Exposé Online banner

Cipher — No Ordinary Man
(Hidden Art hi-art 5, 1999, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2000-05-01

No Ordinary Man Cover art

Ambient music, like any other genre, has many sounds, from purely electronic soundscapes, to cut-and-paste pointillism, to environmental collage. Cipher presents a jazzy take on the quiet side of music. The band consists of Theo Travis (soprano sax, alto flute, keyboards, and samples) and Dave Sturt (fretless bass, programming, and samples), assisted for these sessions by Rabbi Gaddy Zerbib (vocals on one track), and Porcupine Tree’s Richard Barbieri (keyboards and electronics, two tracks) and Steven Wilson (guitar and treatments, two tracks). Much of the music flows with no discernable pulse, consisting of echoey chords and long tones. From time to time, subtle percussive sounds bring up a rhythm, and the duo of fretless bass and soprano sax will enjoy an interlude. Soprano sax, especially when alternated with fretless bass or flute, can often lead to what marketers have dubbed “smooth jazz,” that horrid brand of easy listening music foisted upon listeners in place of anything containing a spark of energy or originality (how’s that for a rant?). Cipher avoid this pitfall without effort, presenting expansive calm without sacrificing intensity to beauty or cheap romanticism. I’m reminded of Steve Tibbett’s quiet classic Northern Song. No Ordinary Man fits in well with the relaxed Hidden Art releases by associated musicians No-Man and Samuel Smiles, being a different jazzy take on the same esthetic. (A quick caveat: there is another band called Cipher, a punkish outfit from Canada, not to be confused with this group.)


Filed under: New releases, Issue 19, 1999 releases

Related artist(s): Richard Barbieri, Steven Wilson / I.E.M., Theo Travis, Cipher

Latest news

2018-11-02
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more

2018-10-17
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more

2018-09-29
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more

2018-09-25
Help the Psychic Equalizer Avoid Extinction – Last year we reviewed the debut album by Psychic Equalizer, a musical project of Hugo Selles. He's now working on the ambitious follow-up to that release, and is seeking funding from listeners around the world. » Read more

2018-09-05
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Kantata - Samsara – For background information, go dig up a copy of Expose #14, and find the review where I spent half a page trying to describe a CD by Iwan Fals. Here, the XTC/Sting/Cat Stevens-influenced...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues