Sweeping, cinematic, vibrant, beautiful, epic, delicate, bold, calm, majestic. It’s pretty easy to roll off a list of adjectives for this absolutely wonderful record as Rhian Sheehan returns with the impossibly beautiful and uncompromisingly compelling Stories from Elsewhere.
New Zealand based composer and producer Rhian Sheehan is no stranger to the ambient, electronica and more recently shoegaze scenes with a sound that has evolved wonderfully over the years. Where 2009’s Standing in Silence served as a perfectly good album in the traditional sense, Stories from Elsewhere blows the doors right open for a far wider scope resulting in an album that shows Sheehan’s intentions are really much broader. In an artistic sense it feels as if every sweep of the orchestra is not far removed from an artists brush on a canvas, pure creativity being poured into a piece that really captures a moment, sets a tone and ultimately provides a soundtrack to your life.
Stories from Elsewhere is so many things all at once with moments of sheer blissful calm being punctuated by crashing sonic walls of delight. Due to this constant changing, all of which is done with the utmost grace, it works so wonderfully well as a narrative and heightens the already powerful cinematic feel. It really is a joy to explore this album as its mood shifts from childlike glee to melancholic beauty in a heartbeat. Sheehan combines genres in a way that really does work and never feels out of place. Electronics hum over strings, synths build into full orchestras and guitars wash gently before swelling into epic climaxes. It’s gorgeous and paints a varied yet cohesive landscape worth every minute of your time.
Take for instance the playful yet delicate La Boîte à Musique which turns into a heartfelt string piece before fading in to the Helios-esque Little Sines, or A Thimble Full of Sorrow which picks up where Sigur Rós left off before evolving into the sweeping orchestral piece Nusquam. These tracks perfectly illustrate the wonderful flowing feel of this album which meanders with subtlety and intelligence. It’s clever stuff and could fail very easily yet works here because the arrangements are so well executed.
Although Sheehan has worked on soundtracks previously, I can’t help but wonder why he isn’t composing for some of the biggest films in Hollywood. I would even go so far as to say this is not only some of his greatest work but some of the finest ambient, electronica, classical crossover of our time. Stories from Elsewhere also benefits from stunning artwork courtesy of Kieran Rynhart. It’s a beautiful package and one worth picking up the physical media for alone (I suggest a click on the above images to see them in their full glory and a watch of the below video for Little Sines animated by Matt Pitt).
Preview Stories from Elsewhere on Rhian Sheehan’s bandcamp page. It’s out now in all the usual places.