Igneous Flame / Achromus 'Flicker'
14 tracks, 69.05 mins
After several solo albums, Pete Kelly is expanding his Igneous Flame musical
horizons by joining forces with Michael Stringer aka Achromus. Pete continues to
explore all guitar-based forms of ambient, while Michael supplies keys and other
sonic elements and textures. The emphasis throughout is on keeping things bright
and ethereal, surprisingly accessible given the lack of distinct melodies.
'Evergreen' floats slowly by to start things off, and it is typical of the light
and airy approach. In a slight divergence, 'Sinuhe' has a brief Finnish
narrative, but musically it remains similar to the rest. Sometimes the guitars
soar over the other sounds and are distinctly guitar-like, but more often than
not they meld into the rest of the amorphous ambience. 'Off The Horizon' is a
slowly undulating piece with wonderfully delicate textures, including female
vocal samples that Kelly manipulates into a velvety smooth instrument. Speaking
of sonic manipulation, several tracks feature samples from airports and train
stations, although you'd never know it. Mostly a collaborative effort, there
are a handful of tracks that are Kelly's alone, including the last four, which
take the disc into a bit darker territory, but nothing to be too afraid of.
Besides, there's a good chance you will have drifted off into dreamy reverie
Igneous Flame / Achromus 'Halo'
(Download: AtmoWorks, CDR: Hypnos, 2008)
2 tracks, 53.33 mins
Flicker and Halo, the two recent releases by Igneous Flame and Achromus, are
opposite sides of the same ambient coin. Flicker is the lighter, ethereal
choice. If you prefer your ambient on the dark side then Halo is the one for
you. Comprised of two long journeys into cavernous depths, it offers a tasty
treat for explorers of the darker realms. And while it is dark, it is eminently
listenable for fans of the genre, not too strange or experimental. 'Arc Light'
starts right in with a metallic, reverberating echo, jumping right into the
shadows. Haunting sounds, vaguely like eerie choirs, hang in the mist. It takes
several twists and turns along the way, sometimes sounding more like white noise
or churning machinery, at other times drifting more softly by. Don't go looking
for distinct melody or rhythm, though, as you are unlikely to find it. This is
all about abstract sonic textures in varying shades from grey to black. At times
I imagine a deep dive into the Marianas Trench; and just when it seems we might
be getting closer to the light for a time, we dip back down again. 'Halo' is
similar and yet unique, at turns both lighter and darker than its predecessor.
The artists recommend headphone listening, but if you do you may want to leave
the lights on. Recommended.
Both reviews by Phil Derby on his Electroambient Space site
(Nov-Dec 2008 edition) Here
There is also an interview with Pete Kelly (Igneous Flame) in this edition.
Harmonium review by John Shanahan
Listening to Harmonium, the new collaborative work from Igneous Flame and Disturbed Earth, is like spending an hour wrapped in a warm bank of fog that sighs around you, spectral shapes forming out of the mist to laze and drift past. It is complete immersion in an unimpeded stream of gentle sound that utterly calms the mind and spirit and slows the breath. Elegantly simple in feeling but offering so much when listened to deeply, the tracks here are expertly layered, with Dean Richards' pedal harmonium creations floating and rolling quietly through Pete Kelly's sonic manipulations, the alchemical blend turning them to softly pulsing dreamspaces. This is a perfect CD for meditation or for low-volume looping during sleep. For pure, atmospheric drifts, this is one of the best releases I've heard this year. A brilliant piece of work, and a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.
Electra review by John Shanahan
I will caveat this review by stating up front that I am a long-standing Igneous Flame fan. I look forward to receiving new music from Igneous (aka Pete Kelly), and I eagerly load each new disc into my iPod knowing that from the moment I hit "play" I'm in for a good, mellow ride on well-constructed drifts and guitar textures. And so it is with the newest release, Electra. The ten tracks here fold as smoothly as silk one into the next in an ongoing series of bright, warm meditations colored with the intermittent passing of clouds. (Most notably so in "Chromashift," its partner, "Chromaflow," and the appropriately dark "Mountain Breath.") The pieces here play like movements of a singular whole, each with their own distinct character and purpose--the soaring feel of the opener, "Trident," the subtly majestic undertones of "Ghost Voices," the glossy waver of "Shimmer"--and the space between songs becomes a moment for taking a deep breath at the surface before heading back down. Kelly's beatless constructs are, as usual, thoughtfully and thickly layered and there's not a bump or jolt in the flow. This is a must for repeat play, but do yourself a favor and have the headphones on to make the most of each pass. Moment by perfectly constructed moment, this is another superb offering from Igneous Flame--a good stepping-off point if you're not familiar with his work or, if you're a fan like me, another excellent addition to a growing and consistently impressive canon of work.
Both reviews by John Shanahan on his 'Hypnagogue' site
Igneous Flame 'Electra'
10 tracks, 58.03 mins
Pete Kelly returns as Igneous Flame on his 7th solo album Electra, which he describes as 'amorphous guitarscapes' and 'ghost voices.' Despite the ghost reference, the opening track 'Trident' is light and bright. There is a signature sound that reminds me a lot of the beginning of Jeffrey Koepper's album Momentium. 'Chromashift' starts fairly light as well, although a low drone grabs hold midway through with just the slightest edge to it, like a low growl, for a cool effect. Several of the tracks follow this pattern of moving from shadow to light and back again. Although there is no distinct melody per se, and it is definitely more ambient than new age, the disc does have a 'pretty' feel to it, in a good way, like strands of gossamer hanging in the air. Titles like 'Shimmer' and 'Shadowplay' aptly convey the feeling of the music. Electra is perfect for quiet meditation and reflection, or simply kicking back and enjoying.
Reviewed by Phil Derby on his Electroambient Space site
(Jan 2010 edition) Here
Igneous Flame & Disturbed Earth 'Harmonium'
7 tracks, 52.16 mins
Igneous Flame is Pete Kelly; Disturbed Earth is Dean Richards; together they have released this excellent CD simply called Harmonium, named after the instrument that Richards plays, with Kelly adding 'treatments and production.' The end result is a delicate, subtle, ethereal ambient work, breathtaking in its simplicity and beauty. This is perfectly soothing music to play at the end of the day, either to lift your spirits after a bad one or to make a good one even better. Titles are simple, seemingly abstract combinations of roman numerals, allowing the listener to create their own imagery while the music softly plays in the background. When I listen, I imagine colored lights in soft hues slowly swirling about. There is a sense of warmth rarely found in electronic music, yet completely without the cloying quality of new age. Although the instrumentation results in a certain familiarity throughout, each piece is distinctive enough to stand up on its own merits. For example, 'II/II' shimmers with a somewhat brighter sheen than some of the others, although it, like the rest of Harmonium, evolves nicely into various subtle shadings, tones, and moods.
Reviewed by Phil Derby on his Electroambient Space site
(Jan 2010 edition) Here
'ION' review by Hypnagogue
When an ambient artist notes that a work is "long form," it usually means it's one piece that takes up an entire CD-73 minutes or so. On his two latest releases, Ion and Orcus, Igneous Flame (aka Pete Kelly) set his sights higher. At 130 minutes and 95 minutes respectively, these offerings require DVD format to accommodate their heft. (Kelly wisely uses the ample disc space to offer both MP3 and WAV options.) Taken together, the two releases stand as contrasting meditations, one built on a dreamy lightness and the other on grim, often stultifying darkness.
Ion is the lighter of the two. Here, Kelly sets aside the processed guitars that have formed the bulk of his past few albums and instead calls all of his floating forms from keyboards. The feel here is classic ambient: cloud-motion drifts in airy, angelic-choir pads and soft bass exhalations that lazily nudge each other along for two hours. In that regard there's nothing groundbreaking happening here; it's just that it's all done extremely well. Ion is one of those listens that creates moments where you suddenly realize that your breathing has sympathetically slowed to match the music and that you've allowed yourself to wander off somewhere, mentally. Sometimes you're brought around by a Kelly shimmer or a shift in tone (as at the beginning of "Earth Metal") that tugs at your attention, but soon enough you've returned to that quiet section of headspace Ion has been gently hollowing out for you. Obviously, this disc truly comes into its own when it's looped quietly, as the artist intends. Kelly's meditative, time-stretched imaginings will simply curl around the space and make themselves at home.
'Orcus' review by Hypnagogue
By stark contrast, Orcus grabs hold of all the right dark ambient memes and proceeds to hammer them into shape. Kelly's web site notes that the sounds and sonic images herein are meant to call to mind "the current corrosive energies unleashed into the world," and they do. Metallic sounds grate and rasp against one another. Static spatters the soundscape. A sense of unrest pollutes the space-by design. Kelly effectively varies the work from overloaded sonic detritus to sparse nuclear-winter stretches of near-nothingness. There is loneliness and there is noise. I've been listening to Igneous Flame for several years now, and this is absolutely the densest and darkest he's ever gone. It's to his credit that there's no sense of pretension here or the feel of an artist overstepping his bounds. Kelly is clearly comfortable making listeners uncomfortable. Given its length, Orcus isn't something I'm likely to put on often for a full listen-I have a hard enough time getting through dark ambient CDs of normal length. But it will certainly stay in iPod rotation for those times when I need a little blackness and despair.
Kudos also go to Kati Astraeir for her stunningly detailed cover art on these discs-particularly the swirling, Necronomicon-ish depths of Orcus.
Ion and Orcus are both excellent discs that showcase the breadth of Pete Kelly's talent. Whether you're in the mood for light sounds or gripping darkness, Igneous Flame has what you need-and plenty of it.
Both reviews by John Shanahan on his 'Hypnagogue' site
'Ion' review by Stephen Fruitman / Sonomu.net
A sprawling ambient concerto for synthesizer stretching well over two hours. Igneous Flame's Pete Kelly has composed a rarefied rhapsody to the earth, the stars and all the little particles that unite them.
Ion fairly breathes and sparkles. A true ambient tour-de-force that, although built from electricity (nothing but synthesizers), feels as organic as the trees and their chlorophyll. It travels through the darkness rather than illuminate it, casting light on celestial bodies toward which the artist gravitates, orbits and and inspects before pressing leisurely onward. This is the sound you hear when you look in awe at those remarkable digital photographs the earth's telescopes and satellites take of impossibly far away clouds of galaxies.
With its titles mainly refering to the physics of our natural world - 'Photonic Motion', 'Holophony', 'Cobalt Droplet', 'Earth Meta', 'Unipolar'- the breathtaking starlit beauty of Ion reconfirms the fact that there is no heaven without earth.
Posted by Stephen Fruitman on 28 Sep 2011
Hypnagogue review of 'Lyra' (Feb 2012)
For his latest release, Igneous Flame (aka Pete Kelly) opted to put aside the tools he'd gotten used to using to create his typically airy, richly layered ambient music and look for new ways to achieve his sound. Lyra started life as a guitar ambient disc in the style of David Sylvain but, as good Art often does, soon steered itself off in different and more individualized directions. The result was that Kelly split the work into two discs-one being synth-based and the other more rooted in guitar. The two share the warmth and depth typical of most Igneous Flame discs. Low drones form a base over which Kelly floats vaporous pads, long and prone to slow fades, sometimes giving themselves over to a big buildup that swells before evaporating. In among the drifts Kelly, as always, weaves emotional and narrative threads. Take a track like "Translucence," which eases along, shifting tone before passing through a rushing wash of sound, a sort of sonic nexus, a portal that gives way to a new expression. There's excellent motion at work here, and it packs its share of drama. "Brilliantine" shows off the same sort of shifts across its 10-minute span but keeps itself quiet through the changes. "Crystalline" adds some extra dimension with the solidity of quiet piano that appears in the last minute or so, rising like crystal in the midst of another gauzy flow. The only mis-step for me on disc 1 comes in the middle of "Auric," where Kelly wallops a stretch of calm with a gong. A big gong. I'm just warning you in case you've got a heart condition. It must be said, though, that "Auric" does build to that moment, with almost orchestral swells pushing through in points, and Kelly moves from there to a spiraling whirl before easing back, so some leeway has to be given from a thematic perspective. But oh, that gong...It's the only disruptive moment in an otherwise delightfully meditative flow.
By comparison, disc 2 comes away almost as if Kelly wanted to give us more of what worked in disc 1, but then ground the whole thing with the earthy waypoints provided by his laid-back guitar style. It's an evolution of the first disc that shows how one more element can change ambient. I like that Kelly doesn't make this just an ambient disc with guitar overlay, however. The guitar picks its spots and only comes in where it's needed, where it neatly augments the moment. Its first real appearance happens more than halfway through the first track, a light and high bit of phrasing with a touch of a folksy twang that drops into Kelly's signature flow. The title track features flickerings of acoustic guitar, butterfly storms of notes scattered across its face. It's truly a blend of ethereal and corporeal, the dreamy and the distinct, and Kelly meshes the two sides of the equation perfectly, again and again. Listen to "Spark," where at points Kelly pulls everything back to a point of near-silence, absolute wisps of sound from both sides-his lightest drones' the gentlest touch on the strings-and makes stunning use of the resultant negative space. You find yourself holding your breath and waiting for the next moment to be created.
Lyra is not an easy disc to write about; like many excellent works, a simple listen will do more for your understanding than anything I can try to say here. What needs to be said is that Igneous Flame is continuing to advance and improve, challenging himself with every new disc while managing to maintain a signature feel to his music.
Kudos also go to Kati Astraeir for yet another stunning cover.
If you're interested in Kelly's process and/or gear used in making Lyra, he jotted it all down in blog form for you.