Reviews 04-01-2001

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Musical Meditation Spacecraft album cover

Musical Meditation
for World Peace

by Spacecraft

Musical Meditation for World Peace" is very similar to "Summer Town."  Spacecraft performed this introspective set in October, 2000 as "part of the two week conference, Symposium 2000 'World Peace Through Reverence for Life.'"

The music features the quartet (Tony Gerber, Diane Timmons, John Rose and Giles Reaves) in the minimalist zone.  Tony's guttural chants and Diane's choral, yet wordless, vocals compliment the drifting atmosphere perfectly.

The liner notes speak of love, beauty, truth and spirituality.  The venue for this concert was The Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, TN.  That is quite appropriate.  The music is quite holy!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Out There Lies the Truth Ron Boots album cover

Out There Lies the Truth

by Ron Boots and Friends


Truth is Twisted Ron Boots album cover

The Truth is Twisted

by Ron Boots and Friends


Truth or Dare Ron Boots album cover

Truth or Dare

by Ron Boots and Friends


Four the Truth Ron Boots album cover

Four the Truth 

by Ron Boots and Friends


Visit Groove Unlimited's website

In 1996, the good folks at Cue Records, now Groove Unlimited, set out to do a CD of music inspired by the internationally popular television series, "The X-Files."  Rather than leave the project to a single artiste, they gathered a group of talented electronicians and turned them loose in the studio.  The result was "Out there Lies the Truth" (a very subtle pun).  The CD features Ron Boots, Ralf Knappe-Heinbockel (a.k.a. Hemisphere), Johannes Munz, Robert Marselje, Kees Aerts, Jean Paul van Engelen, Eric van der Heijden and Harold van der Heijden

The pairings were inspired and dynamic!  The diversity of electronic styles delivers a melange of eclectic grabbers.  This CD has it all - and then some!  The styles range from dense atmospheres to rhythmic ambience to overt sequences.

The feelings evoked are mysterious, scary and ethereal.  (Being only vaguely familiar with the show, I can only relate to the sci-fi atmosphere in general.)  The soundscapes are majestic; the atmospheres are expansive; the experimental overtones are eerie.

I had feelings of impending doom juxtaposed by feelings of joy at new discoveries.  The limits of my musical boundaries were stretched and I found myself listening again and again (and again!) to this electronic treasure.

This CD was originally released as Cue 1117 and is now available as GR-1117.  It is now credited to Ron Boots & Friends. 

When I sat down to listen to "The Truth is Twisted," the thought occurred to me that these guys were having loads of fun.  (I have written that often about Ron Boots.)  The liner notes confirmed it!  Cue Records, now Groove Records, assembled another elite line-up of Europe's finest electronicians to create the second album inspired by the "The X-Files."  Kees Aerts, Ron Boots, Jean Paul van Engelen, Robert Marselje, Harold van der Heijden, Johannes Munz and Eric van der Heijden all returned for a second shot.  Harold Teunissen, Volker Rapp, Alpha Wave Movement (nee Gregory Kyryluk) and Rene de Vreng joined them for the fun. 

The chance to create new music beyond their self-defined boundaries appealed to these artistes too.  The sci-fi arena allows for expansive atmospheres and experimental textures not normally heard in "mainstream" European sequencer e-music.  Do not misunderstand!  This CD has plenty of sequences and loads of rhythmic ambience.  The unique blend of those styles with the minimalist atmospheres more often associated with American e-music gives this album high marks for originality and creativity.  The CD also features some cool voice samples, presumably from the show.

This CD was originally available as Cue 1124.  It has been re-indexed as GR 1124 and is credited to Ron Boots & Friends. 

Do not, I repeat, DO Not, confuse "Truth or Dare" with the album of the same by Madonna.  I am referring to the third CD inspired by "The X-Files."  These folks have been having a blast making these albums.  Fortunately for us, their talent level allows them to transmit that feeling to the listeners.  Amid the mysterious, ethereal and eerie soundscapes I can HEAR the fun!

Returning to the studio were Ron Boots, Kees Aerts, Harold van der Heijden, Robert Marselje, Jean Paul van Engelen, Rene de Vreng and Johannes Munz.  New to the line-up were John Dyson, Air Sculpture, Syndromeda (nee Danny Budts), James J. Clent, Mario Schonwalder, Detlef Keller, Norman Fay and the great Ian Boddy.

This amazing collection of electronic music takes us deeper into the mysteries and nuances of Scully's adventures.  It also takes us into the quirky soundworlds of some of Europe's finest synthesists!  The fun and playful sequences and atmospheres are here.  The experimental and avante garde textures surrounds those qualities.  The journeys are beyond the sci-fi.  Deep listening extends the tendrils of this music into my heart and my soul.  Not only is this great music, it is also a meditative and contemplative listening experience.

I also love the liner notes.  My friend, Bill Fox host of E-Music on WDIY-FM, wrote a very inspired and humorous paragraph to introduce the CD:

They're at it again!  The folks at Cue have put together a third CD of music inspired by "The X-Files" TV series.  &ldots;  But this is no plot (buy this disc); there is no secret government agency behind it (this disc will improve your love life), only great electronic music.  No subliminal messages (owners of this disc are cool) or methods of control (buy this disc NOW) are included.  Truth or Dare?

This CD, originally available as Cue 1129, is now available as GR-1129.  It is credited to Ron Boots & Friends. 

"Four the Truth" is - DUH! - the fourth CD in Groove's series inspired by "The X-Files."  It was voted "Compilation Album of the Year" for 1998 by listeners of Scott Brodie's and Matt Gribo's Canadian radio show, "The Nightflight."  The honor is richly deserved.  Volker Rapp, Eric van der Heijden, Ron Boots, Detlef Keller, Mario Schonwalder, Harold van der Heijden, Robert Marselje, Johannes Munz, Ian Boddy, Kees Aerts and James J. Clent came back for more.  Joining them were Roland Guyt, Paul Bliekendaal, Marcel Guyt and the minimalist's minimalist, Vidna Obmana.

This is my personal favorite of the four CD's.  The familiar sequences, atmospheres and rhythms are still here and there is more!  There is some expansive and stark minimalism to augment those familiar features.  The samples are more freely interwoven and the experimental textures are more fully integrated into the theme.  The mystery and sci-fi elements are here as well.  Again, the music demands deep listening and concentrated meditation.  Indeed, I found it difficult to write while I listened.

It is easy to pick a favorite.  It is difficult to choose a best.  (It is also unethical.  That would be judgmental!)  It is easy to see how this concept matured over two or three years.  This disc shows that development and maturity in its best light!

This CD is available as GR-012.  It was recorded in 1998 and is credited to Ron Boots & Friends.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Under Southern Skies Tony O'Connor album cover

Under Southern Skies

by Tony O'Connor

Visit Studio Horizon website

Visit Tony O'Connor's website

"Under Southern Skies" is a symphonic synthesizer album from Tony O'Connor, a veteran television soundtrack composer and live performer.  The CD gets its symphonic textures from Tony's manipulations on synths and the EWI (Electronic Woodwind Instrument).  Specifically, he translates flutes and oboes on the EWI. 

The symphonic textures surround his guitars, percussion and bass lines.  The melange of electronic and acoustic instruments creates a gentle atmosphere.  Matt James contributes a didg and congas adding ethnic overtones to the set.

Finding it necessary to categorize, this disc is much closer to new age than it is to ambient.  There have been many heated debates in ambient, electronic and space music circles over the legitimacy of new age music.  And I confess that I have participated in some of those debates and have been on both sides of the argument.  Today, I simply listen to the music.  If the music strikes my fancy, I listen again - more deeply.  I like this CD!  Categorization serves its purpose.  It allows us (the buyers) to locate and choose our identified preferences.  Too often, such as with this CD, the tags prevent us from discovering gems and new boundaries.  This CD is worthy.  Again, I like it.  It is not essential but I am glad to have it!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Shambala Robert Rich album cover


by Robert Rich

Visit Robert Rich's website

"Shambala" is my favorite Robert Rich CD.  He recorded it live on May 20, 2000.  I saw and heard his Gathering concert on April 10, 2000.  The shows were not the same but, according to Robert, there were similarities and crossovers.

This CD is absolute vintage and classic Robert Rich!  From the opening strains of "Guitar Harmonics" I knew that this was a special album.  Everything that I have come to know, respect, cherish and expect from Robert is here!  Nature samples abound; deep atmospheres prevail; flutes and ethnic rhythms compliment.

The highlight of the set is Robert's lap steel guitar manipulations.  Robert explores and expands upon the ambient qualities of this instrument.  Like Bruce Kaphan's "Slider," this CD, to paraphrase my friend, Lloyd Barde, frees the steel guitar from its Nashville apron strings and puts it in the forefront of electronic ambience!  The treatments of this exotic instrument are thorough and glorious.  Succinctly, this music could make an onion cry!

Robert does not ignore the rest of his musical repertoire.  His synth drones and textures are dense and full.  There are also hints of his sleep concert trappings.

I have heard some of "Somnium."  It's a great album and certainly an historic release.  But, and this statement merits repetition and hyperbole, "SHAMBALA" IS MY FAVORITE ROBERT RICH CD!

The disc is a D.A.M. CD.  It is available at prices.  That makes it a bargain as well.  Put this on my early list of 2001's best!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Shrouded Ian Boddy album cover


by Ian Boddy

Visit Ian Boddy's website

"Shrouded" is an mp3 D.A.M. CD of Ian Boddy's first American concert.  He performed at The Gathering on Saturday, May 6, 2000 in Philadelphia.  By all accounts, it was a landmark event.

The CD features Ian's trademark European style sequences surrounding - and surrounded by - his minimalist soundscapes, ala "Continuum" and his recent releases on his own DiN label.  A particular highlight, for me, is the long (by D.A.M. standards) and flowing "Gathering."  (Ian gave me an excerpt of this piece, "Gamma Omicron," for the CD set accompanying my book.)  The aforementioned sequences and minimalism are gathered in by some deep and mesmerizing rhythms. 

The album also evokes emotional responses.  And it is not darkness just for the sake of darkness.  Ian intends to pull us into his soundworlds, to journey where the heart and soul take us.  The pure minimalism is thought provoking and engenders existential qualities.

All in all, this CD is a gem and a bargain.  At prices, it is a must have!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Dream Furious Cursor Club album cover

CC: Dome, The Dream Furious EP

by The Cursor Club

"The Cursor Club" is a slightly enigmatic ensemble.  My previous encounters with their music had led me to believe that they were focused on the techno rhythm ambience, ala Eat Static or 777.  "CC: Dome, The Dream Furious EP" sheds new light on my belief.

To be sure, there is still plenty of rhythm.  It is subdued and most, if not all, of it is electronically generated.  Those rhythms surround some huge and expansive atmospheres.  The atmospheres are stark and barren.  They are almost colorless, speaking of dull blues and lifeless grays.  The atmospheres border on murky and malevolent minimalism.  That sets up a cool juxtaposition.  The final track is a droning dirge that surrounds a pastoral atmosphere that befits its title, "Pandora's Pastoral."  The drone carries the gentle atmosphere, contrasting the perils of Pandora's box with pastoral elegance.  The effect is unsettling, therefore provocative and quite interesting.  That means I like it.

The CD is short and the packaging is sparse (a cardboard sleeve).  Nonetheless, it is a worthy addition to my library!

 Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


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