Reviews 05-12-2006 


Music Reviews 



Highway 1

by Diatonis

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Stuart White records dramatic ambient music as Diatonis. He is a remarkably talented multi-instrumentalist and an accomplished videographer. It is unclear (at least to me) whether he creates videos to accompany his music or vice versa. It is probably best to say that he is an accomplished artist.

Highway 1 - as a music CD – has deep cinematic features. Stuart has composed music for a gentle drive down California's famous – or infamous, as the case may be – Route 1. Deep listeners will take that journey with him as he traverses the winding road past lush forests, rocky beaches and beautiful surfscapes. The diverse scenery lends itself to deep atmospheric adventures. Stuart's soundscapes create vivid psychoactivity within the appropriate
biosonic feedback devices” (brains). The effect is almost narcotic. Travelers can use this soundtrack safely on the actual journey. Drivers and pilots cannot.

This is an excellent CD from a humble and gentle man. It comes with the highest recommendations!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions



Bete Noir

by Requiem

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There are two or three artists/ensembles creating music under the Requiem nom de plum. David Graham is the most unique of them. Indeed, he might be one of the most unique musicians ever.

Bete Noir is a set of very deep and very dark experimental sounds and textures that will send chills with the best of them. Dave starts the disc with a melancholy dirge that is straight forward, bordering on benign. He switches – gradually and suddenly – to the experimental drones and there is no turning back and no return. Even his acoustic piano has harsh edges and deep drama.

While this has elements of dark ambience, goth and even death metal, Dave has put his own stamp on this and makes it his own style. This set explores new depths of the netherworlds. It might not be the soundtrack for hell but is almost assuredly on Charon's playlist.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions



Desert Tryptich

by Tom Heasley

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Tom Heasley introduced the most unlikely of terms – the ambient tuba – to the music world in 2001. His second release also featured that odd and juxtaposed duo. Desert Tryptich is a set of live recordings from two shows in the Big Apple in 2003. The music features Tom on the didgeridoo, voice and electronics. (That means that he processed the spit out of everything!)

The didg is a great drone instrument and Tom embraces that trait deeply. He surrounds those drones with vocal loops that he has created in real time – on the fly, as it were. He mixed as he performed and he processed as he mixed. The result is one huge soundscape in three stages. The track titles - ”Joshua Tree,” “Solitude” and :29 Palms” - reflect a spot in the desert where that solitude is 22 miles from 29 Palms and 14 miles from Joshua Tree. The music evokes imagery of a nomad in the desert seeking respite and refuge from the grinds of civilization.

This remarkable CD is essential and belongs in any ambient collection.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions



Move In the Changing Light

by Phillip Schroeder



“Move In the Changing Light” is a fascinating new release from Phillip Schroeder. Ambient and experimental, this music would very definitely fall under the category of “contemporary classical.” A Professor of Music at Henderson State University in Arkansas, Schroeder brings a richly varied musical experience to his music that makes it both intellectual and accessible. Unlike his previous release, “Music for Piano,” which was solo piano, this CD incorporates a great deal of digital wizardry that allows Schroeder to play as many as five pianos at a time. (Before I read the liner notes, I couldn’t figure out how anyone could sustain trills and tremolo for such a long period of time without massive cramps in the arms and wrists!) The effect is of shimmering sounds that are really quite soothing despite the massive quantity of notes in various passages. The seven tracks vary in length from fifty-nine seconds to almost sixteen minutes, giving them time to open up and evolve. In addition to the piano(s), Schroeder is featured on synthesizer, electric bass, and percussion. He is joined by soprano Amy McGinty and baritone Robert Best singing wordless vocals, and Daniel Cline on cello. The sound is rich and full, and the complexity is subtle.

The CD opens with “Move in the Changing Light 2,” which features multi-track soprano, five pianos with digital delays, and synthesizer. The piano sounds are made up of layers, some a rapid filigree effect, and others more floating. The ethereal soprano voice combines to create a feeling of vast space and sparkling light. This work is almost thirteen minutes, and some passages seem to float with others a bit more percussive. Despite the agitation of the piano, the overall effect is very relaxing and peaceful. “Rising, See the Invisible” is darker and more intense. Robert Best’s baritone is a passionate instrument in the ensemble comprised of cello, two pianos, synth, and vibraphone. The repeated note on the vibraphone throughout the piece evokes a sense of urgency, and the cello’s voice is mournful. The depth of emotion in this piece is stunning. “Where Joy May Dwell” is a piece for two pianos and two pianos with digital delays. The shimmering underpinnings are similar to the first track, with a much slower, simpler piano over the top. As the piece develops, some of the shimmering comes to the foreground, and the interplay between the two continues throughout the just-under sixteen-minute piece. Schroeder again creates the feeling of vast space and openness. “This We Have” includes soprano, three pianos, one piano with digital delays, synth, and electric bass. The music seems to float peacefully on a cloud or on gentle water - gorgeous! The CD closes with the original version of the title track. This version has the same instrumentation without the soprano. It’s very interesting to hear the piece without the calming voice - much more agitato, but still gently glistening in the light.

The Innova website suggests: “Draw the blinds, draw a bath, and let your mind take this gentle voyage.” I couldn’t have said it better! Far from ear candy, “Move in the Changing Light” could be too much of a challenge for some listeners, but if you are interested in something different and substantial, I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions




by Matthew Florianz

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Matthew Florianz is one of the world's foremost creators of electronic minimalism. Niemandsland (loosely translated as No Man's Land) is a set of eight interconnected atmospheres that form one billowing soundscape.

This is very deep stuff! Matthew's drones move freely within the confines of the chosen listening space. They evoke imagery of gray, cold and barren spaces. This is not dark ambience! It is totally ambivalent. It seeks neither to soothe nor to provoke. Rather, it seeks to isolate and abandon. (Isolation can be frightening and/or soothing – sometimes simultaneously. It can also be ambivalent.) This mind numbing set can best be described as the soundtrack for Purgatory. As the focus of a deep listening session, this CD can have a white noise effect. It facilitates relaxation that is neither pleasant nor disturbing. It is psychoacoustic but not quite psychoactive.

This is almost the ultimate ambient music CD. It is perfectly ignorable and strangely interesting. It is also essential.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions


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