Hypnodrone Ensemble’s new album Plays Orchestral Favourites will not be for everyone. It is a densely layered prog-rock trudge through soundscapes equal parts spacey and swampy. For fans of the genre it will proves to be an enjoyable instrumental journey with a myriad of feels and sounds. This follow-up to 2015’s The Shape of Space is a shapeless oddity with enough musical merit to stay interesting, if not always enthralling. It’s an impossible album to point out “tunes” and “hits” on. Instead, it’s more akin to a long road trip through fascinating swampland spotting curiosities out of the dirty back windows.
Hypnodrome Ensemble open this instrumental album boldly with Serial Staging, a sort of trek through the guitar and synth soundscape. Right off the bat the album swallows the listener and moves them from psychedelic prog to krautrock via atmospheric space rock and back again. Orbital Pertubation clocks in at almost thirteen and a half minutes so will have weeded out most casual listeners. Those who have chosen to take the ride will enjoy the richly layered music as it oozes along, ticking off influences and inspirations on the way. Restabilization picks up speed and occasionally veers away from atmospheric space-rock into Radiohead B-side territory until fading into Simon Goff’s eerie violin climax. Monotransitive is anything but monotonous, at times tense, experimental, even jarring, until all members of the nine piece group jump in and move the track to more sinister and spacious place. The volume and the long drawling synths seem to sneak up and before you know it you’ve been teleported from Planet Atmosphere to Planet Music just in time to witness the bubbling and brooding fade-out that becomes Pulsations in the Hypnosphere, a percussion heavy mood complete with staccato symbols and gentle moving synths.
No sooner have you got to grips with Plays Orchestral Favourites than it has morphed gently into something equally nice but different. This experimental album leaves the listener curious and perhaps moved. Where have I been? What journey did I just take? Maybe I could go again and see the sights I missed the first time?