Reviews 04-04-2007

Music Reviews 



On Silent Wings of Healing II

by Mathias Grassow


Visit Mathias' website

(It is not likely that one will find information on this release at Aquamarin Verlag’s website. The site is in German and there does not appear to be any information on their older releases. I have listed the URL as a courtesy.)

Mathias Grassow is a first-rate musician, perhaps the finest drone magician in the modern ambient music community. There is no doubt or debate, however, that he is the most prolific. He has well over 100 albums in his discography, perhaps as many as 200 when one accounts for multiple disc sets, side projects, collaborations and out-of-print cassette only releases.

On Silent Wings of Healing II is in the latter category, having been released in 1991 on Aquamarin Verlag. From all appearances, they released it only inGermany as the liner notes are all in German. (Curiously, the album and track titles are in English.) Fortuitously, the music is in the international – perhaps intergalactic – language of awesome.

Mathias’ style is cutting edge, unique, experimental and original and embraces all the power of ambient electronic music. This album has all that power and more! These atmospheres and soundscapes are perfect new age holistic healing adventures. This is massage, yoga, relaxation, meditation, overtone and psychoactive minimalism with an edge. It is within and beyond that style.

The album has two long-form (31 minutes) compositions that float and bend around the neuropathways of even the most casual listeners’ synapses. Deep listeners will appreciate the sedative, almost narcotic, affects of Mathias’ deft manipulations and processes.

Because of its format and status, this might be difficult to procure. It is most likely available only from Mathias. Mentioning this review and reviewer might help.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions




by Klaus Wiese & Jim Cole


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Klaus Wiese is the ambient music community’s premier performer on the Tibetan singing bowls. (Would that be a bowlist?) The inherent qualities of that instrument would also qualify him as one of the community’s top drone artists. Jim Cole is the ambient music community’s top overtone vocalist. That qualifies him as another one of the community’s drone artists. Thus, it is a pleasant treat to hear their collaboration - Plejades, a website exclusive from the unreleased archives.

These three discs are the ultimate drone junky fix. (Two drone masters will do that.) There is also the added bonus of the overtones! The overtones surround the overtones as Jim’s soundworld intertwines with Klaus’ soundworld to become one soundworld. The affect is chilling and stimulating. It is the ultimate white noise mind numbing experience!

That statement does not seem to make much sense. However, clearing the mind is an essential process in most holistic healing practices. It creates a tabla rosa upon which practitioners can build their own unique visions and healing imagery.

The set does contain over three hours of music and that can be overkill for a single session. For a deep sleep session, listening on continuous play almost guarantees uninterrupted REM sleep and vivid imagery. For a regular session, one of the 30-minute compositions would be most appropriate.

This set might be the best minimalist drone set ever. It certainly deserves consideration as such.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions



Hope For Harmony

by Kathryn Toyama

Visit Kathryn's  website

Visit Kathryn's CD Baby website


“Hope For Harmony” is a gorgeous debut from pianist/composer Kathryn Toyama. Gentle, subtle, and very soothing, the eighteen tracks flow from one to the next as a seamless whole yet hold up beautifully as individual pieces. Most of the music has the spontaneous feeling of improvisation, and much of it is more ambient than melodic, setting a mood of quiet yet intense peacefulness. Several pieces remind me of George Skaroulis’ music that so effortlessly floats on a cloud of sound. The closing track is a duet for piano and guitar, but the others are solo piano. Passionate yet serene, the music follows the path of a spiritual journey that hopes for harmony within each individual and reaches out to global peace through acceptance and tolerant understanding. What a refreshing journey it is!

The opening track, “Hope,” sets a mood of quiet reflection. “Carefree” is more about a blissful nap in a warm sunny spot than jumping for joy, and has a real sparkle about it. “Finding the Way” is a favorite. The rolling chords in the left hand are a leisurely accompaniment to the poignant and passionate right. The minor key in this piece gives it an exotic, bittersweet feeling that is really effective. Beautiful! “Slowly Healing” is cautiously optimistic, but feels very vulnerable - qualities you don’t often hear in music. As the piece progresses, it becomes stronger and then trails off. “True Friends” reflects the joy as well as the confidence and strength that come from true friendships. “The Light” and “Faith” seem to imply a turning point on the spiritual path to strength and inner peace. “Prayer for Peace” is another favorite. Deeply emotional and heartfelt, this short little gem touches the soul. “As Times Change” is reflective and nostalgic, with a strong sense of longing. “Floating on Dreams” is a daydream set to music - warm and gently smiling, wrapped in inner peace. Another beauty! “Spiritual War” is much more turbulent than the other tracks, and overflows with intense passion. Is this an inner struggle or a battle with a loved one with an opposing spirit? Fascinating! “Beyond a Dream” ends the journey with an uplifting duet with Kathryn Toyama on piano and Richard Alan on acoustic guitar, kindred musical spirits that communicate the peace and joy of hope and understanding.

“Hope For Harmony” is a very impressive and expressive first album from a very promising artist, Kathryn Toyama. It is best listened to with full attention, but also provides a quiet and soothing backdrop for massage, relaxation, and reflection. It is available from Recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions



The Light in the Shadow

by Craig Padilla

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I'm not very familiar with Craig Padilla's work, having only heard Eye of the Storm which is mainly rhythm and sequencing based. In contrast his latest album The Light in the Shadow is an epic spacemusic voyage consisting of one track taking us on an hour long journey through glorious regions of the galaxy and beyond. Craig is joined by Skip Murphy on additional synths and sequencers.

Few spacemusic albums genuinely evoke the idea of floating through space and viewing celestial wonders as much as this one. Gentle cosmic whistles begin our metaphorical voyage while hollow resonating drones form a backdrop and cometary sonics trail briefly across the soundscape. Ethereal wordless “ahhhh” vocals add extra layers to the meditation on wondrous cosmic sights and goings on.

After a while the intensity and mix of sounds increases. Swirling electronic layers and ribbons of sound, spiky expectant refrains, and shimmering washes glide and dance around each other as though we've ventured from a relatively benign region of space to one containing a mass of activity. Imagine a stellar nursery where gas clouds are coalescing and heating up to form stars, or a nebula being formed by a recent supernova.

What I find particularly interesting about this album is how the tones are somewhat monochromatic yet put together in a manner that evokes colourful and bright images against the black depths of space. Towards the end rhythmic melody and sequencing adds to the drama, completing the impression that we're listening to an ode to the far off realms we can normally only see through telescopes. Finally the last few minutes bring the experience to a peaceful conclusion with graceful clouded whistles.

The Light in the Shadow is a monumental work of spacemusic that deserves to be appreciated fully by giving it one's undivided attention. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions



Deep - Breath - Silence

by Mathias Grassow
& Jim Cole


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Mathias Grassow and Jim Cole are magnificent musicians. Indeed, they are drone magicians – their music is akin to magic in every sense of the word. Overtones have that affect.

Deep – Breath – Silence is their third collaboration and the best of the triad. It is one of the best overtone drones CD’s of all time. (I am prone to hyperbole and not ashamed at all. Receiving and reviewing this CD along with the others in this column has been a drone junky’s heaven!) Jim’s overtone vocals are still amazing. Mathias’ processes and vocals surround the experience and take everything to the next level and to several levels beyond that. There are no limits to this adventure. The convergence of these soundworlds is seamless and the performances are flawless.

This is music for losing, exploring, seeking and finding one’s inner self and inner psyche. Mathias and Jim have created a bridge to inner space and it encompasses the entirety of outer space as listeners find themselves on several endless simultaneous journeys across many galaxies. The impossible becomes reality and reality becomes improbable. The anomalies are surreal, ethereal and existential. ”I am confused therefore I am. I do not know therefore I have knowledge. I have lost myself in order to find myself.”

Thus, the journey that is life is presented and explored. The journey is the goal. Life is not a mystery to be solved. It is a journey to be enjoyed.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions



Fine Tuning

by Paul Fine

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“Fine Tuning” is pianist/composer Paul Fine’s debut recording, and contains twenty original pieces composed between 1972-2006 that reflect on many different people and events in the composer’s life. It is interesting to note that it is difficult to tell which pieces were composed earlier in life, as it is often quite apparent. Paul Fine and Korin Hancherlian-Amos played the music for the recording, and it isn’t apparent when there is a switch in pianist - the transitions are seamless. For the most part, Fine’s composing style is very classical, hinting at some of Mozart’s and Haydn’s lighter pianistic moments. Not all of the pieces are light, but since Fine is a practicing physician and an associate professor at the University of Michigan, I suspect that the piano is a great source of relaxation and de-stressing for him. The pieces are melodic and structured, and include waltzes, lullabies, a couple of rags, and other assorted confections.

“Fine Tuning” opens with “A Dance With Karen,” an elegant eight-minute piece composed for the composer’s wife in honor of the many evenings they have spent ballroom dancing. The graceful musical line is full of loving warmth and evokes visions of ladies in long sweeping dresses and debonair gentlemen guiding them around the dance floor. “Anticipating Derek” was composed on the day Fine learned he was going to become a father for the first time. Effectively blending joy, wonder, excitement, and a touch of fear, this is a deeply personal musical statement. “Singing to Benjamin” is a passionate beauty composed for Fine’s second son. Composed in two sections, the first was written in honor of his birth, and the second came a few months later and seemed to magically calm the baby when he was upset. I really love this piece! ”Saku’s Smile” is joyful, carefree, and full of innocence. Another one of my favorites is “Post-Lubrication Axle Mechanics,” one of the rags. Beginning with a rather whimsical scale, it segues into a lively, rhythmic romp. I love ragtime piano, and this is a great piece that sounds like fun to play. I also really like “Dreams of Children,” which was begun when Fine was ten years old and completed for this album. Introspective and full of longing, it is quite a bit darker than most of the other pieces and deeply emotional. “Haydn Seek” is an energetic and lighthearted 42-second piece composed in a style similar to Haydn’s - charming!
“Tammi’s Wedding Waltz” is a lovely, graceful dance composed for a very special day. “Chasing Butterflies” is as light and carefree as its title implies, swirling and leaping through the air, laughing all the way. “Rabbit Ragtime” closes the album with a toe-tapping grin. Great stuff!

“Fine Tuning” is a delightful debut, and I hope we’ll be hearing more from Paul Fine. If you enjoy the structure of classical music with a contemporary approach, this will be a happy addition to your collection. Song samples can be found and purchases made at and Enjoy!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions




by Diatonis

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Stuart White in the guise of Diatonis has released another sublime work of ambience created by highly processed instruments – mainly guitar if I'm not mistaken. Like most of his other albums this one is available in 5.1 surround sound, but this review is of the stereo CD. Also available is a short DVD video. Perception is similar in style to Diatonis's previous work; the difference is that here the mood is somewhat forlorn, it has more crystalline tonalities, and more use of processed voices and choral effects.

Delicate flowing drones and shards of guitar refrains like distant flashes of light get the album underway in “Merge”. As soon as this piece started up it took me to inner mindscapes and at the same time conjured up images of real landscapes of open country, broken grey skies, and far off mountains. Imagine feeling lost and moving gracefully and solemnly across such a vista and you'll have some idea of this entrancing piece.

In contrast some of the tracks have a kind of oppressive quality. The most notable being the title track
“Perception” which has indistinct wordless vocals and intense dark and shimmery drones that enfold the soundscape. It's got a similar feel to parts of an older album The Convolving Universe.

All the tracks are excellently constructed but abstract enough that the listener can be transported to his own personal world. Another piece that works well for me is “White Sand Blue Water”. Gently bobbing drones of various tones could be thought of as the ever moving sea, while periodically sheets of sound swish and skim past. In brief sections we also hear gossamer vocals and haunting plucked guitar.

Diatonis always manages to find new sonic qualities within this subgenre of ambient that few artists venture into. The release of Perception just goes to consolidate my view that Diatonis has mastered his art yet is still increasing the boundaries of his talent. Unhesitatingly recommended.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions