Reviews 12-31-2000

Ambient Visions logo header

Music Reviews 


Serpents Lair Roach Metcalf album cover

The Serpent's Lair

by Steve Roach,
Byron Metcalf,
and others

Projekt Records Website


If you like drumming and percussion (as I do), then this large-scale, rhythm-filled double CD album is for you. The veteran electronic guru Steve Roach teams up with shamanic percussionist Byron Metcalf and numerous other instrumentalists and vocalists to create a sonic panorama of the shamanic experience. Shamanism is perhaps the world's first spiritual tradition, sometimes defined as an "archaic technique of ecstasy" which uses drumming, chanting, and (in many instances) psychedelic drugs to achieve other states of consciousness. The Serpent's Lair offers listeners a drug-free way to get a glimpse of the shaman's world.

In a way, Steve Roach's work has been about shamanism for at least the last 20 years; he's been influenced by this ancient way throughout his career, especially since he set up his Timeroom in Arizona and worked with Aboriginal and Native American music. And in true new-millennium fashion, he pairs the futuristic song of the synthesizer with primal, tribal sounds. Roach describes his work on this album as "groove alchemy," "atonal atmos," "elastic electric grooves," and "lair atmospheres." All this creative wordplay more or less describes electronic manipulation of percussion rhythms, whether through textural filters, vast reverberations, echoes, looping, layering, and other forms of electronic magic. This is what you will hear throughout the album. The first CD, titled "The Serpent's Lair," consists of hard-driving drum rhythms, tied together at times by Steve's floating synthesizer lines, and other times sinking into those "atonal atmo(spheres)" that Roach has been working with lately.

A note on the "atonal atmospheres" by the way: They are at a lower volume than the rest of the album; deliberately so, as a form of audible rest, but if you are listening in a noisy urban environment, as I am, they may be hard to hear. I suggest listening to at least these parts with headphones, so that you can catch all the little sound-details which Roach and his collaborators put into these interludes.

The second CD, "Offerings from the Underworld," is less drum-oriented and more electronic; it, too, features rhythms but they are subordinated to the electronics. They range from the railroad-rush of the first track, "Offering in Waves," to the thudding, low-filtered "melted Metcalf groove alchemy" of track 4, "Primal Passage." In my opinion the best piece on this set, and perhaps the best on the whole album, is the 23-minute track 3, "Cave Dwellers," which originated in a live jam of Steve Roach and Jorje Reyes. This evocation of primeval  ritual, complete with wordless Native-inspired chanting, starts slow and builds in speed and volume to a burning intensity in its last few minutes.

The very last track, "Ochua," occupies the last-in-the-set position reserved for a "sweeter" piece on a Roach album. With its crooning female voice and soft electronic accompaniment, it is designed to "cool down" the listener after the strenuous session that has just taken place. There is a distant rumble of shamanic rhythm in the piece as well, the fading echo of the storm that has just passed.

Hannah M.G. Shapero 12/31/2000


Reinventing Me Kenya Dubois album cover

Reinventing Me 

by Kenya Dubois

Visit Kenya Dubois' website


"Reinventing Me" is an album of diverse electronic styles from Kenya DuBois of Distorted Grooves.  Kenya runs the gamut from atmospheric minimalism to trip hop techno to dissonant avante garde experimentation.  His innovative recording techniques provide an interesting background for his techno trip hop.  His manipulated voice over announces that the experiment is not complete.  The minimalism is dark and dense; the techno is frenetic and heavy-handed.  The minimalism hits home and envelops listeners.  The experimental techniques are excellent in that mode!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Far Beyond the Immobile Point Corbacho Corbacho album cover

Far Beyond The
Immobile Point 

 by Max Corbacho

Visit Max Corbacho's website

"Far From the Immobile Point" is Max Corbacho's follow-up to his monumental  1998 debut, "Vestiges."  While this CD does not pack the emotional punch of  his debut, it is a worthy and credible disc.  There is a feeling of emptiness  and cold minimalism.  This IS desert ambience, but Max is not on the Sahara  or the Mojave.  The desert that Max visits is an Arctic Tundra or even  Antarctica.  Listeners get a feeling of being stranded in the wasteland of  sub-zero climates, far beyond immobility.  The immobility from which max is  far away is the immobility of the pain of emotional emptiness.  The oxymorons  and juxtapositions work for Max.  Listeners choosing to enter this world  experience the futility of the vapid.  This is essential y2k minimalism.  It  is difficult to obtain given Max's lack of a distribution deal.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Computerchoral Green Prints Larry Kucharz album cover

Computerchoral Green Prints 

by Larry Kucharz


Larry Kucharz has covered blue and red "electrochoral computerized music.  He has done so quite well and quite appropriately.  Both of those CD's  represented some of the darker edges of minimalism.  "Computerchoral Green  Prints" is the fourth CD in his "electrochoral" series.  (The other CD,  "Metachoral Visions" has a broader focus.)  This CD includes pieces composed  between 1977 and 1999.  (Interestingly, there are no pieces between 1978 and  1991.)  In keeping with the connotations of the colors of the spectrum, this  album is a brighter and happier look at Larry's "austere minimalism."  He has  a unique ability to program his instruments and computer to represent the  colors and, hence, the themes of his discs.  Deep listeners will hear - and  SEE - the various shades of green as Larry guides them on a deep, sometimes  pastoral, journey.  This CD and the series are representative of this  cerebral artiste's genius - in both the intellectual and emotional senses. Listeners can only imagine what he will do with orange, yellow, indigo and  violet, to say nothing of black, white and brown!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Ambient Visions copyright notice