Shane Morris / Mystified



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About Epoch


1   Cambrian Explosion

2   Devonia

3   Triassic Extinction

4   Jurassic Dawn

Two talented composers of ambient-atmospheric soundscapes, Shane Morris & Mystified, have joined forces to create Epoch, the first installment of a trilogy about prehistoric time and evolution. Epoch is a conceptual album of deep, resonant, atmospheric drone soundscapes based around life during the Mesozoic era of Earth’s past; a time long before people, when great reptiles walked the planet, prospered, and ultimately ceased to exist.

In order to evoke a 200 million year old soundworld, Morris & Mystified draw from a completely organic sonic palette. According to Mystified’s Thomas Park, “The release goes back to primitive techniques to capture a contemporary sound. Epoch uses no electronic sources or synthesizers – only acoustic sounds.”

“The album uses a heavy emphasis on winds and bass percussion instruments to create a sonic environment that might reflect some of the sounds that occurred 200 million years ago.” adds Morris, and while the instrumentation for Epoch is indeed limited to all acoustic instruments, including trombone, didjeridoo, vibraphone, bass drums, scissors, and assorted percussion, these sources were then processed heavily with electronics into the primeval sonic environments heard on the album.

Throughout Epoch, Shane Morris & Mystified guide the listener through remarkably vast and wonderfully organic soundworlds that unfold in chronological order, where each track acts as a sonic portal offering glimpses into the distant past, and illustrating the gradual persistence of evolution itself.


The really good news is that Epoch, the first collaboration between Shane Morris and Mystified, is the first of a planned “trilogy about prehistoric time and evolution.” Having gone very deep into this mix of strictly organic drones and touches of tribal ambient, I can say that this series is off to a very good start. Dronemeister Thomas Park, aka Mystified, a man whose passion is taking any sound he can get his gear on and finding a way to stretch and meld it into new shapes, lays down a dense bed of tone. Shane Morris, whose recent forays into tribal, such as his excellent release, Equinox, have kept him high on my list of artists to watch, augments Park’s base with his own array of processed sounds, snarling didgeridoo and percussion. Much of the potency and earthy resonance of Epoch comes out of the artists’ decision to use only acoustic instruments in creating the drones, tones and pads at work here. The sources range from didg to vibraphone to trombone, all bent to the duo’s will and repurposed into four stunningly immersive tracks. This album is entirely about atmosphere. It’s not musical, it’s spatial. It’s the creation of sonic depth and sensation, of grinding out a pure and visceral response to sounds brought to bear en masse. It’s a pseudo-hypnotic trigger mechanism that sends our minds off into a richly imagined, thematically guided space. It is dense and humid and guttural and primitive and works its way into that eldest part of your brain and tries its best to wake it back up. And it is so very effective in what it sets out to do. Although every track here is rock solid and the disc overall is an amazing bit of darkly meditative soundcrafting, the centerpiece is the 21-minute “Devonia.” Words will absolutely fail to do service to this track. Morris’ didg curls and snarls and threatens even as it beckons you downward. The drones here seem to spin, vortex-like, to create an inexorable grasp. This is where your best bet is to simply give yourself over and listen to the duo build the sound around you, the density growing and waning over and over until you’re simply lost in the wonderful murk of sound. Epoch is a lights-out, headphones-on, make-time-for release. In terms of discs that strive solely for atmosphere, this is one of the best discs I’ve heard in years. And folks, it’s just the first of three to come out of this collaboration. The bar is set very high with Epoch; but I have no doubt that Mystified and Morris have only just begun to craft. An amazing album.

- John Shanahan, Hypnagogue

The collaborators on “Epoch” are very well known in the ambient and experimental music fields. Shane Morris is fluent with many percussion and wind instruments, and hardware and software synths. In addition, he co-owns and operates Ethereal Live. Thomas Park (aka Mystified and Mister Vapor) is a prolific musician in the ambient and atmospheric genres, and he also owns Treetrunk Records and its spinoff, Complex Silence.

Aside from this release, the artists have a huge wealth of back catalogue and experience in a number of genres, and are both gifted innovators. “Epoch” is described in the CD’s sleevenotes as being the first part of an epic trilogy entitled “Inspired Evolution”. Only acoustic instruments and sounds were used in the album’s production.

“Epoch” takes us across four geological time periods, initially to the “Cambrian Explosion”. Here, the listener is immersed in almost tangible primordial dampness and heat, with deep bass and long minor shifting drones. Uncertain shapes slither off at the sides; there is a sense of breath being taken for the first time. It’s extremely compelling listening, and a lovely taste of what’s to come. “Devonia”, the album’s longest cut, lays small seeds down under long, ominous notes which furl and unfurl like sonic rope. The soundscape beguiles the listener with a keening, hypnotic repeated motif hanging in the ether above rock-solid didgeridoo drones. Organic splashes and burbles signify the changes in the forms of terrestrial life. This music is incredibly visual; it’s almost as if we are watching a film. It’s a stunning track, and one which I’ve played again and again.

The shortest offering here, at just under nine minutes long, “Triassic Extinction” represents the end of the period of the same name, where at least half of the species on the planet became extinct. The music is sad and sorrowful, with metallic rings spinning to the left and right of empty, thin drones. Tiny organic sounds flounder in a huge, welling space. When the listener considers the events the music attempts to describe, it becomes a moving piece which seems to reflect the frailty of life against gargantuan forces. It’s very thoughtfully done, and extremely evocative.

The final cut, “Jurassic Dawn”, heralds a time of positive change for the earth; we are now in the age of reptiles, which of course includes the dinosaurs. Vast changes take place in the music compared with the previous tracks. Sounds representative of birds and small mammals are here, but it’s impossible to ignore the presence of large, lumbering creatures, their heavy footsteps thudding as they roam across the ground. Open major drones hint at the potential ahead as this period dawns. There is no stasis here; the music morphs and evolves, widening out descriptively as new forms of life are introduced. The percussive footsteps of the dinosaurs provide percussion, but with no rhythm. A didgeridoo raises uncertain calls as it explores its new world of activity amongst the changing shapes of nature’s novel creations.

I have to confess I’ve never experienced music quite like this before. It would be very easy to use the word cinematic, but that simply would not do justice to what is effectively film drawn in sound. It’s an utterly stunning album, and I cannot wait to hear what the duo conjures up next.

- Baxter Tocher, EarTickles

As you might know, my ventures into rather dark ambient fragranced territories are quite sporadic, however it's time to take a closer look on "Epoch", the first part of planned trilogy entitled "Inspired Evolution", mapping the prehistoric time of the Mesozoic Era, the Age of Reptiles, with huge dinosaurs colonizing the land. Released in April 2012 on Lotuspike as collaborative project between ambient composer and multi-instrumentalist Shane Morris (Fayetteville, Arkansas) and ambient/drone soundscaper Thomas Park aka Mystified (St. Louis, Missouri). Solely based on the use of the acoustic instruments such as trombone, didgeridoo, vibraphone, bass drum and bowed gong. "Cambrian Explosion" evolves with sinister low drones and cavernous watery sounds, all enhanced by curving darker and harsher, but minimal and cacophonous crackles, buzzes and breaths. Deep immersion into expressive primordial landscapes is guaranteed!!! The longest piece "Devonia" gets over 22 and half minutes and keeps on the same path as the opening track. Deep low drones are spiced by didge howls, mysterious high-pitched sounds reminding some ghostly voices along with cavernous field recordings of watery or crackling fire traces, all mesmerizingly circling, swelling and enveloping. Stunningly transporting organic symphony, dark ambient at its most primitive!!! "Triassic Extinction" unfolds with eerie drones and distant gong rumbles, with monstrously expanding walls of ear-tickling tensions and dissonances. A truly mind-bending sonic adventure precisely portraying this dramatic prehistoric period!!! Sounds of insects lead the final part, "Jurassic Dawn" and swirl around your head. But soon myriad of mammoth drones, harsher shrills, rumbles and didge barks enter the terrain, the big invasion of birds and dinosaurs has just begun... "Epoch" is exquisitely distinguishing project offering to each listener enormously immersing sonic ride with masterfully executed cover artwork (by Daniel Pipitone, the graphic guru and one of the Lotuspike owners, original photography by Jourdan Laik). "Epoch" is definitely not easy listening experience, but don't hesitate to give it your time, wear your headphones and after few spins you will be transported into stunningly entertaining prehistoric time line with incredible series of changes. I am quite sure it will be as much rewarding for you as it was challenging for its inventors, when shaping this installment. And keep in mind, few days ago the second part of "Inspired Evolution" has been announced by Shane & Thomas, "Emergence" CD is scheduled for release at June 11th, 2013, so stay prepared!!!

- Richard Guertler, Relaxed Machinery

"“Epoch” is the first in a trilogy of of albums about the prehistoric era and evolution in general. As Thomas Park described it, “it’s a nice kick in the rear to the anti-evolutionists.” The word “Epoch” then described this release perfectly both because of the time period in which the music is thematically based off of, the beginning of an evolutionary chain, and the beginning of this trilogy. The music on “Epoch” is also created to fit the atmosphere that the theme implies through a minimal, primitive sound. Cavernous drones drenched in ethereal qualities line the tracks to create images of humid rainforest and harsh mountainous terrain. Primal sounds are created through various buzzing and slow oscillations that herald images of giant insects in plentiful numbers. This is an aural landscape that is both full of life in a way that we have never been witness to as modern humans, and yet somehow distinctly raw. This sound is achieved through the usage of field recordings and other acoustic means for sound creation and capturing. No electronic sources were used for the creation of this work for reasons that should be obvious by now, though electronics were used to process the sounds created into the natural world that you will hear on “Epoch”. It isn’t easy to put into words just how successful these two gentlemen were at creating this world and giving it a realistic organic sound. This is for all intents and purposes a droning effort — its a slow movement through this primitive world that subtly explores various elements of an era dominated by monstrous creatures. It is my belief, however, that as the beginning of the trilogy, this release symbolizes the beginnings of life in the evolutionary chain — a primordial ooze that has given birth to strange creations, thus you won’t hear any monolithic roaring, noisy drones but rather a view of life of a smaller scale, largely insect in origin if the sounds give any hint. Later works in the trilogy will need to include larger, more abrasive elements to keep the aural timeline realistic."

- Sage, Heathen Harvest

STYLE Ambient drone and moodscape. Epoch creates a shadowy realm of naturalistic zones flecked and clattering with percussive peculiarities. In conjuring up the mysteries of the remote past Morris and Mystified have steered clear of melodic forms and instead woven dense tapestries of evocative texture. The album uses no synthesisers or other electronic sound sources - although you would swear otherwise, rather field recordings and heavily processed acoustic instruments are twisted and shaped to purpose: trombone, didgeridoo, vibraphone, bass drums, bowed gong and scissors. Apart from the guttural growl of the didgeridoo it is hard to identify the sonic origins of most elements as heaving beds of tone mass and squirm. Bird-like shrieks and cries dance over the heavy canopy of sound, a didge barks, turbulent noise, the whirr of insectile motion, water movement. A serious tone, a subtle evolution, a dark and absorbing environment - somewhere to get lost. ARTWORK Epoch is pleasingly packaged in a plastic free card wallet of two panels. The disc lurks within one half - and to my delight, the artwork includes a textured design on the inner surfaces. Imagery centres on timeless forest scenes of murky rock and moss, dark slender trunks of trees stabbing upward seeking pallid skies. The surfaces all have scuff damage laid upon the photographic base lending an air of age and individuality as if someone previously passed this way, fingering these pages or perhaps the package has been lost until now. Track titles on the rear include timings and lettering is neat and small. Within there is a paragraph explaining the music and the advice "Think: lots of brass, lots of bass. Giant reptiles in stereo." Website information is here too. OVERALL Released via the Lotuspike subsidiary of Spotted Peccary Records, Epoch brings together US synthesist, percussionist, and ambient musician Shane Morris and atmospheric dronescaper Thomas Park AKA Mystified. The album holds four tracks of music designed to explore the theme of prehistoric time and evolution. Sleeve notes point out the Epoch is the first of a trilogy of releases to be presented under the title Inspired Evolution. The decision to build upon a solely acoustic foundation of trombone and didgeridoo drones and bass percussion effectively strips away the present and stirs the primitive. You can read more about the album and listen to samples at Spotted Peccary. Shane's website also holds a promotional video.

- Paul Jury, Morpheus Music

"Of far off are thundering some tom-toms of which the furtive knocks perturb the tranquility of an ocean suspended on its lappings. Lappings which get lost in the cracklings emerging out of the depths of a halieutic fauna to blow into Epoch its first droning breaths. ""Cambrian Explosion"" launches Shane Morris and Mystified's prehistoric musical adventure with a thick cloud of static layers which accumulate and buzz in an atmosphere tetanised into guttural breaths. Here, no melody! Only some long buzzing lamentations which invade our ears in a powerful atmospheric sound pattern. First musical act of a trilogy to come, Epoch is a musical painting to dark caustic breaths which depicts the evolution of the Earth from its Mesozoic era. As much daring as intriguing, this first opus of Shane Morris and Thomas Park is a purely contemplative work where we discover the genius of the American duet which uses only acoustic instruments to give more authenticity to this highly experimental musical project. Instruments depict as “organic”, such as brass trombones, didjeridoos, vibraphone, bass drums, scissors, and assorted percussions. A panoply of instruments as heterogeneous as unusual which embroiders a surprising sound texture similar to synths and where only the didj and drums seem familiar to us. It’s a creative work intended for a public fond of researches and sound experiments which finds its entire dimension with a good pair of earphones. It’s also an album which follows an evolutionary curve of the prehistory and each title wants to be a reflection of this evolution. Thus ""Devonia"" brings the first melodic lights with the weak breaths of a choir hidden in a cave, wandering near a crackling fire. Cracklings which sometimes sound like lost footsteps and voices which sometimes resound as the breezes of a wind evaded by the curves of a cave flooded with droning sound arcs. The 2nd portion of ""Devonia"" is intensely submerged by static layers which growl and buzz in a caustic ambience. Breaths which little by little diminish for get lost in a sharply more cleared up atmosphere. More serene and less dark, ""Triassic Extinction"" is a long quiet river fed by more limpid musical layers from where are ringing some rustles lost in a floating mist. ""Jurassic Dawn"" loops the loop of this sonic experience with noises of insects which go hunting at twilight. It sounds like an incredible swarm of mosquitoes of which the hummings become entangled into sinuous reverberations which resound in the echo of their elongated breaths, weaving a black threatening universe. We hear tom-toms lose their strikings which go astray in this tempestuous torrent of static shadows. Shadows which float in the breezes of the didjeridoos and the howlings of an animal fauna forgotten in the stigmas which decorate the timeless walls of our Genesis. Epoch is an ambiophonic work weaved in the meanders of prehistory. A purely atmospheric work which pushes away the limits of the ambient term with sound waves and shadows which espouse the magic of absent synths by a multitude of movements stigmatized in an imagination without borders. We cannot remain indifferent to the musical search of Shane Morris and Mystified. A duet which lays a surprising musical painting where the soundscapes of a Jurassic world are show by the magic of sounds. It’s maybe not for all, but we have to raise our hat in front of so much artistic creativity."

- Sylvain Lupari, Synth&Sequences

From the liner notes on the cd, I learned the four-part "Epoch" is the first installment of a trilogy entitled "Inspired Evolution". The latter is a concept-triptych about prehistoric time and evolution. To create the four lenghty tracks making up "Epoch", Shane Morris and Mystified (aka Thomas Park) used no electronic sounds such as synths. Instead, these composers of ambient-atmospheric soundscapes applied acoustic sound sources only (lots of brass/trombone drone textures along didj, bass drum, assorted percussion, bowed gong and vibraphone) that were all processed heavily. This all with the purpose to visualize the primeval, mystical environments and the giant prehistoric creatures living in it as best as possible. The deep and vast organic textures create resonating atmospheres and alienating breathing spaces echoing both the prehistoric sound world and the giants animal life in stereo. It even gets a bit scary on the fourth track "Jurrasic Dawn". Summerizing: "Epoch" is a different and quite hard piece of cake as it goes back to primitive techniques to capture contemporary sounds. This said, it’s only recommended if you appreciate minimal, longform and strong organic dronescapes with an occasional spooky and forboding impact. Headphones are recommended during this atmospheric trip, meant for deep listening.

- Bert Strolenberg, Sonic Immersion

The ambient composers Shane Morris and Mystified (Thomas Park) bring us this fascinating work evoking sounds of the Mesozoic era.  All sounds are processed on acoustic instruments in lieu of synthesizers or electronic sources.  Instrumentation includes bass drum, bowed gong, didgeridoo, vibraphone and trombone manipulated to re-create the sounds of prehistoric Earth.

We begin with "Cambrian Explosion" – the rapid appearance of most major see dwelling animal phyla.  The drones perfectly depict humid rain forests and deserts populated by giant insects.  Thickly buzzing, with pops and clicks surrounding the swirl of activity, it transports your minds eye back 530 million years!

Next comes "Devonia" with droning didgeridoo and liquid sounds of organisms crawling from the seas.  This is followed by the somber "Triassic Extinction," with organic textures suggesting the death of species giving way to the age of dinosaurs in "Jurassic dawn."

The compositions are very representative of these eras with breathtaking cinematic clarity.  Epoch is the first of a proposed trilogy and I eagerly await the next two releases.

- Warren Barker, Progression Magazine (summer 2012)

Pooling the talents of ambient artists Morris and Mystified (aka Thomas Park), "Epoch" is the initial collaboration in what is planned to be a 3-part auditory journey through prehistoric time and evolution. It's an interesting idea, and this album would make a fitting soundtrack to such a sojourn.

The artists wisely utilize only organic, acoustic instruments here, before processing them heavily with electronics. The resultant sound is a primordial soup of textures and amorphous tonalities. An effected didjeridoo blends with drones and gradually-shifting washes of what sounds like wind instruments in "Devonia". "Triassic Extinction" is a more mysterious ambient journey to a barren landscape, while the 14-minute "Jurassic Dawn" is a droning affirmation of life, from nutrient-laden seas to lush, green landscapes. "Epoch" sums up the beginnings of life well, and I look forward to exploring more of the Earth with Morris and Park.

- Todd Zachritz, Goatsden

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