Crafting a concept album is an incredibly difficult task. Tying together a cohesive narrative across a record’s worth of songs isn’t just daunting, it’s an endeavour that even some of the industry’s finest have failed to do memorably. This task, however, becomes notably more difficult when you’re dealing in the abstract via instrumental soundscapes. That is what Chronotope Project, the moniker of composer Jeffrey Ericson Allen, attempts to do with his latest project, ‘Ovum.’
‘Ovum’ “is a concept album that poetically reflects on the nature of beginnings, seeds, and primordial states of being,” Chronotope Project muses in their liner notes. The project is Allen’s attempt to explore the depths of time and space utilizing complex sonic landscapes. Surprisingly, ‘Ovum’ does this particularly well, conjuring longform instrumental pieces that are worth listening to - an impressive feat.
As with any concept album, ‘Ovum’ is best served by being listened to in its entirety. This is quite the commitment given the length, but it gives the best insight into Allen’s creation. The first track, ‘Olduvai Dreams,’ clocks in at ten minutes, making in the album’s most weighty effort. It introduces a very ethereal, mystifying sound. In this track, though, it’s also a very earthy sound. The sound is chock-full of African tribal influence, Native American flutes and percussion, and so much more.
Throughout its ten minutes, ‘Olduvai Dreams’ proves completely enthralling. The title track, on the other hand, proves less accessible, digging its heels deeply into long, drawn out synthesizer sections. The track is best served by a quality sound system due to its slight variations as time goes on, but it’s definitely more nuanced in its accessibility than its predecessor.
‘Mariposa’ is very similar to ‘Ovum,’ providing a sublime dive into angelic, soft-spoken synthesizers. Some of the instrumentation draws very thin parallels to, perhaps, Nordic influence, but by and large ‘Mariposa’ lacks the earthly qualities of ‘Olduvai Dreams.’ The track culminates into a much stronger finale than ‘Ovum’ as well, one that builds as synthesized choruses and a percussion section enter the fray in a beautiful fashion.
‘Primordial’ is a rather beautiful tune, one that harnesses soft, cricket-like sound effects over soft orchestration. It feels like a combination of ‘Olduvai Dreams’ and its familiarity and ‘Ovum’ and its otherworldly nature.
‘Epiphany,’ too, proves a fairly compelling listen, the synth-driven experience is a fascinating one. The same could likely be said for the finale, too, ‘Starry Messenger.’ It is a wonderful ending that pulls flute back into the forefront, likely to strike a contrast to the first song.
‘Ovum’ is, for the most part, a strong effort. The songs are surprisingly intriguing to listen to, which can rarely be said for ten minute instrumentals. The conceptual part of ‘Ovum’ is very subjective and abstract, but it does do a fine job exploring the dichotomy between earthly and celestial sounds. On the whole, ‘Ovum’ is a treat for experimental instrumental fans worth spending time with on a good sound system.
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