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Reviews 5-22-2004


 The Float Zone

by Dino Pacifici 

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2004 has been defining itself as a strong e-music year – before the halfway point! There are strong releases coming to the electronic music fan and deep listener from every angle in every style.

The Float Zone is Dino Pacifici’s first release since 1999 and it is one of the defining discs of 2004! This is an awesome release in the classic space music style. The atmospheres are dark and eerie. The sci-fi timbres have smooth edges and organic textures. The rhythms are tribal and provide excellent contrasts to the electronic soundscapes. Thos contrasts and textures provide unique frames of reference for deep listeners. The journeys are to far away places and mysterious “zones.” The vehicles “float” in mid-air.

(The opening track is “Currents of Space, Pt. 1,” a very deep and very dark journey. An alternate version of this composition appears on disc two of Tracks Across the Universe, the CD set that accompanies my book, Tracks Across the Universe: A Chronology of Ambient and Electronic Music.)

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.




by Diatonis

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Trajectories by Diatonis is a beautiful study in guitar based ambience, conjuring up imagery of rebirth and renewal that are both soothing and inspired.

The disc opens with the track "Mourning Sky", a slowly building piece of light pads and minimal guitar work.  A harmonic melody weaves throughout, giving the song a sense of depth and darkness, a feeling of profound loss, of endings.

Where the first piece suggests loss, track two "Flatland" brings to mind feelings of rebirth in a new environment.  Oblique motion is created by the intertwining of rich pads instilling "Flatland" with a sense of renewal and secrets shared.  Sublime.

Track four, "Cloudless", follows the same theme of a new environment with a sense of a sky so blue, so clear, that words haven't been invented yet to describe it's beauty.  Soft drones in the background of the piece suggest a lazy heat giving way to cool night air.  Beautiful.

"Nothing in Mind" sees a return of simple guitar over slowly rising drones, suggesting the birth of identity, of self.  There's something very life affirming about this track, something very inspired, powerful in it's depth.

Closing track "One to Be" features minimal melodic work throughout, a slight sense of closure to the experience, paired with a feeling of having come full circle to the point where it all starts again, a point from which lessons will be relearned and experiences will be had for the first time again.  A charming piece to close the disc.

A lovely body of work, "Trajectories" is a collection of songs that celebrates the magic of life and revels in the joy of discovery.  Diatonis has created a truly wonderful disc with this release, a work sure to remind us of the beauty that surrounds us.

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

Visit Rik's Ping Things website by clicking here.



Echo Systems

by Paul Ellis and Craig Padilla

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Visit Craig Padilla's website


Paul Ellis and Craig Padilla are two of the top sequencer and Berlin school electronicians in the new millennium. They began a collaboration in 2002. That project was put to the wayside when Craig’s wife gave birth to their first child.

WHOA! Echo Systems arrived this year (2004)! This is a great CD! It is, without a doubt, one of the top ten sequencer space music albums of <b>all time</b>! Craig and Paul combine analog and digital synths, sequencers, chorale effects, rhythms, crunches, delays, atmospheres and every manner of processing technique to create magnificent soundscapes that are outer space! The music is the adventure! It is the journey!

Interestingly, Paul and Craig assume no responsibility for unaligned charkas.” This disc is, however, a real rarity. This is Berlin school sequenced meditation music. Veterans of the e-music community – performers, listeners, reviewers and friends – will recognize the juxtaposition of those terms and styles. Sequences do not generally lend themselves to overtones and meditation. This disc is an exceptional CD with qualities that make it an instant legend!

2004 continues to yield outstanding music!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.



World of Shadows

by Various Artists

Visit Deep Listenings' website


Gianluigi Gasparetti, recording as Oöphoi, is no stranger to the self-released CDR.  While many of his most memorable ambient works have appeared on labels like Amplexus and Electroshock, the vast majority of his work has appeared on very limited, self-created, CDR.  It stands to reason, then, that Gasparetti's next step was to start his own label of home-made CDR releases.  Umbra records might have threatened to be an outlet for only Oöphoi-related projects--as it turns out, it will also be the first opportunity for ambient fans to hear new and obscure artists from overseas.  The first Umbra release, World of Shadows, is, appropriately, a multi-artist compilation outlining the future direction of the label, and serves as an interesting taster of artists both familiar and unfamiliar. 

First up is Sostrah Tinnitus's track "Corifeo delle Rane"--a vaporous zone of gusty ambient, with clacking sounds resembling the processed ticking of clocks.  Synth washes rise and fall amidst the clattering bone sounds of various objects.  The feeling here is of a less organic Alio Die, though the sounds change more progressively over the track's relatively short length.  What seems like organized chaos at first turns out to be rather orderly in the end, with a wall-of-sound climax followed by a dramatic, classical coda.  Having heard Sostrah Tinnitus's two albums (one on Umbra, the other on Beyond Productions), I can say that this is not the most exemplary track by the artist, but functions well as a teaser for those superior albums.

Next is the impressive "Nocte Sublustri" by newcomer Netherworld.  Dark, isolationist ambience in the vein of Thomas Köner can be found here, right down to the otherworldly bass thumps.  A thick drone with various bleak synth-impressions ebbs along; a vision of the blackest kind of space.  Distant scrapings of metal or stone, highly reverbed, are heard--perhaps the hidden movement of planets, tectonic plates, the mandibles of a giant insect.  An auspicious debut for this artist; his first album Hermetic Thoughts perhaps one to look out for.

Next is frequent Oöphoi collaborator Tau Ceti, and his track "Sator Arepo."  Shades of Celestial Geometries here, with a harrowing, slow synth line low in the mix.  The more eerie portions of Michael Stearns's Encounter make for a strange excursion into deep space.  The track meanders, bassy vibrations breaking up the claustrophobic blackness from time to time--similar to Lustmord, but without the grand guignol theatrics.  A fine track, even if a little standard.

Klaus Wiese and Oöphoi give us "Hieros Gamos" next, featuring Wiese's instantly recognizable Tibetan singing-bowl atmospheres.  These drones are combined with creepy whispering straight out of Oöphoi's Night Currents and extremely potent synth textures that glide through the speakers.  Headphone listening is recommended.  A reverent, mystical atmosphere is created--perfect for the deepest night listening when the world is still, aside from the drifting tones of the music.

Another new artist, Perceptual Defense, is next with "The Last Tear."  This track is similar to Tau Ceti in mood--a synth-created atmosphere of intense blackness, with only strange waveform sounds lancing across the skies.  The terrain here is bleak, melancholy; VidnaObmana-style synthclouds pervasive along with the deep space droning.  This track is good, though fairly one-dimensional over its length.

Finally, Oöphoi closes the album with the twenty-three minute "Substance Metallique."  Similar in feel to his recent set of EPs, Dreams, "Substance" is extremely quiet, almost at the edge of audible.  It is as if one is looking out from a pier at a vast ocean, stretching into seemingly infinite distance.  Occasionally one notices vague movement, unusual sounds echoing across the water.  The most action is, however, beneath the surface, hidden from view.  Perhaps not the strongest Oöphoi track, often due to the extreme quiet of the track--it wisps in and out of the listener's consciousness a little too readily, too ambient for its own good.  Bleak and mysterious, but ultimately hollow. 

World of Shadows various tracks certainly suit the bleak title, while showcasing the interesting artists of Umbra records.  The album lacks diversity due to the narrow focus of all the artists on bleak, deep ambience, but is also of extremely high quality.  Perhaps, when taken as a total, World of Shadows can seem as too much of a good thing--each track melding with the next until one can no longer discern just who one listening to.  The quiet nature of these tracks, perhaps from the mastering process, forces the listener to increase the volume in order to hear what's going on.  Headphone listening is not only recommended, but almost necessary to appreciate what’s going on in each track.  Even at higher volumes, some of these tracks (most specifically the final Oöphoi track) seem too ethereal for their own good--it's simply too easy to drift off and lose track of what one is listening to.  Nevertheless, World of Shadows is a worthy sampler of Umbra's label focus.  Ambient fans who prefer a little more sonic "meat" to their recordings would do well to steer clear.  Those who can't get enough of ambiguous, shrouded, soundscaping will likely already have this album, limited to ninety-nine copies, in their collections. 

Reviewed by Brian Bieniowski reprinted here on Ambient Visions.

Visit Brian's website by clicking here.



Spatial Glacial Nebulous

by Zero Ohms

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Spatial, Glacial, Nebulous is almost the perfect meditation CD. Richard J. Roberts, a.k.a. Zero Ohms, created this album live in his studio using only a wind-controlled synth. He created it for his own introspective and meditative journeys but found it so successful that he has made it available through SpaceForMusic Records.

these subtle atmospheres are elegant and spacious. They surround deep listeners with grace, warmth and love. The response is very deep and very personal.

(When I experience responses like this, I have to step out of character and own the adventure.  In order to do that, I must write in the first person.)

as many of my friends and associates in the e-music community already know, the past two to three years have been very trying for me – physically and emotionally. Throughout these ordeals and troubled times, I have constantly turned to music as a source of comfort in my holistic healing routines.

Lately, I have been dealing with major league knee pain – consistently at seven and eight (on a scale of ten), 24/7. when I got my copy of Spatial, Glacial, Nebulous, I put it into my routine immediately. I have experienced tremendous relief with this disc!  I’m talking about my pain going to levels three and four! I have been a believer in and practitioner of healing meditation for years. This, however, is the most significant and tangible experience that I have ever had!

Thank you, Richard, for the relief! This is an absolutely essential CD and, for me, a true gift from God at the right time!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.




by Craig Urquhart 

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Streamwalker is a beautiful collection of original piano solos by Craig Urquhart that range from gently melodic to more abstract and ambient to jazz. A classically-trained pianist who worked as Leonard Bernstein's personal assistant for the last five years of the legendary composer/conductor's life, Urquhart's music sounds deceptively simple. However the complex harmonies and rhythms as well as Urquhart's emotional and nuanced playing style allow the listener to discover new facets with each listen. Urquhart leaves a lot of open spaces between the notes and phrases, preferring subtlety and expression over showy pianistics, making this CD a very satisfying  experience on a variety of levels.

All of the tracks on Streamwalker has its own charm, but I do have some favorites. The CD opens with Morning Eagle,  a sublimely peaceful piece that was inspired by watching eagles flying overhead while on a canoe trip. It is easy to picture these powerful birds effortlessly gliding through the skies, riding the wind currents. The Astronomer is a quietly passionate piece reflecting the awe of losing oneself while looking at the vastness of the night sky. The open feeling of this piece and the deeply emotional expression make this a real standout. The Awakening is a piece Urquhart composed as a birthday gift for Leonard Bernstein, and is a bit more classical. Urquhart usually includes one bluesy or jazzy piece on his albums, and Jazzed is that selection on this album. Showing a different side of his playing and composing, these pieces tend to be a bit whimsical and fun, lightening the mood considerably. Interlude is several shades darker and more reflective - gently melodic and very evocative. Reverie is a special favorite, depicting the entrance to the world of dreamtime, the magical state where all living things are connected in peace; this is serenity set to music. Urquhart wrote the haunting Ghost Canyon just days after 9/11, observing the empty urban canyons of lower Manhattan that were once so full of optimism and humanity. Impromptu is a gorgeous, thoughtful nod to Chopin and Schubert that is warmly optimistic and hopeful, and played with a touch as gentle as a caress. The title track closes the CD with a light mood and a sense of wonder. What a great album!

Streamwalker is currently available from and Very highly recommended! 

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

Visit Kathy Parsons' bio page for more information.



Borrowed Time

by Lammergeyer

VisitDatabloem Records' website






A new project by Anthony Paul Kerby of The Circular Ruins, Lammergeyer has created a highly emotional body of work using a combination of electronic and more organic sounds.  The third in a series of releases in a similar vein, Lammergeyer's Borrowed Time is a study in beautiful and lush tones.

Opening with "Prolegomena", a mournful melody slowly builds accompanied by light percussion and keyboard work.  Constantly moving, shifting, tones change shape and respond to eachother in an almost organic manner.  Beautiful.

Skip ahead to track four, "Point of Intersection" where the sound of  keyboards echo the sounds of a sparse rain, minimal drones and metalic tones sliding  across one another.

With "Echoes" the sound of oscillating drones like radar waves bounce back and forth through the ether.  A low hum slowly rises and falls throughout  anchoring the piece,  while minimal keyboard work adds a sense of wonder.

"Anything can be Everything" pairs steam like tones with starbright chimes in an unlikely blend that works very effectively together.  Gaining a certain mechanical quality to it, the song is slowly overtaken by a series of metallic hits that create an impressive tension.

"That Suddenly Are Real" features a pumping squelchy bassline that wraps around itself, entwining other more subtle melodies in a tight grip.  Sound fades in and out with a seeming randomness thad adds colour and depth making it all the more striking in it's beauty.  What a beautiful track!

With each listen to Borrowed Time I find new sounds, new melodies, and new themes to discover.  All of the songs here are treasures to be discovered again and again.  Borrowed Time is truly a fabulous release who's effects have stayed with me long after the last tones have faded away.

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

Visit Rik's Ping Things website by clicking here.



by Innersense

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This is the fourth album by the British Croft Brothers.  Their focus is ambient that features rhythm to and almost trance like feel in their compositions. It is soft and relaxing while gently reminding the listener it’s there.  It is natural in feel and yet tickles the senses with electronic sparks.  

The inspiration of this CD is ‘crystals and stones used for the synthesis of sound and light’.  This is the Croft Brothers interpretation of unexplained natural light phenomena, such as St. Elmo’s fire or Min Min lights,   Track titles (5 tracks in all averaging 10 minutes each) are earthlite, crystal rays, sand shimmer, lava lamp and stone glow, which allow the listener to focus on what the music is describing and feel the light as it plays to the music.  

The CD achieves the ambient form by not being intrusive.  It then progresses beyond that into light trance music, which lacks the usual grinding trance beat we find in most trance pieces, but it achieves that focus.  The Croft Brothers show here that Trance need not be a pounding beat, as exampled in the ‘crystal rays’ track.  

Overall, this is a good ambient CD by Innersense, suitable for relaxing backgrounds to everything from work to meditation, offering original material and new direction to what Ambient and Trance can be. 

Reviewed by Margaret Foster for Ambient Visions



Tibetan Temple Bells

by Acama


There could very easily be a tendency or inclination to dismiss CD”S of Tibetan Singing Bowls as all being the same. To a large degree, they are all very similar. The instrument does not allow for great flexibility. Each disc, however, has its own charm and usually reflects the spirit of the performer.

Tibetan Temple Bells, by Acama, is one of the deeper discs of this nature. The overtones of the bowls and bells surround the listeners and caress them warmly for this harmonious journey of introspection and discovery. Acama uses the similarities to allow listeners to use this vehicle as a conduit to the spirit and the soul.

This is a beautiful and essential adventure. 

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.



Fever Dreams

by Steve Roach

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Steve Roach is an artist who creates an environment for his listeners, self-contained worlds that exist entirely within the confines of his music.  With his latest, Fever Dreams, Roach has made a disc filled with beautiful and mystical places, a hyper reality akin to the most intense of reveries.  A collection of four long form pieces, Fever Dreams brings to mind the desert that has inspired so much of Roach's work, filled with a ritual and mysticism that speaks to our souls.  

"Wicked Dream" opens the album with shakers and light percussion conjuring images of vast spaces, wide open terrains made bright in the hot sun of high noon.  Deep bass drones pass through the soundscape like clouds moving across a clear blue sky made hazy by desert heat. Additional textures drift pass, landmarks along the horizon.  A sense of something mysterious and otherworldy.

In contrast "Fever Pulse" brings to mind a night time ritual, surging forward with rolling percussion and drifting pads flying by like spirits awakened by unheard voices.  Metallic tones rise and  fall in irregular intervals interspersed with spiralling sounds that recall the twinkling of stars.  A sense of ceremony, of shared communal magic.  You can't help but feel the pulse in this piece.

Track three, "Tantra Mantra" starts subtly with fluid tones and minimal beats, slowly gaining in voice, climbing in strength.  Hand percussion gives way to deeper, more bass driven drumming, hypnotizing, primal.  

Subtle variation drifts through it's nearly thirty minute length,  enrapturing the listener in a swirling spiral.  Beautiful.

"Moved Beyond" closes the disc with powerful percussion, hypnotic pads ascending and descending.  The sounds of wind through chasms, canyons, the moon passing through the night sky marking the passing of midnight and beyond.  And slowly, like the dreams of the disc's title, the intensity lessens until all that's left is a vivid memory of a journey to strange lands.

"Fever Dream" is quite simply an astounding piece of music, an excursion to beautiful soundworlds, to exciting new vistas.  Steve Roach is an artist who creates an environment for his listeners, and  with this release he has made one of his most beguiling and enticing environments yet.  Highly recommended.

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

Visit Rik's Ping Things website by clicking here.



Saphire Days

by Ann Sweeten 

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Ann Sweeten's Sapphire Days is quite simply one of the most graceful and quietly soothing albums I've heard. Soothing often implies ear candy, but that is definitely not the case here. A classically-trained pianist, Sweeten's themes of nature and saving the environment and animals come from the heart, expressed gently but fervently. The pieces sound deceptively simple, but each is a perfect little gem. The pace and overall feeling of the album is consistent enough to sustain a mood or meditation, but treat yourself to listening to this music carefully and then let it carry you away to a peaceful, tranquil place - a sapphire day! All thirteen tracks are original, played on a Steinway grand piano, and Sweeten adds some synth washes for color and ambiance which are never obtrusive or distracting. 

I really like this whole album, but a few of the pieces are exceptional. Walking With the Wind opens the CD with a wistful, dreamy piece that is both leisurely and passionate. The title song is optimistic and graceful with an absolutely gorgeous melody. Smoke is a little moodier, and describes wispy swirls of smoke as they rise and float away as well as the surges of smokey billows - very effective! In the Shadows is also a bit darker than the other songs, but is so evocative - this is my favorite of the collection. It is very introspective and bittersweet - I love it! 

Sapphire Days is Ann Sweeten's fifth album to date, but it is the first that I have heard. I'm really looking forward to getting better acquainted with this artist! Sapphire Days is available from,, and as well as various retail outlets. Very highly recommended!

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

Visit Kathy Parsons' bio page for more information.



Laivoja ja Junia

by HEI

Visit White Noise's website


I'm going to go out on a limb and say, before I even begin my review, that Hei's Laivoja ja Junia is the best ambient album you've never heard for 2004.  Readers of my lovelorn missives about ambient music know that I don't level such praise lightly.  A little backstory:  After a particularly lousy day at work, I came home to find a battered package from Stockholm, Sweden containing Hei's CD and a polite, handwritten note from one of the White Noise label's staff.  I'll be honest--I receive a large number of CDs for review, and I don't generally get to them immediately, and I make a point to never listen right after work.  I'll come to the promo pile over the weekend, liberate selections, listen intently; occasionally I'll sample a few during the week, after a meal and a glass of beer.  Something drew me to the disc from Sweden immediately--perhaps it was the understated but lovely digipak artwork, or the handwritten message.  The whys are unimportant now; after perhaps six minutes of listening, I was drawn directly into the shimmering maelstrom of Laivoja ja Junia, constantly wondering, "Just who is this?" 

Though there is precious little information available on the internet, Laivoja ja Junia (English translation: "Ships and Trains") appears to be a meditation on travel and distance.  While the travel content of the album may be ambiguous, the feeling of distance is evident from the first track, "...Me Encontré Solo en la Oscuridad" ("...I Was Alone in the Dark").  A flamenco guitar, sounding as if it is played on an old phonograph located deep within a tunnel or cavern, crackles dark and distantly.  A sonorous tenor joins, deep and electronically tampered--his voice breaking up periodically, as if played through blown speakers.  A bizarre but compelling start--we're in for quite a ride.  "Junia ja Laivoja Akureyriin" is next, beginning with a furiously-layered classical guitar, as if Ennio Morricone and Steve Reich collaborated on a soundtrack to some lysergic spaghetti western.  This impassioned spiralling of guitar playing devolves into pure ambient wall-of-sound, phasing wildly throughout.  It quiets at around the nine-minute mark; a silence permeated with sitar-like plucking, a strange ethnicity unknown and untraceable.  Even this is deconstructed by track's end into a Stars of the Lid dronescape, eventually evaporating entirely.  A staggeringly fine beginning.  Next, "Pohjoisnapa/Der es Salaam," offers a brief Spanish guitar strum, echoed as if played within the Cistern Chapel of Deep Listening Band fame.  This is something of a palate-cleanser, as we are next treated to the most difficult track on the album, "Tango."  A bizarre melodica melody brings us into the French cafe of the psyche.  Pauline Oliveros is here to shock you out of your coffee-colored reverie; this quickly becomes a melodica-drone track with some intriguingly difficult sonorities.  Perhaps less successful than the rest of the album due to its aimlessness, "Tango" serves as an unusual confection in a record full of sonic delights.  "Lumisade" inhabits Lull or Lustmord territory, with subterranian drones accompanied by lovely guitar washes.  The crackling of a vinyl record, or perhaps rainfall, gives this track a desperate melancholy, aching to behold.  Yet another highlight, and one of the strongest tracks on the album.  "Punainen Harmaa" is next, a drifting dronescape of subtly shifting tones, many of them high-pitched and slightly piercing.  The guitar harmonics gel marvelously here, offering dark ambient fans an isolationist treat.  If I had to assign track lengths on the album, I'd probably switch this with its predecessor "Lumisade," as "Punainen Harmaa" seems to meander on a bit too long for its nearly thirteen minutes.  Finally, "Laulu Kuulle, ja Sateelle," presents another rain-soaked, melancholy atmosphere, perhaps drawn from the melodica.  A subtle connection to Aloof Proof here, as a traditional instrument is bent to the infinite will of ambient--yet another resonant, subtly shifting tonescape.  This is particularly lovely, as the different tones frequently form accidental melodies.  This track is somehow ethic in flavor, with environmental noises offering comforting textures, as if a lone melodica-player intones along with the gradual action of the world around.  Be careful with this track--sleep is not recommended; there's a surprise at the end of the track I'll leave for the curious listener to discover.  

Hei creates a marvelously diverse and layered effort on Laivoja ja Junia--one that surprised me as often as it delighted.  Hei seems particularly indebted to the early minimalists--on this album it's as if modern electronics were deserted entirely to give the album a timeless, classic feel that is at once familiar and original.  Traditional instruments are chosen over the latest in technology, making a simple, lovely statement that's all over the ambient map.  While you'll find no "original" sounds here, per se, Hei is clearly a practiced musician that delivers a fine record, satisfying all the way through.  Fans of darker zones of ambient are encouraged to explore this work--I can't imagine appreciators of Mick Harris's ambient work, Lustmord, Caul, and others, finding a better album in 2004.  I'm going to cut to the chase here:  Head over to White Noise's site and listen.  The label accepts Paypal--treat yourself.  You'll be glad you did.  Laivoja ja Junia gets my highest recommendation. 

Reviewed by Brian Bieniowski reprinted here on Ambient Visions.

Visit Brian's website by clicking here.


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