Soundscapism Inc. – Desolate Angels

Cover artwork and booklet design by João Filipe, based on photos by Ü-Berlin Photography.

Cover artwork and booklet design by João Filipe, based on photos by Ü-Berlin Photography.

Desolate Angels is the eagerly awaited sophomore release from Soundscapism Inc., a highly anticipated successor to a debut which made a potent and well-received impact on the European post rock scene. The new offering is sure to emulate, indeed surpass the success of its predecessor with its even more accomplished, imaginative, and warmly haunting adventure.

Soundscapism Inc. is the solo project of Berlin based musician Bruno A., the founder of Portuguese/ Finnish bred band Vertigo Steps. When that band went on an unspecified ‘hiatus’, Bruno began bringing his own creative exploration to light with the release of the self-titled Soundscapism Inc. EP late 2015 quickly enticing ears and praise with its cinematic ambience, post rock climates, and acoustic beauty. It was more of an album with its nine captivating tracks and the base for the even more creatively expressive and magnetic Desolate Angels. The new evolution and craft in the project’s tapestry of sound and character was hinted at by a couple of tracks released from it towards the end of year but now in its full glory, it is a compelling proposal expanding well beyond their promise.

Swiftly as immersive and cinematically suggestive as the first release, Desolate Angels immediately caresses ears with Evening Lights. A guitar melody wraps its tender arms around ears first, additional lures warmly and firmly whispering before the track settles into an even mellower atmospheric landscape. Guest vocals from Flávio Silva subsequently emerge to add their captivating croon as Bruno’s guitar and keys weave a portrait of poetic post rock and ambient beauty. It is melancholy with a tempering charm and alluring tinges of harsher rock ‘n’ roll and quite bewitching.

The potent tones of Silva also feature on the following Supernovas At Fever Pitch, the song from another reserved opening firmly blossoming in sound and texture before his appearance, thoughtful melodies and an elegantly solemn yet again enticing air greeting him. From its initial simmer, an increasingly infectious energy and enterprise brews with a touch of Maybeshewill to it, this awakening bringing thicker wiry grooves and richer but restrained intensity to further ignite the track’s evocative heart. As the first track, it lures the imagination with ease, almost preys on it before The Mourning After pt II coaxes the listener into its relatively brief emotionally rousing instrumental waltz, subsequently leaving on a wash of melodic reflection.

Zwischenspiel I similarly draw ears into a melody persuasive romancing of thoughts and senses, its intimate seduction the echo of broader but also solitary pastures; an emotional closeness also found within the album’s title track where innocence feels shadowed by darker lurking trespasses. Touching the outskirts of ten minutes in length, Desolate Angels provides a flight of contrasting drama; dark and light toying with the imagination as Bruno conjures a soundscape of raw and equally radiant sound and suggestion which tempts like a fusion of  Sigur Rós and 65daysofstatic at times, his vocals an euphonious caress.

Through the inescapably infectious and constantly shifting stroll of Man In The Glass and the calm crystalline smoulder of Zwischenspiel II the individual presence and sound of Soundscapism Inc. is cemented, any hint offered by references to others like God Is An Astronaut for the second of this pair, just clues to something fresh and provocative.

The appetite pleasing voice of Silva makes its final appearance within next up February North, his voice a great mix of grainy and melodious temptation wrapped in the acoustic ethereal grace of Bruno’s touch and craft, essences just as refined and persuasive in the evocation spun by next up Quintessence around a narrative of vocal samples.

The album simply continues to bewitch and entice, firstly through the livelier exploits of Low-Fi Man, Hi-Tech World, the song a melody woven aural film with its rhythmic tenacity like the flickering roll of cinematic stills combining for a mesmeric visual incitement. Its striking presence is followed by the instrumental grace of Zwischenspiel III, it also a piece again with emotive shadows, and a short reprise of the title track before the increasingly beguiling Sleep Arrives Under Your Wings adds a surf rock glisten to its celestial beauty and resonance. The track is manna for ears and imagination, quickly followed by emotions and makes a magnificent close to the release though the evocative kiss of bonus track Above Us Only Sky provides the actual final moments of the album’s digital version.

There is plenty to take in aurally and emotionally within the hour of Desolate Angels, more than arguably can be assessed and appreciated in one go though perseverance in that vein only brings thick rewards. Each track works just as potently alone or in small clusters too so whichever way you approach it real pleasure and fulfilment is the result. Bruno and Soundscapism Inc. have stepped upon a new plateau with Desolate Angels with easy to suspect even bigger inventive and striking ventures to come from him.

Desolate Angels is available through Ethereal Sound Works now @ https://soundscapisminc.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/soundscapisminc

Pete RingMaster 05/03/2017

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Interview with Bruno A. of Vertigo Steps

One of the most striking, enterprising and formidable releases to come out so far this year is the stunning Surface/Light from Vertigo Steps. The third album from the Portuguese / Finnish project consisting of Bruno A., Niko Mankinen, as well as Daniel Cardoso, is a deeply mesmeric and empowering album full of immersive thick expansive atmospheres, a melancholic breath, and close emotive enveloping sounds. Most of all it is an album of intimate songwriting and expressively crafted songs. Wanting to know more about the band and music we had the opportunity and pleasure at The RingMaster Review of asking Bruno A. all about Vertigo Steps and the album.

Hello and thank you for taking time to talk with us

Firstly would you just introduce the band to those not yet aware of your great sounds?

VS is pretty much the best band in the world you still haven’t listened to or heard about 🙂 A wee bit more seriously now, it’s a project based in Portugal, but featuring several foreign guest musicians, mostly Scandinavian. The soundscape is a tad hard to pin down and the best is to have a few good listens, but could perhaps be loosely described as highly atmospheric and melancholic Heavy Rock, with several Metal touches and Progressive and Post-rock leanings. We will use any colour from the palette to enhance the global canvas. Strongly emotional and cinematic, but also oddly infectious.

How and when did Vertigo Steps begin?

September 2007, my bedroom. With little more than a guitar, programming software and an internet connection.

Was there an aim or main idea behind the band or the music it was set up to create?

Well, not a very specific, closed concept or grand design backing it all. But surely a very powerful will to come up with a new, refreshing and musically rich sound and vision – with no boundaries save for a high quality standard in all aspects of the band’s output.

You set up the band initially as a solo venture or was there always the intention of having contributing musicians?

Contributions were always intended, yes. Even though I came up with all music, words and concept, I knew I needed some gifted and unique musicians taking part in the action. Another reason would be I can’t play drums as good as Daniel or sing at Niko’s harmonic power and emotional delivery :). Might come out something akin to Tom Waits strung out on opium.

The band now has a core of Bruno, Niko Mankinen, and also Daniel Cardoso? I can imagine the acquaintance with Daniel being also Portuguese and having fingers in most things great from the country haha, but how did the link up with Finn Niko occur?

Yep, that’s pretty much the main core these days. Daniel has always been our producer and drummer, occasional backing singer and also bass player (except for the debut). I actually met and became friends with him around ’99 or so, long before he was producing all those bands. At the time being he played in Sirius and I was starting out Arcane Wisdom, my first “solo” project – for which he kindly offered his drumming skills. Nowadays he’s enjoying the international success he’s entitled to (Anathema, Anneke, etc,). As for Niko, I was an appreciator of his work with Misery Inc. and contacted him through email, sent him a couple of samples and he was interested from day one. Looking back now and watching his evolution and immersion in the VS sound, lyrics and philosophy, it all makes perfect sense. His work is miles away from what he was doing back then and his growing role as lyricist is also glove fitting. We have pretty much worked as a duo for some years now, even given the geographical distance. Apart from the 3 recordings in Portugal, we’ve also met in Helsinki and will do so again next July, in Berlin.

What are your major influences as a musician that has inspired you and the music?

The tangent universe and all that’s real enough to make me feel. If you mean exclusively musical influences, I have always listened to a lot of music and a lot of different styles and bands. Probably too many to mention here, stuff I pick everywhere from metal and rock to post-rock /ambient, soundtracks, electronic music, even classical and ethnic. But none of them ever worked specifically as basis for VS: our sound comes from everything that surrounds us, not just sound and definitely not any band/musician in particular. If you ask me, that’s the way it should more often be, music evolves with one’s own vision – however filtered through particular music tastes and life experiences – and not mere idol rehashing. And I think it shows – people are endorsing the fact we actually write songs, something sadly increasingly absent from heavier realms of music.

Your debut self titled  album came out in 2008 and was a striking album to say the least, how much of its impactful songs, sounds and ideas came as the album was created and how much was elements that has been imagined, thought up and stored in the years before the band even existed?

Good question, probably 50-50! I recall the songs on the debut ranged from 2004 until around the recording date – March 2008. I used to call it intentionally incoherent, because of the major differences in style, but that’s where my mind was at and how I envisioned such a debut album. Since the compositions and lyrics all came from the same place, some kind of cohesiveness would always be present. I still hold it dear as a pretty interesting release, full of energy and strength, an emotional rollercoaster, and am thankful for its warm reception. It did take a lot of people by surprise.

You have just released your exceptional third album Surface/Light. How has your sound changed from that initial release and though second album The Melancholy Hour to this new album?

Thank you! Well as I just mentioned the debut was ostensibly diverse but the idea for the following releases was always to raise the sound cohesion a bit, whilst maintaining the VS sound identity which is always a highly versatile one – never a band to write an album with 10 or 12 songs sounding exactly the same! But with The Melancholy Hour (which also saw great reactions) and, specially, Surface/Light, the songwriting comprised a more specific time period and thus the songs are more focused and sheltered under its albums’ abode. There is a considerable sound difference between Surface/Light and the debut or parts of it, even though you can also tell it’s the exact same band, something I think is natural and expected. It would be impossible to forge what is today Surface/Light back in 2008, for the album is also the product of our experiences and progression as humans and songwriters. Fortunately, and though the new release is the crowning achievement, all albums stand strongly on their own merits.

Has your song writing process changed distinctly over the years and albums too?

Hopefully, otherwise wouldn’t be doing the job right 🙂 I guess 10 years ago I was somewhat over-creative and would insert 10 riffs in 7min songs. The riffs themselves were quite alright, but I evolved as a songwriter into making songs which I want to be memorable and timeless (at least for some!). Therefore I haven’t since long been interested in instrumental show-off or overly complex song structures. What I most enjoy listening to and creating are strong, emotional songs, with impact and that hit you on quite a deeper level than the flashing solo or überfast blastbeat – and I’m sure you know what I mean here. For instance, I always appreciated how acts like Katatonia, Green Carnation or even Anathema gradually emerged amidst the metal scene to become much more interesting prospects on their own and crave their particular niche, still rooted in metal but going far beyond its scope and boundaries.

Are you a songwriter who works relentlessly at a song from its seed until it has a breath of its own or one that takes their time, stepping back from it time to time?

There is really no rule here, it all depends on the mood and how the song appears and builds-up. But usually the main structure and primal grounds are set soon and fairly swift; afterwards I deal more with details, add-ons, atmospheres, whatever I think suits the song in order to enhance it, to grant it wings. Sometimes a specific background ambience or piano note can be as important to me as a riff or clean guitar melody.

With Surface/Light there is not so much a theme but there does seem a kind of connection that flows throughout each track on the album?

I have been told about this seamless connection – and agree. The album is probably best experienced as a whole, creating a mesmerizing, immersive experience, sorrowful but also rewarding and offering several glimpses of light from within the generally darker pathos. I feel the album title and artwork – as well as the lyrics – all offer fine clues to this pervasive undercurrent.

What do the songs deal with and take as inspiration?

Just things that somehow affect us in life. Observations on how to struggle amidst all the madness that surrounds us in modern-day extra-fast society and the extreme complexity of humankind, up to everyday emotions and reactions.

The songs vary from pure expansive atmospheres to at times sturdy aggression and all carrying a melancholic and dark essence, but it is also full of warmth and beauty. How much attention, time, and emotion goes into your music to craft such a full and emotive experience within piece of music?

Your description is I believe quite accurate. It takes the time enough for us to be happy with it. Sometimes not that much actually – I’m guessing because nothing is forced and it’s just the natural way in which the songs come out. This time the songs were all written over a 6 month period – between October 2010 and March 2011.

Does the music and the qualities we just mentioned reflect you personally and emotionally too?

I am sure of it, even though I’m probably not the best person to be discussing that.

Surface/Light is your first release on a label, Ethereal Sound Works. Has this had a big impact on recording and releasing the album?

None on the recording, cause it was done without any label behind. When it became ready we sent it to a couple and ESW presented the most interesting proposal. They also came up with the idea for the “sublight” EP and the very beautiful special digipak edition with the full discography – something I always thought should happen once a label would pick us up, because the first two albums had only seen digital release. Everything is working rather smoothly, we just arranged a release party which was filmed for a small video-edit and will have some merchandise soon, as well.

We mentioned him earlier and the album like your previous ones includes production from Daniel Cardoso as well as his musical skills. The man seems to be in everything good coming out of Portugal musically, what are his qualities that stand out for you and enhance your music?

I’m fond of Daniel both as a person and musician and he was always the obvious option to work with. As a musician and producer, he brings professionalism, instrumental proficiency and a good taste that suits VS rather well. His playing is something I truly enjoy and as producer he’s also cool to work with, especially because we need a strong cooperation, being myself pretty involved in this area. I like intelligent input, and with all the ideas I have on the VS sound and all the pre-production work and programming that I carry along into the recording, I would hardly match as well with a more close-minded producer who would take everything according to his own views and tastes. So forget Bob Rock.

Like in your previous releases Surface/Light contains many guests. Could you tell us a few, why you brought them in, and what they particularly gave extra to your compositions?

Jan Transit from In The Woods… I think needs no further introduction. Stein R Sordal and Sophie are usual guests and both shine with vocal radiance. Patrik Karlsson from This Haven is a first time guest, singing in two songs – incredibly talented vocalist.  All of them brought something very special and unique to their songs.

The way you record your albums with guests and forth, is Vertigo Steps able to be an active live band or likely to be at some point?

Not at the moment. At some point in the future… only time will yell!

What comes next after the Surface/Light? Ideas already forming for future songs?

Yes, even if I try to steer a bit clear of composing for a while after each album, there are always new, refreshing things popping out here and there. Some ideas for new songs and mostly acoustic parts. Exploring quite magical clean melodies, over dynamic, strong backing riffs. Anyway, I’ll relocate to Germany in June so I’ll probably keep playing acoustic guitar but won’t worry too much for now with a future pre-production. All in due time 🙂

Once more many thanks for sharing your time.

Would you like to leave with some words for those enjoying and about to experience the impressive creativity of Surface/Light?

First of all I’d like to thank you for the excellent review and interview as well. As for future listeners, I’ll strongly advise them to check our profiles – Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, BandCamp – to see for themselves what we’re about and hopefully if they enjoy our work and vision, feel free to order the albums and spread the word around. It would definitely be rewarding and fair to finally get a bit more worldwide exposure.

And lastly we thought the melody within Someone (Like You) was a shoe-in for a Bond movie soundtrack, if there was any movie series that you could soundtrack what would it be?

Not a particular Bond-freak myself but actually quite the cinephile, so your remark is wise and amusing! I have thought of making movie or short-movie soundtracks, given the highly cinematic and ambient nature of my music – both with VS and other. Perhaps an Aronofsky or Lynch movie, or a show like Carnivàle… maybe just an indie road movie. Something moody, eerie, psychological or even epic – and surely edgy!

Read the review of  Surface/Light @

The RingMaster Review 03/05/2012

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Vertigo Steps: Surface Light

The new album from Vertigo Steps is a release that immerses itself deeply inside you as you fall within its own thick expansive atmosphere and close enveloping sounds. Surface Light forges and instigates a full union and experience that leaves the senses empowered and alive whilst searching for a deep breath with which to fall under the mesmeric towering sounds again. The album is an enterprising and formidable release which brings essences of rock, metal, and progressive rock into a compulsive sky of melancholic atmospheres and warm emotive clouds that stir and incite the emotions.

Surface Light is the third album from the Portuguese / Finnish project which was formed predominantly as a studio project in 2007 by Bruno A. (Arcane Wisdom). The project grew with Finn Niko Mankinen (ex Misery Inc.) joining to give a core duo to the band whilst they also brought in guests for recordings. A debut self titled album in 2008 drew strong attention and praise with comparisons of Katatonia and Green Carnation passed upon the music it brought forward. This was followed by equally acclaimed second album The Melancholy Hour in 2010 which again saw not only more guests alongside the duo to realise the songs but returning producer Daniel Cardoso, a man who is involved with so many impressive releases everywhere you turn, to add again brings his impressive production touch and drums skills to Surface Light.

The new album once more involves guest vocalists to bring a depth and firm variety to the songs plus Cardoso with drums and bass as well as production. For Surface Light the band has called on the striking talents of Jan Transit (In The Woods…,Transit), Patrik Karlsson (This Haven), Stein R Sordal (Green Carnation, Sordal) and Sophie (Ugarit), alongside the excellent tones of Mankinen. The combinations are majestic and enhance and flavor each song as deeply as the thoughtfully crafted music that surrounds them.

The album opens with the dark but warm Vertigo Dawn, an instrumental with soaring vocal harmonies and a desolate breath that works itself in far beyond the ear as it leads in the outstanding The Hollow. The band immediately pulls one directly into its heart as a web of voices and evocative sounds touch thoughts as they wrap themselves gently but firmly around its recipient. A melancholic ambience pervades the body alongside the stirring guitar creativity and provocative additional female vocals. It is a large yet intimate sound and one which lingers long after its final emotive note, though taking the album as a whole each song is never long in being replaced by equally impactful and full songs.

The following Silent Bliss is a vibrant and energetic track which lifts the emotions with stirring eager riffs and melodies but keeps it always personal with insightful and impassioned quiet moments of calm and restraint. The song reminds of latter Comsat Angels though it is not obvious exactly why to be honest but the atmosphere and infectiousness of the emotions invoke the comparison. As the album progresses the diversity of the album is more than apparent within its thirteen affecting compositions.

The album as a whole brings a kind of undefined theme or feeling at least with each and every luxurious yet saddened song. It is a wonderful blend of vibrancy and warmth which enthralls and uplifts whilst stemming from a darkened heart wrapped in sorrow and under a dimmed light. The wonderful Tonight I Died, Tomorrow I’ll Live with its post rock/gothic tension, the excellent melodic rock Helsinki, and the impassioned Someone (Like You) with a melody that would suit any Bond film, all burn with a heavy yet glowing heart that makes the listen a complete and deep event.

With further delights in the rousing Zeppelin On Fire, the impressive and best track Schadenfreude, a song that has a life and world all of its own, and the closing The Porcupine Dilemma which feels like a conclusion pulling all before it into a final immense release of passion, the album is a tremendous example of songwriting. It is a statement of far reaching atmospheres brought from the melding of heavy and stirring sounds with emotive and ardent dark to light feelings by the band. Released via Ethereal Sound Works, Surface Light and Vertigo Steps is manna for any who revel in the likes of Katatonia, Green Carnation, Porcupine Tree, Opeth, and Anathema or basically intense melodic and passional music.

RingMaster 26/04/2012

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Thee Orakle: Smooth Comforts False

For all of the distinct positives and equally deep negatives the internet has had on music and bands, one of the greater goods to come from it is the accessibility of artists from countries and places far removed from the media given base and our own country borders. In recent months here alone we have come across stunning bands and releases from the likes of the United Arab Emirates, Russia, South America, and the Maldives to name just four. Bands and music that would have escaped attention before the internet grew its searching claws to go beyond the media force fed likes from the UK and the US. Though Portugal is not situated in the furthest reaches of the globe it is a place where music never really escaped far beyond its walls. So praise the internet for making that possible and for bringing the likes of Thee Orakle to the attention of a great many more, something the release of their excellent new album Smooth Comforts False should turn into an even greater and eager growing mass.

Formed in 2005, Thee Orakle soon built up a fine reputation in their homeland for their well crafted music. It was not long before their sounds made further marks with radio play overseas and a request to them to be part of a compilation release. 2007 saw their debut EP Secret released, more impressive live shows (over the years sharing stages with the likes of Bal-Sagoth, W.A.K.O., Heavenwood, Sirenia, Dark Tranquility, Cynic, Amon Amarth, Orphaned Land), and an increasing attention further afield with airing on further reaching radio shows and through other media vehicles but it was their heavily acclaimed debut album Metaphortime in 2009 that was the point they found themselves a bigger notable name on an ever swelling wave of enthused focus. Now following that up with Smooth Comforts False via Ethereal Sound Works, the band has returned with an even more majestic and stunning album. Their music is an inspiring and mesmeric blend of imaginative progressive metal laced and veined with heady jazz influences, Middle Eastern essences, and symphonic metal graces as well as senses riling metal, groove and tech metal intrusions. It is a mighty unpredictable feast that excites, intrigues, and consistently keeps one enthralled.

The album from the septet of vocalists Micaela Cardoso and Pedro Silva, guitarists J. Ricardo Pinheiro and Pedro Mendes, bassist Daniel Almeida, drummer Frederico Lopes, and Luís Teixeira on keys, is a release that bursts with ingenuity and imagination but weaves it all seamlessly into a musical maze for the deepest satisfaction. Where other bands experiment, many bring a disjointed or punchy intermittent mix which works for them but openly highlights each distinct diversion within the music. Thee Orakle bring all their ideas into a smooth and organic wave of aural beauty, and whether they go from beauteous flighted melodies into djented manipulations or from blood raging aggression into mesmeric ripples of smooth light, the result is always captivating and naturally flowing.

The album opens with Faraway Embrace and immediately it has the senses standing up and grinning with anticipation. The song paces with sturdy formidable riffs and commanding rhythms whilst the guitars entice with fleeting grooves. The keys expand and wrap themselves around the ear as the gruff growls of Silva rough up the edges of song and ear. The wonderful voice of Cardoso than enters to temper and compliment her harsher vocal companion and to walk hand in hand with the warm melodies. Midway the song steps to the side to enter an expressive progressive sound to gently coax and beckon one further inside the vibrant tech metal toned returning attack.
The excellent slightly schizophrenic Psi-drama enters next. The song begins with a sinister impressive tech metal/symphonic tone with again the mix between the two vocalists ideal and impressively worked out. The song along its length ventures into varied and always engaging asides, the song a maelstrom of intensity, surprising imagination and totally addictive, the jazz noir elements and lone soulful trumpet of Ricardo Formoso a pure joy.

Each and every song is masterful, the likes of the brilliantly enterprising and ear wrenching Evil Dreams, the gothic impassioned Winter Threat with the additional Type O Negative sounding male vocals of Marco Benevento (The Foreshadowing), and the irresistible The Bridge of the River Flowing with its ear whipping niggling metallic riffs and melodic caressing amongst the demanding aggressive intent, bringing complete pleasure.

The album produced by Daniel Cardoso, who is an impressive and emerging major force in metal, ends with its best track in Rescue of Mind. The track rampages and stomps from the off earning its right to full attention with an eager immediacy. As it pounds and explores the senses it ripples with skilled direction changes, gloriously crafted innovation , and striking invention, the dazzling mid jazz  off shoot soon merging wonderfully into the muscular mass, the song the proof of a band with the ability to create aural Masters.

Smooth Comforts False is one of the most striking and impressive albums this year, it provokes and thrills equally and is the most natural fit for the heart.

RingMaster 16/04/2012

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