Music Reviews 


Reviews 10-22-2001



by Liquid Mind

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Chuck Wild must be one of the calmest people on this planet.  It is inconceivable that anyone could compose and perform such gently relaxing music without being so.

"Serenity" is Chuck's fifth Liquid Mind relaxation CD.  It might be the crowning achievement in the series.

Without going on ad nauseum or infintum, this disc made it to my collection at the perfect time.  In other words, it arrived when I needed it most!

The soft blue artwork and the picture of the infant (Chuck's new Godson?) provided some peace of mind before I even opened the jewel case.  The blue tones are in sync with the pastoral beauty of Chuck's symphonic electronics. 

The photo of the baby reminded to caretake my own inner child on my inward journeys.  It also reminded me to be child-like instead of childish and not to sweat the small stuff.

And, after all, it is all small stuff.  That was my lesson for today.  Thank you, Chuck, for reminding me!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Sanctum Sanctuorum

by Constance Demby

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On the back of the tray insert of "Sanctum Sanctuorum" there is a faint image of two towers.  The CD became available about two weeks before the tragedies of September 11.

Constance Demby expanded on the music from "Faces of the Christ" to create this solemn and reverent soundscape.  The combination of her symphonic synthesizers and Gregorian chants is a stroke of genius.  The gentle melodies compliment the chants and the subtle nature sounds take listeners to the next zone.

I found it very difficult to focus on writing while listening to this CD.  When I read about the aforementioned coincidence, I knew the reason.

This soundworld is one of those escapes and outlets that I need to allow me to let go and get out of myself.  Was I still saddened by the tragic events of that day?  Absolutely!  Am I still concerned?  Definitely!  Do I still have major health issues?  Undoubtedly!  Am I just a little less uncomfortable with it all?  Yes!

This CD and my accompanying meditations reminded me to seek my spiritual and emotional balance and acceptance.  That can be a difficult journey.  At the same time - for me - it is an essential journey.  With this inspirational set as the background, I found the moments of serenity that I needed to make it through some difficult situations.  For that, I am eternally grateful to Constance!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Mathias Grassow, Rudiger Gleisberg and Amir Baghiri



"Arcanum" is a deep ritualistic journey from Mathias Grassow, Rudiger Gleisberg and Amir Baghiri.  The deep minimalist soundscapes reflect the diverse influences that these three performers bring to the table.  Techno tribal passages, deep synth drones, dark atmospheres and arid desert ethnicities fill every corner of this soundworld.

The density of the gray soundscape is otherworldly.  I found myself journeying to foreign lands and exotic locales, some beyond our atmosphere.  I went willingly as the deep rhythms and dark drones seduced me and prepared me for anything.

I had a very powerful cleansing experience.  Amir's deep desert washes, Mathias' spiritual manipulations and Rudiger's dark drones surrounded me safely and warmly as we explored the darker sides of my psyche.  That protection empowered me to look beyond the dark to see the light on the other side of my inner self. 

Finally, refreshed and rejuvenated, we returned to the here and now.  I look forward to more journeys with this trio of master electronicians.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Mathias Grassow

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"Namakar" is a mystical journey to a strange land with Mathias Grassow as the tour guide.  As listeners have come to expect from Mathias, this is anything but mainstream ambience.

Mathias has upped the ante on this CD and his reach for the ceiling pays great dividends.  His listeners reap the greatest benefit from this provocative soundscape.  This is interesting ambience.

This music will not be ignored!  The dense atmospheres surround the eerie soundworlds.  The soundworlds reach out and grab the listeners.  Deep listeners enter the soundworlds of Mathias.  It is a treat to be there.

Within those soundworlds, Mathias provokes his listeners to examine themselves holistically.  He dares and encourages them to look at the dark side in order to experience the light.  There are many disturbing visions in the dark.  They are necessary elements of this introspection.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Approaching Silence

by David Sylvian


"Approaching Silence" is a classic example of modern minimalism and traditional ambience (as defined by Brian Eno).  David Sylvian composed and performed two very long (over 30 minutes each) pieces and one very short piece (under three minutes).  The title track features a guest performance by Robert Fripp on Frippertronics and voice.

This album is neither dark nor light, neither pessimistic nor optimistic.  It just is!

The liner notes imply that these compositions were the soundtracks for some installation performances by Russell Mills and David.  That makes sense as the expansive atmospheres have very little substance of their own.  (For classic ambience that is a good thing.)  The addition of an installation would add balance, ergo substance.  As it is, this is "perfect furniture music" in the stand-alone format.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


The Gathering Set 1 and The Gathering Set 2

by Kit Watkins

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Kit Watkins does not perform ver many live concerts.  In March of 2001, he played a two-hour set at a Gathering in Philadelphia, PA.  He released two mp3 D.A.M. CD's from the performance - "The Gathering, Set 1" and "The Gathering, Set 2." 

Kit has a unique quality to this concert that is unusual in e-music circles.  He performs many compositions from his studio CD's and weaves new material throughout the set.

Taken out of their original context, these pieces lose nothing in the translation to the concert stage.  Kit segues between compositions effortlessly.  His experience and talent are clear. 

These discs are important additions to any collection.  At mp3 bargain prices, they are essential.

After The Gathering, Kit Watkins joined host Chuck van Zyl in the studio for the Star's End radio broadcast.  This expansive minimalism is comprised of two 30-minute compositions. 

The energy of these pieces is amazing!  The music is gentle and drifting.  The energy is absolute.  After a two-hour concert, Kit had another hour to give and he gave it his all!  The dynamic ambience defines the energy.  The energy defines the spirit of the event.

This CD is the latest in a string of releases of material performed at those two venues.   It is a gem and a treasure.  The fact that it is an mp3 D.A.M. release makes it an essential component of any serious collection.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Live at the Harvest Moon Festival

by Kenya DuBois

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Kenya DuBois is my friend.  I don't remember exactly how or when we met.  I do recall that he contacted me about music.  I remember!  He wanted me to review his debut CD, "Reinventing Me."

He has just released his second CD under the pseudonym of Sedate.  It is also on Bliss Beat Recordings.  On September 29, 2001, he performed a 35-minute set at the Harvest Moon Benefit Festival.  He was the only e-musician on the ticket.  The others were all folk musicians.  (He has balls!) 

The set is an amalgamation of deep space vibes, breezy minimalism, electro-sonic ambience and freaky experiMENTAL grooves.  And he has some extremely original samples in there as well. 

He recorded some of the nature samples right in his own backyard in Fairfield, Ohio.  He also has a Jimmy Carter speech in the background.  His rhythmic passages are overt drum machines and they are anything but conventional. 

The whole package smokes and cooks for the entire 35 minutes.  Some folks might remember that Kenya contributed a track to the CD set that accompanies my book.  I wish that he had had this ready last year.  I would have used the entire CD!

I just completed my "Best of 2001" (so far) list.  I have to go and redo it.  This CD is going into the top 10!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


The Intercepted Transmissions

by Matt Borghi and Cyber Zen Sound Engine



Cyber Zen Sound Engine's debut CD, "Moonscapes: How Stones Become Enlightened," was, according to Lloyd Barde, owner of Backroads Music, home of the Heartbeats Catalog, the perfect CD.  While I might not go that far, it does have a lot going for it and it is a great CD.

Matt Borghi has created some of the most appealing soundscapes that I have encountered in this millennium.

Thus, it is a natural that these three (CZSE is GraceNoteX and Smith6079) master musicians would collaborate on "The Intercepted Transmissions," an album of unique minimalism due for commercial release in November.  The project began as a brainstorm from Matt.  He recorded the base soundscapes and sent them to his colleagues.  The intent was for them to rework the original ideas in the same fashion that Vidna Obmana and Asmus Tietchens began recycling.  He planned to release the reworked tracks in a various artist compilation.  Grace and Smith got a set, loved the concept and the sound and - BANG - this project sprang to life!

The disc got its title from Grace and Smith imagining of a child watching television on a Saturday morning.  The title also refers to the fact that they "intercepted" the transmission that Matt sent.  They worked their magic on his gentle minimalism and the depth and clarity are astonishing.  The overall sense is that of darkness.  This soundscape goes there without becoming sinister or overbearing.  The mode of darkness is more melancholy or bittersweet. 

That quality gives the set its strongest appeal.  Grace, Smith and Matt are taking us on a journey to the outer reaches of the inner self.  And there is a purpose to the journey. 

It is a very evangelical approach, even a twelve-step approach.  We win only after we surrender.  The only way to heaven is to experience a little bit of hell.  The juxtapositions are numerous.  Suffice it to say that this CD has abundant healing, restorative and recovery powers.  Beyond that, it is a sure bet to end up on many end 2001's top ten lists

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


The Hollow

by Jim Cole
and Mathias Grassow



It did not take Jim Cole long to ascend to elite status in the ambient music community.  His first CD, "Coalescence," was released in 1997.  It achieved prominence in 1998, ascending to number 17 on Backroads Music's Best of Year list in the spacemusic category.  Jim has performed and/or recorded with Steve Roach and vidnaObmana.  Jim also collaborated on "Bislama" with Alpha Wave Movement earlier this year.

Mathias Grassow has been among the world's top minimalists for over a decade.  He has released dozens of CD's and CDR's of intricate atmospheres.  He has collaborated with some of Germany's up and coming artistes.  His efforts with Amir Baghiri have helped Amir to define his niche and expand his horizons.

So it is not surprising that Jim and Mathias would get together and collaborate.  The CD, "The Hollow," is surprising!  It is absolutely inconceivable that this blend of sounds would work so well.  (I am still amazed at the sound Jim gets from his voice without manipulation!)

When I put the whole thing in perspective I can see the connection.  Both of these gentlemen approach their craft from holistic postures.  Both of them have always incorporated the heart and the soul into their compositions and performances.  So the depth of feeling on this disc is a natural.  Jim and Mathias both expressed satisfaction with this album.  Mathias discussed the difficulty of transposing Jim's vocal pitch with his own complex sounds.  He got it and the result is beautiful music. 

Jim and Mathias have discussed further collaborations and performing together live in concert.  That would be a monumental event!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Aquaria: A Liquid Blue Transcape

by Diane Arkenstone

Visit NeoPacifica Records website  

"Aquaria: A Liquid Blue Transcape" is a dense and cheerful CD from Diane Arkenstone.  She set out to compose and create a continuous piece of music.  She injected plenty of rhythms and trance grooves into the soundscape.

And the album is a cheerful and sensuous reverie.  The grooves induce a trance-like state.  Within that state, listeners are free to explore Diane's unique soundworlds.  Her voice is a major instrument in the construction of the walls of sound.  Those walls envelop the listener.

Those walls are also the result of expert craftsmanship.  The disc has elements of new age, trance ambience and contemporary instrumental.  It is a good CD worthy of inclusion in eclectica.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Below the Event Horizon 

by The Tenth Planet




A couple of weeks ago, Charles Jowett posted a message on the ambient@hyperreal list offering a free CD to anyone requesting one.  So I asked for one!  I received a copy of "Below the Event Horizon" by The Tenth Planet.  It is a short CD.  The total time is less than 20 minutes. 

I am assuming that Charles performs under that pseudonym.  He does perform!  This set has just enough rhythm, just enough experimentation and plenty of dense atmospheres.

I don't know if Charles has any more CD's to give away or to sell.  Stay tuned here and Michael and I will get that information to you.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


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