Reviews 02-22-2002


Music Reviews 


Place Where the Black Stars Hang

by Lustmord

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Brian Williams, a.k.a. Lustmord, has recorded some of the darkest minimalism ever.  The Place Where the Black Stars Hang is one of the darkest CD's ever.  It is downright satanic.

This malevolent soundscape builds itself upon dark drones and psychotic synth washes.  The atmospheres envelop the soundscape and dominate it.  Deep listeners will feel a chilling presence of ........

This is one fantastic CD!  it is extremely difficult to evoke such strong responses.  And it is difficult to listen with headphones.  In that mode, the evocation is entirely too intense.

So, in one moment, this disc and this performer ascend to heights where few tread.  This is a top 10 CD - OF ALL TIME!  It is an absolute essential!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Relaxing Effects of Water

by Brannan Lane

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Brannan Lane has never been afraid to explore new territory.  He first came to prominence with 1998's World Circle Records release, "Caribbean Dream" in which New Age and World Music were combined with a Caribbean flavor. To this day, it still stands out as a unique exposition into the world of cross-over music.

"Relaxing Effects of Water" is minimalist music to the fore. Produced for continuous-loop playback, this hour-long, one-track CD is designed to provide a tranquil background to an office, restaurant, store, or even a den or study.

Suitable as an adjunct to "unwinding," the rippling sound of water coursing through a babbling brook is geared to put the listener into a shady oasis of the mind. Lane mixes in the most subtle of instrumentation, at times almost inaudible to the conscious ear. For many, the elements have their own music.

This is, I imagine, how gentle water might write its own. 

Others have worked this theme; Stephan Micus, comes to mind. Lane's foray into creating a hybrid of natural soundscapes and musical instrumentation puts him squarely into this camp, and if you're interested in finding a way to lose yourself on a mental journey for an hour or so, this is worthy of examination.

A final note: not two weeks ago I purchased one of those little water fountains that you place in a corner of a room to provide a light, atmospheric addition. You know the kind: little water streams cascading over lighted rocks using a small electric pump to recirculate the water. Listening to Brannan Lane's "Relaxing Effects of Water" is much like turning on this little fountain. Except with Lane's CD, you never have to clean the pump or add water.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions.




Visit Interchill Records website

Visit ISHQ's Myspace page

Editor's note: ISHQ's Orchid was licensed to Dakini for Asia and select online accounts. With that license Dakini released a limited edition double CD version of Orchid which is not going to be the official U.S. version. The U.S. version released throught the license owner, Interchill Records, is a single disc version which will be available through the Interchill website or any one of your favorite sources of ambient music. 

This is good stuff. Highly recommended for those who like their space music a bit more down to the earth, than soaring through the cosmos. There is an overall feeling of calmness throughout this disk, but with more than a few hints of mystery and tension lying just below the surface.

Orchid is the debut release from Matt Hillier, aka ISHQ, a former guitarist now using synths, samples and studio techniques to create haunting, ethereal ambient electronica. Subtle beats and textures move in and out of the electronic cloud that this music floats upon. Not too much melody and harmony here... mostly a persistent wash of space and ambience. One hears bits of primal rhythms slip into the foreground from time to time... every now and then an environmental  soundscape will rise to the surface. But nothing lingers long enough to dominate, and distract from, the overall spell that ISHQ creates.

Reviewed by Allen Welty-Green for Ambient Visions

Orchid is a flexible mix of rhythms, atmospheres and symphonic overtones from ISHQ.  (This CD, on Dakini Records, is the single disc that comprises the U.S. version)  The flexibility allows the disc to go many different ways and to be developed at many different levels.

The CD is intense at every level.  The biosonic response is confusion.  The set evokes anxiety.  The intensity rides a hard edge.

Deep listeners will go either way.  There is no in-between, no middle ground.  The album serves its function well.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Stellar Collections

by Geodesium

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Geodesium is the nom de plume for planetarium composer Mark C. Petersen. This disk is a compilation of two decades worth of Petersen's music... rearranged, reset and repurposed into seven tracks that range from short, concise interludes to grand multi-movement suites. Some of the material will no doubt be familiar to Geodesium fans, but hearing it in these new settings gives it a sense of freshness and immediacy.

They say that beauty is in the details. If so, then Stellar Collections is very beautiful indeed. Petersen shows a fine sense of detail in the way brings tonal elements and subtle effects in and out of the mix. And, unlike many others in the space-music genre, he shows a great gift for harmonic structure. He moves between chord structures and keys with finesse and precision, without ever interrupting the organic flow. His synth timbres and samples are spacious and delicate and his occasional emulation of acoustic instruments is hauntingly accurate - most notably the cello line in one part of The MarsQuest Collection. His romantic piano work in the opening track, Winter Sunrise, is also noteworthy.

Reviewed by Allen Welty-Green for Ambient Visions


Capitol Hill

by Vampire Nation

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Capitol Hill is a very laid back release from Vampire Nation, nee Fredrik von Hamilton.  This is a cosmic and rhythmic spacescape.  Fred is exploring some kind of irony and/or humor as he takes the government to task and to outer space.

Fred surrounds some eerie sci-fi atmospheres with some devastating sequences and bizarre rhythms.  Some dissonant experimental sounds and a smoking rock and roll guitar tip the scales to eclectica, esoterica and enigmatica!

This is a very different ride.  Those listeners inclined to categorize (like me!) will call this sci-fi experimental funky space rock ambience.  It is cool; it is fun; it is ESSENTIAL!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Monica Robelotto

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Contrary to what one might think from the title, this album does not contain dance or trance music. Initially I envisaged some sort of booming and beating music one would hear in certain nightclubs. It is actually piano (Monica Robelotto) and cello (David Darling) music containing improvisational pieces, arrangements of Bach, and well known songs - such as Over the Rainbow.

I've never heard a combination of piano and cello before. Now that I have I can say that it's a combination that can work well, as on this album where the sound of a cello is appropriate to the reflective, even philosophical, feel of many of the tracks. The drawback, for me at least, is that naturally the cello can generate a melancholic feeling too, and this is the case on Tranzdanze. With piano music I prefer more uplifting and warmer melodies.

Overall this is a good album in that what it does it does well. It's not an album that really appeals to me, although I do particularly like the arrangement of Water is Wide, which I believe is a traditional folk song.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington for Ambient Visions


Experiment 13

by Cacophony



This is an electronic experimental ambient conceptual album from Daniel Byerly and Lane Formschlag, and mixed by Thomas Anderson and Cacophony.   Cacophony puts together a very solid experiment. The bright and elusive scapes, droning into hyper-sized space capsules, float into ecstasy. It is interesting to hear some elements of KLF's early works including their spacey epic called SPACE. The samples are a variant, a collage of pseudo spacey environmental sounds, building into a massive surrealistic ambient album. All the sounds are sourced from pure electronic sources, including computer software.

Full head on intensity drowning out the chillness of many other ambient albums of today, and still maintaining a realistic sense of what ambient really can be. This is not the typical droned environmental ambience that has been flooding the ambient market of recent, it dives further into surface textures. It is layered with many glimmering and shining stars, beaming light into the darkness. Water laced with machines draped across landscapes. The light becomes hope, a sense of movement, rather than calmness. This is not an album that mingles in the waters. It is a fast paced journey into space. The textures become meshed within. It is these textures that at times become rather psychotic sounding, sinking in fervor, speeding and echoing beyond the chaos.

Moreover, there seems to be a lot of experimentation within the spiraling realms of this album. The stereo imaging becomes relentless, bringing us further into the chaos. Building further into something on a schizophrenic level, it becomes heightened to a formidable peak, finally it breaks off and leads us down a rather serene ambient path only to finish on the feeling where it all began. This is not an album for those who are into the dreamy somberness of music. It is not a chill out release. This album creates chaos at times, and is able to expand the boundaries of what ambience is today.  A very worthy album.

Reviewed by Jack the Tab for Ambient Visions.


Into Orbit

by KevOz

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This sounds like an uneven collection of unfinished  demos. Parts of it show hints of brilliance (especially the cinematic, multi-movement "Love Goddess"), but most of it just sort plods along uneventfully. Especially awkward is the placement of upbeat techno dancey grooves and slippery trip-hop inspired drum loops (some of them quite solid, others rather pedestrian) next more ambient space music bits. With Into Orbit, KevOz (aka Kevin Osborn) sounds like he's searching for a musical identity.

If I was the producer on this disk, I would recommend that KevOz  spend more time trying to develop a sense of melody, and also work harder on making some of the chordal sequences less static. I would also encourage more exploration of tonal resources and textures, with an ear towards creating a more spacious sound. Some of the patches he uses tend to be rather bland and static. I would also steer him away from using trite subject matter like "The Lost City" (ie Atlantis)... especially on a disk with more than a few feel-good rave-ups. In fact, I would encourage him to perhaps put this material out on two separate disks.

Reviewed by Allen Welty-Green for Ambient Visions


Angels, Aliens and Archetypes

by Mark Dwane

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Angels, Aliens and Archetypes is a classic Mark Dwane CD from 1991.  He recorded the entire album on MIDI guitar.

And it is a classic space music set performed in the finest Berlin school tradition.  The dense atmospheres, infinite loops and layers of sound are reminiscent - not derivative - of some of the legendary German electronicians like Manuel Gottsching, Edgar Froese and Klaus Schulze.

But Mark is an American, hailing from Westlake, Ohio.  And his style has unique traits of American e-music.  Mark put strong feelings and deep spirituality into this album.  That combination pays big dividend for deep listeners.  That style was in its infancy in 1991.  Mark, one of its progenitors, influenced a generation of electronicians.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Across the Universe

by Terry Oldfield

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Terry Oldfield's  release is a combination of various musical instruments, vocals, and natural sounds. The music ranges from melodic to ambient with a soothing and calming message. The shortest of the five pieces is more than 7 1/2 minutes long, so the moods are sustained, and the listener can be transported into an extended, gentle fantasy. Known mostly as a flutist (flautist), Oldfield also plays piano and keyboards, percussion, whistles, pipes, and bells. The three vocal pieces are lovely, but I really prefer Oldfield's soaring instrumental work. "From the Heart" is the soundtrack to a dream of the listener's choosing. Oldfield plays all of the parts on this one, and it meanders like a lazy stream. Actually, water sounds run through this work, making it easy to imagine Oldfield sitting on the bank of a quiet   river, bringing his musical vision to life. "When" opens with a haunting, slightly ominous prelude. Reverb and the use of echo cause this piece to evoke images of wide-open, and perhaps very dark, space. When the vocals come in, the instruments become a much more subtle backdrop, but Oldfield supplies several passionate instrumental solos between the verses. "Down to Earth" is a darkly spiritual piece, showing clearly what Oldfield does best - emotional soundtracks to be experienced with or without visual accompaniment. This is my favorite piece on this album. "Across the Universe" holds a consistent mood throughout, and travels at a very peaceful tempo. In the liner notes, Oldfield is quoted: "This album is about the yearning to be free that becomes so much a part of Human Condition as we travel the pathways to liberation." Very nicely done!

This Kathy Parsons review originally reviewed on the  Mainly Piano website. It is reprinted here on Ambient Visions with permission.


A Day Without Rain

by Enya

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Enya is one of the top new age artists of all time.  Her orchestral style and ethnic influences appeal  to many folks on many levels.  Her vast atmospheres are the perfect compliments to her stunning vocals.

A Day Without Rain is a monumental achievement for this international star.  Her meticulous arrangements of the symphonic soundscapes are perfect.  This is delightful listening.

(I always find myself surprised - at first - that I enjoy this so thoroughly.  But I back up and realize, admit and accept that this is ambient music.  I know that lots of folks will disagree of that assessment but I don't care!  I get strong emotional and spiritual responses from Enya's music when I listen closely.  And I am also able to use this as a background CD.

And I realize that it is new age music.  That is cool, too.  Even though she might be too popular for some folks, her music is still right on time for me.)

So, this is an extremely worthy from a well-known entity.  Enya just continues to thrive and thrill!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


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