Monkey Puzzle Orchestra’s Ephemera is an exquisite ambient album that engages the listener without overloading the senses, painting colorful pictures with washes of various instruments that may sound vaguely familiar but are largely forgotten in mainstream music (or, oversaturated with effect to the point of becoming unrecognizable in pure form).
“Ladakh” begins with bright vocals, melting into a pleasingly exotic beat. It sways smoothly, much like the hips of a belly dancer. The sparsely placed bass is the cherry on top of this sultry piece that kept me captivated for all 10 minutes – and indeed, I could have listened to hours of it.
“A Bao A Qu” calls out to announce its presence with a sharp flute, expanding into a very upbeat and explorative song that made me feel like I was ducking in and out of trees and bushes on a safari. There are some other really interesting instruments in there, like the African hunter’s harp, that give this multilayered song even more character. This is the shortest song on the album, but surprisingly it feels just as long as the others double its length.
The gravitational beginning of “Book of Shadows” is the kind of super thick and heavy sound that gets me making weird moaning noises – I can’t really help it, it just sort of reaches out and squeezes my chest in its large grasp. It’s not just heavy for the sake of being heavy, either; there is method to the sound, with variations in pitch making it irresistible.
I’d like to give mention to the other four songs not mentioned here: the title track “Ephemera,” “North Wind,” “King of Aruba” and “Innuendo.” All four of these are truly fantastic songs; in fact, the title track was one of my favorites on the album. Make no mistake; these are all integral parts of the experience and though they were not listed in detail, should not be overlooked in listening to the album (trust me, you aren’t going to want to fast forward through any of it anyway).
I am always on the hunt for music that can either play as background music while I’m working, or can completely envelope me when I listen quietly in a dark room; Ephemera does both wonderfully well. It’s easy to get lost in music like this, but I love how each song announces itself while still flowing smoothly from the previous. This was over an hour long, but I still want more – which should be an indication of how great it is. If you don’t listen to anything else today, and appreciate great ambient music, DEFINITELY check this one out. It’s long, but well worth the time.
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