Vortex Ascent (formerly Soki2u) was founded in 2006 by Brendan Lynch and Derek Schuurman as a studio-based and fluid, experimental collective of independent, solo musicians based in various countries around the world. Each musician records his or her own material independently and for the most part, tracks are produced in London.
The latest Vortex Ascent album, “Shine A Light”, was released November 2013. It was produced with Andy Rugg (formerly on the engineering team of the band Coldplay) and features input from guests such as musician/producer/critic Paddy Bush (brother of acclaimed UK musician Kate Bush) as well as American public speaker and author Cathy O’Brien.
The 14 tracks that make up the album are all are so subtle and subdued but yet all have their own personality. Strangely enough the album really coheres in a sense, but each song tells its own story. It isn’t simply a collection of random songs as you would expect from such a variety of artists, but more like a book of short stories held together by a common thread.
From the first track, “Dodging Bullets”, with its electronically tinged, rock psychedelia to the grand finale, “Dodging Arrows” by Derek Schuurman , the entire album shimmers with emotion, feeling and dreamy landscapes. The sweet instrumentation and lush arrangements provide the perfect backdrop to angelic vocals and an almost faceless smooth backing band providing the perfect foil for whoever’s fronting any given song.
“This Unknown” by Sarah K. Panton & Derek is a beautiful piano driven tune, filled with a desert-like alternative-folk sound that never seems to wear thin. “For What It’s Worth” by Low Monotone which is next, keeps the same spirit, albeit with a heavier, electrified spirit. It’s “Catch Me” by Mart Geibner, which lifts the album out of its sullen dreamlike state. This almost jazzy tone-poem is filled with an aquatic electronic piano and sax interlude that is perfect, giving you the feeling of a soft, warm light shining through the window after a dark, rainy morning.
“Shine A Light” by Briar & Nigel Homer is really nice and is next, but it’s the seventh track, “A Walk In Park” by Gila Chaya & Derek that is one of my favorite songs. It’s gently ringing arrangement, soft shaker and echoey vocals remind me of lying in a field on a clear summer’s night with the brightest stars against the darkest backdrop circling above. This is a song that could simply be called cosmic.
The album then shifts gears with the tripped out guitar of “Fatique” only to find its way back to a harmonious dreamy state on “So Long, Summer” by Lonely Yoko – Kanna Sasaki & Nigel Homer which gives way to the powerful anthem “Dark Skies” by Sarah K. Panton, Tony Rogan, & Dan Moody/Glow.
Another one of my favorite tracks is, “La Dame Blanche” by David Floc’hlay, which would best be suited to a movie soundtrack. As is the acid-rock influenced “Down The Rabbit Hole” by Derek with Cathy O’Brien, which reminded me so much of early Pink Floyd. In fact this track is my outright favorite on the entire album.
“Shine A Light” is a fantastic album. People have a tendency to discuss albums song by song, I myself fell foul to this trap here, but this album is, to me, essentially just one long piece of music, performed in varyingly mellow and often longing tones of voice. The mood weaves its thread through every track, binding them together into a singular piece of music that is weirdly and intensely beautiful. And that my friends, is this album’s greatest achievement. So many artists, so many songs, but only one common, binding thread…the will to “Shine A Light!”