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Reviews 5-29-2004


 Sanctuary of Dreams

by Numina

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The delays around Sanctuary of Dreams are well documented at the Hypnos forum. Jesse Sola, a.k.a. Numina, has had the grace, charm, style, panache and decorum to take it all in stride and to participate in the humor.

That is all fun but this disc is serious space music at a level that very few achieve. WOW! From the opening notes to the last sounds, this disc says something special! Jesse does it with no fanfare surrounding his deep atmospheres and sedate drones.

Despite all the teasing, this CD is exactly on time! E-music is entering a Golden Age and it is entirely appropriate – nay, necessary - to have Jesse and this CD right there with the other standard bearers of the community!

The music is, as the title implies, dreamy. Deep and focused listeners will enter the sanctuary of their innermost souls. It is a safe haven from the ills and troubles of the new millennium, albeit only a brief rest stop on the highway of life. As each listener has his/her own meditation rituals and practices, the responses are the individuals’ responses.

This awesome CD stamps Jesse’s entry into the perpendicular universe and validates his parking! It is essential and has been worth the wait

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.




by Diatonis

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In a recent discussion about current e-music trends and directions, Lloyd Barde, owner of Backroads Music, home of The Heartbeats Catalog, and one of the world’s foremost experts on electronic music, cited Diatonis (Stuart White) as one of the hottest artists in 2004’s e-music community. Such statements are, of course, subjective and subject to debate but if Lloyd makes such a bold statement, the idea has merit. Listening to Stuart’s music seals the deal.

Trajectories is a set of “imperfect” pieces that achieve rare beauty and true originality because of the imperfections. Stuart’s approach – and his own perfectionism – allows him to create art from mistakes made by machines that are – by design and definition – perfect!

Deep listeners, however, will hear no imperfections and no mistakes! Stuart has crafted a deep soundscape full of pastoral ambience and bright drones. The atmospheres are constantly gathering and releasing sound design elements. They are on a constant crescendo, building towards a denouement that isn’t there. The soundscapes evoke imagery of a sunrise over blue skies complete with rainbows, flowers and wispy clouds – total serenity. It is an allegory for the dawn of man.

(Indeed, the entire CD is full of references to Richard Strauss’s Sunrise, the ultimate cinematic score for new birth or rebirth.)

this is a special disc. Stuart created it in 2003 but released it in 2004. Thus, it is an important piece of the dawn of e-music’s Golden Age.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.



Spirit Trance

by Constance Demby

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(It has long been a tradition that good things come in threes. Well, there have been six great CD’s come across my desk just this month so great things come in sixes – at least it’s a multiple of three! The most recent is Spirit Trance, by the first lady of e-music – the talented, legendary and beautiful Constance Demby.)

In the liner notes of this CD, Constance relates a story about bats and the rebirth of one of the compositions on this disc.  She discusses a street performance in Harvard Square in the 1970’s. HAH! That means that Constance was giving live ambient music performances as a pre-teen! (The performance was in 1979 and Constance was not> in her pre-teens although she did give her first live performance at the age of 12!)

Seriously, this is a masterful spiritual journey from one of the best of the genre. She continues her tradition of “Sacred Space Music” with these eight compositions – including Spirit Trance mixes of two previously released tracks and a spirit trance transcription of Franz Schubert’sAve Maria,” destined to be an e-music and ambient classic!

Indeed, the entire CD IS already a classic! These soundscapes and atmospheres are gentle and soft, exactly what listeners and meditaters have come to expect, know and crave from Constance’s music. The music has strong holistic healing and psychoactive overtone properties. Those qualities set the disc apart from the madding throng. They also place Constance in the perpendicular universe – rare air, indeed!

This marvelous CD belongs in every serious meditater’s collection. It is an absolute must-have!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.



Four at Eighteen

by John Broaddus

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It becomes harder and harder to review drone based ambient records the more one explores the fringes of ambient music.  It's not that the music begins to blend into a gargantuan muddle of tones and drones, or that the music itself is in some way lacking in "reviewable" content.  It's just that, after a while, a writer begins to run out of metaphors and sonic impressions to use when dealing with drone material.  The masters of the static drone are plentiful: Klaus Wiese (not to mention his acolyte Mathias Grassow), Oöphoi, and, to a lesser extent, Thomas Köner, all come to mind as recent purveyors of that most indescribable of ambient beasts.  Drone musicians are prolific sonic mysteries waiting to be unraveled by the curious listener and the frustrated writer. 

This brings me to the new release by John Broaddus, who past recorded under the Laocoön moniker, titled Four at Eighteen--a droning release that delivers exactly what it promises: four tracks clocking in at just over eighteen minutes each.  Broaddus does not indulge the lazy writer within me, choosing instead to omit track titles altogether, denying me any convenient literate springboards with which to write from.  This sonic and descriptive ambiguity may make for a shorter Ambient Review, but it's no subtle comment on Broaddus's ambient work, which is, in essence, high-quality, extremely entrancing music for late night sojourns and early morning blossomings. 

Upon listening to Four at Eighteen, I was immediately pulled into the enveloping fabric of the compositions, which are generally simple and somewhat monochromatic.  Track one is a gusty (and analog sounding) study of contrasting soundwashes--deep and vast, but never dark or uninviting.  The closest recent comparison I can make is to Jason Sloan's recent tour de force but the material here is more static, and less progressive over track length.  This is music to immerse oneself in, rather than drift along with.  Track two slows the drone down even further, with a synthetic tone sustained to infinity.  This is the kind of drone that gradually invades your consciousness, blocking all thought (but in a good way!) until it seems that all is the drone and you are no longer inhabiting your own body.  This track morphs ever so gradually into a tender and psychedelic phasing as the tones ripple like droplets on a still lake.  Track three manages to sound exactly like Tibetan singing bowls (in fact, this could be a dead ringer for any of Klaus Wiese's numerous bowl works).  These hushed tones carry a bassy weight as well; the low end on this track is immense and dramatic.  The familiar gonging of Tibetan bowls is present here too, pleasantly breaking up the harmonic litany of overlying ambience.  This track manages to capture a zen-like state of no emotion, simply allowing the listener to bask in its glowing harmonics.  Finally, track four, continues the Tibetan bowl "suite" (I'm quite curious to know whether these tones are actually created on bowls, or are merely synthesised constructs).  Four is more traditionally ambient, with windy tones gliding together gracefully as if the intention is to personify a slowly rotating galaxy.  This track makes a beautiful, drifting finish to a quite distinctive (though somehow lacking in definable qualities!) ambient album. 

Four at Eighteen is an understated and lovely album, most effective, in my opinion, as background ambience.  While the tracks never quite take one's breath away, I get the impression that the intent is more to amplify the environment one is listening in, rather than supersede it.  This comes with the grand tradition of classic ambience, and succeeds marvelously in this respect.  I especially enjoyed the work while I slept--it's perfect for nights where your slumber drifts along with the relaxing, though never trite or sugary, tonal wash on endless repeat.  Four at Eighteen makes a perfect compliment to Grassow's Bliss, Oöphoi's Behind the Wall of Sleep, and Steve Roach's Darkest Before Dawn.  Fans of more progressively styled ambient drift, however, would do well to steer clear of the placid (though never stagnant) sounds herein.  Four at Eighteen is the sound of glacial movement, ever so slow; things moving at the speed of seasons.  An auspicious debut by a new artist well worth watching!

Reviewed by Brian Bieniowski reprinted here on Ambient Visions.

Visit Brian's website by clicking here.



The Last Bright Light

by Jim Cole
and Mathias Grassow

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Visit Mathias Grassow's website


The Last Bright Light is the follow-up to The Hollow, an exceptional CD by Jim Cole and Mathias Grassow. That CD features Jim’s overtone vocals and Mathias’ electronics and processes. On one track, he joins Jim and performs on overtone vocals. This CD features overtone harmonic singing, reverberation and loops – with electronic support only on track seven!

It is an amazing creation! Mere words do not do justice to these brilliant compositions and performances! The overtones are powerful and direct. Casual listening, while rewarding, is not an option. Simple tasks become burdensome as the music takes over and surrounds the synapses in the brain. Jim and Mathias are not trying to control the listener. They are providing a holistic healing vessel. At that, there are no mistakes and no missteps.

This disc has been ready for release since some time in 2002. Mike Griffin had it on the Hypnos release list for over a year. Frustrated by the inactivity, Jim and Mathias reached an agreement with Atmo Works for a May, 2004 release. Mike’s loss is to the advantage of James Johnson and John Strate-Hootman (Vir Unis), the owners of AW.

This outstanding CD is more than essential. It is a must-have!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.



The One I Waited For

by Michael Dulin 

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”The One I Waited For” is a stunning first-release from new label, Equity Digital. Julliard-trained Michael Dulin shines brightly on solo piano (with occasional synth washes), and promises to bring an exceptional new voice to contemporary instrumental music. A man of many musical hats, Dulin works professionally in styles ranging from classical to gospel. Along with being a phenomenal pianist, Dulin is a studio owner, session musician, producer/arranger, and composer of award-winning music for radio, television, film, and theater. This varied background is apparent in the variety of pieces on the album. All are calming and relatively peaceful, but there is a rich complexity that reveals itself the more you listen. Dulin calls his music “inner music - music that balances and centers and replenishes” and “a haven of sound that one can visit again and again.” 

The CD opens with a lovely, piece called “The Way Home.” I feel a sense of searching, and perhaps a bit of nostalgia in the music. The rubato rhythms and jazz elements keep this piece surprising, fresh, and inviting. “First Love” is a sweet and gentle piece with a flowing left hand, and a carefree melody that almost smiles. “Solitude” is more introspective and dark, but
isn’t brooding. Thoughtful and intimate, this is one of my favorites. “After the Storm” is a more classical piece that clearly demonstrates Dulin’s incredible playing “chops.” The clarity of the trills and runs is amazing. “Lullabye for Alexa” is a gentle song without words - very loving and warm. “By the Fire” is more rubato again, and feels almost conversational. There seem to be two “voices” exchanging ideas or thoughts, and the feeling is so comfortable and easy. Great stuff! 

”The One I Waited For” is indeed an auspicious beginning, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. Several more albums from Dulin and Equity Digital are scheduled for release in 2003, so I’m excited to hear this new music! This and the other releases from the label are currently available from 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.



New Beginnings

by Richard Shulman
and Adriana Contino

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New Beginnings” is a collection of composed and improvised duets by pianist Richard Shulman and cellist Adriana Contino. The pieces were recorded at a 2-hour recording session in NYC in 1989, and then mastered in 2003. Described as “the delicate balance of following the inspiration while listening to each other at the same time,” the music is rich, deeply spiritual, and very satisfying. The combination of cello and piano is one of my favorites, and this duo does not disappoint! Contino has been the principal cellist for the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, and her roots are obviously very classical, but she is also a very capable improviser, making her cello to sing and soulfully soar as the music evolves.

Four of the seven tracks are improvisations, and three are pieces composed by Shulman. The title track opens the CD with the most joyful and upbeat piece on the album. Very jazzy in feeling and spirit, this is a great way to start! “Gustav’s Lullabye” opens with the familiar strains of Brahms’ lullaby, and becomes a soulful, peaceful improvisation - very quiet and soothing. “American Native Prayer” is a bit more abstract. It is an improvisation “honoring North America’s Native people and the necessity of our reconnection to Mother Earth and All that Is.” My favorite track is simply titled “Improv 1.” At almost twelve minutes, this is truly a musical exploration. Haunting and melancholy, there is a real give and take between the piano and cello, pianist and cellist. I also really like “Song For Smitty,” which is an improvisation on a theme by Contino. It begins with a cello solo, followed by a piano solo, and then a duet. Composed as a tribute to a “beautiful friend,” the piece is mournful and incredibly beautiful. Free-flowing and unstructured, it is also hopeful and even a bit whimsical near the end - quite an interesting piece! Recommended to those who enjoy music with a classical feel, but also the freedom of improvisation by two masters of their instruments.

”New Beginnings” is available from,, and

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.




by Oophoi
and Tau Ceti

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 2000's Celestial Geometries was the last we heard from the collaborative work of Oöphoi and fellow Italian sound-artist Enrico Cosimi: Tau Ceti.  That was an intriguing work of deep space drones favored in many space music circles, though I personally felt it to be a bit too static and vaporous for frequent listenings.  That Cydonian paean to Martian landscapes (and the "face" on Mars!) is now followed-up by Subterranea, a work that focuses more upon inner landscapes, though these territories are no less vast and foreboding. 

What sounds like processed flutes, slowed down to near non-motion, begins "In the Wake of Ouranos."  This beautiful and sonorous atmosphere is joined by another more recognizable flute, intertwining in a gorgeous ambient harmony.  This is quite a change from Celestial Geometries, which was just as deep, but far less inviting (as one might imagine when thinking of the cold vacuum of space).  The flutes get more intense as they wrap around one another, punctuated by crystalline sounds at the edge of audibility.  We're in an underground cavern, but the sun and fresh air are not far from view, even if just a pinpoint of light far, far above.  "Vril-Ya" includes the atmospheres from the previous track, but expands upon them into more resonant and creepy areas.  Icy drones remind us that it's cold under the earth, especially cold the deeper we travel.  Echoes of Oöphoi's Athlit are here, lending a slightly reverent feel to the supremely dark (but not uninviting) proceedings.  "Omphalos" has an almost Pete Namlook feel to it, circa 62 Eulengasse, but with a Spirals of Time psychedelic phasing.  There's also a reminder of the tonal wash of Klaus Wiese's synth work, certainly a strong influence of both Oöphoi and Tau Ceti.  It's a short track that transitions directly into "Aph-Lin" (sorry, but I can offer no help as to what these titles mean).  Synths that sound like Tibetan singing bowls drone brightly along with the subterranian ambience of the earlier tracks.  We're heading down, down, down, into the Earth's core--but we aren't sure whether the radiance ahead is the hidden sun of Pellucidar, or the molten core of the planet waiting to immolate us in its supreme heat.  Perhaps both, though this oneiric journey offers no definite answers.  We return to the thematic territory of track one--all harmonic flutes and crystal tinklings--but melded with mystical overtone vocals.  This all proves to be a warm-up for the next track, the epic twenty-two minute "Rex Mundi."  Dramatic synth lines give this the martial flair of a journey through the underworld, perhaps not a steaming jungle but a rocky ground dotted with outcroppings that could be domiciles.  This is a fine example of drone ambience that goes somewhere—remaining largely static, though with a definite feel of forward motion.  "Rex Mundi" is a little spooky, but mostly a haunting and mysterious journey into indefinable regions of the imagination.  Finally, we reach "The Chamber of Eternity" with a little help from the practiced singing bowls of Klaus Wiese.  The bowls gong softly, reverbed to infinity, melded with the soft influence of tracks one and two.  We've reached some inner center, expanding and including the influence of our journey.  The sounds of Wiese fade to leave the sonic work of Oöphoi & Tau Ceti alone, completing the sound-circle, allowing a perfect transition for a repeat play of this lovely, deep album. 

Subterranea is the strongest work from Oöphoi since the first Nebula album and the marvelous Bardo.  While the sound palette does not differ greatly over the album's length, its deep and mysterious tone never wears on your consciousness.  This is a great disc to zone out to, and even better as accompaniment into the night's journey through slumber.  While its dark and static nature make it a poor choice for those who prefer lighter and more outwardly listener-friendly ambience, I find Subterranea to be an accurate and compelling vision of underworlds and shadowy realms.  Consistently inviting work from artists that seem to get better and better with each release. 

Reviewed by Brian Bieniowski reprinted here on Ambient Visions.

Visit Brian's website by clicking here.


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