – a soul-nourishing break from routine.
The album’s backstory is told in my blog post The Separate Ones – The First Album Always Takes Forever.
The story of Like a Riven Cloud is told here.
Given that the recording of The Separate Ones, the debut full-length release from Eyes Cast Down, took place over seven years of part-time work, it’ s no wonder that the finished product comes off as very intimate and personal. Surprisingly, considering its spread-out pedigree, it also manages to feel like a sensible, continuous narrative. Through six tracks, composer Greg Moorcroft moves his work from warm, straightforward guitar ambient to fever-dream ruminations graced with Sanskrit chant. The journey runs, by turns, from calming to halluncinatory, but keeps the listener engaged throughout. Starting as it does with the quiet ambient structures of “First Day Apart”, it would be easy to dismiss this within the first five minutes as simply that – quiet ambient. As much as I enjoy the rich guitar tones here, it’s when Moorcroft begins imbuing the work with more texture and drama that things get even more interesting. “Rebuild from Memory” retains the sighing notes at first, with Moorcroft rippling their surface with wavering treatments. It’s a very classic sound, broad and calming. “Knife of Karma” glides in on rich waveform pads, then adds a metallic clatter, creating moments of percussion that come and go. Mid-track it turns slightly toward a dissonant feel, like shadows falling across the sound. Sharp guitar notes cleave through the mix. Echoing, chanting vocals from singer Alannah drive “Expanse of Heart”. There’s a wonderful, gut-shaking bass chord that comes and goes throughout the piece, a great counter to the skyward-reaching vocals. And then there is the centerpiece here, “Like A Riven Cloud”, a piece composed of improvised parts, used as a conduit for Moorcroft’s feelings about a friend’s suicide.
This is a bared-soul piece of work, extremely vulnerable, with the feel of an unsettled dream. Moorcroft’s wife Dasi recites part of a Sanksrit prayer for protection in the middle of a scattered wash of sounds, and the raw sadness in her voice, at times sounding quite on the verge of tears, cuts straight into you. Violin from Ezra Azmon – whom Moorcroft found busking on the street in Toronto – cries and calls from the distance and adds a fiery anger in spots. At 21 minutes, this is a long time to spend washed over with someone else’s potent emotions, and it’s hard not to come away a little changed from the experience. The disc ends with “Radha’s Tears”, pairing a solo processed guitar with vocals from Dasi. The guitar sounds swirl and resonate, and I find it interesting that the vocals come off as the sharper element here, not interruptive, but at times almost boldly challenging the instrument.
Quite honestly, I struggled to find words for this review. I have probably listened to this disc more than 20 times in the past couple of weeks, and it has lost none of its potency for the repetition. While all music is personal at its core, The Separate Ones stands out for the extreme intimacy it conveys and the remarkable depth of effect it carries. It is profoundly intense in its honesty. I highly recommend reading Moorcroft’s extensive background notes on his pieces. The very good news is that while this disc was seven years in the making, Moorcroft says cracking this ice has opened the flow, and there will be several more Eyes Cast Down releases in 2013. This is quite a good thing for ambient music fans.
Eyes Cast Down is the ethereal music project by Greg Moorcroft. Using various guitars, synthesizers, computer programs and acoustic sources, Moorcroft has produced The Separate Ones (73’34”), a fascinating album of six sustained atmospheres. The Separate Onesprovides the listener with intelligently directed soundscapes, within which we are almost certain to become lost. Measure upon measure of slowly changing, undulating chords advance and recede along a musical arc of vague dimensions. The slowly breathing tones summon interesting variations in mood and space. Yet these dark sonic clouds cannot keep the sacred from shining through. There are areas of minimal sound, which move on to a thick density of contrasting timbres and emanations in a striking drama of dynamic range. Other pieces dwell in restful sonic colors, luxuriant in their repose.
The two final pieces are dreamy – truly depicting the often strange and surreal landscapes and images generated by the dreaming mind. Random voices speak softly amidst reverberant guitar plucks and swells as distant ringing percussion and deep rumblings meet to transform this section into abstraction. This sophisticated collection of Ambient realizations proves to be a delight of wit and wonder in its minimalist phantasmagoria of sounds. The Separate Ones seems felt rather than reasoned out, proving seductive in its use of musically dramatic forms – and achieves an uncanny haunting intensity equal to if not exceeding that of Moorcroft’s predecessors.
Many of you will no doubt be familiar with Greg Moorcroft for his passionate support of the ambient scene in a variety of forums, in particular his work with the Relaxed Machinery community. Over the years I’ve known him, Greg has proven to be an all around nice guy and a very talented musician as evidenced by his appearances on a number of compilations, so I’m very pleased to hear that he’s released his debut album “The Separate Ones” in his musical identity as Eyes Cast Down.
Over the course of its six tracks, “The Separate Ones” presents a beautiful and natural listening space to explore. Rich in organic tones and enveloping washes, Greg has created a really inviting soundscape that connects immediately, drawing the listener in and surrounding them with it’s beauty. From the subtle and quiet opening of “First Day Apart” with its long drifting pads that stretch and elongate as time passes, through the ebb and flow of “Rebuild from Memory” blending in subtle shifts to the dreaming flow that’s been established, Greg meticulously crafts an engaging sonic environment for listeners to immerse themselves in. “Knife of Karma” continues in a similar vein, adding a mildly percussive element to the proceedings, firmly entrenching the listener in the sonic world that he’s created. I probably shouldn’t have to tell you at this point that I’m hooked, solidly absorbed in Greg’s work.
The second half of the album beginning with “Expanse of Heart” finds Greg shifting the tone a little, adding vocals that evoke ceremony and ritual, a feeling that suggests an exploration of inner-, rather than outer-space. “Like a Riven Cloud” adds some particularly emotive strings to the mix, and “Radha’s Tears” closes the album with a wash of pads flowing over the soundscape anchored by some lovely vocal work. Very nicely done and very engaging.
As noted above, I think that Greg Moorcroft is a really talented guy, and with the release of “The Separate Ones” I’m confident that a lot more people will start thinking the same thing. A really strong debut that I whole-heartedly encourage you to pick up for yourself.
The sole musician behind Eyes Cast Down is US-based ambient/electronic composer, musician and writer Greg Moorcroft. The Separate Ones (that demanded seven years of hard work to complete as life got in the way on many occasions during the process of creation and sculpting) is a concept album featuring a set of reflections on attachment, separation and loss. This automatically made me think of Paul Sauvanet’s Tristesse, along with an album by Boris Lelong (that I reviewed a while back), who also appears to have provided the artwork for The Separate Ones.
Work started with lots of trial and error of ambient improvisation and composition for which Greg stuck to synths only for about two years. Next, he decided to try his hand at composing for electric guitar. This turned out more effectively and satisfying, eventually leading to four guitar-driven works on a total of six compositions.
The 73-minute The Separate Ones features airy, drifting and lush textural worlds along gentle loops that now and then bring the older releases of Jeff Pearce to mind. Moreover, it’s an entrance into a slowly curling and flowing world of contemplation and inner thoughts despite a constant undercurrent of movement.
Things go even deeper on the 17-minute Knife of Karma, where drifting pads, Tibetan drone chimes and soft bells run the celestial edge.
This moody sphere continues on the elevating Expanse of Heart, on which a heavenly female voice joins the gentle soundscapes. The 21-minute Like a Riven Cloud is the longest take on the album, entering a spacious dream sphere with soft mourning and wavering violin. But as the track progresses, a surreal/psychedelic world opens up as well, something that’ s also found in the final piece Radha’s Tears.
All in all, The Separate Ones is a peculiar but also fascinating ambient album needing a couple of spins before one can judge its real sonic impact.
This CD from 2013 offers 73 minutes of gentle ambient music.
Eyes Cast Down is Greg Moorcroft, who plays electric and fretless electric guitars, Ebow, synths, samples and loops, singing bowls, shakers, Tibetan chimes and tiny bells. He is joined on certain pieces by: Alannah and Dasi on voice, and Ezra Azmon on violin.
Delicate ambience is achieved with vaporous electronics seasoned by other soft instruments.
Textural waves establish an atmospheric milieu, which is then tempered by additional electronics of a tender nature. These ringing tones remain remote and elegant, seasoning the music with an ephemeral quality that is cloudlike in its definition.
The guitars are generally processed so as to blend with the ethereal flow, flavoring that calm with their fragile vibrations. When they appear in more conventional roles, their sound is silky and alluring.
These compositions waft with pleasant definition, generating resonance of an ambient character that caresses the listener’s psyche with loving tenderness. The melodies are tenuous: slightly more than harmonic, but rarely overt enough to stray beyond minimal determination. The result is a dosage of tunes of pacific disposition, gentle flows of delicate beauty that reside at the edge of consciousness. Deep contemplation is easily promoted by this music.
Eyes Cast Down is Greg Moorcroft from Chicago and “The Separate Ones” is his debut work released on his own Kalindi Music label at the end of February 2013. As mentioned on Greg’s website, the album was recorded during the time span of 7 years. “First Day Apart”, a composition based on the longer separation with daughter, unfolds with sublime and sparse guitar dreamscapes, slowly meandering like a feather in the breeze. Strong longing feel is explored throughout this hazy and introspective soundscape, smoothly cascading from quieter contemplations to slightly more intense soars, yet still remaining enough consonant and allowing each listener to dive deeply into Eyes Cast Down’s own sonorous cavern. “Rebuild From Memory” keeps its reflective dimension, but it’s surrounded by diversely scattered dissonant vibrations. “Knife Of Karma”, with 17 and half minutes the second longest composition, is invaded by fragile tinkles and mysteriously flavored drones, enhanced by diverse eerie fragments, cavernous rumbles and disruptive, nearly cacophonous embellishments. Here and there distant tribal groove fade in and out, and also occasional fanfares do their highly distinguishing work within this uniquely fragranced soundsculpting. All in all, it’s quite disturbing, but also as much challenging, a real masterpiece!!! Celestial voice magics by guest singer Alannah lead “Expanse Of Heart” along with rather minimal and slowly shifting, organ-like drones create a truly mesmerizing reverie taking the listener on a soothing mind journey.
The next composition, “Like A Riven Cloud”, clocking over 21-minute mark, reveals with deeper organic drones, enhanced by low rumbles and ghostly female whispers by another guest, Greg’s wife Dasi. Composed as a dedication to a friend that committed suicide, it paints a truly mysterious and grieving sceneries, especially when deeply evocative washes merge with the reciting voice along with expanding mournful violin expressions by Ezra Azmon. Few piano subtleties tranquilly float through too. Thoroughly gorgeous!!! “Radha’s Tears” closes the album with coiling and resonating, hypnotic guitar drone, again conjugated with Dasi’s celestial chants. Overall, this is definitely not your ordinary accessible ambient recording, for sure “The Separate Ones” album craves for numerous listening sessions with deeply dedicated attention and immersion, but then it offers huge amount of fruitful and joyous moments filled with highly reflective, but enormously distinctive and intriguing palette of sounds and atmospheres. “The Separate Ones” is your ticket to magnificently perfumed and anomalously mindscaping sonic realms, a must have!!! Photographs by Boris Lelong and Kris Tilbury nicely accomplish this album, while the credit for mastering goes to Bobby Jones. For a debut work like this, I won’t hesitate to say, this is a virtuoso performance!!! And since Greg Moorcroft was working during the last 7 years on several other albums, some of them are scheduled for this year’s release, so make sure you will keep an eye and ear on this highly capable and crafted ambient venturer!!!