Cosmicleaf (label)

Cosmicleaf's wonderful early compilations map out the territory for almost everything that has subsequently appeared on the label...there is both darkness and light, familiar genre sounds and strange new sounds, a mindset open to genuine variety which understands that 'beautiful' can mean something profound rather than just cheesy or bland.

label:
Cosmicleaf

country of origin:
Greece

style(s):
Psy-ambient, psy-chill, ambient trance/techno/dub, world beat, breakbeat

decades active:
00's - 10's

essential compilations:

  • Chill On Ice (2004, Cosmicleaf/Unicorn Music)
  • Fragile Life (2005, Cosmicleaf/Unicorn Music)
  • Nova Natura 2 (2006, Cosmicleaf/Unicorn Music)

Reviewed by Mike G

Like Aleph Zero and Ultimae Records, Cosmicleaf is one of a new wave of 21st century labels from the global progressive and psy-trance underground that has reinvented dance music for the ambient zone by going beyond just stripping away the fast tempos.

Cosmicleaf's wonderful early compilations map out the territory for almost everything that has subsequently appeared on the label. While some of those territories have since become dead ends, the three early compilations listed above - dating 2004 to 2006 - hold up very well. There is both darkness and light, familiar genre sounds and strange new sounds, a mindset open to genuine variety which understands that "beautiful" can be something profound rather than just cheesy or light chillout music.

The label's debut compilation Chill On Ice (2004) is outstanding in every way, a benchmark in psychedelic slowbeats. Each of these ten instrumentals are fully developed pieces traversing a range of moods and beats featuring artists mostly from Greece but also from Israel, Australia and Serbia. The ambient spaces between electro, trance, rock and world fusion are fertile ones, and the richness here suggests a group of artists diving headlong into them with passion, open minds and impressive programming skills. There's no room for purists - the opening "Sardonia" combines a Kraftwerk-style arpeggio with rock guitar in a way that sounds absolutely natural. Side Liner's "Next Page" gives us a trance breakdown without snare-drum rolls and kicks back in with peaktime dancefloor intensity despite being half the pace. "P-Ray" by Israeli composer Zero Cult achieves an exquisite tension between its darkly buzzing groove below and sweet piano phrases above. Del & Gen's "Whisper" is all Balearic beauty and uplifting vibes, with a soaring organ chords weaving gently through its layered melodies.

Quality-wise several of the label's other compilations maintain the high standard that Chill on Ice established.

Fragile Life (2005) has lots of melodic arpeggios anchored by crisp, solid rhythms - sometimes techy, sometimes warm and dubby - with Arabian touches and evocative sci-fi atmospheres. Zero Cult's "Tripsphere" is an eerie, deeply beautiful piece of widescreen psychedelic dub. It has a wonderful Theremin-like whistle in the opening minutes and a bizarre, buzzing vocal sample throughout that sounds like an alien doing breath exercises. The album closes on an uptempo note with Goasia's "Pray For Rain" is an epic, uplifting breakbeat monster with a fantastic melodic groove.

Based on label founder Nick Miamis' own radio show, the first volume of Nova Natura (2005) is flattened by a little too much sweetness and light. But Nova Natura 2 (2006) restores a balance between pretty surfaces and more ambiguous undertows. Its best tracks are sweeping and colourful and mysterious, all of them immaculately produced. Label regulars Side Liner and Minos contribute downtempo gems with that same magical sense of unfolding and discovery that defines great progressive club trance. A surprising remix of Aussie band Not Drowning Waving's along "Cold & The Crackle" by Arcane Trickster is the album's highlight. It's flat-out brilliant, coaxing out the original's dark ambient qualities with brooding atmospheric drones and a big, slow drum break.

If you want to dig deeper, there are also some outstanding single artist albums on Cosmicleaf including Emotional Diving (2006) by Side Liner, Terra Firma (2012) by Potlotch and Straight Theory (2013) by Maluns.

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