Reviews 01-30-2002

 

Music Reviews 

 

The Cube

by Kubusschnitt

 

 

Kubusschnitt is a quartet of e-musicians who met on the beyond em news group.  Tom Coppens (Belgium), Andy Boyce (United Kingdom), Ruud Heij (Holland) and Jens Peschke (Germany) are the members. 

The Cube is their classic (already) release from 2000.

These guys are not fooling around.  This is deep and surreal space music at its Berlin school best.  And they combine ethereal with those sequences to add to the sci-fi flair.  Strange vocal samples cap the proceedings and send this CD to the stratosphere.

This quartet was not very well known here in the USA until 2001.  In February of that year, Bill Fox featured them on his radio show on WDIY.  That is in the Allentown and Bethlehem area in PA on Thursdays from 11:00 PM until 1:00 AM.

The soundworlds are very European.  They perform in the recent European hybrid that combines the aforementioned atmospheres and sequences.  The subtleties and nuances on this disc give it that little bit extra.  It is kind of like sequenced minimalism.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts

 

II and Remixes

by Crown Invisible

 

 

Are you looking for wonderful, elegant, cavernous soundscapes- backdrops for daydreaming, writing, or spa work? Do you seek music you can lose yourself in, floating away on a tide of deep and colorful nuances that only space music can provide?

Well, look no farther than Crown Invisible. Unlike 'true' space music, though, CI sets its musical gardens to slow rhythms, that spool in and out of the various pieces- alternately propelling and floating the listener through the music.

The song titles give no hint of what they contain, which is fair enough- because sometimes titles create images in the mind that are difficult to reconcile with the music. For instance, "V13" sounds more like a software release than a song title, and gives no hint of the cotton-candy sunset cloudscape that it heralds. But that is what the music brings- the image of a southern California Pacific sunset, with all the laid-back ambience of a Pacific beach.

"V12" gives another impression entirely, being a remix of an earlier track on another of CI's EP-length albums. This one adds an intriguing rhythm track to the stately static sound-on-sound melody, giving it more energy, yet also a quiet restraint. The soundstage is deep and well defined, a carefully crafted electronic construct that isn't at all artificial.

"V14", the third and final cut on this album is another variation on the theme and rhythm introduced in the first two cuts, and extended into a lengthy coda. The lofty tone-on-tone soundscape is augmented with a bright celeste- like voice, topping a towering, complex static chord and driven by the same stately rhythm. This would very nicely complement a spa setting; having that sort of brilliant airiness a healing and relaxing sort of place would welcome.

"Remixes" takes two previous Crown Invisible pieces, "V 8" and "V13" and runs them through several remixes.

"V 8" is a dark and Gothic piece, perhaps a distant echo of Enigma, but without the chanting monks or the whispering woman. Instead, we are treated to a wickedly waspish electric guitar, and cascading piano/ bell, putting a rainy element into the music. The synth has a blurry, rain-on-glass quality about it. There is an urban 3AM feel to it- an intrigue of nighttime.

The "Confessions" remix of "V 8" changes the rhythm a bit, and amplifies that rainy urban wee-hours ambiance, adding layers and islands of deep bass, and the previously mentioned waspish guitar. Also added are snippets of radio/television dialogue- the insomniac at 3AM on a rainy urban morning. The effect is that of the endless hour- the minute that is ten, the hour that is two&ldots; when one wonders if 4 or 5 AM will ever happen. The music breaks through this floating hold, and advances towards dawn... 'nonstop'...Early morning wake-up voices break through the fog, and time moves on.

The second "instrumental" remix of "V 8" tries out a different rhythm combination, and leaves out the vocal commentary. The rainy night ambience is still front and center, and is as powerful on the third go-round as it was on the first two.

Which "V 8" do I like the best? Hmm- it's a tie between the "Confession" and the "Instrumental". They both build wonderfully upon the rather spare original.

"V 13" gets 4 remixes on this album. "V 13" is airier and brighter than its cousin "V 8", and in the original, invokes a wonderful, colorful Pacific sunset in my mind. It gets off to an interesting start- appearing to go into its full theme, but instead throttling back to a static prelude before launching into the main melody with the celestial percussive voice.

Two of the remixes are "Radio Beams"- one short, and the other long. The short remix adds a bass guitar, synth choir, and some radio voices to the soundscape. The rhythm track is changed, too. The floating quality of the middle part disappears, replaced with an edgy, progressive rhythm. The stop-start quality of Crown Invisible's other pieces is evident here- in a more powerful manner. It does not distract- but it doesn't let you slip into yawning complacency, either.

The Long Edit has a different introduction- a sustained industrial- sounding motif that segues into the airy sound-on-sound intro, but keeping the industrial elements. We are 'guided by a radio beam' into the main theme of the song, sprinkled with bites of radio voices. Again, the rhythm instrumentation is changed- busier this time, and there is an added synth buzzing around in the layered soundscape. The extended middle part segues between the rhythmic radio-peppered main theme, and the ambient, floating sub theme.

The final remix of "V 13", version 3 is the "No Pad Mix". This version starts out rather Gothically- with no hint of the bright sunset sounds of its previous incarnations. Then the familiar drifting chords come in, and give way to rhythm and bass only, with none of the layered synths that the earlier versions had, except for a peek here and there. This is a sparer version of a lush piece, intriguing in its own way. The sunset becomes more open, urban and industrial, making the piece darker, but no less interesting.

The Cursor Club, PO Box 3327, Hollywood, CA  90078, USA. Prices (when ordering directly from us) are as follows: CD’s are US $8.50 each, with a S & H charge of US $1.50 each ($2.50 each outside US). Order any 3 or more for US $8.00 each, and we'll pay the shipping. Check or Money Order only  please (the retailers listed below all take credit cards). We ship within 2 days of receipt of an order, and as with all our products, if you don't like it we'll gladly give you your money back.

Reviewed by Lorie Johnson for Ambient Visions

 

Walkabout

by David Hudson

 

 

Since I usually write piano reviews, “Walkabout” was a very enjoyable adventure for me. I was familiar with David Hudson from his work with Yanni on “Tribute”, but was not aware that he has several albums under his own name as well as with Steve Roach. Musically, didgeridoo is probably about as far from piano as you can get, but “Walkabout” melds many musical styles and instruments in conjunction with this primitive Australian instrument. In doing some research, I discovered that Hudson is a member of the Tjapukai tribe of Northern Queensland, and is considered to be a master of his aboriginal instrument. He also plays guitar and percussion on “Walkabout”, and is joined by Wayne McIntosh on guitar, Mark Mannock on keyboards, Russell Harris on Flugal horn, and Nigel Pegrum on percussion. Various rhythms are prominent, keeping the droning of the didgeridoo from becoming overbearing or monotonous for those of us entrenched in Western musical traditions.

I really like all six tracks on this CD, but my favorites are “Dream Wanderer” and “Crossroads”. “Dream Wanderer” is the least upbeat of the pieces, and is hypnotic. This piece is basically a quartet for piano, percussion, guitar and didg, which is an amazing combination! There are definite jazz elements here - especially in the piano part - but the blending of musical styles from the most basic to the most sophisticated is fascinating. “Crossroads” reminds me a little of some of Alan Parsons’ instrumental work from the ‘80’s. The shifting time signatures keep it on edge, and the rhythm is completely infectious. Piano again comes to the forefront several times with jazz/rock improvisation, but it is the percussion and growling didg that really dominate. I love this piece! Open the sunroof, turn up the volume, and let ‘er rip!

The combination of instruments and musical styles should give “Walkabout” a broad audience appeal. David Hudson’s creativity and willingness to blend many musical traditions and cultural styles is a step toward true “world music”. AND, it’s a lot of fun to listen to! Highly recommended!

This Kathy Parsons review originally reviewed on the  Mainly Piano website. It is reprinted here on Ambient Visions with permission.

 

Under One Sky

by Various Artists

 

 

Eagle Cries

by Joanne Shenandoah 

 Visit Joanne Shenandoah's website

 

Musical trends tend to go through phases of popularity- for example, after the release of Paul Simon's "Graceland", there was a surge of interest in African music. The same happened with Sting's latest album and certain types of Middle Eastern music. Celtic music has enjoyed its time in the spotlight, and continues to grow in popularity and variety. And here, right under our American noses, awaits the nascent, but rapidly growing Native American music genre.

I've enjoyed it for years- both the ancient traditional styles of chanting, flutes and drums, and the more contemporary styles of Coyote Oldman and R. Carlos Nakai. Native Americana hasn't had its version of "Riverdance" yet, but I expect that when it does, people will come running to snap up all the artists I've known and loved for years, along with some newer ones, which we'll get acquainted with here.

 

Under One Sky: Native American Flute and Rhythm by Various Artists

Oh, goody! A sampler! Oh, no- not a sampler, please&ldots;no! Samplers are the bane of my existence, simply because then I will want nearly every album featured on it.

And this holds true for this album- nearly every song is a winner, and tempts me to go and part with my hard-earned money. But if you want a good broad view of today's up and coming as well as established Native American artists, you can't go wrong with this album. Four labels come together to feature their artists: Silver Wave Records, Red Feather Music (which is Jeff Ball's label), Makoche, and Four Winds Trading Co.

Standouts for me include Mary Youngblood's dreamy flute in "Yuba". The danceable "Night of the Sun" with Gary Stroutos features interesting percussion and an eagle bone whistle, which is used in the Sun Dance ceremony.

Veteran flutist R. Carlos Nakai checks in with his haunting "The West" which was featured in the PBS series "How the West Was Lost".

Interesting percussion marks "Night Fall on Hoskinnini Plateau" along with night birds, coyotes and other intriguing night sounds. One can almost smell the pinion fire.

I always wondered what Kokapelli was playing on his flute- perhaps something like "Meadowlark Sunrise"- played by Joseph Firecrow. There's an interesting quality about this music- birds sing- both flute and real.

It saddens me that my Scots-Irish ancestors were too busy fighting off the Indians instead of playing music with them. "Walking on Water" is a lovely musical picture of what that sort of duo of cedar flute and Celtic harp would have sounded like.

"Sioux Traditional" brings in that  wild and vibrant singing that the Sioux of all tribes are known for. Here is Native American music at its brilliant best- ancient and very modern at the same time.

Cedar flutist Jeff Ball comes in with a lively contemporary piece "Free to Climb", and we head off into the sunset with the evocative Western-themed "Flying Free", with Andrew Vasquez on the flute.

You can't go wrong with this album, if you want a taste of what contemporary Native American music has to offer. But watch out- it's addictive!

Eagle Cries by Joanne Shenandoah

Before I get into this review, I want to admit up front that I have problems with most vocal music- the voice distracts me, especially if I can understand the lyrics. Most vocal music is, to me, at least- rather trite and boring- especially when it is love songs and teen angst and nasty brags about nasty stunts, as most pop music is today.

Poetry is distracting in another way- like TV, you have to put down what you're doing to 'get' the words, and the message therein. And when you combine poetry with as intriguing a voice as Joanne Shenandoah's, you've got double trouble. No sewing to this music. Maybe some cooking, or laundry sorting or something fairly mindless, but forget writing or sewing or even reading. Your project will sit idle in your lap while you listen.

And there is a lot to listen to here- an eclectic mix of poetic Native American lyrics, quietly romantic music, and a few squirm-inducing pieces just to make it interesting.

Stand outs include the cautionary tale "One Silver, One Gold" about the destruction of the land, the lovely "Dancing on Mother Earth", the thanksgiving song "We Give Thanks to the Woman", and the romantic "Feather in the Wind".

She saves the best for last: the a capella "Watch Me Through the Night" which, no matter what your religious leanings might be, is a wonderfully evocative prayer of protection and invocation of healing.

I like this album- and when I feel like having a vocal companion in my musical musings, Joanne Shenandoah has the rare quality of being a non-irritating female vocalist. Perhaps it is her straightforward, non-skylarking style that calms me, or the smooth quality of her lyrical phrasing- but her voice calms my ears, even when some of the lyrics make me squirm in guilt. That's the mark of good music.

Reviewed by Lorie Johnson for Ambient Visions

 

Cedar Moon

by Jeff Ball

Visit Jeff Ball's website

Subtitled "Night Music of the Native American Flute", this album features Jeff Ball playing the traditional cedar flute cherished by many different tribes. This sort of music is meant for romance, and Mr. Ball does not disappoint. His playing has a poignant, longing quality in the quieter pieces- sounding almost like doves at times.

The musical settings are very contemporary: synths, strings, guitars, piano, sax and a laid back jazzy percussion. But he never lets you forget that you are listening to something both ancient and powerful, and the melodies quickly weave their way into your mind and heart.

Favorite tracks of mine include "Winds of Change", a quiet, romantic groove, and "Touch", where, to me, at least, I hear a wood dove in the music. Pretty evocative. I also liked the guitar in "Pictures of Home"- the interplay with the flute is excellent.

But the real stand outs have to be "Concrete Canyon" with its jazzy urban sax segueing  that wild flute and chant, and "For the Love of You", which has a commercial or a video waiting to be made for it somewhere. The imagery is powerful enough to get any video artist off his or her can and off to film. Anyone? Anyone?

All in all, this is an excellent album- and a great introduction to contemporary Native American music. Recommended.

Reviewed by Lorie Johnson for Ambient Visions

Visit Lorie's bio page to learn more about her.

 

The Perfect Flaw

by Tim Story

Visit Tim Story's website

The Perfect Flaw is a masterful blend of Tim Story's acoustic and electronic ambience.  Guest performers Kimberly Bryden (oboe, sax and English horn), Martha Reiker (cello) and Ron Samuels (clarinet) enhance the melancholy and add panache.

That is a good term for Tim's style.  He has a lot of panache!  His stylish arrangements are dense and gentle.  There is a definite somber texture but the acoustic instruments give rays of hope for brighter tomorrows.

This disc, a classic Hearts of Space release, is an awesome experience.  It is sad, gentle, romantic and subtle - everything that is good in HOS ambience.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts

 

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