Reviews 02-25-2001

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Children of the Amazon

by Kudzu and Peter Griggs


This album is designed to be a soundtrack for an inner movie that you, the listener, provide. It accomplishes this purpose happily. "Kudzu's" electronics, percussion, and keyboard melodies, accompanied by Peter Griggs' acoustic guitar, create dramatic and engaging sound-pictures which convey different moods, personalities, and landscapes. The scene is enhanced by environmental recordings of jungle animals and birds, though some of the other "environmental" sounds are synthesized.

Synthesized natural? An odd concept. But this recording was never meant to be a documentary or an anthropological or ecological statement. It is a fantasy about life in the Amazon jungle, idealized and stylized, like a painting by the French surrealist Rousseau. Though the themes (track titles) deal with life and death, it is not meant to tell the listener anything about real tribal children in the Amazon. Its idyllic, happy, sad, and scary moments are more "generic" - the individual character is for you to add in. There is some South American or Latin feeling in the tasteful guitar parts played by Griggs, but most of the music is solidly in the land of Western pop.

The melodies and rhythms here are simple and repetitive; the longer pieces, without more complex material, tend to get dull. The better pieces in the album are under five minutes long, as most of them are. Among these shorter tracks are some delightful little gems, such as the title track 4, "Children of the Amazon," track 10, "River Journey," and my favorite of the whole album, the sprightly track 6, "Village Dawn." The more dramatic ones are also fun to listen to, such as track 7, "First Hunt," with its breathless sound-picture of hunters running through the forest following the prey.

So don't worry about ethnic "authenticity" or Third World problems or serious ecological concerns - that's for another time. Listening to this album is like taking an exotic, entertaining tour through a virtual rainforest, with friendly natives and colorful wild animals, where you are in no danger from tropical diseases, nasty insects, lurking beasts, poisonous serpents, or head-hunters.

Reviewed by Hannah M.G. Shapero 2/25/2001


Rainforest Soundwalks

by Steven Feld

Visit Earth Ear's website


Steven Feld is a professor of Anthropology who did his field work in Papua New Guinea with the Kaluli people in the Bosavi rainforest in the mid 1970s.  He has written Sound and Sentiment, an award-winning ethnomusicological work, about Papua New Guinea and the Kaluli people's rainforest ecology.  He has also made several trips to the region since his initial field work, and released an album of music from the region in 1991, Voices of the Rainforest, for Mickey Hart's World Music series on Rykodisc in 1991, an album which revolutionized field recording with its state-of-the-art equipment as well as Feld's commitment to funnel the royalties of the album back to the Kaluli (author royalties from this album go to the same trust).  

Under the influence of R. Murray Schafer's landmark book on acoustic ecology Tuning the World, and with the encouragement of various artists and naturalists after the release of Voices, early this year Feld released a second album from the rainforest, devoted solely to the forest ambience.  Three of the four tracks are indeed 'ambient soundwalks,' simulated rambles through the rainforest at different times of the day.  Keafo, the morning walk, is the most active, with cicadas providing a rhythmic chatter while cooing and hooting doves and pigeons provide a counterpoint.  In Galo, the afternoon, the cicadas are less active, but there is more variety in the different bird calls.  In Nulu, the evening, the birds are silent, but the insects' rhythmic chirping and buzzing provides a deep and peaceful drone.  The opening track centers on an extended song of a Seyak, or butcherbird, over the quiet early morning forest sounds.  The seyak is a privileged bird in the Bosavi world (well explained in the album's excellent accompanying notes), and its song is slowly taken up by the rest of the forest during the course of the piece.  

These soundwalks, transparently and seamlessly edited together from several different recording sessions, are slices of ambience from a part of the world that few of us will get to visit, and even fewer will gain the indepth knowledge of the Bosavi people that Feld has acquired over the last quarter century.  They don't have te tension/release model of 'musical' pieces as such, but provide a soothing natural ambience for background listening as well as a glimpse of a different spiritual world for more attentive listeners.

Reviewed by Caleb Deupree for Ambient Visions 


Early Man

by Steve Roach

Visit Steve's website

Visit Projekt's website


Steve Roach released "Early Man" in 2000.  It came in very cool slate packaging.  A review of that landmark CD will appear in my book.  Hannah Shapero reviewed it for this site.  (To submit my review would be redundant.)  Steve has re-issued "Early Man" in a conventional jewel case with a second CD - "Early Man Decomposed!" 

Over the last two or three years I have learned that Steve is a private, personable and very spiritual individual.  He also values artistic integrity highly.  While listening to "Early Man Decomposed," I hear all of those qualities and elements of all of Steve's musical journeys of his 22-year career.

The strongest overtones are his tribal and primal ambient stylings.  Steve augments and highlights those elements with his austere minimalism and visionary space music.  The strong references to his desert ambience are overt and well placed.

All of that is very cool and very worthy but the emotional and spiritual responses make this a Steve Roach CD - and a classic at that!  The drifting minimalism and the desert ambience evoke imagery of the early man and his isolation and constant discovery.  The mysteries of the birth of humanity are driven home, forcefully, by the eerie space riffs and the dark ambience.

Appreciating Steve's music is easy.  This CD raises the ceiling again.  Through his venture to the roots of our existence, Steve takes us back to the perpendicular universe.

Appreciating Steve's emotional and spirituality energy is a challenge!  It requires deep and focused listening!

This CD is a special gift from a special man.  It is always a treat to embrace a new Steve Roach CD.  It is a true honor to review it as well!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Colour Healing

by Llewellyn

Visit Llewellyn's website


Whenever i sit down to listen to and review a "healing" CD I cannot help but think, "OK, here's another standard muzak CD!"  That preconception is imbedded in my brain.  Fortunately, it is not imbedded in my heart or soul.

New World Music has a set of such CD's in "The Mind, Body, Soul Series."  "Colour Healing" is a strong entry in the set.  Extensive liner notes by Lilian Verner-Bond, a world renown colour therapist, describe the clinical practice in detail.  The music, by Llewellyn, intensifies the experience exponentially.

There are definite nods and winks to standard new age structures and passages.  Llewellyn goes beyond those limits with diverse and well-paced sound design and arrangement.  Various acoustic and electronic instruments make up the soundscape.  The electronic overtones give the CD a space music quality.  The orchestral and acoustic qualities keep us grounded and focused.

The focus is definitely on healing through meditation and relaxation.  The orchestration is lush, full and dramatic.  It has almost a sequenced timbre.  The rhythms are even and constant allowing us to appreciate the consistency of the healing power and energy. 

Is this a new age CD?  Yes, it is!  Is it standard fare?  No, it is much more!  Does the album deliver its promise?  Absolutely!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Now is Forever

by Kip Mazuy

Visit Bliss Music's website


Kip Mazuy's "Now is Forever" was number  eight on the Backroads Music Best of 2000 list in the space music category.  Such praise by my friend, Lloyd Barde, merits closer inspection.

This CD is packed with gentle atmospheres, pastoral samples and introspective minimalism.  Kip has long been a proponent and performer of meditative trance music.  His languid sequences and flows create the imagery of a soft landscape and a delicate climate.

I was sitting in my office while writing this review and I glanced out the window.  I was struck by the power of the juxtaposition of what I saw versus what I felt.  The February landscape in southwestern Pennsylvania is barren, bleak and lifeless.  Kip's soundscape is alive and subtle.  The colors are bright and overwhelming.  Kip is a master of meditative sound design.  "Now is Forever" is a landmark of introspective excellence!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Blind Cinema

by Matthew Harris


"Blind Cinema" is the debut CD from Matthew Harris.  Matthew was seeking to fill a gap that he had heard (or not heard!) in modern ambience.  The gap that he attempts to fill is that of structure.

"Blind Cinema" fills that gap quite capably!  While there are certainly echoes of Matthew's influences, this album is neither derivative nor imitative.  The music has a dark and desolate feel with symphonic nuances and orchestral timbres.

The darkness speaks of pain and angst.  The subtle orchestral timbres drive that home.  The desolation speaks to the existentialism of our very being.  Matthew is looking for more questions to answer the questions.  Sufferers often ask, "Why me?"  The answer is, all too often, "Why not you?"

Matthew finds the disturbing to be interesting.  He finds beauty in hopelessness.  This dark minimalism challenges us to find ourselves within the caverns of despair!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Mathias Grassow

Visit Mathias' website



"Dissolution" is a typical Mathias Grassow CD.  That means that it is excellent!

Mathias is an extremely prolific and talented artiste.  Over the years he has reflected many moods with his deep minimalism.  This album is a "homage to dark and melancholic moods" and pagan mysticism in general.  Mathias has built a dense atmosphere around a dark soundscape.  The ominous and sinister music probes those areas of the psyche that we often ignore and do not like to visit.

However, we must not only acknowledge and address these facets of our beings, we must also honor them.  (The surest way to get to heaven is to experience a little bit of hell!)

There are many wonderful CD's available that present opportunities to explore the dark sides of life.  Mathias has provided the crème de la crème!  This is the perfect dark ambient adventure!  DO NOT LISTEN ALONE!  DO NOT LISTEN IN THE DARK!  Listen alone in the dark and take your higher power with you!  Enjoy the experiences!  Each one is new and exciting!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Blue Day

by Robert Scott Thompson

"Blue Day" is the latest release from the creative genius of Dr. Robert Scott Thompson (Dr. Bob?  My own stuff comes out sometimes!)  Robert has established himself as a leading force in the y2k electronic music scene.  His textures and atmospheres are surrounded by and surround experimental avante garde overtones and undertones.  On "Air Friction," Robert began attempting to integrate the holistic self.  His progression of minimalist releases continued that quest.  "Blue Day," a thinker's album, takes that quest to its highest plateau!  Through intellectual thought and logic, deep listeners get a stronger understanding of the spiritual and emotional processes.  The juxtapositions of intellect and emotionalism, and spirituality are enhanced, embraced and defined!  As Dr. William F. Kraft posed in "Ways of the Desert, Becoming Holy Through Difficult Times," the only way to the promised land is through the desert.  The longest and most arduous journey known to humankind is from the mind to the heart and soul.  Robert has provided a map with directions!  This is essential emotional ambience!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


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