Music Reviews 

About | Articles | CD Focus | Q& A | Charts and Playlists| Contact |  Interviews | Letters | Links | Music Streams | News | New Releases


Reviews 5-15-2002


Redwood Aire

by Spencer Brewer

Visit Spencer Brewer's website





"Redwood Aire" is the second album of piano solos by four artists from Northern California. The pianist/composers are former Narada artist Spencer Brewer (who also produced and engineered the album in his Laughing Coyote Studio), Marilynn Tollefsen, Michael Coughenour, and Tom Ganoung. While the artists' playing and composing styles are distinct and different from each other, this CD maintains a smooth, calming effect and defies categorization. All four composers are seasoned and very accomplished - this is no light-weight fluff. I loved the album from the first listen, and found that I enjoyed it more and more, hearing something new each time. On the first album, I felt that Brewer's pieces were far superior to the others, but this time it's a really great mix that works exceptionally well.   Spencer Brewer contributed five pieces to this collection. "Last Chance for Eden" is a lovely, introspective piece that clearly demonstrates how far he has evolved since his earlier Narada work. Both harmonically and rhythmically complex, this is a great piece!

"Lost Jewels in the Grass" is quite different from Brewer's other recorded pieces. Beautifully flowing in some passages and more march-like in others, this is a "big", powerful work that shows a new dimension in Brewer's composing style - I really like it! "Felini's Carousel" has been around for awhile, and it is great to hear it in a fresh new incarnation. "Walls That Move" was inspired while working at George Lucas' Skywalker Studios. The scoring stage has walls that are more than 40' tall and move, as does the floor and ceiling for tuning. Brewer found the environment to be ideal for creativity, and composed this piece while there. The feeling is of open space and no limits - very free, gentle, and soothing. "Together We Make One" is a bit more structured and song-like -  more in the tradition of  "Dreamgift" and "Shadow Dancer".  Michael Coughenour provides some of the more energetic work on the CD. A bit jazzier than the other three artists, his pieces are both complex and inviting.

My favorite of  his four tracks is "Chain Reaction". All four pieces sound improvised, but this one seems to evolve as one musical phrase inspires another, hence the title. Marilynn Tollefsen has an elegant style that occasionally reminds me of Liz Story. "Round and Round" swirls in a beautifully flowing piece. "Moon Walk" floats and has a wide-open feeling - very smooth and calm. "River Wind" is my favorite of her four selections. Tom Ganoung's "Big Blue Dream" opens the CD with an almost Mozartian little tune. His "Return to the Heart" is also in a classical style. "Golden  Birthday Waltz" is one of my favorite pieces on this CD.  Introspective and bittersweet, this is a very touching piece!  This is an outstanding CD, and should appeal to those who like piano music with a bit more complexity. It would make a wonderful backdrop for other activities, but I think you'll be drawn, as I was again and again, to stop and really listen and appreciate the music! "Redwood Aire" is currently available from Spencer Brewer at

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



by Arbre Noir

Visit Arbre Noir's website

A splendid collection of dark ambience from this German trio. Jens Dittberner's percussion laces in and out of the sinewy didgeridoos of Rüdiger Schlecht and the subtle electronics of Mickael Vassallo. Their music, while at times very rhythmic, nonetheless manages to settle in nicely into a ambient soundspace. Nature sound effects blend with the shakers, rattles, rainsticks and other percussives fill out the rhythmic space along with an occasional understated drum machine pattern.

The didjeridoo work is understated throughout, with the exception of the track "Hidden Secret", where Dittberner's percussion lays out for much of the piece, allowing Schlect's didj to create a resonant rhythmic pulse. Vassallo's synth work ranges from ghostly ambience - Deep Drone - to glassy whispers  - Substance. The electronics never overwhelm the natural sounds... they coexist in the same aural space quite nicely.

The standout track is "Tibet". This sound collage was recorded live, and demonstrates that the range of sonic emotion and instrumental these folks evoke, is not just a studio accomplishment, but also exists in real time in the real world.

Reviewed by Allen Welty-Green for Ambient Visions


The White Space, Hydrogen 2 Oxygen, and Condor Sail Curve

by Tone Ghost Ether

Visit Tone Ghost Ether's website


No sooner had I finished gushing about Kit Watkins' live 2 CD set, "The Gathering," then three new CDs showed up in my mailbox. I had not heard of Tone Ghost Ether before, and so it was with glee and amazement that the name Kit Watkins appears as one of the players in this trio. The other two are John Tlusty and Brad Allen, and the three share equal billing in this ensemble.

The three CDs, too, make up an ensemble.  All three were recorded live in early 2001, as the trio met, and improvised on Sundays afternoons (and what a way to spend Sunday afternoons!). It would seem so much music was produced during these gatherings that it took three full CDs to contain them all. And thus, all three are reviewed here as a body of work, and not as individual works.

Present are the flourishes and horn effects that mark Watkins' unique style. 

Added are the talents of Tlusty and Allen, also multi-instrumentalists. All tracks were improvised and recorded in real time. I had the great opportunity to listen to these CDs while driving in and around the mesas, gorges and beach areas of San Diego, and their affect was striking: viewing the cove at La Jolla (a picture postcard in itself) to the haunting, ambient, acid-jazz, electronic, fusion created by three talented musicians who have obviously found a groove together was an experience bordering on spiritual!

I continue to struggle to find the words to describe the effect of listening to these albums. If you're a fan of Kit Watkins' work, you will have some idea of the power and artistry of the music. If you have never availed yourself of any of the works of this trailblazing artist, you could well start by putting one of Tone Ghost Ether's CDs on the player. My order of preference is "The White Space" followed by "Hydrogen 2 Oxygen" and then "Condor Sail Curve," but that could be only because that's the order I first listened to them. Fans of electronic ambient/acid fusion music owe it to themselves to take a whiff of Tone Ghost Ether.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions


Inner Zone

by vidnaObmana and
Steve Roach

Visit Steve Roach's website

Visit vidnaObmana's website

The English language has not yet produced enough superlatives to describe Inner Zone, by Vidna Obmana, nee Dirk Serries, and Steve Roach.  "Fantastalacious" has a nice ring to it.  "Fantastalacious" it is!

This CD has many different influences and is a bit of a departure from Steve's and Dirk's norm.  There are certainly traces of the electro-tribal ambience that their fans expect.  And there is more!  This disc has echoes of Steve's work with Vir Unis, Dirk's recent solo efforts, pure space minimalism, desert ambience and deep atmospheres.  It is, quite simply, a diverse effort with something for everybody.  And it has traces of the electronic music symphony that Steve has been constructing and developing for years.  His signature wash and swoosh synth timbres give it away.

Each note has its own depth and character.  The synth riffs are smooth and stunning.  There are no holes, no missing parts.  From, note one to note last, this is pure electronic enjoyment.  And it gets better with each listen!

(This CD coincides with the upcoming Projektfest/Gathering scheduled for Memorial Day weekend in Philadelphia.) 

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions


One Deep Breath

by Bradley Joseph

Visit Bradley Joseph's website


Bradley Joseph's "One Deep Breath" is a fascinating combination of structured melodic pieces and free-form, ambient compositions that invite the listener to "Pause, take one deep breath, and go beyond your daily life. Music to awaken your mind and spirit, and inspire you to dream." The ten original pieces are played on piano and keyboard, with wordless vocals here and there.  The influence of years of touring with Yanni is apparent in the richness of Joseph's sound, but his musical voice is his own. The opening track, "Is This A Dream?" contains chanting voices and a haunting, "dreamy" melody line that floats in and out on piano - a very beautiful and effective piece! "Wildflowers" is a bit more traditional, and is also lovely. The wistful piano brings images of brightly-colored wildflowers gracefully bending in a gentle breeze. I really like "Dance of Life", which is both joyful and pensive - almost anthemic in places. "Inside the Sky" is rhythmic and mysterious at the opening, and then becomes a much more ambient and free-form piano solo that floats among the clouds and mists of the sky until the rhythm re-enters, perhaps symbolizing gentle winds - definitely one of my favorite tracks! "If I Could Fly" is a  happy little day-dream full of smiles and "what if's".

"One Deep Breath" is breathtaking in its subtle beauty. It floats and meanders for more than ten minutes, bringing in ocean sounds that slide me into a dreamy stupor every time. I started listening to this CD in my CD alarm player in the mornings, and I could not stay awake all the way through this track! Under the circumstances, I think that's a compliment to Joseph's goal for his music to invite the listener to dream. Worked for me every time! In waking moments, this is one of the most soothing pieces of music around. The ocean almost instantly drains me of all stress, and the sounds of the surf within the music in this piece are wonderful. "One Deep Breath"  is an exceptionally good CD - especially if you enjoy structure as well as experimentation on one recording. The combinations of styles work really well here, and I highly recommend this album.

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


Sleep Management

by Rewind Wonderland

Visit Red Antenna's website



Extremely minimal electronically generated music... Shawn Lindaberry, James Reeves, Candy Chang and Steve Baker, under the handle Rewind Wonderland , have created a disk full of  - nothing! Well almost nothing. Various loops, apparently created on instruments such as rhodes electric piano and electric guitars as well as synths, comprise the entirety of this CD. A typical track will begin with a short looped phrase - either an arpeggio of some sort, or a series of timbral oddities. This loop will continue for between 3 & 7 minutes... sometimes layered with a complimentary loop, or juxtapositioned against a contrasting loop... until the end of the track. There is no melodic content or harmonic development. There is no rhythmic variation. The tempos are invariably slow, but not lingering. Whatever rhythmic elements are present are contained within the loops. Sometimes the loops are apparently played in reverse, yielding a slightly disturbing off-balance ambience to the proceedings.

The overall effect is a bit disconcerting. Not entirely unpleasant, but this disk doesn't fit neatly into any pre-conceived notions of ambient music or minimalism. It certainly tends to meld into the background, but it always maintains a slightly "edgy" quality. They call this project Sleep Management but to these ears, its more evocative of a restless night spent tossing and turning while my mind is busy with disorienting images, than a peaceful night of soothing dreams.

Reviewed by Allen Welty-Green for Ambient Visions


Trance World

by Earth Trybe

Visit Neo Pacifica's website



A fine collection of world-inspired electronica from Diane & David Arkenstone on synths, augmented by John Wakefield's percussion and George Toretelli's flutes.  Drum machine & synth rhythms propel everything along without ever getting too insistent, while Ms. Arkenstone's ethereal and sinewy vocals thread through these tracks like threads in a fine Persian tapestry, evoking shades of Lisa Girard or the Bulgarian Women's Choir. Tortelli's flutes take center stage on the exotic "Constellation Communication" and "The Jungles of Ashi Maaru"... accompanied by some tasty kalimba work on the latter track.

The beats and atmospheres are mostly from the exotic ambient vocabulary, but on "Freedom of Movement", they venture into a territory bordering on lounge jazz(!), and on "Illuminesence" they even get a bit "swingy" while Ms. Arkenstone extols the virtues of  "cool, chemical light". But even these two tracks don't stand out too much from the overall exotic mood of this CD... rather they serve to anchor it in a a more "urban" environment than a lot of world-inspired electronica.

The one track I didn't really care for on this CD  was "Telemetry". While it had some nice spacey timbres and beautiful whistling-synth lead lines, the whole track was underscored with trite NASA moon mission vocal samples. These "found" voices were very distracting form an otherwise splendid piece of space music. To this listener, they had the effect of transforming the whole track into a space-music cliche.

Reviewed by Allen Welty-Green for Ambient Visions


Return Home