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A Thousand Paper Cranes Sebastian Reynolds , September 15th, 2009 10:18

Simeon Bowring, AKA Pentatonik, has been developing his Romantic orchestral composition blended with all manner of ethnic and contemporary musics since the release of his debut, Anthology, in 1994. He's also completed remix duties on big names including Blondie, Groove Armada and The Lightning Seeds, and his new release, A Thousand Paper Cranes, is a continuation of his work in the field of post-classical electronica.

Despite his work with imagery of battle and footage from the Second World War, Pentatonik's music is peculiarly beguiling, the opening two tracks sare led by simple yet beautiful piano lines. 'In Your Arms' has a keening lead synth line that recalls The Blue Nile, complete with city at night rainfall atmospherics. The warm, echoey rolling tom ambience of the album also suggests Talk Talk's Spirit Of Eden by seminal electronic pop group Talk Talk; indeed, throughout it seems as if A Thousand Paper Cranes is cut from a similar cloth. With seminal ambient acts such The Orb lining up a new release and dance groups like Echaskech receiving glowing critical press for recent Vangelis meets Skream opus, Shatterproof, this album of reverb drenched prettiness is in good company.

'By The Sword' calls to mind Leaf Records ambient maestro Susumu Yokota, an expert in blending oriental and ethnic instrumentation with electronic sounds to the point where the line between the two is blurred. Whether or not Yokoto is a direct inspiration, the ghostly, far off vocal and ringing metallic textures sound as otherworldly as the synth lines running through the piece.

Stand out track for me is 'Desert Fall'. Led by a gorgeous, chiming piano and underpinned by droning, plunging synth lines, this is a great achievement in texture and melody. Clearly an extensively crafted, sculpted work, it succeeds in creating a mysterious atmosphere that, by its very nature, is nigh-on impossible to pin down.

There's a real Blade Runner feel throughout, the likes of 'The Rush of You' leading one to wonder if Pentatonik might not have borrowed Vangelis' keyboards for the evening. There's contrast, though, in the form of the ominous-sounding and dissonant 'Night Raid On London', before the oriental influence returns in the title track, a chiming lead line backed up by groaning chords and what sounds like an old synth pad being played through a guitar distortion pedal. The result is grittily organic.

The only criticism might be that, at times, the record occasionally sits itself on the coffee table, with 'Golden' certainly feeling a little superfluous. But, overall, this is a record of mature compositional talent and textural exploration.