Chris Russell



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About Echo


1   Echoes

2   Radium

3   Orix

4   Varuna

5   Nilium

6   Sparse

7   Odjek

8   Transverter

9   Abandoned

Ambient sound-sculptor Chris Russell applies an experimental edge to the ambient electronic genre with ECHO, his second solo release on the Spotted Peccary label. Through the use of custom software and improvised tools, Russell has created a visually compelling sound tapestry that ripples and reflects with abstract excitement and curiosity. Focused heavily on sound design, captured field recordings, electronics, and found sounds, Russell’s sci-fi inspired audioscape is a stimulating aural environment of immersive spaces that calls to mind the haunting cinematic works of Stanley Kubrick or Ridley Scott. 

Throughout ECHO, textured and minimal atmospheres are layered with haunting effects, slowly morphing into melodic passages that develop from near nothingness to substantial and meaningful sonic narratives. As Russell states, “From the void, came the sound. This music is an experience with the intention to take the listener on a journey.” It is in fact a colorful journey emanating from the depths of an artist’s mind, echoing outward – yet simultaneously folding inward – through spaces of mystery, peace, tension, and solitude.


'Echo' is ambient sound sculptor Chris Russell's second release on the Spotted Peccary label, but about his 15th release over all, and that's only since 2010. No doubt Russell is a very prolific artist, but this is the first I'm hearing his work. On the SP one-sheet that accompanied this release it says "Russell's sci-fi inspired audioscape is a stimulating aural environment of immersive spaces that calls to mind the haunting cinematic works of Stanley Kubrick ('2001 A Space Odyssey') or Ridley Scott ('Blade Runner')." That description isn't far off the mark, just don't expect any Legeti or Vangelis cloning. Comprised of 9 tracks of varying length totaling an hour and a minute, 'Echo' is a trip that will take you both to outer and inner space. Beginning with the title track you are thrust skyward at intense velocity rocketing you quickly through the stratosphere to the exosphere and beyond into weightless space. And yes, it begins as noisily and turbulent as a rocket, but doesn't last long. After that, it's a pretty smooth ride. Most of Russell's atmospheres are on the minimal side sound-wise, but complex in their formulation. The music is closer to grey ambient (neutral) being neither particularly light or dark, except on a few pieces. A couple of those have a gamelan-like ambience, most notably "Sparse," a nearly 11 minute excursion into a Javanese dream sequence, as if you were visiting a perfumed garden on a sunny day. Some pieces are overtly extraterrestrial while others seem more reflective of inner space. The last, and longest (13:20) track, "Abandoned" belies the ominous definition of its title. Definitely terrestrial, it sounds like a peaceful vacation day at the lake (or maybe even the beach) where you can hear birds, a barking dog in the distance and other minor ambient activity combined with a generally mellow drone atmosphere. 'Echo' is an enjoyable journey that is high in replay value. Essential if you love ambient music. - Steve Mecca, Chain D.L.K.
“From the void, came the sound. This music is an experience with the intention to take the listener on a journey” These words come from Chris Russell when he talks about his latest album, “Echo”. And we can't that the man is off the track! But which journey exactly? Carved around unlikely and barely recognizable sounds, “Echo” is indeed a journey into the land of tones where the colorful sounds, created from A to Z by the imagination of the American musician, merge into an astonishing symphony of experimental ambient music. The ears are put to the test for at least the half of this album with titles created in a cinematic vision that would go quite well with the science-fiction world of Ridley Scott, if not horror or fantasy as in the film scenes such as Legend, Prometheus and Alien. An imagination in good shape that hears the corridors of spaceships rumbling of mystery through a clever mix of tones and atmospheres stuffed with sonic granules from another dimension. An openness and understanding of Chris Russell's artistic approach is therefore essential if one wants to travel comfortably in the depths of “Echo”. And it doesn't start easily! A beating slumps, like a heavy step of a giant, and a sound fauna, torn between the sibylline approach of the synth waves and the melting of tonal metals, broadens its horizons with a strange experience of a suspense or science-fiction movie. The thematic is intense with these big blows well scheduled in the 3 minutes of ''Echoes'' where my ears hear the whispers and the brouhahas from the lair of Drakness, the Beast in the Legend movie. From this kind of cinematic ambience, we dive into a storm on Mars with the introduction of "Radium" which becomes more musical with its two phases of concertos for chimes. "Orix" extends its bed of industrial buzzes filled by tones of discrete cracklings and of the echo effects in the multiplication of drone lines. The softness of "Varuna", whose jingles of various gongs and Tibetan percussions remind me of the good moments of Ray Lynch in Deep Breakfast, tempers a little this climate of tension that emanates from the first titles of “Echo”. The tone is always straddling metal screeches, aquatic murmurs and synth waves that you have to imagine. The texture of percussive effects and of anesthetic mists gives it this fascinating morphic softness. I enjoyed this title to his third listening, so everything is possible along the discoveries of this second album of Chris Russell on Spotted Peccary. After a "Nilium" made of cavernous breezes and dramatic effects in the thrust of stratified lines of iodine dust, "Sparse" will reconcile lovers of music more ... let say more musical with a nice structure reminiscence of Robert Rich where the rhythm, always ambient, is animated by good percussions whereas the atmospheres transit between the worlds of Robert Rich, Steve Roach for the stars in the night and Erik Wollo for the coldness in the intensity. A very good title that sways the rest of “Echo” in a second part where the ambient music is more accessible. And even if "Odjek" and its strata stigmatized in the mooing of the blue steel can make the ears squeak. "Transverter" is carved a little in the mold of "Nilium", but it's just the cavernous breezes and edible sound granules that fill the ambiences slightly variegated of unique sound effects. "Abandoned" ends “Echo” with an approach aimed to the most fertile imaginations. Very edible to the ears, the music breathes these waves of serenity driven by desert winds. On the other hand, the moods are tinted with a vision of an abandoned society. A ghost town where drag wandering dogs and roar the ghosts of the past whose worn-out murmurs are lost in the movement of the winds. Sometimes sibylline and at times very dreamlike, "Abandoned" shows how comfortable Chris Russell can be at ease in superb movements that have nothing to envy to master Steve Roach. In the end, and all things considered, “Echo” is worth discovering in full because its best moments can also spring in its darkest and most experimental textures. - Sylvain Lupari, Synth & Sequences
It’s often said that dreams only last for a few minutes, but they sometimes seem like hours when they are recalled, often connecting with previous dreams in a restless continuum that wanders around fragments of your memories. Russell has tapped into that on his second Spotted Peccary solo release Echo, like a soundtrack to those dreams, rarely rhythmic or repetitive, each of the nine titles herein tethered to the imagination like ongoing waves of random sound sculptures that seem to follow a never-ending chain of sonic ideas mapping some kind of journey. Russell’s creations are brought to life using a selection of synthesizers (both hardware and software), sampled found sounds – some recognizable, like footsteps, while others are processed beyond recognition, electronics or varying origins, and processed acoustics and percussive sounds (I suppose some, like shakers and bells may originate from software synths) all become part of the artist’s canvas as time moves forward. The textures and atmospheres are truly immersive, and with each moment as new ideas are presented, the older ones are rapidly forgotten. The melodies are fleeting, existing only in the present, while the texture and ongoing atmosprerics that underly everything is the sanic glue that holds the past, present and whatever comes after together. The overall sound is never too harsh and jarring, but only rarely could be called pretty, existing more as a constantly morphing juxtaposition of relative sonic incongruence that somehow makes the walls of a corridor through which the listener travels. There is some sublime silence as well, in between the tracks and in the form of long fade-outs and fade-ins. All taken, this is a beautiful place to be, not with a lot of rigid or definable structures, but a very free and drifting chain of ideas that are open to a listener’s interpretation. - Peter Thelen, Exposé
Not every ambient album is the same, some soothing and pastoral, others unsettling and designed to disturb. Echo, Chris Russell's second solo release on Spotted Peccary (Labyrinth the first), inhabits a midway point between those poles, its contents at times gentle, intimate even, and at other times enigmatic and panoramic. Such extremes are to be expected from an ambient soundsculptor who draws for inspiration from both “the simplicity of nature and the vast infinity of the universe.” It's the latter that's more the focal point in the present case, as Russell presents a nine-part suite that plays like the soundtrack to a not-yet-filmed sci-fi opus. One imagines Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, or Denis Villeneuve might come calling were they to be made aware of Russell's work.

Russell downplays melody on the hour-long recording, the emphasis more on experimental sound design and specifically atmosphere and texture. The opening title track could pass for the sound of a new universe being born, so packed is it with deep space rumblings, detonations, and cataclysmic goings-on of one kind or another. That violent tone carries over into the equally turbulent “Radium,” a chilly, almost psychedelic rendering suggestive of subatomic chemical reactions. As its elements ripple and writhe, a bright, marimba-like pattern emerges, its presence foreshadowing the recording's subsequent move into gamelan-related territory. The next intimation of it arises in “Varuna,” where reverberating bowl accents appear alongside intensifying flutter, and most explicitly during “Sparse,” where a hiss-drenched gamelan pattern intones as a foundation for cold winds blowing across it. As the recording enters its final third, it ventures into abstract realms, be they micro-biological (“Odjek”) or geological (“Transverter”) in tone. With seagull cries and bird chirps audible within the musical tapestry, the peaceful meditation “Abandoned” would seem to have returned us to the familiar comforts of earth, the journey over and the mission completed.

Echo is the kind of immersive recording where electronic and acoustic sounds mingle fluidly, with Russell primarily focused on achieving a particular sonic effect and using whatever means available to achieve it. Field recordings, synthesizers, percussion, bass guitar, found sounds—all such elements act as the colour palette the sound painter works with to render a particular vision into musical form. If in many ways Echo is a prototypical ambient-soundscaping exercise (not that that's a knock against it), it's the inclusion of the gamelan dimension that gives it individuating personality. - Ron Schepper, Textura
Echo is the 2018 CD by 21st century ambient / electronic recording artist Chris Russell. Although it will no doubt be acknowledged by the New Age / electronica fans, Echo is also an exercise in Musique concrète, which is a highly regarded for of pure electronic music that was first coined way back in the 1920s. Although not quite as radical, or even abstract, as say Edgard Varèse, Chris Russell breaks a lot of sonic barriers on the hour long Echo, which is broken down into nine tracks, including several that run close to and even over ten minutes. Some of the more radical music of Wendy Carlos is also another reference point here, especially her soundtrack for the 1980 Stanley Kubrick masterpiece The Shining. All told, Echo is a most convincing musical statement from the vivid and eccentric musical mind of Chris Russell. - Robert Silverstein, MWE3

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