Switched On: Stelios Vassiloudis – All Else Fails (Balance Music)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

After a successful stint with John Digweed’s Bedrock label, Greek producer Stelios Vassiloudis takes a slight shift to Balance Music for his first full length ambient album.

What’s the music like?

Equal parts reassuring and reviving, All Else Fails is not an admission of defeat – far from it. From the opening notes it soothes the fevered brow with reassuring harmonies, light textures and comforting voices. There is still enough tension here though, the musical components woven in together and often bouncing off each other.

Vassiloudis gets a very satisfying ebb and flow, too – while Ashes focuses more on percussion, beneath a swaying motif, Mother has a steadier beat and the added richness of a cimbalom. Neon Dream is ushered in by the chirping of house sparrows before establishing a solid rhythmic presence

The rhythmic profiles are continually inventive, especially the easy but subtly funky five-beat loop for White Cells. Avissos is expansive, airy and ambient for its title, the sonorities of the elbow and a wordless choir effect casting a mysterious spell. Womb, by contrast, has a heavily treated, automated voice. As the album progresses to the compositions become more substantial, heading for the finely constructed album track, where shards of rhythm back slower moving background thoughts. There is brief threat from the slightly ominous ticking of the clock at the start of Time To Die, but the track settles into an extended meditation.

Does it all work?

Yes. Vassiloudos makes it all sound very easy and instinctive, yet on closer inspection there is a lot going on here. All the elements are carefully and cleverly combined to make a satisfying and extremely comforting whole.

Is it recommended?

It is. All Else Fails is a more ambient complement to Vassiloudis’ debut album from 2011, It Is What It Is, but shows the assurance of experience, finding a winning combination of exploration and familiarity. Warmly recommended.

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