Reviews 02-11-2001

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Alchemy Through Dreams

by Mortal Loom


This album advertises itself as "a unique ambient crossover of electronica and trip hop with a taste of tribal rhythms." After some research, I found that "trip hop" was a style that featured slow, regular synthesized drumbeats (BOOM-cha, BOOM-cha) along with a compiled mix of sampled notes, modified voices, and electronic special effects - sort of like rap backgrounds without the shouting chanting rapper. You can find this in Alchemy through Dreams, along with floating electronic sounds, "lounge" music with synthesized African drums, hard dissonant jazz, fast danceable techno, melodic "New Age" passages, bubblegum pop music, and a few more contemporary formats. Each track seems to have a different style.

Sometimes this diversity works, but most of the time it doesn't; it seems like indecision rather than exploration. You'll get a sweet, rather wistful synthesizer piece like Track 2, "Event Horizon," and then right after that, rhythmic commercial "cruising" music in track 3, "Agnosia" and then harder, more characteristic "trip hop" in track 4 ("Trip Hop Thing"). There is melodic material in most of the pieces, but it tends to be thin and repetitive. The constant use of synthesizer drum machines and simulated instruments gives the sound a mechanical, impersonal feeling. The last track, track 10, is a peculiar rendering of the old show ditty "Dream a little Dream of Me" - done in the style of the '60s band "The Mamas and the Papas." Unfortunately, the female vocalist is hardly the equal of the legendary Mama Cass, and the accompaniment seems rather ragged as well.

If "Mortal Loom" had been more focused and concentrated on a single style or combination, this might have been a more effective album. As it is, it rambles on and doesn't leave many memorable moments.

Reviewed by Hannah M.G. Shapero 2/11/2001 


Global Spirit

by Global Spirit

Visit Karunesh's website


"Global Spirit" is the self-titled debut from - DUH! - Global Spirit, a.k.a. Karunesh, nee Bruno Reuter.  This disc is the best blend of world cultural music that I have encountered.  Bruno mixes vocals from India, Australia, Africa, Native America and the Mid-East with contemporary instrumentation and percussion.  Violins, sitars, didgeridoos, bouzukis, native flutes, Chinese temple flutes, tambouras, bamboo flutes and wave drums are among the featured instruments.  Bruno balances these exotic instruments with ambient synth lines and drones and ethnic rhythm instruments.

The result is a first class seat on an "epic journey &ldots; into a planetary network &ldots; that transcends borders (through musical alchemy."  Bruno was meticulous in creating this masterpiece, taking over two years to record it.  The extensive liner notes describe the intent perfectly.  The packaging is beautiful!

I was struck immediately by the mix of technical expertise and emotional and spiritual elements.  There is a plethora of German artists with vast technical expertise venturing into world beat zones.  Unfortunately most of them perform the music without passion or spirit.  Bruno has it all going for him!  The whole album has an uplifting feel and a recurring theme of pleasure, joy and fun!  The best world beat CD's are, for me, those that sound like the performer enjoyed the creation.  This CD cuts 'em all!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Near and Far

by David Tollefson

Visit the Hypnos website


Like his fellow Hypnos artist Jeff Pearce, David Tollefson relies exclusively on electric guitar and its electronic modifications to generate his sounds. But that's just about all that the two guitarists have in common. While Pearce seeks out a clear, bright, and harmonically tonal sound, Tollefson explores the more experimental and difficult realms of microtonal drones and a sound that is more diffuse, dissonant, and sometimes harsh. He uses the time-honored technique of electric guitar feedback as well as the more modern devices of loops, digital echo, and filtering. Despite the electronics, Tollefson's pieces here are described in the liner notes as "guitar performances" which implies some element of "real time" playing.

Tollefson does occasionally surface as a conventional guitar player, with some slowly played passages of low, resonant notes. Interestingly, as in track 8, "Sea Star," the piece begins with this type of somber, contemplative guitar, and then moves away from it into the almost toneless drones that characterize the other pieces on the album. The quiet guitar disappears into sounds that resemble airplanes taking off, or roaring winds, all of them run through digital echo. The only rhythms that Tollefson uses in these pieces are the pulses that arise from his sound-manipulation, mechanical waves which surge and play against each other in a noisy, icy, and sometimes grating way. It is definitely not "music for relaxation." If you don't like drones, this album won't appeal to you. Yet after all this racket, "Sea Star" concludes with the return of the quiet solo guitar. This track is the best example of what Tollefson is attempting with this esoteric album - the contrast between hand-played guitar and programmed electronics, music and noise.

By the way, keep listening after track 8 finishes. There is, about a minute of emptiness later, a short and rather interesting extra bit of guitar improvisation as well as a peculiar bit of "found sound" (which sounds like someone chewing the slightly explosive candy "Pop Rocks").

Reviewed by Hannah M.G. Shapero 2/11/2001


Subterranean Collective

by vidnaObmana

Visit vidnaObmana's website



"Echoing Delight" contributed greatly to Vidna Obmana's growth and development.  Djen Ajakan Shean collaborated with Vidna, always the master electronic manipulator.  They are in top form here.  The desert atmospheres are Middle Eastern.  The gentle ebb and flow of the minimalism evokes the image of a lone camel rider lazily traversing the dunes with nary a care in the world.  The journey is the delight.  The electronics provide the echo.

"Parallel Flaming," by Vidna Obmana and Djen Ajakan Shean, is a subtle, charming, almost edible slice of hot ambience from Vid and Djen.  This is also Vid's final effort before his predestined collaboration with Steve Roach.  Fortunately, Djen is also a very good collaborator.  Under his influence, Vidna's talent has matured and his confidence has grown.  The subtlety of this CD can get lost beneath the overt ethnic rhythms.  They are strong but they do not overpower.  This is an essential rarity.

"The Spiritual Bonding" is Vidna Obmana's first collaboration with Steve Roach.  Sometime between 1992 and 1994 Vidna met Steve.  Vidna writes, "The spiritual guidance and musical support of producer and composer Steve Roach, during the making of this album, gave me the opportunity to experience the magic of the desert and feel the pure power of the earth.  The blending of music of two opposite cultures became a reality&ldots;.  The desert became my new ritual and musical ground."  Steve and Dirk solicited contributions from Robert Rich and Alio Die, which they recorded at their own studios.  Vid recorded his piece at his Serenity Studio and took all of the pieces to the Planet Timeroom where he and Steve exchanged ideas, mixed it all together, added some of Steve's love and created this masterpiece.  And a new disciple was born!

Those are the reviews - as they will appear in my book - of the CD's that Vidna Obmana recorded for the Extreme label.  Dirk has made it quite clear - and quite public - that this label is infamous for not paying the artistes.  Their artiste roster is a veritable ambient hall-of-fame and they have all been ripped off!

Dirk re-acquired the rights to the CD's, remastered the music and re-sequenced the whole package to create a NEW cosmic triumph - The Subterranean Collective!  The sequence ebbs and flows elegantly as we see, hear and experience the tribal minimalism in an entirely new light.

The new arrangement heightens the emotional and spiritual experiences of the original discs thus creating a new sojourn to the perpendicular universe.  Intense, deep and personal are the superlatives at play here.  Vidna Obmana is one of a handful of electronicians capable of taking us on the journey to the perpendicular regions.  The tribal textures and minimalist sensitivities merge to forge the perfect vehicle for this and many future journeys.

In short - put it on, strap yourself in and hold on!  The journey is a non-stop spiritual adventure from note one to note last!  The CD is a y2k+1 frontrunner and a must have!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Robert de Fresnes

Visit Robert's website

Visit ADMusic's website



"Atlantis ...?" is a timeless journey of cross genre expertise by multi-instrumentalist Robert de Fresnes.  He blends new age sensitivity with ambient minimalism and space music soundscapes to create a mystical adventure to the lost continent.

The myths and legends surrounding the existence and fate of Atlantis are often lost and interspersed among any scientific data that exists.  The question mark in Robert's title tells it all.  We don't really know if the land ever really existed.  Robert's focus is on the mythology and legend.  (That is a lot more fun than science!)

Robert uses nature samples to enhance the aquatic nature of the legends.  The acoustic instrumentation creates a gentle background.  The ambient minimalism heightens the mystery.  The space music themes remind that this is science fiction!  This journey encourages adventure!

Robert's sound design is flawless.  The flow paces the journey in symphonic fashion.  He introduces a theme, repeats it throughout the CD and puts it to rest at the end.

The glorious adventure is high drama, striking crescendo and deeply personal.  We are invited to follow our own thoughts, feelings and spirits as we delve into Robert's soundworlds and imagination.  The diversity of the CD is impressive!  The journey is climactic!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


A Different Space

by Bob Holroyd

Visit Bob's Website



"A Different Space" is Bob Holroyd's third CD.  His musical career, however, goes back much farther.  He began creating "visual" music - soundtracks and similar projects - in 1987 through Soundscape Music Productions, his own company.

This CD is deeply influenced by Bob's travels through Asia and Africa and his exposure to indigenous music.  (He recorded several of the samples on location.)  Bob combines all of those influences with an ambient synth and drone and surrounds the mix with a club rhythm to create "A Different Space."  Some funky jazz undertones drive this energetic set to different worlds.  That metaphor is appropriate as Bob has definitely given us a world beat classic!  The synth, drone and acoustics are complimentary to the ethnic overtones.

Bob performs the set with panache, grace, style and feeling.  The only English vocals are on the final (and title) track.  They plead for "an end to the flowing stream of blood and tears."  While no translations for the other vocals and samples are available, the hints to the meanings are provided by that passage and by the synths and drones.  Buried within the ethno techno rhythms are some dirge-like atmospheres.  Such atmospheres are the perfect foils for such angst and dissention.

The combination of the aforementioned elements makes this versatile CD a winner and a valuable addition to ambient collections everywhere.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Nostalgia Trails

by Tino Izzo

Visit Chacra Music's website



"Nostalgia Trails" is, to quote my good friend, Lloyd Barde, "a veritable feast of guitar motifs." The CD, by Tino Izzo, is a unique "best of" set featuring twelve tracks from his solo albums plus three new pieces. 

Most unique among the new cuts is a very original and inspired interpretation of "And I Love Her," a John Lennon/Paul McCartney classic.  Tino maintains the romance of the original and adds a frenetic flamenco flair (alliteration unintentional but appropriate).  The uptempo version is a monumental soundscape with a smokin' rock'n'roll guitar riff complimenting the flamenco treatment.

Indeed, Tino places rock riffs liberally among his sensitive contemporary instrumental passages.  That feature grabs me!  I am a huge fan of the treated guitar stylings of Jeff Pearce and Dave TollefsonMark Dwane's guitar synth mesmerizes me.  I have NOT liked very much standard "new age" guitar music.  "Nostalgia Trails" transcends the new age classification, for me.  Tino's deft manipulations, soulful riffs and psychedelic echoes harken to a simpler time when the music was the message.  Beyond that, the feeling and energy create the transcendence.  The world beat influences create an aura of mysticism.  The modern styles take the entire set to higher realms.

For guitar lovers, this CD is vital!  For music lovers, it is worthy! 

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


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