Bjørn Lynne: Beneath Another Sky
A Music Review

South Africaby Mandy J Watson
South AfricaCape Town, South Africa
Posted: 10 August 2006

Bjørn Lynne is an independent composer who hails from the Demo scene from the late 80s and early 90s. In more recent times he has completed a number of well-known game soundtracks (most recently Worms Open Warfare) and his music has appeared in various television productions. In-between working on these musical projects he composes instrumental albums, which are always a treat for his large Internet fan base. Beneath Another Sky is his latest release.

Bjorn Lynne: Beneath Another SkyIf you're anything like me, every once in a while you probably love to listen to synthesized space electronica, with a little bit of jazz, piano, and subtle bass adding just that extra bit of depth. Such is Bjørn Lynne's Beneath Another Sky.

Bjørn, a independent music composer and sound designer from Norway, is a master at this style of music and I look forward to each of his new releases. It's been a while since he has released an album in this style as he tends to experiment with different genres, in-between producing music for game soundtracks and working on other projects.

Beneath Another Sky begins with the expansive, upbeat "Over Distant Shores", which makes for a great opening track, something that Bjørn is very skilled at doing: he has the ability to draw you in so strongly with the first track of an album that you don't want to stop listening once it is over. There is some interesting bass work buried deep underneath all the other musical layers in "Over Distant Shores" and repeated listening will help you to uncover all sorts of interesting musical techniques and subtleties. In fact, this can be said for much of the album (and, come to think of it, much of his work).

"Over Distant Shores" flows seemlessly into track 2, the familiar (to me, as it was made available as a free download months ago) "Starfield", which is more melodic and has a more dramatic undercurrent that especially becomes noticeable about a third of the way into the track when the guitar kicks in.

Track 3, "Astronavigator", has some bizarre synthesized stereo vocal effects woven into the music, in more than one place, that I still find jarring to listen to - I think perhaps because the sounds have a slight abrupt quality to them and this feels intrusive as the album up until this point has been purely instrumental. The rest of the instrumental of this track is great, however, echoing melodic strains found in other tracks on the album and - with the other tracks - tying things together in a way that makes the entire album feel like one long story, which is really what Bjørn's "space" albums are all about.

In contrast, "Sun Temple", another track that was briefly made available a few months ago, uses vocal effects to much better effect, creating what can best be described as a synthesized Bhuddist chant sound that is quite mesmerising to listen to. As with most of the album, this track runs seemlessly into the next, "Savannah" - so much so that the first time I listened to the album I was half way through this track before I realised that it no longer sounded like what I remembered of "Sun Temple". "Savannah" has a great tropical sound to it, which is especially brought to the fore by the marimba sound that forms the basis for this track, and additional guitar strums in key places. The piano is utilised well in a number of places and halfway through there is an interesting electric-guitar tremolo effect. "Savannah" instantly became one of my favourites on the album, not that it's especially easy to choose as the quality of all the music is very high.

About the only jarring (if one could call it that - perhaps "less seemless" would be more apt) transition from one track to another occurs as the album moves into track 6, the guitar-heavy "Aurora Polaris". Of all the tracks on the album this is the only one that doesn't really have a space feel to me, and feels more like rock opera, but the melodic instrumental transition (one of my favourite moments of the album) about a third of the way in, which is repeated later in the track, and the key changes soon after are particularly effective. If I were to translate them into the story that has been evolving in my mind when I listen to this album it would equate to: "Welcome to the planet! Thrilling adventures lie ahead." The tropical feel from "Savannah" is also echoed slightly, although through heavier electric guitar work, towards the end of this track.

The gentle "Dreams Of Glory" is primarily a piano-led piece that contrasts the heaviness of "Aurora Polaris" and has a certain anthem quality to it (think Vangelis meets Richard Clayderman, with an electric guitarist in the background, and you'll have a good idea of what it sounds like).

"Ang Kahora", track 8, is a more percussive and experimental piece (in terms of interesting effects and instruments) than other tracks on the album and once again the marimba is used well, in combination with other instruments.

"Beneath Another Sky", the album's title track, is another piece that brings the marimba sound to the front, although only at key points in the track, and combines it with clever percussive work that evokes images of explorers in an alien jungle with lush vegetation and fascinating wildlife.

The album ends with another upbeat piece, "Secret World", one of the absolute stand-out tracks on the album and another that can still be downloaded for free if you are interested in hearing some of the album before you purchase it. "Secret World" alludes to hope and adventure and new beginnings, and this track ends off the "official" part of the album beautifully, although it leaves you wanting much more so it is quite a treat to have two bonus tracks featured next on the CD. Both are remixes: one of "Savannah" and the other of "Over Distant Shores".

"Savannah - African-Ambient Mix" emphasises the marimba work on the track and de-emphasises the more tropical touches (although they are still present), providing the track with a more traditional "African music" feel. A third of the way through, ambient vocal sounds that evoke African chanting have been woven into the music quite effectively and, towards the end of the piece, the sound of the electric guitar, which begins to echo the notes of the marimba, provides this mix with more of an edge than the album version. I prefer the album version of "Savannah" but this ambient mix makes for a great accompaniment to it.

The other bonus track is "Over Distant Shores - Ambient Mix", which has a more serious undercurrent, especially in the beginning. I found this to be an amazing contrast to the upbeat feel of the album version of the track. Interestingly, the effect of this is that the music alludes to expansiveness and exploration, but also to caution and danger, in sharp contrast to the feeling of hope that permeates the main album. The tremolo guitar sounds are once again present near the end of this track, which, musically, then tapers off into a feeling of the listener entering the void. This ends the album well, although in a very different way to how "Secret World" does.

As an additional treat you are also provided with access (via a username and password in the liner notes) to other bonus material that you can download from the Lynnemusic web site. This comprises two more remixes - one of "Ang Kahora" and one of "Secret World" - and a 5.1 surround-sound mix of "Beneath Another Sky".

"Ang Kahora - Natural Mix" is the original version of "Ang Kahora". The final album version is actually a remix of this track and that version was a collaboration between Bjørn and Project 2020 (David Ingall). Having listened to this track I can understand why Bjørn decided to go with the remixed version, but that in no way diminishes the value of this original version, which is a complete, finished piece that just wasn't quite suited to the overall musical style of the album.

"Secret World - Underscore Mix", the other downloadable bonus remix, is an interesting musical experiment in that all the lead and solo instruments (which are primarily responsible for the melody, of course) have been removed, allowing you to hear the other layers of the track much more clearly. The subtle bass work is especially noticeable and the first time I listened to this mix I heard some guitar work that I had not noticed at all in the many previous times that I had listened to "Secret World".

Unfortunately I don't yet have access to a surround-sound setup so I cannot comment on the experience of listening to the surround-sound mix of "Beneath Another Sky", but I expect that it sounds quite spectacular and it will probably be the first thing I will listen to when I finally make the leap to surround sound.

The liner notes, as is usual with Bjørn's CDs, are quite concise, but they provide an interesting rundown of the development of this album, which was a work in progress for nearly four years. The wonderful album artwork is by Przemek Kotynski, aka Mantraz.

You can purchase Beneath Another Sky from various online retailers, including ArtistLaunch and iTunes, or directly from Bjørn's web site via PayPal (choose either the CD shop or the download shop). I have bought music from his CD shop a number of times, from both the UK when he was still living there and now from Norway, and I have never had a problem receiving the packages.

Beneath Another Sky is some of Bjørn Lynne's best work and if you like Colony (2002) and The Void (1997) you will definitely enjoy this release. I highly recommend it.


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Rating: 8/10
Key Facts (Review Copy)
Artist: Bjørn Lynne
Title: Beneath Another Sky (Audio CD)
Label: Lynnemusic Publishing
Release Date: 8 May 2006
Genre: Ambient, Electronic, Instrumental, Space, World

Track Listing:
1. Over Distant Shores ... 08:46
2. Starfield ... 06:48
3. Astronavigator ... 06:04
4. Sun Temple ... 05:02
5. Savannah ... 06:35
6. Aurora Polaris ... 08:39
7. Dreams Of Glory ... 05:32
8. Ang Kahora ... 06:06
9. Beneath Another Sky ... 04:32
10. Secret World ... 06:22

Bonus Tracks:
11. Savannah - African-Ambient Mix ... 06:13
12. Over Distant Shores - Ambient Mix ... 08:35

Downloadable Bonus Materials:
1. Ang Kahora - Natural Mix ... 05:21
2. Secret World - Underscore Mix ... 05:30
3. Beneath Another Sky - 5.1 Surround Mix ... 04:31
(available as both a Dolby Digital AC3 file and a Windows Media surround audio WMA)

Album Credits:
Music composed, arranged, performed, and produced by Bjørn Lynne, except "Ang Kahora", which was composed, arranged, performed, and produced by Bjørn Lynne with Project 2020.
Mastering: Andrew Davenport
Artwork: Przemek Kotynski
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