VARIOUS. Emit 2296
How many seasons have to pass before I attain the status of a seasoned reviewer, I wonder? If I have reached that milestone I should not be surprised by anything, yet I was. The latest signing to this label is Slim, a lady with an innocent natural voice who sings about leverage and lust. Beautiful though this is, shouldn’t they be exploritors of ambient music? The next track by Gas is a lot more familiar in style and a highlight of the album. The next surprise is by Dallas Simpson, who uses his own specially adapted binaural recording techniques on the track ‘Abha’, where real life ambiences are collated with great clarity and only reveal their true potential while listening oh headphones. Other notable pieces are composed by the International Peoples Gang, Miasma and the Voodoo Warriors Of Love. Another very good compilation from the ambient capital of the world - Nottingham. (Phil Brook)
THE SIDEWINDER. Colonized. Virgin Ambt 17
Another- interesting slice of music in the ambient electronic mode, where dark moody beats and distortion are placed side by side. The duo K - Mart and J.K. Flesh have chosen a more harsh vision over the 22 tracks on Colonized, titles like ‘Ballistic Loop’ and ‘Ten Ton Ghettoblaster’ are somewhat self explanatory and you’d be hard pushed to find any dub in ‘Scarification Dub’. Easy listening this is not, experimentation taken beyond the dancefloor, how chilled out do you need to be before this comes into focus? Whilst listening to this album on my Hi-Fi System, the distortion at times is so intense, the teeth are set on edge. Luckily most of the tracks are on the short side. I enjoy music probably more than most, but I have to admit that enjoyment was not easily achieved whilst indulging in the pulsating musical works of Sidewinder. With 70 mins of rather uncomfortable listening, may I recommend that you don’t turn the volume up to high in case you spoil your underpants. (Phil Brook).
HAWKWIND. Future Reconstruction Ritual Of The Solstice. Emergency Broadcast System EBSSCD 117
In those days when moog synthesizers were just glorified toys by today’s standards, Hawkwind were one of the few bands to explore their early use. I liked the music then and even saw them on stage in Huddersfield and now for the purists the unthinkable has happened. Modern ‘electronic’ bands have been allowed to unleash current computers and sequencers to ‘reconstruct’ ten of their famous songs. Salt Tank’s Master Of The Universe (techno version). You Shouldn’t Do That by Translucent (Hard Trance) and the Utah Saints (dance with scratching) doing their bit with the Silver Machine are all pressed into action. Optic Eye can always be relied upon to cut a groove above the norm and their stab at Forge Of Vulcan is superb. Astralasia, those impressive ambient-trance purveyors have two slices of remixes with Spirit Of Age and the brilliant Uncle Sam’s On Mars. The dub band Zion Train shows the way down Damnation Alley and the final track by Haggis of Sensor is the only mix that seems out of place with a heavy metal bent. This album is released with a number of organisations in mind, such as the Tibbet Support Group. A very welcome ritual with a highly commanded label. (Phil Brook)
HAROLD BUDD. Luxa. All Saints Records. ASCD 30.
Harold Budd is, for the uninitiated, a rather special composer. Sadly he’s been overlooked, well, he has as far as I’m concerned. For example, I ask, have you heard of Brian Eno? Of course you have. Budd is perhaps one of the best ambient piano players there is. He has a couple of albums on Virgin, a couple with the aforementioned Eno, Luxa is his new one for All Saints (not his first, either). This 16 track affair features some of the most vivid, almost spiritual music I’ve heard recently. He manages to invoke a superb inner peace and you have to be very careful, especially if you’re listening with headphones, that you don’t melt. The 16 pieces arrive in 4 sections - I won’t pick out any for favouritism as it’s just futile as they are all individual and superb. Drifting piano that has a certain mellow something, slightly out of focus, in the background. Luxa is an endless audio free fall through treacle...(obviously with breathing apparatus on!). (Dave W)
DAVID TOOP Pink Noir Virgin Ambt 18
His last two double albums have featured other artists in the exploration of the Ocean Of Sound, now it’s the turn of Toop to compose his own soundscape in a true ambient sense. Pink Noir delves into all types of music within this genre including a jazz tinged tenor sax on the title track. Musa Kalamulah provides a narration of Sierra Leone pigeon translation on ‘Mamba Point’, where his delightful voice is pitched onto a very rhythmic soundtrack. Although Toop plays most of the instrumentation including keyboards, guitars, flutes and a number of musical devices only a good dictionary would give a clue as to what they actually sound like. The overall effect is a gentle, slightly jazz oriented moody album where no two tracks are similar. A fine example is ‘Slow Loris Versus Poison Snail’ where Talvin Singh is to the fore with some fine tablas playing. True lovers of ambient music will be spellbound. (Phil Brook)
CARL STONE. EMIT 1196
This is about as far as ambient could possibly go. Lovers of unchallenging popular music will have great difficulty in understanding the 50 mins of compositions. The four sections of ‘Nyala’ was commissioned to accompany Kuniko Kisanuki ( a dancer ) and Satcru Shoji (a sculptor). The 40 min work was first seen in 1995, and in the conversion process to album, a new section was added and the final section was extended. the first track starts so quietly, there is a serious need to increase the volume by a hearty amount. You would need a 100 watt amplifier just to power your headphones! The volume and complexity of the first section slowly builds into a composition without any real form whilst retaining hazy smoothing passages of intrigue. After 12 mins, beware of the drum which startles and caused me to Jump whilst listening on headphones. He knows how to play with the senses. The third section is the longest at just over 20 mins, which allows the artist to use differing loops and samples that seen to be out of step with each other and yet somehow blend together in a strange hypnotic way. Stone is certainly an experimentalist, creating not a monster, but an album that challenges the boundaries of what is perceived as music. Absolutely fascinating. (Phil Brook)
MAIN. Firmament III. Beggars Banquet No. BBQMCD 179
The latest from the ambient world that is Main this comes in the wake of the remarkable series of “Hz” EP’s (6 in all) which got my vote for presentation/concept alone. If serious ambient is not your bag I suggest you move on at this point, as Richard Hampson who fronts the project has forever parted company with what passes for traditional rock. Main’s music demands engagement from it’s listeners but those willing to give it space will find rich rewards. The work (“music” somehow doesn’t fit the bill) features recurring patterns, whorls and motifs that drift through often austere tones and textures producing some alarming reactions and emotions in the listener. Main have been increasingly adding the clatter of life and day-to-day sounds to their recordings and so it is here; it works to good effect. The music, by Hampson’s own admission is not to everybodys taste, but I find it both fascinating and relaxing and continue to enjoy it albeit through my headphones - it really is the only way to listen to take it all in. A HIT. (Gordon Maxwell).
EAT STATIC. Science Of The Gods. Planet Dog. BARKCD029.
This duo have been together since 1990 and their fascination with ufo-ology continues to inspire their creative musical minds into providing a procession of excellent tracks. They are not content with standing still (musically speaking) and have taken other influences such as drum ‘n bass and allowed these to pervade into some of their instrumentals. Careful control of the music is still retained to prevent following the latest fashion craze into a blind alley. So with trip hop and chemical beats to add to the vast array of selected styles, the band continues to make refreshing music for the adult mind. The second track called Interceptor is a fine example of drum ‘n bass, but when they go a little further down the experimental path, there are some wonderful inventive sounds to be heard on the other drum ‘n bass piece, Dissection. It’s one of the best of it’s type that I have enjoyed recently. Contact gets the blood pumping with a good rocking tune whilst still allowing those chemical beats to jolt at the heart of the mix. The final mammoth section entitled The Hanger starts with an ambient section consisting of harsh sounding tinny rhythms that eventually flows into much mellower riffs that demonstrate an ecstatic beauty which demands frequent playing. It’s probably true that more patience is needed to be totally acquainted with this album as the melodies do not lend themselves to be sung or hummed. Commercialism is not within earshot especially on the seventh track, which is a little similar to the output of Autechre and that should attract the attention of all serious audiophiles. It’s been a long journey since their first release, but Merv Pepler and Joie Hinton show no signs of slowing up, in fact the pace of change is increasing. Famed for their live apperances, this CD manages to live up to and exceed those expectations. (Phil Brook)
TEKNOTIKA - The Seductive Sounds Of. Eye Q Music. EYEUKCD014
The murky world of Detroit techno may sound to be a very specialist area where the music has been specifically written for the club environment. This is what should have happened but I was soon confronted with innovative expressions that did not fit into any pre-decided niche, yet still packed the musical punch of excitement. It’s not ambient, trance neither and generally lacks those cut up beats, so what is it? Teknotika is the work of Gary Martin who uses the seductive sounds to form wondrous, often melodic passages that holds the attention. Seemingly slightly off key, the method of compositions is all his own and the results are highly original and impressive. Some tracks contains 50’s or 60’s music brought right up to date with panache. The album’s opening track One Step Beyond is a succulent inviting instrumental to whet the appetite for the next eleven pieces. So often an album just does not have the staying power and runs out of steam and ideas. This simply does not occur in this case. Twinge is the title of the third track and is a most appropriate name. The following track could be Middle Eastern, the sixth is definitely minimalist techno. Interview With An Alien is just that, using dialogue from old si-fi footage that spells out the destructive effect man is having on the universe as seen through the words of an alien who always has the upper hand. The soundtrack is perfectly pitched to the woeful tale. This is immediately followed by a standard vocal dance track, well almost! The album finishes with The Aftermath which is every bit as good as the previous offerings. I can now reveal that I have been completely seduced by the sounds of Teknotika. (Phil Brook)
VARIOUS. Sympathy In Chaos. Matsuri MP7
The title may just give the wrong impression, as this nine track compilation is not chaotic in any sense. The album is still firmly established in the trance section but mainly concentrating on less thumping compositions which incidentally allows for greater experimentation. It is compiled, effected, noized and mixed by Tsuyoshi Suzuki. The start is somewhat surprising for a cd as it seems to be taken from a scratchy vinyl coupled with distortion, but it is still a great 14 min track by UVX called 13 Floor Spectrum. The Liquid Dub Connection flavours the sound with a loose dub, whereas the following piece has the always impressive Eat Static stamp of approval. Merv Pepler gives Prana’s Geomantik a spacey ufo feel which results in the Fire Dragon mix being a classy interlude of the album. Tripitaka’s Monkey On A Cloud is a more ambient event and a very good one at that. The intriguingly titled Ju Ju Space Jazz is the band not the song and their Pizza is a bizarre part consisting of lots of spacey jazz/funk influences of a very way out nature. The last offering is by The Irresistible Force, where the Intergalactic Ambient mix of Space Is The Place is a most beautiful affair and conclusively proves this album is one should be one in your collection. (Phil Brook)
JEAN MICHEL JARRE. The Singles. Epic.
There’s a total of three extended cd singles (as far as I know) that feature so many variations of Oxygene Part 10 it’s untrue. Some of the mix artists include Apollo Four Forty, Sash, and Loop Guru. As you can well imagine, some of the mixes are very much in the trance/dance field, and many will be quite alien to Jarre fans, and likewise, some of the mixes are very ambient, and will alienate dance fans. Anyone with a fairly broad sense of taste will find the extreme tracks challenging, and it’s quite amazing how each mixer has almost rewritten the original, even to the point of hardly recognizing the original, buried deep within. The best ‘single’ to recommend has to be 664715-5 as it contains six different mixes, plus, the playing time is rather generous for a so-called single. (Dave W.).
JANSEN & BARBIERI. Other Worlds In A Small Room. Medium. MPCD4.
Comparisons aren’t exactly the most favoured method of reviewing, but here I just can’t help myself. Other Worlds is like a cross between Eno (both Roger and Brian), some of the ambient gear on the Recycle Or Die label, and, not surprisingly, the instrumental ‘bits’ of Japan and/or David Sylvian. The reason why I say it isn’t surprising is because both Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri are former members of Japan! Here’s a couple of the tracks, just sit back, and let the images roll of your mind - Remains Of A Fragile Illusion, Distant Fire, Light Years. A wonderful and satisfying collection of ditties. (Dave W).
TRAUMA CLUB. Headology. Just Create Records. JCRACD008.
Just another guy doing a few pieces of electronic music to pass the time perhaps? Definitely not!. There seems to be a wealth of talent out there and Mike Whitfield is just one who creates records of superior quality. His specialist skills are used to invent ambient/dub/trance, chilled reggae and even calypso dub on the dozen tracks of instrumental music that covers a much greater area than the majority of other releases. The title track is even better then the first with the glorious ambient riffs competing with the almost funky rhythms in a battle for supremacy. The eerie rainforest is one of the many headphone experiences to enjoy. This is only the fourth track and there are already four candidates for the best of the album! The following Touch Me features a house style chorus, singing along with music that is not in any way house, in fact it’s closer to chilled reggae. Seething Reel is another experiment that works, taking traditional folk music and blending it with electronics and a reggae beat. Unrational changes the format to scratching on a typical transGlobal Underground soundscape. The next track has choral singing and bell ringing on a dub beat where tabla playing is to the forefront, naturally this is entitled Wrequiem. The last piece has bangra type vocals on a laid back percussive theme. To recap, there are a host of variations existing within Headology, but can you get your head round it. I did. (Phil Brook)
PS. Don’t overlook the additional piece as part of the last track.
VARIOUS. Pondou Fever. Peyote. CD11
The mellower side of trance is featured in this eight track package mixed by DJ Dara-Lee, which not only stars some of the latest recordings, but also uses slightly older material dating back to 1993. Brighton seems to be one of the respected places for this type of music and the remixer is a resident at the Escape club there. The beautiful opener by Ohmega entitled Panacea is a dreamy number that slowly evolves into a magnificent emotional track that I will continue to return to. Is ten mins really long enough for this majestic epic - I don’t think so. The fourth excerpt is by Massimo Vivona and this is rhythm heavy with percussion to match and it matches very well. The next is Mendrum by Shiva Chandra which blends Indian influences onto the basic trance soundtrack. I have always been a fan of Juno Reactor and their Landing is more inclined towards the ambient sphere. This longish track is a truely wondrous and it is given a sci fi feel by the inclusion of words by Dr Stephen Hawking especially when listening in a comfortable room where the lighting is subdued and the music is loud. The final track by Menis is another choice cut and Rakebeat will be remembered as a very suitable way of rounding off a good album. This is the first release on cd by Peyote records and congratulations should be in order for achieving this beautifully balanced package. (Phil Brook)
BRIAN ENO. The Drop. All Saints. ASCD 32.
Eno’s latest album with a bigger selection than Dairy Milk! Seventeen tracks in all and I would go as far as to say that this is probably one of his most accessible albums in some time. Mind you, when I say accessible, I honestly find all his music this way! The Drop has all kinds of styles blending in and out of some superbly creative soundscapes. Jazz, ambient and almost pop all raise their respective heads as eno ploughs through 17 tracks. Swanky, Boomcubist, Hazard, Black Clack and Slip Dip are excellent examples of Eno’s craft. The Drop is his first album since Neroli, and that album was total ambience, an almost volteface to this. Well recommended for all. (Dave W).
VARIOUS. Galaxy Tribe:A Drum ‘N’ Bass Odyssey. Magick Eye. MEYCD20.
One of the major problems with the current drum ‘n bass craze is the standarised fast drum pattern, which in most instances leaves little room for variations to excite the music buying public. Various artists have realized that the time to break out of this musical straight jacket is long overdue and are now much more willing to expand the parameters. The opening track gives the first insight into the changes with Under The Honeytunnel - A collaboration between Swordfish and T.L. Palmer which results in the unexpected, subdued drum ‘n bass providing the beat whilst other evolving arrangements form a very gentle background that lacks the usual stark instrumentalisation. It’s taken from a very promising new album that I look forward to investigating in the near future. Children Of Dub’s This City Never Sleeps highlights what can be achieved by giving drum ‘n bass the dub treatment, whereas Background In Blue by UVX is a very laid back late night portrait on which muted ringing tone provides a looped sample and complements the beat. This is really different and also a very enjoyable offering. Nozmo’s contribution uses ambient style electronics and an electric piano effect to balance the lo-fi drums which makes a dramatic contrast before Indian percussion restores the aural picture. Full marks are awarded for Paradision. The Best in the galaxy is left to last, Astral Green World is another collaboration between Astralasia and Another Green World and their Loudest Whisper is where trance meets ambient piano and electronics whilst delving into drum ‘n bass territory. The final track presents the most melodic and accessible exponent of it’s type. This package is not designed for hardcore dancing fans, but for discerning listeners who derive pleasure from their hobby and it certainly has been a great pleasure to review this album. (Phil Brook)
DOG GOD. God Is Love. Ninth World Music. NWM007CD.
Music under the generic title of techno, this album leans more towards the electronic end of the spectrum. Pere Jorgens collaborating with Vagn Olsson, a percussionist and keyboard player in neo-jazz outfits like Cockpit Music. So there is the brief, what’s the music like? It is actually very enjoyable and the minimal soundscapes intersperse with full blown techno or ambient to provide a varied selection during the eleven tracks. It all starts with Love Energy (Theme In A Mirror) which pulls together many different sections under a light beat that ensures an exciting opener. On Going Down But Not Coming Up, stirring emotions are delivered on this ambient fourth track. Some of the pieces are unusual especially the seventh track The Essence Of Love Contained In The Sparkling Bubbles Of Champagne (The Presumption That There Is Another Life Of Rich And Full, Without Worries, Maladies Or Disbelief) Phew!. The Forest Triptych (Center); Romance; Animism Felt On The Spot is a shorter titled instrumental which uses a modified apparently simplistic beat that gives the impression of forever changing onto which non standard sounds are placed. The music flows from beautiful haunting melodic hook lines to random individual sounds that somehow manage to fit the whole rather than just the part. It is bizarre but it’s my favourite. This may be experimental music but it is not unlistenable and although I may have reservations about their name, I am very positive about their music. (Phil Brook)
O. LIEB - Constellation - Recycle Or Die ROD003
If you have the ability to appreciate the very best of the so called ambient scene, then you should by necessity be collecting the ROD series of albums. This innovative set has now reached number 11 with the excellent compilation called Backlash, which I reviewed recently for MD. Although I have still a number of gaps to fill, I did not expect to be given the opportunity to review ROD3. As I expected, the four tracks which are all ten mins plus epics live up to the reputation of being ambient masterpieces of differing moods. The sixteen minute opener Dimension X starts with a haunting yet ever so bubbly theme which entices a very personal experience to mature, perhaps an inner calm pervades the mind and body. It’s very impressive anyway. The even longer Secret Visitors is more subdued and a less happy piece, whilst not becoming too depressive the interplay between the sounds works very well. Spice Diving changes the mood again with rich sounding synths battling against tin can percussion to make a generous overall tone of delight. The relatively short Subsonic Interference (10.52) challenges the mind with a sumptuous collage of dense soundscapes to complete the constellation of sounds. This is a remarkable album for the ambient enthusiast and one I would recommend wholeheartedly, in fact it would be ideal for falling asleep to after the album has finished. (Phil Brook)
ALIEN MUTATION. DNA. Kinctix. KINXCD9.
An hour in the company of Alien Mutation may not be one of your first choices, but at least due consideration should be given to this instrumental ambient music. It's all the work of Jake Stephenson who possesses a fine ear for musical composition and can mix the hard with the smooth, the ambient with the trance. The opening track is very Orb-ish with added sections of Dread Zone and Dubula Technoid is in my mind just one of the many brilliant pieces available. In the seventies, great merit was made of 'getting into the music', now I can state that DNA is something that certainly benefits from much closer and often repeated aural examination. The rich and robust rhythms balance the more delicate samples to form very happy sounding music as found on both Exotic Dreams and Shimmer, The track titled Marijuana is one of the heavier sections that forms a pleasant smokescreen of trance. Sea Of Colours uses old dialogue perhaps from si-fi films to assist the overall picture where harmonising vocal type samples provide the basic melody before the percussion enters, not to disturb but to enhance. The finale called appropriately enough Water features plenty of the title sounds to entwine with the gentle theme. If you like to listen to the music of the Orb during their greatest adventures, then Alien Mutation have brought the music bang up to date. Ambient music better than this will not be easy to find. (Phil Brook)
VARIOUS. Sympathy In Chaos EP. Matsuri. MP29.
If you can't afford the full album price, then this little beauty contains lots of ambient trance to whet one's insatiable appetite. It all begins with the jazzy trance overtones of Eat Static's Merv Pepler's remix of Prana's Geomantik and ends with The Liquid Dub Connection's Floating Through The Air On Gossamer Wings, which they describe as gentle jungle. In between are two Australian acts, Ju Ju Space Jazz's Pizza is psychedelic trance with a definite jazz flavour (imagine Brand X playing trance) and Tripitaka's Monkey On A Cloud featuring more high energy trance modified with an eastern feel to the proceeding sings. Branching out into the unknown, trance is still growing and developing into a many sided structure where diversity now appears to be the main aiming point. To find out just how far down the road this musical style has gone, then this is an ideal source of information. (Phil Brook)
I was led to believe that TIP Records were a small independent label dealing with only dancing trance. How wrong can a reviewer be? This 57 min album takes a much slower pace and during the four parts finds a multitude of sequences they describe as extra terrestrial ambiences. The idea was born from flautist Raja Ram Rothfield who incidentally also did the arranging, and with the help of Simon Posford of Halluncingen, amassed a major work of fascination. The synths are played by Stephen Holweck, and Serge Souqueo did all the programming and rhythms. Some albums start with a very good piece to make the best possible impact whereas this starts quietly and does not instantly impress - it leaves that to a little later in the music, especially part three, which is aurally gorgeous. Part 1 includes The Call and The Journey where rain forest ambiences and chanting slowly gives way to electronic ambient in a most striking way. The final part concludes the Mystery. As a reviewer one can become a little hardened to music with the consequence of trying not to let a new album exceed expectations. I failed totally on this count. Magnificent. (Phil Brook).
TRIAL OF BOW. Rite Of Passage. Relapse Records. RR 6950-2.
If I started this review with the words from the FILE UNDER section of the album, then you'd have a better idea as to what's on here. Experimental, World Music. or Ambient. To put it simply, these three categories are covered explicitly on this fine album. Rite Of Passage are two Australians and their work has drawn comparisons to Dead Can Dance, Love Spirals Downwards and Muslimgauze. The album kicks off with Father Of The Flower, and this is pulled straight from the ambient/World music drawer. To be fair, I really didn't know what to expect when I got this album as much is made of the fact that Trial Of Bow aren't easy to categorize (and oh, how many times have I heard that phrase, and it usually means, yes, mmm!). This time, it's true, and despite the somewhat horrible sounding mix of ambience and world music, you'll be pleasantly surprised - well, I was. Ten tracks that really do defy reviewers like me to come up with helpful pigeon holes. (Dave W).
Don't be fooled by the title will you. Were you expecting South American pipes contributing towards a soaring theme by indigenous artists? The music may have started as something along similar lines, but it has been drastically remixed into e by experienced performers and the results are breathtaking. To name check a few - Astralasia, T Power, Global Underground vie with U-Ziq and Youth to obtain the higher ground. Although the original from Inti Raymi's album Inca Queen which accompanies a TV documentary following a trip into the Peruvian Andes to locate descendants of the Incas. The source field recordings have been reworked into such styles as drum & bass, dub, trance and trip hop. Most of the album stands up to it's promises, especially the drum & bass production by Mr Psyche who has managed to capture those scary melodies into a very memorable piece. This would have been the best if the opening track by T Power had been omitted. This man can do no wrong at the moment and is certainly the highlight of the dozen tracks available. If you enjoyed Ambient Amazon, Turni dance's first release, then you will absolutely adore this follow up. (Phil Brook).
A 30 Min single consisting of five parts of very intelligent instrumental music. Although filed under soul and dance, this up ambient contains many influences from across the world and cleverly uses samples to great effect. There's light and dark; loud quiet; dramatic and sedate sections all wrapped together to form a quality product. The FSOL have rediscovered the true art and craft of professional music making. My Kingdom is my sort of music and is more than recommended. (Phil Brook).
To make the second album in a band career must be the one of the most difficult times, as they will have had a comparatively long time to collate all the best material to make a hopefully impressive debut. This they did with ease. When the lights dim, the world of ambient dub can appear to possess magical qualities that seem to fit the mood rather well. On first hearing, I detected lots of samples that were featured and the first album and it was not until the final track that I realized that I was listening to a belter of an album. Perhaps my mind had been wandering too much, or I was expecting the impossible. This is not an album that can be played all the time, yet it retains some glorious moments especially the title track with it's Infectious groove caused by the deep bass and haunting melody. The recent single Greed is included with those wonderful ambient drum reverb patterns. As mentions earlier the final track Theme For The Cities is the stand out of a good album.The sheer inventiveness and the way the sound collage is assembled is truely amazing. Yes Children Of Dub are destined to provide lots of good music for the future and mass recognition can only be round the corner. (Phil Brook)
I have been collection this series of albums and I thought these releases had finished after ROD 06. I am glad that I was wrong, as this is ambient heaven. Apart from the first four tracks, the rest are all remixes, although it does not say which albums they were originally included on. Tranquil at times, experimental instrumentals all the time, the ten pieces of electronica allows my mind to float in sympathy with the evocative production. To say I like this album is an understatement and it is a shame it is not a double. Backlash starts with Citation collection by Ralf Hildenbeutel, where sumptuous melodies combine with angelic voices and passages of acoustic guitar to give a dramatic opening sequence to the proceedings. La Lune Del Miel by #9 Dream is just brilliant and very reminiscent of the music of the Orb in their early years, whilst retaining a certain amount of maturity. Jazzie by B-Zet the Robert Goal remix is a fine slice of music and in fact I would have difficulty in finding a track that is below par. I have been looking for ROD 003 for a long time, now I wiLL have to add numbers 7 to 10 to my ever growing list of must have's! (Phil Brook)
SOLARIS. Empty Nature. Relapse. RR 6965.
Coming direct from the States, this new release from Relapse has definite echoes of David Sylvian and Robert Fripp - Gone To Earth comes to mind. Empty Nature is Solatis' debut and with the exception of maybe one or three tracks that feature a cheesy beatbox (well, okay, it's not as bad as early to mid 80s processed drums), but the soundscape that is weaved in and around the 7 tracks is simply quite amazing. The main man behind all these names and titles is one James Plotkin who's had namechecks from the likes of Michael Gira and John Zorn, on his experimental ability with the common or garden guitar. Ambient guitar with loads of results and very few pretentions. (Dave W).
Some albums grab the attention from the first track and this is definitely how I felt after the first 7.38 of Moonmen. I didn't think it would continue to happen through the other ten pieces. It's all the work of Anthony Tombling JNR who has taken the area of ambient and explored all the different directions available. From drum In bass to rack guitar drenched soundscapes, he assimilates all styles including the classic Gilmour sound combined with watery ambiences and scratching noises to fill a track entitled Are We Water. It is no easy task to single out the better compositions, but I will mention the wondrous Armstrong that represents all the highpoints of this record. Imagine a cross-over band consisting of the Cocteau Twin and the Orb, add a little Spiritulised and simply pour Into one body. That gives an idea of the musical potency of this man. In the final examination, the overall outcome is a guitar based ambient collection of distinction. This is his second album for 3rd Stone Records and only one ward can be used to sum up the aural Journey excellent. (Phil Brook).
JANSON, BARBIERI & KARN. Seed. Medium Productions MPCD 2.
This mini album is a must if you have enjoyed Slyvian's instrumental sections on Gone To Earth, or the more ambient side to Japan. Indeed, you can imagine Japan, here, without the Bowie/Ferry voclaisations of Sylvian. Track four, Prey, is straight out of the Japan school of music, with some superbly controlled fretless bass. There are four tracks, kicking off with a remix of Beginning To Melt, which is actually a remix, although I ain't heard the original so I can't compare. Track two is In The Black Of Desire, with The Insect Tribe, and the aforesaid Prey concluding. Around 23 minutes, it's actually not a bad mini album and if the price is right I suggest you seriously consider this as it could well open a few doors for you, like the Sylvian solo stuff. (Phil Brook).
Information about Crystal Moon in the press release was very scant and the only thing I know is how much I like the instrumental music on this pre release cassette. It will only be released in the CD format and the eight tracks are purely designed for the ultimate chilled out experience and the gorgeous evocative tones are sheer beauty in themselves. No hard melodies, no discordant rhythms, Just happy ambient music with the allure of slowish thoughtful compositions of note. The inspiration of the music is taken from a number of cultures including Indian and various other tribal aspects in which percussion is important. There's not a note or harmony out of place and it is ideally suited to bringing the individual back to reality and ready for the next phase of REM. The way the swirling, atmospheric collage of samples are harmoniously bound together to form one of those instrumental pieces where the listener could really imagine themselves to be floating in space, Silent Pool is by any standard a major musical work that deserves to receive wider attention by the national music media. The cassette format does not deliver the true dynamics available from a CD, but even as a tape, it is very impressive. (Phil Brook).
PS Since writing my review, I have been informed that Crystal Moon is the work of Jake Stephenson of Optica and Shamanic Tribes On Acid. Good an yer Jake!,
In and amongst winning five Grammies, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe award, Kitaro has been a busy man! Hence the awards. Cirque has been classed as his most ambitious album to date. It's actually a commission for a new American theatrical modern dance production, but, as it also rightly states, it's an amazing stand-alone piece. On this new venture, Kitaro has enlisted the help of Colleen Ryan on vocals, Nawang Kechog chanting, Keith Heffner on keyboards and Anastasia Patzer on violin - as well as many more. The album has 15 tracks, and lasts just under 70 minutes. If you're not familiar with Kitaro's music, then it's usually synth driven, often ambient but has usually very strong roots from his native Japan. It's a superbly subtle and beautiful album, filled with the above, plus the additional 'warmth' of 'proper' musicians, although you'd never dispute that Kitaro himself is a 'proper' musician. As well as the album, you (if you're quick) get a cd rom which abounds with details about Kitaro himself. Photos, videos and snatches of music from his previous work can all be sampled. Awesome. (Dave W).
MOBY. I Like To Score - Music From Films Vol.1. Mute. CDSTUMM168.
32 year old New Yorker Richard Hall received his nickname when he was a teenager, due to being related to the author Herman Melville who wrote the novel Moby Dick. His past musical history includes punk. speed metal, dance and now film scores. The dozen tracks are so different to his previous album Animal Rights mainly because that was a punk rock event which surprised many and left the dance fraternity perplexed. This will keep them much happier. Four of the dozen track have been re-recorded and therefore are not the same as the original motion film soundtracks. Moby as usual likes a challenge and he does it in style with the first track Novio from the motion picture Double tap by using heavenly choirs to lull us into perhaps a false sense of the musical ideas for the rest of the album. Most people should by now have heard the second track which his version of the James Bond Theme containing appropriate vocal samples and some may remember his Go which contained sections from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. The other tracks on the album range from the dance happy Ah-Ah where MC Shah-King provides the vocals to the film Cool Water which is one of the higher energy pieces to the rather beautifully orchestrated God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters from the picture Heat, which used a real symphony orchestra rather than one just out of a musical box and visits a number of styles in-between Another theme taken from a known film is Oil 1 from The Saint. The title piece features a wow-wow guitar lick on a driving rock beat and appears to be infectious and funky at the same time. The tenth track, Nash is from Double Tap and this short composition only features acoustic guitar. The only part of the album not written by Moby is New Dawn Fades which was originally done by Joy Division and admittedly his cover is suitably indie enough to make a change from the other types to be found here. He is not stuck in any musical genre and is always willing to experiment with anything, perhaps drum n’ bass will be his next project as it is one of the few that cannot be found on this album. The following First Cool Hive intro has a good riff haunting female harmonization and is very distinctive of his work. The finale Grace is from Space Water Onion and is a very ambient, just right to conclude a very good score. He excels at formulating musical ideas and transforming those thoughts into music we all can enjoy. This is probably the best album to date for non-Moby followers to get into the musical habit. (Phil Brook)
This cassette mixed by DJ DB comprises of 15 lessor known tunes that fit into a couple of distinctive styles. The first side starts with ambient drum ‘n bass before the breakbeats kick in with a tremendous mighty clout. The best known operators are the wonderful Omni Trio who contribute a couple of tracks including the aforementioned opener Alien Creed and Carl Cox who is also a main contributor to this particular sphere of music and he has remixed Rampant Prankster by Slab into a high energy number. The output of Melt is unfamiliar, but having listened to the two different versions of The Calling, I ought to put more emphasis into exploring other compositions of their’s. I really enjoyed the start of the second side by DJ Trance with the track Have You Know. It is very reassuring for an album to receive higher praise than it gained on first impressions. This release firmly establishes DJ DB as a noise above the rest. (Phil Brook)
When I last interviewed Michael. Dog, the compiler of this new compilation, I asked him if he thought that dubby trance was moving away from the main specialism of ambient trance. His forthright reply was that it was only a natural progression and in no way was outside their area of operation. So now we have the second edition, it again is a double CD and the nineteen tracks positively glow with that uplifting feel to the music. There is probably more variety on here, with the dub becoming very muted on some of the tracks. The album features the known - Dub Syndicate, Eat Static, The Mad Professor and Zion Train, and the unknown - Beathead and V-Neck. For some, two hours in the aural company of dub may seem to be over excessive, but of course they would be wrong. There is a remarkable variation that engenders this album to this reviewer. Take my advice and buy this album, you know I would not lie to you. (Phil Brook)
Sitting nicely in that area between techno and trance, K90 bound into a full length album for the first time and produce an impressive collection of mixes. This is one of those CD’s that does not hit you in the face immediately and after listening to the album, the thoughts are of a competent job rather than something special. It plays much better the second time around and I would recommend at the very least three goes at attuning the brain into the intriguing music on offer. I have now educated my aural pathways to accept this inventive set of nine pieces and can say with distinction that the opener Sabre Tooth (Discovery Mix) after the ambient start is a tremendous stormin’ number. The following number Genesis( Teraform Mix) also slams into the room with plenty of heady beats. If the impression given makes you believe that K90 can only handle one type of music, then the third adjusts the mind with very catchy melodic hook lines before the techno takes over. On Overflow (Regeneration Mix), there is the stock bass phrases and cymbal occurrences to confirm the techno is in the ascendancy. The final two tracks are more in the ambient/trance mode especially the latter (Energia Cinetica) which is my favorite. So this is definitely one of those growers that will hog my CD player for some time to come. (Phil Brook)
VARIOUS. Music For Films III. All Saints. ASCD04.
All Saints are the people responsible for releasing such classy albums by even classier musicians such as Eno, Budd, Laraaji, Bill Nelson and John Cale - mostly all the music being of an ambient nature. This album isn't a sampler of what’s on All Saints, rather an album of artists who are on All Saints (though, not all), and follows on from Eno's Music For Films series he did on Virgin. Artists on here range from Eno, both Brian and Roger, Daniel Lanois, Michael Brook, Harold Budd, and there’s even John Paul Jones. The fifteen tracks vary so much in their style and delivery, although most of them sit comfortably under the cover of ambience. End Theme From Creation is, I’m sure, one that’s been recently used for a car advert (it's stunningly haunting and rates as one of his best I’ve heard in ages). Jones’s 4 Minute Warning is quite violent yet effective. Theme From Opera by both Roger and Brian is a fine piece, hell, they all are. Released originally back in 1992, the material on here isn't just peerless, its timeless, which is more important. Stuff like this just never dates -ever. (Dave W).
THE FIREMAN. Rushes. Hydra. 12007
A three track vinyl giving a sneaky preview of the new album that inspires the mind. It commences with Fluid, where a looped piano intro is accompanied by wind chill noises and very subtle guitar plucking that has a mesmerizing ethereal effect which soon haunts the brain. This is even more chilled out than chill out music. The instrumental then flows into Appletree Cinnabar Amber, which continues the general theme with accompanying percussion. On the flip side is Bison (long one) which changes direction again and although tends towards the ambient sphere, there is an underlying unsettling aspect to the track especially when concentrating on the bass guitar playing. Are we looking at a major new talent I wonder? (Phil Brook)
AQUEOUS. Entertaining Angels. Hermetic. HERM5555
They simply consist of duo, Andrew Heath on acoustic pianos and digital synths and Felix jay who plays electric piano and analogue synthesizers. The elegant results are decidedly of an ambient nature yet never fall into the musical trap of going nowhere very slowly. The combinations provide at times a strikingly harmonious relationship between the players and there is also just a hint of something the lurks beneath those created harmonies. Last year, the duo played live in front of an invited audience and the edited highlights form this album. Using only the minimum amount of equipment, a very full sound is in evident. The twelve pieces deserve to be heard in the privacy of your home and to expect a car stereo or walkman to represent the true media for listening will spoil the potential enjoyment factor. It may take a little time to acclimatize to the ambient pieces, but the beauty is there if only you would listen. (Phil Brook)
CYBERNAUT. Hydrophonics. Magic Eye. MEYCD24
In the world of electronic music, there are those who wish to explore instrumentals at the ambient end of the spectrum and those like Cybernaut who wish to grab those ears and ram at full force a mighty cocktail of techno trance down that ear canal. There is little respite from the storming mode as most of the nine tracks are delivered at break neck speed. So if you wish to relax and play gentle music it has to be said this is not for you, but and there is always a but, if you wish to wake up and enjoy a fine collection of hi energy trance boarding on the psychedelic variety, then look no further than this. The furious pace is set by the opener Boo Meringue and even increased by the brain numbing Brain Drain. If you like your music to be performed at full pace with lots of excitement then Hydrophonics is the watery delight awaiting your full submersion. (Phil Brook)
After a break, the man is back to create mayhem in the music world. Will his new album Play be dance, or thrash metal inspired? This single taken from the album comes in two parts and features three songs. He still retains the ability to surprise and make the music listener smile as he ventures from one extreme end of the spectrum to the other. Ever since the Go anthem that he released a long time ago, I have followed every musical move and generally appreciated what he was trying to do. From the commercialised title track to the ambient/beat/ambient Running, Moby proves that he can produce music well above the average. His new album Play is apparently a stunner and the quality of songs on this single certainly indicate the man has reinvigorated his performance and song writing skills. (Phil Brook)
This duo consists of vocalist and instrument player Pete Hope and Charlie Collins on all the other instruments and they proudly proclaim on the back cover of this CD that this is "A recording of sonically degraded cinemorphic sidewinder blues". That is a fair description of these downtrodden dozen tracks. I must state that Hope's vocals are not sung in any accepted way as the grossly distorted sounds fill the spaces left by the weird instrumentation. All the songs (if they can be described as such) have a melancholy feel, and if happiness in music is what you demand then Flex 13 is very unlikely to find a home in your collection. At times the listening is uneasy. The score is very bold and imaginative yet as you may have already gathered it is very much an acquired taste, and an open mind is needed to accept this album. Even a person like myself who listens to a lot of experimental music did not find this an easy album to live with. There is no discourse or obnoxious music, it's just the lo-fi distorted vocals tend to mitigate any passion the music generates. By far the best track is the twelfth and it's a good ambient score. So more music and less of vocals in future and you'll be a fine recording duo. (Phil Brook)
THE HAFLER TRIO. Bang; Walk Gently Through The Gates Of Joy & Seven Hours Sleep. Mute Records Kut 1, 2 & 3.
All in all Mute have (or are) releasing six albums in total by the Hafler Trio. I'm not sure if anyone out there is familiar with Mute music? With the possible exception of Erasure (who, in essence, still have much of what's essentially Mute in their music). Mute are what can only be described as specialists in electronic/synth music rather than just electronic. The Hafler Trio perhaps epitomise the extreme and most experimental of the 'Mute' sound spectrum. Not really music, more samples and sound experiments that don't all work but those that do, work well. I won't review each album as such, as they are all very similar in style and experimentation although don't let me mislead you into thinking they are the same musically - they're not. Admittedly the albums do get progressively more accessible and played in order you can see the developments.
There's a whole range of samples used, ranging from what can only be described as a news cast, repeated several times, overlayed and superimposed until just a mash of sound forces itself towards you. Anyone familiar with the term tape loop (ala Fripp and/or Eno) will recognise the concept on all these albums although the Hafler Trio really do stretch and pull this idea to even beyond its own boundaries.
There is a deep and fundamental 'quest', for want of a better description, of what the Trio are about: The principles behind the experiments, the possible reasons. Indeed, one track on the first album contains an interview with Dr. Edward Moolenbeck (a member of the Trio) on what it's all about.
Some of the later material is very effective as ambient backdrop and as such works well but there is a lot of difficult material accompanying the early, first album stuff. Still, no matter what the first or middle reactions are, you can rest assured that the end result will be one of either intense satisfaction or intense frustration. (Dave W)
THE ORB. Peel Sessions. Strange Fruit. SFRCD 118.
These Peel Session albums are unique in several ways. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, they highlighted just what a diverse and eclectic range of music ol' Peely liked. Secondly, they aren't quite a live album, but then again, neither are they studio - they are both. A live studio album. Thirdly, they show how a band can play live, but without either an ego-boosting or soul-destroying audience. (Phil Brook)
The Orb were one of the first of the 'new' style ambient musicians who mixed the styles of Tangerine Dream, Schulze and Ashra with chunks of Eno and Gong. Time, they say, is cyclic, and so is music, but with all due respect to the Orb they never just rehashed the above styles, they improved and bettered some of them.
Whilst there's only three tracks on here, they last a while. A Huge Ever Growing etc., etc, plus Back Side Of The Street and Into The Fourth Dimension. Recorded in two separate sessions and it's a wealth of buzzes bleeps and legal headlifters.
MOBY. Everything Is Wrong. Mute.
Track one - quiet ambient music. Track two - hard techno with samples of rap. Then we have track three which is hard metal! Is it a compilation album by various artists to prove the diversity of music? No, it's the latest double cd by Moby. Add female divas, a thrash metal song, a trance selection and hopefully this conveys the contents which consists of an unbelievable variety of material. Every track, and I mean every track, is different, very different ranging from the exceptionally melodic to the hardest rawest music available. This guy called Moby is not frightened by experimenting.
Born in New York, the manic performer and author of the Twin Peaks inspired Go, has been described as the Iggy Pop of techno. That was yesterday - today his capabilities have exceeded the wildest dreams of most composers/performers or producers etc. Moby does it all and far more importantly does it exceedingly well. (Phil Brook)
BANCO DE GAIA. Last Train To Lhasa. Planet Dog. Bark 010CDS.
Although only a single lasting just short of half an hour, it contains three different mixes of the title track from their forthcoming album. The 'radio edit' is a sanitised version of a fascinating blend of many musical cultures and unfortunately faded out just as the appetite had been whetted. The 'original version' is far better. This allows the music to develop into a coherent journey across the continents. The top of the bill is normally last and the 'extended ambient mix' provides a joyous sound leaving the listener begging for the full album.
Banco De Gaia (AKA Toby Marks) are loosely in the Loop Guru, Transglobal Underground sphere of music and he has taken the plight of Tibet (Lhasa is the capitol) as a major source of inspiration. Has my musical appetite been whetted? Definitely! (Phil Brook)
Use your imagination, states the sleeve notes, the numbers are chosen to identify separate tracks because names tend to bias the listener by pre-defining the images etc. Therefore all the titles refer to the length of the playing time. Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard have taken four years to perfect this double cd and they have seceded. 4.02 is a pleasant inoffensive opening and does not prepare for 14.31, which starts with a grandfather clock slightly modified by electronic treatment. Following closely by the sound of the sea which slowly develops into an amazing stylised sound. On first hearing this is brilliant, subsequent hearings even more brill! If the rest of the album consisted of the same calibre then this would be the best release of the century. Mainly ambient but definitely not minimal ambiences abound; slowish at times, thoughtful and haunting it maybe. The casual thinker may suggest that 76:14 mins would be far too long to expose the ears to this type of music. Why not try it as the music explores a wide variety of combinations including semi-choral works (12:18). The second disc contains 2 additional pieces and 4 different mixes of Maiden Voyage (original, Spiritualized, Grid and Brook). They have recorded under the following names: Reload, probably others, and Global Communication is their current name and I am certainly on the wavelength - Majestic. (Phil Brook)
VARIOUS. Ambient Amazon. Tumi TMCD1.
Tumi Music started a couple of years ago mainly dealing with South American artists, but have now branched out into the dance world with a remixed album of delight. Amazonian Rainforest chants by the Waorani people of Ecuador was released on Tumi 043 and this inspiration has provided Astrolasia, Bedouin Ascent and Timeshard with Scanner, Youth and Zion Train to allow their interpretations to be heard. Imagine, if you can, a Waorani Indians festival, complete with the archaic singing delicately placed on the latest technological ambient dub trance soundtrack, and this will give a flavour of the beautiful haunting effect achieved. The Suns Of Arqa displays a fine ear for sympathetic treatment and even more diverse is by Scanner, who combines mobile phone conversations with the ambience of the jungle. Sales of this record will go to support educational projects in the Amazon and if you, like me, cannot afford to visit this area, then do the next best thing - buy this album! (Phil Brook)
THE SHAMEN. Axis Mutatis. One Little Indian. TPLP52CD
The Shamen are back with a new double album to prove they can still hack the popular end of the dance spectrum. The clubs will just love the mix as there is some ideal music to dance to with the tempo matching the required beat. Axis Mutatis starts with Destination Eschaton, which is probably the weakest track and thankfully improvements appear thereafter such as the instrumental Persephone's Quest, complete with rich ambient textures that certainly cuts above the rest. Their songs are not all 4 minute compositions, they can tackle slower and more ambitious pieces that contain complex pattern loops and have a playing time in excess of 11 minutes. The final track on the first disc is also immensely enjoyable. The second limited edition disc, Abor Bona, Arbor Mala, features remixes by themselves, the Beatmasters and even Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy and is aimed at the past rave set. In many respects this is more musically fascinating than the first disc to trip out to. Yes, The Shamen return to form. (Phil Brook)
FORTRAN 5. Avocado Suite. Mute CDSTUMM 133.
Synths and samples abound on the Avocado Suite, the newest experience to emanate from their own place of musical worship, the Rubber Nurse Studio. David Baker and Simon Leonard provide the ideas and finger power with varying effect to literally dazzle the onlooker. Radman, an episode pertaining to the A&R department, contrasts with their cool efficient words and provides the opposite. Not the easiest track to listen to. Elephant is a welcome relief and shows the mellow side of Fortran 5, but don't become complacent as TV8 is staccato in the extreme. Domewitch allows the brain to rest before the ears are assaulted with a typical German hardcore drumbeat (MS20). The band then use samples of laughter mixed with a Tangerine Dream type sound that quickly builds into an impressive piece called Alan's Ex. VP330 has a beautiful though slightly weird sound and is consequently one of the highlights. The CD finally comes to rest with And Erm, one of the few tracks with 'vocals', although the singer sounds like Lurch from the Adams Family! Fortran 5 are not ambient, neither are they trance, but in that electronic category which cannot be quantified - music to expand the mind! (Phil Brook)
SUFI. Life's Rising. Virgin AMBT 9.
Rudy Tambala, songwriter with A. R. Kane, and M. A. R. R. S. extends his repertoire to the debut album by Sufi, and it holds one's attention. I can just see the accusations of attempting to follow Bjork's footsteps and not being of the same musical achievements. His sister's voice provides youthful innocence which really complements the backing music, but it's far more than that, at times it is very impressive. The Brian Eno influences are there to be heard along with sections of dub, ballads, jazz, soul and even techno. Thankfully, the instrumental tracks are allowed to develop into acoustic/ambient themes of substance, and I suppose it's ideal late night summer listening. Please give time for Sufi to rise into your musical life. (Phil Brook)
TERRY RILEY. A Rainbow In Curved Air.
Rereleased on Columbia's Rewind label, this is arguably the granddaddy of all ambience. Not only did it kick start all kinds of spin offs (Eno, Cage, Cale and possibly influenced the likes of Oldfield, and Tangerine Dream), it also gave Curved Air (the band) their name. Two tracks, yep, that's all, The eighteen minute plus title track, plus the rather crappy named Poppy Nogood And The Phantom Band. Obviously A Rainbow has the edge, but exactly what is the music? Well, all I can say is imagine a steady backdrop consisting of regular chord and rhythm loops made by guitars and organs, with occasional changes to that rhythm brought about by the blast or double speed run up the organ keyboard then you're half way there. Once listened to you know exactly what all the fuss was (and still is) about, and you'll perhaps then appreciate what folks who know what they're talking about say that Riley was sadly the most overlooked composer in modern music. This guy built the first bridge across the gap of electronic and classical and meanwhile invented what later became known as ambient. (Dave W)
GLOBAL COMMUNICATION. Remotion. Dedicated. DEDCD 21.
In the vast melting pot of ambient, electronic, musicians, producers, DJ's, teat ladies, etc., Tome Middleton and Mark Pritchard are to be found amongst the best purveyors of modern music, where so many just blend into a malaise of okay or just passable, Global Communication compose music that stands head and shoulders above the rest, and can be enjoyed not only because of the technology. Admittedly, most tracks have appeared on other releases, such as the two pieces of remixed or perhaps totally reinterpreted phases of Chapterhouses's Blood Music. Their version of the Grid's Rollercoaster came out on the compilation Survival 2000, and Jon Andersons's Amor Real is on the Deseo Remixes LP. Most bands and indeed most reviewers would be happy to consider this album as a best of and as such, it's difficult to fault (Phil Brook)
VARIOUS 2295. Emit 2295.
The Emit collectors series is a bold step into a new musical world where the RSS 3D CD is there to spacially expand the sound from horizon to horizon. The technical quality achieved is remarkable, not just because of the care taken, but the system makes the sound appear to be coming from outside the normal listening environment. The music is just as exciting on this compilation cd as 11 different artists/bands attempt to involve the listener for well over the hour. It's electronic ambient at times, jazz rediscovered, scary moments and unfathomable musical interludes that seem to challenge the observer. Amongst the best are Symmetrics, Coco Steel & Lovebomb, Woob, Scanner, Bad Data, P-Eye-Eye, Gas, Miasma, Thomas Koner, Strawberry Girl... In fact the only track I'm not convinced about is the dead pan delivery of the Psychologist Celia Green. Her thoughts are provoking, but her style does not quite fit the rest of the cd. So, ten good marks and one uncertainty. Time to become a collector! (Phil Brook)
VARIOUS. 5595. Emit 5595.
Until recently I had not heard of this label from Nottingham. They are part of Time Recording, who feature electronic music that pushes out towards, and many times beyond, regular boundaries. Ambient music it may be, but the structure is so very easy to comprehend. The cohesion between sounds are very important to maintain the effect and the whole thing gels together without the minimal spikes and jolts of frenetic loops that some desire. A far more spacious mix has been achieved by using a Roland Sound Space 3D sound imaging system. This cd would be wasted in the car. The artists featured include the International People Gang who provide a musical interlude to a game of pool (as the Orb did); The Voodoo Warriors Of Love use a dub style beat, Miasma has a FSOL sound to it and the final track by Carl Stone is spectacular. If you were in any doubt, yes I am impressed and I will look forward to reviewing some of the other albums in this series. It's a long recording, lasting over 74 minutes and I suggest you give them your time. (Phil Brook)
VARIOUS. 110 Below Volume 3. No Sleeve Notes Required. Below 3CD.
Below is part of the Beechwood group who specialise in all things ambient-techno. To assemble a compilation album featuring the Future Sound Of London, Jah Wobble's Invaders Of The Heart and Brian Eno gives the very strong impression of an important release. The quality of instrumental music is exceptionally high, especially the FSOL's Smokin' Japanese Babe, which features samples of string bass and trumpet. The opening track by Muslingauze (Khan Youmis) is brilliant. The small print in the notes mentions a couple of well known remixes such as Andrew Weatherall (Sabres), and Moby who remixed the Brian Eno piece. Since this is the third in the series, I wonder if the previous albums are as good, because if they are only half as good, then buy them. Fancy winning a copy of this little gem? Then turn to the competitions page - now. (Phil Brook)
THE SABRES OF PARADISE. Sabresonic II. Warp Records CD34.
If you have not yet heard the Sabres Of Paradise, then it's about time you tuned into the music writing capabilities of Weatherall, Kooner and Burns. There are three different versions of Smokebelch II including a David Holmes mix to aurally savour in this 77 minute up to date ambient techno journey. The style varies from haunting melodies to a more harsh sound. You may perhaps know the excellent track Wilmot, sadly it's not on this release but can be found on Haunted Dancehalls - a cd MD would like to review in the future. The Sabres and Andy Weatherall are probably the most sought after remixers on the business and listening to this album is easy to understand why. Super Sabersonic Too! (Phil Brook)
AUDIO ACTIVE & LARAAJI. The Way Out Is The Way In. All Saints Records ASCD 26.
Music is becoming more diverse as we approach the millennium with collaborations between previously unthought of musicians and performers. In the past Andy Partridge and Harold Budd, Brian Eno and Jah Wobble have created their own interpretations and now it's the turn of New York based composer Laraaji to team up with four Japanese dj's to offer something that's rather special. Taki 244, 2DD, Masa the Al-Tanyran and Nanco are the quartet who make Audio Active so interesting, and coupled with guests such as Bill Nelson's heavy guitar on the 2nd track, Music & Cosmic. Laraaji doesn't really sing but speaks his words of poetry (a little like Zappa) above the reggae-dance-dub soundtrack in a laid back style. This partnership has certainly worked. Rock ambient is not the way out, but the way in. (Phil Brook
AS ONE. Reflections On Reflections. New Electronica ELEC23CD.
Their last album (Celestial Soul) is more than worthy of purchase and an opportunity to review their back catalogue was not to be overlooked. As One's first album entitled Reflections has been remixed by eleven such luminaries as Autocreation, BIZ, Carl Craig and Scanner etc. As One's not yet heard the reflections CD, it's difficult to compare to the original, but the modern electronics tribe will be guaranteed pleasure. 'Meridian' reflected by Max 404 has a deep dub type bass, piercing hi-hat and assorted ambient sounds to make one great piece of music, whereas Mihara by Autocreation is loud, brash techno. Between these extremes, Meridian by Blue Binary is as gentle as they come and the instrumentals change with the passing of each track into the final semi-orchestrated episode by Scanner, and the whole of the album's clarity is outstanding. (Phil Brook)
BRIAN ENO/JAH WOBBLE. Spinner. All Saints Records ASCD 23.
Jah Wobble has musically dabbled in many areas and does not wish to be trapped as a stereotyped musicians who can only play his bass guitar in just one style. Who better than Brian Eno to provide a different perspective and a joint album must raise an eyebrow or two. Eno produced the original recording and Wobble, a former PIL member, adds his developed skills. The music was originally designed to fill in those non-dialogue moments of Derek Jarmain's last film, Glitterbug. Yes it's typical Eno - slow moving ambient in parts, yet the sound is souped up in a complimentary manner with guitars and drums. Wobble suggests listening to Spinner on headphones whilst walking alongside the Grand Union Canal. I just suggest you listen! (Phil Brook)
VARIOUS 3394. Emit 3394.
The more I listen to this series of experimental spacially recorded electronic music, the more beholden I become to Time Recording Ltd. Not only is the quality of sound truly awesome, the music is even better. Eight artists perform a single track each of approximately eight minutes duration to exemplify the diverse nature of up to date electronics even though this cd was released towards the end of 1994. Sine 'Asks' What's On Your Mind' is the best possible way to open any album for no other reason apart from I like the music and to close with the superb Miasma who's clever use of piano with other sounds leaves a lasting impression. The offerings by Bad Data, Gas, International Peoples Gang and the excellent Voodoo Warriors Of Love retain the high standards set by the first track.
Some purists go for unrhythmic, discordant noise, you won't find any here, just plenty of joyous gentlish melodic tunes to while away the night hours. If you wish to sample the current rends in ambient type music then 3394 displays the highly recommended tag. (Phil Brook)
INTERNATIONAL PEOPLES GANG. EMIT 3395. Emit 3395.
The coding system now becomes clear! The first digit refers to the release number, the final two digits, the year. So if you have not yet cracked the code then this is the 4th release of 1995 (the first would be 0095!). The first impression is of the amazing quality obtained especially on the headphones and it's also very gratifying to be able to proclaim the misc lives up to the recording. Written and produced by Martyn Watson and Ric Peet, the ambient type instrumentals vary from light easy to appreciate pieces (Aeroplane) to the more sinister (Diagonal). 11 moods exist to feature all sides of mental expression including the time recording 4pm-4am which will keep you awake for 14 and a half minutes. For an ambient album, IPG can surprise with quite up-tempo sections of heavy bass or dance type beats. It's one of those albums that starts good and gets even better. Music you should never tire of. (Phil Brook)
DJ FOOD. A Recipe For Disaster. Ninja Tune ZENCD 20.
Who is DJ Food? It's Matt Black and Jonathon More (Coldcut) and Patrick Carpenter. What type of music do they perform? Abstract hip hop, jazz, jungle and sound sculptures. What do I think of it? Very impressive in parts, especially the finest jungle track (Fungle Jungle) that I have heard in ages, which has an exceptionally melodic hook line. The album starts with Dark River, a slow jazzy number that is not quite the expected introduction. The moods change frequently as found on Half Step, with an infectious sax solo and the much more ambient Dusk, but you won't find anything better than Bass City Roller, a hip hop piece that is simply superb. There are a couple of sub standard tracks like Scratch Yer Butt, yet the album surprises again with A Little Samba, and yes, this is an album to stick with for 71 and a half minutes! (Phil Brook)
NATACHA ATLAS. Yalla Chant. Nation Records NAT60CD.
A half hour in the company of Transglobal Underground's lead female singer featuring 6 versions of Yalla Chant remixed by Banco De Gaia, TGU and youth. If you are not familiar, the songs combines dance type beats with Arabic style singing and instrumentation. I particularly like the Latvian shade mixed by Banco as it is the most different from the rest, an ambient trance accompaniment. The Sil Bachir Mix shows a reggae riff and the final remix by youth is also quite impressive. Perhaps the tracks are all a little too similar, but you should still listen to it. (Phil Brook)
The accompanying press release states invention doesn't fit in convenient niches - no pigeon holes, which is as good a way of introducing a bizarre coupling of time recording and the institute of psychological research. Lucid Dreams attempts to unravel the mysteries of consciousness during sleep with the help of author and narrator Celia Green set against abstract, gentle and slow moving soundscapes specifically designed to be listened in its entirety on headphones. The musical instruments and devices are played by Chris Allen, Will Joss, Tom Smyth and David Thompson. Ten separate pieces describe the various stages and all flow from one to another. Although I have reviewed the majority of this series of experimental music, this has got to be the most unusual. Green's voice is a little too dry, sometimes sleepy and other times grating for my liking, although the Eno style music is interesting. The overall effect during the 70 mins proves there is something very compelling here, and ambient music will never be quite the same again. Sweet dreams! (Phil Brook)
VARIOUS Ambient Moods. 20 Atmospheric Moods. Polygram TV CD 525952-2.
A very brave and unusual collection from Polygram TV, who usually bring out the more 'safer' compilations. Whilst 'true' ambient music isn't fully explored on this album, many of its distant cousins are: Bjork and David Arnold's Play Dead kicks off the album, which is a beautiful piece of music. Cocteau Twins, Raindance, Orb and Enigma produce what is arguably the core of ambience, the rest are fringe. Saying this, however, stuff like Kate Bush's Sensual World, Dubstar's Stars and Japan's Ghosts are stunning in their breadth and in the way they challenge the 'usual' concepts of music. This collection is probably the closest you'll get (other than the recent Virgin hardcore ambient collections) of bridging the gap between the popular and the cult. It's basically a damn good album. (Dave W)
High powered psyi trance is always guaranteed to keep the mind and body in musical sympathy and the aural doodlings of Ofer Dikovsky dispay a tendancy to show off to near maximuin capacity what can be acheived when the trancemaker is in control of the various machines. As you would expect with this style, there is liitle room for quiet contemplation as the full force of the beat meets the wibbly melodic rhythms. It does not in any circumstances remain samey as all the nine tracks have their own particular induividual hallmark. From the opener entitled Maximiser (a self explanitory instrumental with a tremendous powerhouse of samples which succeed in busrting out of the confining grooves) to the title track, where the beat maximises the impact of the other musical sequences. The least abravise aspect is the finale Dew Point where a slower tempo instills a gentler and perhaps more cohesive ambience. This is another fine album from the ever increasing Dragonfly catalogue. (Phil Brook)
ROBERT FRIPP. The Outer Darkness: The Gates Of Paradise Volume One. DGM 9608A.
Stunning set of ambient Frippery that simply delivers the goods. Four tracks (bear in mind, though, that the first track is in ten parts!) that are all equal to Eno's best ambient pieces. It's hard to understand how Fripp can manage to get such etheral and atmospheric sound/music from a guitar. Don't, however, expect Fripp's work on here to be like his earlier Virgin/EG stuff. As daft as this sounds, if Eno had have played guitar, then this is probably what he'd have been doing. The Outer Darkness, parts one to ten, kick off the album and I've played this to many and to date none have attributed it correctly. It really is so different. The main (and most striking) is perhaps the loss of Frippertronics, and the addition of soundscapes - or maybe Frippertronics have evolved into soundscapes? Whatever. We then get the first two parts of The Gates Of Paradise, then part 11 of The Outer Darkness, and conclude with part three of The Gates Of Paradise. Confused? Hell. just listen and be left in a state of relaxed euphoria. (Dave W).
When the appropriately named drum ‘n bass sound first appeared in the clubs, the music was so distinctive, it was another avenue to explore similar to the emergence of punk in the 70’s. Unfortunately lots of musicians immediately jumped on the bandwagon and not wishing to be left out of any future fashion scene, the original theme was certainly overused (even flogged to death) which resulted in a structure that seemed to lack genuine ideas. Thankfully music manipulators like Photek and Squarepusher continued to experiment and push the boundaries into the unknown. A new name to add to that list is Sonartribe, who from the opening track use a hard edged attitude. Body Move is unusual as it combines electro with drum ‘n bass. Strictly speaking, the title track is split into two entitled Signal 1 and Signal 2 and both album mixes are not adjacent to each other. I particularly enjoyed Rays which feature a standard beat with an abundance of inventive samples and Mariner, which balances happy melodies with threatening bass lines to form a classic cut, which then flows into the acoustic guitar set against ambiences in a truly genre hopping piece entitled Night Acoustic. Conscious blends acid jazz vibes and loops within the complex structure. Lorna Lewis and Michael Anthony Marsh have created an album full of harsh beats and killer bass lines and it’s wonderful. (Phil Brook)
My first experience, musically speaking of this gents aural pleasures, was though the recent single and that was quite a departure from his previous experimental punk band Derribos Arias. Although any one mixing drum machines with distorted guitars is on the road to trance and in Juan Verdera case, the love is for the Goa variety. The mountains of Ibiza provided the necessary inspiration after a serious illness to compose instrumentals in his own studio and this album starts with the title track, which is of a standard format. The rest of the album is not as the next track The Acient Sounds Of The Gods, is a mostly melodic ambient trance to fill these ears with delight. The other six complex pieces all have intricate titles which gives a strange aura to the proceedings. It may not be instantly liked, but the warmth and depth of musical invention is there for all to hear, providing the punters are willing to listen. (Phil Brook)
STEVE JOLLIFFE. Alien & Zanzi. Amp Records AMPCD 023 & AMPCD 033.
Perhaps best remembered for doing his 'bit' in two versions of Tangerine Dream, early and mid period. He contributed, mainly, to the band's album Cyclone, which, to be honest, you either love or hate. He was also the first musician to be accepted into the Berlin Konservatorium who couldn't actually read music. The above two albums are, literally, a drop in the ocean compared to Steve's solo album output. What's also worth noting is the fact that both the above albums are miles apart. Alien is (and could well be) classed as New Age, although it's a term I'm not too happy about. Even the sleeve classes the album as Future Age Music! It features seven tracks, Breaking Point, Goodbye, Arrival and One Love are all string and effective pieces, although the term 'Alien' may build up your hopes for an album dripping and swirling with synth. How wrong you'd be. Organ, flute, strings and the general 'soft' feel is to be had. The overall effect is one of soothing and relaxing, not unlike many new age claims. There is the odd bit of synth keyboard, but nothing like you'd expect. The saxophone that blasts out at you from One Love is another surprise. Alien isn't an album that a TD fan would probably like, but with all due credit to Joliffe, he's no slouch when it comes to being different and at just under 54 minutes, there's a lot of difference here.
Zanzi, well, here is the classic Jolliffe album. Okay, so I've only heard this and the above Alien, but it would have to be a damn strong album to beat this. Very little in the way of sleevenotes (none really needed, it just gets on with the music). It's made up of two tracks, Zanzi, at 55 minutes, and Coda, at just under 6 minutes. However, whilst you can't actually program Zanzi into separate 'pieces' it does actually change, grow and, dare I say, synthesise into different sections. It builds up into one of the best synth track I've heard in a long time. Loops and a strong beat generated by all manner of objects other than drums keep watch whilst Jolliffe builds and rebuilds soundscapes with familiar themes haunting the listener with the odd echo of ambience thrown in for good measure. Coda is in a simlar vien in that it builds and constantly changes and develops but feels to be somewhat sharper, a colder and more clinical effect is had. The time signatures on many of the changes are more angular and add so much to an image of the whole piece being written by a machine, totally brilliant. Like I say, best thing in synth albums since Phaedra. (Dave W)
This guy really knows how to mix and match unusual samples both old and new into a modern soundscape of varied patterns. He brilliantly manages to place hip-hop next to ambient and lush orchestra pieces that would appear to emanate from the forties and apply a veneer that does not imply any use of musical Formica. Who would have the audacity to include the musical help of the Freestylers, Grandmaster Flash and Fatboy Slim to provide even more diversity apart from Fresh himself? My personal favourite is the sixteenth track entitled Skylights, where a subdued harp is surrounded by a rich orchestral score firmly placed on a very modern beat. And what's even more unbelievable is the catchy tune. I have already mentioned the variety between the 22 tracks on offer and I have to restate that it is truly amazing. This album is what freestyling is all about and the results are remarkably Fresh (Pun intended). (Phil Brook)
The previous edition of this series was reviewed by Modern Dance and that review was used in the press release for the third Sympathy In Chaos (I am famous for at least five min!). Although the format remains constant, the music evolves constantly. So anyone expecting more of the same will be surprised. The ten tracks offered here are quite a diverse section from the modern electronic music scene ranging from ambient themes to drum 'n bass. The aural journey commences with a splendid down tempo number with a growling bass and subdued production with a hint of the East - that's Digitalis and his wonderful Yub-Yum Soul. The next instalment is even better with Gabriel Le Mar's Bob and the understated melodic hook lines. To ring the changes, the Japanese heavy metal outfit Walrus gets the remix treatment from Joujouka, which precedes chemical beats from Messenger. The drum 'n bass is exquisite especially with the ambient overtones, yes you could say that I like Kyoumei by Something Wonderful and look out for their new release Ukajin on Matsuri (still awaiting review copy for this magazine). All the above have been selected by DJ Tsuyoshi Suzuki and I cannot deny that he does indeed possess a musical vision of the 21st century. What a wonderful place its going to be! (Phil Brook)
HAROLD BUDD. The White Arcades. All Saints Records. ASCD03.
Harold Budd came to my attention on one of Virgin's albums, and he was 'playing' alongside a certain Brian Eno. The album was The Pearl, and it was superb. The White Arcades is of the same style: treated piano, with a certain 'something' lurking in the background. The album kicks off with the title track and straight away the relaxing and invigorating effects of Budd's music is apparent. The Real Dream Of Sails, Algebra Of Darkness and The Room are all staggeringly simple, yet so efficient in their conviction. Track six, Totems Of The Red-Sleeved Warrior is co-written with Brian Eno, but that apart it's all Budd. Seven tracks, and not one of them fails to instill a mood and atmosphere that only Budd seems able to manage. Unassuming and simply beautiful. (Dave W).
CHANNEL LIGHT VESSEL. Automatic. All Saints Records ASCD19.
Imagine, if you will, a bunch of musicians consisting of Roger Eno, Bill Nelson, Kate St. John, Laraaji and Mayumi Tachibana (yes, I'm not sure who this last one is either!). Channel Light Vessel is the working name of this group. Automatic was their first album, featuring 12 tracks, with Bill Nelson's influence, probably, being the strongest. The styles they cover is quite varied and impressive, although tracks like Bubbling Blue, Dog Day Afternoon, Little Luminaries and Fish Owl Moon are very strong. There's a couple or three of the songs that feature lyrics: Testify, Thunderous Accordions and A Place We Pray For. Bill's penchant for ambient lyrics (if there is such a beast) is evident on them all, although Kate St. John had a hand in writing two of them. And if you're still wondering, Mayumi plays the cello and her 'ghost girl voice'! Ambient, sumptuous and very satisfying in all the right places. (Dave W).
FRAGILE. Imperfection. Millennium. MILL077CD
It's always important to remember that the opening track on an album may not necessarily be the best and this is certainly the case with this album. Of the thirteen instrumental, up to date electronic sections, the inquisitiveness of the listener is slowly tested in an attempt to persuade that this is not just another album amongst many. It develops along the musical journey, stimulating the receptors as if it was the last occupation on earth. The difference between the big beats of the opener The River to the ambient conclusion of Psychological Moment, is outstanding. You feel as though you should be in a look but don't touch mode but in reality you know that a full blown grope is inevitable. By the time of the sixth track Sun, you are fully hooked and resistance is futile. This record ought to be banned for doing this, but pleasures of the musical mind are all that we live for and so this remarkable album will survive the trial and be acquitted as just another exceptionally good album. (Phil Brook)
TUU. Mesh. Fathom Records. 11078-2.
Martin Franklin is the main man behind the majority of the music on this superb album. Ambient mixed with thin strains of world, especially eastern, produces snapshots from many films and images. There's a total of 7 tracks in all, featuring plenty of instruments such as Singing Bowls, Bamboo Flute, Ceramic Flute, Clay Pots, Triton Shell, Tibetan Bells, Gongs and Bowed Bells. Obviously, it's these instruments that dredge up strong images from a variety of eastern sources. However, it isn't just these, underlying all these tracks is the swirling, liquid ambience of Mykl O' Dempsey who's synthesiser adds a very special backdrop from which the instruments shoot out from. There's also Tim Burness, who's album was featured in the last issue of MD, on E-Bow and looped guitar on the title track. For those amongst you who like their ambient music to be a little bit more challenging and adventurous, then Tuu's album is definitely one to try. Tracks like Crack Between The Worlds, Stone To Sand, Four Pillars, Great Wheel and the aforementioned Mesh, are as realistic as the sounds they convey. A good one for the ambient section. (Dave W).
It may not be everyone's idea of a culinary delight, but musically speaking this is sheer brilliance. Do you appreciate quiet, melodic ambient music with a beat? A contradiction in musical terms perhaps, but this act mange to combine these differing styles with remarkable success. Everyone enjoys a Liquid Lunch and their musical equivalent is even better than the real thing. Whilst enjoying the album for the first time (it is allowed you know), I was struck by the inventiveness and beauty of the track called Zoe and mistakenly believed that it was going to be the best. Only two tracks later Human Vitalis proves my previous thoughts to be incorrect and eclipses the previous best. I have heard a number of their compositions on compilation albums, but this is their first review in Modern Dance and if the previous albums are up to this standard, then I would love to review them (SUBTLE HINT TO MILLENNIUM RECORDS!) Returning to the latest album, I hope that I will be allowed to make an understatement and say that this is a very, very good album. (Phil Brook)
MOOCH. In Search Of The Acid Metal Grille. Dead Earnest. DERNCD33.
It is so easy to jump to the wrong conclusions, especially when noting the album title. If you think this contains lots of high-energy acid techno, then think again and try looking at the opposite end of the scale. Ambient atmospherics with a hint of the Orb and the Ozric Tentacles is what you get and it's gorgeous. It's all the work of Steve Palmer, a guitarist who has added the usual keyboards, samples and synths to the four longish tracks on offer. The journey commences with Ocean Of Mercury, an evocative moody instrumental that varies between Tangerine Dream style loops and quieter passages of haunting beauty. The next section, In Search Of Homo Sapiens Psychedelicus, offers an organised beat onto which squelchly analogue synths chart a salubrious path. The other tracks all have a distinctive individual mood that prevents any listening weariness from becoming apparent. There is something about these compositions that leave the listener feeling aurally satisfied, it's as though they have been specifically made to ensure the overall mix is brimming over with comforting effects. Some may now believe that ambient music belongs to a bygone age, but modern composers like Palmer prove this theory to be incorrect. (Phil Brook)
Since the predecessor hit the shops last year, I suspected that another installment would be compiled. Tsuyoshi Suzuki has decided to follow my suggestion and another albums worth of material which shows to the fullest effect, the ‘experimental down tempo grooves’ side of current instrumentals that are produced by very electronic means. The results are even better than the first release and that was a very good album. So the ten choice examples range from the very late night listening of Etnica to the delightfully spaced out ambiences of S.H.A.D.O (which is a collaboration of Higher intelligence Agency and Pete Namlook). In between, are 100th Monkey with drum ‘n bass, Alaska provides a similar sound but with more of an ambient nature and down tempo experimental trip hop from Hardfloor. If you like weird electronica, then Electric Universe’s Rock Da House is perhaps especially designed for you or maybe the chilled out variety by Digitalis may be even more to your liking. The pseudo elektro is by Yamo and the most commercialised remix of The Band by Marco Zaffarano is by Way Out West and this still manages to retain style. The only other track not mentioned is Avalon by Spectral who succeeds in displaying the better side of ambient. I have been attempting to identify the weaker track and I have to admit defeat. Nothing short of brilliant. (Phil Brook)
It's called down tempo. Music that is not ambient but approaching a slower pace where the emphasis is on retaining inspirational melodies without the need of furious beats. Matsuri have attempted to fill this album with chilled out tracks from their vaults and the results are well worth hearing. Trance is always perceived as fast storming numbers with a fast repetitive beat, yet any excerpt from this album will actually demonstrate that notion is a false one. The bass prominent dub sound of Quirk's Haile Sensitive provides a marvellous example of the term Chillspace and the instrumental music is naturally equally as good. Contrast Sun God by Dendron (one half of Eat Static) with the duo's Space Walk and attempt to identify the better track. An impossible decision if ever there was one. If you thought it wouldn't get any better then the finale by Sandman illustrates why this is the best compilation CD of the year. (Phil Brook)
Gecko records have been set up by Toby Marks to release Banco De Gaia recordings. There is a subtle direction change from his pervious albums as the opening track I Love Baby Cheesy shows. There is greater emphasis on the shamanic vocal component and the music came as a bit of surprise to me, as it was not quite what I expected. By the time the third track is reached, the more familiar sounds pervade with beautiful deep bass notes underneath a slow beat and ethereal melodies provide one of the brilliant tracks on offer. Having sung the praises of Sinhala, I now find the next track is even better. The 12-min Touching The Void displays his command of musical composition in such a way as to leave the listener wanting more, in fact much more. His knack of developing tracks into major works is exemplary and ambient/trance passages are his major strength. With more vocal influences from the East appearing on this album, this is indeed a magical journey through the sounds of Banco De Gaia. (Phil Brook)
After what seems to have been a long drought in the ambient electronic market, thank goodness for the flash floods in the guise of Lobe. Hibernation is the work of Ian Hartley, who has mastered the art of developing ideas into a high quality musical product that gives your hi-fi a decent signal to respond to. The bass notes will shock the foundations. The opening track Nude has all the correct hallmarks to impress this reviewer - solid bass, raunchy riffs and magic melodies. Hatching is better and I don't think he'll beat this. The final track Wonder Into improves on the previous offerings and has all the right qualities, a deep pulsating bass, haunting melodies and if that was not enough there's some damn fine riffs as well. When he is given the chance to make longer tracks, Lobe handles these developments beautifully and doesn't allow the instrumentals to wallow. The 12-min finale is positively outstanding. I thought his first album was brilliant, but this is in a different league. Please choose any word that improves on brilliant to insert here. My album of the year so far. (Phil Brook)
The Memory starts to collect a few thoughts. The ambient beginning, the Tangerine Dream style sequences and recollections of the great electronic music of the seventies. This album is not stuck in the bygone days as the instrumental music has been reinvigorated and sampled without the use of computers to fit the millennium scene. Brave words and hopes perhaps. Any self-respecting Dream fan from any part of their musical heritage must not overlook this marvellous creation by David Hendry. Four of the seven tracks are long workouts in excess of 10 min. (the longest being Ocean Of Space lasting 18:14) although they do not suffer from any forms of over indulgence. This is not one of those copy cat albums as the influences smack at times of Pink Floyd. The second track The Domes Of Atma is quite a bit slower and has a more menacing feel, which continues with more emphasis on Voyage Sequence 1. By the time the sixth track has been reached, the similarities with the Future Sound Of London's Lifeforms album are apparent. Listening to this type of music can be an immensely personnel musical experience but a thrill all the same. A great shame that media exposure will probably be limited, but Modern Dance will do it's best to address this injustice. With a total running time of almost 76 min., there is plenty of opportunity to get your head around the Silent Universe. (Phil Brook)
The scene depicts a small converted bedroom, where the keyboards are stashed in every available space and six people are crammed into the gaps that are left. This is one of the images in the sleeve notes, yet the music gives the feeling of spaciousness. The instrumentals span two discs and features what they call extended improvisations recorded over a short timespan to give greater continuity. Their style is cross between the synths of Tangerine Dream and the more guitar influenced world of Mike Oldfield, where bass and lead share the limelight with the sequencers and other electronic gizmos old and new. None of the seven pieces are designed to fit into radio slots as the shortest track lasts for more than 15 min. The longest section is the half an hour plus Build, which is a complete performance without editing and the solo lead guitar does not seem out of place amid the rest of the electronica. The following track Blakey Ridge is a truly bleak ambient piece, in which the minimal layered textured approach provides a marked contrast to what has been played before. The finale is the band's favourite probably because the enlightened themes slowly develop into robust instrumentals that are of the highest calibre. With a total running time of 135 min., and each track having an aura all of its own, this is a wonderful excuse to spend time amongst the Borrowed Atoms. (Phil Brook)
Hailing from the Workstation in Sheffield - that's all I know c'os the information surrounding this artist is not exactly in abundance. Having said that, who needs a lot of words when the album speaks for itself? These dozen tracks are constant growers and vary from ambient soundscapes to more club designed pieces. The opener is a fine ambient example of the ideas Avery has and you won't find a better instrumental on the album than In Optimo City (the almost Perfect town). The next track Blipvert seems out of character with its dance friendly beats and good bass loops, although the unusual rasping samples gives the music a lot of character. By the time we listen to the third and title track, the bass heaviness enhances the haunting melodies and you realise that this is a good album. On the fourth, the tempo changes back to ambient which even though much slower and more eerie but very beautiful at the same time. Even vocal components of spoken words compliment the sixth instalment. The rest of the album seems to be a large piece that flows evenly and ends with a piano, aided with massive chunks of reverb on Club With No Regret. I have no regrets listening to an album as delightful as this. (Phil Brook)
Between the months of May and December 1998, Ian Boddy was fully occupied in the studio experimenting with sounds and developing random patterns into a coherent structure. The results of all this fiddling with a mixture of analogue and digital synths are contained within the Box Of Secrets. Ambient music has in general received bad press with accusations of being uninspired, flabby and lacking in direction being some of the more printable terms. Of course there are none of these facets to be found in this hourlong package. The opening track Frozen Web starts quietly with haunting sections before the melodies and rhythms enter the proceedings. The title track contains a beautiful catchy beat. The next track Shadows In The Sand has quite an eerie beginning before a purely percussion session takes over and even before any thoughts of boredom creeps in the Japanese style instruments alters the timbre of the piece completely. Most of the compositions are quite lengthy apart from the two and a half minute scary There's Something In Your Attic, which is probably the least organised. The next journey Walking The Slow Path is the longest part (over 13 min) and features heavenly voices calling from the ether. The secret is now out - this is a very good album of which there are only 999 left. Web surfer's note:- please see http://www.selse.demon.co.uk/DiN.html (Phil Brook)
HAROLD BUDD. The Serpent (In Quicksilver) & Abandoned Cities. All Saints Records ASCD08.
Two separate 'works' feature on this cd, indeed, it's all early Budd. Harold Budd is a master when it comes to ambient, atmospheric treated piano, with whisperings of (kind of) found sounds. The Serpent features six tracks, with marvellous titles such as Children On The Hill, Afar, and Wanderer. Cities features two, larger works, Dark Star and the title track. The Serpent was original released in 1981, and Cities 1984. Serpent is really six pieces recorded in different studios from 1980/81, creating and adding different sounds - the results of which are magnificent, especially with the addition of Chas Smith's pedal steel guitar on Afar. Cities is different again, mainly because the pieces are a lot longer and are allowed to develop and evolve. Gene Bowwen adds loops from his Strat, making the end results very different from the Harold Budd of later recordings. An essential album, as they all are, but this one especially. (Dave W).
Another unknown artist to me who has just released his second album. Steven Wilson's musical abilities lie mainly in the ambient sphere. The style is perhaps a fusion of Brian Eno's themes with the minimalist nuances of Paul Schutze and a host of other forward sounding impressionists. This is neither a double or single CD as the second disc is really a two track EP lasting about 20 min. The darker passages occur on such tracks as Grammatic Oil and most of these are quite lengthy affairs, unlike the opening track Advert that barely lasts a minute. The themes change on the fourth track Drugged III, where Japanese plucked instrumentation is assisted by a swirling organ and a very warm sounding lead guitar. The fifth track has more purpose, the clicking beat, the heavenly notes and the menacing bass together with the deep water sonar plop all contributed towards an impressive piece. The EP consists of one great track where Robert Fripp assists with the soundscape and the other is a remix by Mark Poysden. Recommended listening. (Phil Brook)
Immersion is the work of duo Malka Spigel and Colin Newman (ex Wire) and this CD or limited double CD is their follow up to the 1994 debut Oscillating. Ambient, experimental and very enjoyable, this 6 track or 12 track if you are lucky, contains rare and deleted material from their previous 12" releases. The second track on disc one is the 16 min Self Portrait, which was the soundtrack to accompany the video Immersion Diary and features looped sounds and riffs and other slow moving changes that rhythmically challenge the purchaser. It's good to chill out with instrumental music that stimulates the listener in a controlled way and although the High Yellow is good, it is bettered by Dahab, where the slow tempo is tempered by the rhythmic beats that suggests a much faster pace than actually set. The final track Expanded Now formed part of Event Horizon that was performed at the Irish Museum Of Modern Art, and again ambient loops allow other electronica to blend into the scene. The second disc is a much more racy affair, with two outstanding tracks, the How Long Is A Piece Of String? and the downbeat Purple Chaser. Top quality ambient and it's worth getting just for the second disc alone. (Phil Brook)
With two albums already under here belt as a solo artists, she released this last album last year and it has taken MD a while to keep up to events. She is from Israel and married to the former Wire man Colin Newman. So with lots of ability and a very wide musical knowledge, we find Malka diving into all types of musical ponds. The opening track is One that grows on the listener due mainly to the good solid beat and unusual sounds that gives an ethnic feel. Her vocal style is not standardised, yet is ideally suited to the rhythms. The 11 songs on the album all display differing moods and assistance on I Said You Said is given by the electronic pioneer Scanner who surrounds the vocals, which are delivered in a manner that is slightly reminiscent of Grace Jones with ambiences. This is good in fact very good. After the guitar influenced Like Machines and the Indian styled The Fishes & The Shining Sea, we hear her singing on Fly but only just as the vocals are way down in the mix. Man and wife have triumphed over the music machines and produced an album of great distinction. Is it not time that you dipped you musical toe into the water and sampled the delights of My Pet Fish. (Phil Brook)
A seven track remix of words/music by Yukhiro Takahasi and Steve Jansen whose pedigree is ex Yellow Magic Orchestra and ex Japan respectively. Nothing here to shout about or is there? A closer inspection of remix artists reveals those drum 'n bass sculptors 4 Hero and DJ Spooky. In fact the CD starts and ends with 4 Hero, who if you have not heard their output before, then a musical treat has been missed. So after the infectious opener The Choice, thoughts are geared towards another drum 'n bass track remixed by Spacer which is so different by combining intricate drum sequences with poetry spoken by Zoe Niblett. Reflection offers another viewpoint by remixing drum 'n bass, funk and ambient riffs, mellowed by overtones into a superb track. DJ Spooky's slant on musical life is displayed by using plenty of delay on the lead guitar on top of a hip-hop beat. The remix by Fantastic Plastic Machine seems out of place as it's far too commercialised. The last track is an alternative mix of the opener as is a good end to a good album. For those who are getting tired of standard production, this album refreshes and injects musical life into a format that is no longer at the cutting edge of music. (Phil Brook)
Jonah Sharpe first came to my attention with a release on the Fax label that is Pete Namlook's ambient monicker. So the expectation was for quiet, very slow moving personal music. It is not usual for me to be wrong, as there is plenty of opportunity in the sphere of music that I review for developments to exceed expectation in the cutting edge of music. According to the press release, Herbie Hancock, Carl Craig and early 70's movie soundtracks have inspired this album. This gives the impression that it's all been done before and could just be an excuse for recycling yet more copy cat tracks. The outcome of course does not reflect this jaundice view as the tracks represent a much wider area of music i.e. jazzy techno. Every one of the instrumentals is different and offers varied vibes. Some of the pieces are very melodic and easy to listen to whereas other require more determination to obtain the best out of the multi layered electronics of the West Coast sound. It all commences with The Ring, where a jazz solo sax dominates the ambient score. I am impressed with Compund mainly because of the good feel it radiates. After the club style beat Of Spin Out, jazz type percussion on an ambient theme with Hammond melodic phrases and catchy hook lines entertains us. It makes one great piece of music and one great album is the Double Fine Zone. (Phil Brook)
Ian Boddy is an excellent sound manipulator, however his instrumental music seems to benefit by collaborating with other artists. On this CD he is to be found working with Nigel Mullaney, an artist who specialises in breaks and beats and this gives that all important uplift to the music. So this ambient album won't be full off slow moving contemporary soundscapes. It starts in a familiar fashion until part way through Atomicity where the deep bass notes contribute to an alien riff on an ambient score that develops into an infectious instrumental. The following 15-min track Soylent Green relies less on the beats yet this emphasises the complexity of modern composition. Perhaps the biggest surprise is on Rhodeo where ambient trip hop (not exactly known as an accepted form) is pursued to a wondrous conclusion. This really is a fine collection of themes. After the title track the album finishes with Ionosphere, another eleven-min episode of catchy beats, fine tunes and delightful melodies. This is a classy album full of contemporary electronica displayed in it's best light. I am a lucky reviewer cos I have a copy of this album, so don't miss your chance to obtain one of the other 999. (Phil Brook)
JBK. ...Ism. Medium Productions MPCD9.
JBK, perhaps better known as Jansen, Barbieri, and Karn, perhaps even better known as ex members of Japan, have produced a true corker or an album here. I know comparisons aren't thought of as cool, but hell, they help out. When David Sylvian was dabbling with the ambient and 'found' sounds on albums like Gone To Earth and such, to me, there just wasn't anything better. JBK have an album here that is similar (indeed, there are times when Jansen sounds very much like Sylvian) yet much improved (if that sounds right?). Whilst Medium Productions aren't exactly Warners, they have produced, so far, some remarkable albums, many featuring the above musicians, and like Mute, Medium are definitely honing a sound of their own. Fortunately it's one that I truly find brilliant, there just isn't enough. If, however, you don't like this kinda stuff, well, sad bastard. Ism hasn't any bad material on it, the majority is simply beautifully evocative, moody and has more colours than perception allows. Nine well crafted and imaginatively played pieces - brilliant. (Dave W).
VARIOUS. Rawfish Records Sampler. Rawfish Records.
This sampler, as opposed to the previous (and later) sampler we reviewed by Rawfish in Modern Dance, features a whole bunch of different music. If nothing else it serves to show just how versatile and diverse this label is. I guess if Modern Dance ever ran a label, and produced a sampler of new talent, then either of the two samplers from Rawfish would be very representative of what'd be on there. This sampler features longer tracks, hence the ten tracks. Bands featured include Brahma, Ecouter, The Future Shock, Casino, Paeoti, Deep Media and The Sugar Stealers. The main thrust behind this cracking album is more ambient, dance, and drum and bass. Braham kicks off the album with Gene Pool, a prophetic tale of the Millennium bug, lost personalities and total personal wipe-out - and all this was recorded long before the bug became a popular (and misaligned) topic. Deep Media drum and bass their way through Split Decision. There's not really a weak track although some are obviously a lot stronger. Reading the credits, half this gear should now be found on either the featured bands own albums, or other stuff. One final thing has to be said about the cd sleeve. There's been quite a lot of thought and design gone in to creating this as well. All in all it's a cracking package and I really can't see why stuff like this isn't taking off in a big way. Mind you, when it does, will the originality go? Who can tell, not me for sure. (Dave W).
This is a collaboration between Ian Boddy, who deals with the electronics and rhythms, and Markus Reuter who plays the warr guitar (whatever that is, but I suspect the results can be heard on the seventh track A Delicate Re-enactment) and modification of the textures. Ambient music it certainly is, boring it certainly is not as each of the seven tracks has it's own distinct mood ranging from the joyous opener A Beginning In Light to the rather sad and eerie Within The Space Between Things. On the following piece Train The Memory provides dreamy melodies, light percussion and bass so deep its almost felt rather than heard, then without warning the unusual drum pattern enters the soundstage as a kind of fill in. This is quality, not only of composition but also of all the other essential items to make a fine album. All the tracks flow together so neatly, the only way to spot the changeover on certain tracks is by watching the CD display. Being an all-digital product, the technical quality is breath taking especially when listening to the deep notes on Presentation Of An Offering. With some types of ambient music, the mind may occasionally wander due to a lack of clarity of developments, yet you won't find this happening here. Fine music, in fact very fine music indeed. (Phil Brook)
This is licensed from the wonderfully named Wandering Aimless Records who have a PO Box in Halifax, which is just over the hill from where this magazine is lovingly crafted. The duo of Stefan Bojczuk on synths and arrangements and Matt Shaw on samples and processing make three tracks go a long way, in fact there is almost 50 min playing time and the results are impressive and awaiting your pleasure providing you can get your hands on one of the 1000 copies. The music is firmly set in the contemporary electronic ambiences that stir the emotions. The shortest piece is the title track and it is quite an amazing work as 16 min provides ample opportunity to allow varying textures to form either happier sections or scary soundscapes and even extracts that makes the listener feel isolated. On Lixivum, the passages become even darker and images of melodies seem just out of reach as the paces changes from slow to ambient. The final track Amaranthine continues the space synth approach which is very multi-layered, the listener can enjoy this even whilst using the score as background music, but of course much is missed by adopting this attitude. There is so much going on that at first it all seems to be partly obscured and the ears need to be trained to peer into the music. I am still surprised that Protogonos have been able to assemble such feeling and moods within their music and I am also shocked to say this reviewer responded to them with such vigour. (Phil Brook)
Experimental ambient music with a devastating purpose is what you will find on this album by Mike Silver. The theme is one of science fiction, where a digi-disease of a parasitic nature infects a tropical island and the progress of this unwelcome visitor is charted through the seven tracks. The opener Molten Timbre is true sci-fi ambience and seems quite innocuous, yet there is something about the music that is slightly disturbing. The following track, Microbial is much more threatening as the beat and deep bass notes contribute towards the spread of musical panic. This trend is continued on Mosquito Mattia, where the struggle between the idyllic and peaceful sounds of the island contrasts with the ever more powerful musical infections. As the Fever breaks out, the heady rhythms and strange exotica amplify the unnatural conditions. Towards the inevitable conclusion on Delirium, (which is perfectly titled) great authority is shown as the unsettling aspects become more apparent. It all ends with Submission, not a happy conclusion, yet the plodding beat merely serves only to heighten the sense of loneliness and the unlikelihood of combating the parasite. Do not expect an easy ride as this is demanding material, but for those with stamina, the rewards are well worth listening to. On the Output scale of 9 out of 10. (Phil Brook)
The Sprawl is a club dedicated to showcasing some of today's most radical electronic music and beat artists. So expect lots of the weird and wonderful. It is more apt to remark that the eleven instrumental music tracks are not so much weird but are certainly wonderful. D Benford has invented an outstanding musical anthology of all things decent in the electronic scene and has combined complex rhythms and beats with melodic phrasing that just ooze quality. You might have gathered by now that I quite like the music, but in reality I have only heard the opening track The Small Music and there are another ten awaiting my pleasure. I adore the way that well known samples are placed into watery passages, yet don't be mislead into thinking that this is ambient nonsense as these beats have purpose and Spectral Reach as such is a fine example. On the fifth piece, What I Have Discovered, the drums have to be heard on a top notch sound system as the technical quality will give the impression that you are really there, especially when the volume is increased. Fast-forward another five tracks and Spectral Reach has been Scannered, which makes this ideal music to chill out to. The album was release back in 1997 and somehow in this fast moving world of technology and music Behind You is still out in front. Needless to say that this is an important album and deserves to be played frequently. PS This is the third album that I have reviewed from this label and all have been brilliant. If this continues then they could find themselves as the number one label for contemporary electronic music. (Phil Brook)
VARIOUS. M: Medium Label Sampler. Medium.
Medium was formed by the other three from Japan (easily the classiest New Romantic band) and while David Sylvian went on to collaborations with Czukay and the like (and some exquisite solo work), Jansen, Barbieri and Karn kept a much lower profile. They have produced some compelling and atmospheric albums in various guises and in cahoots with other musicians. This sampler lassos ten cuts from the first ten albums, embracing ambience trance/dance (in the loosest sense), semi pop stylings and atmosphere by the truckload. Highlights include Mother London by Jansen/Barbieri, a moody brooding piece with the best mouth organ since Talk Talk, and Only Forward by Indigo Falls (Suzanne and Richard Barbieri). Suzanne displaying a conventional but beautiful voice as the track's lush music builds to a rousing climax. New age like it ought to be. (Adrian Hodges).
If you enjoy moody ambiences, then the short opening track with the abrupt ending, Terre Zippy is a very good indication of the quality of the other ten instrumentals. On the following Borax, the heavy distorted sounds provide a very industrial feel. Back Acid lays somewhere in the middle ground between Aphex Twin and U-Ziq. This apparently simple beat and rhythm combines with a restrained melody does not completely hide the fact that this is really a complex piece of a pioneering nature and consequently one of the highlights of the album. After the short Caligula that takes Speedy J back to the slow moving ambiences, the harsh beats surface on Vopak. It's all change on Actor Nine, where the steel like sound gives a sort of clinical feel. The album concludes with a subtle bed of electronic ambiences onto which a piano has centre stage. A Shocking Hobby is a misleading title, as this dark album should appeal to all the collectors of electronica. (Phil Brook)
Being Brain Eno's brother does not mean that this music is just a carbon copy, rather Roger Eno's own personal style has been incorporated into the ambient grooves. The 16 listed tracks on the musical journey are not as stark or minimalist as they could be, but vary from almost simple piano composition too much more complex structures. For instance, the opener Snow Dream includes the poetry of Emsworth spoken by Peter Thompson which is accompanied by an acoustically treated piano and other effects that paints a lugubrious picture. After the rich synth sound of The Chain, the electric guitar is predominant on Crossing The Border. Don't start thinking that this is mainly keyboard work as Eno has gathered a few friends to play such a diverse range of instruments as Martin Wheatley on banjo and lap steel guitar, Russel Moore on harmonicas and Nick Catchpole on violins and violas. The mix of sounds makes this walk not to be too chilled rather an entertaining one. The obviously entitled Bellringing includes the spoken voice of Paul Lucas. Empty Habanera combines a gentle piano piece that is accompanied by steel guitar and harmonica and then quite a demanding violin/viola section shatters the piece. The title track can only be described as being absolutely beautiful. The second disc is more of an EP and although there is no information as to the titles of the four tracks, it does not really matter. They range from the sad to the happy with xylophone and finish in a cheesy style with narration. The contrasts between the parts are surprising and although the beats are never present, the end result is one where the listener wishes to undertake the Long Walk again and again. (Phil Brook)
Routed firmly in the ambient department, this CD features the recorded highlights of the Lanzarote Music Festival. Although it was held back in December 1989, the music is still very contemporary. The two sound sculptors offer widely differing musical viewpoints. There are three tracks by Laraaji with the opener Kalimba being in a Gamelon style with a single tribal singer. The following 12 min piece Zaragoza II has an oriental feel which provides a contrast with the dreamy, pseudo choral of Radiance. The single twenty-min track by Roger Eno consists mainly of piano and electronics. Music For Two Islands is a slow, quiet and very ambient with the illusion of succulent strings. The album only lasts for about 40 min, which is short by modern standards, but compensation is given by the quality of the music. (Phil Brook)
You start to think that this album is an ambient one until the industrial sounding lead guitar bursts into action, which is soon followed by heavy electronica and the thoughts change to a much differing musical world. The opening track Burn sees the tortured guitar used in a most brutal fashion with a sparse menacing bass, which is tempered by a happy tambourine. On the slow moving All Out, the mood is more reflective which nurtures a thoughtful melancholy structure. A guitar harmonising with a piano follows this, where the piano takes the lead apart from a small section where the reserve is true. This simple instrumental with the odd piano notes that seem to be out of context is entitled Coupling. Fast forward to the penultimate track You and the plodding beat is interspersed with short rhythmic bursts of modified white noise on a complicated bed of electronica that provides a strangely beguiling quality that hides the more melodious sounds with the track. The finale Blind contains minimal ambiences. Klaus Ammitzboll has a style of his own that is easily remembered and accepted after the initial shock. Symptoms is one of those albums that grow appreciably on the listener after repeated exposure, so please don't dismiss this on first hearing, as you would miss so much. (Phil Brook)
The latest from the DiN label, which regular readers should know by now that it specialises in all things dealing with electronic ambiences in a very contemporary way. Centrezoon consists of duo Markus Reuter and Bernhard Wostheinrich who with the help of producer Ian Boddy have put together a quartet of instrumentals lasting just over one hour. My first acquaintance with this album was via a Discman on a train journey and due to the quiet nature of the opening track, this listening environment is not recommended. It is far better to listen on headphones at home far away from any distractions and spurious noises. So as an Empire cannot be built immediately, neither can the first track, but this 18 min instrumental slowly builds from general atmospherics into a coherent sound of full frequencies which gently change. Empire then slowly de-constructs towards the end of this fascinating track. Then the mood changes to a much happier one on Sign, where, at times there is more than a strong hint of a jangley type of sound. This is followed by Sense, which I consider to be the best ambient set of the four. The album is unlikely to be heard on radio as the content material is abhorrent to so called trendy producers, yet they would gladly accept this as incidental music for TV and that fact should encourage you to seek out this fine new album. (Phil Brook)
I have stated in the past, in this very magazine that Ian Boddy always seems to develop more radical ideas when he is collaborating with other musicians. That statement is not intended to imply that his solo work is inferior, rather it just displays another side of his talent. From the opening bars of Concussed, the deep pounding bass confirms that Caged is no loose ambience album. Although not all the other six tracks have rhythms that are so pronounced, they do have strong themes. Slab is more in the standard (if that is the correct word) type of ambient music. I have to admit there is great enjoyment to be found in listening to the unusual textures of Sub-Aura, where the moodiness is often overtaken by the haunting nature that has been accomplished despite the distinctive percussive beat. As you could conceive, the most eerie track is Disembodied, where the DDD format ensures crystal clear production. The title track with it's prominent beat defies the ambient monicker yet it still retains vitality as the samples are not off the shelf. The seventh and final track Under-Dub which is the longest and contains a sub-terrainean bass. I thought that the previous Dub Atomica album on this label was brilliant, but this is better and with only another 999 copies left, time is not on your side. The label's motto of fine contemporary electronica has been exceeded once again. (Phil Brook)
Recording without assistance, the ex DR. Who music creator offers a mix of material that were only previously available on 12" vinyl. So label owner Dominic Glynn who is probably best known for his contribution to the duo Syzygy on Rising High Records, has put together ten tracks that vary in intensity and themes within the electronic market. This is no second-hand market where the quality is cheap, but rather a classy one. The jazz infected hip-hop of the downbeat opener Total Defiance sets the scene, but it is one that changes very quickly. The following Crashed is one of those breakbeat pieces that is surrounded by a catchy riff built upon nonstandard samples. The vibes change again with Endeka, where an angelic choir is sympathetically placed on a drum pattern that varies from jazz to drum 'n bass. At first I thought this track wasn't going to be anything special, yet within minutes I was spellbound at this majestic slice of electronica. As the album progresses, the style changes from funk on a very modern beat to acoustic bass riffs and distorted drumbeats and tribal singing. On the eighth track entitled Thoughtograhy, the brilliant downbeat ambient chillout if full of haunting melodies that are truly succulent in their composure. Even the finale, Melting Moon leaves the appetite merely whetted and not totally satisfied. I want more and so should you. (Phil Brook)
Seldom do albums completely live up to expectations. And this situation is even more apparent with doubles. So I could say that Ambient Soho is good but not absolutely great. But I won't because the 20 tracks offer all that is best in the down tempo chilled out market. I considered firstly mentioning the highlights then realising that there would not be sufficient space, so I decided to point out the least appealing tracks. I also failed to find the weaker instrumentals as my choice changed as the music progressed. So I will mention just three of the artists that excelled on London's Dreamscapes Specialist over the years and they are Plaid, Beaumont Hannant and B12, all of which provide top rate tracks. There is one exclusive piece to add to the list and the Starseeds prove that their gift for song writing is still working very well with the Experimental Reclining Chair. A few years ago, I was asked to list my top ten albums, I am now wondering which one of those to swop for this marvellous album. (Phil Brook)
My last musical encounter with Biosphere was on the splendid Substrata and the ambient lifestyle continues albeit with emphasis on expanding the horizons. The inspiration for the new album is contained within part of a story of Chris McCandless, who walked alone in Alaska and made a fateful error with his food supplies. This album tells the story of that journey via musical passages reflecting the good and not so good times. There is tension, drama and even happier moments but just because this story is set in the past don't think that the music reflects this as it is if anything of the future. The ambient pulsating rhythm of the opening track Nook And Cranny heralds the impending arrival of infectious riffs that envelops the mind. Certainly an impressive start and any thoughts of future disappointment are soon ignored as Geir Jenssen has a unique way of dealing with textures. This arctic musical landscape should be cold and bleak yet there is certain warmth generated within the 11 instrumentals. On Black Lamb & Grey Falcon, the use of scratching, acoustic guitar chords, orchestral moments, lo-fi percussion and electronic effects provide a strange mixture which is naturally very intriguing. All the tracks flow from one to another in a seamless way as any journey would and the apprehension is all apparent especially on Algae & Fungi Part 1. In part 2 a fast jungle type beat is included as the desperation increases. The sad epitaph is the obvious conclusion and Too Fragile To Walk On conveys all these feelings majestically. Never being radio friendly, Cirque only lasts for just short of fifty min and I wished this musical tale had lasted twice the distance. This is one musical journey that I am willing to undertake time and time again. (Phil Brook)
Naturally this is a compilation CD of the current roster of artists attached to Swim. Again it is normally assumed that all the tracks are either taken from previously releases albums or singles. With a grand total of seventeen tracks presented here, it is not surprising that some are either edited or faded as this format struggles to last the distance. There are seven new tracks by differing artists and one special version by Symptoms. After the great new track by Ronnie & Clyde, Lobe's edited Red Spaces sonically attacks the bass speakers and makes them work damn hard but it's all for the good of the listeners. This ambience is still a very potent instrumental. The bass heavy Narrative has lots of strange subtle effects, which lurches between brilliance and ordinary in the space of a few moments and leave a very intriguing sound in the mind. S Gears has a quiet guitar riff for starters and develops into an almost industrial affair than remains on the melodic side of the chord. On Blank Canvas by Colin Newman, the guitar effects could have been performed by Robert Fripp and these are combined with a long organ type note to make either instrumental rock or an electronic set - yes it lies somewhere between both musical camps. Still sounding superb is the much-modified dub of the edited Constellation by LOGM. The last track by Silo, Bulk (Work In Progress) says it all. This particular Swim team is in reality a dream team for electronic music lovers and the diversity presented here should not pose any problems for the purchaser. (Phil Brook)
The first album to be made by the 23 year old Simon Robertson, who uses the name Genik. It is a name that you ought to become more familiar with as this Londoner has plenty to say in his music. After producing soundtracks for video games, he's now turned his attention to a collection of eleven tracks that lie somewhere in the breakbeat/downtempo/electronica area of underground dance music. What does that mean in practice? Well, the opener surprisingly entitled The Intro starts very slowly in an ambient style until the jazz laden double bass riff confirms that this downtempo electronica is certainly on the stimulating side. We have now passed effortlessly into the title track without realising it. It's all change once more on the next track called 45 MPH, where phat and dirty beats intermingle with fine sax breaks to make an impressive score. After the more experimental Here Comes The Fever, the drum 'n bass takes over, yet even here there are much quieter interludes. The Bell gives Genik the opportunity to experiment with downbeat electronica and as the album progresses, the themes become more complex and most of the tracks flow from one to another. I have to mention Sea Dreaming, where the ambient score is shattered by female vocals before it develops into a major drum 'n bass workout lasting well over 8 mins. This is a debut album with a difference. It's superb. (Phil Brook).
With this label specialising in the after midnight chilled vibes of the modern millennium, you may think that this is another one of those boring albums where the beats are so slow that sleep is automatically induced. Acutally it's far from the truth as these are very fine pieces of instrumental music that vary considerably in outlook. The opener by Makyo has more than a hint of the East in which the tabla's are complemented by a deep bass riff and an amazing 140 bpm. Who now says that this is slow! The closing track Seven Minutes Of Sun by Lumo is almost angelic by comparison. Out of the 11 tracks, four were recorded in the unlikely place of Canada - no doubt the winters were conducive to produce these chilled out sounds. The slowest track has the even more unlikely title of Vindaloo and Hydraulic provides a very tasty sound. With an average beat of around 90, this album does not venture too close to the ambient zone, although some may consider Samph by Solea Amphibia to fall into that category. Even cool funk is deftly performed by Drift with Arc-en-Ciel even containing harmonising vocal passages. I like the modified version of Beyond The Borderless by Legion Of Green Men yet this is eclipsed by the usual percussive nature of The Queen Of Number 18 by Snap Ant. By viewing Interior Horizons you can see the big picture and what you see sounds wonderful. (Phil Brook)
MARK ASHBY. Dance Of Shadows. Horizon Music. HM 1004-2.
Another album from the Horizon Music group over in the States. Mark Ashby should be no stranger to those of you who are familiar with Horizon. If he is, then he's basically a bit of a whizz on the old keyboards, and spends a lot of time in the band The Distance. This album is actually Horizon's first OST, and as far as the music goes, it's a pretty eclectic mix of ambient, trance and prog! As the quoted influences show (Tangerine Dream, King Crimson and Skinny Puppy), it's all here! The album kicks off with it's title track and it reminded me of something from Tangerine Dream's brilliant score from Thief. Whilst there's not much info about the film (why should there be? I bet the film don't mention the cd!), the images and moods that Ashby create say a lot more. What makes this album that bit more special is the fact that Ashby has added things and extended the pieces so they work better outside of the film - a pretty decent and considerate move methinks; it isn't just a spin off from yet another movie. There's some gorgeous ambient passages in and amongst the pieces as well as the regular action scenes as well. A very busy and impressive score that should do no end of favours for Ashby on his CV. (Dave W).
The accompanying press notes suggest at first glance that this should be aimed at the club end of the dance market, yet Lars-Marcus Jungnell has released something quite extraordinary. This club owner's debut album is firmly geared towards the chilled out area of electronica, without a dance beat in sight. It is quite majestic ambient music without the waffle, where hanging about musically speaking is not permitted and the recycling of old themes has been consigned to the music dustbin. The ten tracks offer superb atmospheric melodies on less turbulent instrumentals that provides the constant urge to return to this album. Some music in this category tends to be rudderless, meandering through fluffy clouds without a purpose. In other words it is total meaningless, yet here we have an album with a vision that is achievable. Even though this would be classed as ambient, there are some very percussive sections to be found on Floating Glassy Raft and these compliment the music perfectly. The title track has plenty of catchy riffs and twiddly bits which surrounds a sympathetic beat to make this only one of the highlights. A prominent beat gives Virtual Sine Wave a quicker pace that allows various electronic effects and mellow harmonies to be combined in a brilliant fashion. Samph is glorious peaceful section is yet another highlight. Ilaga starts with backward effects, which matures into a happy sounding track where infectious instrumentation is added. The finale comes all too quickly in which the menacing beat is tempered with succulent slow moving melodies to round off a very fine album. Stratosphear is packed full of inventive chords and melodies and this is only one of many reasons why I consider this to be a worthy contender for instrumental album of the year. For someone who respects the sounds of Aphex Twin and Bach, then Stratosphear is a brilliant album. (Phil Brook)
You may know more about Swayzak than me, but that little fact will not put me off from saying that I like this album. The electronic score of the opening track Illegal suddenly bursts into life with the deep voice of Benjamin Zephaniah, who delivers lyrics as though he is the best dub poet in the world. On the following track Kensal Rising, the dance beat gives the instant impression that the plot has been lost, yet it is saved by other electronica. The pattern change once again on the next piece, State Of Grace in which Kirsty Hawkshaw sings against a background of what appears to be early Kraftwork. On Doobie, the main feature is minimal techno on a dance beat, which leads somewhat naturally into the deep house flavoured Caught In This Affair with J. B. Rose. Frozen Loch is different because an unknown small boy recites a poem on a gentle ambient like score. The final track Betek is at first, a purely instrumental electronic piece that features a progressive type of deep house trance with very infectious melodies. It is only right at the end that a sampled voice enters the mix. After listening to the dozen tracks by James Taylor and David Brown, I am left with the definite impression that Swayzak have tremendous potential and this album paves the way to achieving that goal. (Phil Brook)
This Leeds duo has been attracting the attention of radio jocks with their mixed up beats and unusual rhythms. I suppose it's not so much cut up beats, more like that they've been put through a shredder and the mangled remains reassembled to form a very individualist sound. After the opening introductory collage of Dope Radio, the music settles down to a funk inspired track that simply brims over with enthusiasm. Subtle amusement is guaranteed on the track that features many voices including the quintessential Shaun Ryder, who sings coo coo borabajack what's her name and this sits quite happily amongst all the other sound bites. It's quite difficult to quantify their particular brand of sound, but it is very distinctive and is entirely their own work. Inspirations for the 16 tracks has come from around the globe, where the track Longwave was born out of their video from Thailand and Mi Glad You Like It Now Step was conceived after a visit to a hairdresser in Barbados. I was not convinced that they could pull something like this off after listening to this album for the first time, yet there is something that beguiles and keep nagging the mind into going into replay mode. The more you listen, the better appreciation can be given to Tim Sheridan and Keith Binner who deserve all the praise that will undoubtedly be heaped upon them. So a very big warm welcome to the new music of the millennium in a nonstandard CD case. (Phil Brook)
True ambiences reflected in nine tracks on a beautifully blissed out chill-scape are the simple descriptions of this album. Before we progress any further, let me say that this is not one of those long, meandering sets that refuses to develop. I was soon drawn into these mesmerising instrumentals and found myself paying much more attention than normal for this type of music. It's not all electronics, as instruments such as the piano is used on the title track. The opening piece, Exploding Snowdunes, sets the tone with its gentle oscillations that ebb and flow between the speakers or headphones if you prefer more personal listening. On Last Calls, a sampled double bass is sparsely used to provide a more haunting effect. The finale, RealTime (And Counting) is a lush orchestrated piece that contains plenty of musical depth. There is so much more to be found here than one of those relaxation tapes as the direction has greater purpose and that's only one of the reasons why I shall revisit this CD frequently. For further sonic assurances, check out their website (www.mp3.com/ambient) this one is if you want to hear some samples. Otherwise try www.ambient-music.com. (Phil Brook)
The inner sleeve notes depicts a small holiday island with ten interesting places to visit, which naturally equates to the number and title of the tracks. The music is firmly in the experimental electronic market ranging from almost ambient to beat driven material. On some tracks like Whipaspank, the vocals are so distorted by electronic treatment that deciphering them is quite difficult. The following track Esquira De Sol has a club beat with instrumentation and sounds that would only be tolerated in the most adventurous ones. It is almost club friendly yet never quite makes it, thank goodness. On Graniak Burn, the samples sound as though the old analogues have been carefully edited to make a relevant statement in the modern world. On the whole Vogel has used quite harsh sounds and textures to involve the aural tourist. I like the finale, Rescate Freeformed Giggles where strange noises appear on a quite minimal beat and this displays a master in control of his synths. The cover depicts a barren island with little lush vegetation and the instrumental music follows this general theme. One for the more serious listener. (Phil Brook)
VARIOUS. Backlash. The Recycle Or Die Compilation. Recycle Or Die ROD 011
I have been collection this series of albums and I thought these releases had finished after ROD 06. I am glad that I was wrong, as this is ambient heaven. Apart from the first four tracks, the rest are all remixes, although it does not say which albums they were originally included on. Tranquil at times, experimental instrumentals all the time, the ten pieces of electronica allows my mind to float in sympathy with the evocative production. To say I like this album is an understatement and it is a shame it is not a double. Backlash starts with Citation collection by Ralf Hildenbeutel, where sumptuous melodies combine with angelic voices and passages of acoustic guitar to give a dramatic opening sequence to the proceedings. La Lune Del Miel by #9 Dream is just brilliant and very reminiscent of the music of the Orb in their early years, whilst retaining a certain amount of maturity. Jazzie by B-Zet the Robert Goal remix is a fine slice of music and in fact I would have difficulty in finding a track that is below par. I have been looking for ROD 003 for a long time, now I wiLL have to add numbers 7 to 10 to my ever growing list of must have's! (Phil Brook)
In Vitro Tide. DIN. DIN8
The initial statement has to be that this album is not as easily accessible as others in this fine contemporary series of prestigious albums. The listener has to demonstrate a substantial robust attitude to the instrumental music rather than just a casual aural glance. Sitting back and letting this ambient music come to you is almost a waste of time, as you will only grasp at best a couple of the tracks. Much more than serious, Dean De Benedictis composes and performs sound collages that range from ill-defined melodies and weird noises to rhythms that almost sound intact. At times the music seems to be like dropping in mid conversation and then leaving before the story unfolds. Sometimes it is quite difficult for the reviewer to describe an album due to the blandness, yet here is something that is the exact opposite end of the musical spectrum and attempting to give the perspective purchaser a flavour is not easy. If I use the word intense, it conveys the feeling of power and here we have great intense sections where the vibes only demonstrates a quiet form of power. Surely this is not natural and yet this still remains an emotive and very powerful album. Limited to only a 1000 copies - get them now! (Brookoid)
ROGER ENO. Classical Music For Those With No Memory. Materelia Sonori MASO
Another aspect to Roger Eno's talents. The main body of the album is in four movements, and it's basically classical music, written by Eno. The fifth track is actually an interview with Roger, via an interpreter and Arturo Stalieri, which basically deals with Eno's musical inspirations, and how he met Harmonia. Harmonia are actually a trio, Orio Odori, Damiano Pulti and Alessandra Garosi. It's abundantly clear that Eno's classical roots are firmly embedded in the English, although he does name check many others. The music, as a whole, is melancholy, and exerts an air of sadness, kind of a rural Edwardian feel to it. The simple melodies from the piano are effectively underlined by clarinets, cellos and violins, producing a gentle and beautifully rich canvas. Countryside snow scenes jump to the mind as you drift (no pun intended) through a variety of Xmas card style scenery. In fact this album makes quite a good companion to the Music Of Neglected English Composers, although this album is more constantly stronger and adds yet more weight to the diversity and credibility that Roger Eno is an incredibly gifted composer of many styles and genres. (Dave W).
CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS.
Opus 2. Stone Premonitions SPCD 025.
Album #2 from Census Of Hallucinations, and I can say without any regret that this is perhaps the best album on the label. Kromlek's pretty good stuff, but this is right up my street, Sixteen tracks, almost all segued with some incredibly effective ditties and astounding sounds. Psychedelia with a dash of space, ambient and all seasoned with effective songwriting and some fine lyrics. Humour abounds on many tracks, especially Merlin... You left Your Hat and Light On The Horizon/The New Worried Order. This latter track needs to be heard for the stunning guitar work, and, believe me, you'll never think of Punch & Judy in the same light again! Track 7, Begin is a gorgeously sorrowful song with the cello adding such beauty and pathos. Beelzebub uses the same riff as New Worried Order, but less guitar and more bass and didge; vocal and ambient noises abound on Nightmares, giving effective reason for said title! Painted Stone features Terri's superb backing vocals, with Tim Jones narrating, all swirled out by echoes and weird vocal effects. At just over 65 minutes I can't really say too much about this cd without sounding as though I get commission for every album sold, but this really is a brilliant album and if this doesn't put Sp on the map, then I don't know what will. Since I got the album (and played it loads of times), I've had it on good authority that there is growing interest in the album, and it's getting some great reviews and plenty of credit - maybe you might want to find out why? Fucking brilliant, basically. (Dave W).
Transmutation. Fflint Central BLAS 003.
If there was a classification for parental guidance of the ultimate kind, then this album would have to carry that warning! Whilst there are only four tracks on this album, each one is well over five minutes, and whilst it doesn't make for a massive running time, believe me, any more and you'd be seriously affected. I don't know why, but (like various tracks on the Pendro release) I'm constantly reminded of images from Hellraiser II (especially the maze, and the machine that creates the cenobites) . There is something so dark and shady laying underneath that it's almost tactile. The tracks, in order are: Tantalum Prongs, Sulphur Pavilions, Helium Veneer, and, believe it or not, Tantalum Prongs. Each piece, whilst there are no initial indications, slowly (and I mean slowly) evolve and mutate. It could be a slight oscillation, or maybe a slow phasing effect, but after a few spins of the cd the sinister personalities of each track peel away revealing several different levels of unease. Transmutation is a difficult album to come to terms with, if only for the already mentioned uneasiness. Indeed, I've already mentioned the Hellraiser connection, but perhaps the fullest and best understanding there is to accompany the pieces on this album is to imagine you're in the cenobite creator (like a lift), and the muzak that's playing in the background whilst you're waiting for the inevitable face-lift, is Cavendish Sanguine. Pleasant dreams..... (Dave W).
ENYA. A Day
Without Rain. WEA. 8573859862
Enya has the gift of producing music to relax without the need for too much listener involvement. This is not to be considered as a negative factor, more of a statement about the overall production. This is her first studio based album to be released since the Memory Of Trees, which dates from 1995. So the question must be asked - is it more of the same or has there been musical development? The answer is of course a hybrid in which most of the music follows a familiar pattern except the opener; this is an instrumental and features delightful piano notes surrounded by heavenly voices and succulent orchestration. This album possesses all those qualities that very pleasant music needs to have to be successful. On Only Time, the simple orchestration emphasises the soulful effect of her distinctive voice. It is not an album full of melancholy songs as is proved by the next track Tempus Vernom in which the dramatic strings heighten the tension of this simmering track. Having enjoyed the intensity, the listener is allowed to chill with the very quiet Deora Ar Mo Chroi. Most will enjoy the happy notes of Flora's Secret and the uplifting finale Lazy Days. Is this a sure-fire winner? Yes it has to be, but don't go exploring as it is far better to just let the music come to you. (Philly)
5.1. Materiali Sonori. MASOCD 90119.
Over the last few months there has been some incredibly good ambient compilations released, and if there was ever a case of the ol' cherry on the icing, then this album surely has to be the one. Materiali Sonori are no strangers when it comes to new, ambitious and challenging music of the ambient kind. Indeed, they can boast such artists as both the Eno's, Budd, No Man, plus a load of artists who's names may not be that well known, but who's work is on the cutting edge of ambient. This compilation features work from the likes of Alexander Robotnick, Roger Eno/Lol Hammond, Tim Bowness/Peter Chilvers, Karn & Hanno, Jansen, Barbieri and Takemura, Vedic, In The Nursery and Fabio Capanni. One or two of the above names should be familiar, but regardless, this is a truly awesome compilation featuring some seriously good music. At just under 70 minutes this is an album that can't be recommended enough. The edges between subtle drum and bass, ambient and electronica has blurred barriers on this release and shows just how 'fluid' it can be, and it all works incredibly well. This is more than just a sampler of what's on MS. (Dave W).
CoolAugustMoon. Materiali Sonori. MASO CD 90120.
As if you didn't know! The title of this album is taken from Eno's song, St. Elmo's Fire, on the album Another Green World. This should give some clue to what this stunning album's all about. Stalteri is a pianist of some note, graduating from the Conservatory of L'Aquila, as well as having a few albums out to boot. Along with a clutch of musicians, featuring cellos, bassoon, Tibetan bells, violin and, predominantly, Stalteri's piano, takes on a very descriptive and unique journey through some of Brian Eno's compositions. Some are instantly recognisable, such as the above St. Elmo's Fire, Another Green World, and the simply beautiful Becalmed. An Ending (Ascent) is a soft and intensely sad rendition that captures and enhances many qualities that both Eno and Stalteri bring to this piece. Here Come The Warm Jets is a brave attempt to convert what was, basically, a pre-punk rock song into pseudo-classical - and it works! The best pieces, however, are the quieter and more reflective ones such as Sparrowfall (all three parts), From The Same Hill and the previously mentioned An Ending. Both Jets and ST. Elmo's Fire are more novel than ought else, but give strength to the fact that Stalteri's prepared to cover even the unexpected songs of Eno. A superb, original, collection, not only in the choice of source material, but the end results have, strangely, managed to keep the composers' identity intact, but allowed Stalteri to, dare I say, enhance many qualities also adding many of his own. (Dave W)
ANDREONE. Marco Polo II. Materiali Sonori. MASOCD9007.
The MS label hails from Italy and in some ways reflects the standards and ideals that the All Saints label does here in the UK. A kind of 'serious' ambient mixed with subtle experimental style that has a distinctness like the Mute label, or Matador. Anyways, this joint project, which is what I'm calling it as it features artists such as Richard Barbieri, Harold Budd, David Torn, and Roger Eno as well as the above main artists, plus many more. Not having had the pleasure of Marco Polo, the original, I'm not sure what the continuity's like, but if this album is anything to go by, why the hell did I miss it? There's twelve tracks in all, each one a kind of snapshot of what or where Polo was, tracks such as Across The Cities, Kimar, Riorno A Venezia and Tibet all capture not only the mood and atmosphere of a physical exploration, but a musical and spiritual one, they also venture through new musical territories. No one member of the 'group' stand out as all their joint efforts focus into creating some seriously inventive, invigorating, yet relaxing landscapes full of colour and everything flows smoothly and beautifully. What more can I say than this is where ethereal quality is the standard. (Dave W).
Devil Is An Idiot. No Bones. CD06
Ambient jazz? Is it possible? Well yes if you listen to this ground breaking album. It combines the talent of classical flautist Paul Cheneour and the ex DR. Who sound effects man Dominic Glynn. The results are quite uplifting especially the first track Cybajaz. The next track Omega Point is a much more moody affair. The title track displays a harsher attitude where the beats allow the freeform flute to soar carefree above the electronics on what sounds like a drum 'n bass outing. The label allows the artists to be as creative as they like without restrictions being imposed, which is a rare yet very welcome initiative. To some modern music thinkers, the flute would be an appalling choice of instrument to play when there is so many others in the digital world. So this album must convince those people that their viewpoint is a narrow one and that they should take a good look outside into the true world of music. They and you will be pleasantly surprised. (Philly)
ALIAS ZONE. Lucid Dreams. CyberMotion. CYBER-01-01A
This album came out of the blue from Chris Meyer of Sherman Oaks, CA. The music is a mixture of ambient dub, world beats, exotica and voices in many tongues. So it’s my kind of music. As I acclimatise to these slightly strange mixes it is only after a couple of attempts that appreciation of what they are doing becomes apparent. That may put a few people off and it really shouldn’t as I would not have the foresight either awake or in my dreams to conceive these 10 fine tracks. The finale is a 5-min radio edit of a previous longer track. I have grown to adore the opening piece, Phunque, with animal noises carefully mixed into a tribal beat and the ethnic flute imparts a great feeling. The album is a mix of live and studio based musicians who surround sampled performances of individuals such as Bill Laswell. The bass riff on Towards Dawn is totally intoxicating and the way it’s all assembled is very impressive. Dust is one of those marvellous moody tracks that accentuate the deep bass notes and contains some of the finest flute playing in the business. The album is a great discovery as the process of making it happen is innovative as is the sleeve design. Beguiling in the extreme. (Phil Brook).
IAN BODDY, MARKUS REUTER & NIGEL MULLANEY. Triptych. DIN. DIN9
All ambient music is just a re-hash of original material composed by Eno is a very jaundice view that is completely untrue. This trio display their technological computer designed sound machines not from a carefully staged recording studio but via a live concert. The music and sound quality does not have that live feel yet the vibrations are perfect for a serious chill-out session. The E - Live 2000 festival in Eindhoven was the scene where large analogue synths beautifully surround an 8 string Warr touch guitar and short extracts from Mullaney’s turntables. Although classed as ambient, these instrumentals are at times of a very upbeat nature. Ranging from the happy opener Sienna Daze to the isolation of the following track Mystertronic, the other tracks explore many musical avenues that never tire on the ears. The three part title track undertakes a magical journey through sound with the snatched voices giving way to a plodding beat that mutates beyond recognition into haunting themes and relaxing moments. This is indeed quality electronica of a modern nature and the album is worth buying purely for the well-crafted finale, Ionosphere. Better than Tangerine Dream at their best. How can you improve on that? (Philly)
ANJA GARBAREK. Smiling & Waiting. Virgin. CDVIRDJ130
She took great notice of her father's musical attributes as a saxophonist and Jazz composer and you would normally have expected Anya to follow a similar path. Not so as these downtempo and at times melancholy songs have a very distinctive style. She sounds occasionally like a younger, mellower version of Bjork and the ideas contained within these ten songs can only impress. Ranging from fleeting glimpses of jazz to strange electronica, you soon begin to realise that this is no ordinary pop star. The Gown displays a detached quality that is welcoming yet always keeps the listener at arm's length. The moody orchestration on Spin The Spin Context see her vocal style emphasised by multi-tracking her voice and using a lo-fi version to impart a very eerie feel. The way she assembles real classical instruments with samples is refreshing, especially on the single Stay Tuned. Of notable exception is the remarkable duet with Robert Wyatt in which their respective languid voices complement each other on an orchestrated jazz laden, slow tempo piano score called The Diver. Garbarek's style will not suit everyone, yet these glimpses into the new music hailing from this Norwegian will certainly attract positive praise from even the sternest of critics. (Philly)
FARFIELD. Dust And Glass. Farfield FARCD03.
The second album by Nick on his own label and it continues the themes set by his previous release in that the ambient music has a very personal nature to it. The opening track Sun Across My Eyes is a little similar to the early work by Scanner in which conversations are included on a sparse soundscape with the rhythmic appearance of a little known piano chord. It's all very eerie as the mood changes to one of isolationism in which great sadness is inflected, until a light beat is introduced and the mood changes once again. The next track consists of a beautiful ambient score and angelic voices all placed near a distorted crackling fire with static. It could sound horrendous, but it is just another glorious illustration of his talent. The fifth track features the sounds of the forest and realistic dog barks that are utterly convincing before the purposeful and relatively sparse double bass add weight to the proceedings. The feeling is one of being detached yet strangely held within his musical grip. The inventiveness of Balloon Phase is pure genius. The watery sounds combined with pleasant crowd noise imparts a gentleness on Wheelhouse Lane which is one of the three of the tracks that are associated with Glastonbury at the beginning of this millennium. The rather short finale leaves the listener wanting more. I hope this CD is not overlooked, as the music is both fascinating and well produced. (Brooky)
JOCELYN POOK. Untold Things. Real World CDRW 93
This composer/musician is a new one to me, but according to the PR sheet she's worked with The Communards, Meat Loaf, Massive Attack and PJ Harvey - plus she provided the soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick's final movie, Eyes Wide Shut. As you would expect from an album on Real World there is a strong vein of ethnic musical influences running through out, and this is allied with an orchestral/choral sound more often heard in classical music than rock. The opening track Dionysus starts with a deep bass pulse overlaid with a string section, a half faded choir and a single woman's voice singing something indecipherable. A cursory listen would make you think of Enya, but this is something different, not as lush or richly overtracked. Extremely stark and eerie. Red Song uses a slightly lusher mix of voices, including samples of arabic chants, very soulful. The sound of the Middle East is more prevalent on Upon This Rock, with the keening wail of an arab priest. The rest of the album follows the above with a rich mix of medieval chants, classical-influenced strings, treated samples of natural sounds, voices and instruments. It's a very evocative album, but not for background listening like most 'New Age' albums. This has substance and conveys a sense of genuine musical exploration that requires the listener to actually 'listen'.
ARMSTRONG. Hot water Music. Clearspot. CS050
The press release refers to the Danish equivalent of Massive Attack. This five-piece specialise in downtempo, but not in the conventional sense. I would say that the drums, bass and guitars destroys the notion of an all electronic outfit dealing with pure electronic. Marie-Louise Munck's voice is a little similar to Portishead but with more power. The 61 second opener Any Other Time starts off all-electronic and ends with almost sounding like a string quartet. This type of ambient sounds blend well with her voice, which does not overfill the soundtrack. The use of a slow analogue drumbeat on the sixth track Beautiful Day gives the piece a very evocative feel, which is in direct comparison to the much harsher rock beat on Everyone Is A Poet These Days. As you may have gathered by the title, the words tell the story. On 2.30am, the lead guitar justifies its timing. On the whole this is quite a dark album and Marie-Louise voice will not please everyone, but when she sings, the words do have meaning. A very interesting album. (Philly)
Slow moving ambient music that generates feelings of relaxation and intrigue with the added bonus of tension. Being a non-commercial sounding product will limit the radio airplay, but then this album would not be described as being of interest to the serious listener. I suppose these compositions are much more demanding than most others and they leave you feeling much more contented. The opening track The Master Plan is almost minimalist in comparison to the following title piece in which tribal beats add momentum to the well-crafted themes. It takes you on a journey where lyrics are banished and happy riffs are excluded in the pursuit of less tangible sounds that becomes totally involving. The track, Higher Senses, is very loud in comparison. Of particular interest is Reflection, where chorus style electronica is delicately fitted between the rolling effects. It is not a wall of sound, but rather a full production that makes it one of the best of a very good selection by Phil Riches. On your quest of musical exploration here is the perfect place to get your bearings. (Philly)
CHARLY McLION. The Nature Of The Universe.
Kingfisher 002 Yet another new label offering music that seems to be all too prevalent at the moment would be the obvious comment to make, but that ignores the content. At first glance, the 11 tracks appear more relaxational, where your thoughts are transformed into a distant wilderness of obscurity. Luckily anyone hearing this album will take much more that a single look and sure enough will get dragged into the musical complexities and find themselves enjoying the ambient music on offer. It starts with The Gate Of Time in which the piano is enveloped with a slowly emerging tune of great merit. If I was to pick a stand out mellow track it would be Dance Of the Elves which imparts a beautiful accompaniment to the acoustic guitar riff. It reminds me of listening to the sea without the sounds of the sea, the restful and very peaceful existence in which tiredness is never encountered. It's just one of those perfect moments on this marvellous album. 63 min. is not enough to completely satisfy this reviewer as I could probably manage a double at least. It would be impossible to overstate how good this album is. (Brooky)
LARAAJI. Shiva Shakti Groove. Collective Recordings. CR3
Only four compositions grace this CD and the second track has a running time of four and a half minutes, so you will realise that lightweight listeners will not be satisfied. Neither will most of the record buying public - alas! Laraaji is a very prolific writer and performer, having released over 25 albums either as a solo artist or in joint ventures during the last 20 odd years. Combining the dual skills of musicianship and meditator allows him to express himself in a way that few other composers do and his abilities are proudly on display. Building solo layers of zither and durembeka (a Turkish hand drum) the opening piece Shiva Bhuti provides space for muted voice and the ambiences to give an improvisational feel to a complicated track. The most accessible part of this CD is the aforementioned short track Shakti Flow, where yet more ambient textures are piled into making a very full recording. Chimes are used in abundance, but not in any repetitive way on the penultimate Shivaya Namah Ho. Here the human chants alternate between the left and right to make the soundtrack complete when the beat is brought into focus. This is not an easy album to appreciate, but it does not lessen the musical impact. (Cavalier)
SKETCH. Zincanode. Racing Junior. RJCD004.
Not knowing anything about the band or the label may be considered to be a slight disadvantage when attempting to review a CD, but the accompanying press release puts my mind at rest. The music does the same in a beautifully controlled way. The Norwegians seems to have almost cornered the market in the ultimate down tempo ambient sounds that are naturally chill to perfection. Tor Jorgensen and Kai Mikalsen craft this masterful work and the seven tracks are packed with sounds that don't contain any clichés. The quality of this album has to be heard as I was hooked from the start and it just continues to get better with every play. My current favourite is the fifth track Frog Tanger, where the sublime beats and electronica is of the highest calibre. Although it is almost unfair to highlight any particular segment as every track is just brilliant in its own way. Some ambient music leaves you feeling cold and almost lifeless, yet this duo lifts the performances into a much more happy environment whilst maintaining the suggestion of intrigue. Norway's hidden musical treasure has at long last been found and this is one of the best ambient albums of the year. That is the least that I can say. (TipTop)
VARIOUS. Solar Spectrum 2. Obsessive. EVSCD18
Chris Coco has assembled another 29 chilled out moments to display the exceptionally wide musical arena that contains the down tempo market. To be played after midnight in an ideal situation, but some of us have to work during normal hours, so I listened to this during a Sunday afternoon. Combining a mixture of classic material and the new, Coco has managed to fill this double CD with at least a track that everyone would describe as their favourite. That is not to say there is only one of mine, put a nought on the end of that figure and you would be nearer the mark. With the seemingly endless list of chill out albums available, what makes this any different from the rest? Well the infamous Smokebelch by Sabre Of Paradise is included along with some not so obvious choices. Take for instance Higher Than The Sun by Primal Scream or the excellent remix by Andrew Weatherall of the Neil Young's song Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Saint Etienne. By far the best inclusion is Kids For Today by the Boards Of Canada. The melancholy string effect tempers the distinctive beat to such an extent that it makes it the ultimate chill out track and it is unbelievably brilliant. The album is worth buying for this track alone. If you were allowed to only buy one album that offered this musical style, then the details are printed above. (Tashman)
VARIOUS. Quiet Life. Universal. 5209202
The Quiet Life is designed to offer a different outlook into the world of down tempo themes and chilled out moments by spanning the various genres of popular music. So by including ambient and jazz with world music and electronics you get a distinct flavour of pleasing notes for the past bedtime set. How many albums could you name that linked The World's Strongest Man by Scott Walker with the still magnificent Small Hours in which John Martyn proves beyond all doubt that he is a master of the guitar. I soon found myself almost singing along with Heliocentric World's Where's Your Love Been and I am a terrible singer! Add tracks by David Holmes, Howie B and Tears For Fears and that should make you take notice of these 14 mellowed out pieces. Chilled out rap or is it trip hop by Urban Species provides an alternative to the electronic effects mixed out by Fila Brazilia's mix of Berry Meditation by U.N.K.L.E. Even a remix of a Cocteau Twins's track makes an appearance on this well-balanced album. I can recommend a Quiet Life. (Philly)
JADE WARRIOR. Breathing the Storm. Blueprint Records. BP 342 CD
Ambience personified, This would be excellent as background/piped
music because it's so relaxed that if you try to sit and listen you never
hear half the album because restful sleep takes over. Officially, this music
has evolved from a bundle of musical notes assembled into pleasant soundscapes,
and they've been given titles like Breathing, The Storm, Gift of Wings,
Songs in the Air and Circle of Wisdom. The music will relax you for fifty
minutes and then, job done, finishes. Very smooth album. (Rooster)
FOUR TET. Pause. Domino. WIG94CD
The work of Kieran Hebden,
who has already released three albums with his band Fridge and the intriguing
solo debut Dialogue and he was only a tender 21 years old at the time! Two
years on and his style has blossomed into a much more robust phase where
the experimentation is very prominent and yet the chord structures and melodies
are ever so succulent. The opener Glue Of The World introduces the clatter
of typewriter keys which quickly encompasses harps and zithers to the regular
tick or is it tock of the grandfather clock. The following piece Twenty
Three starts quietly and is then overtaken by the beat and yet the beauty
of this instrumental always shines. At first the gut feeling is one of interest
with reservations but somehow this feeling fades; as the tracks go by, the
admiration increases exponentially for an album that is beautifully crafted
with its intriguing moments on every track. The flavour of these instrumentals
shifts wildly between many differing moods and aspects. On the fourth track
Parks, the Chinese instrumentation is held together by a western beat and
sections of great splendour including those played on the flute which all
add to the mysticism. I suppose that I could play Untangle time and time
again as the alternating gentle passages combine with the simple but extremely
effective beat to offer a mind enticing track. On You Could Ruin My day;
the mix of an acoustic guitar with electronics is breathtaking. This is
one of those rare albums that can be played many times without the music
becoming boring. Better than Brilliant.
BRIAN ENO AND PETER SCHWALM. Drawn From Life. Virgin Venture.
Any album that has Brian Eno playing on it (let alone producing) will be a welcome addition to those in the know! Eno, initially, suffered many a tide of criticism and ridicule in his early days, but over the years his work has indeed grasped hard at the nuts of critics and listeners alike, and just won't let go. Eno is to ambient as ambient is to Eno - period. This new release features Laurie Anderson as well as Schwalm. Anderson's voice is so well suited that you're left wondering why she hasn't been anywhere near an Eno album before. Peter Schwalm is a German DJ and percussionist, and the album was recorded in both Eno's and Schwalm's studios. There are 11 tracks in all, and it's the stunning beauty of Like Pictures (parts one and two) that highlight the subtleness and skill of producing 'that' sound that is so inherent of Eno, no matter who he shares credits with. Of course, as I've said, Anderson adds such magic to the vocals, and what I especially enjoyed about this album was that whilst there are some long(ish) tracks for the main meal, you get some delightful starters at just under one and a half minutes. The pudding comes in the shape of the replay button. Need I say more? (Dave W).