Reviews 01-29-2006 


Music Reviews 



Ghosts of Modernity

by Ben Fleury-Steiner

Visit Ben's  website

Visit Deep Listenings' website


Back in the 1960’s folks used to say that Paul McCartney and/or John Lennon could fart into a microphone for three minutes and have next week’s top single. While Ben Fleury-Steiner is not quite there yet (no number one singles), he could – and might – record a fart and stretch, warp, manipulate and shift it into an ambient atmosphere. (Hell, he might have already done it!) He is in the can do no wrong zone.

Ghosts of Modernity released on Oophoi’s Umbra label, is a superb blend of digital technology and digital technology. In other words, Ben processed these sounds and processed them again. After that, he probably processed them once more. The result is a fabulous montage of ambient atmospheres and experimental sounds that just float in mid-air. That’s all they need to do!

Ben’s diversity allows him to perform comfortably in this minimalist style with drones upon drones upon drones. They play to, from, beside and around each other and become the focus of deep listening. In the floating mode they are part of the scenery – the ultimate ambient soundscape, interesting to be a focus and innocuous enough to be ignored.

So, Ben is among the ambient elite in the new millennium. His much anticipated Flatulence Minimus promises to be THE ambient CD of all time!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions



Darkness into Light: Vol 1 Deep Meditation

by Steven Buckner

Visit Steven's  website



The liner notes to this CD state that it is the first in a proposed three-part series. The subsequent volumes are scheduled to released in 2008 and 2012. The concept of Darkness Into Light and its subsequent compositions is said to explore "the musical depths of mankind's journey through its own interpretationsof hope and survival over its inner being." 

I won't pretend to understand the metaphysical or existential issues behind the formulation of this album. Rather, I hope to expound a bit on its musical content, and leave the rest to the reader.  

The music itself is fairly straightforward: consisting of keyboards, percussion, guitar and some samples from the London Choir. Buckner plays the majority of keyboard instruments, but gets assists from family members and friends who lend their talents to vocals and other supporting affects. The pieces are not demanding, yet are rich and are well-designed as mini-vignettes to the soundtrack of life. Riding the edge between smooth jazz (Moonlight in the Sahara) and easy listening at times, the twelve tracks that make up this album (the twelfth is listed as a "bonus" track) provide one with an hour-plus of solid, intelligent, articulate and pleasant listening.

One can only imagine that if this album marks the beginning of the journey, the remainder of the trip bodes well, indeed.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions



Morning Whispers

by Tobin Mueller

Visit Tobin's website

CD Baby website

From its title and the peaceful ocean sunset on the CD cover, I expected Tobin Mueller’s CD, “Morning Whispers,” to be very calm and serene. Mueller blends classical, jazz, and new age styles to create a distinctive style all his own. Some of the ten tracks are bold and edgy while others are quieter and more reflective. The album is the result of a special commission to create a cycle of songs for solo piano dedicated to healing and joyful passion. Tobin Mueller brings to his music a wide variety of experiences as an award-winning playwright, author, composer of children’s music, photographer, and collaborator on cross-genre projects, as well as his work on global environmental issues. He has released several CDs, but this is his first solo piano CD and his debut with SiMig Media Records, a label that promotes independent artists who do most of their recording in their home studios.

The CD opens with the title track, a freely-structured piece with a gentle complexity. “Just Above the Ground” has a light, anxious quality that never stops moving. The repetitive left hand creates an energetic rhythm for the right hand to dance around - interesting and engaging. “Between Breaths” also has a kind of nervous energy, but this one has short pauses between the running phrases to catch a breath. Joyful and exhilarating, Mueller is all over the piano with this one. I really like “Eruptions of Previous Life,” which is dark and edgy. The rhythmic left hand keeps returning to the deep bass of the piano with mysterious punctuation while the right hand alternates between chords and running phrases. “Cut Flowers” is much quieter. Not quite melodic in a traditional sense, the piece has a flowing sense of urgency. “I Sail On” combines modern classical with jazz, again bringing an edge to the music that is both purposeful and fun. “Waltzing Night Into Day” has a Baroque feeling to it while staying very contemporary. “A Lifetime Ago” is my favorite track. It begins as a free-form prelude with jazz chords and a Gershwin kind of influence. It explores several themes and then segues into a beautifully haunting theme that becomes more exploratory with the recognizable theme weaving in and out. At more than 8 1/2 minutes, this piece has plenty of room to evolve naturally and leisurely - I love it! “Under A Western Sky” opens as a lively, swirling piece of musical joy. The middle section calms and soothes, and then the opening theme returns is a slightly more subdued form that builds to its original vibrance.

“Morning Whispers” is a fascinating CD on several levels. It is not music that will stay in the background - it needs to be listened to - so if you enjoy original solo piano music with complexity and a bit of a challenge, this is a great CD to sink your musical teeth into.

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions




by Tony Gerber with
John Rose

Visit Tony's website

Guitarist Tony Gerber has been around for decades, and is still one of the foremost spacemusic performers, both by himself and with his band, “Spacecraft.” From his website, you can see that he’s been active in many different musical forms, from bluegrass, jazz, and rock, to way-out spacemusic. He’s also a commercial artist and a planetarium performer.  

Much of the work I’ve heard of Gerber’s tends towards the prog-rock style, especially the material with “Spacecraft.” But this album, though most of the sounds on it are originally produced on electric guitar, is a trip into spacey ambient, of the kind that anyone who listened to music in the ‘60s will recognize. It was recorded live for a radio concert in 1994, and is edited for this recording. “Airwaves” has elements of  drone and even atonal noise-clustering, but much of it is meditative, well-reverbed, soft improvisation in a minor-modal scale, in an, uh, “fragrant” mood suitable for colorful lights and imaginative meditation. I find “Airwaves” calming and restful, even without the help of a beanbag cushion.  

This album was first released in 2000 and I have had it for quite a while, hoping to eventually do a review of it. I am willing to post this review of a not-so-recent album because I think it stands out in its genre as a nicely done set of late twentieth-century space ambient soundtracks. It’s good music for astrophysical dreams.

Reviewed by Hannah M.G. Shapero for Ambient Visions



After the Rain

by Christian Housel

Visit Christian's website

CD Baby website

“After the Rain” is Christian Housel’s second solo piano release, and contains eleven original pieces that carry a message of hope and optimism. A few tracks have light instrumental accompaniment, but this is definitely a piano CD. Strongly influenced by David Lanz and Jim Brickman, Housel’s music has a similar simple, heartfelt style that conveys emotion in an easy, accessible way without becoming ear candy.

The CD opens with “Devotion,” a vibrant, upbeat anthem that celebrates the staying power of devotion to the people and ideals we hold close in our lives. “Almost Home” is the only piece Housel has composed in his head. The melody came to him on a plane, and exudes the joy and anticipation of returning home to loved ones. “By Your Side” was composed just before the birth of Housel’s second son, and is about commitment to those we love. With very light percussion here and there, this beautiful piece has a peaceful flow but also a sense of strength. “Autumn’s Song” was written for those with a dream and the passion to follow it. Light and worry-free, this is the piece that reminds me the most of David Lanz - a gentle reminder of Lanz’s influence, not a copy. “Journey’s End” tells of endings becoming new beginnings. There is a spirit of optimism for the future and a sense of accomplishment for what has concluded. Very warm and contented, it’s a lovely piece. “Warm As Tears” was composed for Housel’s father, who passed away last year. Reflective, the piece is not as upbeat as some of the others, but it isn’t painful, either. It feels like fond memories tinged with missing someone dear. “Minuet” is a “loose interpretation” of JS Bach’s “Minuet in G.” What piano student hasn’t played this sweet little piece? Housel fleshes it out and brings it up-to-date with an enchanting arrangement that might even make the stoney-faced Bach crack a smile. The title track is a song of hope that has such a strong melody that lyrics could possibly fit (but are not needed). This piece is also a favorite. Introspective and calm, you can almost feel a healing process take place as the piece evolves - kind of a gentle massage between the ears. “If You Were Here” is a little different and is another favorite. A slow ballad composed for a smooth jazz group, it shows another side of Housel’s composing abilities. A little moodier than most of the album, the piece is very elegant and yet sensual - I really like it!

This is the first CD I’ve heard by Christian Housel, but I’m certainly looking forward to hearing more!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions


Return Home