Music Reviews 


Reviews 09-25-2005 


Echo of Small Things

by Robert Rich

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 Does anyone need an introduction to Robert Rich? This prolific ambient artist has been at the forefront of the ambient/techno music scene since 1989 when he released his first album, Rainforest. This was soon followed by a partnership with Steve Roach, the grandmaster of ambient soundscapes on two subsequent releases, Strata and SoMa. Having cemented his place at the top of the ambient music hierarchy, Rich has gone on to release CD after CD of topnotch music that defines the genre.  

Much of Rich's work has been shaded toward the dark, deeper side of ambient music, either as if exploring caverns and subterranean worlds, or unraveling the complexities of mathematical relationships, as in Gaudi and Geometry.  

There remain touches of this deep, sometimes somber aspect of Rich's work in Echo of Small Things, however the intent of the music is focus on the things that occur between the significant and the trivial. As Rich states in his liner notes, "meaning often waits at the periphery."  Much like Brian Eno's seminal Music For Airports made the music become part of the aural landscape, so does Echo of Small Things. There is  still the signature Rich touch, however, with long drones, deep bass passages and sometimes-eerie tonalities.

The CD is completely fluid. Although there are nine tracks listed, they segue from one to another seamlessly, the timbre and mood changing ever so subtly as the tunes slowly merge into each other. Slight environmental influences are also felt, hints of wind in Circle Unwound, the feeling of motion in Passing Terrain, bells and peals of thunder in Summer Thunder, all contribute to the concept of things in between, the "things we stop seeing," as Rich says.

It is with justified reason that the name Robert Rich is placed among the top ranks of the practitioners of ambient music. Echo of Small Things continues that justification.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan


Upstream: A Time of Transcedence

by Rebecca Kragnes

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“Upstream” is Rebecca Kragnes’ fourth solo piano album to date, and this artist just keeps getting better. It has been a turbulent three years since Kragnes’ last recording, and the music from this new collection is sort of a musical journal, expressing and reflecting on many of the events of that period, giving them a mostly upbeat and positive spin. Kragnes has a very gentle and delicate playing style with most of her music, and quite a bit of it is played on the upper half of the piano, creating a lighthearted and sunny mood. David Lanz returns as Executive Producer, and his influence can be detected but isn’t obvious.

The opening track, “Time Piece,” is an interesting variation on the Westminster Chimes played on a clock given to the artist by her husband. That familiar little tune starts the piece, and then Kragnes develops it into a sweet composition that is light and airy. The only cover piece is Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose,” one of Kragnes’ favorite pop tunes from the ‘90s, and a lovely arrangement. “Facing the Music” is somewhat darker, and was written while reflecting on the shooting death of a young member of her church by gang members and how things that used to be other people’s concerns can affect us personally. “Memories of First Love” is also very reflective and gentle with a warm and loving mood - one of my favorites on this album. “God Bless The World” is a hymn asking God to bless the whole world rather than specific areas. Lyrics could fit very well, as the piece is very much an anthem. The title track was composed during the recovery period after being hit by a car and working her way through the pain in her shoulder. It is a joyful piece now, having finally arrived “upstream” - another favorite. I also really like “Winds of Change,” which has an infectious energy and a slightly mysterious feeling. Bigger and more powerful than most of the other tracks, this piece has a real passion about it. “Humor” is a dancing celebration of the healing power of laughter. Light and breezy, this is joy set to music. My favorite piece on this album is the closing track, “Calling,” which is a duet for piano and flute. Michael Malver’s flute brings an incredible emotional depth to this gorgeous piece, which was based on the “song” of church bells and was composed in a “call and response” style. The purity of this piece is stunning, and this is probably my favorite of all of Kragnes’ compositions so far.

“Upstream” was well worth the wait between albums! It is available from and Recommended.

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions.



by John Serrie

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Some people impart a spiritual component to their enjoyment of music. For Jonn Serrie, this component is a well-established fact. Serrie, who many consider to be the premier composer of planetarium music, is also the producer of albums reflecting this underlying spiritual nature. 

Ephiphany, subtitled "Meditations on Sacred Hymns" is Serrie's third album of overtly spiritual-themed music, the first two being Christmas/holiday releases, Upon a Midnight Clear (1997) and Yuletides (2002). However, with the possible exception of the Johann Sebastian Bach piece, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, it is not likely that the cuts on this album have been heard on more traditional holiday offerings.

Two of the cuts, in fact, are modern-day pieces: O Magnum Mysterium, which is a 1995 work by Morton Lauridsen, and Serrie's own composition, Light Of Thy Countenance. The other pieces are all infused with Serrie's signature "breathy" synthesizers and long, spacy phrases. Amazing Grace in Serrie's hands becomes four minutes of deep, resonant bass notes intertwined with tinkling bells and whispered choral passages. It is unmistakably Amazing Grace, but it is so languid that it is simply transformed by Serrie's touch.

Nearer My God To Thee features waves breaking against the shore in the intro, cascading into a light, but still fluid, lilting paeon. The remainder of the album (ten tracks in all) are typical Serrie. It has been said that Serrie's strength lies in his space music rather than in his attempts at pop. With Epiphany, Serrie manages to blend the two. I confess that And the Stars Go With You remains one of my all-time favorite space music albums (followed closely by Plantary Chronicles, volumes I & II), but I think Serrie's attempts to redefine himself outside the space music genre bear some consideration. Epiphany is a fine example of crossing boundaries as only someone with the talent and taste of Jonn Serrie could do.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan


Eye of the Nautilus

by Numina

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 It's subtle and magical, playing right on the periphery of the senses. I sit very still while I'm listening to it, afraid that any movement or noise might mean that I miss some of it, something crucial. Something important. It requires focus. "Eye of the Nautilus" is the second release on the Hypnos label by Jesse Sola of Numina. My appreciation for Jesse's work, my adoration for his music, is pretty well documented by this point. But even given my feelings, I was totally unprepared for the beauty of "Eye of the Nautilus".

 There's a womblike serenity to this music, something so natural, so warm, so inviting. Tracks drift and flow throughout the disc, slight melodies and distant sounds rising and falling on the edge of your hearing. Time seems to slow down while it plays, as if minutes and seconds have less meaning and are instead measured by the passing of notes and waves. It all comes together so fluidly, so naturally, so perfectly that it seems like this music has always existed, that this is the sound of the oceans, and the earth, and the moon, and the stars, and everything else. Primal, connected, organic.

 It's subtle and magical, playing right on the periphery of the senses. I sit very still while I'm listening to it, afraid that any movement or noise might mean that I miss some of it, something crucial. Something important. Something divine. Something wonderful. Something... perfect.

Reviewed by Rik at Pink Things. Reprinted on Ambient Visions


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