Reviews 04-17-2004

Music Reviews 


Life Sequence

by Steve Roach

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It can truly be said that Steve Roach is a pioneer in the field of ambient music, a frontiersperson who has helped to shape and form the genre as we know it today.  Over the years his contributions have been numerous, from long form atmospheric spaces recreating environment and space to studies of tribal rhythms and textures and everywhere in between.  Over the course of his career, Roach's work has captured our imaginations and inspired both our dreams and our waking moments.

With the release of "Life Sequence", one of a pair of releases from his Timeroom Editions series, Roach shows a skill and mastery of sound sure to affect his listeners in powerful ways.

As "Life Sequence" opens with the shorter piece "Lightness of Being", Roach sets the stage for an excursion into a more driven, sequenced style drawing from analog technology.  From it's opening notes one can't help but be drawn into it's charms, beguiled by it's beauty.

This shortly gives way to the longer "Living the Dream", a study in percolating synths and patterned sounds laid over a percussive bed building to an intense climax and then slowly releasing it's grip on the listener with a slow chill out. "Sundial" continues along the same chilled vein, tones floating and sweeping through the track in a calm and drifting form, ebbing and flowing like the shifting of tides. Beautiful music for a Sunday morning...

"Sands of Time" follows, it's opening slowly sweeping through consciousness giving way to a more clearly defined pattern of tones.  Movement is so subtle, so delicate in this piece as tones shift, appear and disappear.  A masterful work.

"Destination Horizon" closes the disc, an epic longform piece slowly building on patterns and shapes introduced early on in the course of it's 27 minutes.  Transparent, shimmering, beautiful.  Once again, Roach has shown why he is one of the undiputed maters of the genre.

Reviewed by Rik Maclean of Ping Things reprinted here on Ambient Visions.

Visit Rik's Ping Things website by clicking here.


 Deep Sea Explorer

by Cyscape 

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This is the second Cyscape CD I have had the pleasure of reviewing. The first was Alignment, which was an interesting release of floating ambient music.

This new release Deep Sea Explorer has a bit more form to it and even runs into rhythmic beat territory. Cyscape is the brainchild of British musician Phil Riches.

The album starts with gentle washes of pulsing electronic sound, mysterious and scene setting for the rest of the album, the track being called The Descent aptly conveys the feeling of entering the depths of the vast ocean.

A two-part composition is up next and is entitled Crossing The Plains Parts 1 and 2 and this is where the difference between this new album and the previous release starts to be heard. A slow sequence enters the mix and echoed effects punctuate the sound field then the beat becomes almost like a electric tribal sound that really takes on a life of its own, a very compulsive listenable experience. More atmospherics follow and more pulsing sounds enter the mix almost like a piece of sophisticated machinery taking some important reading!

The pulsing sequences play an important role in this recording and for me was the important factor in making this album a fresh sounding recording.

Infact half way through listening to it on my computer I applied my Windows Media player and just enjoyed the spacey graphics along with the music!! An interesting recording that should appeal to the ambient music lover who likes the mixture of atmospherics along with the hypnotic groove of the pulsing sequences.

Reviewed by Gary Andrews for Ambient Visions



Solar Promenades

by Enterphase

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Solar Promenades” is a series of mostly short pieces that attempt to create a brief portrait, most likely of things or moods suggested by the titles. The recording reminded me most of some of the old Synchestra pieces. It is almost as if someone had taken short segments from an old Enid record and looped a few of them to evoke impressions. Because the pieces often consist of very short repeating motives, they tend to be of short duration. Each little mood created is unique. This is a recording for listening to when the stars or out and visible to us or when snowflakes drift into our sight, illuminated by the light from a streetlamp. I enjoyed this recording, and if delicate, carefully drawn electronic portraits appeal to you, you will like it as well.

“Solar Promenades” open the recording with filter sweeps and a short progression that generates an expectant attitude. The flavor is somewhat “Old School” but the brief and well drawn melody keeps it original. “After Service” opens impressionistically and resolves into gentle pulsating loops that serve as background to a flowing melody. The mood created is a poignant one. “Procession at Dawn” is almost entirely impressionistic, with squelchy filter sweeps over pads that morph a little. A rhythmic patch holds the piece together, drifting slowly and serenely through the piece. “Snow Paths” created a vivid mental image of snow in this listener. Tinkling crystal sounds. Calm pads and an unobtrusive sequence all heighten the “winter at night” effect. “Ice and Lace” sounded stately to me, with a nice ostinato, electric piano sounds and pads holding the composition together. “Courtyard Memories” is dance-like, with an underlying passacaglia sound and mincing melodic figures adding to the impressions. 

All these pieces are created with short and fragmented material, and are wisely kept relatively short. “Ray Bradbury’s Ghost” stretches this a little. The material is free-sounding, there are some guitar textures and this piece has an improvisatory, luminous feel. Even though I found this piece charming in spots, I felt it may have been a little too long for the minimal harmonic and melodic materials. “Sky Surge” is also a longer piece, but has more of a song-like structure, which helps it sustain interest. There is some quiet percussion and rhythm, and the piece reminds me most of something from Tangerine Dream’s “Le Parc”. ”Time Unbound” uses a sequence with delay that sets up a charming and appealing mood. A unique string sound plays the melody—sounds a bit like a Steiner wind instrument or a mellotron. A very expressive violin sound produces a counter-melody. The melodic solos then combine to produce a playful mood. The most abstract piece, “When the Morrow Breaks”, still manages to sound tranquil while using abstract effects sounds to generate an attitude of anticipation. The recording closes with “For You” which uses expanded harmony and a steady drum track to hold the piece together. This struck me as the most developed track with many different “parts” all played on synths and well-balanced. It is closest in mood to some of today’s “chill” pieces.

Solar Promenades was an enjoyable listen for me. I would like to see Enterphase use longer motives and different harmonic rhythms next, because I am curious to see what would come of this. The recording is special because it is impressionistic rather than ambient. This means that I cannot get much out of putting this on and then only- half listening; I got the most out of paying attention. It also played better in the quiet of night than in the noise and light of day. Enterphase is to be commended for producing music that is not easily slotted and I look forward to future recordings.

Reviewed by Mark Morton for Ambient Visions



Harmony Grove

by Greg Maroney  

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"Harmony Grove" is Greg Maroney's fourth and most inspiring album to date of original piano solos. What a great album! Drawn from life experiences of the past year as well as interpretations of his natural surroundings in rural Pennsylvania, Maroney captures a full spectrum of emotions and musical colors, and presents them in an accessible form that deepens with each listening. Maroney has been studying the piano since he was five, and the naturalness of his playing comes from one who has such an intense and intimate relationship with the instrument that it is truly an extension of who he or she is.  

"The Reluctant Ballerina" is one of my favorites. It tells about a timid ballerina who comes into her own as the music sets her free. The beautiful melody becomes more flowing as the dancer lets herself go, and it¹s easy to picture the shy dancer becoming one with the music and movement as she gets swept away, forgetting her inhibitions. "Elementals" was composed during the time of Maroney's mother's illness to her passing. Much darker in mood, I can imagine Maroney sitting at the piano late into the night, working through the tangle of emotions that fill a person at such a time. This is a passionate and very personal piece, and the emotions are clear. The next piece, "Rising," describes the relief and peace of his mother's transition. It is also somewhat darker than the other pieces, but there is a strong feeling of hope and celebration. "Long Walk Home" is a gorgeous piece. A bit melancholy and introspective, it is in no rush to go anywhere, and seems to be drinking in whatever it encounters along the way. "Beneath the Sycamore" is full of grace and longing, and could easily be a lovely movie theme. "Nature's Fury" is a powerful depiction of an approaching thunder storm. From watching the ominous black clouds to feeling a swirling wind to seeing the brilliant flash of lightning, this is a great piece! The closing track, "The Chicken Chase," is huge fun. Anyone who has experienced chickens scurrying around the yard looking for food can relate. I could also visualize children running after the chickens, trying to catch one, and laughing all the way. This piece must be exhilarating to play! 

"Harmony Grove" is very highly recommended!

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



Sanctuary of Dreams

by Numina 

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This is the latest album release by one Jesse Sola who goes under the name of  Numina. Released on the influential US label Hypnos “Sanctuary Of Dreams” sees this prolific musician gain a major foothold up in the ambient music world with this new and interesting release.

Music should always entice me to listen from hearing the first sounds from a new album and the first track exactly does this. “Awaken Within A Deeper Dream” sets the scene so to speak; gentle and serene with a touch of the mysterious, this track with its slowly evolving electronics perfectly introduces the album.

“Lost On Silica Ridge” starts with a quiet ringing tone before faint choir like effects gently enter the mix before a faraway percussive sequence enters the flow of this track.

Following on is “Elements Of Time” and this features more quiet atmospherics interspersed with tones that sound bell like that may have come from a Buddhist monastery. The music follows in an almost melancholy way slightly sad but with a charming tale to tell the listener. “In Loneliness The Landscape Fades” features similar themes, enticing flowing synth lines that merge with strange exotic sounds unearthed from who knows where. Whilst listening to this album I was made aware that this music with its synthesizers, treated vocals, guitars, etc.was very much the “perfect” ambient album. This would be the album I would play to someone who had not heard the term ambient, energizing sounds that intrigued as well as relaxed, production that is first rate and playing technique that is up there with the more well known ambient artists such as Vidna Obmana, and Steve Roach.

With this new album Numina should become better known and gain some new converts to his brand of ambient music. All in all a fine addition to the Hypnos catalog.

Reviewed by Gary Andrews for Ambient Visions


 Chakra Dance

by Jonathan Goldman

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When I heard the title "Chakra Dance", I was looking forward to getting it and listening to it. While it isn't a bad album, it isn't going to get a lot of replay in my house.  

The concept is interesting: seven techno-style musical cuts that represent the seven chakras, from root to crown, set to a danceable rhythm and with sounds meant to stimulate those particular chakras. But while the idea is interesting, its execution leaves a bit to be desired. Chip Davis' treatment of the chakras in Fresh Aire 7 is more evocative of the individual chakras.  

It plays well enough on my smaller speakers and through headphones, but when I played it on the big speakers, the overwhelming bass chased me around the room, rattled the walls, scared the cats, and probably annoyed my neighbor- and I was playing it at a moderate volume. The mix was a little blurry, too- probably because it is meant to be played in a large room, not over headphones or computer speakers. There is little percussive panning or directional depth- it was all on center.  

The variety of instruments and sounds was quite varied, but oddly flat- probably because the entire set of cuts is played in a drone style that gradually climbs the scale, and is only indicated by the number of bells rung at the beginning of each cut. The use of instructional voices blended with the music was also a little jarring- a first time listener might find them useful, but it got annoying on the later spins.  

This album would be useful in training settings where dance and movement is used, and it serves better being danced to than merely listened to, or used as background music. It is too specialized for that. It runs an hour, so it is a good length for a class. 

Reviewed by Lorie Johnson for Ambient Visions



Miles Beyond

by Suzanne Teng
 & Mystic Journey

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Remembering an older Hearts of Space program named "Miles Beyond," my first thought upon seeing the title of Suzanne Teng's CD made me think this would be a spin on the music of Miles Davis. Was I wrong! Teng is an accomplished flautist, a holder of a Masters degree in music, a Grammy nominee in 2000, and a finalist in (the now-defunct) New Age Voice magazine's "Best Acoustic Instrumental Album of 1999" and "Best Contemporary World Music Album of 1999."

Small wonder. Teng has the ability to imbue her work with the spirit and style of a myriad of cultural influences. This should come as no surprise, as she completed Ph.D. studies at UCLA's Department of Music Ethnomusicology. Miles Beyond is a collection of nine musical treatises that encompass musical stylings from around the globe. "Sitara," for example, blends the Indian sitar and tabla with Teng's flute playing.

"Suling," despite its name (a suling is a type of simple bamboo flute), is reminiscent of the Irish penny whistle in both tone and tenor.

"Miles Beyond," the title track, is a muted concoction of sophisticated instrumentation; its complexity hidden in the shadow of its subtlety.

Mystic Journey, the name of Teng's band (which also gave name to the first album by the ensemble), works harmoniously to lend atmosphere to Teng's flute, not to overpower it. Mystic Journey consists of partner Gilbert Levy (drums), Barry Newman (string bass), and Fritz Heede, multi-stringed instruments and composer. Alone, Teng has performed for a number of file soundtracks, many with noted composer and new age artist, Jeff Danna.

This might be considered "highbrow" music. But its appeal stretches beyond labels, and may be for anyone who seeks variety and intricacy.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions.




by Thought Guild



 Context, a collaboration between Gregory Kyryluk, also know as Alpha Wave Movement, and Chris Cameron, is an enjoyable mix of Berlin school related pieces and 70s ambience seasoned with a few modern touches. Much of the core of what is recorded here probably could have been done in the late 70s but this particular combination still manages to sound different.  I recommend this to fans of the Berlin school and Vangelis, or anyone looking for an enjoyable concoction of rhythmic sequences and relaxing and thoughtful ambience.

“Distant Star” opens with a brief fanfare with some ambience and effects. The fanfare helps to distinguish the opening from the by now clichéd Berlin school slow ambient opening. In addition, Thought Guild is a lot more harmonically active than the average Berlin school musicians so that the mood of the piece, while familiar, does take a few welcome bends in the river. After the intro a driving sequence takes over. This distinguishes itself by the fact that it is developed harmonically and changes keys frequently. The sequence also morphs timbrally just enough so that the listener remains interested. Some unobtrusive percussion is added. The sequence is accompanied by well- integrated effects and melodic embellishments.

While definitely influenced by the Berlin school, there are enough twists here that it can accurately be described as fresh and perhaps more of a cousin than a descendant. “Moebius Phase” is a brief interlude featuring a processed vocoder like progression. “Semiotic Sea” introduces another nice sequence over a pad progression. The harmonic movement in this piece again helps the listener remain interested. Moreover, the primary sequence becomes nicely integrated with a slower melodic sequence and an eventual timekeeper bass sequence. This is all nicely embellished with guitar like leads and some light Timpani , which reminded me of Vangelis. “Lifeports” begins with gentle ambient sounds and reflections that sound quite ruminative. This piece is more a pure ambient piece with shimmering electric piano sounds and processed pads. The effect it produces is similar to watching an artist produce a painting. The piece overall has a tranquil effect. “Leviathan’s Lament” returns to the sequencing, but it is a motoric, short sequence with lots of delay. We are no longer in Berlin territory, here. As the piece continues, other short sequences are added , each just as motoric as the first. Yet the piece never sounds frantic. The musicians play melodic strands and harmonic pads over the sequences and add expressive effects that are well-integrated. This one was unique, and the musicians are to be applauded. “Silicon Alchemists” begins like a short Belin-style intro ( except that these folks always expand the harmonic palate somewhat) but, with the addition of a slow kick drum ( mixed down) and a keyboard sound, becomes its own piece.

This continues when the first sequence is introduced and integrated into the tempo and style of the piece. The percussion becomes somewhat more modern- sounding, although it is not mixed up, (to its benefit) and the main sequence is developed harmonically. This piece was a delightful take on the by now clichéd “ambient opening” and could have gone on longer as far as I was concerned. “Cathedrals of Stone” is a pure ambient piece that brings bird sounds and synth pads to the fore. The piece drifts in a very nice way and I found it to sustain a relaxed and reflective mood. “Tetrahedral Anomolies”  keeps the mood going through the first part of the piece before the introduction of some effects and voice samples in the middle change the mood slightly from a relaxing one to one that is more probing and searching. This piece reminded me of a Vangelis piece circa “Antartica” except that it is not as busy as his style.
“Memento” ends the recording with some nice lush synth pads over which a guitar improvises short , pretty motives.

Thought Guild is careful to carve their own path while nodding to those who built the music. I would like to see more modulation in the pads in the future as I think this could make the music even more interesting. I encourage and welcome the creative contributions that the duo made thus far.  

Reviewed by Mark Morton for Ambient Visions



by Sylken

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Following up on last year's brilliant "Illusions of Light", Sylken releases "PiNG", a stunning live presentation of the ever evolving musical collective taken from a pair of performances recorded at The Ambient Ping in Toronto.

Opening with "Here, then Gone", Sylken creates a deep and foreboding environment given a small hint of light by a lonely trumpet played masterfully by Wally Jericho, a frequent contributor to the project. Quiet synth lines pass by in the darkness like comets traveling through space, burning brightly for only an instant, a faded memory the next. I'm not too sure who plays what on each track, but I'll comment here that both Eric Hopper and Steven Sauve of Sylken have a masterful approach to creating beautiful and emotional music through their keyboards, coaxing notes and tones that others would be unable to create. Hearing the sonic bliss they're responsible for I oftentimes think of the two of them as magicians more than musicians.

"The Sonorous Apparition" follows in the same dark vein, sound bended and folded in ways that shouldn't be possible, and yet becomes all the more beautiful for it. Random notes, a little guitar perhaps? It's all good...

"NGC 720" closes the disc, conjuring images of distant stars and nebulae swirling in the depths of space, a ballet of astronomy. Notes ebb and flow, grow and swell, rise and fall in a rapturous swirl, sweetly caressing the listener. Sensual.

Three pieces of long form ambience, all with their own unique charms. "PiNG" by Sylken fully captures the magic of performance and the beauty of space. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Rik Maclean of Ping Things reprinted here on Ambient Visions.

Visit Rik's Ping Things website by clicking here.




by Hae

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Island is a work by Hae where we are introduced to the island Okinawa as heard though the sounds of the artist.  Hae offers a different flavor of Japan as this island, while part of the Japanese group, has a different culture and variations in language from the mainland. 

The music incorporates various elements, such as Bali bells on Gentle Wind, a dancing beat on Sunset Island, and tradition arrangements and vocals on Chikinu Kaishiya.  

There are English vocals included in two of the songs.  Teinsagu nu Hana has English as well as Japanese/Okinawa lyrics and is a contemplation of a beach in moonlight.  Heavenly Home presents us with the warm summer’s night sky over the ocean. 

Each track invokes the artists’ memory of his home, with traditional pieces and instruments painting the picture.  The flavor is definitely Japanese and the mood is soft, invoking and as beautiful as the sent of a breeze from the ocean. 

There are elements that suggest the influence of Western music in the artists’ compositions, such as in ‘Heavenly
Home’, ‘Lazy Afternoon’ or ‘By the Sea’.  But the influences only make the compositions more inviting to the Western ear, and we can enjoy the combination without losing the Japanese flavor. 

‘By the Sea’ has an almost soft Jazz feel to it, but retains its Japanese flavor with instruments that invoke the Island culture.   

This CD offers a look at the traditional roots of Japanese music while also examining Western influences.  It is a most pleasing offering from Hae and Pacific Moon and one I am sure you will enjoy.

Reviewed by Margaret Foster for Ambient Visions


 Tribal Groove

by Various Artists 

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World beat, synth, samples and dance-this album blends them into an enjoyable experience. The rhythm is 'chill', but the style is inviting and upbeat. It'll stay in your players for a while! 

Tribal Groove is a full disk- nearly an hour of eclectically blended music, featuring African, Native American, Asian and Middle Eastern music and melodies expertly mixed with electronics. Like many other albums of this sort, the best benefit is listening to it on big speakers, or a system with a subwoofer, to get the full 'feel' of the percussion. It didn't do too bad on smaller computer speakers, but the Klipsch made it really shine. Again, the engineering is excellent- apparently the mixers of ambient and world beat music haven't succumbed to the 'turn it all the way up' problem that engineers of pop music suffer from. This means that cranking this album won't reveal rude surprises. Crank it! 

Some of the tracks reminded me of some of Deep Forest's early work- especially with the samples of Pygmy chants blended with electronics. "Truth's Vibration" was particularly evocative of Deep Forest. The artist is listed as "Professor Trance". Ok… if you say so!  

Africa's rich tradition of polyrhythmic percussion is a rich mine of interesting and danceable music, and is used to great advantage on several tracks including "Witches Dance" and "En Afrique".  

"Mongolia" was a sweet blend of throat singing and a lovely female singer. 

James Asher ("Feet in the Soil") makes an appearance in "Spice Souk".

The only distressing thing about this album is that it is a sample from "Various Artists", most of which I really like, which is good news for the artists whose albums I would like to purchase, but bad news for my pocketbook!

Reviewed by Lorie Johnson for Ambient Visions



Fever Dreams

by Steve Roach
Featuring Patrick O'Hearn and Byron Metcalf

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Steve Roach seems to have anywhere from three to six projects in the pipeline at any given time. So when he releases a new disc, there is cause for celebration and acclamation and for introspection and reflection.

Steve operates and creates at levels that few understand and fewer achieve. He has set standards for his own music that many would perceive as severe. He lives up to those standards constantly. Thus, listeners celebrate and acclaim.

Those standards include putting his heart and his soul into the music. Such infusion and activity allow listeners to examine their own psyches and emotional and spiritual states of being. Thus, the CD is a vehicle for an introspective adventure.

With so many projects going at once, it would be challenging and difficult to separate them entirely. Fever Dreams is an original adventure and stands meritoriously on its own laurels. It is unlike everything Steve has done and it has his unique stamp all over it. So it is natural that fans reflect on Steve’s discography looking for reference points and comparisons but this CD is totally unique and a total immersion into groove zones and drone zones.

In addition to Steve’s awesome talents, this disc includes contributions from Patrick O’Hearn and Byron Metcalf – highly regarded electronicians in their own rights. It also includes the rich talents of Will Merkle- Steve’s assistant - on bass. Fans are eager to hear Will on his own!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.



Harp Dreams

by Peter Sterling  

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It has been quite a while since listeners were treated to the sound of the harp. Since the passing of Hillary Stagg, the world has not been the beneficiary of soothing, melodic work such as the type performed by Peter Sterling. Yes, there is Andreas Vollenweider, but Vollenweider's work, while superb, is a bit bombastic and full of drame. Sterling's music, on the other hand, is soothing, serene, and harkens the listener to a lighter, more peaceful time. Sterling's proficiency with both acoustic and electroacoustic harp is evident on Harp Dreams.

Accompanied by flutes, violin, guitar, ethereal voices, and light percussion, Sterling's eight pieces on this CD remove us from the heavy toll of 21st-century living--for an hour or so, at least--and into a realm of peace and tranquility. "Midnight Sun" is a light, almost bouncy, piece. Twangy guitar adds a playful, but never sorrowful texture to a mellow, yet positive tone.  "Brazilia" is on the uptempo side, with additional saxophone accompaniement giving it its namesake flavor.

"Highlands" provides the listener with a sampling of Sterling's roots in the Celtic harp. The penny whistle seems as though it were the only other instrument, but in truth there are many subtle layers when one listens carefully. "In Monet's Garden" invokes mental images of the impressionist's paintings: colorful and dappled, each brushstroke adding texture and light to the entire paining.

Harp Dreams will not appeal to those whose idea of ambient is long, flowing sequencer lines, pads, and samples. However, for those who would like to take some time out to visit a simpler, more peaceful place, one could do far worse than to take some Harp Dreams.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions.



by Darkened Soul

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Dreamscapes is the debut CD from Darkened Soul, the alias under which Mike Soucy records electronic ambience. The title and pseudonym say it all. This is a set of dark atmospheres that stimulate cranial activity and simulate REM states of “la la land.” The dreams that Mike’s soundscapes evoke are not pleasant nor are they unpleasant. Deep listening and meditation will provoke journeys to a – well – darkened soul. The imagery is stark and barren and the journey is isolated and existential.

That’s the emotional response. The music is superb! Mike’s drones are totally unique and they captivate listeners – casual and focused. He builds all of his atmospheres and soundscapes from those drones and wraps and warps the sounds through and around each other. The set is definitely minimalist and has walls of sound. It is effective, unique, original and challenging. Most of all, it is a great CD! It shows tremendous potential and promise!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.



Orchid II

by Shao Rong

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Shao Rong returns with her wonderful pipa (Chinese Lute) and this time showing off her vocal talents as well. 

Shao Rong is a multi talented and exceptional artist, long praised by her homeland as a child prodigy and an award winning artist.   

This CD is more of a blend of Chinese elements with a distinct western feel to many of the compositions.  The pipa sets the mood, but the music is sometimes ‘tropical’ in feel, other times it has a jazz elements.  The CD however, does not feel jumpy as it flows gracefully from style to style, and gives us an overall feel for the talents of this young lady.  

Many of the songs are light and upbeat with a few cuts that can only be described as ‘romance with an Oriental touch’.

Ms. Rong also graces us with her vocal abilities on two tracks.  ‘Milky Way’ gives us a much stronger Chinese connection with her soft, light traditional vocals.   While the words are Chinese, the booklet included in my CD does give the translation.  ‘Dreaming’, also highlights Ms. Rong’s pleasant and subtle vocal ability.  The music is performed well, accenting Ms. Rong’s voice and never overpowering it.   

Outstanding tracks on this CD are: Tropical Island’; a bright tune reminiscent of tropical Pacific Islands with its swaying rhythm and its light, breezy feel.   

‘Orchid’ combines the pipa with classical violins, having an almost chamber music quality with an oriental flavor that is most delightful and brightens up the somberness of the violins. 

‘Early Spring’ is pipa accompanied by piano, a delightful combination we heard in her first CD and is offered again for our enjoyment.  This composition is soft, pleasant and inviting for contemplation. 

If you enjoyed Ms. Rong’s first CD ‘Orchid’ this offering will not disappoint you.  This is a very wonderful reprise to her first CD

Reviewed by Margaret Foster for Ambient Visions


One Step into the Unknown, Luna Waves and Cosmic Flight

by Mason Stevens

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One Step into the Unknown

Mason Stevens is an electronic guitarist with a unique twist. He combines an electric guitar with processed guitars and sequenced percussion (or so it seems). One Step into the Unknown is a set of very cool space music compositions tinged with Mason’s sense of humor. His titles are – generally – tongue in cheek, or – more appropriately – “pick in pocket.” With titles like “Chili Peppers in Orbit” and “Matador on Mars,” listeners expect and get some bounce for their bucks. Mason’s style and technique give the compositions flair and panache. The joy of the music makes the set seem like one gigantic scherzo. Succinctly, this CD is lots of fun!  

Luna Waves

Luna Waves is a set of electronic funk and blues from Mason Stevens, an expert at combining traditional electric guitars with modern processed and electronic guitars. He surrounds rock and roll riffs with huge atmospheres and contrasts steamy blues with dynamic soundscapes. The unique perspective is quite refreshing and makes deep listening a challenging experience. This CD, on the SpaceForMusic label, is an instant classic!

Cosmic Flight

Cosmic Flight is a dynamic collab from Mason Stevens, Tony Gerber and William Linton. It is also a testament to Mason’s “guitartistry.” Tony has a reputation as one of e-music’s finest guitarists. On this  disc, however, Mason handles ALL of the guitar work! Tony and William handle the synths.

And it is an awesome CD! It is much more ambient and atmospheric than listeners expect from Tony and he handles it well! Mason’s guitar is smooth and it flows around and through voluminous cloudy atmospheres and soundscapes. This is a very cool and relaxing sound.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.



This Time and Space

by Kit Watkins  

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First the disclaimer: I have been a fan of Kit Watkins' music for quite some time. So when the opportunity to review This Time and Space was presented to me, I jumped at the chance! This Time and Space does not disappoint. An album chock full of improvised ambient pieces that combine Watkins' trademark electronic wind instruments, synthesizers, and looping devices. Watkins records in his personal "live performance studio," and the effect is mesmerizing! I can think of no finer listening experience than to put this CD into the player, douse the lights (except for a candle, perhaps), and sprawl out and listen. The pieces seem to flow into one another, which is appropriate for a live performance. Yet each cut is a piece unto itself, from introduction to climax.

With titles including "Tranquility," "This Bliss," and "Reflectivity," one can certainly imagine the flavor of the music. This is prime-time idling music, the kind that demands nothing of the listener and delivers a comforting, no-stress delight in return. In fact, I can't seem to get enough of Watkins' music--it speaks to me in ways that resonate to my core. I have spent a great deal of time recently on my computer, writing reports, papers, and notes, and having This Time and Space spinning on my CD player--with or without headphones attached--has eased the effort and made the time pass oh, so much smoother!

This Time and Space is a prime example of the growth and evolution of Kit Watkins' music.  1990's SunStruck still holds a place of honor in my CD rack. Listening to it and then This Time and Space reveals how far along Watkins has come, yet how true he has stayed to his music.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions.


Codex Hypnos

by Source Code X

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John W. Patterson is a respected, honorable and talented music reviewer. His strongest asset as a reviewer – and editor – is his integrity. His opinions – and those of his staff – cannot be purchased at any price!  (I can vouch for that. I submitted some reviews to him that absolutely slammed the discs. Despite protestations from at least one of the artists, John published the reviews as written with only a small disclaimer.)  He runs a rather large website – – that publishes reviews of a diverse collection of styles and genres.

John is also a talented musician. His original instrument is the guitar but his heart is with the synth. He records as SourceCodeX and his debut CD is Codex Hypnos. It is a journey – in eight movements – through the inner and outer psychescapes of consciousness, unconsciousness and conscience. John created these deep drones and warm atmospheres entirely with software synths and music editing programs. John’s love for this style of music shimmers as he delivers a refined package with raw power. His minimalist approach defines the drones. The drones define the atmospheres. The atmospheres define the psychescapes. The psychescapes define his minimalist approach.

Throughout the entire adventure, the music evokes and provokes on several emotional and spiritual planes. This is a great CD from a true musician’s friend!
Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.


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