Music Reviews 


Reviews 8-01-2004


 Tumbleweed Obfuscated
by Camera Failure

by Aperus

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"Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure" is a very impressive collection of songs by Brian McWilliams performing under the name of Aperus.  Travelling along roads of both light and dark ambient, Brian has created a fantastic release well worth further study.

"Dark Moon (initiation)" brings to mind a sense of ceremony and ritual performed under night skies.  Rumbling and shaking tones play beneath a steady simple melody of rather foreboding sounds.

"Magnetism" in contrast is a much brighter track, a beautiful piano melody played over a steady drone.  Simply beautiful, bringing to mind the twinkling of stars in the night sky. Wonderful.

"Echo Canyon" features floating percussive tones slowly swaying through the soundscape, drifting tones passing like water, the call of a buoy, metal on metal  scraping against eachother.  Submarine sounds, underwater at night.  Slowly giving way to  more fluid tones, a greater organicism.  A stirring piece.

"Radiant" floats above the ground, gently moving back and forth through the  clouds, tones effortlessly melting into eachother.  Wonderful work.

"Vanishing Terrain" brings a sense of mystery, subtle tones play throughout, interspersed by more mechanical noises, sounds, pulses.  A sense of beauty being lost, replaced by something less organic, more constructed.  Slowly the organic elements begin to win over, taking dominance between the two, creating a blend, a synthesis.

Packaged in a DVD case along with a series of beautiful photographs which inspired the music, "Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure" is an excellent introduction to the work of Aperus, and is sure to delight fans of  the ambient genre.

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

Visit Rik's Ping Things website by clicking here.




by Karl Weaver

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 Ambiend is self-released album by an artist who describes himself as a multimedia composer. Surprisingly, he doesn't seem to be well known - his web presence is minimal and I could find little mention of this album. I say surprisingly because this is one of the best ambient albums I've heard for some time, possibly a treasure not so far discovered by many. 

Across ten discrete tracks Karl weaves (pardon the pun!) his ambient magic to create an album that hangs together well. Though the track lengths vary from around two to over eighteen minutes (though all but one are under nine minutes long) the common thread that binds the album is a good sense of uplifting melody, even on pieces that are more in a floating/drifting vein - a good example of this is the aptly titled "Genteel" where a pretty synth line can lead one to imagine clouds gracefully moving across the sky. 

The opener "Headland" is for me the epitome of what Ambiend has to offer. While waves of reverbing synths come and go like waves lapping on the rocks of a headland, a piano plays a contemplative melody and other melodies sometimes make an appearance - a particularly pleasing and inspiring one sounds like a sax. For me personally this track is so good because it can lead me to recall memories of a sunny afternoon when I sat on the small island of Iona looking out over the sea just marvelling at the beauty of the setting. 

Several of the subsequent tracks are rhythmic, but again the most noticeable aspect is how it's all done melodically. Another stand out piece is "Su nylon", combining brief snippets of an operatic sounding female voice with synths, acoustic guitar, and an accordion like sound, it goes through several phases ranging from quiet and reflective to rhythmic or dramatic. 

Ambiend deserves an unqualified recommendation, it's one of the more beautiful ambient works to have come out in recent years and never fails to make me feel better whatever my mood.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington.



We are the forthcoming Past,
Take care of it

by Grundman

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We are the forthcoming past; take care of it is a heartfelt revolutionary concept CD from Jorge Grundman Isla, recording as Grundman. He readily entitles any holder of the disc to make and distribute copies with two provisos – that the holder promote awareness and solicit fundraising for “Doctors Without Borders” and that the holder make no personal profits from the distribution. The disc is on the “NonProfitMusic” label with US distribution by “Only New Age Music, Suzanne Doucet’s label.

Grundman is an awesome talent! He is a gifted composer, a studio wizard, an expert sound designer, a multi-instrumentalist and a consummate electronician. He combines the acoustic and electronic realms seamlessly and the music inspires introspection and soul-searching journeys. The detailed liner notes ask the listener/reader to consider several injustices and tragic conditions in the new millennium. The music leads the way and opens the doors to many pathways to the heart, the soul and the psyche. The tones and overtones are gray and sedate – mostly somber.

This CD is a solid addition to the new age ambient realms. The mixtures of acoustic and electronic atmospheres strike several chords – all of them solid and right. This is an essential CD! If you contact me with proof of a donation to “Doctors Without Borders,” I will gladly make and send you a copy!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.


Spacial Glacial Nebulous

by Zero Ohms

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Written, recorded, performed live in the studio in Oct. 2003 by Zero Ohms on Wind-Synth


Zero Ohms's previous album, True Degrees of Freedom, occupied the number five spot on my top ten ambient/space music releases for 2003.  Like clockwork, Richard Roberts, the man behind ZO, releases his 2004 effort, Spatial Glacial Nebulous.  This record is something of a technological departure for Roberts, whose previous albums contained a wide variety of instrumentation, mostly electronics and a wide variety of wind instruments.  Here the tracks are created solely on the wind synth (basically a synth that is played like, and most often resembles, a flute or recorder--don't think The Hooters, though, this is much cooler) that features heavily on all past Zero Ohms discs.  The effect is simple, elegant, and extremely beautiful. 

Each track on Spatial Glacial Nebulous is named after a location on the Moon, creating a decidedly heavenly cast to each track--this would make fantastic planetarium music--it's space music in its purest and most original form.  (The sonic similarities between the tracks also make each rather hard to describe--I'll make up for my deficiency in sonic descriptives by writing impressions of each track as they come to mind.)  "Marsh of Mists" is twelve minutes of blissful synth passages, a lunar lullaby, with sweeps like the best of Jonn Serrie's Planetarium Chronicles.  This is the sort of track that one can drift along to all night.  "Sea of Vapors" is more muted, the almost-human voices bringing to mind Schulze's "Miditerranean Pads" in its haunting melody, like a lunar choir at perigee.  "Sea of Clouds" is even more vaporous than its predecessor--it can be looked upon as the umbric brother of the previous track.  "Sea of Moisture" is Roberts at his most Eno-esque, a sonic spitting image of the majestic, flowing atmospheric tracks of Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks.  "Sea of Crisis" is, as the title suggests, a darker and more tense track.  Deep drones churn stormily, lightened by warm synth passages.  The droning undercurrent remains, presenting little threat to the peaceful domains of previous tracks, simply adding a tasty edge of extreme deep ambience.  A highlight.  "Sea of Cold" is indeed an icy trip, even quieter than "Sea of Crisis"--similarities to Oöphoi and Tau Ceti's Celestial Geometries abound, vibrant, dark, but never threatening.  The radiant disc of the Moon is just as beautiful (if not more so) when it is half-shrouded in darkness.  Finally, "Lake of Dreams" ends the album with a soothing tonescape of glacially paced wind synth passages.  One of the most unabashedly atmospheric tracks Roberts has ever done and undoubtedly one of his best tracks period.  A softly ululating masterpiece, equal to the best traditional space music has to offer.  

The all-too-accurately titled Spatial Glacial Nebulous's individual tracks tend to blend together, due to the single, though layered, sound source.  Those who prefer diversity over an album’s length will find the material here to be a too static for their tastes.  For my part, I found the effect to be enchanting, a slowly shifting journey through a triumphantly stratospheric mood.  While nothing on this album could be called experimental by any stretch of the term, Roberts has created a work that stands comfortably aside the classic "Stratos" by Jonn Serrie (in his non-cheesy mode), and Eno's masterful Apollo.  The album is especially wonderful before and during sleep, as the softly drifting atmospheres lend themselves well to both active and inactive listening.  While not his most diverse or challenging work, Spatial Glacial Nebulous is no less striking and enjoyable than his previous, impressive efforts.  It makes a perfect sonic sojourn, and could function as an equally perfect introduction to Zero Ohms for the neophyte.  Highly recommended. 

Reviewed by Brian Bieniowski reprinted here on Ambient Visions.

Visit Brian's website by clicking here.


 Reiki Whale Song

by Kamal

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Reiki Whale Song, by Kamal, is a set of deep meditative aquaspheres and soundscapes that combine overtones, nature sounds and deep space music to create wonderful adventures in focused listening. The space referenced is the inner space of the self. Deep listeners reach that space through the unexplored inner space of the oceans. Kamal uses the songs of whales – nature’s gentle giants – to set the stage for the music. The soundscapes, in turn, lead listeners back to the songs. This journey works wonderfully as ambience in the office or as the object of a deep listening session. It is an essential CD!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.




by Current 

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It starts off with the sounds of stars, a trip through distant nebulae, floating, moving in time with the pulse of the cosmos. "Communion" by Current is a trip through outer space, a journey measured in beats and tones. Sparkling sounds and alien rhythms abound throughout the disc, thick and enveloping, surrounding the listener like space itself while the bass forms a gravitational link between songs.

Opening track "Communion-Before Reality" features a simple keyboard melody twinkling like stars in the sky, the sounds of waves rising and falling, building in intensity.  A stunning opener to be sure, made all the more beautiful by it's simple charms.

"Ghost Trip" introduces a groove element to the disc, a trippy track filled  with squelchy bass and chilled beatz.  A body movement influenced piece for sure, or perhaps just something to ease you into another state of mind.

Track three "Crossfield" maintains the groove and builds on it further.  One can't help but be swept up by this track's infectious rhythms and primal bassline.  It pulls on you like gravity, unescapable.

"Plaza Circular" slows the tempo just a touch, but enough to give you a moment to catch your breath.  Synth lines circle and surround, simple but beautiful keyboard melodies dance around the senses.  Charming.

"Sign/Alien" is both dark and foreboding with deep drones and gurgling synths creating a very sinister environment.  A remarkable creation of atmosphere in a very limited time.

"Communion - Mode Selector" is a playful piece in contrast to the last, heavy percussion and synth lines rolling around eachother in an almost celebratory manner.  Certain elements of this one bring to mind some of Delirium's more recent work.  Quite impressive. Opening with distorted and looped vocals, "Minor Abstraction" is a funky beat filled journey.  Electronic percolation plays throughout and pads propel the piece forward.  Very cool.

"Communion - Presence" closes the disc with the sound of deep bells and oscillating synths.  A darker piece in tone, melodically there is a sense of hope and possibility to this track, a feeling of joining, of shared knowledge.  An upbeat ending to a very satisfying release.  Chilled and groovy, "Communion" is perfectly matched for those late night flights through the heavens. Recommended.

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

Visit Rik's Ping Things website by clicking here.



Ambient Tone Poems II


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 Mysterious ambient artist Ixohoxi last appeared on these shores with his fine collaboration with Denver ambient artist Numina: Starfarer's Tales, Vol. 1.  Since then, both artists have stayed prolific, continually self-releasing material of an extremely ambient nature.  Ixohoxi's series of atmospheric ambient discs, "Ambient Tone Poems" is already up to its third installment at the time of writing--I have the pleasure of reviewing the second volume, which proves, once and for all, that Ixohoxi is not an artist easily pigeon-holed. 

"Amazonia Orthoptera Nymph Molts" begins the collection in a suitably environmental fashion, considering the title.  Mysterious night-noises, the chittering of crickets, and the din of what I imagine to be cicadas, meld with other-worldly synth-sweeps that glide breathlessly along.  Electronic shakers punctuate the ambience every so often, invoking a Jorge Reyes-styled tribal mood.  The swirling storm of sound is peaceful, yet busy, until a bubbling ambient-techno groove pierces the veil of ambience.  This groove is straight out of the Silent catalog, with unusual, textured synth backgrounds that keep the decidedly modern bent of the track earthed in the earlier ambience.  Eventually, the atmospheric sounds dissipate, leaving only the groove behind, itself fading out soon thereafter. 

Next, "Soft Light and Temple Birds" continues the mid-nineties Silent tone with psychedelic synth tones and highly synthetic percussion, similar to the work of Alpha Wave Movement.  A bowed, Japanese-sounding instrument begins lightly soloing along with the synthwork creating a strange combination of the natural and artificial, as if the temple of the title is nestled deep within a bustling city, a heart of peace within the chaos.  The seemingly random synth-sequence tends to grate over the track's nearly ten minute length, but the lovely synth-pads cascading in the background add much to the equation.  Perhaps not the strongest track on the album, in part due to the out-of-place soloing and somewhat static sequence.  "Cetaceans" is next, a shimmering of synth-tones, decidedly watery in nature.  These sea sounds submerge completely, revealing the hooning of whalesong, distorted under the ocean's waves.  A piano melody appears from nowhere, accented by lovely synth pads.  This track veers into new age territory, dwelling in a lighter, sunnier zone of influence.  The end of the track plumbs ever deeper into strange, wholly synthetic, environs, an unusual transition, and perhaps not the most effective, as it breaks the spell rather decisively. 

"Small Mammal REM Cycle" is reminiscent of a certain Pink Floyd track with a similar title, with shrieking and unusual animal sounds combined with sonorous bell tones and odd synth noises that would not be out of place on a Ron Geesin record.  The bells’ sustain has been seriously messed with, and we're in some lysergic woodland, with a temple not far off.  This, the longest track on the album, stays fairly static, and is all the stronger for it.  The unusual synth textures and various bell noises come together in an effectively trippy way; disorienting, but not uncomfortable to listen to.  It's a vibrating, forest paradise, with a little bit of menace just out of the field of view.  It's also, in my opinion, the best track on the album.  Finally, "Incandescent Blue Morpho" returns to more familiar ambient territory: a fairly standard atmospheric floater.  It's also quite good, with shifting synth tones and haunting pads that lend themselves well to repeat plays.  A satisfying finish to an uneven album. 

Ambient Tone Poems II is a strange beast of a disc.  I was initially thrown by the title, expecting an album populated by tracks like "Incandescent Blue Morpho," drifting, vaporous, mysterious.  While there are certainly tracks on the album that fit this description nicely, there are also tracks that are more difficult to pin down, dwelling in many different moods (often on the same track) that are not always complimentary.  While the diversity of each track is commendable, especially given that the artist seems to create music almost solely on synth, it appears that Ixohoxi is at his best and most comfortable when he is not playing the sonic chameleon.  It is on tracks such as "Small Mammal REM Cycle" and "Amazonia ..." that the ideas are allowed to slowly develop, seep into the listener's mind, and leave a lasting impression.  Nevertheless, when Ixohoxi hits the mark, the results are of high quality, and often impressive.  Ambient Tone Poems II has the feel of a collection of disparate tracks, with little unified feel.  Accordingly, some tracks will strike the listener's fancy more than others.  While I hesitate to describe all of the music herein as traditionally ambient, as the title might suggest, there is more than enough interesting music here to please fans of early Alpha Wave Movement and the lighter styles of Michael Stearns.  An intriguingly pleasant, if not strong, collection. 

Reviewed by Brian Bieniowski reprinted here on Ambient Visions.

Visit Brian's website by clicking here.


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