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Paul Vnuk Jr. (Ma Ja Le) - Silence Speaks in Shadows



2001. SILENCE SPEAKS IN SHADOW, the first Hypnos CD by Paul Vnuk Jr. of Ma Ja Le (a duo that released a collaboration IMAGINARIUM with Vir Unis, and also more recently issued a limited-edition live CD with Hypnos artist James Johnson). Vnuk ventures out into the solo world with a longform release that blends the environmental sounds of a cityscape with an ebbing and flowing synth atmosphere. SILENCE SPEAKS IN SHADOW gives us a glimpse into the psycho-environmental sounds of a city drenched in rain and industrial sonics. Stating his inspiration for this project, Vnuk says: "The open windows and industrial sounds of a rain drenched city can have a strange calming effect on the soul."

A pre-release review by Jim Brenholts says: "....expertly mixes somber passages and samples with an expansive drone, nature samples and melodic pastoral ambience. The effect is both chilling and calming. The emotional and spiritual responses are clear and undefinable. The physical response is immediate calm. This CD is essential psychoactive meditation material!"

Hypnos Recordings feels a special fondness for smooth, long-form environmental pieces. We find them full of details which gradually reveal themselves, and transport the listener to unfamiliar locales, or frames of mind. SILENCE SPEAKS IN SHADOW is sure to be a favorite "place" of many who experience it.

Silence Speaks in Shadow is a single continuous track -- we've provided sample MP3 clips of various sections:
Part 1 (early)
Part 2 (a little later)
Part 3 (after the middle)
Part 4 (near the end)


Purchase direct for $11.99

Reviews

"...brilliant city-scape field recording with great ambient music..."
--Bill Binkelman, WindAndWire.com

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"Best of 2001 List"
--Gordon Danis

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"If you ponder for too long the meaning of the album title Silence Speaks in Shadow, the listener will surely fail to have the musical encounter intended by author Paul Vnuk Jr. The concept behind this prolonged ambient stasis is to think about everything but the spinning disc and allow the mind to wander and to wonder... freely. Vnuk facilitates this through the placement of sparse synth pads over recordings of street sounds during a thunderstorm, a skilled combination of pacing, harmony and the relaxing properties of rain on rooftops. The moments prior to slipping into sleep are reassurred with the kind of calm that only one of those sudden summer showers can bring.

Silence Speaks in Shadow is one in a growing number of releases in this field - so its design will be familiar, yet the experience remains as pleasing as watching raindrops splashing or storm clouds rolling. This album is a fitting beginning on a drift out to the fringes of consciousness, through the mist of memory and into the embrace of night. Vnuk's soundscape provides us with a sonic foundation upon which to build our own unique ambient experience."
--Chuck van Zyl / STAR'S END

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"Paul Vnuk Jr. is one half of Ma Ja Le. (His good friend and "brother," Chris Short, is the other half.) Vnuk has recorded some very cool vibes with Short. However, his best work -- by far -- is Silence Speaks in Shadow, a solo release. Vnuk recorded this over a one-year period in his studio in Cudahy, WI. Two thunderstorms, one year apart, provide the background ambience. Other environmental sounds enhance the listening experience as well. There are train tracks near Vnuk's studio. It is also near a major thoroughfare, as the sounds of emergency vehicle sirens and traffic in general would indicate. Vnuk's atmospheres are huge and expansive; they surround the natural sounds and carry the soundscape. This is deep stuff. It is hypnotic and psychoactive. Deep listening reveals all the nuances and subtleties of Vnuk's sound design. This is a disc to be experienced, and headphones, darkness, and incense enhance the journey. This disc is an instant classic, and will appeal to fans of James Johnson, Zero Ohms, Brannan Lane, and Jeff Greinke. It is essential music."
--All Music Guide

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"*****(five stars)

Late at night, alone and thinking Reviewer: the_entwife from the darkened room beside the open window I no longer live in a city--my last confinement being in Montreal, Canada. I still believe that a city offers quiet moments of intense silence where a person can feel the truth without talking about it. Often, the most spiritual time in the city happens late at night, sitting in the dark, thinking and listening to the small noises of the night. The most glorious times of all are those late nights when there is a gentle, lingering rainstorm that dampens the city noise with the random sounds of raindrops and distant thunder. Nights when it was warm enough to open the window, and smell the air. In those times, "Silence Speaks in Shadow". In this CD, Paul Vnuk, aka MaJaLe, has recorded those soft noises of a rainy city late at night, and has added a thoughtful, elegant, ambient electronic soundscape. The music plays in the rain with the night noises--if you listen you will hear distant voices and a cat talking to the night. Even in Alaska, with no city outside my window, this CD brings me back to those dark, summer nights in Montreal in the rain, and it feels right."
--Lyn McNutt, amazon.com

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"Best of 2001 List"
--Mike Bennett, Carnival of Souls, on ambient@hyperreal.org

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"Best of 2001 List"
--Jim Brenholts

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"Top 50 Ambient Releases of All Time."
--Bill Binkelman on ambient@hyperreal.org

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"One half of Ma Ja Le has "gone solo" as they say... taking the lightly atmospheric road, paul vnuk jr. reveals, in a long-form emission of faint electronics and urban ambiance, that silence speaks in shadow. Hushed soundwaves float on a peacefully rainy city night, and Vnuk captures the best of all those elements.

Subtly shimmering synthscapes (sometimes barely there at all) simply drift through Silence Speaks in Shadow (73:58); occasional "real life" incidents (falling rain, chattering people, cat sounds which always have me looking around to see what mine are up to...) add a you-are-there textural element to the whole mix. It should be noted that (except fot the lingering showers) these happenings are few, with plenty of spaciously drifting ephemera throughout. Hinting of danger elsewhere (but not here), sirens pass as lovely chorus-like strands waft through the spattering of raindrops on concrete. Around the 40-minute mark, light chimes sparkle with a cushiony resonance counterbalancing distant thunder. Everything slowly fades in the final moments, like slipping into a comfortable slumber...

Soundscape meets cityscape in silence speaks in shadow, a panoramic blend of shapeshifting ambient streams and subtle occurences which blend rather than intrude. No hustle-bustle here as paul vnuk jr. processes the most subdued audiovisions, transmitting them as these flowing scenes of 9.2-rated beauty. Quite gorgeous! The amazing Hypnos catalog just keeps getting better... "
--David Opdyke, The AmbiEntrance

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"Everythings about this CD is dripping with cool, from the jet-black cover sprinkled with nighttime city lights, to the soft rain that permeates the sounds and music. This is truly an environmental work, labeled "psycho-environmental music," which is accurate. Vnuk successfully depicts an urban setting, with the rain falling and the windows open. Soft synthesizers accentuate real-world sounds such as a siren driving by (I backed the CD up to be sure I heard it right, thinking it was real). Changes are slow and subtle. It paints a perfect sonic picture, the musical equivalent of the current American penchant for "reality-based TV." Other discs have used environmental sounds, particularly rain, but this is a cut above. It really sets itself apart from anything else out there. Thunder rolls occasionally, synthesizers softly float throughout much of it, but the rain really is the centerpiece, at times the only sound heard. Everyone knows the feeling of hearing a gentle summer or autumn rain on your rooftop or out the window on a sultry day, and how refreshing and luxurious that can be. Now, you don't have to wait for just the right conditions to experience it. This is perhaps the ultimate ambient music, truly meant to be played in the background, to be absorbed into your world of the moment."
--Sequences, Phil Derby

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"Paul Vnuk's (who is one-half of the duo known as MaJaLe) incredibly beautiful solo release, Silence Speaks in Shadow, could be considered (to some degree) to be the doppleganger to James Johnson's and Stephen Philips' CD, Lost at Dunn's Lake. Where the latter minimal ambient recording was enhanced with sounds from a woodland thunderstorm, Paul's album brilliantly interweaves the sounds from an urban landscape during a rainstorm/thunderstorm with warm layers of exquisite electronic ambience. In my review of Lost at Dunn's Lake, I wrote "even though it's only March, I didn't think I'd hear a better minimal-style ambient recording this year." While that statement is still true, Silence Speaks in Shadow is damn near as good as Lost at Dunn's Lake. It's a tremendous achievement in subtlety and nuance.

I don't know if Paul recorded his urban sounds (rain falling on streets and sidewalks, sirens, thunder, and faint other cityscape sonic textures such as a meowing cat) in our shared home town of Milwaukee; but even if he didn't, I have a soft spot for the environmental sounds on the CD. For most of my adult life, I have lived in a large city (as opposed to either the country or the suburbs). There is something special about the sound of a rainy night in the city that has a sweetly melancholic feel to it; it's a sense of shared loneliness. Upon first hearing Silence Speaks in Shadow, I was vividly reminded of the first apartment I lived in after my divorce (in 1990). My efficiency was on the 2nd floor and it overlooked a mildly busy intersection, just outside of downtown St. Paul. On summer nights, I would leave the window open (I did not have air conditioning) and would fall asleep to the sounds of light traffic (the occasional bus or car), muted conversations from late-night strollers, and, if I was lucky, the sound of falling rain. So, to say that I love this CD is an understatement. You'd probably have to be a real urbanite to understand the appeal of this kind of recording.

The music itself on Silence...is wonderful. Paul incorporates shimmering synths, long patient washes of keyboards, and some other very subtle sound treatments (the liner notes list instrumentation as "Looped synth improvisations, and manipulation"). There is just a hint of mystery and no trace of foreboding or sadness; the overall feeling is one of calm and a slight sense of slowly drifting. Seldom does the music take center stage in dramatic fashion. Mostly, the environmental recordings hold equal place in the soundfield with the electronic music. The ebbing and flowing of the keyboards has a warm organic feel. The album patiently unfolds over its nearly 74-minute length and, if played in the background at just barely perceptible volume, I'd have to think this is an ideal sleeping CD, especially if put on repeat play. As the album progresses, gentle bell tones emerge from the other musical shadings, twinkling faintly amidst the ever-softening synths. This is just flat out gorgeous music, reminding me a little bit of Stephen Philips' superb Desert Landscapes recording, which is another late-night favorite of mine.

The other interesting thing Paul does is to have the rainfall pattern on the disc change over time - from a steady downpour to a more sedate gentle storm, accentuated by what sounds like runoff from downspouts hitting concrete. Again, to a city-boy like me, these sounds are comforting in the extreme. If one was used to a more rural setting for storms (e.g. the sounds of the forest of the plains), I don't know that it would have the same effect.

Silence Speaks in Shadow is a fantastic exploration of the possibilities of "long-form" ambient. I could see having this play endlessly for hours, even while one is awake. I plan on doing just that more than a few times myself. I don't know that there is a better blend of (unique!) environmental sounds with pure ambient music (as opposed to new age music). Bravo to Paul for this "ode to a rainy night in the city," and thanks to Mike Griffin for releasing still another amazing recording. Silence Speaks in Shadow may be the ultimate ambient album for us city dwellers - it's a true gift from Paul to those of us who embrace the steel and concrete and long for the sound of rain on asphalt as we drift asleep on a summer night."
--Bill Binkelman, WindAndWire.com

.

"Silence Speaks in Shadow is a solo CD from Paul Vnuk, Jr., better known as one half of the duo, Ma Ja Le. His cohort, Chris Short, edited, arranged and engineered this disc. (Paul very graciously refers to Chris as his brother and friend and thanks him for his selfless contribution.) The CD is billed as "psycho-environmental meditation." Paul recorded the disc during two thunderstorms approximately one year apart and states, "The open windows and industrial sounds of a rain drenched city can have a strange calming effect on the soul." So can Paul's soundscape! He expertly mixes somber passages and samples with an expansive drone, nature samples and melodic pastoral ambience. The effect is both chilling and calming. The emotional and spiritual responses are clear and undefinable. The physical response is immediate calm. Congratulations, Paul! This CD is essential psychoactive meditation material!"
--Jim Brenholts, Ambient Visions

.

"The notes read: “The open windows and industrial sounds of a rain, drenched city can have a strange calming effect.” This is true. Since I was a child I loved listening to nature: the sound of the park, or the beach, or the night crickets I always heard at the grandma’s house, even though they scared me. Water always soothed me; whether rain or river. Add washes of synthesizer to the sound of a rainy night, and you have what Hypnos, perhaps the master label in this genre, describes as “psycho-environmental-music.”

I am less than sympathetic to most “ambient” music, but do find environmental soundscapes rich, and this well-crafted disc is one of the better ones, as these rain sounds, and wind, even if the wind is computer generated (and I’m not certain of this), do create a particular sound environment. I might not have thought about it if the line note hadn’t stated so, but this clearly is not country rain, or a storm-at-sea. This is city; the sound of rain on concrete. Then how come things are so still?

Actually, it’s not still. The rain, for the seventy-four minute span, not only evolves, but changes. There is lightning, and thunder, sporadically. In this sense it is real. The synth is not oppressive, nor are the tones chosen for it; the music literally washes over you. I can see many people using this for love-making, as well as other out-of-body experiences. As for the title, there is no silence, but much moving shadow. Toward the end of the sojourn, the music, perhaps unwittingly, takes an emotional turn. The synth recalls some of the organ works of Olivier Messiaen, and things become quieter, and still. Quite beautiful."
--Jazz Weekly, Steven H. Koenig

.

"Paul Vnukıs (who is one-half of the duo known as MaJaLe) incredibly beautiful solo release, Silence Speaks in Shadow, could be considered (to some degree) to be the doppleganger to James Johnsonıs and Stephen Philipsı CD, Lost at Dunnıs Lake. Where the latter minimal ambient recording was enhanced with sounds from a woodland thunderstorm, Paulıs album brilliantly interweaves the sounds from an urban landscape during a rainstorm/thunderstorm with warm layers of exquisite electronic ambience. In my review of Lost at Dunnıs Lake, I wrote ³even though it's only March, I didn't think I'd hear a better minimal-style ambient recording this year.² While that statement is still true, Silence Speaks in Shadow is damn near as good as Lost at Dunnıs Lake. Itıs a tremendous achievement in subtlety and nuance.

I donıt know if Paul recorded his urban sounds (rain falling on streets and sidewalks, sirens, thunder, and faint other cityscape sonic textures such as a meowing cat) in our shared home town of Milwaukee; but even if he didnıt, I have a soft spot for the environmental sounds on the CD. For most of my adult life, I have lived in a large city (as opposed to either the country or the suburbs). There is something special about the sound of a rainy night in the city that has a sweetly melancholic feel to it; itıs a sense of shared loneliness. Upon first hearing Silence Speaks in Shadow, I was vividly reminded of the first apartment I lived in after my divorce (in 1990). My efficiency was on the 2nd floor and it overlooked a mildly busy intersection, just outside of downtown St. Paul. On summer nights, I would leave the window open (I did not have air conditioning) and would fall asleep to the sounds of light traffic (the occasional bus or car), muted conversations from late-night strollers, and, if I was lucky, the sound of falling rain. So, to say that I love this CD is an understatement. Youıd probably have to be a real urbanite to understand the appeal of this kind of recording.

The music itself on Silence...is wonderful. Paul incorporates shimmering synths, long patient washes of keyboards, and some other very subtle sound treatments (the liner notes list instrumentation as ³Looped synth improvisations, and manipulation²). There is just a hint of mystery and no trace of foreboding or sadness; the overall feeling is one of calm and a slight sense of slowly drifting. Seldom does the music take center stage in dramatic fashion. Mostly, the environmental recordings hold equal place in the soundfield with the electronic music. The ebbing and flowing of the keyboards has a warm organic feel. The album patiently unfolds over its nearly 74-minute length and, if played in the background at just barely perceptible volume, Iıd have to think this is an ideal sleeping CD, especially if put on repeat play. As the album progresses, gentle bell tones emerge from the other musical shadings, twinkling faintly amidst the ever-softening synths. This is just flat out gorgeous music, reminding me a little bit of Stephen Philipsı superb Desert Landscapes recording, which is another late-night favorite of mine.

The other interesting thing Paul does is to have the rainfall pattern on the disc change over time - from a steady downpour to a more sedate gentle storm, accentuated by what sounds like runoff from downspouts hitting concrete. Again, to a city-boy like me, these sounds are comforting in the extreme. If one was used to a more rural setting for storms (e.g. the sounds of the forest of the plains), I donıt know that it would have the same effect.

Silence Speaks in Shadow is a fantastic exploration of the possibilities of ³long-form² ambient. I could see having this play endlessly for hours, even while one is awake. I plan on doing just that more than a few times myself. I donıt know that there is a better blend of (unique!) environmental sounds with pure ambient music (as opposed to new age music). Bravo to Paul for this ³ode to a rainy night in the city,² and thanks to Mike Griffin for releasing still another amazing recording. Silence Speaks in Shadow may be the ultimate ambient album for us city dwellers - itıs a true gift from Paul to those of us who embrace the steel and concrete and long for the sound of rain on asphalt as we drift asleep on a summer night."
--Wind and Wire, Bill Binkelman

.

"There's a small quote at the bottom of the insert to this CD, apparently a quote by Vnuk Jr. himself who states that "The open windows and industrial sounds of a rain, drenched city can have a strange calming effect on the soul." When I first read this little snippet I wasn't sure what to think, but after my first listen it made good sense. A lot of Ambient/ Atmospheric music compliments or enhances the ambience of a particular space, but then there are some ambient recordings that transcend or alter your space altogether, i.e. Stephen Philips and James Johnson's Lost at Dunn's Lake, or Brannan Lane's Troposphere, Silence Speaks in Shadow is like this as well, but it's a different, grittier, almost urban ambience rather than the organic natural works of Philips, Johnson, and Lane. Clocking in at 73:58 Silence Speaks in Shadow is a long-running single track that immerses the listener in a blend of natural ambience and harmoniously synthesized chording. With Silence Speaks in Shadow Vnuk Jr. has created an undisputedly great work that emphasizes the harsh undertones of the urban landscape while sonically capturing the mysterious beauty of a rainy night. A fantastic recording that transcends as well as it projects."
--Matt Borghi, The Organization of Sound

.

"Paul Vnuk Jr. fills up the entire length of his first CD with a wash of synth sounds that roll in like the sea. To which he adds the occasional sounds of rain, running cars and other environmental sounds. Very much music to pass your time with...."
--Vital E-Zine, Franz DeWaard

.