Ektenia by Andrew Sherwell

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Andrew Sherwell | Ektenia
Shimmering Moods Records (CD/DL)

From the top this is a subtle ambient wash of soft drone emphasizing the grey area of tranquility. Andrew Sherwell‘s layered setting on Ektenia could be either warm or rather chill depending on your mood. The first six tracks are derived from the title, each offering a slightly new perspective, like endless dark chamber hallways, filled with depths of echo.

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“They enter accompanied by angels,” was my grandfather’s claim. And who was I to disagree? I could certainly believe that they did. In fact, I did believe it and I knew it to be true, much like everything Grandfather told me. As the doors opened, I could feel the shock of the cold breeze as the angels flew in. I could see them swoop patterns through the rising clouds of frankincense, caught in the golden beams from the stained-glass windows.…..It was a heady mix; the angels, the frankincense, the singing. Too much for a ten-year old me. I would regularly faint. Maybe the starched collar of my Sunday Best would cut off the circulation to my head as I gazed forever upwards. Maybe, I was just overcome with it all, as the old ladies who fussed me to my feet in broken English would suggest. Maybe, as Grandfather said, it was the gaze of an angel that did it. Turns out he was right…….. Go here for the full story.

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As this album moves into track three it’s a wash of either rain showers or electrical static or leaves rustling in the breeze, with the slightest cascade of rising and curling synth drone. Sherwell has created a lush scape that pairs the natural world with the afterlife. It’s more spirited than haunted, and as we approach All Hallows Eve it seems like the obvious soundtrack to the changes offered in Autumn. As I listen, deeply, there is this unexplained sense of weightlessness. With the faintest hints of crackle and hum, this is the type of record that centers the mind. You may want to spin this on a day when you are juggling countless errands, multitasking to catch up with the rest of the world. Suddenly you will be freed of needless fuss.

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A dreamy ode to a wary world. Subtle glints of work by Christian Renou, Alessandro Tedeschi and Thomas Köner come to mind. Perhaps it’s the way Sherwell is ruminating in the shallows of the low end, developing this sense of contained vaporous pressure that floats about in slow, swirling configurations. Not to mention that these limited handmade editions are truly works of art in and of themselves, Shimmering Moods seems to do a real lovely job with delivering the physical end of a rather ethereal composition.

Sherwell mentioned to me: “The source images are from a set of plates rescued by a small museum in Bulgaria.” And though I normally like to hear ambient work of this nature as a one-shot long-player, these levitating scenes reveal themselves slowly with perfect inset breaks. It’s like turning defined chapters rather than waiting for the next track to play.

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The final trio of pieces are called Newektenia 01 v4 through Newektenia 03 v4 and these make for about seventeen minutes of extended play. One would assume that this journey is in two parts (old and new?). It does seem slightly less celestial, increasingly dense in what will seem a vague transition to most ears, but I can detect a bit more grit. His world reforms in an amorphous organic shape, as if its reborn after a serious shift in a space time continuum so to speak. Something raw makes its way into earshot, it’s more tangible and dark. Imagine traveling in a water taxi through a long tin-covered tunnel during a storm….Sherwell engages you with this sense of imaginary place that transition and dis/appear like being half awake through the end result of a dream. It’s hard to resist the temptation of letting go or waking to face a new reality.

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