This is Cardamar‘s latest full length album. I must say to start off that it is not simply more of what was seen in Steam. To give a perspective for the rest of the review, I liked Steam in so much as I thought it was good. Not great, but it was good. The sounds seemed a bit rough at times and it wasn’t as smooth as I tend to like my chillout, but overall it was good. I will also be making references to the style of Steam later, so I would suggest at least previewing the album.
The album starts off with a 2 track intro (of sorts). It is a very ambient introduction that seems to bring you to a dark and somewhat problematic location. It is another album that seems to want to take the listener on a trip, but this is a very different trip than what was seen in In Medias Res. In the second track, Distant Scenery, you get a bit of curiosity brimming in an otherwise desolate environment. The music become more interesting and much more chill than ambient. The same feeling gets much more intense as we enter Start, my personal favorite track of the album (though song 5, Stuck In a Loop, is very close). This takes in a lot move bass than a lot of chillout, but in a very cool way. I honestly was taken off guard by how cool this track really sounded to me. The two tracks really blended together well to give me a strong feeling. It seemed to calm down for a moment only to come rushing back again at full force. The track does conclude nicely before it seems that we move into Root Escape, the next track. Up to this point, you wouldn’t really know that Steam and Where The Skys End were done by the same artist easily. It is a very different starting feel. I really like this part.
Root Escape has actually been up on chilloutmixes.com for a very long time, but it isn’t the same version that is here. This version holds a much darker feel, but it does seem to bring something of a light to the end of the tunnel. I do get some of the feel of Steam starting to show here. Stuck In A Loop is the next track that seems very much like a bridge between the Steam-like ending part and the new style beginning part of the CD. It has a very interesting feel to start that slowly seems to bring some of the harsher tones that you might recognize from Steam into play. A subtle voice track is used at one part (too softly in my opinion; it seemed as though it could be a very cool sound but it is overpowered by the piano track). This track just seems to fade away until Obscure Scenery starts playing. Obscure Scenery starts really weird with a clapping sound. I wouldn’t call the sound a good way to start a track either. It’s somewhat harsh for coming out of a track that just faded to silence. This track seems to show the last of the new style before we seem to plunge very much into the older Steam style music from Cardamar. It has some of the same kind of weird, off sounds that sounded a bit experimental but not always the most fluid sound. The clapping in the background seems to really be out of place when it becomes more flowing. Rather abruptly it ends and moves to a burning sound of Dancing On The Furnace. This doesn’t start with a chillout feel at all and instead actually feels like it could be house or trance. Some strong but slow other sounds help to keep a somewhat ambient background for somewhat of a dance-inspired track. It feels very repetative to me (though for someone who enjoys house more, it might be great). It is followed by Chilling on the Furnace which seems to be a sort of rest afterwards. This is a quite nice chillout track. I can’t say that it struck me as particularly innovative, but the happy, somewhat jungle feel of the music is nice. It seems as though it could become something absolutely great if taken far enough. Unfortunately, it seems as though the track is restrained for some reason. It stays too traditional to be great.
After going through the first 8 tracks of the 19, you unfortunately have experience a lot of the better sections. The remainder of the CD is a lot like Chilling on the Furnace. I don’t mean the jungle feel, but I do mean the Steam-like style mixed with common or traditional chillout. It never gets increadibly complex nor simplistic. The sounds aren’t new nor revolutionary. Tears of a Man Who Never Cried (really cool name) is another track that is pretty cool, but I think it uses too much piano to be as cool as the beginning (but it is another cool track). The two tracks after that also start in a cool fashion, but the song progresses to just feel like another Steam-inspired track.
The end of the CD is disappointing. If it ended at Beyond the Stars, it would have ended in an interesting use of white-noise. Unfortunately there is the final track, Beyond the Infinite, that adds in an overused violin-ish sound that doesn’t sound particularly interesting by this point. For the close, the entire mix of sound just fades off without real conclusion. That is disappointing.
Overall, the CD is good. I would say that tracks 2-4 are not to be missed, but the rest is only as great as you felt about Steam (and you want a lot more of that). You can pick out the tracks you want and listen to previews using iTunes, so I would say that is your best bet if you are in doubt. I hope that in future Cardamar CDs we see much more of the front half of the cd and fall away from his original style.