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

2018-09-05
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

2018-07-31
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Robin Taylor - Isle of Black – Danish Guitarist Robin Taylor's adventurous endeavors continue forward on his tenth solo album in ten years with a markedly different slant. Opening cut, "Confessions," meshes old-style Frippertronics...  (2009) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues