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Reviews 1-10-2002


Deep Sky

by Robert Carty

Robert Carty's website


Robert Carty is the electronician's electronician.  Very few artists have been able to match his consistence.  While his output was quite prolific for most of the 1990's, he has scaled down in the new millennium.  He released two CD's in 2000 and two in 2001.  And they are all in his top ten.  Deep Sky is named for Robert's label and production company.  It is also distinctly Robert Carty and totally unique.  Robert has gone in many different directions to many different zones for his compositional inspirations.  On this CD he draws on all of those references and creates one of the most unique hybrids imaginable.  This hybrid has no overt references to any of the influences.  It is, quite simply, one of the most unique electronic CD's ever!

And it does not end there!  Robert has always created great artwork to adorn his CD's.  he has always matched the artwork and fonts expertly to the themes.  This artwork is his most beautiful yet.  And the font is dynamic and dignified.

So, this is the best Robert Carty CD yet.  And because it is a 2001 release, it is numero uno on at least one Best Of 2001 list.  This CD, like all CD's reviewed at Ambient Visions, is available at Backroads Music.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Markus Reuter

Hypnos Records

Markus Reuter's website


Markus Reuter performed with Ian Boddy on "Distant Rituals."  His 'touch guitar' stylings have also graced Centrozoon's "Blast" (with Berhard Wostenreich).  Those excellent albums have all been on Ian's DiN label.  "Digitalis" is Markus' first CD for Hypnos

It is a markedly different brand of atmospheric minimalism than that superb label releases.  While there are certainly some dense and heavy atmospheres, Markus uses his Warr touch guitars to create some absolutely light and airy, almost playful ambience.

The disc starts out with that playful attitude and gradually descends into a dark soundscape with "Demonic Interference" and "Radiating Blackness."  It does not stay there long.  Markus goes right to "Angelic Interference" and the soundworld quickly ascends to "Holy," an appropriately airy and somber culmination of the journey.

As Dr. William F. Kraft postulated in Ways of the Desert: Becoming Holy in Difficult Times, the only way to see the light is to go through darkness first.  In simpler terms, one must experience hell in order to appreciate heaven.

Markus takes us through that metaphor musically.  His guitar virtuosity is on a par with label mates Jeff Pearce and Dave Tollefson and that of Mark Dwane and Manuel Gottsching.  I am referring to the quality of the ambience and minimalism.  Markus has a distinct and unique style.

This CD adds much to the genre.  It is also great to hear Hypnos continue to expand its focus!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Red Sector A Speeds up Alio Die

by Son-Dha

Relapse Records

Son-Dha is Stefano Musso, a.k.a. Alio Die, and Andrea Bellucci, a.k.a. Red Sector ARed Sector A Speeds up Alio Die tells listeners all that they need to know about this CD.

Andrea took some of Stefano's deep minimalism and, basically, reshaped it.  It might even be close to recycling, a technique invented by Vidna Obmana and Asmus Tietchens.

Andrea did not destroy the minimalism.  Deep listeners will still hear Stefano's signature ambience and his manipulations and samples.  Andrea's rhythmic Blip Hop ambient dub surrounds those atmospheres and takes listeners to a "scintillating musical vertex."

Andrea's tempos give new meaning to Stefano's atmospheres.  They are here and they are enhanced!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Desert Landscapes

by Stephen Phillips

Desert Landscapes, by Stephen Philips, is a homage to the Desert Southwest.  It is three long-form compositions of expansive and atmospheric desert minimalism.  It goes beyond desert ambience to a zone with no overt rhythms.  Stephen's deep drones and dark manipulations explore the scarier sides of desert soundscapes.

The liner notes issue this advice: "Warning: May cause drowsiness.  Do not attempt to listen to this music while driving or operating large machinery."

That is a wise suggestion.  This music is best suited for deep meditation and contemplation.  It is a worthy addition to any collection.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Heart of the Tundra

by Deep Chill Network

Stephen Philips released Heart of the Tundra as Deep Chill Network.  This cold and harsh minimalist drone is his interpretation of the other deserts - those above the Arctic Circle. 

This deals with the starkness and the isolation of the tundra.  This CD is darker than dark and deeper than deep.  Stephen's manipulations set the tone.  His dark drone creates a howling wind and his manipulated electronics supplant the need for samples.

Beyond the isolation, deep listeners will feel the cold air and the sting of the wind.  Icicles will form on the speakers, breath will be visible and frostbite is a real danger.

This is the perfect CD for a mid-summer CHILL.  It is, to quote Stephen, "Chill at its finest!"

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Dreams 2

by Deep Chill Network 



Dreams 2, by Deep Chill Network, nee Stephen Philips, "is intended for relaxation (or) sleep and maximized for chill effect."  Indeed, all of Stephen's projects under this pseudonym are maximum chill.

That is not the same as chill out as referenced in dance clubs.  The depth of this chill would render those dancers stepless.  Dancing - of any kind - would be difficult - nay, impossible - after listening to and absorbing this music.

It is that deep!  Stephen's drones surround his atmospheres and his atmospheres surround his drones.  The walls of music evolve slowly; they build upon one another; they collapse under their own weight.  The effect is, well, dreamy.

This CD would have been the perfect follow-up to No Pussyfooting and Evening Star, the classic LP's by Fripp & Eno.  it is that good and that essential.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Dreams 4

by Deep Chill Network  


Dreams 4 is more blatant ethereal minimalism from Deep Chill Network (Stephen Philips).  It is somewhat unusual - for Stephen - in that it has seven tracks varying in length from 3'31" to 21'09".  Stephen's primary m.o. has been long-form composition. 

This is a gorgeous CD!  It is minimalism with a twist.  Stephen juxtaposes dark drones and gray atmospheres with pastoral samples and chorale symphonic synthesizers.  The effect is, well, that of a deep chill.  Deep listeners will get goose bumps as the emotional response wavers to and fro.

It is difficult to peg such responses.  They are usual too personal and too deep.  But they are always strong!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Cycles 4

by Stephen Philips



Cycles 4 is an expansive long-form composition from Stephen Philips, the drone king of the Western Hemisphere.  He augments that drone with drifting atmospheres and experimental computer sounds. 

This is a wild CD.  It is not frantic, it is just wild.  The notes are just there with no obvious connections.  It is a confusing soundscape.

And that is a good thing.  This is not dissonance.  It is organized confusion with a purpose.

Deep listening is both difficult and rewarding.  Listeners getting past the confusion experience the warmth and comfort of the other side.  This is another essential CD from Stephen.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Richard Wahnfried

Klaus Schulze's website  


Richard Wahnfried is the project name under which Klaus Schulze records and releases music with virtuoso guest performers.  Tonwelle features Michael Shrieve (of Santana fame) on percussion, Karl Wahnfried (sic) on guitars, Manuel Gottsching (of Ashra) on guitars, Klaus on keyboards and programming and Michael Garvens on vocals.  The disc also has two bonus tracks from Megatone, a Wahnfried LP that has never been available on CD.  additional guest musicians on those tracks are harald Katzsch on guitar, Axel Glenn Muller on sax and Uli Schober on drums.

As listeners would expect, there is a strong rock and roll emphasis on this disc.  Michael's percussion is absolutely frenetic.  Klaus's electronics are dreamy and expansive.  Manuel's and Karl's guitars smoke.  Harald's guitar rocks hard.

This kind of e-music is good for a change of pace.  The roots of Berlin school sequencing are firmly in rock music.  the Wahnfried projects acknowledge those roots.  This CD is a primary piece of that acknowledgement.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Richard Wahnfried

Klaus Schulze's website



On most Richard Wahnfried projects well-known musicians perform as guests.  On Trancelation, Klaus Schulze invited some relatively unknown musicians.  Marian Gold (vocals), Michael Bolter (guitar), Mark Figge (sax), Hanz Marathon  (guitar), U. W. Uberschall  (guitar) and Georg Stettner  (modulations and electronics) perform with Klaus on this album.

And it is a fairly frenetic set.  Klaus's signature Berlin school sequences surround a frantic rhythm track.  While many of the Wahnfried projects have rock and roll overtones, this project is steeped in avant- and funk.  There are some very weird samples and some cosmic computer noises.  The funky rhythm drives the project.  The project drives the rhythm.

That's how it is with all Klaus projects.  The individual pieces make up the whole.  And each piece relies on the other pieces for its own completeness.  If any piece is removed, the project suffers.  The whole is greater than the sum of it s parts!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Totentag: Oper In 7 Bildern

by Klaus Schulze

Klaus Schulze's website




Klaus Schulze has been deeply influenced by Richard Wagner and his music.  So it is natural that he would compose, produce and perform (except the vocals) the world's first (and, so far, only) electronic opera.

Totentag: Oper in 7 Bildern (roughly Death Day: An Opera in 7 Scenes) is a monumental achievement.  Klaus, in keeping with a tradition started by Mozart, composed the opera in his native German.  He recruited five virtuoso vocalists to play/sing the roles. 

The opera, again in the truest German tradition, is tragic.  It tells the story of a young man and his drug induced hallucinations and visions.  The primary setting is a hospital.  The drug addict is the only character with a name.  (And, perhaps with a sense of irony, Klaus sampled some voices from The Wall by Pink Floyd.)

The dark soundscape is dense and dramatic.  Klaus sets the tone with his expressive performance.  The vocals are superb.  All in all, this double CD is flawless.

It is also absolutely that such an event is from the electronician's electronician.  Klaus is one of the pioneers of electronic music and is still one of its top artists after 30 plus years!  This is a great CD from a great man!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Opera Sauvage

by Vangelis  

Opera Sauvage is a classic release from Vangelis.  After 22 years it still holds up as essential.

The disc has symphonic and operatic structure and it precedes Vangelis' use of orchestras in his productions.  But this album does not cross the line.  In his inimitable fashion, Vangelis created a new age/e-music hybrid, perhaps the original.

The atmospheres are dense and pastoral.  The sequences are dense and bold.  The melodies are calm and pleasant.  Those are the expected and desired qualities of a Vangelis CD.  This classic meets those and more!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Blade Runner: The Soundtrack

by Vangelis





Blade Runner is the Vangelis soundtrack for the film of the same name.  The film is a sci-fi adventure.  The soundtrack is also a sci-fi adventure.

Film music seems to attract electronicians.  Four of the major players in the e-music community - Michael Stearns, Kevin Keller, Tangerine Dream and Vangelis -  have done extensive work in that genre.  Kevin and Michael work on more obscure films.  TD and Vangelis have scored some major motion pictures.  This is one of the major films.

And it is a very cool musical statement.  Vangelis uses voice samples from the film to augment and emphasize his dense sequences, spatial atmospheres and dramatic sound design.  Entering a Vangelis soundworld is always an adventure.  It is more fun when the soundworld is an overt adventure.

The structure of a soundtrack is, by default, symphonic.  That makes sense.  Literature tells stories with words.  Paintings tell stories with pictures.  Symphonies tell stories with musical pictures.  Motion pictures use all three media.  The soundtrack is an integral part of the scheme.  An expert soundtrack composer can make the difference between a bad film and a good film or between a good film and a great film.

This is not a great film.  It is a great soundtrack.  Vangelis used many influences from classical to jazz to pop to paint the soundscape and evoke the imagery.

All that being said, Vangelis' soundtracks, like TD's, are interesting.  They are essential only to die hard fans and completists.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Patrick O'Hearn

Patrick O'Hearn's website 


Trust is one of those albums that has to grow on a listener.  On the first - and even second - listening, it can be very difficult to grasp.  Patrick O'Hearn has many CD's of that nature.

And the coolest aspect of that quality is that most CD's of that ilk become favorites after the listener grows accustomed to them.  Trust falls into that category.

Patrick has always been a versatile artist.  On this set, he stays within the realm of atmospheric minimalism and he does it well.  The atmospheres are deep and wide.  They are loaded with ambivalence.  Patrick is going both ways here.  This set is neither dark nor light.  It has elements of both and they cancel each other out.

That brand of minimalism suits Patrick to a T.  This is one of his finest albums.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Vampire Nation

Vampire Nation's website


Fredrik von Hamilton records some fairly innovative e-music under the pseudonym Vampire NationConquistadors is his third CD and - by far - the most original. 

There are strange samples, overt rhythms, deep sequences and eerie atmospheres.  The first two CD's had all that too.  This CD has some cool extras.

Fredrik cuts loose with some in-your-face smokin' rock and roll guitar riffs.  He juxtaposes those riffs with light organ passages, almost like a merry-go-round or ice skating rink.

The whole package is absolutely scintillating!  Cosmos has been getting lots of airplay and was on November's NAV charts.  Fredrik just keeps on keepin' on!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


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