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Marvin Ayres
(Burning Shed)

Around the turn of the century, Marvin Ayres released two albums of music on the Mille Plateaux sub-label imprint Ritornell. The label, which was home to many other great minimal electronic releases, disapated a couple years back along with Mille Plateaux, (and the larger EFA catalogue in general) leaving a good portion of the back catalogue of releases much more difficult to track down due to them not being in print any longer.

Ayres is an artist who focuses almost solely on stringed instruments and the manipulations of them. As one might guess from the title of Cellosphere, Ayres mainly makes use of cello on the release, although he makes use of a violin in his long-form compositions as well. He isn't content to just let the strings talk, however, and his work blends minimal classical techniques with straight up ambient electronic music and a healthy (but by no means overwhelming) use of distortion, feedback, and noise.

Cellosphere was the first full length from Ayres (originally released back in 1999) and finds him stretching his compositions out over four very long tracks (averaging well over ten minutes each). The album-titled opening track of "Cellosphere" weaves droning flickers of melody out over soft beds of electronics for something that recalls the work of Brian Eno while the following track "Harmonic" is the shortest track on the release, blending pummeled string tones with dense washes of sound. "Jeannie" is the most epic track on the release, running a whopping twenty-two minutes as subtle blends of strings, feedback, and distortion weave and slide across one another.

I'm not sure if it's just the soft suggestion of the album artwork or the fact that I've found myself listening to the album several times at night, but the release (and especially the aforementioned "Jeannie") seem like a very nearly perfect soundtrack for laying on the hood of a car out in the countryside somewhere and watching the night sky overhead. Due to processing, the string tones have lost some of their warmth, giving the release a somewhat distant and austere feel. While the harsh edges on the album never reach levels that would break it from an ambient mold, Ayres experiments more with noise and texture than what one might expect, but given his background in cinematic scoring, he knowns his way around sound design. As someone who didn't get to hear Cellosphere the first time around, I'm glad he's putting it out into the world again.

Rating: 6.75