"Planetary Artifacts"

Press Reviews





With his fourth album "Planetary Artifacts", mastered by Robert Rich, John Lyell presents his listeners nine atmospheric soundscape pieces that dwell in freeform along sequenced and gentle pulsating cosmic territory for 53-minutes. Mystery, alienation and glimpses of darkness shimmer softly on each of the tracks while a deeper level of outer space environs is featured on "Red Shift 2", "Echoes of a Distant Past" and the title track, all found in the middle of the recording. Toward the end, a few abstract-oriented hooks enter the soaring, slightly drony drift, most notably on "Another World".

Although not always that easy and accessible, "Planetary Artifacts" continues to cruise the cosmic expanse with its own voice in search for alternate and secluded realities.


~ Bert Strolenberg - Sonic Immersion




* * * * *  eTripper   (March 2017)
A soundtrack to an excursion beyond the Local Cluster

Get ready to redeem your boarding-pass for an excursion beyond the Local Cluster. "Planetary Artifacts" is John Lyell's latest ambient CD, and the music is exactly what one would expect to hear, on transit across the star-fields of interstellar space. Where mere corporeal physicality falls-by-the-wayside, and your higher-senses are accosted by a colossal, cosmic gestalt.

This CD's cover-art features a rocky volcanic-outcropping, jutting far-out into an alien sea. While a natural satellite hovers in close-proximity near the horizon, against an oddly-hued sky. As you've already surmised, I'm also a dedicated fan of Mr. Lyell's graphic art style. As for the music, he exceeds his previous effort by light-years. Yet, firmly retains his classic style of ambient excellence. He composes pieces, that astonish the listener's discerning ear, with equal measures of the strange, and wonderful. The tunes are counter-pointed beautifully [e.g., Adrift in Time, and Another World] by the spatial-anomalies he adds into the synth-mix, and give-it an uncertain, oft-worldly feel.

This newest offering would be great for any fans of: Dave Luxton, Csillagkod, Meg Bowles, Ascendant, Chronotope Project, and Simon Wilkinson. Highly Recommended.

~ eTripper



SYNTH & SEQUENCES  (April 2017)
“Cosmic Space Music at its best, Planetary Artifacts is a must for the fans of the Lyell, the aficionados of the genre and to those who look for distant horizons regarding ambient music”

Definitely, 2017 looks very promising in the spheres of EM, in particular at the level of Cosmic Space Music. Three years separate this “Planetary Artifacts” from Reflection of Time; one of the good albums of cosmic music in 2014. And the wait, for the fans of John Lyell and for the aficionados of the genre was worth it! If this last opus of the American musician, who is a passionate of astrology, always stays in the field of music which makes-us-dream-the-ears-wide-opened, goes adrift from time to time towards territories of psybient and of slightly steady rhythms. These wonderful somniferous rhythms appropriate our ears with structures of sequences which roll smoothly. Always supported by Robert Rich at the mastering, John Lyell lays the bases of a music of which the sibylline atmospheres with points of intensity which roam such as shadows of worry all along the 53 minutes of “Planetary Artifacts”.

"Arrival" begins with a choir of drones from where escape the first thin lines of psybient effects. If the main envelope scatters some waves which buzz of an uncertain heat, the effects which are grafted to it give the impression of organic drone which crawl as centipedes to which each leg is tied to bells stuffed of hoarse voices.

This intro of abstruse ambiences puts our ears in appetite which rather encounter instead the wonderful undulatory rhythm of "Traversing the Portal". Ethereal voices wrap this structure which gambols with an ambient flow and an analog beauty. Effects of synth supplant these voices with layers as much seraphic, while that effects of scattered percussions, which slam like wooden clogs on a street immured of bricks, add more depth to this title which seduces from the first listening. This is a track to add on your 2017 playlist! The synth layers, which lament as the slow sighs of a slide guitar, are its ideal complements. Sometimes they dominate the atmospheres, as "The Visitors" and its rhythm which scampers like a solitary cowboy in plains full of reflections of fire. We are in the heart of “Planetary Artifacts” which beats of its ambient rhythms.

The smothered steps which feed the sneaky structure of "Red Shift 2" draw an approach of wolf steps which scrutinize the horizons swept by winds of sound effects. The shadows of these steps give more liveliness to this always ambient rhythm which moves forward furtively under a sonic sky covered of not too psychedelic effects but not rather conservative. It's this beautiful nuance between these two antipodes that feeds the beauty of "Red Shift 2" of which the structure of rhythm continues its charm operation since the end of "Arrival".

Other element in this John Lyell's 6th opus is this perception that each title follows the precedent while borrowing from it a few its perfumes. This is how the sneaky structure of "Red Shift 2" roams like a specter exhausted in the first moments of "Echoes of a Distant Past", the longest title of “Planetary Artifacts” which begins its long journey of atmospheres and mysteries. Delicate, the rhythm is pulsatory and supports first of all some beautiful layers with a nice scent of flute which evaporate in mistier layers. One would say a rhythm which breathes and which feeds on elements of atmospheres which are more and more outside of a conservative reach. The synth lines quaver in opalescent colors whereas arpeggios ring like sonic souls in search of a procession in an intersidereal vastness.

And the life stops while "Echoes of a Distant Past" plunges into a void dug by the strength of the winds and of the drones, bringing the title towards horizons where things define themselves by a more attentive listening of John Lyell's astrological poetry. The title-track revives the music with a slow rhythm sculptured by pulsations of which every expiration gives the effect of breaths in a universe of psybient with its fauna and its organic noises. The flutes develop seraphic chants to where gets grafted a choir of tortured souls and rings musical prisms locked into the oversight.

More silent but nevertheless just as much effective at the level of the ambiences, "Adrift in Time" follows the same tangent of "Echoes of a Distant Past". "Another World" starts with singings of astral whales which float among discreet winds and beyond a symphony crumbled by arpeggios in search of a rhythmic structure which will not come. "Searching for a Moment" ends this last John Lyell's opus with this small concerto for delicate arpeggios which refuse to merge in order to create a steady rhythm, preferring to keep the comfort of a never completed melody and which evaporates in the forgetting of its last ringing.

Very lyrical indeed, “Planetary Artifacts” is a beautiful journey in the country of John Lyell. A journey into the lands of Cosmic Space Music with a just balance between the atmospheres, the still melodies, the ambient rhythms and the effects of a slightly psybient universe. Robert Rich's mastering just breathes of a small paternal dose where his ambiences and that of Steve Roach don't harm too much John Lyell's ideas, bringing even his music near the dreamlike borders of John Serrie. A must for the fans of the genre and a rather beautiful front door to those who look for distant horizons regarding ambient music.

~ Sylvain Lupari - Synth & Sequences



Richard Gurtler - Bratislava, Slovakia  (May 2017)
A very fascinating and manifoldly spiced sonic adventure !!!

A self-released album "Planetary Artifacts" is a 4th solo recording by US ambient soundscaper John Lyell, who is now based in New Mexico. Prior to these albums, he has released two collaborative CDs with Brent A. Reiland. Three years after the release of his previous album, a deep space monument "Reflection Of Time", the newest odyssey "Planetary Artifacts" is out since February 20th, 2017 in a 4-panel digipak featuring immersing horizons designed by the artist himself. The album was created at John Lyell's Light Year Studio, while residing in Minneapolis.

"Arrival", which clocks to nearly 4-minute mark, is the shortest piece on the album and it straightly drifts into warmly tranquil and helically enveloping expansive sceneries masterfully reinforced by rattling cybernetic disruptions, bleeping meridians, epic drone glimpses and ephemeral silent vistas. Short, but very effective! "Traversing The Portal" shifts immediately into galloping, sequencer-powered zones juxtaposed with glancing angelic weeps, temporarily blowing wind-like tapestries and transient remote rumbles. This distinguishing alchemy keeps on exhibiting also during the next piece, "The Visitors", where laid-back elusive cyber-tech pulses relentlessly commingle with ambiguously engrossing lamentations and occasionally outbursting machinery subtleties.

"Red Shift 2" is propelled by persistently undulating and mesmerizingly enigmatic motif, here and there amalgamated with emerging panoptic blankets, clattering echoed mirages, sneaking phantasmal breaths and balmy ethereal pillows. Rather minimal in its structure, yet always hauntingly magnetizing journey awaits here!!! The next composition, "Echoes Of A Distant Past", with 8 and a half minutes the longest one on the album, glides effortlessly through euphoniously grandiose realms, exquisitely merging monochromatic immenseness with enthrallingly introspective panoramas, soothingly divine illuminations, contemplatively embracing solitudes and intriguingly traversing fragments. What a beauty, definitely one of the highlights!!!

The title track "Planetary Artifacts" delves deeply into oracularly colored terrains, where quiescently tenebrous drone coalesces with hypogeally gossamer impulses, fleeting cinematic reflections, and clandestinely ascending and boisterously titillating glimmers. Another top-notch sonic escapade!!! "Adrift In Time" is navigated by rippling extraterrestrial drone desolations and fueled by strangely oscillating currents. "Another World" keeps on the orbit, where interminably meandering and eerily languorous quietudes connect with anomalously arising stellar beacons and fugitively ringing fractals. The closing track, "Searching For A Moment", is impelled by meditatively reverberating murmurs, which are constantly perforated by peeking flickers and desultory ear-piercing whines.

After triumphant albums like already mentioned "Reflection Of Time" and in 2012 released "Eternity", John Lyell returns again with a very fascinating and manifoldly spiced, 53 minutes long sonic adventure. A quite intricate, intense and peculiar soundcarving awaits here for each dedicated connoisseur of deep space ambience. Well-done, John!!! The mastering knobs, as usual, were controlled by Robert Rich at his Soundscape Studio. Focused headphone listening of "Planetary Artifacts" is undoubtedly fully rewarding !!!


~ Richard Gürtler  (May 27, 2017 - Bratislava, Slovakia)




WIND AND WIRE  (January 2018)


Simply put, if you are a SpaceMusic fan, this is an essential album to own.

Over the years, some people have come to view spacemusic and ambient music as one and the same. I do not. Obviously, spacemusic can have elements of ambient music, but the opposite is not always the case, e.g. Aphex Twin's SAW II is only tangentially spacey. There are certain definable characteristics to what I consider to be spacemusic, which explains why the genre is nowhere near as populated with artists as ambient music is. Which brings us to John Lyell. Lyell may not be the most prolific spacemusic artist around (this is his fourth solo effort, his first being Dimensions which was released in 2006), but man, he sure "gets" it when it comes to recording "pure" spacemusic.

Spacemusic, to me, embraces its connection to outer space (and, perhaps, a nod or two to science fiction themes). It is in this realm that Lyell satisfies like only a few others do as well (mostnotably, of course, Jonn Serrie and Meg Bowles). It's not just his albums' artwork (which, by the way, has gotten better with every release; the cover of Planetary Artifacts is gorgeous), or his song titles (e.g. "Traversing The Portal," "Red Shift 2," "Another World"), but his overall musical aesthetic which beckons the listener to don headphones in a dark room (or outside under a starry sky) and do a serious deep dive into the universe that his soundscapes evoke.

Planetary Artifacts represents a subtle departure from his earlier releases, but not in a way that makes it any less enjoyable than those previous stellar works. Here, Lyell develops his more spacy persona, using a lot of electronic effects that, to me, bring to mind science fiction films, especially his fondness for a more retro style of synthesizers and textures. You know what I mean: the bloops, bleeps, whooshes, stuff like that. He layers all his various washes, pads, and effects with expert skill and utmost dexterity. While some tracks include bass pulse rhythms, the album is much more of a "drifter" than a "cruiser" most notably in the latter half.

I have always appreciated how Lyell, unlike a lot of artists in this genre, tends to favor shorter tracks (relatively speaking). Only "Echoes Of A Distant Past" clocks in at over 8 minutes (8:32) and a handful are in the 4 to 5 minute range or so. I may be in the minority in this regard, but I like how this feature keeps the recording "fresh."

"Arrival" is a floating piece that somehow does evoke the titular reference, partly through subtle dramatic textures, which "feels" like one is arriving (maybe to a spaceport or jumping off point?). The rhythmic pulses at the start of "Traversing The Portal" perfectly capture the feeling of rapid movement, accelerating to cruising speed, as it were. On headphones, you will hear all these cool layers of synths, washes, effects, and this song reminds me why I feel in love with spacemusic in the first place – it just grabs you and whisks you away into a whole other universe. But Lyell executes this gently. His music is never aggressive, but it's also not what I would label as passive. This is why I make a distinction between ambient and spacemusic. Ambient music colors the background unobtrusively while spacemusic invites you to partake in it, as if you were on a voyage to the stars.

Lyell is really coming into his own and the more I explored Planetary Artifacts I realized that I was witnessing an artist maturing and evolving. He has become expert at knowing which synths to use, which sound palette to choose from, and how to execute it all to perfection. It helps, of course, that Robert Rich masters his albums, but mastering can only enhance great music, it can't make it great all by itself.

Whether the effervescent "Traversing The Portal" the stately "Red Shift 2" or the haunting "Echoes Of A Distant Past" Lyell is your able pilot as you stream through the cosmos. Later in the album, the mood gets ultra-spacy as if we are journeying to the outer rim, and even beyond. It's dreamy beyond words. My only regret with an album like Planetary Artifacts is I wish I had much more time to just listen to it and get lost in its explorations and mysteries. Simply put, if you are a spacemusic fan, this is an essential album to own.


~ Bill Binkelman - Wind and Wire