New Zealand musician Rhian Sheehan is a gifted composer of ambient and modern classical works. Friend of my favorite star-gazing band, Hammock, his sound parallels their sonic achievements. Like Hammock, Rhian’s music is an immersive experience. You cannot merely sit there and listen passively, nor can you remain detached. I dare you to listen to “A Thimble Full of Sorrow” and not be unmoved. He first draws you in with gorgeous opener, “Sileo”. As soft as the breaking summer day, piano droplets fall around you, gradually increasing in volume as the sun skirts the horizon. Embrace the dawn, and love this music, for surely it is fit for the gods. The world wakes up and voices pierce through your morning drowse as this perfect opening track winds to a close.
In “Upper Sky”, my mind skates across clouds as strings and horns bloom around me, lifting me even higher with their sonic waves. Rhian also employs a music box on “La Boite a Musique”, and adds layers that wind around the tiny chimes of the instrument at the song’s center. I especially enjoy the drumming here, which makes me think of toy soldiers marching smartly along to the beat. “Creation Myths” revisits the jewel box theme and stutters along for a short distance before melting into the aforementioned “A Thimble Full of Sorrow”.
“A series of enchanting instrumental works, Stories From Elsewhere is Rhian Sheehan’s most evocative album to date – an excursion into a soundscape of tender ethereal textures, brooding cinematic string arrangements, and playful experimental lullabies. Sheehan has encapsulated a world of serenity and melancholia within this 12-track album. Stories From Elsewhere is a musical landscape to get lost in.”
“Nocturne 1985” is quite a bit noisier than other tracks, but no less gorgeous. Like all the best composers of sonic landscapes, Rhian makes you feel every note. And oh gosh, “Nusquam” is one of the most beautiful pieces of ambient music I’ve ever heard. The strings are both eerie and lush, bolstering the edges of this song with a delicate web. “Imber” is a tad darker, but no less sparkling with the addition of triangle to a string section. The rest of this release is equally beautiful and profound, and I cannot recommend it enough. For those who like Hammock or anyone on the n5MD label, you will most likely adore this.
Be sure to read Interview with Rhian Sheehan
Review by Elizabeth Klisiewicz exclusively for Headphone Commute.