Reviews 03-30-2002


Music Reviews 


The Journey

by Isadar

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Isadar's fourth solo piano album is a blend of smooth jazz and new age stylings, showing both his impressive technique and sensitivity to melody. Several of the eight selections are free-form and improvisational, revealing some of Liz Story's influence on his music. Some of Isadar's earlier recordings have very dark, moody sections, but this one stays fairly upbeat and optimistic without being ear candy. The music is complex enough to sink your teeth into, and yet is accessible enough to enjoy as a backdrop to a quiet dinner or an evening with a good book.   "Joyful Running" begins the "journey" with an exuberant and uplifting piece that reminds me a little of some of Spencer Brewer's bouncier compositions. "Fountain of Life" is a beautiful piece with a water-like flow that never stops in its 10 1/2 minutes. I listened to this CD several times without realizing that this song was that long. It flows and meanders so effortlessly that it seemed no longer than the other seven selections, most of which are between four and five minutes in length. Unstructured and free, this is one of my favorite tracks. I also really like the title track, which is even more abstract and unstructured. The tone is of searching and moving forward. "End of the Line" is my favorite on this album. Very introspective and contemplative, this seems to be a very personal piece. It is the most somber track, but one still senses hope  despite the ending of something dear and important. Or maybe it's simply the end of "the journey" and the dread of returning to "real life" - I feel this way on the last day of my vacations! It is a wonderful and moving closing to an excellent album. "The  Journey". 

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


A Universe to Come

by Tulku

Visit New Earth Records' website

A Universe to Come is a recording that has grown on me after repeated listenings. My initial reaction was that I'd become overdosed with "world" music recordings, and my fear was that I'd be subjected to more eastern-sounding droning complete with finger cymbals, tablas, sitars, and the like.  And I wasn't looking forward to it.

But the true measure of musical originality is making something old sound new. And I confess, Jim Wilson, the producer and "guiding light" behind Tulku has managed to accomplish just this.  This should really not come as a surprise; Wilson is a Grammy(r)-nominated producer, composer and instrumentalist.  His music has been featured in motion picture soundtracks and he is considered by many to be a pioneer in the field of the world music genre. Thus, this Tulku album (the third under this rubric) blends a myriad of world influences, and the result is a mix that transcends genre classification.

According to the liner notes, Tulku means the emergence of an old soul into a new body, and that's what this album is about on a number of levels.  The first is, as described above, the making of something new.  The second is the musical vogage that's undertaken, the merging of influences from the Aboriginal, to Persian, Egyptian, Mayan, and Native American. Bringing these diverse styles into a fluid, cohesive offering results in something that can only be termed spiritual in nature. Employing musical talent as diverse, such as Jai Uttal and Tim Reynolds (of the Dave Matthews Band) is a surefire guarantee of success in this endeavor.

Reading the track titles can be just as illuminating:  "Dub Gubbi," "Ayahuasca (a psychotropic "tea" brewed in the jungles of Central and South America) Healing," "Rahda Ramana" -- you get the idea -- divulge the diversity of influences.  And as the album moves from "Dub" uptake to the more ambient pieces (not quite trip- hop, but along that line) such as "Temple Door" and "In The Garden Of Nothing," the listener is swept along on a journey that engages, and sometimes captivates.  

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions


Ambient Life Vol. 1

by Diatonis

Visit Diatonis' website

Diatonis is composer/multi-instrumentalist/software developer Stuart White. This CD is Volume 1 of an anticipated four-volume set of pure ambient space music. Ambient is a word that is tossed around a lot lately in the world of contemporary electronic music, but this is one of a small handful of releases that truly fits the definition. You put this music on and it truly disappears into the background. In fact, ACTIVELY listening to Ambient Life Vol. 1 requires a true effort of will! Warm synth pads underlay the entire project, gently and imperceptibly modulating from one timbre/tonality to another, never jarring or sudden. The most active element in this music is an occasional electric guitar... a clean, delicate timbre bathed in sumptuous layers of echo and reverb.

The titles of the nine tracks on this CD serve little more purpose than to help you navigate through the Diatonis ether. Evocative names like "Shimmering Butterflies" and "Formation in the Distance" add to the atmosphere of the music, but in reality, there is little differentiation between the pieces. Apparently, some of these cuts serve as soundtracks for a series of ambient videos that Diatonis has produced. According to White, these videos  "can be totally ignored or completely encompassing". The soundtrack for these videos is in stereo, but White is working on a series of videos whose soundtracks will be in 5.1 surround sound, a format that should truly enhance the ambient listening experience!

Reviewed by Allen Welty-Green for Ambient Visions


Across an Ocean of Dreams

by 2002

Visit Real Music's website

The past several years, it has seemed that many labels and even some artists have been playing it very safe, often trying to duplicate a successful recording or sound rather than breaking new ground or evolving. As beautiful and pleasant to listen to as it is, "Across An Ocean of Dreams" is very similar to "River of Stars" - something I would imagine many people will be very happy to hear. There are no surprises, and certainly no hard edges. Designed as music for healing and relaxation, this CD could be the poster child for New Age music. I had it in my "wake up" CD player for four mornings, and it woke me up the first couple of times because the music was new to me, but the third and fourth mornings I slept all the way through it, waking up very relaxed until I realized that I had overslept two days in a row! I put the CD in the car instead, where it took some of the tensions out of driving around the Bay Area until I got a little bored with it. If you are a fan of extremely smooth, utterly optimistic, ethereal music, wordless vocals, and floating melodies with no edges anywhere, this is for you! Instrumentation includes guitar, flutes, keyboards and a little piano, and strings. "Across An Ocean of Dreams" is available from most of the online music outlets and wherever Real Music's releases are sold in retail stores.

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



by Various Artists

Visit Interchill's website

This is a splendid ambient compilation disk with tracks artists across the spectrum. Bits of world percussion juxtaposition with diverse elements such as techno-ambience and even a hint of lounge-jazz to make this a rather stimulating listening experience, despite its overall peaceful vibe.

The best way I can think of to review a compilation like this is to go through it track by track and describe the elements that differentiate the various pieces. The various tracks all merge into a seamless whole, thanks to well though-out track sequencing. Each track seems to segue nicely the following track... guiding the listener on an ambient journey through a range of textures and techniques.

The CD opens with Mirimar, by Neil Sparkles which is based on a hypnotic bell/piano loop with some lively dumbek work. Adham Shaikh follows with Sabachi, a bit of dreamy ambience with the aforementioned "lounge jazz" style drum beat underlying everything. Then comes Sol, by ISHQ... a eastern motif soundscape with some mysterious vocal timbres layered in. Next up is Mystical Sun, with River Goddess, a short, ethereal piece which includes some interesting found-voice work. Blippy and shimmery are two words that come to mind when listening to Lyricism of Symmetry, by Mere Mortals, a piece that also includes some interesting echoey vocal loops. Next up we have the prolific and ubiquitous Steve Roach with This Life, an ethereal, spacey piece that fits nicely in his body of work. Then we have Makyo with Clarity (Melting Snow Mix)... a techno-ambient track with interesting piano loops and sample-and-hold synth work. Shpongle gives us Saudade pt. II, a nice set of echoey flute improvisations. Ozric Tentacle alumi's Eat Static follow, with Caveman, with its thumpy ascending arpeggios and vocal chants. And finally we have Circular, with the atonal sound collage Drifting.

All in all a nice snapshot of some of the more interesting work being done in the genre of ambient music in the early 21st century.

Reviewed by Allen Welty-Green for Ambient Visions


Invisible Order 

by Diatonis

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Invisible Order is a set of unique soundscapes and atmospheres from Diatonis, ne Stuart White.  Taking a perspective outside the paradigm, Stuart has composed and constructed a mystery from a positive point of view.  It could almost be called a surprise instead of a mystery.

The dense atmospheres are full of experimental and foreboding passages as Stuart begins the journey of discovery.  The journey's goal is to find the other side.

Listeners find hope and joy as the foreboding riffs turn to bright and airy minimalism.  Stuart's outlook is infectious.  He uses bouncing and lilting sequences to convey his hopes and dreams.  The sequences pull listeners closer to the lights and to their individual goals.

This is triumphant symphonic minimalism on a par with the great CD's from Jeff Pearce and James Johnson.  It does not sound like them.  It conveys similar good feelings.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



by Phil Thornton

Visit New World Music's website



It's a good thing music reviewers are required to listen to a complete album before submitting a review, otherwise "Dreamscapes" might have come out looking pretty mundane. That's because the album opens with a sounds-like-everyone-else Native American tune titled "Eagle Dream," heavy on the flute and NA tonality.

But the album then shifts into high gear, as the listener is treated to rolling, melifluous washes of sound and texture. "In Search of Avalon" and "Edge of Dreams," the next two cuts, are positively delightful; full of sound and substance (and great production values, too!). "Desert Dream" is a lolling, smoky, journey in a minor key, "A Traveller's Dream" continues the excursion, with a more upbeat feel. "Arcadia" is almost majestic: a significant bass run highlighted by sparkling keyboards. "Forest Pathways" reintroduces the eagle flute, but by now our musical voyage has brought us to a place where the this native instrument combined with natural effects sounds just in place. The album is capped off with "A Lover's Dream," a sweetly melancholic idyll that drifts dreamingly to the album's conclusion.

Thorton has assembled a worthy ensemble of musicians and instruments to produce this fine album.  Among the instruments used are the eagle and yew flutes, Egyptian percussion, A number of bass, nylon-string and "Kora and Gliss" guitar, as well as synthesizers, recorders, keyboards and piano. Fans of Phil Thornton will be aware of his earlier work, and this album provided him with the opportunity to bring together many of the influences that inspired his previous releases.  Those fans, as well as newcomers to Thornton's work, will not be disappointed.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions.


Traveling the Sacred Sound Current: Divine Chants and Sacred Songs for Healing and Meditation

Deborah Van Dyke

Visit Deborah Van Dyke's website


Traveling the Sacred Sound Current: Divine Chants and Sacred Songs for Healing and Meditation is a - duh! - healing and meditation soundscape from Deborah Van Dyke

Deborah is a visionary teacher and author.  Her work embraces all that is good in the holistic new age.  This CD is the musical companion to her book of the same name.  The liner notes are full of interesting and valuable information about this and other Sound Current projects.  Those notes will not be repeated here.

This CD is absolute minimalism and pure space music.  It is about inner space and getting in touch with the spiritual self and the deity that exists within the soul.  Deborah's approach is holistic and indirect.  Only the completely focused listener can achieve total relaxation and only the totally relaxed can achieve total focus.  The chicken came before the egg and the egg came before the chicken.  It is through these conundrums that listeners reach serenity, peace of mind and self-esteem.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Temporal Arc

by Interstitial

Visit Interstitial's website


John Koch-Northrup (JKN) records as Interstitial.  He first came into the public eye at an e-music event in Milwaukee.  He performed a set with John Strate-Hootman, a.k.a. Vir Unis

Temporal Arc is JKN's first CD and it is killer.  John put everything he had into this disc and he even invented things that he did not have.  So, the disc has a lot going for it.

Experimental and computer sounds dominate the soundscape and give the album an otherworldly feel.  The deep atmospheres and drawn out riffs capture the overtones and take it to the next level.

This is great space music with hard, cold and razor sharp edges.  It will appeal to all e-music fans. 

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Sampler 2- Drifting


Visit IXOHOXI's website

Passed away 1-15-2007

IXOHOXI performs deep atmospheric minimalism as - well - IXOHOXISampler 2 - Drifting is a collection of six pieces, one each from 6 MP3 D.A.M. CD's.  Ixo sequenced the pieces so that the flow from composition to composition is smooth and so the disc would have sonic integrity.  It works.  There is sonic integrity on this CD.

While there is sonic integrity, each piece has its own definition and its own impact.  Ixo has given his listeners a choice.  They can take either a series of short journeys or a long one-hour journey.  That is Ixo's hook.  This disc serves listeners in many different ways.

Ixo has been around for a while.  Look for his collaboration with Jesse Sola, a.k.a. Numina, in the near future.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


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