|Friends of Alice Ivy|
This project was formed around 2007 from the duo of Amps (instruments and programming) and Kylie (vocals), formally of the prominent ethereal shoegaze group Ostia out of Australia. Their first work came together as a five-track EP under the name of Hereafter Moth and was released in 2008 to positive reviews. This duo continued to work over the next few years and finally in 2011 we were introduced to their follow-up EP In The Gloaming. The band has remained fairly solitary, not really getting out and promoting either of these early releases, but have done most everything from the comfort of their own home with the goal of bringing out that warm atmosphere in the music. Over the next few years they would put some of the simplicity aside as they wrote and created their first full-length album for release in 2014 to positive reviews.
Gothic Paradise listeners should be familiar with Ostia and their lilting, ethereal shoegaze style. This new project strips out much of the guitar and abstracts out many of the elements for a much more ambient ethereal style with various synthesized and organic symphonic instruments. We'll get into the details of these releases in the reviews later, but in summary, readers can imagine many of the excellent elements we love from Ostia with Kylie's beautiful, soft vocals and leave out much of any percussion and guitar and replace it with soft, dreamy soundscapes. Check out the band's home page for a more detailed history as well as updates and other information. Also tune into our Ethereal show for selections from this and other excellent artists in the related genres.
The Golden Cage and its Mirrored Maze - Review
After the two previous short EP releases, we are finally treated with an excellent full-length album. With eight tracks and just under an hour in length, the band expands their horizons slightly with this other-worldly ethereal release. With this album it's not just a compilation of previous singles or EP releases, but is composed of all brand-new material that comes together as a whole to form a fantastic body of work.
As we get into this album, I think the first thing the listener will notice is a little more texture to the album than their previous two releases. More emphasis on percussion and some shimmering guitars stand out as I've listened to it over and over. These are great additions and while remaining true to the more ambient nature of their music as Friends of Alice Ivy, there is definitely a bit of a look back at their previous incarnation as Ostia. Each track definitely has it's own strengths and unique texture and feel with soft and beautiful angelic vocals remaining a solid foundation while various instruments from guitars, cello, harps and percussion all add the texture and volume to the tracks.
Picking out tracks to feature on our Ethereal radio show was definitely a challenge. Each one stands out as a masterpiece and each could easily lull the listener into their ethereal world with ease. After listening to the album several times a few have stood out as new classics and solid anchors to the album. Notably, it starts out strong with "The Aerial Mariners" slowly building through ambient soundscapes building with background synths and harp and later introducing some dynamic percussion all as a backdrop to the heavenly vocals. Noticeably, the reverb used gives an awesome celestial mood and feel, something heavenly even. A couple of tracks later we're introduced to "Miranda". Many readers and listeners will be familiar with this track as the band released this video a while ago as a nice teaser and introduction to this album. Again, we're presented with all of the stellar staple elements to a solid, classic ethereal piece, with a bit more emphasis on some shimmering guitars that are spellbinding on this piece, becoming a voice of their own over the backdrop of solid drums that keep the piece moving slowly, yet steadily along. Most of the rest of album settles into much more of the ambient moods we've grown accustomed to with these artists. The album flows well with these moods, but another piece stands out as we near the end of the album with "Igraine". The soft and somber string textures come out strong over the ambient backdrop with unintelligible vocals giving the feel of angelic choirs gracing the otherwise instrumental music with their presence. The album comes to a close with another favorite, stellar piece in "Song of the Willows". While it starts off simple with some very subtle guitar plucked over soft ambient sounds, the vocals lend themselves perfectly as they're paired with a soft flute. The music glides along softly and sweetly until a nice segue to that other-worldy solid percussion and added layers of more electronics and guitars for a mesmerizing piece lasting nearly eight minutes long. However, like many classic masterpieces before, eight minutes seems like nothing with music this beautiful and captivating, creating a perfect ending to this spell-binding album.
There you have it, 50+ minutes of pure bliss with this album. While eight tracks are not much more than the shorter EP's, it's great to have just that much more material in a work like this. With the flow and texture of the tracks, it really seems so complete and beautiful. This is definitely an album that ethereal music fans must have.
In The Gloaming - Review
Here is the great new EP from this duo featuring their haunting style of dreamy ethereal music. From the band's website, "The title refers to the period between dusk and night" says Kylie, "in the old days this twilight period was known as the "gloaming"...a term not commonly used now. I liked it because, to me, it reflected the sense of age, atmosphere and mystery that I identify with in our music. The title is very much suited to the darker character of our work". I echo my sentiments that this describes this collection of music very well as it spans six of these spellbinding pieces.
It starts off with somber percussion as the various neo-classical instruments kick in as we drift along through the "Song of Somnus". This dark piece is an excellent introduction to the rest of the album that is slightly brigther and dreamier with a variety of elements. "The Summerland Meadows" should be familiar to many as a freely released single from the band some time ago. This piece moves along much as the title would seem to indicate with the dreamy textures of a meadow in the warm sun graced with lilting butterflies, flowers and lush green grass. "A Requiem (for Fuchsia)" takes on a more classic ethereal feel with guitar plucking the broken chords mixed with backing subtle ambient soundscapes as a backdrop to Kylie's soft, lilting vocals and the introduction of the chanting male vox. "Tristan & Iseult" is possibly the darkest track on the disc with the spoken word of the fateful love affair of this legendary couple. Harp, bells and drifting ambient textures form the backdrop to this piece as once again we're lured in with the siren-like vocals and taken to the far away land of another place and time.
It seems it might be hard to escape such a dreamy world of fantasy, mythology and history as the music completely envelops the listener, holding on making it so the listener begs for more, to never be brought back to the cold, harsh reality. "The Ghosts of Dunwich" hauntingly teases the listener as this instrumental track drifts along through a melancholy atmosphere, slowly fading and giving way to the final piece "The Watch Hill". Once again the dark synthesized strings form the solid foundation for the various layers of instruments and dreamy vocals to finalize the album and leave you wanting more. That would be my only complaint about this work, about 4-6 more tracks would be about perfect. As it is we'll just have to enjoy what we have for now. Fans of this really dreamy ethereal music should really enjoy this album, it is captivating, haunting and beautiful, a definite new favorite for any collection.
Hereafter Moth - Review
This is the debut album from this duo, former members of ethereal shoegaze band Ostia. We see here their departure from the shoegaze realm with it's textured layers of guitars to the dreamy, more electronic-based ambient ethereal music of this EP. We're presented with five solid tracks to introduce us to this new style which is sure to please both Ostia fans and many others.
"The Tower of Flints" serves as the conduit to transport the listener into the dreamy world of this project and album. Soft and lush ambient sounscapes gradually build and flow, moving along with Kylie's subtle, angel-like vocals similar to Julee Cruise or Cocteau Twins. The mix of ambient electronics and guitar on many of the tracks form a sort of dreamy tapestry as each piece comes alive. "The Tower of Flints" flows seemlessly into "Echoes" with more dreamy textured soundscapes. "A Song of Forgotten Places" takes the listener into a darker, yet still haunting and dreamy realm with the deep bass added to the other already gliding, smooth textures. Fans of the more classic, down-tempo goth sounds can really sink their fangs into this dreamy piece. The dreamy hypnotic loops continue on "The Lament of Icarus" with Kylie's breathy vocals barely audible as this piece really takes the listener into a realm of a dream-like state. It drops off after a little over five minutes and we're left with the haunting finale to the album "Telling Lost Tales to the Last Rays of the Sun". As the haunting music drones on with this piece we're slowly moved along through this dreamy world, captivated and entranced until we are slowly brought back to reality at the end of it all.
Overall this is a great five-track disc with some great, beautiful music crossing various ethereal, ambient and gothic genres. A little something for fans of classic, dreamy tracks from The Cure, the aforementioned artists Julee Cruise, Cocteau Twins and Frolic among many others.