The American synthesist Paul Ellis is a fast growing power in electronic music. From the Berlin school-orientated music he created with the band Dweller at the Threshold and on his early solo works, he switched to an impressive mixture between Berlin school, ambient and lots of own inventions. His latest album "the Sacred Ordinary", his first on the groove unlimited label, already was a masterpiece but what he has done on "Silent Conversations" is no less than sensational. On "Silent Conversations" there is an important place for the genius of ambient Steve Roach, who contributes on four of the nine tracks. This can be heard on the excellent opening track with the great title "the only known photograph of God" and "Peripheral Vision". Ellis is a master of sequences. Tracks like "Trillium", "The wind-up synthesizers of the Glass Reich", "Continental Drift" and "Dialing in the Sun" show some of the best sequencer lines ever. All these sequencer forces are, so to say, being put to rest in a bed of fantastic ambient sounds. And then there are also the slightly experimental "Trance Figure" on which Paul plays guitar, bass and a Rhodes electric piano and the atmospheric title track with the intriguing vocals of Alison O'connor. Ellis is a master of electronic music, as is Pablo Magne a master of cover designs. These two elements together have resulted in an album that can now already be regarded as a classic. Press information This album is a bit of a departure for Paul Ellis, as well as for sequencer EM in general. In addition to synthesizers it features a nice use of guitar, bass, voice and some other acoustic and electric instruments. That doesn't mean, however that Paul's style is unnoticeable, because there are still plenty of rhythmic sequencer tracks done in the typical Paul Ellis manner. On some tracks, Paul is helped by friends Steve Roach, Jeffrey Koepper, Otso Pakarinen and others. So, strictly speaking, some of the tracks on 'Silent Conversations' are actually collaborations with other artists. We start with 'The Only Known Photograph of God' that has Steve Roach and Jeffrey Koepper helping out on synthesizers, while Paul plays synths, guitars and bass. It has an atmospheric beginning but after a while in come the sequences and several minutes later it settles into a nice rhythmic groove. There are some stunning jazzy chords that make the track really stand out, giving the proceedings a slightly funky vibe. The mood is relaxed and very enjoyable, like a comfortable space voyage in a warm, enveloping capsule. The track really took me back to the golden age of EM with it's subtle pulsations, electric pianos and warm analog string sounds. 'Trillium' is a Paul Ellis solo synth piece that starts with a slow, echoing sequence of the kind that Paul is so good at. The pace remains slow and relaxed throughout the piece, while the atmosphere is decidedly alien and unearthly. Nice deep bass sounds on this one. Some faster sequences are playing alongside the slow ones, giving the track a rich, full sound, in spite of the fact that the music itself is based almost exclusively on rhythmic elements, with a few weird FX injections here and there. The way the sequences are changing, mutating and interacting is simply gorgeous. 'Peripheral Vision' is a collaborative track with Steve Roach (pad and bell synths, processing) and Will Merkle (bass). It's firmly in the Ambient school of thought, with Steve laying down the atmospheric background on top of which we can hear Paul playing Rhodes piano and a bit of Mellotron flute near the end, while Merkle provides a few subtle touches on bass guitar. Rhodes is certainly what gives this track (and album as a whole, because this instrument is used on some other tracks as well) it's own specific atmosphere. It's a pleasant diversion, as the sounds of Fender Rhodes are very characteristic of 70's Progrock, Fusion and even EM records, so the album has a lot of that 'good old' feeling in it. 'The Wind-Up Synthesizers of the Glass Reich' (talk about odd titles!) is a collaborative piece with Otso Pakarinen also known as Ozone Player, who plays (no pun intended) synthesizers. The piece is based on a matrix of sequences with some great melodic moments as well. 'Trance Figure' could be considered typical American Ambient, akin to Steve Roach and similar artists, but the guitar (quite a bit of it), voice (Paul's!) and flute played by Laurie Guild are something unusual for EM camp. The track sounds very close to New Instrumental music, with synthesized structures taking the back seat, while the upfront solo elements are provided by guitar, Rhodes, flute and so on. Paul Ellis even plays electric bass on this cut. The final chords gave me the goosebumps - pretty dramatic stuff. 'Continental Drift' - solo Paul Ellis again, on just synthesizers, coaxing more sequences than I can ever count. Making them all interact and stay synced and in tune with each other must have been an enormous task. 'The Dumb Angel's Periscope' (this way he may even outdo Edgar Froese in the weird title department) is once again a collaboration with fellow musician Steve Roach. Both play synths and sequencers while Paul also plays guitar. Taking into account the title of the song I do notice a humorous touch in the music, albeit a very light one. The sequences are a bit chunky and.. well, *clumsy*. Interesting composition overall. The title track is a calm piece with processed cello sounds and vocals (both provided by guest musicians). The cello gives the track a vaguely Schulzean flair. Again, a non-typical (for EM, that is) number. The album closes with Paul's own interpretation of Steve Roach's 'Sundial' that first appeared on Steve's 'Life Sequence' album and where also Paul played synthesizers. Here the track is called 'Dialing In the Sun' ;-). My favorite element in this piece is the soloing, which is sparse but spot-on. Interesting sequencing as well. It's nice to hear the album finish with this upbeat optimistic composition. 'Silent Conversations' comes as something really different for Paul Ellis. The concept here is perhaps slightly more obscure than that of 'The Sacred Ordinary'. Feeling more like a collection of tracks, rather than a single piece of art, it is still a very enjoyable disc that will possibly require a few spins to be appreciated in it's entirety by die-hard EM fans, but I still think that the sheer beauty of some of the pieces will be noticed and enjoyed by followers of Paul's talent. 2005. Artemi Pugachov / Encyclopedia of Electronic Music I have not heard any of Paul Ellis' music before but after hearing this review copy of 'Silent Conversations' I might well be purchasing some more. This album is a work of contrasts, with rhythmic pieces contrasted with more ambient ones. The opening track 'The only known photograph of God' for instance is repeated with jazzy style guitar over sequenced drums and percussion, whilst various synth textures float over real bass. Indeed throughout the album the synths and sequences are complemented by various guitars, bass, flute, wordless vocals, and cello. Many of these instruments are played by the various musicians guesting on the album, including no less a figure than Steve Roach, whose presence is felt throughout. Standout tracks include the excellent 'Trillium' which has a synth-like flute motif over building arpeggio figures. As the track builds a very insistent rhythm part builds up drawing the listener into the track as it continues to build, with the leads, sequences, rhythm and background fx constantly changing, but with purpose, an excellent piece of music. The more ambient pieces include 'Peripheral Vision', on which Steve Roach makes his presence felt, 'Trance figure', which despite it's title is not a dance track but an excellent piece of ambient music with Laurie Guild guesting on flute and 'Silent conversations', which has an almosy classical feel to it, including as it does the cellos of Brenda Erikson, the wordless vocals of Alison O'Conner, Gregorian Chant and Pauls' synths. More rhythmic tracks include the wonderfully named 'The wind-up synthesizers of the Glass Reich', which captures the minimalism of the two composers alluded to in the title. The album ends with 'Dialing in the sun' another collaboration between Paul Ellis and Steve Roach, which combines drifting synthscapes with skittering percussive rhythms. This is a great album and has plenty of variation to keep the listener involved, from drifting synths to guitar, cello and flute lines, interesting rhythms and sequences that are not retro copies. One for the discerning listener. DD I noticed someone else posted a review of Paul Ellis' forthcoming 'Silent Conversations'. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this and I think it's Ellis' best work to date. If there's one thing about the album that stands out the most, to me, it is it's diversity, yet the tracks are cohesive and keep drawing the listener in with each moment. The diversity further proves the professional quality of material Ellis continues to release. Great work Poly! Jesse Portland-based EM artist/synthesist Paul Ellis reveals his multi-faceted musical talents on his latest release, Silent Conversations, and he wastes little time doing so on the first track, 'The only known photograph of God' when, amidst the percolating sequence and swirls of keyboards (some of which are handled by guests Steve Roach and Jeffrey Koepper), he breaks out his electric guitar and sets to riffing in a decidedly jazzy fashion, cooking up some brilliant counterpoints to the quasi-Berlin and spacemusic elements of the track. Who the hell knew the man had axe chops? The sequenced notes and buzzing, whirring synths circle the guitar refrain and a thumping bass guitar pumps underneath it all with just a hint of some keyboard jazz riffs at the tail end. 'Trillium' steers back into more familiar territory, with Ellis alone on assorted synths, carving out a solid nine-minute piece that unfolds ever-so-slowly, with spacy textures, a wonderful solo flute carrying a refrain, cascading sequence high notes, and some deep bass beats, all of it added layer by layer until there is so much going on that keeping track of it all is an exercise akin to watching several flocks of different species of birds all take flight at once and trying to follow them as they speed away. By track's end, Ellis has brought in retro EM elements, a la Synergy and Jarre, as well as trace fractal grooves. Wow! 'Peripheral Vision' is the shortest song on the album at five and a half minutes and it's another melding of EM and jazz elements, this time in a more dark ambient vein (Steve Roach sits in on this cut with synth support - and he is immediately recognizable - plus Will Merkle contributes on bass as well). The jazz elements come from Ellis' integration of Fender Rhodes keys with the more desert-like drifting electronic ambient textures. He really allows the Fender to reverberate way back to the horizon line, and boy does it make the music sound cool! I really like the mellow vibe of this track, yet laced with mystery and a palpable sense of wandering in the desert at dusk. There are six more tracks on the album including the quirky and sinistro-whimsy of 'The wind-up synthesizers of the Glass Reich' (Ozone Player, a.k.a. Otso Pakarinen, guests on this one and again, for anyone who has heard his stuff, his handiwork is immediately apparent). Label this one 'dueling synths' as Ellis and Pakarinen see who can top the other with getting truly bizarre, yet accessible, textures and sounds from their keyboards! 'Trance figure' has Ellis bringing out both his guitar and Fender Rhodes again as well a featuring a real flutist (Laurie Guild). The cut merges an almost Western-motif form of guitar with washes of synths, once again conjuring up mental images of forlorn desert landscapes, this time more in tune with walking down the empty streets of a ghost town, as tumbleweeds do their dance under the hot noon-day sun. When Ellis plunks the main refrain, accompanied by unbelievably 'bassy' bass and flowing keys underneath, the music is both eerie and nostalgic. 'Continental Drift' is vintage Ellis (working alone again), i.e. his unique take on EM which combines elements of Berlin school, retro European electronics, and contemporary elements that lend a futuristic air to the proceedings while still rooting it in accessibility with a nod toward tradition, i.e., soaring synths and mellotrons, bubbly sequenced rhythms and notes, and catchy melodic refrains. 'The dumb angel's periscope' once again mixes Ellis brand of EM with Roach's fractal sensibilities. Label this one 'controlled chaos' as the assorted synthesizers (it sounds like there are about ten or more lines going at once) flit, chatter, ping-pong, and float all over the soundfield. Silent conversations the title track has Brenda Erickson guest starring on cello and Alison O'Connor contributing vocals. It's the longest piece at eleven and a half minutes and it's unlike everything else on the disc (and maybe unlike anything Ellis has ever recorded), as Erickson's cello, mildly distorted, melds with electronic waves and washes, sounding almost spiritual and/or classical at times. However, don't mistake this for sounding the least bit 'new agey' as it's got a subtle dark edge to it, as well as being overtly electronic (except for the discernible cello and O'Connor's vocals which are wordless, ethereal in nature, and quite beautiful, to be honest). The more I listened to this, the better it got * warmer, more expressive, almost achingly sad or haunting at times, yet compelling so you can't turn it off. It ends quirkily, with a series of halting spacy electronics, pealing church bells, and O'Connor's voice, more naked and present then before. Closing out the album is 'Dialing in the Sun' which is Ellis' reinterpretation/arrangement of Roach's fractal/ambient/EM composition 'Sundial' (featured on the latter's album Life Sequence). The track is easily identifiable, yet Ellis (working with Roach again) re-imagines the music with some distinct differences that merit it's inclusion on this album. Silent Conversations will prove revealing and rewarding for long-time Ellis fans as they discover new-found subgenres that the artist is comfortable exploring and traversing. While I was surprised at some of the directions he has taken, I wasn't (nor shouldn't have been) surprised to witness the diversity and scope of his talent. I'd love for him to further plumb the lands of cyber-EM jazz, as those were the tracks which blew me away the fastest here. However, all of Silent Conversations is worthy of your attention and the CD offers proof that Ellis is a solitary visionary when it comes to forming an alchemy of past and future electronic music. Bill Binkelman.