Alex Tiuniaev
Somewhere In The
Open Country 





Moscow-based composer and arranger Alex Tiuniaev is a versatile artist who has visited many fields of the art form called electronic music. The conceptual choices are as important to him as the textures and surfaces of the synths or synth-oid origins. Somewhere In The Open Country, released in 2010 on the Earth Mantra label where you can download the album for free, is the artist's strongest synth-driven work. Originally envisioned in 2007 as a concept project called Moods which focused on distinctive, denominating atmospheres or auras, Tiuniaev noticed over the course of the project that the moods were not only polyfaceted, but hard to describe and all too versatile for a project that was incidentally about clarity. Thankfully, Tiuniaev recollected the results and reformulated the conceptual arc. Somewhere In The Open Country is now about landscapes. But heck, that is not right either. The artist poeticizes the term and widens its meaning. The listener visits various spaces, glowing caves, isolated wastelands and enchanted forests. What the front cover and the title do not mention in a clear way is the ethereal flavor and the duality of Space Ambient and New Age. The titular Open Country is indeed truly open and boundless, for it is transcendental and loaded with reciprocating blebs, heavenly chimes and counteracting molecules. The listener can dive into the sound waves, be completely submerged. This is a heavier synth album. There are fragile accents, but they are still generously texturized and not overly thin. No classical instrument is used in the process of creating this album, and if there is indeed such a thing, it is hidden and heavily processed. I am going to take a closer look at all four tracks and try to categorize the album in greater detail below.


The first setting is called Intricate Blips From Mars and is a pastoral-ecclesial hybrid of down-pitched chimes, intense Vangelis-like dark matter synth pads and their ethereal counterparts. What makes this Drone piece so great is its plasticity, the skillful balance of each part. While the layers can be counted on one hand – chimes, dark synth pads, celestial synth pads –, their interplay is totally luring. The chimes and bells resemble transfigured satellite frequencies, the darker undertones point back to the impetus of this galactic affair, whereas the blurry loftiness encapsulates the listener and illuminates the looming murkiness of the grave atmosphere. Tiuniaev has not created a loop-based Drone track. Sure, there are loops in place, but they are splendidly camouflaged. The entanglement of the pulsating bells and whistles with the analogue oscillations of the synth washes is awe-inspiring, the atmosphere curiously wondrous despite the hazardous prospects. Intricate Blips From Mars is a feast for Space Ambient fans. Even if Tiuniaev did use an entirely different track title would I have linked the aural landscape to a location far away from Earth. The second track harks back to the album title and verifies my remark: In The Open Country experiences an even stronger conflation of the bells and synth creeks and resides in wraithlike realms. This is Alex Tiuniaev's New Age anthem. Slowly bubbling synth serpentines change their timbre and color, shift between major and minor tones, create both an arcanely cavernous mystique and a mountainous plateau of emerald-tinged crystals. The incessant elasticity of the synths results in various passages of quieter moments which allows a glimpse onto the other golden thread of the arrangement, an enigmatic–erudite breeze. This is not as strong a gale as on his gelid Ethereal Winter Ambience (2010) and in addition purely synthetic, but it silkens the threatening silence of the backdrop. In The Open Country is a yearning track, its forlorn atmosphere crestfallen. At the same time, it is lofty enough and thus circumvents any potential rise of depression.


Up next is my favorite track of the album, the gorgeous Various Forest Creatures In Tokyo. The Russian artist admixes so many of my favorite elements that this composition becomes a pure joy. A field recording of happily chirping birds, light blue synth streams in major, an awe-inspiring glissando of lucent space harps and Far Eastern tone sequences altogether paint the atmosphere of an enchanted temple in Tokyo. The long sustain phase and the huge amounts of reverb of the harps only expand the dreaminess of this light-flooded diorama. The aura is balmy, amicable and earthen… a first on this album. The chimes are in here again, but they are limewashed and streamlined, willed to coalesce with the ensuing synthscape. Various Forest Creatures In Tokyo is a blazing fairy tale traversed by laid-back euphoria and enchantment. It is the pinnacle of this album from my point of view. Objectively speaking (if that is even possible), it is actually on par with every other composition. Since it triggers all my synapses, I deem it my personal favorite. The final I Wish That They'd Sweep Down In A Country Lane offers almost 12 minutes of whiteness, as it resides again in close proximity to the New Age genre conventions. The level of purity is sky-high. The many layers of gloom, mystique and implications of loneliness provide the strongest shift in an album that is up to this point keen on cozy and mollifying structures despite the instances of tenser accents. Here, the composer goes all-in and creates a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is not fully destroyed, but empty and hollow. Artificial wind gusts, droning temple gongs, hazy accompaniments and elysian whistles mesh. The permanent rise and downfall of these winds is spectral, eerie and an adamant marker for the human-absent emptiness. This is one of those tracks where an increasing volume level somewhat decreases the loneliness and boosts the ethereality, but that is up for debate. The many quieter passages work well in the given context, but notwithstanding their seemingly harmless traits, they are the actual soul-crushing ingredients. Somewhere In The Open Country ends on a contemplative, uneasy note.


Alex Tiuniaev has recently decided to intermix elements of Modern Classical music, the most obvious example being the many piano arrangements of his 2012 album Blurred. Somewhere In The Open Country, however, is strictly electronic and synth-based, with the only organic instance being the field recording of the birds. There might be real instruments on this album, hidden between the whimsical fissures and tiny chasms, but if they are, their processed and altered state masks their origin. Each composition is thought-provoking and mellow in a special kind of way. This is one of the rare releases that is both galactic and earthbound, synth-driven and field recording-permeated, texture-based and melodious. The signature element that unites them all is the use of chimes and bells, and Tiuniaev makes sure that they never sound the same or overly melodramatic, let alone clichéd. The balance of ubiquitous sound washes and more snugly, quieter passages gives the album an organic drive, lessening the Drone-like nature despite the album's clear rhizomatic intertwining in that genre. Fans of Steve Roach and Robert Rich, Alpha Wave Movement and Thom Brennan are usually not the targeted audience of Alex Tiuniaev, but here I can make an exception and wholeheartedly recommend Somewhere In The Open Country to followers of the synth-focused whirling works with scents of New Age. Followers of the Space Ambient scene and planetary documentaries will be happy about the first two tracks.



Further listening:
Somewhere In The Open Country is available to download for free at the Earthmantra label page.




Ambient Review 230: Alex Tiuniaev – Somewhere In The Open Country (2010). Originally published on Jun. 19, 2013 at