Rhian Sheehan

New Zealander composer Rhian Sheehan crafts instrumentals of great cinematic beauty and strong emotional undertows. He effortlessly straddles dual worlds - acoustic and electronic sounds, rock rhythms and loopy ambient dance patterns - and his background in film and TV soundtracks lends his music a very personal and story-like flow.

artist:
Rhian Sheehan

country of origin:
New Zealand

style(s):
Ambient, cinematic, breakbeat, neoclassical, ambient rock, drone, shoegaze

decades active:
00's - 10's

essential releases:

  • Tiny Blue Biosphere (2004, Loop Recordings)
  • Standing In Silence (2008, Loop Recordings)
  • Seven Tales Of The North Wind (2011, Escape Artist)
  • Stories From Elsewhere (2013, Loop Recordings)

Reviewed by Mike G

New Zealander composer Rhian Sheehan crafts instrumentals of great cinematic beauty and strong emotional undertows. He effortlessly straddles dual worlds - modern and classical, acoustic and electronic, rock rhythms and loopy ambient dance patterns - and his background in film and TV soundtracks lends his music a very personal and story-like flow. Rich in emotion, harmonies and texture, fans of Decoder Ring, Ulrich Schnauss and Sigur Ros will find plenty to love here.

Sheehan's second release Tiny Blue Biosphere (2004) begins a sequence of four superb and dreamy chillout albums. It's a lush, varied landscape of cosmic ambient strings and chorales, acoustic folk and loungey breakbeats. There's some inspired sampling too - the lazy electro of "Phobos" ends with a somber church choir hovering above the famous anti-war speech from the end of the film The Day The Earth Stood Still. The album's pristine surfaces and liquid sound design are clearly the result of hard work in the studio, polishing compositions to sound the best they possibly can without overcooking them. With one-third songs and two-thirds instrumentals the mix feels just right, meaning the soulful vocals of guests like NZ singer Jess Chambers sound like a welcome dimension in the music rather than a pitch for commercial ears.

Standing In Silence (2008) and Stories From Elsewhere (2013) are all-instrumental and more cinematic than Tiny Blue Biosphere, infused with palpable feelings of awe, solitude, euphoria and gentle sadness.

The 14-part Standing In Silence features processed guitars, bells, chimes, lush strings, keyboards and location recordings. Sheehan expertly shapes the elements into pretty arcs of ambient sound, spacey piano melodies, and occasional strong beats and shuffles. Stories From Elsewhere works in similar territory, except with an increased use of live instruments and players rather than digital samples. Sandwiched in between these two albums is the sublime Seven Tales Of The North Wind (2011). It's essentially a mini-album and it's also Sheehan's most subdued release, emphasising the fuzzy drone-based backdrops of his panoramic sound.

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