Rhian Sheehan – Stories From Elsewhere (2013)

Wellington’s Rhian Sheehan has been constructing intricate and gorgeous instrumental (mostly) music for a while now, both for albums under his own name and for a number of film and television projects.   His 2009 album Standing In Silence was a masterpiece, propulsive electronic elements carrying forward an album tied together by sampled musical boxes, hints of guitar, and massive symphonic emotional heft.

"Stories From Elsewhere" cover art by Kieran Rynhart.

“Stories From Elsewhere” cover art by Kieran Rynhart.

Sheehan’s latest album, Stories from Elsewhere, is a more organic thing.  The electronica elements are still there – loops of bells, chimes and music boxes[1], but they’re further subsumed within great swirls of strings, piano, guitar and bass, and drums.

Drums.  When I first heard the live drums played by Steve Bremner roll into track two, “The Upper Sky,” I was taken aback by the unexpected new element in Sheehan’s sound. Deep and laden in echo, cymbals splashing white noise throughout the mix.

Almost distracting, quite unexpected, carrying a sense of organic space that was quite unlike the intimate closeness that lay within the sound of Standing in Silence.  But utterly representative of where Sheehan was going with Stories from Elsewhere.  If the prior album was a step away from Sheehan’s earlier electronica style, this was a massive leap into an orchestral style of post-rock, a further diving into the concept of a “soundtrack without a movie.”

One, track, “Nusquam,” is almost entirely the string section alone.  It is gorgeous.

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