Reviews 10-14-2001

Music Reviews 



by vidnaObmana

Visit Relapse Records website


vidnaObmana, nee Dirk Serries, is one of the most talented and prolific electronicians in our e-music community.  His newest CD, "Tremor," is the beginning of a new trilogy based on Dante's "Inferno."  Only the most confident musicians would undertake such a challenge.  And it also takes someone with strong introspective capabilities. 

"Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost."

That passage is from the first Canto of Dante's "Inferno."

Dante focused on our relationship with the devil.  Dirk has chosen to translate that focus into a metaphor for the constant ebb and flow in our daily lives, like (topically and timely) the struggle between good and evil. 

(Quite coincidentally, Belgium's national television and radio stations chose an excerpt from "The Surreal Sanctuary" as the prelude to the European day of mourning.  That was on Friday, September 14.  The continent was mourning the tragic events of September 11.)

This CD is one of Dirk's best.  His multi-instrumental talents are in top form as he uses his flutes, percussion, synths and manipulations to create a deep sense of balance for listeners.  Listeners will have to translate that sense into their own balance.  Dirk is only a guide, not a director.

Musically, this has everything that fans have come to expect from a vidnaObmana CD.  Dirk's ethnic and tribal influences compliment his deep minimalism.  His trance-inducing percussion carries the project forward.

This is a worthwhile trip to the perpendicular universe.  The irony is that Dirk fashioned it with a trip to the "Inferno."

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


Sola Translatio

by Alio Die and Opium, or Stefano Musso
and Matteo Zini

Visit Hypnos' website  

This esoteric recording by two Italians who go under many pseudonyms is definitely along the lines of the mystical American ambientmaster Robert Rich. This is not a surprise, as “Alio Die” (Stefano Musso; the pseudonym means “On another Day” in Latin) collaborated with Rich on the equally arcane 1997 album Fissures. Like Rich, the Italian duo concentrate on sustained and cool-textured synthesizer and sampled-instrument drones. They use the same digital looping techniques as Rich, to create rhythm and pattern. And like the American, the Italians use recordings of nature sounds, such as water, crickets, frogs, bubbles, and random voices in strange languages.

But unlike Rich, this pair do not usually use microtones – they stay within conventional tuning in pleasing harmonies of fourths, fifths, and wider-spaced elevenths and thirteenths, rather than Rich’s weird “just intonation.” They also have taken the “eerie” out of the Rich style, leaving out the wailing flutes, screaming sirens, and underground burblings. As a result, “Sola’s” output is simply easier to listen to. The Italians’ abstract music of drones, minimal rhythms, and “found sounds,” rather than being spooky or boring, spreads a calming layer of gentle sound over the listener. It has a nocturnal but serene quality, and feels like the soundtrack for long quiet hours in an elegant Oriental country retreat. It evokes a place one would like to return to, rather than a nightmare from which one struggles to wake.

Reviewed by Hannah Shapero for Ambient Visions 


Within: Distance

by Thomas Ronkin

I am somewhat embarrassed that I have been involved in the e-music community for more than five years and have only a passing familiarity with Thomas Ronkin.  I have heard his music on various artist collections from Hypnos and Lektronic Soundscapes.  Until very recently, I did not own any of his CD's.

My good friend, Lloyd Barde, owner of Backroads Music, home of the Heartbeats Catalog, recommended "Within: Distance" as a good introduction to Thomas' music.  I pretty much assume that Lloyd is right, as he always has been with me.  In any case, he has a good idea of what I will and won't like and what will float my boat.  This CD does float my boat!

Thomas created a dense soundscape with his synths and sequencers.  It has all the positive elements of Berlin school e-music.  The atmospheres are spacey and foggy.  The sequences have sci-fi trappings.  If this is not Thomas' best CD, I anticipate hearing his best one day!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts  



by Thom Brennan

Visit Thom Brennan's website

"Mist" is Thom Brennan's first release in about five years.  It follows his usual pattern of organic soundscapes with earthly themes.

Thom has long been associated with the tribal minimalism perfected, if not founded, by Steve Roach.  Indeed, Steve contributed something to all of Thom's first three releases.  It is not surprising, then, to hear the influences of Steve's dense atmospheres on this disc.  They are influences!  This music is not derivative.  Thom is an original and this music has its own integrity and merit.

Thom also puts his heart and his soul into his music.  The nature samples and organic sound design create an aura of authenticity.  Listeners journey with Thom to terrains that are shrouded by his foggy and murky atmospheres.  The density and depth of the music give it a surreal quality.  That is always good for an adventure.

This CD is an mp3 D.A.M. product.  At any price, this is a worthy addition to any collection.  At those bargain prices, it is an essential item!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Drawn From Life

by Brian Eno and 
J. Peter Schwalm

Visit Drawn From Life's website

About 25 years ago, I purchased my second electronic music LP.  (Tonto's Expanding HeadBand, a gift from my brother, was my first.)  It was "Stratosfear" by Tangerine Dream.  The clerk in the import department at Flo's Records in Pittsburgh told me that if I liked Tonto, I'd like "No Pussyfooting" and "Evening Star" by Fripp & Eno.  I was familiar with Robert Fripp from his work with King Crimson and with Brian Eno from Roxy Music so I bought both of them.  I have always been impulsive so I bought Jean Michel Jarre's "Oxygene." And Synergy's "Sequencer" as well.

Recently, I received a copy of "Drawn from Life" by Brian Eno and J. Peter Schwalm.  It is absolutely wonderful to have new ambience from one of the Godfathers of the genre.  Brian and Peter had some help on this CD, most notably from Holger Czukay and Laurie Anderson.

But this is an Eno/Schwalm project and, for me, that means Eno.  And it is exactly what I have come to expect from Brian.  It is different, offbeat, deep and classy.  From track one through track last, Brian graces listeners with shades of his signature ambience and his interpretation of what modern high-tech does for e-music. 

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Tacit Blue

Visit Tacit Blue's website

"Dreamland," by Tacit Blue, comes highly recommended by my good friend, Lloyd Barde, owner of Backroads Music, home of the Heartbeats Catalog.    Jim Rogers and Chris Crabtree are taking us on a journey to explore "headspace."

They compare the construction of headspace to that of physical space and aural ambience.  They propose that the entirety of a day affects the mood and that the being is the sum of its experiences.  This creates "mental ambience."

That is their goal - to explore that space sonically.  This music does do that.  Built on the traditions of deep ambience and atmospheric minimalism, this CD slowly gets to the heart of the matter (pun intended) and settles the soul directly.

This sleeper is a strong candidate for "rookie-of-the-year."  Add my recommendation to Lloyd's!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts  


Buddha Nature

by Deuter

Visit New Earth Records website

The Mind Cannot
Become the Buddha.
The Body Cannot
Become the Buddha.
Only  What Cannot Become the Buddha
Can Become the Buddha.  


With that Zen poem, Deuter introduces "Buddha Nature."  I must thank Michael Foster, our editor, for sending this CD to me.  Prior to this, my only exposure to Deuter had been on some various artist samplers and collections.  The CD's were weak and I did not pay much attention to any of the material.  Thus I was guilty of dismissing Deuter (and others).  I will not make that mistake again.  (In fact, I am revisiting those CD's to uncover some other gems.)

This is a marvelous CD!  Using several diverse and cohesive influences, Deuter builds a grand and gentle new age soundscape.  His gentle symphonic synth passages and acoustic winds create pastoral beauty.  The ethnic influences create diverse walls of sound.

This gentle ambience is excellent relaxation music.  The ethnic influences and subtle nature samples create the meditative environment.  And the combination of styles makes perfect background music.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Sanctum Sanctuorun

by Numina

Visit Numina's website

Ironically, Numina, nee Jesse Sola, released "Sanctum Sanctorum" right after Constance Demby released "Sanctum Sanctuorum."  Both CD's have similar quality, depth, feeling and reverence.  The musical similarities begin and end with the electronics.

Jesse takes a more atmospheric approach.  He creates massive walls of sequenced ambience.  His reverence comes from a deep sense of awe.  Jesse seems to be praising God by expressing child-like wonder at His deeds and compassion. 

I reviewed this CD shortly after the retaliatory strikes in the Middle East began.  I had deep feelings of sadness and tension.  This CD took me back to my relationship with God and I allowed myself to pray.  The juxtaposition of the music and the images on TV was stark.  I turned off the TV for 10 minutes and I prayed and meditated.  I came back to reality.  I received the serenity to accept the events, the courage to change my attitude and the wisdom to recognize the need to do both.

Thank you, Jesse, for being there at the right time!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



Alio Die

Visit Projekt Records website

Alio Die, nee Stefano Musso, has been extremely prolific over the last two or three years.  He has released several solo and collaborative CD's in that period.  "Apsaras" is a collaboration with dhrupad (traditional North Indian) singer, Amelia Cuni.

The title refers to a literary work by Roberto Calasso in which he compares the flow of water to the flow of mind and matter.

Amelia's intense voice is the perfect instrument to compliment Stefano's drones, manipulations and samples.  The intensity of the combination is very effective.  The vocals, sung in Hindi, have a wordless quality that plays off the deep drone and dirge-like manipulations.

Like most of Stefano's work, this evokes undefinable yet strong emotional responses.  It is a worthy addition to his vast discography.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts