Reviews 12-07-2001


Music Reviews 


When Children Sleep

by Bertrom Cabot, Jr.

When I was younger,
I wanted to grow up so fast
I stood on tiptoes
Straining to reach future years
Nothing happened fast enough
The place in life where I stand today
Seemed a million experiences away
Barely conceivable to my child's mind
Now I am older
And I stand on the shore of memory
Looking out to a horizon long past
And I feel the cold
I squint through spectacled eyes
Into a mist of time quickly passing
Searching the distance
For the wonder of youth
And vanities long since dead
In the stillness of the moment
In the sadness of the quiet
I realize that there was a time....
A time in-between the ambitions of childhood
And the now constant gravity of a downward spiral
When I was once immortal

With that verse, Bertrom Cabot, Jr. introduces "When Children Sleep."  This debut CD, on Eleven One Records, is deep and dark minimalism.

Bertrom approaches the music from the perspective of childhood angst.  He examines the frustrations of wanting to be older and/or bigger.  And he addresses the transition to adulthood.

Taken at face value, this CD could be about growing up and only growing up.  The depth of the minimalism and the dark undercurrents lend themselves to a metaphor of growing, period!

Extending that metaphor to cover the gamut of growth - holistic, realistic and existential - Bertrom visits the darker sides of the psyche.  Thus, by going through the desert, he is able to see the Promised Land.  And while experiencing the loneliness of childhood, listeners will see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Bertrom does not take them there.

This CD is very deep and very expansive.  Bertrom has scored a winner here!  The disc was released in 2000. It came to light in 2001.  Thus, Bertrom is a strong contender for "Rookie of the Year!"

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Mistress of Strands

by Mistress of Strands

Visit Ventricle's website


Well if you like your ambient music tinged with ethereal female vocals combined with some well played lush electronic dreamy soundscapes then Mistress of Strands may well be for you.

My first impression on hearing this album was that this was a group that would be well at home on the Projekt label. This is music that could fall into lets see “gothic ambient” “ethereal ambient” or my own category “gothic ambient chamber music”. The chamber analogy referring to the most serene nature of this haunting recording.

This is not music that will jar your soul its all done with a elegance that is done with a reserved elegance.

Looking at the sleeve notes the instrumentation includes strings, vocals and interestingly a mellotron, which if my memory serves me well is a vintage “string synthesizer”.

It has to noted that the ethereal vocals are almost literally in a world of their own and contributes a key role in the overall sound.

This is not the sort of music I would normally listen to but to be fair, the quality aspects of this release are very fine indeed. For any Projekt or ethereal ambient fans the music is certainly well worth checking out and dig out the shiny silver cover with fairy motifs, its certainly eye catching!

Reviewed by Gary Andrews for Ambient Visions


Hidden Topographies

by Rhomb

 "Hidden Topographies" is a delightful surprise from Rhomb.  It comes to us from the folks at The Foundry, a label in Berkeley that specializes in experimental minimalism and electronic music.

Rhomb is not subtle in his/her/their message.  The liner notes address discovery of new vistas and the limitations of our subjectivity.  On the other hand, the music is very subtle!  Through a variety of dense and drifting sound designs Rhomb takes us on a vast adventure through introspective landscapes.  I was particularly captivated by "Ice Fields."  This track conveys an image that very few have been able to convey.  I like to call it "Tundra Desert Ambience."  It has the feel of Steve Roach desert ambience and also recalls Vidna Obmana's early minimalism that I found to be warm and icy at the same time.  (Rudy Adrian, Craig Padilla, Vidna Obmana and TUU have evoked similar imagery for me.)

The entire CD combines drifting minimalism, dense atmospheres and experimental dissonance.  Those complimentary and contrasting sounds give "Hidden Topographies" its charm and unique status in my library.  This CD was released in 1998.  It is time for Rhomb to take his/her/their place in many other collections!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Ron Imhoff

Visit Kookie Jar records website

Ron Imhoff is a relative newcomer to the new age music community.  "Chemistry," his debut CD was created and released in 2000.

While Ron performs primarily on electronic instruments and devices, to call this electronic music would be both misleading and unfair.  The overriding response is the same as the response to a new age recording.  In that mode, Ron excels!

The gentle ebb and flow of the melody creates an aura of relaxation and peace.  There are no samples yet Ron has built a pastoral soundscape.  The organic sound design grabs deep listeners and guides them through the journey.  The listeners choose the journey.  The only stipulation is that it does not go to the dark side.

This bright and airy CD is a worthy new age atmosphere.  It will make at least one best of the year list!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Progressive Elements

by Ron Imhoff

Like most folks of my generation, I was raised on rock and roll.  Unlike most of them, I developed a penchant for new wave and punk rock in the mid to late 70's and early 80's, long before it was fashionable.  And I developed a passion for electronic music at the same time.  I later rekindled that passion and branched off to other new age styles.

Ron Imhoff describes "Progressive Elements," his second CD on Kookie Jar Records, as instrumental rock.  I must take exception - not to the CD but to the description. 

This cannot be rock and roll because I am not a big fan of rock music.  I am a big fan of this disc! And I am fully aware that it has the same structure as rock and roll music. It does not, however, evoke the same responses as rock and roll.

Ron writes that "this CD embodies the harmonic power, grace and emotion that (we) possess butt too often ignore."  I would agree with that and then some.  (That is definitely a new age attitude!)

Ron again demonstrates the ability and willingness to tap into the new age sensitivities and sensibilities of his listeners and to push those listeners to stretch their horizons.  He has done this twice and we all know that the third time's a charm!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Ambient Monkeys

by Tangerine Dream


Over the past three or four years, I have seen several disparaging posts about Tangerine Dream on various news groups and lists.  I have maligned them myself on occasion.  I have done so because I think that some of their CD's have merited less than complimentary reviews.  And I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Tangerine Dream apologist.

All that being said, it is my firm belief that they have released some spectacular CD's since 1997.  One of the best - and most fun - is "Ambient Monkeys."  Edgar Froese and Jerome Froese recorded this album for use as "pre-concert ambience" for their 1997 tour.  It is, quite simply, their best studio effort since the Virgin era.  (It was definitely the best father-son effort for the Froeses up to the time of release.)  Indeed, the sequencing and walls of sound are reminiscent of those albums.  But the ambient atmospheres and bizarre samples set this CD firmly in its proper place.  It is a late 1990's e-music classic.

Many reviewers, writers, critics and fans have accused this band of being stoic and devoid of emotions in their playing.  I would agree that they presented as such for many years.  I have also championed that their best live releases are the ones that convey a sense of fun to the listeners.  In 1997, Tangerine Dream released two very entertaining live CD's.  Presumably, those concerts were staged after the crowd listened to these tracks.

That is consistent with "Ambient Monkeys."  We all expect Tangerine Dream's music to be technically proficient, if not perfect.  It is all of that.  But this music sound like fun!  It is downright playful!  I could imagine Edgar and Jerome smiling - even giggling - as they recorded this music.

And I smiled as I listened.  And I giggled.  And I laughed.  This listening experience is more fun than, well, a barrel of monkeys! 

The CD signaled, for me, anyway, the return to greatness of a legendary e-music force.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Three Concerts in 1998

by Robert Rich

Visit Robert's website

"Humidity: Three Concerts in 1998" is a monumental achievement by Robert Rich, the perfectionist's perfectionist.  This three CD set is mostly improvised material from three California concerts.

Disc one was recorded in Stanford and was broadcast simultaneously on Stanford University's KZSU radio.  It was part of the university's annual Day of Noise.  The deep minimalism is murky and foggy, appropriately so.  The soundscape is, indeed, humid and quite organic.  It is also darker than most of Robert's previous efforts.  It evokes feelings of confusion, bewilderment and abandonment.  Deep listeners will feel lost on the open plains of distant lands - even distant worlds.

The second disc, recorded in Venice, was part of the Beyond Baroque Music Sound Festival.  This music is definitely beyond Baroque.  This complete is completely improvisation.  The entire set is unique to this disc.  Robert has outdone himself on this one.  The experimental tones, organic samples and foggy soundscape make this a minimalist dream.  This is classic sleep concert material.

Robert performed an in-store concert at Moby Disk in Pasadena.  Disc three is an excerpt from that show.  This soundscape is a little more melodic than the others are.  And it is just as dark, foggy and humid as the others are.  It is a fitting denouement to the entire set.

Robert has well-deserved reputations as a genius and a perfectionist.  On this set, he lives up to those reputations.  This package is about as close to perfection as he has been!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Ravens in the Moonlight

by The Tunnel Singer

Visit the Tunnel Singer's website

goddess of truth,
last immortal to leave
Earth with the decline
of the ages, returns,
signaling the dawn of a 
new Golden Age.

Munin and Hugin
(Memory and Intellect), 
the embodiment of Odin's
soul, each day fly out to
every corner of the world.
Returning to his shoulders,
they whisper all the news
in his ears.

With that verse, Lee Ellen Shoemaker, a.k.a. The Tunnel Singer, introduces "Ravens in the Moonlight."  This is as close to a perfect CD as there is.

Lee Ellen recorded this album live in Construction 129, Marin Headlands, CAConstruction 129 is an abandoned artillery tunnel from World War II.  She used the tunnel for its echo and reverberation effects.  Martin Tickle, on percussion, and Ben Long, on didg, accompanied her.

Lee Ellen's elegant and wordless vocals are warm and embracing.  Martin and Ben provide the perfect compliment to her voice.

This is deep stuff.  The compositions lend themselves to meditation and to dance.  This is biorhythmic soul music.  It is good for the circulation!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Dream Encores

by Tangerine Dream


"Dream Encores" is a set of encores from Tangerine Dream concerts.  The concerts were primarily between 1990 and 1997, although two of them were in the late 1980's. 

And the disc contains some classic TD moments including their smoking balls to the wall rendition of the Jimi Hendrix classic, "Purple Haze."  Other highlights include a subtle transcription of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and a revamped version of TD's own "Oriental Haze."

So, this is basically another live Tangerine Dream CD.  And that is a good thing because those CD's are usually excellent.  Edgar Froese and Jerome Froese (Edgar's son) chose wisely and sequenced thoughtfully.  The compositions flow as if they are a concert in and of themselves.  And there is none of the irritating crowd noise typical of a live TD CD.

It is an absolute certainty that the vaults at the Eastgate Studios are filled with hundreds of hours of classic e-music.  This small portion of that treasure chest leaves fans wanting more!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Planetary Mysteries

by Mark Dwane

Visit Mark Dwane's website

This is the first album of brand new music by Mark Dwane since 1998’s limited edition CD “The Neflim”. As with all of Marks releases he bases his inspiration on such esoteric subjects as possible alien life on Mars, the ever-mystical kingdom of Atlantis and other thought provoking mysteries of planet Earth and beyond.

“Planetary Mysteries” is no different and with such song titles as “Under The Sphinx” and “Planetary Energy”, helping to engage the listener in a mystical sound environment that is both thrilling and reflective at the same time.

A first for a Mark Dwane album is that there are some female vocals by a Michelle Nader that appear on some of the tracks who happens to possess a distinct and powerful voice which adds a nice contrast to the album.

“Forbidden Archeology” opens the album in a typical scene setting fashion, Michelle Naders voice adding an atmospheric chanting overlaid with Marks underlying MIDI guitar electronics which he lets bubble under the surface before the album gets into its stride, before “Under The Sphinx” takes the center stage. A rhythmic sequence is immediately established before an Egyptian sounding melody is played along with the more upbeat and sharp electronics.

Now “Planetary Energy “ could be described as the single of this album and showcases Michelle Nader’s vocal talents to the fore. A very melodic collage of dynamic electronics combined with a song that is both catchy and memorable. This is a song that showcases Marks deft ear for a strong melodic composition that appeals very much. Following this we have “Underwater Stargates” and judging by the cover notes a Stargate is a UFO guiding place, a bit like a beacon if you like. In some ways this track is a bit like the previous but maybe a bit more laid back but none the less still a good track.”Geoglyphs” is a mid-tempo piece of classic Dwane music, very melodic and relaxed.

Things pick up-tempo slightly with “Hyperdimensional” and the vocals are back, to entice the listener once more. Marks use of his main instrumentation the MIDI guitar is generally well known. For those who do not know there are no keyboards used on his electronic releases at all. It is all done with MIDI guitar, and very impressive and formidable the results are. It is not all electronic though as Mark includes in his palette of sounds some electro-acoustic guitars, which gives an added presence of interest.

The last track “Memory Alpha” brings the album to a close in a sedate relaxed way.

Space piano type sounds mix with gliding mellow electronic refrains that bring the listener down from the power of what has gone before

“Planetary Mysteries” combines the best elements of Mark Dwanes music as well as his interests in all things mysterious that involve planet Earth. These interests show themselves admirably through his music and once you hear “Planetary Mysteries” you will feel like you have really gone somewhere.

Highly recommended. 

Reviewed by Gary Andrews for Ambient Visions


Antique Dreams

by Tangerine Dream


The vaults at the Eastgate Studios continue to overflow with e-music treats.  "Antique Dreams" is the fourth Tangerine Dream CD to come from those vaults in three years (1998 - 2000).  These compositions are outtakes, soundtracks, singles and live recordings.  They cover the twenty years from 1971 through 1990.  (The 1990 piece is actually a rearranged version of 1974's "Phaedra.") 

Edgar Froese chose and produced the music.  Jerome Froese mastered it.  But the performances feature the classic TD members.  Christoph Franke, Peter Baumann, Johannes Schmoelling and Paul Haslinger all appear on this album as do Edgar and Jerome.  The disc does not include any tracks from the band's Virgin era nor does it include any tracks with Steve Jolliffe.

But the music is classic TD music.  There are plenty of Berlin school sequences, loads of experimental passages and scads of dense atmospheres.  TD has always been adept at conveying moods.  (That is why they have had a successful soundtrack career.)  Three of these tracks were recorded for a mystery show on German TV.

Again, this is classic Tangerine Dream.  They have taken a lot of lumps and hits recently.  This CD should quiet the critics for a while.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Return Home