Reviews 08-05-2001

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Soundtrack Aquarium Vidna Obmana ambient album cover

Soundtrack For the Aquarium

by Vidna Obmana

Visit Vidna Obmana's
Bandcamp website

The Hypnos label is just about as hot as it gets right now.  Everything - and I mean EVERYTHING -that they release is sure to be among the best ambience available.  And it is all on the cutting edge!

Vidna Obmana, nee Dirk Serries, released a set back in 1993 titled "Soundtrack Voor Het Aquarium."  The Antwerp Zoo commissioned the work to commemorate their 150th anniversary and their new aquarium exhibit.  Dirk shared the work with The Hybrids.  They only printed 500 copies and sales were almost exclusively handled at the aquarium.  (I bought a copy of the original at Hear's Music in Tucson.  I was there last May for the Steve Roach/Jorge Reyes event.)  Most purchasers were not electronic music fans.  They purchased the CD as a souvenir. 

It had long been unavailable.  Until now!

Dirk remastered his tapes.  He mastered a tape of a live performance of the soundtrack.  The entire package is now available from - you guessed it! - Hypnos.

This CD is almost perfect!  It features the minimalist style of Dirk's other works from this era.  The aquatic and nautical samples augment the drone and add depth and density to the proceedings.  The experimental textures also give the soundscape a space music feel.  This music would also be appropriate for a planetarium show.  There are absolute space music elements to the aquasphere.

The live CD is every bit as monumental as the studio commission.  It is shorter in length but not in feeling or depth.  Dirk was able to transfer all of the energy and enthusiasm to the concert stage.

This historic release is in the "can't miss" zone.  Thank you, Dirk!  Thank you, Mike!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Sleep Cycle Brannan Lane album cover

Sleep Cycle

by Brannan Lane

Visit Brannan's website

"Explore your dreams by stretching the boundaries of your imagination!"  Thus does Brannan Lane, a strong candidate for 2001's "rookie-of-the-year," introduce "Sleep Cycle."  He overtly states that the CD is intended for meditation, sleep and/or relaxation.  He also explored a softer and warmer sound than he had on his previous releases.

Brannan's liner notes present the technical details of the "Sleep Cycle" and are certainly informative and educational.  The music is absolutely intoxicating!

The gentle pastoral ambience provokes brain wave activity.  Deep and careful listeners will feel the neurotransmitters shooting across the synapses as the organic minimalism surrounds them.

This vehicle for meditation is, indeed, very soothing.  Do NOT listen to this while driving or operating heavy or complex machinery.  Listen to relieve stress.  Or - better yet - listen with a lover!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Underworld Dagda album cover


by Dagda

Our Anglo-American pop culture these last decades has been flooded with Celtic material Celtic design, costumes, mythology, adventure stories, paganism and magic, movies, dancing, weapons, poetry, pseudo-Celtic religion, and especially music. Ever since Ireland's Enya scored big hits, we've been saturated with Celtic music of every kind, from "authentic" Irish folk music and Scottish bagpipes, to Celtic rock. So it only follows logically that we would also get Celtic disco. And basically, that's what this album, Underworld, amounts to.

That's disco, as in swinging club-style rhythms, with a mechanical beat, and canned synthesizer harmonies, accompanied by sampled Celtic pipes and harps. Imagine ultra-hip fashion models parading in tartans and you've got the image. I suppose as club music, or backgrounds to advertising, this isn't bad, but once you try to get beyond the slick commerciality of this album, there isn't much there. There are a couple of  "mood" tracks, such as track 5, "Dawn at Druid's Cove," and the longish track 6, "Lord of the Underworld," which in their rambling modal harmonies and driving rhythms resemble a very diluted form of Euro-synthesizer- rock.

But most of this album is what I would simply call pseudo- Celtic boilerplate, that is, generic "Celtic" sounds homogenized into cheerful, listenable but completely forgettable background music. Add to that a pretty package with unreadable type, with no contact information included, and you have something that slips away from you like an Irish mist at mid-morning.

Reviewed by Hannah M.G. Shapero 8/05/2001


Art of Imagination Remy album cover

The Art of Imagination

by Remy

Visit Groove Unlimited's website

The good folks at Groove have spread their wings once again and ventured into the atmospheric zones of sequenced e-music.  "The Art of Imagination," by Remy, is a delicate balance of those two electronic styles.  The atmospheres border on minimalism.  The sequences border on dense Berlin school walls of sound.  Neither style crosses into those realms as Remy takes the middle road and establishes a firm setting.  The combination works well.  There are no hidden agendas, dark concepts or subtle messages.  This CD is a representation of Groove's growth and maturation as on of the finest - if not THE finest - e-music labels ever!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Cybersphere Spacecraft space music album cover


by Spacecraft

"Cybersphere" is an elegant melange of sequences, atmospheres and uplifting minimalism.  Given those characteristics, it could only be a Spacecraft CD.  Tony Gerber, Diane Timmons, John Rose, Giles Reaves and Josie Phelan created this stunning soundscape during two concerts in the Cybersphere Planetarium at the Renaissance Center in Tennessee.  It has everything that listeners have come to expect and cherish from this veteran ensemble - and then some!  Josie (a new member) adds an electric cello that brings just a touch of melancholy to the proceedings.  It balances the joyous and triumphal soundscape expertly.

The disc contains over an hour of Spacecraft's signature meditative and introspective stylings.  [The high mark of the disc is the densely sequenced and brilliant "House of Gaudi."  (Spacecraft contributed that piece to "Tracks Across the Universe."  It is on CD #3.)]  The release is on a standard CD on the Records label.  It is destined to be both classic and unforgettable!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Mother Sunrise Sola Translatio ambient album cover

Mother Sunrise

by Sola Translatio

Visit Hypnos' website

Sola Translatio is Alio Die, nee Stefano Musso and Opium, nee Matteo Zini.  "Mother Sunrise" is their collaboration on the Hypnos label.  As ambient aficionados have come to expect from that label, this is atmospheric minimalism at its finest.  Stefano and Matteo also continue the trend of excellent minimalism from Italy.

This CD has it all - AND MORE!  Stefano's reputation as an electronic manipulator is well deserved.  He uses those skills to enhance field recordings and samples giving the disc an experimental texture.  Matteo's effects and electronics surround the manipulations and create an organic blanket that leaves a warm feeling.

That is a key element to this set.  In line with recent developments in the minimalist arena, this duo has taken a page from the brighter side of the genre.  As the title implies, the music gives a feeling of rebirth.  Indeed, there are subtle references to Richard Strauss's "Sunrise" from "Thus Spake Zarathustra."  The tones drone on and on without reaching a crescendo.  The climax is replaced with nature samples and a shift in the intensity of the drone.

This is a great CD from THE label for minimalism.  If it is a Hypnos release, it is a great CD!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Winterscape Amir Baghiri ambient album cover


by Amir Baghiri

"Winterscape" is an exciting CD from the enigmatic and heroic Amir Baghiri.  The disc has elements of desert ambience and tribal minimalism but the reference point is NOT a traditional desert.  Amir is focusing on the blankets of snow and the vast silence they create.  The drone carries the theme and pays homage to the life that survives the lifelessness of winter and its storms. 

Amir has visited these environs before.  His collaboration with Mathias Grassow, "True North," carries similar messages.  Amir is searching for life among the lifeless.  He provides no answers.  His questions beget more questions and deeper introspection.  Amir encourages listeners to find the silver linings of their inner dark clouds.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Rooms Amir Baghiri ambient album cover


by Amir Baghiri


"Rooms" is a three CD set tribal minimalism from Amir Baghiri.  Folks have accused Amir of being a Steve Roach clone.  While there are definite similarities to Steve's tribal and desert ambience in this set, Amir has plenty of originality in his unique stylings.

The set has three distinct themes - one for each CD - that are interconnected.  The CD's are subtitled "Inner Rooms," "Real Rooms" and "Spaces in Between" respectively.

"Inner Rooms" refers to the chambers within the self.  Amir has fashioned some expansive minimalism replete with experimental influences and ethnic subtleties.  There is also a guest appearance by overtone singer Jim Cole.  Jim's vocals enhance the subtle rhythm and deep drone of "The Trip of Thoughts."  This disc is a journey in and of itself.  It is also the beginning of a much larger journey and it sets that stage quite effectively.

"Real Rooms" is - DUH! - a reality check.  From the singing bowls of "Big Bang" through the experimental textures of "Timeslices" and the gentle atmospheres of "Nowhere Like Home," this CD has an organic presence.  There are more references to Steve's brand of desert ambience.  The organic atmospheres add the unique touch.  This leg of the journey serves to ground the listeners.

"Spaces in Between" maintains integrity with its double entendre.  The first - and most obvious - meaning is a reference to the physical spaces between rooms.  Amir's more subtle intent is to define the crossover between the emotional/spiritual existence and the physical/intellectual self.  Amir is more concerned with the intangible spaces.  This disc ties the first two discs together in the form of holistic integration of the self.  The expansive atmospheres are perfect for meditating and discovering the symmetry of the heart, soul, mind and body.  The organic textures and tribal influences create the vehicle for self-discovery.

Amir has really come into his own of late.  This is an exciting development in his maturation as a composer and performer.  Assuming that he continues to develop apace, the sky is the limit!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


Laudanum Amir Baghiri ambient album cover


by Amir Baghiri and
Rudieger Gleisberg

"Laudanum" is a short (21 minutes) set of sacred minimalism from the creative genius, Amir Baghiri and Rudiger Gleisberg.  The three compositions feature atmospheric minimalism surrounding - and surrounded by - Gregorian chants.  The music is another vehicle for meditation, albeit a different form. 

Amir is encouraging listeners to look for God's answers.  When prayer is defined as "asking for God's help," meditation is defined as "listening for His answers."

In terms of sacred and holy composition, this CD is an absolute winner.  It ranks right with "Prayers to the Protector," "Sacred Space Music," "Novus Magnificat," "Sacred Space" and "Musical Meditation for World Peace."  In terms of atmospheric minimalism, it is also a sure-fire winner and an early candidate for 2001's top ten!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


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