Magazine Reviews of Eleven Shadows

Sangsara press reviews

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In Strange Lines and Distances: Songs to shut your eyes by and let the imagery flow. 4AD fans will die for this. Kristin Jaeger has a wide range to her voice and "Salve Regina" sounds very Dead Can Dance/Cocteaus like. "Exulting in the Temple of Shiva" reaches the realms of the Far East.

-Ivy, Ben Is Dead Magazine, USA


Beautiful female vocals on CARO MIO BEN and the first Hyperium release. The atmospherics and vocals reach down to the very depths of the soul and bring out music that is too beautiful for words to describe.

-Gothic Magazine, Germany
(includes an exclusive alternate mix of "Caro Mio Ben" by Eleven Shadows on their accompanying CD)


Best Music of the Month at Future Music: Eleven Shadows is the brainchild of Los Angeles resident Ken Lee, though to realise these beautiful textures and tunes, he has enlisted the help of Esther Tessel and Connie Deeter, to make this one of the most organic and haunting releases we've had the pleasure of reviewing. Ken explains the rather surprising way "Shegar" evolved: "The song was created by having Esther sing a capella, and then enveloping sounds around her voice in an attempt to have the song live and breathe more naturally." Ken then built up the keyboard textures without a sequencer to maintain the organic feel.

"All of the keyboard sounds were sent through daisy-chained effects and then through speakers, multi-miked to add a sense of space, and then recorded to the multi-track. I find most synth sounds painfully boring unless they are screwed up!"

The string pads from the Kurzweil MicroPiano complement the bowed double bass, but the lushness of the pads is down to Ken building up layers of strings on the multitrack, each time slightly altering the varispeed to give a natural chorusing effect. Esther's voice has a well chosen long reverb that gives it space without smothering the track, but when the track comes down in the middle, the voice is dry, creating a wonderful sense of intimacy. It's subtle touches like these that make it obvious that this is someone who knows how to get the most out of his equipment. The result is an extremely professional sounding release; the nearest reference point might be Dead Can Dance or Arvo Part, but this is music that defies categorisation.

"Dentro" is another similarly constructed tune, though while "Shegar" is dark and haunting, "Dentro" is more contemplative and hopeful. "Bardo" is a dark collage of abstract sounds, backwards noises, treated gamelans, Tibetan bells, and vocal samples, very similar to the opening atmospheres of "Shegar". Finally, "L'Oceano" is another beautiful tune, halfway between the moods of "Dentro" and "Shegar", with some atmospheres comparable to the best of Mark Isham.

-Future Music Magazine: Making Music with Modern Technology, U.K.
(includes "Shegar" from the "Sangsara" release on their accompanying CD)


Eleven Shadows' "Shegar" had us all swooning back in Future Music 41. Replete with multi-layered Kurzweil string pads, bowed double bass and beautiful vocals, the earlier track proved to be something of a sponge for superlatives. Described at the time as 'organic and haunting', among other things, Ken Lee's orchestral epic provoked a flurry of activity around the 'organic and haunting' section of the office thesaurus. "Shegar" also got an airing on the fabulous "Mixing It" show on Radio 3 on the BBC thrice!

"Caro Mio Ben" is a new track from Eleven Shadows, and I'm sure you'll agree, a testament to their past Demo of the Month status on Future Music Magazine (referring to previous inclusions on a couple of their CDs that accompany each issue! -- your friendly editors).

-Future Music Magazine, U.K. (50th Issue Special Edition)
(includes "Caro Mio Ben" by Eleven Shadows on their accompanying CD)


Sangsara and Caro Mio Ben: Ken Lee, a Californian of Chinese ancestry, makes shimmery, vibrant music as Eleven Shadows with both electronic instruments and traditional Asian instruments, such as Tibetan bells and bowls and Indonesian gamelan. These melt (together) with very beautiful vocals from Esther Tessel and acoustic bass from Connie Deeter.

Lee combines Asian and Western influences together effectively in a way that a person of Chinese ancestry living in the United States can only do. Many musical combinations of both Asian and Western worlds are hollow. This is not. It is music that feels complete and satisfies.

-Music and Sounds, Hong Kong


Eleven Shadows is beautiful, intricate, emotional music. It's magic!

-Zillo Magazine (The 'Rolling Stone' of Germany), Germany


Hyperium Records is having an understandable love affair with one of the most world's beautiful and overlooked musical instruments:  the female voice.  Caro Mio Ben, a mini-CD from Eleven Shadows, is a collection of arias performed combining classical gothicism with modern electronics. 

The title track, a 17th-Century piece, mixes soft choral chords within softer string ensembles, over which flows the soothing voice of Esther Tessel.  "Kommt Ihr Stunden" blends a solemn acoustic string bass, keyboard chords, and a guitar played in a lute-like fashion, while Esther conveys Erlebach's words in a cathedral-inspired fashion.

Puccini's aria, "O Mio Babbino Caro", is sung by Clara Kamunde.   Initially only voice and subtle electronics, the song slowly becomes electrified, taking on a harsh neopunk sound.  "56 in 81" is actually Brahms' "Ich Schleich Umher Betrubt",  in which the beautiful operatic piece is played over a speech by Sen. Bill Bradley regarding the Rodney King beating:  a juxtaposition of the sublime and the obscene.

Caro Mio Ben is opera music for opera haters.  It combines the distinct characteristic of classical opera with the dark ambience of keyboard gothic.  The success of this fusion should come as no surprise.  (Hyperium/Projekt:  Darkwave)

-Alternative Press, USA


(From dual review of Tsechima and Dileo Translingual Vol. 2):     Darker and more ethereal, Tsechima is the druggy flipside of Translingual's sublime sensuality.  "Reassembled and reinterpreted" by Dileo, Tsechima (meaning "next life") is a heady "Rae-mix" of Ken Lee/Eleven Shadows' forthcoming Sangsara.  As in Sangsara, the inspirational message at the core of Tsechima is the plight of Tibet under Chinese occupation, and the creative spark for the compositions comes from Lee's first-hand exposure to the atrocities there.  This may be where Lee was coming from, but besides a few dream-spoken interludes about Buddha and whatnot, the music does little to express that.  Nor does it need to.  Good ambient music is more about the mood than it is about the message, and the mood here is one of hallucinatory textures and crisp percussion and mysterious female arias that call to mind an East Indian Bjork.  It's good, durable stuff in an age of sex, drugs, and ambient pulse. 

-Alternative Press, USA


From a review of the C'est La Mort Dr. Death compilation series: The latest volume of the Doctor Death series starts with the disturbing "56 in 81" by Eleven Shadows. It addresses violence in America by re-enacting the beating of Rodney King (56 blows in 81 seconds) with a musical backdrop that mixes cathedral keyboards and vocals that blend Enya with the operatic aria. The impact is similar to 'A Clockwork Orange's' use of classical music.

-Alternative Press, USA


Stand-outs in the new artist category are Eleven Shadows with their stunning This Mortal Coil approach to a Puccini aria.

-Alternative Press, USA


In Strange Lines and Distances: Eleven Shadows releases illustrate the stylistic flexibility and strong compositional sense of musician Ken Lee. Lee is the main personality behind the music of Eleven Shadows, although he enlists a number of other musicians to add their personal touch to various tracks. Notable are Kristin Jaeger, whose beautiful liquid voice makes the melancholy "Salve Regina" a stand-out track.

Lee has an open-minded approach to arrangement, incorporating acoustic instruments such as sitar, guitar, Japanese percussion, and tambourine with textured, sonorous electronic instruments and samples. The result is a rich, unpredictable sound, highlighted by impressive musicianship. The ultimate strength of Eleven Shadows' music is that it addresses the listener on an emotional level, creating strong atmospheres without being overly melodramatic.

-Machine Power Magazine, Canada


Caro Mio Ben: A modern classic masterpiece!

-Darkwave, USA


Eleven Shadows In Strange Lines and Distances:   What they produce is mostly beautiful ethereal music.  "Isabella" is quite danceable and could quickly become a club favorite.  Overall, In Strange Lines and Distances offers some very beautiful music.

-Ink 19, USA


Eleven Shadows' In Strange Lines and Distances:  Amazingly, only one of the tracks really doesn't work, the rest are all mini-classics.  Who are these people?

-Pandemonium Magazine, USA


Caro Mio Ben: Beautiful, beautiful music by Eleven Shadows.  I love this mixture of ambience and Eastern melodies!  Where can I hear more?

-Sonica, Australia


Haunting, seductive music by Los Angeles musician Ken Lee of Eleven Shadows. The techniques and talent of Ken declare themselves vividly in some of this most beautiful, touching music. Enchanting vocals beckon you to come rest on their wings as they glide you through these songs. I look forward to new releases from Eleven Shadows; may their desire to experiment summon us to wander again through equally fascinating landscapes.

-In Remembrance, USA


A wide variety of influences are displayed through classical and Eastern instruments surrounding and fleshing out the electronics. Somewhat like the edgier This Mortal Coil songs.

-Paul Moore, Technology Works Magazine, USA


On the Tribute to the Sisters of Mercy -- First Last and Forever (Cleopatra Records) -- is the Eleven Shadows cover of the beautiful "Afterhours". This is not something that is for me easy to say, but the Eleven Shadows version is better. And do not forget that the original was something far beyond wonderful.

-Eric Seale, In the Shadow of Retribution, USA


Lush, haunting swells of sound and Cocteau Twins-like vocals. If you are looking for music that utilizes exotic sounds in haunting, gentle ways, check out Eleven Shadows.

-Virus, Cybernetik Renaissance, USA


One of my favorites this issue, Ken Lee uses an impressive palette of sounds, styles and moods from one piece to the next, with no one being quite similar to the other before or after it, achieving a beautiful cohesion. Highly recommended.

-Bryan Baker, Gajoob Magazine, USA



Sangsara: This is music that is articulate and emotional. Musician and recordist Ken Lee of California is the mastermind behind Eleven Shadows, and makes music that is stirring and epic, yet somehow subtle. Lee has infused a sense of intimacy with Esther Tessel's gorgeous voice, marrying electronics and acoustic instruments in a pleasing manner. Highly recommended.

-Audio Magazine, Greece (includes an Eleven Shadows song on their accompanying CD)


ELEVEN SHADOWS "Irian Jaya/Chronograph"

Another Starstreams top pick for 1999, this 2-CD set has some great Ambient Dub tracks, some esoteric vocal pieces, and an unusual appeal. The hotter tracks, which are quite reminiscent of the Dileo CDs, are found mostly on the first CD, which is subtitled "Irian Jaya." Some tracks even find a Prof. Trance groove, with electronica sounds kept under tight reins with rhythmic flourishes provided by Jim McGrath and Ken Lee. "Chronograph" is the title of the 2nd CD, which adds up to some pretty strange listening, with distant voices, searing cellos, and all manner of layered drama. The first CD is worth the price of admission on its own, and the 2nd one may have a few surprises in store for the adventurous listener, reaching some chamber space zones that stretch pretty far out. See also Reviews Feb-Mar. 2000 for a newer Eleven Shadows release...



Eleven Shadows -- In Strange Lines and Distances CD:  Brahms' "Ich Schleich Umher Betrubt" opens this CD with a sample from American tv telling as that someone was hit 56 times.  Wow, what a powerful opening!  I don't know if you could call this album goth as it doesn't really fit the piegeonhole too well.  I prefer to call it introverted music with a twist.

-Darkwave over Metropolis, USA


Caro Mio Ben: Eleven Shadows are a very complex band indeed.  I find myself listening to Caro Mio Ben either late at night or when I want to unwind as it has a very calming feel to it.   Kind of like a mother singing to her child, if you like.  There is a beautiful rendition of Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro" that turns quite industrial towards the last 30 seconds, with harsh beats and clanging sounds.  All in all a very interesting effect. 

This album sits comfortably next to Chandeen and the harder elements of Love Spirals Downwards.

-Darkwave over Metropolis, USA


Ken Lee is obviously a very talented musician.

-Option Magazine, USA


Well, sure, if you like that sort of thing...

-Ken's Dad

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