Reviews 04-03-2004


Music Reviews 



by zer0 0ne

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Here is music worthy of airplay on Hearts of Space or Radio Io- chilled, dubby, eclectic, and sonically rich. Animators who are looking for tracks to set their work to would find the offerings of Zer0 0ne a rich field of visual possibilities. People needing a brain break with a pair of headphones would find this album an excellent companion. In my office, a couple of colleagues have hovered around, enjoying this album's interesting, but never annoying music. I have an especially sound- sensitive colleague who tends to tell me to turn down my more annoying selections (I play them all at a subdued volume) who has been pestering me to borrow it. That’s high praise from him!  

The sonic field is beautifully mixed, and play through headphones is high-depth and brilliant. Instruments (like the samisen in "Transfer") are precisely located and pan wonderfully. The engineers have not done the usual high-cranking on the main mix volume- I heard no distortion on this album. On the big speakers, the bass is deep and rich, but not obtrusive. The overall 'feel' is a richly detailed sonic chillout, with interesting shifts in rhythm and melody- ranging from meditative to almost abstract at times. Electronica and dub seem to be the greatest influence, with techno elements having a look in, too.  

The album is over an hour long (the enhanced CD has 4 additional tracks to the ten already on the recording) and comes with several visualizations to choose from when you play it on your computer or DVD player. I like the floating couch.  

"Robots" has a wonderful pulsating gamelan beat driving it, with clips of voices and interesting electronics and hand percussion.  "Continuum" is very much an 'electronica' piece, with some soundlines that remind me of "Amethystium" and "Banco de Gaia".  "Bu_ist" has an interesting sonic byplay that sounds just like one of my telephones. I had to pause it to realize it was the music, not my phone!  "Transformations" shifts into and out of a dreamy trance- with rhythmic breaks. 

"Reality" continues the chill with dark synth and interesting beats. "Dreamworld" has a snaky little 'Middle East-meets-electronica' break in it. I kept hearing what sounded like Mr. Spock in the enigmatic "Consciousness". A funky synth line gives "Casualty" its character and "Meglomania" is pure dreamy electronica.  

All in all, I recommend this album- the sonic field alone is worth the purchase. If you like highly detailed music for yoga, chilling, writing, or other laid back activities, you'll enjoy "Psy-Fi". On Spiralight Recordings.

Reviewed by Lorie Johnson for Ambient Visions


 Inner Worlds Part One

by Kurt Michaels 

Visit Kurt Michael's website

As a music reviewer it’s always an interesting proposition to review a new artist. Chicago based Kurt Michaels has been involved with playing music for approximately thirty five years and has played with such famous musical personalities as Chuck Berry and Badfinger to name just two.

His first self released CD is “Inner Worlds Part One” and features several styles of ambient and electronic music with the odd experiment in sound manipulation and the occasional nod to do something quite bizarre and unexpected.

The first track is “Heaven?” and as maybe expected the music reminds one of ehhh…Heaven. This is a classic piece of “space” music, floating, intriguing and somewhat relaxing, the contorted vocal samples add a nice touch to the overall sound of the track.

“ Nightmare Crossing Over” as the title suggests is in a darker vein. Deep organ like chords mixed together with pulsing drum sounds create an ominous tone to the music. Another ambient piece is “Alien Presence” that touches on the subject of alien abductions. Sonic manipulations of a decidedly eerie nature introduce this track before a gently reverberating sound collage takes the center stage whilst strange breathing sounds punctuate the sound stage then we hear a strange brew of other worldly sounds that give the track atmosphere.

Now the next piece of music is homage to my most favorite (and obviously Kurt’s) TV show, “The Prisoner”. There seems to be two opposing forces at work on “The Village” one the ominous slow sounding heavy cloud like synthesizer drones that represent the sinister aspect of the village and secondly the rather happy go lucky sound of the brass band designed to make one feel “welcome” it adds up to a disturbing piece of music and anyone familiar with “The Prisoner” will understand this track very easily.

“You Don’t Say” is a short piece of music that basically could be a rock instrumental, a dry electronic percussion track that features daring electronic guitar lines.

The second to last track is “Inner Worlds” and is a quieter tack than the one before, slow electric guitar meditations mingle with the throbbing sounds of distorted vocal samples and strange shimmering synth effects becoming more and more intense until its finish.

The last track oddly named “Nervous Barnyard: Afterure & Rebirth” (what this track is about is anyone’s guess!) starts off with a multitude of animal sounds before a sixties-style TV show theme   enters the mix. In some ways this reminded me even more of “The Prisoner” than “The Village”.  It sounds a strange combination but the twists this track possesses come off in great style. Not sure what the crying baby is about at the end though!!

I found this release interesting in a number of ways, one it had traditional elements of ambient music that is very well presented and secondly it had elements of the unexpected that gave the album a uniqueness and subtle character that sets it apart from most ambient music at the present time.

Reviewed by Gary Andrews for Ambient Visions



Zen Gardens

by Wall Matthews

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Here's an elegant little album of what might be called "Japanerie," that is, the decorative and somewhat playful use of "Oriental" motifs by a Western artist without any heavy handed attempt to be "authentic." Wall Matthews uses synthesized sounds and acoustic percussion in transparent tracks of pentatonic pleasure. His rhythms are gentle and undemanding; they don't force themselves on you, but carry you along easily. His harmonies are dominated by Oriental pentatonics but they could just as easily be Western jazz harmonies.

One of the nicest things about this album is that Matthews does not overload the texture with overdone multiple layering. He has one synthesizer layer, one percussion layer (synthesized or not) and a few special effects or natural sounds, like crickets or thunder. This sparseness is highly effective in conveying a peaceful, gardenlike atmosphere. At times, this sound reminds me of the dry, ironic compositions of Richard Bone; at other times, the minimalism of someone like "A Produce."  

I also enjoy the emotional distance of this album. It isn't drenched in sentiment and it doesn't make any appeals to "the heart." It invites meditation and quiet, without the overwrought piety of some "Zen" renditions. Its last track, titled "The Philosopher's Path," with its thunder and rain sounds, sums up the theme of this album: contemplation in a beautiful garden. It's a place I am happy to visit.

Reviewed by Hannah M.G. Shapero 3/31/04



Momente' Intimate

by Richard Carr  

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"Momente' Intimate" is pianist Richard Carr's eighth release in less than seven years. As with his previous recordings, Carr improvised the music in the studio over a two-year period,  capturing the musical ideas as they were born, and leaving them intact with few, if any, edits (Carr told me that there were two minor edits to the entire 75 minutes of music, and that those edits were worked into the original improvisations to keep the integrity of the original ideas and recordings intact.). The ten tracks range in length from 3 1/2 to 12 1/2 minutes, with some of them being very passionate and others more reflective; most are a bit on the dark side, some are very dark. A passionate pianist with excellent playing chops, Carr reaches into the depths of his soul and psyche, and says in the liner notes that "at times the intensity of some of the recording sessions was almost too much." While I deeply respect and admire Carr's approach to composing, to my own ears, a few of the pieces jump the tracks in places while others hold together very well.  

The CD opens with "Longing For Home," a soulful and bittersweet piece that includes an audible sigh from Carr that reminds the listener of the humanity of the person pouring his heart out at the piano. I really like this piece a lot, and find it amazing that it happened in one sitting. "For All Eternity" tells of Carr's grandmother's love for her husband, and, indirectly, his own love for his grandmother. Flowing and peaceful, this is one of the lighter and more optimistic pieces - also quite beautiful. "Awe and Reverence" is probably my favorite track. Rhythmic and flowing, the pace reminds me of one of those moments when you are awed by something to the point that you miss a breath and your heartbeat quickens. Carr very effectively uses the deep bass of the piano to communicate this. "Rocking Baby to Sleep" is a tender lullaby that is both gentle and loving. "Passion's Night" is darkly beautiful, with lots of open areas between the notes. Carr again very effectively uses the deep bass, perhaps giving each of the lovers of the piece an individual voice. There are a few passages in this piece that seem a bit "off," but, overall, it is strong and beautiful. The title track closes the album with a feeling of peace and serenity. Almost conversational, it is truly an intimate moment.  "Momente Intimate' " is currently available from and, and will be available from and on 2/10/04. 

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


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