Reviews 09-26-2001

Music Reviews 



by Steve Roach 

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I have been a diehard and unabashed Steve Roach fan for many years.  I make no apologies for my bias nor do I find it necessary to do so.  I eagerly await his new releases with high expectations.

My favorite CD of his has long been "On this Planet."  There are not enough superlatives to describe that album and its impact on me - both personally and professionally.  I also love John Diliberto's review in which he states, " (Steve) forgot to tell us which planet he meant."

"Core" reflects back to that era in Timeroom history.  Indeed, at times the heavy analog sequences of this CD take me back to the pre-digital days of "Now" and "Traveler." 

Over the past several months, I have reviewed many excellent CD's that combine Berlin school sequences with atmospheric minimalism.  Many of them are on the Groove Unlimited label.  Leave it to Steve to achieve the quintessential hybrid.  The sequences on "Core" are not mere revisitations.  Steve has put a new twist to them.  They have a new and vibrant sound and remind me of the early e-music from 30 years ago.  The atmospheres are dense and meaningful.  Nothing comes out of The Timeroom without some mark from Steve's spirit and soul.  This soundscape continues that tradition.

This epic release got right to the core issues and to causality.  (I believe that the pun is intentional.)  Steve is taking us with him on a journey to unite the new with the old.  In the truest sense of the Shaman, Steve is seeking the holistic union of all facets of the being.  Being a professional counselor, I know that process as integration.  Taking the entire process as a whole, we are taking a journey to find, achieve, maintain and share holistic integration. 

In the past, I have also suggested that Steve has been writing a modern electronic symphony and inserting pieces of it into all of his work.  "Core" is the culmination of that journey.  The journey and the symphony are metaphors for the spiritual and emotional adventure.

This landmark CD arrived at the perfect time for me.  I needed - and received - some valuable holistic healing from this CD.  This is truly an integral part of my "big picture" and my bio-rhythmic integration!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


Zero Point

by Seofon

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Seofon is a member of Ambient Temple of Imagination, a bay area ensemble that has explored the limits and possibilities of the ritual of sound and the ambient (or chill) rooms. 

"Zero Point: Lessons in Being Nothing," the initial Hypnos/Foundry release, is a collaboration with Seofon as the coordinator.  The collaborators are Vidna Obmana, Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Stephen Kent, Thermal, (an ATOI contributor) and Not Breathing.

This CD is based on recycling material from ATOI's CD's.  Vidna Obmana and Asmus Tietchens invented recycling, a recording process that goes deeper than simple remixing.  More often than not, the result bears little or no resemblance to the original material. 

Each participant played a key role in the collaboration.  Seofon was the center point.  He coordinated the project and contributed new material and recycling.  Vidna Obmana brought the recycling process and contributed his special touch.  Steve Roach translated ATOI live tracks into his own soundworlds.  Robert Rich added his electro-organic harmonics.  Stephen Kent revived his spontaneous didg discourse.  Thermal and Not Breathing cast a new light on unexplored territories. 

This is a special CD!  I listened to and reviewed this disc right after reviewing Steve's "Core."  I am blown away by the power within these musical passages.  It is the direct result of the integration of Steve's spirit, Dirk's visions, Robert's foresight, Stephen's sensitivity and the unfamiliar - yet essential - newness of light from Thermal and Not Breathing

But I digress and I do not want to take away from Seofon's monumental achievement.  In accepting the contributions of others, he realized that the totality would be greater than the sum of the parts.  Seofon allowed them to carry him to the perpendicular universe.  In surrendering, Seofon achieved victory.  By freely giving away artistic control, he achieved the ultimate integrity.  This CD is a true holistic integration of the highest order!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts  


Waters of Eden 

by Tony Levin

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"Waters of Eden" is a triumphal solo CD from virtuoso bassist Tony Levin.  Tony is a veteran of many years of prog experience primarily with King Crimson.  He has also toured and played with Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd and Yes.

He has a strong supporting cast on this CD.  Larry Fast (synergy), David Torn and Jerry Marotta are the most recognizable names.  The disc has many influences.  As one would expect, there are rock and roll tendencies.  There are also some experimental overtones, most likely from Tony's association with Robert Fripp.  Larry's synth and David's guitar add a frenzy to the proceedings.

The highlight, however, is "Belle."  Tony, on bass, and his brother, Phil Levin, on piano, recorded this piece as a tribute to their mother, Belle Levin.

If it were necessary to categorize this CD (and despite my protestations, I do categorize), it would be a new age album with rock and roll overtones.  It is an enjoyable listen.


Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


Reprise: 1990-1999

by Vangelis

Vangelis Papathanassiou is a rarity, indeed.  He is one of a handful of e-musicians to achieve commercial success, international fame and global name recognition without sacrificing his artistic integrity.  There might not even be a handful.

"Reprise: 1990 - 1999" is a collection of melodic, dramatic, thematic and densely sequenced and atmospheric soundscapes from the third decade of his long and illustrious career.  While his atmospheres are dense, Vangelis does not cross the line into minimalism.  Nor do his dense sequences visit the Berlin school.  He does make reference to all of the e-music styles, some classical structures and new age philosophies.  He wraps all those references into one package and it emerges as "the Vangelis School."  (The quotes are mine.)  In short, this totally original music, originally recorded for many divergent media, loses nothing in this context.

Indeed, in selecting and remastering the pieces for this set, Vangelis has added much to their originality.  The structure of the flow heightens the drama and deepens the atmospheres.  True artistes have the ability to create art where no opportunity is apparent.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


The Room

by Harold Budd

Harold Budd is one of the original and most respected American minimalists.  His collaborations with Brian Eno are legendary.  With all those credentials, I have always been somewhat dismayed that I could not connect with his music.  And I am almost certain that my lack of empathy for his music is connected to my lack of connection to solo piano music. Then I listened to "The Room."

Still I stand here, still I breath
still I shake in fear, still I laugh
and kiss a lover's eyes
while she holds my hand.  I eat and burn
and crawl
through Dreams.

With that poetry from
Michael McClure, Harold Budd introduces The Room."  He takes us on a tour of imaginary rooms within the imaginary self.  His acoustic piano is layered, treated and echoed.  It allows for gentle relaxation and overt meditation.

Perhaps that is why I connected so strongly with this CD.  It happened upon me at the right time, in the right place and under the right circumstances.  My need for recuperative assistance allowed me to find a reason to connect to this CD.  I might just listen to more Harold Budd CD's this evening.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts


The Boy Beneath the Sea

by Dean Santomieri

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"The Boy Beneath the Sea" is an enigmatic ambient saga coordinated by Dean Santomieri.  He narrates the story.  Improvisations by Bruce Anderson (chromotone guitar), David Kwan (sampling, processing and tidal control) and Karen Stackpole (percussion and gongs) surround Dean's narration.

This is an eerie and eclectic construction.  The entire project borders on the avante garde and the nouveau noir.  The story is interesting and offbeat.  The music, while straightforward at times, benefits from David's processing and pre-mastering techniques and from Dean's direction and production control.

Keeping the focus on the music is difficult.  The story is very cool and Dean's narrative style is hypnotic.  The music is very worthy.  The experimental sounds and overt minimalism serve the story very well.  It IS the background.  It DEFINES the background.  Thus, it is definitive ambience.

It IS possible to play this CD as a pure background.  To do so would be to miss the story.  This is a cool experience.  It demands total attention!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


All the Stars Burning Bright

by eM

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eM is the pseudonym under which Michael Bentley, founder and owner of The Foundry label, records his experiMENTAL e-music.  "All the Stars Burning Bright" is a glorious set of computerized space music. 

Michael draws inspiration from the writings of Brian Aldiss and H. P. Lovecraft.  Michael also incorporates recordings from the Voyager spacecraft into his soundscape.

That soundscape transcends most computerized e-music.  While it does have experiMENTAL elements, it contains none of the dissonance usually associated with this form of music.  Michael just gives us a delightful portion of minimalist space music.  This is a monumental achievement.



Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


by Mollusk

Malcolm Bly records as Mollusk.  "Accretions" is his debut CD.  the inspiration for much of the music comes from Malcolm's study of - DUH! - mollusks and natural history.

It was by accident that this became a CD project.  Malcolm was simply exploring the realms of on-line audio and low-resolution mp3's.

Michael Bentley suggested the CD project and Malcolm remastered the tracks to CD quality and the fourth Hypnos/Foundry collaboration is here.

The music is very experiMENTAL.  The sounds are all digital.  Malcolm manipulated samples and field recordings to augment the music.  The result is very cool and very soothing.  This is a cool CD. 

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts