Active since the early 90's, Australian psychedelic label Psy Harmonics has occasionally taken welcome detours into the ambient and downtempo zones. The debut album Bleu (2004) by Melbourne duo Ornament - the only album the duo has ever released - is one such detour and it's a stunning achievement.

artist:
Ornament

country of origin:
Australia

style(s):
Ambient rock, environmental, cinematic, neoclassical, ambient trance

decades active:
2000's

essential releases:

  • Bleu (2004, Cyan Music/Psy Harmonics)

Simon Polinski as Hesius Dome:

  • Farewell Waltz (2005, Psy Harmonics)

Reviewed by Mike G

Active since the early 90's, Australian psychedelic label Psy Harmonics has occasionally taken welcome detours into the ambient and downtempo zones. The debut album Bleu (2004) by Melbourne duo Ornament (Simon Polinski and Joe Creighton) - the only album the duo has ever released - is one such detour and it's a stunning achievement.

Bleu is warm, spacious and alive, with fully-fleshed arrangements and seductive textures. It's not the sound of ambient-downtempo you might expect from a label that releases a lot of psytrance; it sounds more organic, more rock-inflected and less bleepy.  The album's sound design has a softened the top-end, creating the aural perception of bigger spaces and more rounded surfaces rather than sharp, well-defined edges. Sometimes there is a classical logic to the album's flow; two pieces have their own separate "overtures" which give you a main theme before going on to a more extended development of the same idea. Highlights include "The Jesse Tree", a slow and sexy 4/4 rock jam with guitar soloing that's extended but restrained. "To Love Is To Laugh" is based around an oddly touching narrative sampled from a documentary about Eskimos. Best of all is the breathtaking choral-based piece "Yehuvaroom". Its looped, chiming melody establishes a powerful sense of expectancy and mystery, to which string sounds and other melody lines are added, all bathed in carefully timed choral swells that are exquisitely beautiful.

Band member Simon Polinski has also recorded three solo albums as Hesius Dome. The second Hesius Dome album Farewell Waltz (2005) is of a comparable standard to the Ornament release. This one more emphasises guitar in various guises - acoustic, electric, sampled - and the album literally glistens and shimmers with its sound. The opening "Gamelan" is driven by fast, short cycles of gently chiming guitar notes rolling over a synthetic multi-coloured landscape. Its a kind of psychedelic minimalism with ringing string sounds not unlike Robert Fripp's experiments in the 1980's with his "guitar orchestra". The gorgeous title track - despite its name - is a peculiarly Australian piece of environmental impressionism. You can almost feel the sun, smell the ocean, walk the deserted beach, revel in its lonely Antipodean beauty. Here the composer uses delay effects to spread out his simple melodic guitar phrases, all cushioned in lush electronic clouds.

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