Music Reviews 


Reviews 8-24-2004


by Darren Rogers

Imagineer Records 


Being is a set of special compositions from Darren Rogers, a special performer. It is his second release and it is on his own Imagineer Records label.

These seven pieces speak softly and lovingly to the heart and the soul. Darren composed and performed the music with assistance from Vance Sheaks and Ona Meyer. The music has deep emotional and spiritual timbres and Darren takes his listeners on several journeys to look at both sides of the psyche the light and the dark.

Darren uses some organic textures to take the set even deeper. The atmospheres examine the light edges of the dark sides and the dark edges of the light sides. Darren embraces the dark to acknowledge and caress the light and vice versa.

This is an awesome CD and a set of very cool journeys!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.


The Last Bright LightFluxes

by Jim Cole and Mathias Grassow

VisitJim Cole's website 

Visit Mathias Grassow's website


One of the more complimentary pairings in bright, intense ambient music is the collaborative work of ambient drone artist Mathias Grassow and overtone singer Jim Cole.  Their first album together, The Hollow, was a lovely mixture of Cole's overtone vocalizations with Grassow's hypnotic singing bowl and synth drones, along with a number of sparse nature samples and field recordings.  The wait's been long for the follow-up, mostly due to label difficulties, but finally, three years on, we have The Last Bright Light. 

This new effort is dramatically different from their previous album; the sound sources here are entirely comprised of both Cole's and Grassow's looped overtone voices.  While synth is only used on one track, the sounds resemble the soaring drones heard on Grassow's recent Amplexus label releases and Cole's last two transcendent solo albums.  The album begins softly with two tracks of ululating vocal drones that interweave gently.  Both "The Last Bright Light" and "New Beginning" are brief, airy, tone poems, all highlighted with Cole's higher-pitched voice ethereally soaring over the basic drones.  "Starlit Shadows" begins to intensify, and, to some degree, darken the atmosphere, as the drones take on not an air of menace, but of drama and intensity, much in the same mood as Cole's track "Transformations" from Godspace.  The soundworld created here is spare and minimal, though no less beautiful (and, to some degree, melancholy) as a result.  "Flare" is another brief, powerful track, with concentrated, churning drones and the natural ambience of the surf.  Though environmental samples are used in moderation, the effect is striking, creating a psychoactive zone where earthly sounds are shown to be celestial and otherworldly.  "Fell Radiance" returns to the deeper zones of "Starlit Shadows," with overtone soloing cascading over the soft drones.  There's a buoyant quality to the sound here, as if its currents will lift the listener off the earth to be buffeted gently by air gusts warm and cold.  Ghostly sounds wisp into the landscape, as though we have inadvertently and peacefully connected with the spirit realm.  "Longing" has the feeling of ancient melancholy, reaching across time's distances--through sound, we have connected with some long-dead human's sadness, transmuted over the years, forgotten, now more reminiscent of unearthly beauty than pain or anguish.  "Fusion" is perhaps the best track on the album (though I hate to play favorites)--it is also the longest track at nearly eighteen minutes, and the only track to feature synth atmospheres.  These atmospheres are instantly recognizable as Grassow's, melding so cleanly with the overtone vocals that the two are difficult to discern from each other.  The intensity of this track, beginning at around the three and a half minute mark, is difficult to describe.  Epic is the word that comes to mind, as the synth drone falls away into an absolutely stunning vocal drone that recalls for me ancient ruins, inexplicably huge statues and architecture, beauty so bright and distant one has a hard time understanding it.  I've dallied with talk like this in previous reviews of Cole's tremendous solo work--this is the real deal, a feeling absent even in most of the best of ambient music.  When the natural sounds of surf filter in, the swelling, harmonic, intoxicating atmospheres represent the eternal power of ambient music--perhaps above all other musical forms of expression--in expressing the ineffable.  After that, "Light Withering" almost seems anti-climactic, though no less impressive than the rest of the album.  Deep and lovely tones close the album as it began: wisping, ethereal, unabashedly beautiful. 

Once again, Cole and Grassow do not disappoint, presenting a vast and gorgeous album culled from "simple" sound sources.  As good as The Hollow was, The Last Bright Light is far, far better.  Though I certainly have no problem with ambient albums comprised solely of synthetic textures, Cole and Grassow remind that discarding the trappings of too much gear and artifice can be a wholly positive and enriching musical strategy.  Ambient in the best possible way, The Last Bright Light manages to be both atmospheric and captivating--the kind of record one can spin all day, no matter what mood one might be in.  It is enchanting from start to finish, and well-deserving of my highest recommendation. 

On AtmoWorks, and available from both Mathias Grassow and Jim Cole.

Reviewed by Brian Bieniowski reprinted here on Ambient Visions.

Visit Brian's website by clicking here.


Phrasing the Air
An Opera for Four Fusion Works,
Act Two
by vidnaObmana

vidnaObmana's website

Hypnos' website

Ambient master VidnaObmana continues his ambitious four-part An Opera for Four Fusion Works with Act Two, "Phrasing the Air," featuring the saxophone playing of  EMusic DJ Bill Fox.  The first part of the Opera, 2002's "Echoes of Steel" was one of my favorite albums of the year; an autumnal, melancholy ambient work featuring the gothic-folk guitar of Dreams in Exile.  "Echoes" was delightfully listenable, and would make a fine introduction to listeners (especially fans of the quieter goth styles) not familiar with VidnaObmana's oeuvre, or ambient in general.  Act Two, though sharing the same recycling processes as its predecessor, is a completely different work in tone, containing unusual sonorities and textures--it is also one of the most interesting and difficult albums of VidnaObmana's recent work. 

Like "Echoes of Steel," the tracks on "Phrasing the Air" are labeled only by Roman numerals (often out of numerical order).  The general mood is meditative and haunting, a longstanding VidnaObmana trademark dating back to his early "breathing" synth works.  "I" reminds me of no less than Jon Hassell's resonant trumpet playing; an exotic hooning, calling infinitely over a desolate landscape.  Fox's saxophone is processed and layered, sounding like a chorus of strange Eastern instruments, sounds trumpeting from the mountain above.  "II" is reminiscent, at first, of VidnaObmana's early work on Revealed by Composed Nature and The Trilogy of albums.  The repeated melodic pattern forms a mandala of deep colors; blues and greys.  Fox's saxophone is deep and resonant here, often reminding of Tom Heasley or Stuart Dempster, boiling up from the depths.  Obmana's ebow adds tension, a dissonant chorus screaming above the soft landscape of recycled sax.  The unusual tones carry the track forward, resembling circling birds, as the underlying ambience remains fairly static.  It's a difficult track--with screechy textures taking the driver's seat--though the disparate elements, uncomfortable sounding they may be, meld quite perfectly.  "VI" is next, sounding strongly like Terry Riley's "Poppy Nogood," due in part to Fox's sax, looped and ever-shifting.  The track even seems to pan through the speakers like Riley's classic piece.  If this reminds me of "Poppy Nogood," then it is certainly a "Poppy Nogood" played in a giant area, as the sonic undercurrents are vast and bassy.  The roiling, post-industrial soundscapes and the sounds reminiscent of early minimalist experimentation truly represent an expression of past and present forms of meditative music.  Quite a stunner, and my favorite track on the album.  "V," the longest track at just over nineteen minutes, returns to ambient stillness.  Here Fox's sax is processed down to long, almost vocal, tones.  Those who appreciate the harmonic singing of David Hykes, or Ambient Review favorite Jim Cole, will find much to enjoy here, though the sound sources do not originate from the human voice.  This is deep and gorgeous, more than a little gothic in tone.  Obmana's guitar textures from recent works like <i>Innerzone</i> appear at the halfway mark.  The track is creepy, resonant, and extremely memorable, though perhaps not for those who prefer their ambience free of sharp edges.  "IV" ends the album on a surprisingly musical note, with Fox's sax playing instantly recognizable as the instrument it is.  I have to admit even this track is a little "out there" for me, with an uncomfortably off-kilter melody repeating over nine minutes.  The strange drones beneath the sax are quite intriguing, but, as a whole, the track didn't gel for me. 

"Phrasing the Air" is a surprising departure for VidnaObmana, and continues the Opera in a most auspicious way.  While no track could be considered "easy" listening (or "fusion," or "opera," for that matter), I find this to be one of Obmana's most impressive works of the last five years.  "Echoes of Steel" was surprisingly underrated, considering its high quality, and "Phrasing the Air" proves to be a more than worthy follow-up.  I hesitate to recommend this to those who enjoy VidnaObmana's lighter, airier works like The River of Appearance or Landscape in Obscurity.  Regardless, this is sure to be a favorite to those who follow VidnaObmana, whether he is performing post-industrial soundscapes, translucent ambience, or bizarre (and sometimes frightening) experimental works.  A fine, original, effort from one of the genre's best artists. 

Reviewed by Brian Bieniowski reprinted here on Ambient Visions.

Visit Brian's website by clicking here.


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