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Album: Aphelion
Project: Amethystium
Composer: Øystein Ramford
Genres: New Age, Mood, Electronica
Released: 2003 by Neurodisc Records Inc.

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Amethystium At A Glance

I don’t recall when or how it was that I first heard of Amethystium. I only know that, of all the music I have heard from the genre, this is by far the most sublime and captivating.

To date, Norwegian composer Øystein Ramfjord has released six albums under the Amethystium name. He is one of the few composers whose music I can readily call transcendent, in that he creates a sense of euphoria in his listeners. Every song exudes a quality that is not described easily in words, but more appropriately by the state of mind that it evokes.

The music in the Amethystium project conjures up images reminiscent of sci-fi thrills, mythological tales, medieval adventures, strange creatures, and sensual escapades. The songs will open your mind to new sights and sounds, take you to other worlds, and in the end, leave you with a feeling of bliss – or perhaps melancholy, depending on how your imagination is inclined.

Amethystium is not merely heard. It is experienced.

Aphelion

aphelion: the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid, or comet at which it is farthest from the sun (American Oxford Dictionary)

I could theorize at length on the relevance of the album title and cover art. Simply put, it is about the search for light (be it in dreams or in the form of bliss, nirvana, or redemption), even when one has drifted away, gone errant, or been surrounded by darkness. I find this to be the most dominant theme in the album, and the concepts are evident in many of the song titles. However, this is not to be taken at face value. Even outside of the album, each song is a complete entity and may represent something different to every person.

Production Value

Although they are quickly categorized by many as New Age, the songs of Amethystium contain strong elements of electronica. There is a great use of synthesis, balanced by ethnic instruments and lush vocals, and in some cases, choral voices. Every instrument, acoustic or otherwise, is clear, and the arrangements are very clean.

The same holds true for this album, which also incorporates instrumentations and vocalizations found in East Indian music. All the songs contain a rich library of sounds, and yet, because they are so elegantly composed, they maintain a simplistic beauty.

Track List

1. Shadow to Light – I find the style to be similar to that of Enigma, especially the chorus at the end.

2. Garden of Sakuntala – I had to look up the lore for this one. Sakuntala is a figure from Hindu Mythology, and her story is told in the Mahabharata. This song in particular shows a heavy Indian influence at the beginning, but then graduates into something that could almost be taken for trance or somatica.

3. Exultation – Requires no further explanation.

4. Ad Astra – Latin phrase meaning “to the stars”.

5. Gates of Morpheus – Morpheus is the Greek god of sleep and dreams. A great blend of synthesis, piano, and operatic vocals.

6. Autumn Interlude – By far, bar none, the most captivating, and the most incredible piece in this album. To describe it fully would require a whole new post. I have this on my mp3 player, and to this day, it is one of my favorite songs to listen to while running. The first time I went jogging and this song came up, I just lifted my face to the sky and closed my eyes. I practically ran blind for a while. Thankfully, I didn’t run into (or get hit by) anything. Suffice it to say, I was enraptured.

7. Elvensong – Not quite what I’d imagine to be an ‘Elven Song’, but still a great song, highlighted by sweet electric piano melodies. Likely the album’s best use of percussion mixes.

8. Shibumi – The only piece where I thought it could have done without the vocals. Everything else in the song is well-arranged.

9. Hymnody – Beautiful. Just beautiful. Second only to Autumn Interlude, but definitely a wonderful piece of its own. My eyes tend to get misty once that piano starts.

10. Withdrawal – Absolutely amazing. There is an exquisite, if slightly dramatic, melody played on a traditional Chinese string instrument, the erhu or zhong-hu, I’m not sure which. Quite easily the most uniquely styled composition in Aphelion.

11. Berceuse – Literally cradle song, or instrumental lullaby.

The Official Amethystium Website

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