This is the fourth solo album by this Russian composer who operates squarely in the electroacoustic ambient realms. His third disc "Point of Intersection" was among this writers favourites from last year, and though this time he has chosen a more thematic approach, the essence of the earlier releases - a cinematic ambient/industrial style, is not lost. The five tracks herein correspond to significant events or images with an Asian theme: The return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule, a night on Khangay mountain, the Great Wall of China, and the mysteries of the great Ming Dynasties. Artemiev selects the colours of his palette carefully: Gong samples, large and small, wood flutes, gentle pastel synth washes, samisen, Gamelan like metallophones, hand drums, and more. His equipment list is huge, a number of keyboards, samplers and elements of computer hardware and software. While Artemiev may use the stated theme as the springboard for his compositional process, there is by no means a dependency that forces some particular image into your psyche, in the way a Kitaro album might do. Here the thematic suggestion is far more subtle, allowing plenty of room for the mind to seek its own images. The arrangements are for the most part dense and mysterious, and beckon the listener to deeper exploration. As with his previous releases, this one comes highly recommended.
Peter Thelen ("Expose")
As you might well imagine, there's huggings of Eastern sounding instruments/samples dotted throughout. Also, there are five tracks! The opener is "Tale I. Hong Kong". Again, "The Blade Runner" "feel" comes across- remember in the film where it's always raining, well this track kicks off with rain, which builds into perhaps one of the most atmospheric there is. At just over 17 minutes, it passes in no time. "Tale 2" is "The Flying Eagle". This tracks lasts around 12 minutes and there's an undercurrent of menace here. A subtle piece full of ambience and wonderful imagery. "Tale 3. Journey Under The Great China Wall" is very eastern sounding with it's Chinese flute gently rising in and out of the ambience. You could perhaps be mistaken thinking this was Kitaro. A beautiful piece. "Tale 4. Mysteries Of The Ming Dynasties", again, is heavily pregnant with the Eastern 'feel' and sound. The final track. "Tale 5. One Night on the Khangay Mountain" is, again, very reflective, featuring the odd barrage of percussion, claps of thunder and, as you'd expect, intensely atmospheric, almost hypnotic in the way it builds and switches moods. "Five Tales" is perhaps the most ambient of the four previous Artemiy's solo CDs, and obviously (like "Cold") has a concurrent 'theme'. I've thoroughly enjoyed the above albums. All have been produced very professionally, from cracking sound through to superb presentation of the CD sleeves - but what's really impressed me is the imagination, and unbelievable vision that Artemiev has when it comes to sound sculptures. Even without some of the titles, you can feel/hear/see exactly what he wants you to.
Dave W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")
You may remember my review of Russian composer Artemiy's first three CDs in the September/October issue of "Wind and Wire". In that review, I stated that each album covered a different style of electronic music. With "Five Mystery Tales of Asia", his fourth and most recent, he once again covers a completely different genre - tribal ambient. Fans of musicians such as Tuu will love this. The music on this release incorporates sounds of native instruments from Mongolia, China and Japan. Since only electronic instruments are listed in the credits, I'm assuming these sounds were sampled. Each of the five titles is designed as a different "tale," though I must confess to creating a different mental picture than what is suggested by the names. "Hong Kong" opens the album and is the most ambient piece. A sound of rain blankets the background as a Buddhist voice wails, a flute plays, and a stringed instrument is plucked. "Flying Eagle" follows and creates in my own mind a sense of steam, as the sound of steam pipes knock while wind chimes try to keep the heat under control. A voice cries in a style similar to that found in Native American music. Next is "Journey Under the Great China Wall", which provides the sound of insects and a static noise that ebbs and flows. A flute meanders in a carefree manner in the foreground. Another waxing and waning drone provides the canvas for "Mysteries of the Ming Dynasties". A muffled gong is struck at regular intervals while a rattle shakes and chimes tinkle. We wrap things up with "One Night on the Khangay Mountain". A sound like metal springs being strummed gives this piece an incredible texture. A piano can be heard, and a voice growls as if through a spinning fan blade (Surely, I'm not the only person who has ever done this!). Artemiy Artemiev has demonstrated incredible diversity in his four releases, and this is one artist you need to keep an eye on.
David Hassell ("Wind and Wire")
"Five Mystery Tales of Asia" marks a farther evolution of Artemiys' style, ranging far from traditional soundtrack experiments through pure electronic compositions to very abstract electroacoustic soundscapes. The 5 long tracks on his newest CD were all inspired by an event or historic fact about different Asian regions. Artemiy used an impressive array of Roland synthesizers, samplers and other digital stuff plus native instruments of Mongolia, China and Japan to produce very 'airy' ethnic/atmospheric soundscapes, very much in the Jorge Reyes/Tuu direction: "Mysteries of the Ming Dynasties", "One Night on the Khangay Mountain", "Journey under the Great China Wall", "Hong Kong 01.07.1997" (a tribute to the union of China and Hong Kong), and "Flying Eagle" (based on a Mongolian folk song); each composition has its own cultural and musical identity, displaying a wealth of ideas and harmonies that puts Artemiy among 'big' western names like Steve Roach, Jorge Reyes, Robert Rich, etc. "Five Mystery Tales of Asia" is one of the very best international soundscaping releases of 1998, essential to anybody who wants to hear a great 'head' album.
Marc Mushroom ("Crohinga Well")
To be released next year in 1998 sees Artemiy musical journey take on the majestic, mighty worlds of the Asian cultures, a tale of the great wonders of the world. Whether he has taken a trip to these landmarks is irrelevant, the music captures the haunting environmental, surrounding these magnificent monuments to mans ever expanding knowledge. "Hong Kong" is full of upwardly moving soundscapes, charge by thunderous percussion, a complex piece, and rounded off by an exquisite oriental woodwind instrument, fragile and utterly charming, or is just some clever sampling. In contrast "Flying Eagle" contains an abstract sound, industrial, into the realms of the avant-garde. Ethnic voices wail their spirited yet surging calls, while underlying electronics growl and pulsate in a menacing manner. The listening' experience to "Journey Under the Great China Wall" is medative mood of desolation, the result drifts and ebbs full of interesting effects, the beautiful tones of the flute are ghostly in their execution, ritualistic music at best, a fascinating sound - world "Mysteries of the Ming Dynasties" bubble and oozes like the inside of active volcano, it's a fiery mix, of innovative, bizarre atmospheres, a sonic wilderness of subtle effects, a trip to nowhere. The same can be said about "One Night on the Khangay Mountain" but carries with it a more spacial trance. An elaborate array of sounds and samples fused together to make a strange cerebral voyage, physically draining.
Mick Garlick ("Sequence")
Almost as though he's reincarnating the early works of his father (check-out Edward Artemiev's scores to "Solaris" or "Stalker"), here we have Artemiy's most mysterious, evocative and deep album yet. With a blending of multiple cultures, ethnic and technological, dark and light, he's gone for using music as if it were a shifting painting in the air. Apt to the title, there's a very "Eastern" feeling, which is evoked through ethereal wailing voices, pseudo-ethnic bells and instrumental textures, all in what is basically synth music, though it's a synth music with a huge battery of textures, making use some eight different synthesizers, along with computers and processing devices. An impressive array of instruments and an impressive music - that makes a change!
Alan Freeman ("Audion")
"Five Mystery Tales Of Asia" is just that... A composer's view on the union of China and Hong Kong, an old Mongolian folk song, a journey under the great wall of China, the mysteries of the Ming Dynasties, and touching the stars from the top of a Mongolian mountain. And to set the tone for these tales Artemiev "experiments with the timbres and native instruments of Mongolia, China, and Japan". The music on this CD still doesn't approach the full symphonic sound of "The Warning", but now that I'm immersed in the fourth of Artemiev's recordings I'm thinking that his music is at its most expressive when he's playing quieter, yet more intricate electronic tapestries. I really enjoyed the pulsating drones, spiritual chanting, and assorted freaky sounds on this disc, accompanied by various flute and bell sounds, some of which had a pleasing dissonant quality. Less New Agey than "The Warning", but far more interesting and adventurous in my opinion.
Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations").
This album dates back to 1998 and is an evocative journey across the vast Asian continent. There are five lengthy tracks: "Hong Kong - 01.07.1997", "Flying Eagle", "Journey Under the Great China Wall", "Mysteries of the Ming Dynasties", and "One Night on the Khangay Mountain". The overlying impression I get from all the tracks is of movement - political, social and human. The sound is huge, layer upon layer of densely textured synths, samples of Mongolian, Chinese and Japanese instruments, percussion and Buddhist chants and all sorts of weirdness. The music has a grandeur that matches Kitaro's great classic album, "Kojiki", and like that it builds a mind picture of a region of the world positively bulging with humanity among a clash of differing cultures. From a musician whose albums all set high standards this is one of his very best.
John Peters ("The Borderland")
"Break through" artist of the year goes to Russian composer Artemiev, for this sacred ethno-electronic masterpiece. Melding electronic and acoustic sources including Buddhist chanting, this subtle, intriguing work elicited consistently positive praise from all whom visited the Secret Salon in 1998. A distant cousin to 1996's "Hooked Light Rays" by Somma (Bill Laswell & Roberto Musso) - a radical electronic presentation of formal Buddhist proceedings, "Tales" marks Artemiev's entry into the rank of serious contenders. "Tales" transcends all his previous efforts (dating back to the early 90's) and jumps way ahead to the end of the Millennia. Having done his homework, this well composed recording is full of surprises, gracefully morphing from straight-up acoustic world music to chugging electronica to deep-dark-ambient too the otherworldly concoctions of all styles combined. Timeless music recorded with the same care given to the performance.
Glenn Hammett ("The Raging Consciousness Desk")
The sleeve notes to "Five Mystery Tales" state: "Here the author experiments with timbres and native instruments of Mongolia, China and Japan. He's telling you five tales. Five Mystery Tales Of Asia. First tale - is a composers view on the union of China and Hong Kong. Second tale is based on an old Mongolian folk song. Third tale is told during the rather long and dangerous journey under the great China wall. The forth tale is about the mysteries of the Ming dynasties and in the last tale you can touch the stars from the top of one of the mongolian mountains".
The album is typified by the term 'soundscape' perfectly. The tracks here range from ten to seventeen minutes long. We're talking big panoramas rather than snapshots. The extensive equipment list on the back shows a lot of synth and sequencing gear, but there is lot of use obviously non sequenced stuff - if not played 'live', then plenty of live samples. Subtle pieces of percussion tinkle in the background and distant voices chant and wail. Big slabs of keyboards create random slices of exotic atmosphere. Melody and rhythm are kept to the bare minimum, the main thrust of the CD seeming to conjure up the feeling of far flung and uncertain exploration. The reason I found this album to be so compelling (rather than the vast majority in this style which are little more than good natured aural wallpaper) is that it conveyed a true sense of unease, like that of the traveller who can never feel entirely at home when they reach their destination and encounter feelings of both awe and alienation.
Richard Wileman ("AM" Magazine)
A venture into the mystic East, an electronic master-work that experiments with the native instruments of Mongolia, China and Japan. A beautifully full and atmospheric sound, you can get so lost in it. Bass laden Eastern percussion, sampled Buddhist monks (I think), Chinese sounding synth voices, would almost work as world music too. You can picture the Hong Kong skyline, trust me "Plying Eagle" brings the fluttering of wings into the immense power (I've got it on headphones, very loud!), the mixture of musical tones and electronic noises works brilliantly, this didn't just happen, this is creation. Artemiy is easily one of the most fascinating and original electronic artistes I've ever heard, rather puts the British EM scene to shame, I'm afraid. This particular CD is so visionary, so complex, so well produced, so imaginative, so buy it!
Mick Magic ("Music & Elsewhere")
The fourth solo project by Artemiy Artemiev in Moscow is an "electronica" or "ambient" venture into the atmospheres of age-old Asian cultures, by way of interwoven sound textures of Asian origin. Artemiev rolls out a carpet of sound to trod, leading through an Asian hall of mirrors, camelback riding the ancient silk routes, smoking water pipes with old shamans in Tuvan yurts and tasting the fevers of desert illnesses that mangle your mind. You sense that you're just a continuation of something, that that old human mystery runs through you and beyond you, and you're not only the traveler; you're being traveled, a stepping stone for bouncing genes, a flow of old and forgotten causes, making their way through your measure of years on the planet, flowering some time later, when you're just a forgotten past, or a myth out of decaying ages, or "some dust in an old man's cup who is tapping his foot to a tune..." (Leonard Cohen: Stranger Song). The mystery is always here, that is what is, and that's it. This music by Artemiev induces these feelings, these thoughts, and the beat goes on, as the days of life flicker past in an ever-increasing speed, where time finally is a meaningless property of existence, and where the vibrating superstrings of the Universe make everything "from toy guns that spark to flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark..." (Bob Dylan: Gates of Eden). And the winds of fall get chillier, as the leaves rustle along the sidewalks of earthly human cities, where the soul takes cover from the urgent questions out of the existential abyss. It feels lonely, this feeling, but who knows what existence is, what a human being is, or what our cause is here (for we are demanders of causes by ill-fated nature...) This music puts this into some kind of anthropological perspective, from Rift Valley to Wall Street. Who the hell are we?
Ingvar loco Nordin ("Sonoloco Records Reviews")
Over the past few years, I had heard great things about the Russian electronic composer Artemiy Artemiev. Unfortunately I'd just never had time to make contact with all the artists I'd like to. However, one recent day, I was delighted to discover a large package in my post box that contained no less than 7 CDs by Artemiy and his co-composers. A wonderful surprise. I'm getting to review them one by one. Here is the first review - of my current favorite of his CDs. But first, some background information: Artemiev has composed for dozens of Russian films, TV programs, theatre plays and more. In terms of his music, I suppose you could describe him the Russian equal to Brian Eno during his ambient phase. In Russia and nearby countries I gather he is as well known and respected as Eno is in Western countries. So I feel extra special that he and his label work so hard to promote their music that they send it through underground media in the West. This is his fourth solo album. On this album of lush ambient music and drones, the composer incorporates the timbres and tones of native Mongolian, Chinese and Japanese music. From the peaceful and relaxing to dark and ominous. Drones, ambient bells and wind instruments, native string instruments and sparse hypnotic percussions, Himalayan singing and chanting and synth-washes all make this one of my favorite all time ambient albums - it's in my top 3. 5 tracks span 64 minutes. Highly recommended.
J. Citizen ("Blatant Propaganda")
The fourth release from Artemiy sees timbre and native instruments of Mongolia, China and Japan used to paint images, past and present; "Five Mystery Tales of Asia" to be precise. "Flying Eagle" consists of mellow, rhythmic ambient electronics with sampled Mongolian singing. This piece of music represents beauty (the music) and sadness (the sampled singing) combined. The native tribal singing, to me, is about how modem ways have affected the land. Mellow, rhythmic electronics with a dark undercurrent gel together to create captivating light and dark textures, which firstly take us on a "Journey Under the Great China Wall" and then reveal the "Mysteries of the Ming Dynasties". "One Night on the Khangay Mountain" conjures up images of what I can only imagine of the breathless scenery on view. Yet another work of genius from Artemiy Artemiev which obviously comes very highly recommended indeed.
Robert Maycock ("Lockjaw")
If you like dark ambient music (not of the dance variety) then this CD is for you. In "Hong Kong" a sound curtain conjures up images of a steamy hillside and this provides the backdrop, low in the mix, for flutes and a restrained rhythm, full of Eastern promise. Much of this CD in fact, hardly surprisingly given its subject matter, sounds rather Oriental. The music is superbly descriptive and you can almost feel the heat shimmering from the speakers - very atmospheric stuff. "Flying Eagle" again makes use of subtle rhythm with only the loosest of structures. About a quarter of the way through the track we get native chants which add to the feeling of complete relaxation and calm. "Journey Under the Great China Wall" starts to the tones of very quiet gongs then a sort of metallic wind effect adds to the ominous feeling. Flutes are used which initially sound like exotic birds before taking on very Eastern phrasings. Things become tense after the half way mark as more and more atmospherics are introduced giving a feeling of unease - all is not well. "Mysteries of the Ming Dynasties" is also a rather dark brooding track with some alien sounding animal noises in the background, sort of half way between a big cat and an ape but rather muffled. The impression the track gave me was one of being hunted. "One Night on the Khangay Mountain" I thought sounded rather Aboriginal. I could just imagine being in the outback round a camp fire, with the noises from the local tribe drifting up to me from the valley. This CD is very relaxing though a bit eerie in places - should be great to listen to in the dark. Steve Roach fans should try it out.
David Law "Synth Music Direct"