Reviews 12-24-2005 


Music Reviews 



Reflections From
the Inner Light

by Create

Visit Groove Unlimited's website


Sometimes it seems like a gem will just fall into your lap. That's the case with Reflections From the Inner Light, the first CD from the artist who calls himself Create. This CD, released on the Groove Unlimited label, further enhances the reputation of this already-venerable EM label.  

Create (the nom-de-plume of Stephen Humphries) introduces the CD in the lines notes simply by saying it is his first "official" CD and that it represents "the music of the retro Berlin school."  

And, oh boy, does it do that! It's CDs like this one that make me wish my bedroom CD player had a randomizer setting on it. Each track of the eight are filled with atmospherics reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and to some extent, Kraftwerk. Tracks like "Chasing the One" incorporate an insistent, throbbing bassline beat with overlaid dappled keyboard notes. The opening track, Narissa, is a gliding, meandering journey which slowly evolves into something a bit more uptempo, without the listener being aware of the change taking place.  

Three of the tracks on this CD are longer than twelve minutes in length. The entire CD boasts some 78 minutes of playing time, so this is money well spent! Of the CDs I have spent an inordinate amount of time listening to, Reflection From the Inner Light is added to the list. Considering that Humphries has accomplished this entire feat using software, the CD is a marvel of accomplishment and creativity. This CD has made repeated journeys to the spindle of my CD player. May it do the same on yours!

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions



A Strange Constellation
of Events

by Remanence




The Morse code signals that open Signal Hill, the first track of this electro-ambient CD may or may not spell out "SOS."  Fear not, however, this CD is in no danger of sinking.  The thirteen minute track plunges immediately into a deep, almost cavernous, droning and oozing electronic journey punctuated only by sporadic bursts of Morse code. 

The sojourn continues for an additional nine tracks for a total playing time of some 63-plus minutes. Included are a variety of field and natural sound recordings that, when played in a darkened and quieted room, transport one under the stars where the music and sounds suffuse the atmosphere. Rainsticks, rattles, gongs, cymbals and assorted percussion instruments are added sporadically, adding to the elemental feel of the compositions.  

A sense of continuity is present, as each piece melds into the next. While there are distinct differences, the CD sounds as if it were meant to be consumed as an entire body of work.  

Remanence is the collaboration between John Phipps and Brian McWilliams, with some assistance by Michelle McWilliams and Carolyn Koebel. James Johnson lent technical assistance, which may help explain the languid feel of the album. 

For lovers of deep atmospheric ambient music, Remanence should be given some serious consideration.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions



Narcissus Reflects

by Patrick Burke

Visit Patrick's website

CD Baby website

“Narcissus Reflects” is the second installment of pianist Patrick Burke’s “Bullfinch Trilogy,” and a follow-up to his debut, “The Butler’s Bullfinch.” Much like the debut recording, “Narcissus Reflects” is built around melodic pieces that often contain humor and a bit of whimsy. Two of the five tracks are about twelve minutes in duration, and there is a “sneak preview” bonus track at the end with one of the pieces from the third album in the trilogy, “The Calming.” Burke’s music tends to be classically structured, often reminding me of Mozart and Haydn’s direct, not overly-complicated piano music. Burke is also a fine-art photographer from Oregon, and I miss the delightful liner notes from the first album that contained photos that went with the music. I’m sure that was a very expensive goodie, though, and listeners will have to create their own visualizations this time - not a bad thing!

The ironically-named title track opens the CD with an over twelve-minute theme and variations that are sometimes lighthearted and fun, with other themes darker and more reflective. The moods shift between comical, peaceful, melodramatic, and tragic, and the varying playing styles create a very interesting musical journey. I also smile each time the song ends, as it’s not quite over when you think it is. “Pittock Mansion” is a bit more classical with a lovely melody and Alberti bass accompaniment in most of the piece; formal, but full of heart. “Three Chosen Clouds” is a trilogy full of humor and playfulness. “Cloud One: Here They Come,” almost dances out of the CD player. “Cloud Two: The Process,” is a little more sedate and quite graceful. “Cloud Three: The Stroll” has the feeling of movement and a sense of purpose. The three pieces obviously belong together and each contains a bit of the other two. “Park Bench, 4am” has a quiet peacefulness, reflecting the calm coolness of being outside in the middle of the night. “Apple God” clocks in at almost twelve minutes, allowing it to wander around the musical landscape, gathering musical ideas and lacing them together into a linear but cohesive composition. Unlike the opening track, “Apple God” keeps a rather introspective feeling throughout, and parts of the piece have light string embellishments. Another very interesting musical journey!

“Narcissus Reflects” is a very enjoyable album. Its only weakness is the piano itself, which has kind of a flat, electronic sound on some cd players (I tried it on three). Patrick Burke’s music would be better served with a good acoustic piano that conveys more of the nuances in his playing.

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions



Trance Yoga

by Various

Visit New Earth Records'  website


This CD collection by New Earth puts together some of the best contemporary Indian/Middle Eastern/tribal style artists material for use in working Yoga.  We are presented with the artists Tulku, Rasa, Tya, Kamal, Cybertribe, Bhakta, Ganga Girl, James Asher and Sivamani. 

These pieces mostly have a subtle beat to them, and though I don’t think they all reach true “trance” level of
BPM’s, they do provide some contemplative background music for the Yoga practitioner, or for anyone who is into meditative contemporary Indian/Middle Eastern style of music. 

The pace is not slow, as with traditionally presented Yoga background recordings, but is picked up a bit, and allows the practitioner the opportunity to move a bit more freely.  There are a couple of intense tracks, but not till later in the CD.  Some may find them too intense for Yoga, others will find it a welcome change. 

The pieces are performed by mostly well known artists.  The pieces have vocals for the most part, much of which is in native tongues, but there is a booklet included which does translate some of the lyrics, allowing the yoga practitioner to meditate on the work, such as with Rasa’s Om Namoh Bhagavate.  This is a lovely, deliberate piece which is perfect for yoga.  I was also very impressed with Tulku’s Shanti Puja, which is catchy with its contemplative lyrics in English.   

Tya presents us with a very “Deep Forest” feeling piece entitled Baiame, very upbeat and very tribal.   A very lovely and airy composition with Middle Eastern style of vocals is Sassi by Kamal.   

Reaching Motherland by Cybertribe is a much different approach, as it is more an electronic piece, a musical composition rather than the tribal or stylized Indian/Middle Eastern/tribal piece and I found this to be very different from the previously offered compositions.  However, this is style is somewhat continued in Vajra Guru by Bhakta, as it is more composed music, but this time incorporating native vocals with some lovely harmonies.   

Very “down under” in feeling is Nungabunda by Ganga Girl, with driving drum rhythms and didgeridoo layered in some electronica.  This is one of the few pieces on the CD that I feel reaches the “trance” level suggested by the title of the CD.  This style is continued in Red Rhythm Dragon by James Asher, with more tribal styled drumming and the didgeridoo.   

The closing track also by James Asher called Amma includes drumming by Sivamani.  This is a change in feeling from the previous tracks, as it has more of a driving rhythm and some vocals but does not suggest any kind of Indian or Middle Easter flavor.  It could be considered “tribal” but is not “native” as the previous two tracks.   

This is an interesting compilation of music and artists by New Earth Records.  I am not sure I would go along with the “Trance Yoga” title which the CD suggests as the theme, but I found it to be a very interesting collection of World Beat music.  It is a nice collection of World Beat artists and would make an interesting addition to your World library, or a nice introduction to some of the better World Beat artists.  mafoster

Reviewed by Margaret Foster for  Ambient Visions



Across the Universe

by Eric Hansen

Visit Eric's  website


In the World Beat area, we are presented with traditional flamenco guitarist Eric Hansen doing not so traditional interpretations of classic Beatles tunes. 

At first it may not appear that Flamenco can blend with the Beatles, but Mr. Hansen picks some of the best guitar pieces the Beatles had to offer and expertly weaves acoustic guitar in the flamenco style with some of their best loved melodies. 

This is traditional Flamenco style guitar playing.  Mr. Hansen is well versed in this style, having worked with this classic Spanish style of guitar since the early 90s.  He executes this flawlessly, yet brings in his own styling, adding elements of classic rock or a touch a jazz and allowing the styles to blend and speak together.  The intricate fingering of notes does not detract in any way from the music, but rather enhances the works, giving the listener something new to listen to rather than a tired performance of the same works again.  This gives many of the songs a new life and provides new interest for the listener. 

And excellent choice for the opening track that gives the listener the very best combination of both styles is Michelle.  This piece was made for acoustic guitar and Mr. Hansen expertly weaves the flamenco style into this piece.  

Mr. Hansen successfully interprets such pieces as Strawberry Fields Forever and Fool on the Hill, which lent them to the very intricate style of flamenco very nicely.  She’s Leaving Home came across surprisingly well, and is an outstanding interpretation on this collection. 

Across the Universe was also a real pleaser, as well as Here, There and Everywhere, which is another outstanding track of Mr. Hansen’s work. 

I enjoyed this very different look at the Beatles, through the eyes of a Flamenco guitarist.  I was skeptical at first, but Mr. Hansen shows how easily the forms can be blended.  There is a touch of ambience to the work, and it allows the two forms to peacefully co-exist and gives us a very likable and enjoyable performance.  I feel the style gave new interest to the works. 

If you are a fan of the Beatles, you will love this new look at their music.  And those who like contemporary Flamenco guitar will find this very different, but also very agreeable. mafoster

Reviewed by Margaret Foster for  Ambient Visions


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