Rhian Sheehan: A Quiet Divide (Loop/digital outlets)

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Rhian Sheehan: A Quiet Divide (Loop/digital outlets)

Given that Wellington-based electronica artist and soundscape creator Rhian Sheehan had a previous album Stories from Elsewhere in 2013 we were always going to be interested at Elsewhere.

In fact, we had been interested long before that because his work was so enticingly subtle and rose above the ambient into cinematic shapes as it conjured up visual images. That his work has frequently been part of multi-media installations (and he creates soundtracks) made perfectly good sense.

This cleverly textured and sometimes dramatic collection is a further move away from pure electronica in that sometimes it has an orchestral sweep (the swelling melody of The Absence of You) and at other times pares right back to elegant solo piano.

The use of real strings – a chamber orchestra conducted by Hamish McKeich of the NZSO – brings not just a warmth to some of these pieces but also clearly nudges Sheehan into the world of contemporary classical composers where electric guitars and electronic soundbeds co-exist with the long orchestral tradition as much as with ambience and drone.

This music is sometimes reflective and spacious as in the manner of Brian Eno's Apollo: Between Us And The Dying Starlight and We Danced Under A Broken Sky are stately astral and cinematic centre-pieces, the latter soaked in a romantic swoon before it goes widescreen with synths and a more strident beat.

Both of these pieces transport you to a world you can only ever see on a movie screen.

And try the seductive April right at the end, it is imbued with wistful nostalgia.

As is so often the case with music like this, the titles hint at a story: Elegy for the Past, The Absence of You, Last Time We Spoke, Atlas (the closest thing to pure electronica here), All Who Remain . . .

This might sound dismissive and lame, but this really is a lovely album.

It comes with layers, depths, a disembodied voice on the closer 1982 and a truly transporting quality.

Coming at your ears, a venue (with animation, visual art and more) and . . . to the private cinema screen inside your head.

A Quiet Divide is released Friday October 5 


Friday October 12 - Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington
Sat 20 / Sun 21 October - Nelson Theatre Royal (Nelson Arts Festival)

Fri 26 / Sat 27 October - Q Theatre, Auckland

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