Reviews 01-28-2001

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Sun Spirit Deuter album cover

Sun Spirit

by Deuter

Visit New Earth Records


German flutist and multi-instrumentalist C.G. Deuter (now resident in New Mexico) has been a presence in New Age music since the '70s - in fact, he was one of the very first people to make and record this kind of music. This new album by Deuter is very consistent with the sounds he produced twenty years ago.

Sun Spirit is presented in a brilliant yellow package, with inspirational quotes from various Eastern-inspired sources. ".We are a sun ourselves, shining from within, radiating our own light. You are invited with this music to let your heart dance.." reads the liner notes. All the music is almost relentlessly cheerful, often led by his flute, recorder, and piccolo playing. Deuter maintains very sweet, pentatonic or modal melodic lines played on flutes, strings, and synthesizers, with delicate arrangements and a minimum of percussion. He blends in elements of world music throughout the album, including Indian, South American, Chinese, Japanese, or Middle Eastern; all of these are diluted and much softened in order to fit into the Deuter sound.

Listening to this album, I'm reminded nostalgically of the early influences that came from India to our own pop culture back in the '60s: the bright clothing and candy-colored images, the quotes from mystic masters and the Orientalized pop music that for a short time stood out in albums and songs and commercials. There's something of this Sixties feel even now in this album of Deuter's. The sun of Deuter's Sun Spirit is a friendly, smiling, innocent sun, inviting us to ignore the darkness of the 21st century world.

Reviewed by Hannah M.G. Shapero 1/28/2001


Dream Captain Adrian Stone album cover

The Dream Captain

by Adrian Stone



Adrian Stone is the pseudonym under which Tony Kendricks records his solo music.  He chose the name simply because it "sounds cool."  "The Dream Captain" is an independent project right down to the artwork on the CD label.  The only outside assistance that Tony had was the final mixing and mastering at Closer Look Studios in Cleveland.

Tony has toured and played with "mainstream" bands for years.  During that time he suppressed his desire to explore the atmospheric, minimalist and sequenced vibes that he longed to create.  "The Dream Captain" is his catharsis!  From the first chords of "The Gate" to the last strains of "The Gauntlet," Tony embraces and displays the influences of a generation.  And he quite clearly displays a latent talent for electronic composition and performance.  His penchant for space ambience dominates the flow.  His ability to deliver vast atmospheres within the confines of his space music is profound!

The heavy sequences of "The Gate" dissolve subtly to the minimal atmospheres of "Whisper" and "The Myst."  His acoustic guitar is a great compliment to the expansive atmospheres.  As the pieces pick up and his sequences return, Tony adds some rock and roll flair.  Again, the extras compliment the electronics.  They do not dominate. 

This is a great debut CD from an exciting talent.  Tony's potential is surpassed only by his own exuberance and humility.  Write to him!  He is eager to embrace the genre and to become an integral part of the ambient space music community!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


A Perfect Tomorrow

by Jamie Bonk

Visit Jamie's Website



The follow up album or the second time around, as I have heard the tale told, is always The Hardest recording that any artist will ever make.  Although nowhere near Steely Dan's twenty-year hiatus Jamie Bonk may also stake a claim to the longest time span between projects (Take Off BEAR, eh Jamie?).  With tongue in cheek I am referring to the time from the completion of the self titled "Jamie Bonk" release to the completion of "A Perfect Tomorrow".  My friends I am here to tell you that it was more than worth the wait.

This time around Jamie places the lion's share of his talents in writing, playing the classical guitar, additional keyboards, and producing all the tracks on "A Perfect Tomorrow".  During a recent interview session Jamie and I decided that these could appropriately be labeled the "Three Faces of Bonk". The decision to enlist the talents of Jack Vorvis on drums and percussion and Sonya Mitlewski on keyboards is the first glimpse of the growth and wisdom attained by Jamie during the transformation to the next plateau for the now legendary Bonk sonic signature.  The second glimpse of growth and wisdom was the mastering process decision.  I cannot share the "trade secrets" but suffice to say it has a lot to do with the successfully implemented sound of the entire disc.

It would be most appropriate at this point to share my first session's listening experience with "A Perfect Tomorrow". Settled in at the sweet spot of system 1 here is what I noted once I hit play:

Unmistakably JAMIE BONK!!!!

I have listened to it straight through twice now and tried to take notes but just got so caught up in the entire sound I forgot about writing any more notes. I jotted down a few first impressions through track three. Next thing I knew track number nine was starting and I began noting how fantastic "Too Deep For Tears" was. That was probably the "blew me away track" from the first playback of "A Perfect Tomorrow".

"APT" contains Infectious and enthralling music for the mind, body, and soul.  Liquid nylon melodies envelop the room as ingenious backing tracks swirl and wrap themselves around the listening environment.  Though not being one who is prone to dancing I have been informed that trying to refrain from the act is not an option as several of the tracks really do groove.  Warm and round themes unfold with Jamie's guitar weaving melodic tales as world class percussion tracks propel the music in joyous rhythmic emotion.

Hauntingly evocative emotions swell within as the musical journey of "Pretty Girl" weaves its spell with its breathtaking sojourn and defines new realms of instrumental music.  The rhythms of the world and its lyrical melodies are the medium for Jamie's melting pot of compositional skills. Every track is chock full of killer hooks and swirling, detailed, accompaniment that allows his music to float and soar, subdue, and excite while taking the listener on a journey they will not soon forget.

There are ambient moments where the rhythms quiet and the lush backing tracks take center stage but this is a guitar album and the return of the melodic playing is always a source of a warming glow that excites the senses.

I was once told that a great song was one that you remembered by being able to whistle the melody.  I not only whistle but carry the entire track line and make up my own rhythm vocalizations, as only a bass player can, as I merrily go about my business after a listen to "A Perfect Tomorrow".

There is always anticipation of the largest magnitude following a run away debut release. Jamie Bonk appears to have taken the success in stride as he takes the next step and plants both feet firmly on a path of a new musical direction, and delivers proof positive that he has learned a lot, with his release of "A Perfect Tomorrow". A veritable Tour D' Force follow up to his, self titled, debut album awaits you. I highly recommend you take the journey.

Audiophiles Note:  

Here is where the largest step forward has been taken from the debut release.  There are jaw dropping dynamics, dazzling instrument placement, and panning effects implemented with stunning clarity and attention to detail.  The recording is crisp and clean and each instrument resides in its own space of the studio sonic staging.  There are moments of three dimensional character as I could visualize Jamie sitting on a stool with the sound hole of the guitar placed exactly at ear level, (system 3), while the rest of the track resided lower down in the panoramic left to right soundstage.  There is bottom end on this release, although it is sampled bass guitar tones, and is played on a keyboard with the accompanying thick, pudding, sound as it rolls through the groove rather than articulating as a plucked bass guitar would sound.  I suppose this adds to the crisp yet fluid sound of Jamie's guitar but I just can't help wondering what a real bass would add to the rhythm and pace of the tracks and the excellent percussion timbre's.  If you use tubes in your system this disc will give a fat, war, and wooly bottom end.

The listening sessions were performed in the following systems: 

(1) Electrocompaniet EMC-1 CD player, Electrocompaniet ECI-3 Integrated, Magneplanar MG1.6QR, & Sunfire True Subwoofer speakers.

(2) Linn Classik into Stax Electrostatic SRX MkIII, Sennheiser HD600, & Sony MDR-7509 Professional headphones.

(3) The Holo-System: Rega Planet 2000, Musical Fidelity A3 CD, Belles XLM preamplifier, Belles 200 power amplifier and Altec Lansing 510 A speakers.  ( A relatively large system in an extremely small room with only one small holographic listening sweet spot)

BEAR   1.28.01   


Prototype 2 Zero One album cover

Prototype 2

By Zero One

Visit Zero One's Website


Zero is the "point from which positive or negative quantities are ... measured...." One is "characterized by unity...."   01 is "the basis of all binary digital language."  So, Zero One is the unified midpoint of binary language.  "prot0type 2" is a delightful melange of new ambient rhythms, subtle sequences, hypnotic space music and dense atmospheres.

The CD kicks off with a sampled voice telling us "Your life's going to be different now.  Your future is full of possibilities."  In theory and all practical application, those statements are true, 24 and 7!  Is my life different?  Certainly!  Is my life full of possibilities?  Absolutely!  Does this CD have anything to do with either?  NO!

It IS a great CD.  The overt rhythms drive the eerie atmospheres beyond the limits of inner space to the nether regions of outer space.  The prevailing mood is fear.  We are exploring the unknown and bizarre soundworlds of Kevin Dooley, alias, Zero One.  Kevin's creative (and sometimes warped!) imagination sparkles with creativity, originality and humor.  The humor separates this CD from formulaic electronica and places it in its own zone.  This is a Y2K winner from the eclectic Waveform catalog!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


And nothing but the bass Steve Lawson album cover

"and nothing but the bass"

by Steve Lawson

Visit Steve's Website


My own quirky sense of humor suggested that the intro line for this review just had to be "And Now For Something Completely Different" mainly due to the "across the pond production" nature of this release.  Completely Different? Well... sort of Yes.  Across the Pond?  Steve hails from England.  A valid Ambient release?  Absolutely...for those that can think outside the box. And think outside the box is exactly what the talented Steve Lawson does on this release.

First a brief description, from liner notes and a trip to the Website, of what is going on within this delicious set of eight tunes.  "And nothing but the bass" is predominantly just Steve, his Ashdown Combo, some effects, and a six string fretless bass guitar.  Of particular interest is the Lexicon Jam Man that he utilizes as a loop/sampler to propel each musical excursion along by maintaining an underlying bed track of chords, groove figures, and effected ambient passages.  Basically, in lay terms, this allows Steve to record passages, which then loop or repeat until he changes the pattern or adds to it, and simultaneously play melodic figures over the top of the loop with the luxury of live self accompaniment.

The opening track, " the inner game", begins with a light, eight bar, chordal passage that is immediately sampled and begins play back as the looped bed.  Warm, yet articulated hi-fi sounding, jazz phrasing melodies are then played over the bed as Steve launches into a very lyrical display of great "bass chops".  After a bit, a true bottom end bass part is added to the opening loop, and begins tracking underneath another excursion of solo melody.

We then enter the realm of "drifting" which begins with a chorused passage played into the Jam Man to create a loop which underpins a heavily effected excursion into bass sounds that are anything but traditional.  Tube overdrive, E-bow, (an effect allowing electric bassists to achieve the bowed sound), and delay effects begin building a floating and drifting soundscape.  Without knowing how he produced this soundscape one would be hard pressed to identify the only instrument used as the bass guitar.  Steve concludes this track by invoking the vision of layered UK EM style keyboards with very believable accuracy.

"The virtue of small" places the listener in the ying vs. yang plateau of melancholic chordal passages juxtaposed against distorted lead lines and then resolves with extremely lyrical, back porch, Sunday afternoon, kicking back and sipping tea relaxation scenario, bass techniques.

If I had to guess I would place "The new country" as the Renaissance acoustic fretless bass track.  This is one of those grooving, riding with the top down, let's take a cruise tunes that invokes the sensation of motion tracks that travels well and stays with you.  This is also one of the tracks that pushes the digital envelope of recording into the danger zone as I detected multiple points of clipping in all of my playback systems.  But that is the reality of recording live in all its naked truth.

Track five, "chance", returns to the ambient side of bass playing once again.  Marvelous burbles and effects punctuated with bass rumbles and more lyrical melodies layered into a most contemplative soundscape.

Next up is a track that you may not recognize by the title but surely will by the melody.  "blue sticks" is one of those pretty little tunes with an infectious hook that made me sit back, smile, and say "that was really nice".  Everybody needs a tune like this at least once a day.  Well done my low end brother (o:}.

"bittersweet" is the "fess up" track according to the liner notes.  Entirely valid as it was totally "of the moment" but has the bass lines recorded in two passes live in the studio.  It also includes Jez Carr on the ivories playing a soulful, first pass, piano passage to accompany Steve's idea. It's about as New Age as a track can be and gives the album a pure and innocent counterpoint while balancing well with the other tracks.  It also offers proof positive in my opinion that Steve Lawson is a gifted and visionary player.

The last track is actually a snippet of what was originally a half an hour session at home.  According to the Web Notes all we are missing is the painstaking layering and set up of the looping bed tracks.  This is also the pure Ambient Bass track of the entire disc and worth every tuppence of the entry price alone for any serious Ambient/Space music collector.  Without letting the cat out of the bag there is also an added bonus for those that purchase this disc.  A Website URL offering a more in depth discussion of the recording process and a link to additional tracks available only to those with the secret URL, lies in wait once you open the digifile sleeve of the disc.

All in all, "and nothing but the bass", is a most delectable and auspicious debut release from a very talented artist with the vision and ability to think and play outside the box.  Definitely recommended listening, especially for those "And now for something completely different" days and moods. 

BEAR   1.28.01   

Audiophiles Note: 

With the exception of "bittersweet" all tracks were recorded direct to minidisc using a Sony ecm ms-017 stereo microphone and a Sony mzr-55 minidisc recorder.  Being a bass player myself the clarity is startling at moments, no doubt due to the use of Modulus graphite neck basses.

The very fact that this is a live recording places an ambient nature of its own design around the tracks of this disc.  From the very first cough to the table utensil tinkling one derives an added euphonic sense about the recording.

There are detectable clipping sounds from some of the effects and other little things that do not detract from the listening session but nonetheless are very evident.  For those that have every wondered what is like sitting in front of a live bass amplifier on stage this is the definitive disc for you.

Low frequency content is very much in residence, down to 31.5 Hz on the low B string, while the bulk of the recording spends its time joyfully reproducing the audio spectrum up to the upper midrange with great fidelity.  There are a few trips into the higher sonic nature, mainly as a result of the effects, but nothing that is going to scream transparent, airy high frequencies.  More than likely you will learn things about your system that you don't like as this disc is a very effective audiophile's tool for training your ear in the range one most often does not hear on its own.

The session with my own Ashdown amplifier was a real treat and gave me an even greater appreciation for what Steve has done in this recording.  I ran the Musical Fidelity A3 CD straight into the combo with the controls set flat and heard, what I would believe to be, exactly what Steve did, minus the big room effect, and that for me was the ultimate bonus.

The listening sessions were performed in the following systems: 

(1) Electrocompaniet EMC-1 CD player, Electrocompaniet ECI-3 Integrated, Magneplanar MG1.6QR, & Sunfire True Subwoofer speakers.

(2) Linn Classik into Stax Electrostatic SRX MkIII, Sennheiser HD600, & Sony MDR-7509 Professional headphones.

(3) The Holo-System: Rega Planet 2000, Musical Fidelity A3 CD, Belles XLM preamplifier, Belles 200 power amplifier and Altec Lansing 510 A speakers.  ( A relatively large system in an extremely small room with only one small holographic listening sweet spot)

(4) Ashdown ABM-C110-300. ( I too own one of these marvelous Bass Combo Amps and just had to try it out and hear what Steve heard on stage) (o:}



by Juno Reactor

Visit Juno Reactor's website


From the first opening notes of this release, it's clear this is no run-of-the-mill techno CD.  On this fifth Juno Reactor release to date, Ben Watkins is back with his rotating cast of eclectic collaborators  (this time including such heavy hitters as the KLF's Jimmy Cauty and The Orb's Alex Patterson).  The result is a highly crafted mix of diverse sounds, world beat rhythms, and genre defying combinations pulled together as a coherent soundtrack for a fictional worldscape.  Often imbibed with a dance floor sensibility, these tracks keep reaching for something a bit higher and deliver a combination of danceable melodies with headphone listenablity.

Looking at the tracks individually we find Pistelero (a modern day reworking of a Spaghetti Western theme song), Badimo (dark mysterious industrial dance), Songs for Ancestors (mystical electro-ambient) as well as five other equally diverse tracks.  All said, Shango would be a welcomed addition to any electronic music fans collection especially those who appreciate breadth and diversity in their acquisitions.

Reviewed by Jim Kosinski for Ambient Visions


Planned Penetration Kozo album cover

Planned Penetration

by Kozo

Visit Waveform's Website


"Swanky experimental breakbeats ... downtempo, gritty lounge vibes."  That is Kozo's description of "Planned Penetration," his debut CD from Waveform Kozo Ikeno, his full name, recorded this funk/jazz/ambient/minimalist melange at his studio in Yokohama, Japan.  Gordon Schaeffer, a.k.a. D J Free, a.k.a. Soulfood, mastered the album for

I found this disc easy to like and difficult to review.  While it grabbed my attention and warranted deep listening, it did not grab my heart or soul at first.  Kozo augments his backbeats and vibes with a soulful trumpet reminiscent of David Bilger's ambient trumpet on "From the Dark Earth" by Meg Bowles (Kumatone, 1999).  The disc is also mindful of "Techno Unit 30," Larry Kucharz's salute to trip hop and techno house music (International Audiochrome, 1999).  Kozo wraps his rhythms and grooves around some sensual minimalism.  The effect is similar to the intent of Martin Denny's and Arthur Lyman's 1950's exotica.  The music is not derivative of any of those styles.  Kozo's talent is unique and original. 

The drift of the atmosphere is mellow.  The message is cloudy yet sure.  Kozo is encouraging us to let the ambience surround us and dominate the environment!  His experimental textures are quite effective.  This CD is a COOL VIBES winner.  Enjoy it with someone you love! 

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Mindset Acid Rockers album cover


by Acid Rockers

Visit Acid Rockers website


For those of you familiar to the dancefloor, you may already know Acid Rockers work.  Previously releasing tracks as Hippies with Attitude, Matt Buggins hit a high note back some years ago with the trance/drum & bass track Orion.  It was a track I hadn't thought about in a long time, but definitely remembered from hearing mid set during my nights hitting the afterhours and parties before I got a "responsible" job and couldn't stay up all night any more (well at least not as often).  Mindset is a mix of electronic rhythms that seem to span the last few years of Acid Rockers career. 

The sound is typically trance and techno four to the floor infused with elements of drum and bass, ambient melodies, and even a hint or two of early hip hop (not entirely surprising if you note Mr. Buggins work with the Adamski revival). Those of you looking for soft relaxing music might not find home with this CD, but those who occasionally (or more often) find themselves breaking into dance as their turntable/CD /MP3 players crank along will immediately find themselves twirling in that bliss of rhythmic movement that good dance music inspires.  Standout tracks include the title track Mindset, Futurešs End, and my personal favorite Traveller.

Reviewed by Jim Kosinski for Ambient Visions


In Memory of the Four Winds Steve Peters album cover

In Memory of the Four Winds

by Steve Peters


Les Pierres du Seuil Eric La Casa album cover

Les Pierres du Seuil
(parts 4-7)

By  Eric La Casa


Amalgalm ORA album cover


by ORA


Looking back over the music released last year, three of my favorite ambient recordings were centered around field recordings and 'soundscapes'.  Soundscapes were defined by R. Murray Schafer in the late 1960s with his World Soundscape Project, and although the project itself wound down in the mid 1970s, it continues through multiple recordings and features an organic approach to ambient music that is significantly different from the electronic creations of Brian Eno and his successors.  Although Schafer's primary concern was the preservation of sonic environments (his movement is also known as Acoustic Ecology), its focus has shifted over the last twenty years to emphasize the rich details of natural sound for artistic purposes.  Natural sound has a different overtone structure than electronics, still difficult to reproduce digitally.  Artists such as French soundscaper Eric La Casa, New Mexico new music maven Steve Peters, and the British collective ORA, all make heavy use of field recordings in their work, and they all provide different amounts of processing to create three very different sound worlds.

Eric La Casa's limited edition 2000 release, Les Pierres du Seuil (parts 4-7), sounds the most like a straight environmental recording. Beautifully packaged in an oversize plastic wallet with several photographs, the release concentrates on sounds and pictures of water. Part 4 uses rain sounds, quiet at first, bursting with a sudden thunderstorm, then lingering, with the thunder in the background.  The last half of this piece layers several different rain sounds, from locations in Croatia and France, on top of each other in a beautiful evocation of a rainy afternoon.  Part 5 also concentrates on watery sounds, but this time more running water from streams, ponds, outflows, trenches, as well as waves and louder forms of running water.  Parts 6 and 7 concentrates more on wind, from stormy nights in evergreen and oak forests as well as from cities and radio towers.  Part 7 only includes sounds from one windy night, a quiet and tranquil close to a superb collection.  La Casa's continuation of the series he started on a release for Ground Fault demonstrates what can happen when a dedicated sound artist uses nature's raw materials.  The release is both powerful and relaxing.

The ORA collective is at the other extreme of field recordings, highly processed to the point where the original sonic origins remain cloaked in a mysterious fog.  Comprising for their 2000 release Amalgalm regular members Colin Potter and Darren Tate, together with Michael Northam (aka MNortham), ORA has been around for several years with varying members that have at one time or another included Andrew Chalk, Daisuke Suzuki, Jonathan Coleclough, and Lol Coxhill.  Their recorded output typically consists of very limited edition releases, and this double LP set on Edition ..., limited to 400 copies, is no exception.  Like La Casa's release, the packaging is visually stunning: two clear LPs in clear packaging, with a two-sided full color insert of Northam's photographs.

Each of eight tracks is identified by title and recording location. Musically, the pieces are complex layers of drones, from the deep, undulating and shimmering circular drones of the title track to the secret clattering inside Circle and the wind recordings in Dome and Pan. Northam and Tate made the recordings on location over a period of two years, then worked with studio wizard Potter to create the lovely release.  It is unusual for music like this to be released on vinyl, but it is well worth tracking down, as are all the releases by ORA.  Sadly, at least for the time being, Amalgam is one of ORA's final releases, as all the performers involved have moved on to other projects.  Northam recently released his first solo CD, :coyot:, and Tate now records under the name Monos.  Hopefully their works will reach a wide audience, as the music is truly enveloping.

Somewhere in between ORA's processing and La Casa's natural recordings is the work of Steve Peters, whose release In Memory of the Four Winds on the New Mexico label Nonsequitur, combines both worlds.  Peters lists both instruments and natural sound sources on the album, a single piece that combines violin and gambuh (an Indonesian bamboo flute) with insects, wind, sandstone, pine and elm trees, stream and birds.  As with ORA, things proceed in layers, starting with the insects, then with violin sounds becoming thickly massed, fading to quiet wind sounds before transitioning to the wooden flutes and rattles.  Unlike ORA, most of the field recordings are recognizable, but his overt studio work and the sonic layers marks his difference with La Casa.  The packaging here deserves a mention too, a simple embossed paper envelope reflecting the meditative nature of the recording inside.

Together, these three recordings present some of the most interesting new sound work of recent years.  At a time when many of us are living in urban areas, sounds taken from exotic locales such as a stone structure on a granite protrusion in the Gulf of Finland (ORA) or an inner court in Rovinj, Croatia (La Casa) have an immediate and instinctive appeal. Combined with contemporary studio techniques, artists like Colin Potter and Steve Peters manage to bring these sounds inside our own environments, transporting us to different realms, and hopefully bringing us closer together.  To paraphrase La Casa, in a world which becomes progressively more unreal, these artists investigate a utopian field: reality.


Eric LaCasa, Les Pierres du Seuil 4-7, Editions ... xii, edition of 500

ORA, Amalgalm, double LP, Editions ... vi, edition of 400

Steve Peters, In Memory of the Four Winds, Pianissimo ppp01 (c/o Nonsequitur) 

Reviewed by Caleb Deupree for Ambient Visions


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