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Synth Album Review: "Rituals" by SkyYamaha

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.

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Overall Impressions

SkyYamaha’s Rituals weaves a mystical sonic spell as it journeys through reverent, meditative spaces. The album creates a richly intertwining musical exploration of deep sounds and hypnotic mental states. This is music for inward travel and contemplation.

One factor that makes Rituals stand out for me is the ear-catching instruments that SkyYamaha uses in the music. She has an affinity for timeless sounds like wooden flutes and a wide range of traditional percussion instruments from around the world. There are also luscious string sounds and a beautiful oboe contributing textures and timbres to the mix. The end result feels like a journey through the music of a hallowed time, long passed by.

Rituals finds a superb balance between producing a calming effect and creating engagement with the listener. SkyYamaha is able to craft soundscapes that carry the listener on a peaceful journey as hypnotic patterns unfold. She balances the soothing sounds with enough melodic and harmonic interest to keep my ears perked up and my brain anticipating the next interesting moment. I can lay back at ease, but not fall asleep and that’s something I enjoy.

The atmosphere that permeates this album puts me in mind of a walk deep into the ancient forests of some other world. It paints pictures of the people who inhabit that forest as they perform powerful ritual magic to communicate with the spirits of the trees. This is music that evokes the interconnectedness of nature, the web of life encompassing every living being in the primeval forest.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“The Veil” comes into being as the smooth, velvet sonic background is filled by deep, full-sounding drums and a breathy, ancient sounding flute along with a strange, distorted voice. The wind instrument has a meditative quality to it as soft female vocals sing wordless notes.

The bending sound of a string-like instrument and the pulsating percussion with a round weight keeps throbbing while the woodsy flute moves in its timeless voice. A high, unevenly pulsing sound bounces back and forth along with the resonant drums and twanging strings.

The combination of the music’s contemplative and soothing quality with a sense of mystical power has a powerful appeal to me. There’s the feeling of this music as having emanated from another world. The flute softly floats before fading away on caressing natural sounds.

Hazy woodwind notes form a melancholy, slow melody that glides out over softly touching, metallic percussion to start “Amulet” off. A constant, medium-high note sounds in the smooth background. Violin-like notes bend and shift in a slightly unsettled pattern before a sailing, flowing woodwind fills the track with ease and mind-quieting sounds. I feel myself being lulled into a state of relaxation over the gentle metallic sounds and the steady, caressing background.

“Mimicry” opens with a hollow, flowing synth carrying glowing notes below sparkling chimes that add a crystalline glow. A rough-edged electric guitar cuts through the smoothly drifting, full synth patterns as a rhythmic drum heartbeat throbs. The guitar has a sharp energy as it cuts the glistening chimes and the throbbing drums.

A unique stringed instrument repeats a hypnotic pattern over the mesmeric drums, effectively creating trance-inducing feelings with its twisting strings. A guitar cuts in again, followed by medium-high notes that delicately trace through the music over the endless drums.

The guitar adds a harder edge to balance the smoother sounds in the track. Shimmering chimes continue to add light and texture while the strings whirl over and over. The drums and string sounds create a state of hypnotic concentration before the track fades on sparkles.

Softly trickling, splashing water and hollow, distorted bell-like sounds moving off in the distance begin “Anima Tai.” Tapping, taut percussion and grinding strings add some texture. A wooden flute provides a slowly washing wave of notes that shift through the music along with a full, vibrating xylophone.

A string instrument adds a shadowy element as the unique percussion taps and ticks, while metallic noises add a jangling quality. Far below, the hollow woodwind moves in a lapping pattern and above it metal clicks and brushes, contributing another layer of sound over the repeating, mediative xylophones. Water keeps splashing and trickling to bring the track to an end.

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“Lampyris” starts after a brief drum throb that launches into a divided beat as metallic percussion tingles and a distant piano repeats shining notes that flicker out. The oboe-like instrument carries an aching, dreamy melody over the solid drum throb, tinkling percussion and resonant electric bass.

The oboe has a lush, full voice that fades as string-like notes flash and distorted piano shines mistily. Electric bass notes descend, the oboe swells with warmth and the taut strings add extra light to the music. The oboe’s pained notes slip along over the metallic tapping, electric bass as the piano calls out in the distance. I enjoy the way in which the music creates a state of mentally stimulated relaxation as it slides along. There’s brightness and fullness, contrast and connection here.

A revolving, swirling synth with a shimmer to it moves with woodblock percussion as
“Chrysalis” opens. Tremulous strings that slowly dance below the rich, airy flute carrying a melody that skips along with ease while rough-edged, pipe-like sounds carry a contrasting note pattern.

The melody has a gently celebratory quality as the chimes flicker out and the tapping woodblocks add shape. Deep pipes add a pleasingly soothing, surrounding quality. A dense, deep string instrument repeats interlocking, undulating notes that add depth and a feeling of forward motion. Slipping flute notes form an uplifting melody which sings out in breathy, full notes over the fullness of the sonic palette and into silence.

"New Bones” comes to life as minor key, slightly distorted flutes echo out into open space along with hollow drums. Thick bass descends in slow notes while an elevated synth cries out above it. A computerized sounding string synth plays resonant notes that cut through the other elements.

Sparkling, high sounds flicker above the deeply vibrating lower parts of the track. I appreciate the way in which the drums form a steady heartbeat while the shimmering notes add flaring brightness. Hollow wooden flute moves in short bursts while a solid, metallic stringed instrument twangs in a filigreed pattern and the drums tap and pulsate in a guiding line.

A pattern of interlocking notes moves together before breaking into digital-sounding strings and round flute notes. Under the other musical elements, the percussive heartbeat continues, broken by distorted woodwinds. Metallic strings twang again, contrasting with the floating higher instrument’s breathy sound. The continuing percussion throb supports all of the sonic elements as they form a repeating pattern.

The sounds of the night and a resonant drone move as a owl hoots and wind rustles the trees to open “Divination." An energetic, thrumming drumbeat propels the music onward and a sitar-like synth rings out in shiny notes. I am drawn to the way in which the drums pulsate rhythmically to evoke ancient ceremonies.

Round synths drift in slowly floating notes while a stringed instrument adds its unique voice. Violin-like notes add a shifting tapestry of resonant sound over the steady and endless thrum of the percussion. Shifting sitar and the other sounds form a richly textured, wandering pattern that adds layers of depth and a timeless feeling.

“Imaginal” starts with reverent, swirling synths floating in an ethereal line out into space, creating feelings of deep peace as they glide along. The music is imbued with a pleasant sense of breathing as elevated sounds flow out. Distant, crystalline sparkles climb through the misty whorls that caress them as they wash around one another. This track has a sweeping drift to it that is full of ease and an airy feeling of peace.

A ghostly, floating voice chants out over glittering synths that repeat a full-sounding pattern to commence “Axis Mundi.” Trumpeting synths slowly tumble down through the music and a steady drumbeat with a trip-hop sensibility adds a smoothly gliding pulse.

The trumpeting notes gleam as they rise above the steadily throbbing beat. There’s a mind-easing quality in this music that I find powerfully calming. The distant voice calls out again over the flashing synths that glow into the music. The beat is even and gliding, filling the music with a continual pulsation before fading away.

“The Eternal Return” begins with timeless percussion that effectively creates an impression ages past in worlds long forgotten as it forms a guiding throb. Hazy, rough-edged sounds rise and flow out through the music.

A low, rich synth plays long notes that slip out over the mesmerizing drumbeat. The tapping drums and hand percussion move in intertwining patterns to guide the track.

The lush, rounded notes above it have a laid-back feeling as they circle, sounding like a large wooden flute. The percussion has a varied depth to it and a rough-edged sonic flow keeps shifting steadily below it before fading out.

Conclusion

Rituals draws the listener into its world and takes them on a journey across soothing, yet engaging soundscapes and through a state of calming mental focus. SkyYamaha has crafted an album that is at home whether one is meditating or just enjoying the music as it washes over the ears.

© 2022 Karl Magi

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