Reviews 03-09-2002


Music Reviews 



by Monica Robelotto

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"Tranzdanze" is an especially rich collection of piano solos and piano/cello duets spanning a wide range of musical territory. Pianist Monica Robelotto and cellist David Darling have collaborated on ten pieces, five of which are original compositions by Robelotto, two of Bach's Goldberg Variations, one of Erik Satie's "Gnossiennes", the folk tune "The Water Is Wide", and the ever-popular "Over the Rainbow". Quite a variety, no? Yes, and it works so well! The original pieces have very strong classical and jazz influences, making this CD almost impossible to classify - something I really like!

The first five pieces are all original compositions. The title track is a wistful slow dance - possibly a graceful, rubato waltz. The cello part often sounds like a human sigh, adding to the melancholy mood and dreamy quality. "Hawthorne Memories" is a piano solo that is also dreamy and rubato. This one is more jazz than classical with lots of openness and less formal structure. It is dark with a quiet peacefulness. Very, very nice! "Morning" begins with gentle bells and minimalist piano with cello washes. An ambient, free-form piece that drifts and swirls, evolving as it goes on its tranquil way - also very beautiful. "U Can B" is a slightly funky piano solo with a catchy bass rhythm and a somewhat pleading melody line. "Corezon", also a solo, has an interesting Spanish or Latin rhythm and a graceful melody than could easily become a dance. Several sections of all of these pieces sound improvised and free, and all are very effective. Bach's "Goldberg Variations" were originally composed as keyboard solos, and the duets with David Darling's cello are wonderful arrangements. I've always felt that Satie's "Gnossienne #1" is one of the most mournful pieces in piano literature, and the addition of cello to this piece turns it pitch black. With his flair for theatrics, I think Satie would absolutely love this arrangement. The last two cuts are lighter, but still carry a somewhat somber mood. "The Water Is Wide" has been turning up on lots of CDs the past few years, and this duet version holds up well next to the others. Robelotto's solo arrangement of "Over the Rainbow" brings a different interpretation to this old workhorse. Her thoughtful and introspective take on this very popular song makes it her own.

"Tranzdanze" is a soothing collection of fascinating improvisations and exceptional musicianship. Monica Robelotto is a great new find, and David Darling, as always, shines. It is available from and Highly recommended!

This Kathy Parsons review is written especially for Ambient Visions. If you would like to see more of Kathy's reviews please visit the  Mainly Piano website.


Two Halves of the Same Side

by Brannan Lane and 
Daniel Byerly

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Brannan Lane is in the zone and reaching for the perpendicular universe.  He has five bona fide CD's that qualify as "new" releases.  Two of those discs are collaborations.  Two Halves of the Same Side is a collaboration with Lane Formschlag with assistance from Bertrom Cabot, Jr. and  Daniel Byerly

Back in August of 2001, Brannan sent a CD with base starting points to Lane.  Rather than simply adding layers to Brannan's bases, Lane and Daniel sampled and tweaked the originals, mixed those samples back into the originals and continued the process.  It could be the proverbial endless Frippertronics loop.  It is a very fascinating and promising concept.  It would be interesting to compare this technique to Bill Laswell's reconstruction methods and to the recycling process by Vidna Obmana and Asmus Tietchens

The resulting soundscape is a gentle and ambiguous atmosphere.  There are hints of pastoral beauty and sinister dirges.  The drone is consistent but neither low nor high.  It just is.

Brannan is offering this CD free with a purchase from his website. It is worth much more than that.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Electronic Chillage: Global Trance Excursions

by Various Artists

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This is Ďchillageí?  Give me a break, Neurodisc- the only way I could stay in my seat while listening to this disk was to play it in my car. (Note to myself: Get a subwoofer.) It was that good. And even in the car, the urge was there for me to turn it up to earsplitting levels to share it with one and all. Happily, Iím a little more restrained and dignified than that, and the winter chill kept the windows rolled up tight.

This is excellent stuff. I like to write and do house work to music like this- the infectious rhythms clock my body and brain along, and the ďLetís Get Stuff DoneĒ circuit closes, and Iím dusting baseboards, mopping, and dusting places I usually ignore. Canít put down a disk that motivates me like that! And I expect that if I ever got a place big enough for a proper party, this disk would get all bottoms off chairs. Itís that good.

Lots of sleek European beats here- smooth transitions, airy divas...I sure wish people in the US would get around to doing music this interesting. Iíve got to give it to Neurodisc- they sure know how to put together a great mix. More, please!

Parked in front of the Klipsch was an interesting adventure- crisp sound with some thumping bass. I also listened to this disk while I was recovering from some major surgery- and over headphones (and on some heavy pain meds too, Iíll admit) the panning and splitting of the beats was having some interesting effects on my head.

I wonít comment on the individual tracks- they are all sonic standouts. Each has an interesting character, and are seamlessly blended into each other by the mix masters. If you want a long (73 minutes) tall drink of excellent chillage, you cannot go wrong with this. Definitely a keeper.

Reviewed by Lorie Johnson for Ambient Visions


One Late Hour With a Steinway

by Sandy Owen

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This double CD from pianist Sandy Owen is incredible! "One Late Hour With a Steinway" was recorded in a single, continuous take one night, and is unedited. Quiet, introspective, and exceptionally intimate, this album is a portrait of an artist in the midst of a particularly creative and inspired hour. There is a multitude of influences present in the music, but, for the sake of classification, I would call the first CD in the set smooth jazz. The gentle mood is  consistent throughout the album, making it unobtrusive as a backdrop for other activities, but the music is just too good to not listen to it with full attention. Sandy Owen is one of a handful of artists who seems to know his instrument so well that it is an extension of himself and could even be his primary means of communication. The ten tracks on this CD are original compositions except "He Belongs", which was composed by Owen's brother's high school music teacher, and "Danny Boy", which Owen calls "simply one of the most emotional and best melodies ever". All of the tracks are melodic and I love 'em all, but I think my favorite is "Peacock's Dance", which began as an experiment in "subdividing the 5/4 time signature". A bit "jazzier" than the other tracks, this one has an infectious, although easy-going, rhythm with a flowing melody over the top.  I hear a little bit of Liz Story in there, too.

As impressed as I am with "One Late Hour", the bonus CD, "Far From Yesterday", really blows me out of the water! Since Sandy Owen's name isn't that well-known (I'd never heard of him before this), this retrospective was intended to introduce listeners to the earlier work of this remarkable composer/pianist. He recorded eleven albums before "Late Hour", mostly as a solo artist, but two were with the trio Iliad (formed in high school with Owen's brother, Ted on percussion and Larry Andrews on bass). Where "One Late Night" carries a consistent mood, "Far From Yesterday" demonstrates a very broad range of playing and composing styles. Every track on this CD is a favorite - it is truly THAT good! Many of the tracks have additional instrumentation, such as sax, cello, oboe, and horns (all real musicians rather than patches or synth tracks). I'd love to tell you about every track, but there isn't space. A couple of pieces that I can't get enough of are the spooky "Shadows", the hauntingly beautiful "Heart Crossings I - Passage" and "Desert Journey", and the full-tilt "Beanface Boogie". The CDs come with an excellent booklet that includes Owen's descriptions and inspirations for all of the pieces, his biography, and discography. This is an incredibly good collection, and I know it will be on my Top 10 for 2002 even though it was released in '01. "One Late Hour with a Steinway" is available from,, and I give this CD my very highest recommendation!!!!! Bravo amundo!

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


Mask of Promise

by Larry Gaab




Larry Gaab (as in Abe) is a mysterious performer.  His music, available on Morphosis Music, reflects that persona with its dark atmospheres and experiMENTAL colors.

Mask of Promise is an extremely diverse musical adventure.  The symphonic nature of Larry's electronic ministrations allows this album to fit many different moods and settings.  He paints with a broad brush on many different canvases.

So, while this CD fits neo-classical, contemplative, atmospheric and visionary formats, its strongest ties are to experimental dark minimalism.  there are some extremely chaotic avant-garde riffs with swirling and frenetic paces.  Larry juxtaposes those riffs with symphonic pastoral ambience.  It is a very enigmatic soundscape.  Deep listeners will get lost in Larry's curious soundworld.  He does not promise a return trip.

This is Larry's finest effort.  His progression is steady and his learning curve is steep.  He just keeps getting better and better.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


123 Freeland Street

by Vampire Nation

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123 Freeland Street is one of Vampire Nation's (Fredrik von Hamilton's) mp3 D.A.M. CD's.  It is a fairly straightforward set of experimental electronic funk without the frenetic techno overdrive.

There are some heavy rhythms and they are techno in nature but they are not frenetic.  Strange as it may seem, the rhythms are integral parts of Fredrik's deep atmospheres.

That oxymoronic statement will catch many folks off guard and surprise others.  But it happens!  And this CD happens!  It is plain and simple.  It is intricate and complex.

In short, this CD is one of the ultimate paradoxes.  It fits none of the "typical" e-music styles and it fits all of them.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Mark Dwane

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Archives is a set of outtakes, alternate mixes and reworked versions from the vaults in Westlake, Ohio.  Mark Dwane - the MIDI-guitarist's MIDI-guitarist - composed and performed these pieces from 1984 through 1995.  It is a limited edition (500 copies) release.

This CD features all the good things that listeners expect from synth guitar ambience - and then some!  Mark's very dramatic style grabs listeners right away.  There are no subtleties here.  This music "whacks listeners 'up side the head'" like a two by four.  It is not a painful experience at all.  Deep listeners will feel the drifting effects as they enter a semi-conscious journey.

The journey goes to different zones as Mark takes a retrospective and introspective tour of his brilliant career.  This is more essential space music from a master of the craft.  It has both historical and musical integrity.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Live at Artspace:
Music for an Art Gallery

by Tom Shaw


Tom Shaw has a reputation as a rocker in the tri-state area of NY, NJ and PA.  The ambience of Live at Artspace: Music for an Art Gallery belies that reputation.  Tom had approached Linda Guenste.  She told him that she needed a musician for Artwalk '96, an annual event in Stroudsburg, PA.  He made a demo tape; she loved it; he got the gig.

The live performance is an improvised symphony in four movements.  Tom performed the music as a meditation.  The reactions of the spectators - soothed and calmed - was his reward.

The music is, indeed, captivating.  Tom's synth is absolutely orchestral and minimal.  He uses nature samples - sparingly - to augment his delicate soundscape.

This is a rare treasure from unknown quarters.  The music works well as a background or as a meditation focus.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


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