Peter Miller aka Perpetual Ocean

The Violet Flame (1993) is stunning; an unforgettable walk though the world of horror writers like Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury, with an occasional detour via the wreck of the Titanic and the twilight world of hypnotism. Every track is characterised by intelligence and invention, at times spiced with a wonderfully wry sense of humour.

artist:
Peter Miller aka Perpetual Ocean

country of origin:
Australia

style(s):
Ambient, cinematic, Gothic, orchestral, classical

decades active:
80's - 10's

essential releases:

  • Love Versus Gravity (1990, scribbletronics.com)
  • The Violet Flame (1993, Ultima Thule Ambient Media) buy-button-25x12
  • Perpetual Ocean: Collected Works (1998, scribbletronics.com)

Reviewed by Mike G

Since the 1980's Peter Miller (aka Perpetual Ocean) has  well-known in Australian media and arts circles as an award-winning sound designer and composer of soundtracks for film and television, including TV advertisements for Nike and Mercedes and - more recently - sound design on Hollywood films such as horror thriller The Ring and the animated comedy Rango.

During the 90's he also found time for a series standalone solo albums. Two of these - Love Versus Gravity (1990) and The Violet Flame (1993) - are both flat-out brilliant works of sample-based electro-acoustic ambient music. Risky but refined, accessible but never vapid, they brim with a quiet invention and contain plenty of sonic surprises.

Love Versus Gravity is the more experimental of the two. The melody count may be on the low-side but some of Miller’s most imaginative work can be found here. The opening “Bird Mystery” is a fascinating collage of bird sounds electronically manipulated into a series of interlocking melodies and rhythmic pulses. “Follow Your Heart” and “Careless With Chloroform” are cleverly constructed montages of voice samples from soap operas combined with suitably eerie electronic embellishments that sound like cello or violin. “The Forge”, with it's dark, ominous orchestral soundscape, more explicitly suggests the influence of film music and is chillingly effective.

If the ideas on Love Versus Gravity aren't always completely focussed, it's a logical precursor to the next album and Miller’s tour de force. The Violet Flame is stunning; an unforgettable walk though the world of horror writers like Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury, with an occasional detour via the wreck of the Titanic and the twilight world of hypnotism. Every track is characterised by intelligence and invention, at times spiced with a wonderfully wry sense of humour. “From The Diary Of Madeline Usher” combines gothic strings with the rhythmic qualities of closing doors, footsteps, a ticking clock and dialogue samples of a woman voicing her ‘fear of premature burial’. The mesmerising “Sleepers” juxtaposes the looped, disintegrating voice of a hypnotist with the sounds of a moving train, while the highly evocative “Titanica” builds upon a sampled sonar bleep and Harold Budd-like piano phrases to take us on a spine-chilling journey around the wreck of the Titanic. This is an electronic album, but the samples are so refined and well integrated you'd swear the composer was accompanied by a live orchestra on magisterial tracks like "Blood and Roses" and "At Dark's Carnival". In such moments Peter Miller has achieved a full realisation musically of what an elite few genre directors like Roger Cormen (with his Poe adaptions), Mario Bava and Dario Argento managed to achieve in their own medium of film: he has made horror beautiful.

Perpetual Ocean: The Collected Works (1998) is a welcome 2-CD set from Australian label Origin Recordings that repackages the above two albums under the pseudonym Perpetual Ocean. This album and most of the rest of his back catalogue are available direct from his own site www.scribbletronics.com.

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