Reviews 09-5-2001

Music Reviews 


A Collection of Thoughts

by Alan Imberg

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Alan Imberg is a unique and creative ambient guitarist.  "A Collection of Thoughts" is his debut release on his own Brun's Sun Music label.  (Alan's father is Brun Imberg.  He is also Alan's "hero, role model and friend.")

The heritage of this CD is an interesting story.  Al set out to create a short demo for soliciting performance work.  Over the next two years he created more than 40 tracks.  He chose his favorite 10, financed the CD, founded the label and - Voila! - here it is!

The diversity of this collection is reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson's stream of consciousness works from the 60's and 70's.  Alan literally translated his thoughts and feelings to music.  In so doing, he has also shared his heart and soul freely with his listeners.  His mission statement expresses a desire to convey his spirituality.  The depth and breadth of the emotional response is vast.  The music gets inside listeners and reaches the ultimate ear - the ear of the soul.  Listeners that kick back and embrace this treasure receive the ultimate reward.  It embraces them back!



Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


Ancient Canyons

by John Huling



John Huling is a very devoted craftsman.  His craft is designing soundscapes to celebrate the American Southwest.  His soundscapes pay tribute to the music of the Native American cultures indigenous to the area.  "Ancient Canyons" is the fifth CD in his "Musical Visions of the Southwest" series.  The CD is available on Paras Recordings.

John uses traditional instruments and nature samples to convey the beauty and the spirit of the cultures and the landscape.  The ambience is gentle and pastoral.  The soundscape is bright and vivid.  Even with the overt ethnic rhythms, the sound design borders on atmospheric minimalism.  The flute carries the atmosphere.  The samples embrace the listeners warmly and lovingly.

This is an absolute treasure and a bona fide winner.  For fans of electronic ambience and minimalism looking to expand their horizons, this would be a good place to start!



Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   



by Mars Lasar

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Mars Lasar is an extremely well rounded and diverse musical talent.  He has composed and recorded for many different media, including interactive video games.  He has six solo albums in his discography, at least four of which are on the Real Music label.

"Karma," his newest release, is on Anagram Records, a division of The Paras Group.  It is a lush and melodic journey across many exotic cultures.  Mars mixes appropriate ethnic instruments with his synths and nature samples to create a dramatic and triumphant soundscape.  The CD title is appropriate as well.  Mars reached for the brass ring of holistic balance and integration.  The balance of the divergent forces is symbiotic with the balance within the self.  Mars grabbed the ring and brought it home.  He shares the benefits of the fruits of the adventure with his listeners.  He does so with style, grace and class.

This disc is deep and unassuming at the same time.  Mars makes no pretension as to its aims and its powers.  It just is!



Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


Passing Strange

by Various Artists

Visit Broad Vista's website



I'd never reviewed a "Various Artists" CD.  Too many of them are disjointed and the common thread is difficult to find.  So I elected to stay with the single artist discs and my comfort level.

Until now!

I received a promotional copy of "Passing Strange" on Biff Johnson's Broad Vista Music label.  This CD is packed with too many surprises and great tracks!

The CD is a total collaboration from seven 'Journeymen' of electronic music.  The contributors are relatively unknown but widely heralded e-music craftsmen.  The common thread of the CD is deep drifting minimalism.  The contributors are, in order, John Pemble, Jeff Karsin, The Autumn Project (Mike Gustafson), Brian Parnham, Kirk Watson, Biff Johnson and David Hastings.  I had not heard of Kirk or Brian before this CD.  I am very familiar with Biff's music.  I love everything that I've heard from John, Jeff and David.  Mike's first CD was more prog rock than e-music.  So, for me, this disc is a gem!

Each track is a sonic delight in and of itself and each stands on its own merit.  I am not going to write seven reviews or pick a favorite piece.  Those of you familiar with the 'Journeymen' will not be disappointed.  This is a first rate collection of some of the finest American minimalism available.  It will leave you wanting more.  I do!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


Into the Liquid Unknown

by Paul Ellis

Visit Hypnos' website



The press release for "Into the Liquid Unknown" categorizes the disc as "classical 'Berlin School' e-music.Paul Ellis has long been, by his own admission, associated with that style of music.  this is the first release on the Binary label, a division of Hypnos.  Thus, it is fitting and appropriate that Paul has added some new twists to the old school.. 

Being a huge fan of the Hypnos label, I was eager to hear the new light that Paul and Hypnos would shed on the subject.  I dearly love the heavy sequences and deft synth washes of the German brand of e-music.  I am overwhelmed by Paul's cross-genre approach.  His dramatic sequences surround subtle atmospheres and minimalism.  This is similar to the style that Groove artists have been exploring.  Ron Boots, in fact, has perfected the technique.

Paul adds something to the mix for a unique sound.  Paul achieves sequenced drama without an orchestral or symphonic overtone.  The rhythms drive the minimalism for an extremely chilling effect.  I felt goose bumps and calmness at the same time.  I was drifting and dancing.  It was definitive biorhythmic meditation.

It would stand to reason that Mike Griffin and Hypnos are promoting and encouraging new styles.  I have said it before and I'll say it again - if it's on Hypnos, it'll be great!


Reviewed by Jim Brenholts    


Ethereal Journey

by RAY

Visit Ray Leonard Records' website



Ray Leonard has had a long and distinguished career in the music industry.  Thus far, it has been mostly behind the scenes as an engineer and/or a mixer.  He has also won several Emmy Awards for his work in television.

For his solo debut CD, "Ethereal Journey," he uses only his surname and draws on his diverse life experiences for inspiration.  Using atmospheric minimalism, pastoral ambience and new age sensitivity, Ray has created a warm and familiar soundscape to convey his wonderment and joy.  His sound design features space and organic elements that leave listeners with contrasting and complimentary feelings.  The organics ground deep listeners and the symphonic space sequences sweep them away.

This CD, on Ray Leonard Records, has a little bit of everything for everybody.  It has true mass media appeal.



Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   



by Reef Project

Visit Biohazard's website

Reef Project is the pseudonym under which DJ Three-O of Los Angeles recorded "Star."  DJ Thee-O is the pseudonym for Jacob A. Ofilas.  This is the first release on Jacob's Biohazard Music label. 

The project name refers to the tranquility of the ocean.  The nine track titles reflect how stars appear in every facet of life.  Indeed, the heavens and oceans are full of stars.

That begets an appropriate metaphor.  This is a very dense aquatic space music CD.  Jacob has fashioned a rhythmic drift soundscape that conveys outer space and oceanic imagery.  The sound design is deft and clever.  The music is soothing and energizing.



Reviewed by Jim Brenholts    


by Saul Stokes

Saul Stokes is a class act.  After several brilliant releases on the Hypnos label, including their first, he has released "Abstraction" on Green House Music.  In the liner notes, he thanks Hypnos and Mike Griffin.

This deep atmospheric set is a mix of live recordings from Saul's concerts between 1997 and 2000, inclusively.  (Saul's gratitude to Chuck van Zyl and Jeff Towne and the acknowledgement of Art Cohen's live engineering indicate that some of the recordings are from Saul's Gathering shows.)

Listeners familiar with Saul's work will recall that he designs and builds his own instruments.  That skill and devotion are two of the elements that contribute to this unique sound.  The music is definite minimalism, absolutely ambient and totally atmospheric.  And it has an edge!  It is not necessarily dark minimalism but it is eerie, even subversive.  The CD is full of mixed messages and cross-referenced emotions.  It is difficult to define the emotions.  They are there but they are not centered.  The title says it all.  The feelings are abstract.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


Techno Unit 32: Misc Tracks

by Larry Kucharz



It is always difficult to review a Larry Kucharz CD.  That is not because they are not good.  It's because they are so intricate, original and challenging.  "Techno Unit 32: Misc. Tracks" is no exception.

As I expected from the title, Larry is visiting the trip-hop zone again.  He has surrounded his atmospheres with some very dense rhythms as he did on "Techno Unit 30."  That CD focused on the "Detroit Techno" sound.  Unit 32 offers a more diverse look at the world of rhythmic minimalism.  Larry visits straight, drum and bass, hardcore, dub and house techno and a new hybrid - progressive classical. 

He does all this with his typical aplomb and virtuosity.  I can imagine Larry going over each track meticulously remixing and dubbing until he gets it "just right."  It reminds me of a chef trying out a new recipe or of a vineyard professing to "make no wine before its time."  Larry would vow to "release no song unless it's strong!"

These tracks, clearly labeled to identify the styles, will expose many listeners to these hybrids for the first time.  Surrounding Larry's expansive atmospheres, the styles have new life and a new audience.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   



Midnight Rainbows

by Robert Carty

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In reviewing Robert Carty's vast discography, it was very easy - and appropriate - to compare his music to that of his contemporaries.  Those comparisons served to define the individual CD's and to help Robert reach his target audience.  Last year it became quite apparent that such comparisons were no longer appropriate and that Robert had developed a style that is quite unique and his alone,

"Midnight Rainbows" does much to reinforce that development.  This gentle and airy minimalism highlights Robert's growth and maturity as an artiste.  At the height of his proclivity, Robert released as many as ten new CD's in a single year (1999).  They are all very good, some are excellent.  Last year (2000), he released two CD's.  It is now September and he has just released his first CD of 2001.  And, like the two from last year, it is a classic!

Robert has long worked in the minimalist zones.  His unique ability has been to work those zones without going over the edge into dark ambience.  The introspective soundscapes beget relaxation and a visitation of the lighter sides of the psyche.

Robert also conveys his enjoyment.  He loves to perform his music and to share it with his listeners.  He also loves to hear from his fans.  His responses are always humble and gracious.

This CD is a classic and a frontrunner for the 2001's top ten.  Grab this and several other Robert Carty titles.  It will be a worthy investment!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


Solo Contenda

by David Hastings



I must preface this review by stating that I love this CD!  It will always hold a special place in my heart.  In the liner notes of "Solo Contenda," David Hastings saw fit to thank me.  He also included an excerpt of my review of "Electric Café" in the promotional material accompanying the CD.

But, let's get on to more important tasks, like the music!  This CD is energetic and atmospheric in the same breath.  The album is full of sequenced rhythms and thick atmospheres.  David has even added some experimental sounds to accent and offset the theme.  That theme is very frenetic.  It is almost as if David is running to catch up to it.

It is something else again.  Backing into the theme from the track titles, I heard the frenzy of an erotic encounter of some sort.  (That does not necessarily have to mean a sexual encounter.)  "Illegal Hands," "Lick Tease," "Undulations" and "Painted Sweetlips" are the track titles that offer double entendres.

All of that is very cool because David handles the ordeal with grace, style and charm.  He throws us a wink and drags us along on the chase.  And the chase never ends!  There is no climax and cold showers become the order of the day.

And that is not a deterrent.  This is a great CD with much going for it.  The high-energy electronics are energizing and playful.  The dense atmospheres are introspective and provocative.  The climax turns out to be self-fulfilling and within the self.

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts   


Chaco Canyon

by Rusty Crutcher

Visit Emerald Green Sound Productions' website  

"Chaco Canyon" is the third CD in Rusty Crutcher's "Sacred Site Series."  The series is available on his Emerald Green Sound Productions.  This is Rusty's first dedication to a North American site. 

As on the first two CD's, he recorded the nature samples on location.  He chose to do so at solstice and equinox times between August, 1988 and May, 1990.  The samples serve to augment the instrumentation on this disc.

The music is soulful.  Rusty combines ethnic instruments with symphonic synths to wrap listeners in a warm shell.  The depths of the music take listeners to new heights and undiscovered caverns within the self.  This is what minimalism is supposed to be.  This is a perfect new hybrid - "new age symphonic Native American minimalism."


Reviewed by Jim Brenholts  


Ocean Eclipse

by Rusty Crutcher

Visit Emerald Green Sound Productions website

"Ocean Eclipse" is the fourth CD in Rusty Crutcher's "Sacred Site Series."  All of the CD's are available on his Emerald Green Sound Productions.

Rusty witnessed a total solar eclipse in Las Cruces, Mexico on July 11, 1991.  He recorded this album with a calm sea as a background to create a "portrait in sound" of the event.

The nature samples and the symphonic minimalism compliment each other evenly on the CD.  The samples enhance the gentle flutes and subtle synths.  The music in turn embraces and embellishes the samples.  Together, they create a masterful score and soundscape.

While there are elements of tribal and ethnic influences and references to minimalism, this disc is solidly and proudly in the new age and contemporary instrumental field.  Such diversity has become Rusty's calling card.


Reviewed by Jim Brenholts