Cell ‎– Hanging Masses

Label:
Ultimae Records ‎– inre 038, Ultimae Records ‎– inre038
Format:
CD, Album, Mixed
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Tracklist Hide Credits

1 Calling 8:52
2 Switch Off
Featuring – Aes DanaWritten-By, Producer – Vincent Villuis
8:30
3 Second Shape Part I 9:02
4 Risky Nap Under Blue Tree 6:35
5 Hanging Masses 10:48
6 Vapor 8:32
7 Second Shape Part II 8:59
8 Universal Sunrise 11:13

Companies, etc.

Credits

Notes

Three-panel Digipak with 16 page booklet.

Written and produced at Atmospheric Studio, Paris, except track 2 at Atmospheric Studio & Ultimae Studio; track 6 at CV Gate Studio, Crest-Voland.

(p)&(c) on this album 2009 Ultimae Records.

David Vineïs is credited as "David Vineïs aka Sub88".

Digipak® Manufactured by Van de Steeg, Holland, under license from AGI, USA

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Barcode: 3 760180 500239
  • Matrix / Runout: ALLDUP-9CD11134

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Headphone_Commute

Headphone_Commute

April 18, 2010
Frenchman Alex Scheffer, aka Cell, is an Ultimae regular, having contributed tracks to many of the label's compilation albums, including the excellent Fahrenheit series. Yet, Hanging Masses is his first album for the label and only his second overall, not counting a couple of notable live releases. I've always honed in on Cell's tracks; he usually manages to hit a really sweet spot, mixing a deep slowly developing ambient/downtempo vibe with catchy hooks and wet, shimmering synths on top. Yet, his prior full-length, Phonic Peace, released by Indica in 2005, was not my cup of tea. Too much of the sort of pseudo Indian mysticism that just rubs me the wrong way. Like a lot of other people, I was energized by the music coming out of Britain's Asian underground scene in the mid to late '90s - Talvin's Singh's Anokha album in '97, State of Bengal, Joi, Cornershop and the like. But for some reason I then developed a real aversion to the fusion of traditional Indian and electronic music. Don't know why. Thankfully, Hanging Masses is more in line with his live releases - Live at Glade Festival 2005 (Sofa Manifesto, 2007) and Live at Kumharas - Ibiza (Ultimae, 2007) - only even more mellow and low key. According to Ultimae's press release, the album "constitutes in the artist's heart a homage to Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and Steve Reich." The connection with Reich is not obvious but Eno and TD are definitely in attendance. Cell is not a man in a hurry. He's content to slowly fill in the sonic landscape, sprinkling it with gently euphoric glimpses of light. Even when the 4/4 kick drum makes an appearance, typically about half way through a song, the pace never exceeds a leisurely stroll. The experience is akin to lying in a field, gazing at the cloud formations for hours and then suddenly deciding to get up to take a walk through the enchanted forest nearby. The restrained but propulsive groove, such as on the mesmerizing title track, ensures that it's a captivating experience. Recommended for all followers of Ultimae's roster, including Aes Dana, H.U.V.A. Network, Solar Fields, and Hol Baumann.
iTranscendence

iTranscendence

January 10, 2010

For the last half decade Alexandre Scheffer has traveled the globe sowing vivid audio landscapes in the minds of the inhabitants who have heard the allure of his morning siren song. Now deep within the mystery of the fog lies an expansive, enigmatic and enthralling new world of Hanging Masses. An experimental and unique experience, unlike any journey before, uncannily familiar, but still as illusive as trying to capture the Sunrises’ first mist… Welcome.

Whispering ambient as soft as the breeze moves in through the darkness across you, gently drawing you forward. Suddenly, light. The energetic waves stretch with radiance, deep into you, ‘Calling’. Off in the distance, a glitch drone sounds like a machine hard at work while inaudible conversations take place. The talking subsides the main melody breaks the silence… when you hear the call. Reality flashes past you on galloping psychedelic rhythms. You gravitate towards the center of all that is. Ethereal ambient entities beckon, accented by thoughtfully complex IDM percussions; the kick drum marches around like a shaman. Everything lulls; “Raise your right hand please” is vaguely heard, the original melody merges back in. A gentle guitar line sings out as the dreamy world disappears like the heat mirage on a road inside your mind.

A warm reverberating bass bathes everything; the droning electrical field oscillates inside of the communicative scratches and clicks of electric impulses. The entire network begins to fire as more of the barriers ‘Switch Off’. Impulses evolving, twinkling bells slip in and out, all encompassing synth lines roll through like tidal waves. The interconnectivity escapes into a Downtempo nexus from the Ultimae “people of the arts”. Hearing the field fluctuations again the impulses slowly die out, sputtering and spitting as they do.

The core energy vibrations drone inside your head, everything in this place moves at different speeds, but with the motion of one existence; ‘Second Shape part I’. Through the surface there is a knocking followed by warm bass reverberating; gaseous ambient tendrils drifting off the object which breathes in sync with the rotating frequency. A forlorn cry erupts from the center. Pianos shed tears of energy down the façade. Turning and spiraling around, all of its parts moving, the shape slowly begins to break down, dissolving into thin air.

The fog retreating from your mind, your eyes begin to come into focus from a, ‘Risky Nap Under Blue Tree’. Inquisitive Rhodes whisper to you, the enticing bass moves an elegant interplay expressing for you to savor this tentative moment. Rising up, the gently filtered breaks spread like intoxicating pollen, surrounding you. The breaks continue to build as other worldly ambient apparitions move in and out of your field of vision. A funky Downtempo begins to drive as the audio narcotic pumps through your ears. You drift back held aloft by the wisps, close your eyes and ride the high till it slips away with you, into unconsciousness… there, under the tree.

Moving through the cloud line, ghostly forms creep into your field of vision as you look upon the ‘Hanging Masses’. The driving pulse of the piano skips and stutters across the atmosphere, sirens pulse out along the outlines. Gentle tribal drums morph with cymbals fluttering in and out of the clouds. The drums silence as you elevate through a second layer. Bursting through the other side you are greeted by the sun and a monument in the sky. Sweeping vistas roll out on all sides, rays of light flicker and reflect along its surfaces. A blanket of warm square waves and bass pours over you as the heavens sing of this mystic place. Bells ring out as the drums go into a break down jumping and bouncing off the geometry. The bass line frees itself and everything comes alive! Zero altitude flying along the masses. You move in and out as the light and shadow plays back and forth. Looking back as the world shrinks from your view you can still hear the pulse of its greatness, as you hurdle farther into the murky unknown.

Dreamy Wisps of reality drift and twirl in spirals around you. ‘Vapor’ floats along the ground making it appear liquid. Energetic tracers fluttering in the air like charged particles. Scratches of dust methodically build as the whole world draws into you. The unknown gently calls to you, pulsing. Lonely pianos and ambient elementals float to and fro, communicating softly with each other. Cyber organic, IDM/glitch-breaks, bounce and jitter through the mist rippling its surface. The hastened patter of muffled toms; gallop increasing with the pulse. A counter melody gives a sense of urgency, the vapor is loosing is grasp over consciousness. Everything draws into itself again as the galloping intensifies. The ebb and flow of the viscous existence push and pull at you for what seems like an eternity, until you hear the scream of consciousness returning. Fading away, the creatures of the air grasp out, with their final futile attempts to seduce you.

Sleek and slender the distant drone of ‘Second Shape part II’ pulsating the space around you with hypnotic bass. Delicate ambient tentacles sway in the wind. As the object beings to twinkle and resonate; in what is so familiar a shape, but so different. Incandescent beams of energy shoot out in every direction, piercing your mind with the brilliance. Electrons of smoke orbiting around the core cause the light to bend and sparkle. A heavenly choir sings the chorus of its fine lines and curves. As the night dies, the surface begins to rotate around ever so imperceptibly feeding out along its extremities and out into nothing.

Dark blues and grays give way to purples as the first hues of the ‘Universal Sunrise’ bleed over the horizon. As the last vestiges of the night are ravenously eaten by the encroaching dawn, you are bathed in the immersing glow of the morning sun. The crisp air stirred by the heat begins to dance like photonic pixies. Regaining composure from nocturnal slumber, the world begins to come alive. Ambient pianos echo off the cool morning air, rolling over the landscape. Gentle scraps and clicks dribble and drop along the kick and bass. Chirps and squelches jabber with each other like psychedelic aviary. A universe at one with itself harmonizes the rhythm of life. A synchronicity of experience for all beings, you are drawn into this moment. Every little detail of the moment vivid to your perceptions. As you reach out to grab it the audio hologram begins to dissipate back into mist, leaving you with the silence of the place still inside your mind.
Mr.Papaya

Mr.Papaya

January 5, 2010
edited over 8 years ago

Cell's second "in-house" album has taken me by surprise. His earlier work has always been on the plus side, but it lacked a certain maturity. It was too careful, or too subtle. This delicacy doesn't just reflect in Cell's work in terms of sounds and samples, but also in his melodies and approach to composition: it has always lacked a certain punch.

This time, however, Cell has really brought a new element into his work. It's not originality, it's not innovation, but it makes Hanging Masses stand out to me. The whole album has a very solid build-up and storyline that resembles the T-ion tracks of his Live @ Glade album: there is a purpose. Unlike his previous stuff, which felt like more of attempts at completing a track, this album stands as one piece - and it's a good piece.

The sound is as mellow as we've come to expect from Cell, with some synths zooming-in on repeating, soft-fading loops. An occasional beat-drum will kick under, or vague vocals will resonate from above, the atmosphere remains spacey and dreamy through-out the entire album. This is good background music, although it can also take you deeper. There are no ethnic motifs, just pure and remote space music. It is positive though, almost epic at times, which reminds me of Asura's music. This isn't the sad, "oh I'm lonely" music we see often from Ultimae. Cell's optimisms always sounded like a hopeful child to me, and this album is no different, despite its slower tempo.

Hanging Masses is not the most experimental ambient out there. In fact, you might not even notice it on a shelf full of top-names albums. But it's a very enjoyable release, nonetheless, nearly flawless in terms of production and balance. The down-beat and spacey sound might not appeal to everyone, especially old Cell fans who expect more beachy music, but I think many will find this a very pleasant listening experience.
discogsfriend

discogsfriend

January 5, 2010
edited over 8 years ago

Cell's first album Phonic Peace set a deep, contemplative mood with eastern and tribal sounds, melodies, strong rhythms and attention to detail. Arguably it's only fault was suffering from overuse of moaning women samples in every track but it remains a favorite of mine. I was even more impressed with his Live albums which were as strong or stronger and had no reliance on such samples. I've been looking forward to this album for a long time, especially since it was to be released on Ultimae Records which is thus far for the most part synonymous with high quality.

First surprise: this is cold and empty, melancholic ambient music of a different flavor from all Cell's previous work. This is music for floating through space and looking out the window of your space shuttle on a rainy day. I like spacier ambient as well as upbeat stuff, so let's dig in.

Track 1 - Slowly builds up from a lone drone, introducing a lonely melody at 3:45, then some percussion and more subtle elements. A pretty solid opening track, but not memorable.

Track 2 - Right from the start of this track we have a beautiful melancholy overlaid on some warm ambient pads. My only regret is that the track ends the same way with very little happening in the middle! BTW what is the crackling noise? Several times in this track I thought I was listening to a dirty vinyl rather than a CD. :-\

Track 3 - Interesting droning rhythm built up here that loops every second and sounds quite nice. At 2:00... uh oh, suddenly I feel like I've heard this track before.... Maybe they forgot to write (feat. Solar Fields) after the title? Hmm, I don't see it written there. This sounds like trademark Solar Fields only more repetitive and missing a several layers of complexity. Otherwise it's a decent track, but it sounds like it belongs more on Leaving home or Extended than Hanging Masses.

Track 4 - At this point we get more subdued ambient then a bland 4/4 kick comes in for the second half of the track. The sounds never really come together in this track and it becomes annoying instead. At least it's only 6:35, nothing good to say about this one.

Track 5 - The title track is probably the best one and the climax of the album. It's the only track with an interesting upbeat drum rhythm which is mixed with some warm yet distant melodies. Nice journey.

Track 6 - Here's a peaceful ambient track that would probably sound excellent except that once again it reminds me too much of Solar Fields (a repeating trend throughout this album). I also wonder about the really low frequency rolling sounds added in the middle of the track which don't sound good. Well this is a lovely track, but it loses a few points because I feel like I've heard it already.

Track 7 - Another serene ambient track with a nice rhythm in the background. Very simple and not much original about it, but one of the better tracks.

Track 8 - Closing track is decent, seems a little too bland but the last few minutes have some nice acid. Due to a sample here telling me "Wake Up" I can't help but think of CBL's Abiogenesis and the comparison is not favorable for Cell.

Overall there are some nice parts but unfortunately this album is quite bland, uninspired and lacking in creativity. I cannot stop thinking that it's like a more repetitive version of Solar Fields' stuff from 5 years earlier with half the layers (all the IDM stuff and uplifting melodies) removed. If you can get over that, you'll probably enjoy it more than I did. This type of ambient has been around for a long time now, so one must be careful to add some distinctive elements and personality to one's music. I don't think this album has much originality. I should mention that all the tracks are long and very repetitive which I happen to like but not everyone does.

Ultimae has excelled over the last decade at releasing artists who bring unique styles and sounds to their music. In a blind listening test I believe I could tell you whether a track was from Aes Dana, Asura, Solar Fields, CBL, Hol Baumann, I Awake, etc. I'm not hearing that unique style with this Cell album, I'm hearing standard ambient with some Solar Fields Jr sounds (not really a bad thing, mind you). I should emphasize that despite my pessimistic reviewing style, this is still a good quality album that's more interesting than lots of other ambient being released, but one of the weaker albums from Ultimae so far.

Cell has a lot of talent as is evidenced by his debut and Live albums and I must give him credit for experimenting and shifting his style through his music career. This one is not as fresh as I'd like it to be but I look forward to his future musical direction.

I rate this somewhere between 3-4 / 5.