Reviews 06-10-2001

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Sweven Zero Ohms ambient album cover


by Zero Ohms

Visit Zero Ohms Bandcamp Page

"Sweven" is a cross-cultural spiritual space fantasy from the deep exotic soundworlds of Zero Ohms, nee Richard J. Roberts.  Richard uses his multi-instrumental virtuosity to tap into some deep esoteric messages from ethnic, scientific and sci-fi philosophies.

The resultant sound is floating and expansive minimalism.  Richard's wind-synth is absolutely eerie and downright "Bach-ian."  (That is, it brings to mind the scary images that are evoked by "Toccata and Fugue, the ultimate haunted house piece.)  His ethnic instrumentation takes listeners to the realms of roads less traveled and inexplicable emotions.

Richard put tremendous effort into sequencing these tracks.  The influences flow from the diverse inspirations flawlessly.  Comparisons between a Cherokee mound, a NASA test vehicle, the laws of physics and sci-fi fantasies are about as close to 180 degrees apart as it gets.  They are also about as centered and integrated as emotions allow.

This album, available as an mp3 D.A.M. CD, is a typical Zero Ohms project.  Succinctly, it is awesome!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Atma-Spheric Surfaces Zero Ohms ambient album cover

Atma-Spheric Surfaces

by Zero Ohms

Visit Zero Ohms Bandcamp Page

Richard J. Roberts, a.k.a. Zero Ohms, is one very well rounded and well-read individual.  His liner notes are full of valuable information that provides listeners with a guided tour of the intent of his compositions.

"Atma-Spheric Surfaces" is a melange of influences and inspirations from Richard's unique outlook on his personal experiences and observations.  He has a totally original perspective on his intellectual intake.  He releases that intake as highly emotional and deeply spiritual minimalism.

Richard uses many ethnic and exotic instruments to convey his personal messages and philosophies.  His journeys are forays to both sides of the plane.  There are some deep and dark passages as well as some very light and airy moments.  Each piece has a distinct and direct meaning.  Richard's musical diversity and virtuosity provide consistency and keep the disc even and grounded.

I am particularly drawn to "The Power of Nothingness."  Richard postulates  " &ldots; it is what you believe that you see."  I have lived the last 5 or 6 years of my emotional, spiritual and intellectual lives by the credo "I'll see it when I believe it!"  rather than the cynical inverse.

I have gained much inner peace from that philosophy.  It appears that Richard has also!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Traveling Backwards Nightcrawlers berlin electro album cover

Traveling Backwards

by Nightcrawlers

Visit Manikin Records Website

"Traveling Backwards," by Nightcrawlers, was released in 1997.  The double CD set includes all three of their LP releases in their entirety.

This largely unheralded and often overlooked ensemble is firmly entrenched in the Berlin school of heavy sequences and dense atmospheres.   Lost in that focus is the originality of their work.  Peter D. Gulch, a frequent collaborator of Chuck van Zyl, headlined this synthesizer trio.  David Lunt and Steve Gulch were also members.  Peter, David and Steve placed some very expansive and experimental atmospheres among the Berlin electronics.  These minimalist stylings gave this ensemble a unique sound that is still vital and viable in the new millennium.

Of course, the heavy sequences create outer space atmospheres that are very familiar and very apropos for the era (1980's).  It is that style that draws favorable comparisons to the founders and progenitors of the Berlin school.  (Further comparisons will not be made here.)  For listeners looking for sequenced synthesizer excellence, this is a first rate choice.  For listeners looking for a unique marriage of the Berlin school and minimalist atmospheres, this is a first rate choice.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Gospel Philip K Dick Kevin Keller album cover

The Gospel According to
Philip K. Dick

by Kevin Keller

Visit Kevin Keller's website

"The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick" is a movie about the life and writings of - DUH! - PKD.  Mark Steensland, author and reader of "Pale Unkempt Hours of Late Grey Afternoons" from "Mask of Memory," directed the film and commissioned the soundtrack from Kevin Keller.  Since I am not familiar with Philip's writings and have not seen the film, I will concentrate on Kevin's music.

This is a different direction for Kevin, one that was signaled with "Iris by Night" and his live performances around that time (mid 2000).  A very overt high tech rhythm track drives Kevin's deep atmospheres.  At times, the rhythm goes all the way to techno trip hop.  It is quite frenetic.  It does not overshadow the atmospheres but it is a distinct and integral part thereof.

The rhythms create a sense of urgency and add confusion to Kevin's usual warmth.  After reading Mark's essay in the liner notes and remembering a discussion that Kevin and I had about PKD, the project made sense.  Philip appears to have been an oft-misunderstood individual.  A movie about his life would have to be confusing, as would a soundtrack to accompany the film.  Kevin's choice of rhythmic rather than minimalist ambience conveys that attitude boldly and brashly.  The atmospheres that surround the rhythms reflect the introspection of Philip's religious experiences and convergence.

So, Mark threw down a challenge!  Kevin, as per usual, was up to it and delivered a provocative and timely CD to match and exceed expectations.  The disc works well as a stand-alone project.  It is also an D.A.M. CD so it is available at bargain prices.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Tales of the Twilight Kevin Keller album cover

Tales of the Twilight

by Kevin Keller

Visit Kevin Keller's website

"Tales of the Twilight" is a D.A.M. CD from Kevin Keller.  Kevin is at his atmospheric zenith on this disc, spinning a musical adventure of time and space.  As with most mp3 CD's the liner notes are sparse, in this case nonexistent.  I had only the track titles and the music to guide me.  At that, even the track titles are extraneous.

Kevin has long been a premier composer, arranger and performer.  His deep atmospheres and subtle sequences provide ample direction.  I recently watched the final episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" on video.  It struck me that this CD could have been the soundtrack for that epic journey of time and space. 

The atmospheres are expansive.  Subtle "sounds" provide the outer space overtones.  Light symphonic washes provide a recurring theme that holds the integrity of the disc together.  As I listened, I found myself traversing the universe with Kevin as we followed Captain Jean-Luc Picard on his quest to save humanity from Q.  The journey was fun and the pursuit of truth and beauty was glorious. 

Take a trek over to Kevin's website or and check out this (and other) bargain CD's out.  Then exercise the Visa and add the disc to your collection!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Electric Cafe David Hastings album cover

Electric Café

by David Hastings

"Electric Café" is a tour de force of electronic, ambient, ethnic and world beat music from David Hastings.  It is also the third release from Biff Johnson's Broad Vista label.  David takes careful listeners on a tour of various electronic styles, overtones and undertones.  Strategically placed symphonic synthesizer washes compliment the world rhythms and heavy sequences nicely.  David's liner notes credit him with performing on analog synths and digital keyboards.  Through his expert manipulation of those devices, he creates a soundscape of exotic proportions.  There are no samplers listed, so listeners must assume that all the sounds are electronically generated.  The rhythms are genuine and they carry the melodies gracefully and effortlessly.  It sounds like David had a world class percussion section in the studio along with a sample collection worthy of Toby Marks or Richard D. James.  He had neither.  This is a fun album that demands listening!  In whatever fashion listeners absorb it, toes will tap and listeners will grin!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Shrouded Ian Boddy ambient album cover


by Ian Boddy

Visit Ian's website

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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts



 by The Archipelago

Visit The Foundry
Bandcamp Website

The Archipelago is a consortium of San Francisco Bay Area musicians with similar biases that explore the outer boundaries of electronic music.  Under the curation of Michael Bentley, founder and owner of The Foundry label, the artists have put together a series called "Islands."  The set contains six three-inch CD's.  Each CD is about 20 minutes long.

Rhomb's "Lunatic" is the first CD of the set.  Rhomb is Michael Bentley and Nathan Kreisberg.  Using experimental techniques and silence as an instrument, they have created an expansive minimalist atmosphere.  The divergent backgrounds (classical, pure electronic and folk music) compliment deliciously as listeners traverse the seas and mountains on the lunar surface.  The experimental production techniques create a comfortable setting for introspection.

CSERO's Pikoliftor is disc #2 of the set.  Ian Stokes, Saul Stokes' brother, is CSERO.  The CD is very avante-garde and totally experimental.  Through the use of computerized and wildly manipulated sounds and silence, Ian has created a bizarre soundscape for the bravest of the brave.

Seofon, of Ambient Temple of I-magination fame, created "Immanent" for the series.  His use of rhythms and psychotropic atmospheres creates a warm hyperactive vehicle for the discovery of new concepts.  The new concepts are merely extensions of the origins of humanity and humanity's soul.

Thermal, nee Joshua Maremont, created the fourth installment, "Span."  Joshua is Seofon's collaborator in A.T.O.I.   This set uses the experimental sounds sparingly, relying more on conventional instruments for the sound design.  Joshua does avail himself of the experimental production techniques used throughout the series.  This CD features overt techno rhythms and dark atmospheres that are dense and expansive.  Joshua performs on processed guitars and complex sound boards to deliver this soundscape, the most accessible of the six discs.

Dean Santomieri contributed "Crude Rotation" for the fifth installment.  The manipulated sounds and samples are cool.  They even have the poetic qualities to which Dean aspires.  However, musically, the dissonance goes too far and the disc plays as noise for the sake of noise.

"Click Pop" by eM, nee Michael Bentley, is also very dissonant.  Michael has placed his experimental sounds in a soundscape with some structure, albeit loose and undefined.  He has also maintained some traditional elements of music.  This CD is not for everyone.  It is for lovers of avant-garde and experimental music.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Evolving Visions Numina ambient album cover

Evolving Visions

by Numina

Visit Numina's Bandcamp website

"Evolving Visions" is a sonic dénouement from Numina, nee Jesse Sola.  The minimalist soundscape builds upon itself creating walls of integrated ambience.  These walls represent many climactic and triumphant moments on the CD.  The subtle sound design treats those events as passing fancies.  The sound is not triumphant, the moments are. 

Jesse's creativity and unique style merge on an expansive and desolate plane of sonic integrity.  He spins a tale that invites listeners to curl up and embrace the inner self.  The relaxing atmosphere caresses deep listeners with a gentle symphony of warmth and tenderness. 

This album is first rate minimalism from the light side of the psyche.  Listeners following the flow are compelled to examine the heavenly and angelic facets of their beings.  This is introspective sombience with no edges.  It has pillows, clouds and curves for relaxing meditation

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Mercurius Grassow Wiese ambient album cover


by Mathias Grassow
and Klaus Wiese

Visit Mathias Grassow's
Bandcamp website

"Mercurius" is a collaboration between Mathias Grassow and Klaus Wiese (of Popol Vuh).  Klaus recorded Tibetan Singing bowls over a ten year span (presumably 1988 - 1998).  Mathias added electronics and overdubs between 1998 and 2000.  The end result is a deep and dark atmosphere that envelops listeners for journeys across the universes of outer and inner space.  The expansive minimalism has time suspension qualities and capabilities.  Deep listeners experience a sense of time standing still as the drone of the bowls and synths take over.  Mathias has been on a mission of discovery and integration for many years.  This is an important step towards those goals.  The singing bowls add spiritual depth to the mission.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Sound Museum Van Zyl Gulch Rath ambient album cover

The Sound Museum

by  Chuck van Zyl, Peter D. Gulch
and Andrew Rath

"The Sound Museum" is a set of recordings from the late 1980's by Chuck van Zyl, Peter D. Gulch and Andrew Rath.  It is mystifying that this music has been in the vaults for so long.  Groove Unlimited has honored this synth trio by releasing the CD to the public.  The sound design features some heavy Berlin school sequencing and some seriously dark expansive atmospheres.  Those atmospheres dominate the set.  Chuck, Peter and Andrew created this when such atmospheres, while not unknown, had not been explored to their fullest.  (That might help explain the delay in releasing it.)

Taken in context of new millennium minimalism, this disc stands out as a winner and absolute classic.  Chuck and Peter have been on the cutting edge of electronic music for years.  Chuck, best known for his Starsend radio program and for hosting Gathering concerts, has some incredible music in his discography.  Peter, through his work with The Nightcrawlers and a previous collaboration with Chuck, has demonstrated an ability to step up to new ideas and embrace them.  The massive atmospheres use silence as an instrument to augment the electronics.  Listeners will find this vehicle to the edges of outer and inner space a delight.

This CD further enhances Chuck's reputation as a leader in the genre.  It also fuels the desire of his fans to witness a Gathering with him as the feature attraction!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Birth of a Black Hole Snydromeda album cover

Birth of a Black Hole 

by Snydromeda



"Birth of a Black Hole" is a sci-fi mystery by Belgian synthesist Syndromeda, nee Danny Budts.  The journey is pure space music as Danny spins a tale of an outer space phenomenon and efforts to stabilize or close it.

Ominous soundscapes tell the tale of danger and intrigue as stabilization attempts appear to succeed then, ultimately, fail.  The very cool liner notes transmit sci-fi jargon worthy of a Star Trek adventure.  The notes end with " ... we've got a problem."

The massive walls of atmospheric sequencer sounds reach a crescendo that heightens the mystery and danger.  Some deep and dark minimalism provides the dénouement as the danger comes to fruition.  Choral chant samples compliment the atmosphere as the black hole envelops the explorers and the listeners.

This CD is an excellent integration of foreboding sequences and dark minimalism.  Each style serves its purpose well.  All in all, the CD is an absolute space music winner!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


The Alien Abduction Phenomenon

by Syndromeda

"The Alien Abduction Phenomenon" features Syndromeda, nee Danny Budts, doing what he does best.  This densely atmospheric and heavily sequenced CD is another sci-fi soundscape with massive walls of sound and expansive passages of dark minimalism.  Danny weaves a tale of space exploration and the unknown dangers therein.  Deep listeners will take the journey as well, carried by the rhythm.  The rhythm is either overt (sequenced) or self-generated (minimal).  It is always there.  A deep synth drone provides continuity for the thematic integrity as listeners explore the mystic worlds of abduction.  The dark minimalism forebodes mystery and, perhaps, danger lurking in the shadows.  There is no crescendo, ergo, no dénouement.  The mystery and danger never materialize.  They are present but they do not take over.  Danny has created another space music essential.  This is an early in 2001's top ten! 

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Lone Flyer Victor Cerullo album cover


by Victor Cerullo

"Loneflyer" is a CD inspired by Richard Bach's "Jonathan Livingston Seagull."  Victor Cerullo's soundscape would serve well as a soundtrack for this fable about aspiring to be more and about nonconformity allowing the heart and soul to take the physical being beyond conventional reality.

Victor' soundscape includes symphonic synthesizer washes, subtle electric guitars and genuine seagull samples.  Victor mixed and arranged the soundscape with great integrity and meticulous detail.  The result is a crossover of symphonic sequences and pastoral ambience.  Vintage instrument samples augment and integrate the sound design.  It has a "new age feel" without pushing the envelope. 

The CD is pure electronic fun!  Victor has chosen to highlight the purity of Jonathan's quest to become more.  The deep pastoral synth washes and manipulated samples maintain thematic integrity.  The symphonic overtones create a grand crescendo.  Deep rhythms and sequences provide the dénouement.  The CD closes with two tracks from "Ludus" as arranged for "E-Live 99."  They serve well as a coda.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


The Light Beyond Heijden ambient album cover

Da Capo - the Light Beyond

by Eric van der Heijden

"Da Capo - the Light Beyond" is Eric van der Heijden's second solo CD.  It came out seven years after his first release.  During that time he has been cutting his teeth with some of Europe's finest electronicians.  He collaborated on several tracks for Groove's Truth series.  He has also appeared in concert with Ron Boots, Kees Aerts, Ian Boddy and Harold van der Heijden (his uncle), among others.  This CD is evidence that he has been paying attention.

The disc is primarily a symphonic synthesizer set with plenty of melodic and pastoral washes and a deep drone to augment the soundscape.  While each of the eight tracks tells its own story about Eric's values, wants and needs, the subtle drone and the orchestral passages give the CD symphonic qualities.  Thus, each piece is a movement.  They represent unique stages in Eric's personal and artistic development.

The CD also represents the diversity of the Groove Unlimited catalogue.  Their repertoire covers the gamut from heavy Berlin school sequences to atmospheric minimalism and to symphonic synthesizers.  This is a worthy and integral piece of that discography.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Shoreline of an End Jason Sloan album cover

The Shoreline of an End

by Jason Sloan

"The Shoreline of an End" is the soundtrack to an installation performance by Jason Sloan.  Thematically, this is a journey seeking questions AND answers.  Jason's atmospheres are massive and limitless.  Listeners are left to define their own boundaries as the drift traverses their inner and outer selves.  Jason's soundscape creates and defines itself continuously.  AND there are still no defined edges!  The minimalism is as smooth as silk.  It is also gentle and comfortable.  There are hints of dark ambience and traces of rays of light.  The journey symbolizes hope.  Deep listeners will experience the joys of hopefulness and the frustrations of entering the unknown.  Jason helps with the questions.  Listeners must provide their own answers.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Whispered With Water Jason Sloan ambient album cover

Whispered with Water

by Jason Sloan

Visit Jason's Bandcamp Page

"Whispered with Water" is a promotional release from performance artist Jason Sloan.  Of the six tracks on the CD, two are new and one is an alternate version of a previously released piece.  The other three tracks are from previously released CD's.  All of the pieces feature Jason's expansive atmospheres and deep minimalism.  The sequence flows as if the pieces were recorded for this format.  The stark images of Jason's soundscapes are bleak and vivid.  The ambience is neither dark nor pastoral.  It is austere and existential.  Jason does not seek to answer questions or to provide the means to answer them.  He is asking deep questions about existence and purpose.  Nature samples and electronic drones provide a backdrop to lonely acoustic piano dirges.  Deep listeners will get lost in the gray areas.  Continuous play is cool but only for experienced meditators. 

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Hydrythmix Ron Boots ambient album cover

Hydrythmix: Project

by Ron Boots
and  Bas Broekhius

"Hydrythmix: Project TWO Point ONE" is a heavy-handed sequencer set from Ron Boots and Bas Broekhius.  Ron and Bas have demonstrated their improvisational skills before on other studio and concert collaborations.  They are able to improvise within a loose structure.  To quote Kees Aerts, in the liner notes, " two musicians; became one  Project TWO Point ONE."  This CD has loads of sequenced atmospheres and orchestral crescendos.  They merge perfectly to create a unique soundscape that is both majestic and massive.  It is evident that Ron and Bas had fun making this album.  Ron has always been willing that fun with his listeners.  That is a nice trait.  This is a great CD!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Different Stories Ron Boots ambient album cover

Different Stories
and Twisted Tales

by Ron Boots

"Different Stories and Twisted Tales" is a documentary, of sorts, by Ron Boots.  He has spun a yarn of about how tales become legends and how individual lives are, in and of themselves, tales and legends.  Ron creates the story-telling mood by mixing Berlin school sequences with dense atmospheres.  Track 3, "The Call," features a smoking electric guitar by Klaus Hoffman Hoock.  The guitar is a dynamic compliment to the atmosphere.  Ron's overall diversity allows for dark AND pastoral atmospheres.  The darkness is heavy and overt.  The pastorales are dense without relying on new age or symphonic textures.  They rely on Ron's innovative use of sequences to create lightness.  That unique texture is awesome and essential!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


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