Music Reviews 

About | Articles | CD Focus | Q& A | Charts and Playlists| Contact |  Interviews | Letters | Links | Music Streams | News | New Releases


Reviews 04-10-2005 


World Fiction

by Kit Watkins

Visit Kit Watkins' website

Kit Watkins may be familiar to you from his group Tone Ghost Ether, an improvisational group including Brad Allen and John Tlusty.  That group, from 2001 was only the latest musical project of Mr. Watkins has been involved in over the years.  Mr. Watkins has become an outstanding artist in the Ambient genera and this CD is a fresh, lovely and enjoyable new offering from the artist.

There are twelve tracks on this CD, for a total playing time of 51:57 minutes.
  The tracks vary in time from just under three minutes to almost eight minutes.

Track One – Snake Charmer, provides us with a little over three minutes of what the rest of the compositions promise, a smooth combination of primal percussions mixed with sometimes spacey, sometimes very electronic sounds filling the spaces between the beat. 

The work progresses to the World Fiction tracks I through VII.  The first track, which opens and closes with vocalizations, is part beat, part jazz, and all enjoyable.  The blend of primal beat with jazz is not unusual, but the jazz is electronic in nature, and does give it a very different feel from the traditional jazz you may be accustomed to, but it does not offend.  Rather, it draws you into it.  Track II again starts with a jazz feel, saxophone in nature, to draw you into the composition.  Very progressive, but again, it is electronica.  It is a short piece, no heavy beat, but it provides a break between the first and third tracks.  The third track draws us back to the primal drumming, with electronic sounds of voices, birds, wind, percussion and again, is a short piece that now draws us to the fourth track which is a longer, more melodic and again, returns to the jazzy wind instrument.  This piece lures you into the feeling of a full orchestra accompanying a sax, but it gradually becomes more electronica in feel till the electronics take over.  A lovely soundscape, relaxing, imaginative and a worthy showcase for the artists talents.

Track V starts with a percussion, builds, adds vocals, and creates a driving beat accompanied by electronic instrumentation that gives this an almost “other world” feel.  The electronic instrumentation sounds electronic, very spacey, very driven, sometimes distorted.  A noticeable change to the almost jazzy feel to the CD up to this point, but not unsettling.  Rather it challenges the listener to follow the change over and accept it as they follow the artist from world to world.

Track VI return to the driving beat, the spacey electronics and is a much gentler contrast to the previous track.  Again, a wind instrument blended with primitive beat and blowing spacey electronic effects and lulls the listener back into the original tones of the CD.  The beat is given solo reign at the end of the track, which sets up for the V11 track.  This track opens with some heavy percussion, which sets the mood of the piece and clearly becomes the main focus of the piece.  The electronica takes a back seat to the beat.  It is a short piece to be sure but It is a “get up and out of your chair and dance” piece which I particularly enjoyed.

The titles change at this point.  Track 9 is entitled Mondo Panda, The driving beat is still here, but there is the suggestion of a base guitar and a keyboard fill that gives this a different flavor from the rest of the compositions so far.  Again we hear a suggestion of wind instruments, maybe trumpets, and the flavor is again almost jazzy, but very electronic.  This piece drifts off and we are transported to a duo of compositions called Delirium 1 and Delirium 2. 

These are bouncy, upbeat compositions of percussion and electronic sounds, the first having a very light feeling balanced against a very heavy electronic backing. Another “get out of your chair and dance” piece, the beat is very contagious.  The second Delirium piece has a different tempo to the beat, more electronica but a tad darker than the first.  Again, it begs you get out of your chair and move, but maybe a bit more seductive in its call.  The melody is almost invisible in the piece, until you look for it, and is easy to follow behind all the electronica. 

The final track is World Fiction VIII.  This piece flows, suggesting guitar, keyboard, and has a more spiritual feel to it.  It has a subtle beat, added vocals and a prominent wind instrument giving a contemplative melody to the work.  It sums up the entire CD, in feel, in composition, and as a tip of the hat to the ability of the artist to produce a very enjoyable and original work.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable and contemplative work of Ambient Music.  If you are familiar with Mr. Watkins work to this point, this is an excellent addition to your library.  If you are not familiar with Mr. Watkins, this is an excellent introduction to the man’s work and highlights his musical versatility and his expertise at composition in the Ambient genera.

Reviewed by MA Foster


"Then You Must be an Android!"

by Building Castles Out of Matchsticks


Building Castles Out of Matchsticks return with "Then YOU must be an android!", a powerful collection of beat- and glitch-driven electronics matched with the emotionality that Anne Sulikowski's work has become so well known for.

Opening with the title track, Anne and guest Scott Johnson create a percussion based groove matched with smooth and haunting vocal stylings. A blend of human and electronic influences that's a stunning and sexy way to start the disc.

"I've Got a Camera" continues in a similar vein, a haunting vocal sliding through shifting drum patterns of increasing complexity and style slowly descending into a chaotic whirl of noise. Something very dark and ominous about this track, a feeling of film noir voyeurism and rainy nighttime secrets kept under a pre-post future shock post modern New York City skyline. Brilliant.

"Fixed" follows, a collaboration between Anne and Davin Chong, her musical partner in Swimming Against the Moments. It's a rotating drone based piece building in intensity and tension. High pitched whistles and tones play throughout adding to the atmosphere, adding a sense of disturbance to the track.

"Now wait for last year....." closes the disc, a repeated melody playing through a huge drum filled cavern eventually giving way to minimalist calm and tranquility. A stunningly powerful piece, a marvel of simplicity that leaves me in awe. Wonderful work.

Needless to say, Anne has done it again, releasing a disc that perfectly captures the sounds of lonely hearts spending Saturday nights alone at home toying with electric friends.

"You're beautiful..." he said as she looked up with a clockwork smile. "Beautiful."

Reviewed by Rik at Ping Things


Domo 10th
Anniversary Collection

by Various Artists

Visit Domo's website

 Domo Records has presented us with some excellent and well known artists and groups over the last 10 years.  Outstanding in their collection is Kitaro, best known for their “Silk Road” musical background for the for the long running Japanese production.  However, they have many artists they are proud of, and this compilation gives us a sampling of the best and brightest of this recording label. 

There are 16 tracks on this CD.  The inside booklet does list the previous CD’s that include the works presented.   

The opening track is Daichi by Kitaro which sets the standard of excellence which Domo has established for this CD.  A full orchestral piece, this is oriental in feel, but with strong melody, powerful beat, yet is not pompous or overbearing.  It gives a feeling of stamina, as  Kitaro has been over the years.   

The Yoshida Brothers present us with a very traditional Japanese piece Starting on a Journey, gently orchestrated to fill the piece delightfully.  They add piano and violins, which gives this an

“East Meets West” play that is as strong as the Kitaro piece, yet subtle at the same time.  And excellent introduction to the young Japanese sensation Yoshida Brothers if you have never heard them before. 

Stephen DeRuby presents us with Desire, a piece from his CD Sacred Spaces.  A more subtle work, with wind instruments, a very oriental feel, but filled with lovely guitar work.  A more spiritual work than the previous tracks, but Mr. DeRuby does present us with an excellent representation of his style of music. 

Sleeping Woman is the track by Luis Perez which again is very exotic in flavor, as is most of Domo’s productions.  This piece is flute with a very Mexican or traditional South American accompaniment.   This is over an orchestral backfill, giving it strength yet retaining its delicate musical quality.  A very good choice for an introduction to Mr. Perez and his style of music. 

Luis Villegas track New Moon begins with a feeling of a summer evening and breaks into some spectacular Latin guitar work.  This track is dynamic, offering a powerful first look at this Internationally known artist if you have never heard him before.  This piece will move you out of your seat to dance across the floor.  

Grammy nominee Nawang Khechog, a Tibetan composer and musician, gives us the light and airy Peace Through Kindness, accompanied by Tibetan chanters.  A lovely, delightful work to introduce many new listeners to this highly respected World musician. 

Simply listed as Sicilienne, this track introduces us to a piano and violin composition from the "Classics for the Heart” CD.  This is a classic, to be sure, as the melody will stick in your mind as does the romantic blending of the piano and violin.  The composition is very classical, reminiscent of Debussy or David Lanz.   

Randy Armstrong provides us with a powerful guitar piece called Fisherman’s Cancion.  Randy is easily recognized for his work on the PBS production Dinner on the Diner, and this piece is a very good representation of the artists abilities in both the guitar as well as composition.   

A more brooding piece, Dark Passage by Dave Eggar is another piano piece that gives us pause for contemplation.  You may be more familiar with this artist from his works with Ornette Coleman and Bobby McFerrin amongst others. This is a lovely offering and one that will peak your interest in this piano artist. 

Agatsuma is represented by his piece A Paper in the Air, a strong, subtle work showing off the skills of the artist with the Tsugaru-Shamisen.  This piece is one of his gentler works, but is a good representation of the style of music Agatsuma is known for. 

We return to the Spanish flavor with Mediterranean Sunrise by Benedetti & Svoboda, with romantic guitars serenading the listener.  These two gentlemen have been playing together for more than fifteen years, and it shows in the blending of the guitars to create a well defined and passionate style.  If this is the first time you are hearing these musicians, you will be enchanted by their Spanish rhythms and provocative melody. 

The talented skills of Yu-Xiao Guang on the Chinese huquin is featured on the track Flying Celestial Nymphs.  The huquin is most closely related to a violin than any other Western instrument, and can produce the same subtleties and nuances as the well played violin can.  This is a soft, romantic piece, traditional Chinese in style, and again, a very good representation of the artist and his skills. 

Sympathy by Toshiyuka Honda is a lighter piano piece which is expertly executed amongst violins.  This is a very short piece but it gives you a delicious taste of the artists ability and makes you hungry for more. 

Alex Wurman’s jazzy blues piece Cautionary Tale is a hot little number that fills your imagination with a smokey bar, a jazz quartet and a hot night in the city.  This is because Mr. Wurman is probably better known for his film scores than anything else.  Play it to the Bone, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Hollywood Homicide are just a few of his most recent works.  This offering gives the listener a good feel for Mr. Wurman’s style and abilities. 

The last two tracks are all Kitaro.  The track Planet is very light, classical in feeling, contemplative and serene.  Kitaro has many styles and this highlights yet another facet of Kitaro’s musical skills.  

The final track Theme for Earthdance is a brand new, previously unreleased piece and is considered a “bonus track” for this CD.  Fans of Kitaro will want to add this to their collection.  This is a very romantic, melodic work, almost dancing in the air on its own.  It has a waltz beat to it, and will have you dancing around your living room.  This is a lovely ending to this compilation.  

Overall, this is a grand presentation of the artists on the Domo label, showing the strengths of their performers and giving new listeners to this label a great show and starting point for the appreciation of the artists.  I recommend this to anyone who loves a good collection of extraordinary musical artists and as a first rate introduction to Domo Records if you have never heard their offerings before.

Reviewed by MA Foster



by dreamSTATE

Visit dreamSTATE's website

Fans of Toronto electronic artists dreamSTATE will no doubt be thrilled by the release of "Passage", a series of soundscapes specially created for an installation held in Goderich, Ontario.  Inspired by the poetry of Lynn Harigan from her collection Moon Sea Crossing, "Passage" tells the story of Aina, an Irish immigrant who settles in Huron District during the 1840s.

Her life during this time is filled with hardship and turmoil, ultimately resulting in a mental breakdown which leads to her being confined in the Huron District Gaol where her mental state further declines.  Through a masterful creation of sound and environment, dreamSTATE is able to draw the listener into Aina's plight and brings her story to life in a powerful and haunting manner.

Meant to capture Aina's journey across the sea from Ireland to Canada, "Crossing" begins the album with slowly evolving oblique movement, environments and atmospheres coming into shape as tones become more pronounced and defined.  As the track  progresses, movement becomes displacement as calm and tranquil passages give way to darker and more foreboding tones.  When listening to this track one can't help but feel a passing from the safety of the known into the darkness of unsurety as Aina faces a new land and a new life.

Track two, "Clearing", uses more easily defined melodies and structure to tell its tale.  The feeling of industry and hard labor as Aina and her family work to create a home for themselves is captured in the repeated phrases of the track, played counter to field recordings taken from the site of Aina and Thomas' farm.  A sense of form gives a sense of safety here, a sense of connection to the earth, to the land, but an underlying dark drone suggests there are issues already at hand which will culminate in Aina's decline.

"Watershed" represents a turning point in the story, bringing to life a moment that ultimately leads to Aina's descent into darkness.  Beginning with a calm and tranquil flow of pads and tones, the track moves from a peaceful security into a darker and more ominous tone, leading into track four, "Fall", which continues the sense of descent, sounds capturing the change of seasons, the slow loss of warmth and safety that leads into the winter months.  Tones  roil around each other, spinning and colliding through the sound field, as if to suggest the  confusion of thought and the battling emotions that have come with her breakdown.  As the piece progresses, deeper drones open up, at first only subtly but slowly gaining strength, suggesting the abyss into which Aina is staring.

"Captive" captures the cold and hopeless feeling of Aina's stay in gaol, where the demons that haunt her mind are made physical through the horrible conditions she is made to bear. Bleak and desperate drones pass throughout the track, metallic sounds rising  and falling, ebbing and flowing, slowly circling to match her descent.  "Captive" manages to convey the sense of desperation and hopelessness Aina feels at this point, giving frightful sound to her torment.

Track six, "Stone and Sky" brings some sense of hope and light to Aina's plight.  Inspired by the courtyard of the gaol in which she finds herself, the track captures  the freedom and light that Aina's heart aspires to.  Unfortunately this hope is short lived as it leads into "Gyre", a haunting piece where strangled tones and constrained notes struggle to be heard above a metallic drone slowly snaking from ear to ear of the listener.  

Bleak and without hope, this track captures the darkness that has washed over Aina's mind.

And then it is done.  "Watershed Reprise" finds Aina's return to her home, utilizing a return to the same calm and tranquil pads and tones to suggest a reunion with her family and the safety of clear thought.  The clouds have lifted and she finds herself free once again, in body and in spirit.

As brilliant as it is emotional, "Passage" is a beautiful work by one of  Toronto's premier electronic acts.  Many lesser talents would find themselves lost in such a dark subject matter, but dreamSTATE are able to convey the scene, the situation and the emotions felt in a succinct and powerful way.  A testimony to their sophistication and artistry, "Passage" is sure to become a classic of the genre.

Reviewed by Rik at Ping Things


Essential Touch

by Various Artists

Visit New Earth Records' website

 This CD is another in the “body-spirit-wellness series” that New Earth Records has published.  It is a compilation of works by some of their well known artists, and is a very good overview of some of their better works. 

The idea of this CD is to provide background music for those who work in the field of  “healing with the application of touch.”  The focus would be masseuses, Reiki practitioners, and in offices of therapists of all kinds where delicate, soft music would be beneficial.   The music is generally light, airy, having basic melodies that can be focused on and followed.  The choice of the Artists as well as representative works that are soft yet strong is expertly accomplished with this compilation.  The total time for these nine tracks is 66:42. 

Deuter has three offerings on this CD.  Silent Wave is a piano piece, very soft, contemplative and is the first track on this CD, setting the pace for those that follow.  Olive Grove, track seven, is flute and Indian instruments with an electronica fill, creating a lovely soundscape that is suggestive of Eastern music but orchestrated enough to be very familiar to Western ears.  Again, the flow is soft, melodious, and relaxing.  Deuter also closes the CD with the final (ninth) trackIsland in the Sun.  This piece continues in the same vein as the previous works, soft, very melodious, with the suggestion of “Bali Bells” that give this an “Eastern Islands” feel.  Again, very airy, very soft, and in keeping with the balance of the material on the CD. 

 Anugama provides this CD with two tracks.  The second track Call of the Search is bamboo flute with electronic fill.  This bamboo flute piece is suggestive of contemplative moments and gives a feel of soulfulness.  It is very controlled so it remains in harmony with the other works on the CD.  The fourth track, The Empty Sky is also provided by Anugama.  This piece is different from the other work as it is lighter and airy, almost spacey at times, with tinkling bells and electronica suggestive of voices and an orchestra.  Again, a delightful offering from Anugama. 

 Al Gromer Khan also has two tracks on this CD.  Track three How Can We Be Sure is soft and mellow, with light Indian Sitar and keyboard in a mellow jazz beat.  Very expertly rendered and very subtle in it’s feel.  The sixth track Utopia Al Kahira has a more defined Eastern beat, but not jarring, with soft sitar and electronica fill suggesting voices and keyboard.  Another expertly controlled work that keeps to the softness yet adds to the strength of the CD. 

Aum by Terry Oldfield, is the fifth track and this work has a very Eastern feel, with flute and sitar.  It is one of the stronger pieces on this CD.  There is electronic fill and bells, giving this piece a bit more presence and makes us take notice of it.  But it remains melodious and relaxing, in keeping with the other works. 

James Asher presents us with track eight Cedar Tree and this piece is much more Native American in feel.  This is a flute piece with background fill that is non-descript enough to allow you to focus on the expert flute work.  This piece is another contemplative, soulful work that calls to us but does not intrude.  A very lovely offering from Mr. Asher. 

The mood set by the collection is achieved with the expert choices of representative works of these Artists.  The entire CD lends itself to being a background for those who work in the healing arts, relaxing your clients and offering both the practitioner and the client focus during the working process.  I also found this to be good background music while I am working.  Non-intrusive, yet calming and relaxing when I am focusing on what I am doing. 

This CD is a good choice for those working in the healing arts, or someone who is looking for soft, contemplative music for background in their busy lives.  A good addition to anyone’s New Age library. 

Reviewed by MA Foster



by David Wright


 David Wright is a British composer of electronic music.  He has many CDs to his credit, among the better know are Walking with Ghosts and ThreeSixZero. 

Continuum was released in June of 2004.  The idea of the CD was to contrast dark against light in alternating works.  This is achieved expertly here and presents the listener with some very innovative electronic soundscapes. 

The works are composed on various makes of keyboards and synthesizers, which dominate the work.  There are voice and guitar samplings.  The work is “space music”, but it is so much more. There are 5 tracks with a total playing time of over 77 minutes.   

The first track Dark Matter is one of the “dark” compositions, very spacey, with sampled voice and guitar.  It is a brooding selection, with the voice samplings giving it a soulful cry.  There is an up beat mixed into this piece which compliments and provides lift so the piece does not become depressing.  There is a changeover about three quarters of the way through that gives a momentary pause for reflection, and the piece then continues as before.  Very expertly composed, this is an interesting work that I found was worth repeating to appreciate the nuances offered by the artist. 

The second track Continuum, is the title work and is one of the “lighter” compositions.  It starts with a very “spacey” opening, breaking out into a light beat and a melody that is more airy than the previous work.   The synth space soundscape is very defined here, but it is gentle, and lifts the listener, rather than projecting the listener into space.  A very subtle and delightful composition, worthy of the title track. 

Bridge of Souls returns to the brooding, darker mood of the work.  It is filled with shadows, the beat is very subtle, and the sound suggests dark space.  There are suggestions of melody that must be carefully listened for and will surprise the listener.   An interesting composition, to say the least, and one that will also bear repeating. 

We return to the light with Island of Flight with a more pronounced beat, samplings of voices suggesting a “space center” and a melody that is more uplifting and flows from soft and isolated to a more pronounced and backfilled work that is almost “orchestrated”.  A very lovely work that is expertly assembled. 

The final composition Cassini is the longest work on the CD, but is also the lightest and the most delightful.  It first appears to be a continuation of Island of Flight at times, recalling the “space center” voices, but it forms its own identity, tying in but remaining separate.  It has a dancing base line, complimented with light keyboard work that floats over the well defined beat.  There are samplings of other voices as well, which blend into the work and will surprise the listener.   It breaks from itself occasionally, offering “contemplative moments” of a different mood, but it then reassembles to its original form.  While still spacey, it provides lovely melodies and moments that bring this CD to a winning finish.   

This CD was an enjoyable listening experience for me which begged repeating.  The second listen through brought out the complexities of the work which were standing behind the surface waiting to be noticed.   The compositions are beautiful, and do offer the listener a challenge, but can be taken at face value and still very much enjoyed. 

I have to add that the cover art of this CD and the artwork inside the booklet are also worth looking at.  The space conceptions are breathtaking, combined with the exceptional images.  This brings the entire package into focus and is a very exceptional presentation.   

If you are a fan of David Wright, or enjoy space music and are looking for something that is fulfilling as well as delightful to listen to, this CD is exactly what you are looking for.  I do recommend this as an essential addition to your collection. 

Reviewed by MA Foster


Return Home