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1
Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Farshadow" CD by Within Reason
« on: October 27, 2014, 10:17:18 AM »


Within Reason "Farshadow" CD

"Farshadow" is fourth album by Within Reason (including "Substrate: Collected Elements") and third released on Darren Bergstein's Anodize/Periphery labels. Driven by its sole protagonist, Gregory Kyryluk, the man behind Alpha Wave Movements and now inactive Open Canvas. "Farshadow" was released in the middle of June 2014 in limited edition of, as far I remember, 100 copies. As usual for the latest Anodize releases, the CD is packaged in hinged rectangular tin with window displaying the CD, while the credits sticker is on the back panel. I have been reviewing "Subtle Shift" as well as "Transient Broadcasts" and both albums were absolutely masterful, so let's dive deeply into "Farshadow" now!!!

Nearly 10-minute long title track "Farshadow" unfolds the journey with hauntingly enigmatic drifts, smoothly evolving into mesmerizingly spiraling auralscape fastidiously reinforced by ear-tickling high-tech pulses and fragments. Invading beats keep on striking until the transmutation into vibrantly pounding escapade is fully accomplished. Wow, Within Reason rules once again, this is electronica cybernetica at its most transcendental!!! The next piece, "Gossamer Mechanics", is the shortest one with clocking to nearly 7-minute mark. It safely keeps on the cyber-tech path, yet this time much more relieving and earthy, incorporating crystalline grooves, buoyant tribals, organic traceries and all meticulously surrounded by utterly gorgeous, luminously spellbinding melodies. Sonic bravura continues throughout!!! "Pacifica" swiftly shifts into highly spectacular realms, bridging hyper-modern trancescaping soundfields with electrifyingly chillout rhythms, while voice transmissions, cyber biotics and even some didge groans emerge here and there. This is almost inexpressible, pure sonic bliss or call it whatever you want, maybe even a nominee for Composition of the Year Award. I take off my virtual hat to you, Gregory!!! "Port Of Call" remains in hypnotic terrains with droning nostalgia, enriched by spikier elements, rather less vigorous and more insistent, although later the track elevates into fully pulsing vortex wrapped by some wistful blankets. A quite peculiar soundcarving, but to be true, it's not easy now to compete with phenomenal tracks like "Pacifica" or "Farshadow". "Shizen" is occupied by arctic drones, slowly growing into more dramatic scenarios. Distant heartbeat permeates, shortly joined by industrialized rhythms and hissy sheets. The overall soundwall becomes utterly monumental, the gates are unlocked and the listener is confronted with stunningly expansive horizons filled with breathtaking intensity. A true epic tour de force performance!!! The closing track, "Shores Of Symmetry", opens with sibilant drones, but then follows chameleonic metamorphose into gently pulsing texture, steadily mesmerizing with tricky nuances thrown in.

"Farshadow" is according to my ears a magnum opus by Within Reason, thrillingly flavored, exuberantly detailed and intricately manifold, but amazingly compact and balanced. And as always for this ambient icon, polished to pristine perfection. Unfortunately, this Anodize CD edition is sold out already, but a re-release on pro CDr is available on Gregory Kyryluk's Harmonic Resonance Recordings with different artwork packaged in a standard jewel case. So don't let this gem to slip under your radar!!!

Richard Gürtler (Oct 27, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

2
Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Timelines" CD by Erik Wøllo
« on: October 26, 2014, 06:08:39 AM »


Erik Wøllo "Timelines" CD

"Timelines" is, if I am right, 18th solo album by Norwegian iconic ambient guitarist Erik Wøllo. Released in February 2014 as his 4th solo opus for Projekt in attractive 4-panel digipak with catchy front cover photo by Oxa and additional inside/back cover digital images by Erik. Sam Rosenthal is credited for a graphic design.

"Inception" ignites the journey with gorgeously unfolding widescreen panoramas masterfully merged with filigree string and piano magic and percussive subtleties. Hauntingly embracing melodies take the center stage and smoothly evolve into expressively nuanced orchestrations. Top-notch opener showcasing Erik Wøllo at the very peak of his trademarking blending of the acoustics with electronics. More please!!! "Blue Rondo" unfolds with tranquilly expansive piano motifs, but soon the track moves into sparkily colored paths, when pulsing synthetic percussions sneak in and slowly evolve into broader rhythmic horizons, outstandingly undulating and glowing. Evocative shrilling stringed vistas reveal as well. Another excellent composition, welcome to the musically superior paradise owned by this crafted Norwegian!!! "Color Of Mind" immediately attracts with swirling effects, but soothing pristine acoustic strings and warmly cinematic piano nostalgia steal the show. Velvety crescendos paint some truly charming images. "Visions" straightly shift into utterly laid-back heaven guarded by percussive clapping and shaking shimmers, dreamy synth delicacies, cheerful strings and poignant piano theme. These chillout euphonies are also occasionally pierced by virtuosic ebow insignias. This is certainly Erik Wøllo at his most tranquillizing, an ultimate Hall of Fame composition, bravo!!! "Pathfinder", with 7 and half minutes the longest piece, features highly expansive choir-like washes precisely coupled with ear-tickling mesmerizing grooves and spikier rhythms, again powerfully evocative and soothingly translucent. "Spirit Of The Place" blends joyful acoustic strings with rattling tribal essences, but soon pleasantly melodious passages invade and wander across. "Along The Journey" opens with distant glimpses, then warmly expressive piano joins the stage along with flimsy percussions and delicate strings. The composition later inconspicuously transmutes into intenser movements, gorgeously meandering and proficiently reinforced by ebow swells. Be prepared for another triumphant and intricately rewarding listening experience!!! The shortest, nearly 5-minutes long "Timescape" reveals with misty sceneries and serene amalgamate of strings and piano, which are quickly bridged with lyrical richness, exquisitely accomplished and deeply moving. Another masterpiece!!! "Ocean" closes this ride with beautifully immense realms coalescing hazy organics with warmly embracing driftscapes. Utterly sublime outro!!!

"Timelines" album is completely loaded with Erik Wøllo's extraordinary mastery, so all I can do is to applaud and shout "Bravo, Maestro!!!". This is an audiophile sound quality elixir for my ears, so don't miss this beauty!!! But this is not the alone stellar performance by this ace during 2014, because Erik Wøllo has released in the meantime another two very strong recordings. Firstly, "Tundra" CDr EP was released in July on Projekt in limited edition of 200 copies, unfortunately, as far I know, it's sold out already. And then, about two weeks ago, his second collaboration with German soundsculptor Bernhard Wöstheinrich was released on Ian Boddy's DiN label. It's entitled "Weltenuhr" and it's another gem, but that's the next story...

Richard Gürtler (Oct 26, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

3


Specta Ciera + The Circular Ruins "Middle Distance" CDr

Specta Ciera is Devin Underwood (Boston, MA), while behind The Circular Ruins is hidden no one else but Anthony Paul Kerby aka APK (London, Ontario), the leading mastermind behind DataObscura label and several other projects. His extensive discography since 2002 needs no bigger introduction here (also Nunc Stans, Lammergeyer, The Winterhouse), but Specta Ciera is a rather newer name on the map, although I came across Devin Underwood's name for the first time in the summer of 2011, when focusing on his collaboration "The Vivid Unmapped" with Jacob Newman, released on DataObscura the same year in May. "Middle Distance" (CDr), was released the end of March 2014 and is packaged, as usual for all releases on this sympathetic Canadian label, in a slim poly case. Featured are also subtly elegant graphics by Angela Weiser.

The album unfolds with the title track "Middle Distance", a soothingly floating and meandering drone piece, carefully enriched by various, constantly emerging embellishments, always richly colored, some breathy, some rather ear-tickling, some nearly intangible, but always appearing in authentic harmony with scenic expansions. Calmly immersing intro!!! The 3-minute "Promontory" is intenser, heavily percolated with shoreline sounds and crossing through gorgeously evocative archipelagos. Brief, but very effective. On "Solitary Window", which reaches only one and a half minutes, distant sea waves can be heard and observed, but the center stage is stolen by deeply pensive piano and glitchy reminiscences. Very short, but long forgotten memories are immediately unlocked and hauntingly expressive ambience fills the room. "Falling Into Place" quickly slips into more eclectic terrains, sculpted with assorted peculiarly sounding emergences, although some relieving glimpses can be caught when children's voice samples permeate here and there. The middle part is slightly calmer, while toward the end the piece moves back to noisier soundfields, albeit continuously decreasing into murmured undulations. "Depth Perception" returns to drone terrains, but reinforced by an array of sonic accompaniments, ranging from lushly twinkling to high-tech piercing. Uniquely yearning and reverberating. "Past Tense" incorporates a slightly cavernous feel, but soon harsher drones invade, again augmented by various fragments like tinkles, sparks, groans, stringed tensions or noisy swells. 10 minutes of quite bizarre soundsculpting. "Virtual Image" opens with windy restless drones bridged with trickily arising sonic subtleties and nostalgically permeating picturesqueness. "Gathering Evidence" dives into soothingly floating realms, but too ephemeral, because diverse voice fragments step in along with piano morsels and various, nearly ear-splitting tinkles. But the closing part returns again into pure tranquility, and is hauntingly embracing. "Tesla", with 10-plus minutes the longest piece, opens with cavernous drone, progressing and creating resonating spirals, perforated by crystalline tinkles, enigmatic echoes, dissonant circuits and jarring outbursts. Weirdly mindscaping!!! "Empty Verandah" closes this album and it's another, slightly longing composition precisely merging background monochromatic drift with touching crescendos.

"Middle Distance", nearly one hour long, is certainly an amply flavored joint release requiring deeply perceptive listening, so plug in your headphones and explore this unconventional soundcarving. Always fully ingenious with many rewarding entrances into uncharted drone ambient territories. Immersing, disturbing, transcending!!! Together with this physical CDr album was released at the same time on Bandcamp a digital download only EP featuring 6 additional tracks from the same sessions, entitled "Different Perspectives". And last but not least, both artists have now in the pipeline their new releases. The Circular Ruins "Full Circle" CDr has been announced already by DataObscura, release date in November 2014. And Devin Underwood will return too, with his second collaboration with Jacob Newman, "Sending The Past", on Carpe Sonum Records. So stay tuned, but in the meantime make sure to discover treasured "Middle Distance" recording!!!

Richard Gürtler (Oct 20, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

4


Shane Morris & Mystified "Evolution" CD

After "Epoch" (April 2012) and "Emergence" (June 2013), here comes the culmination of "Inspired Evolution" trilogy, entitled "Evolution" and released on Spotted Peccary Music during August 2014 in catchy 4-panel disc eco wallet featuring original photography, layout and design by SPM/Lotuspike visual stalwarts Jourdan Laik and Daniel Pipitone. First there was the Epoch of reptiles, then followed the Emergence of mammals, while this final installment focuses of the Evolution of early humans. So another adventurously transporting journey reveals...

"Fire Gathering" instantly calls back the memories of mesmerizingly mindscaping percussions and mysteriously dissonant rumblings explored on "Emergence", the transition into a new era has just begun. Intriguingly wrapped by tensely nuanced atmospheres, which brilliantly display peculiar insignias of both soundcarvers. With your headphones on, a powerfully immersing listening experience awaits!!! "Growing Into New Territory" quickly shifts into warmly relieving zones, quite panoramic, reinforced with subtly pulsing synthetic sounds, while additional piercing fragments slowly emanate and alternate with array of organic flutters. Delicious tribal-like rhythm inconspicuously sneaks in and meticulously amalgamates with hypnotic pulsation. Stunningly spellbinding transmutation continues, bravo, gentlemen!!! "Waiting For The Storm To Pass", the longest piece on the album with 13 and half minutes, merges undulating expansive drifts, continuous flow of strongly mesmerizing repetitive helixes and occasional spasmodic outbursts. Tranquilly high-tech, trance-infused shamanic performance with ear-splitting climaxes thrown in!!! The next cut, "Hunting In The Hills", moves into shadowy drone terrains, rather unfathomably monochromatic on the back, exquisitely bridged with warmly embracing crescendos, persistently mesmerizing twinkles, ear-tickling pandemoniums, glimpses of tribal origins and ephemeral shaking subtleties. This is nothing but truly phenomenal sonic chamaeleon and most likely, a magnum opus of the whole trilogy!!! And the track title is exactly chosen too. The final piece, "The Trials Of Evolved Man", quickly metamorphoses and follows the path of swiftly pulsing crystalline endurances punctiliously coalesced with gently nuanced sky high drones. Filled with warm velvety mesmerism, this is your everyday dose of trance-imbued elixir!!!

About 10 months ago, after recapitulating "Emergence", I didn't have any idea how these guys want to top first two parts of the trilogy with their closing chapter. But now, I can confirm that Shane Morris & Mystified (aka Thomas Park) have achieved their challenge. Yes, they did it, because they are amazing sonic storytellers and "Evolution" is a genuinely virtuosic accomplishment, strongly distinguishing and stirringly entertaining!!! Certainly another must-have, but in case you have missed "Epoch" and/or "Emergence", then I strongly recommend to complete the whole trilogy and fully experience this spectacularly immersing primordial escapade!!! To wrap up the credits for this album, the mastering duties were handled again by Lotuspike guru Ben Cox at The Armory studio. "Inspired Evolution" trilogy is undoubtedly a milestone!!! What will be the next chronicle?

Richard Gürtler (Oct 19, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

5


Annemarie Borg "In Nomine Cetus" CD

Annemarie Borg, born in Paris with French/Swedish background and based in London, is the main protagonist and founder behind Antara Project focusing on strong connection between various artistic languages and the world we live in. Annemarie's musical explorations cover a quite eclectic range of terrains, stretching from poetry/modern classical through environmentally infused euphonies to deep drone reflections. For the first time I came across Annemarie's name around 2010 on richly flavored collaborative project Thamnos "WIR", which featured also Tomas Weiss, but this is a closed chapter. "In Nomine Cetus" CD, self-released during June 2014, is, I believe, 5th album by Annemarie Borg, including above mentioned Thamnos and "Breaking Through" compilation presenting tracks, collaborations, poetry and visuals by various artists such as Bruno Sanfilippo, Aes Dana, Nicolas Meier, Marc Yeats, Ann Schmitz, Keith Farnish, Philip Wells and others. The other two are "Secrets", a classically orchestrated collaboration with John Wilson (2003) and first solo album by Annemarie, ambient/drone/contemporary driven "Iridescent Perceptions", released at the end of 2012. Back to "In Nomine Cetus", as mentioned in the liner notes, the album is dedicated to all Cetaceans across the oceans and the Island of Hawaii.

"Clamo Oceanus" reveals this fascinating odyssey with deeply submerging dronescape, enhanced by assorted whale sounds ranging from eerily emerging to transcendentally shrilling, while continuously guarded by Annemarie's moaning voice magics and surrounded by soothing sounds of ocean waves. Graciously immense cover images of 4-panel disc eco wallet (pictures and artwork by Annemarie) closely interweave with symphoniously encircling faint underwater zones. 13-minute "Closer In The Distance" safely cruises through magnificently graceful horizons, hauntingly colored with natural subtleties, deeply evocative voices and bioacoustics, and serenely nuanced epic climaxes. Colossally majestic masterpiece!!! "Lacrime" is filled with orchestral sadness, cautiously meandering and crescendoing through touchingly elegiac expressions. No wonder, this composition brings into the spotlight Japan's controversial annual dolphin slaughter, which begins in the infamous town of Taiji in September and lasts until the end of February."L'Adieu Au Jour" dives deeper into the unfathomable depths, where massively monochromatic drifts are bridged with intangible voice-like drones and diverse repertoire of singing Cetaceans. Fascinatingly intense and monumental, before inconspicuously transmuting into warmly cinematic and captivatingly expansive realms melted with some hazy piano fragments and pierced with additional underwater dissonances. This might be the pinnacle of the whole album, a truly magnificent listening experience!!! It's a pity here and there the track is permeated by some unwanted hiss. "Miserere" unfolds with bizarrely circling industrial-like breaths, which are later shifted slightly to the back and the center stage is invaded by ethereal voices. But still the interactions between the voices and rumblings are absolutely stunning, strikingly contrasting, yet aurally symmetrical and deeply mesmerizing!!! The next piece, "Kealakekua Bay", Annemarie dedicates to her Hawaiian friends and it pays tribute to the natural beauties of this treasured coastline (Kona coast, Hawaii), where the coral reefs slope gorgeously from the shore into the water. Tranquilly floating and cascading with perplexing whisperings and whale sounds, balsamic sea recordings and all subtly wrapped by orchestral drama delicacy. I should add that all whale sounds on this album are used, altered and edited with kind permission from Whale Songs by iWhales."Cantiques Des Etoiles - Antares" closes this journey with distinguishably sculpted chants and wistful drones. Annemarie's chants are truly mindscaping, at times nearly crumbled when listening on my headphones, I even thought it was a sound issue, but this might be all intentional. Evocative, spellbinding and most of all powerfully transcendental!!!

"In Nomine Cetus" takes the listener to some of the most beautiful and majestic aquatic sceneries, but unfortunately also to some sorrowful ones. It certainly deserves to be explored and supported, because Annemarie Borg is deeply focused and utterly talented composer and singer. "In Nomine Cetus" is made from the heart!!! My only complain is the soundquality, the overall sound is a bit flat to my taste plus some extraneous hissing sounds need to be removed. Otherwise, bravo, Annemarie, keep on creative soundsculpting and I really look forward to your future projects!!! By the way, a new album is planned for spring 2015...

Richard Gürtler (Oct 15, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

6


Loren Nerell / Mark Seelig "Tree Of Life" CD

Long awaited collaboration of Long Beach, California resident and gamelan master Loren Nerell and German based shamanic healer Mark Seelig saw the light toward the end of April 2014 on Projekt. 4-panel digipak comes with awe-inspiring "Tree Of Life" cover and additional "Ring Of Chaos 4" inside and back images created by renowned US fractal art manipulator and deviantArt member, Tom Wilcox. Thus visual splendor is immediately achieved!!!

20-minute "Wacah Chan" unfolds the journey with tranquilizing wildlife field recordings, precisely amalgamated with Mark Seelig's wailing overtone wizardry and guarded by distant drone. Additional enigmatic tinkles and elusive tribal drumming join the stage along with ceremonial chants. Flute and ocarina murmurs permeate here and there. Steve Roach is credited for his ocarina performance. Ingeniously sculpted multicultural auralscape awaits here, absolutely magnificent!!! "Cintamani" attracts with its lazy groovy rhythm, deeply mesmerizing and again richly infused with primordial earmarks of both protagonists. And Max Link (Mark Seelig's step-son) delivers his talent on ibo drum. A high-spirited elixir for my ears!!! "Yggdrasil" masterfully bridges arsenal of tribal artifacts with eerie roars, once again strongly hypnotic and mind-expanding escapade showcasing all performing tribesmen at the very top of their distinctive musicianship. "Kayon" is announced by gentle waves washing against the shoreline, but soon this soothing scenery is merged with intangible chants by Kathrine Wright and sparse gamelan textures, which slowly magnify and secure the center stage with its mysteriously fragranced tinkling realms. Guest list keeps on expanding as Gabi Link steps in with her performance on saron (a traditional instrument in gamelan). By the way, at the end of August Gabi became Mrs. Seelig, congratulations!!! And kudos to all performers, because the listener is transported directly to Bali to experience unique culture filled with immense spirituality. With "Acacia" the listening room is pervaded with oriental perfume of Hindustani classical music, when Pankaj Mishra from India reveals his exceptional mastery in playing sarangi. This bowed, short-necked stringed instrument adds with its crying sound another strongly immersing ethnographical dimension and when efficiently counterpointed with serenely embracing natural sounds, the result of this filigree fusion is deeply meditative and intensely expressive. But this magical aural bliss continues also though the closing piece, 11-minute "Arbor Vitae", when the primary stage is stolen by gorgeously nuanced contemplative flute and hazed by wetland field recordings, leaded by mesmerizing croaks of, I believe, tree frogs and chirping cicadas, with some backing by tambura-like drones. Spellbindingly rewarding conclusion!!!

With "Tree Of Life" each dedicated seeker of extraordinary sonic territories encounters a profoundly rich, intriguingly perfumed, yet splendidly compact and ingeniously equilibrated potpourri of divergent, but quintessential musical ingredients ranging from the Americas through South Asia to Indonesian cultures. Both, Loren Nerell & Mark Seelig have confirmed once more their status of true sonic explorers and innovators, and like-minded virtuosos, who met on the stage for the first time during the 2010 SoundQuest Fest in Tucson. Four years later we can celebrate this magically transporting masterwork!!! And huge compliments also to all other, above mentioned contributors!!! A milestone!!!

Richard Gürtler (Oct 05, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

7


Jeff Pearce "With Evening Above" CD

Phenomenal ambient guitar soundscaper Jeff Pearce makes impressive comeback to his more ambient-driven landscapes with self-released album "With Evening Above" CD. Out since June 2014 as his 12th solo album, Jeff's most recent compositions bring back unforgettable memories of wonderful recordings such as "Bleed" (2002) or "Summer Solstice" (2003). Sure, previous albums "Lingering Light", "Rainshadow Sky" and "In The Season Of Fading Light" belong to the pedestal of filigree intimate guitar and piano bravura, but many core fans were eagerly waiting for the reappearance of his spaciously drifting atmospheric era. "With Evening Above" showcases Jeff Pearce at the very top of his blooming guitar wizardry, when hauntingly soothing guitar melodies are carefully counterpointed and alternated with graciously expansive driftscapes!!!

The title track "With Evening Above" opens the album with its warmly embracing fragile stringed magic safely holding the signature that is only Jeff Pearce. Gorgeously evocative and intimate!!! As much refreshing as a gentle nocturnal breeze and as much captivating as a nightly scene with a full moon, sheer aural magic!!! Actually, this song was originally released on "Summer Solstice" CDr in 2003, now it has been re-recorded for this album. "The Same Stars" immediately shifts into grandiosely meandering expanses, soothingly infinite and stunningly graceful. My ears are constantly bathed in ultimate atmospheric elixir sculpted by undeniable wizardry of its sole protagonist. Kudos, Maestro!!! There is a nice story behind the title of this composition, which was inspired by Jeff's younger daughter, Fiona. The next composition, "A Clear Night", quickly returns to gently shimmering crystalline string melodies, dreamy and relaxing!!! Longer "After Dark", clocking to nearly 8 minutes, follows the path of "The Same Stars" and drifts into heartwarming, but slightly enigmatic celestial spheres, filled with continuously rising and falling harmonic, choir-like currents. Exquisite drone reverberations are guarding above and tickling the ears with mindscaping helical coils. Another pinnacle!!! "Ghost Of Summers Past" gets over two and half minutes and dusts off with its tenderly pristine strings long forgotten memories. Immensely reflective!!! "Cloudfall" glides right away into unbounded sky-high realms of unmeasurable grace and magnificence. Welcome to another masterfully drifting panoramic paradise!!! Shorter "A Closed Circle (Farewell)" instantly attracts with its emotionally driven stringed subtlety. Nearly 22 minutes long "No Matter How Far" closes this album with soothingly embracing soundscape, floating and ebbing into gorgeously immersing and euphonious fields, reinforced occasionally by slowly emerging distant pulsations. Cyclical harmoniousness of this composition is enchantingly warm and utterly evocative, audibly absolute brilliance is again accomplished!!! It's still unbelievable that all this beauty is created by electric guitar and additional processing. A pure masterpiece and an epic conclusion too!!! The title of this composition, although "rather" updated..., was directly inspired by Jeff's older daughter Thalia. And with this composition also unforgettable memories of one of my all time fave recordings, "The River Of Appearance", inconspicuously awake...

Credited on this album are also Robert Rich for mastering and Rainer Gembalczyk for graphic design. How to wrap this review up? I am almost wordless after the final track, because Jeff Pearce, in West Point, Indiana, based sonic healer, did it again!!! Yes, "With Evening Above", a 54-minute album, is fully loaded with his gifted guitar virtuosity and it's another brightly shinning jewel in his treasured discography. Obviously one of the highlights of 2014!!! Bravissimo, Jeff!!!

Richard Gürtler (Sep 28, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

8


Robert Davies "What The Moon Reveals" CDr

A strong connection between Robert Davies and DataObscura leads to another exceptional release, soothingly entitled "What The Moon Reveals", released July 18th, 2014. As his 13th solo installment for DataObscura, the album immediately strikes us with its gorgeous cover art, created by Robert himself, who is also a gifted collage & paint visual artist. Both the title and artwork us invite to explore truly magnificent nocturnal vistas. So let's dive deeply into Robert's soundsculptings.

The opening soundscape, nearly 7 minutes long, "Beneath Lichened Branches", sounds exactly as it's titled. Lush nightly chirps mingle placidly with monochromatic encircling blankets of sound. Delicate dissonances continuously emerge throughout and travel across the ears of the attentive listener. No wonder full immersion is promptly achieved. Slightly longer, "Ash Tree Shade" safely rides on these hauntingly mindscaping paths with ominously oscillating washes, while an array of gentle buzzes and swirls is constantly counterpointed with precisely placed audible performances of forest inhabitants. Always revealing gorgeous harmony and a fascinating tranquility!!! The shorter "Moss Dappled Path" moves into spookier terrains, partially illuminated with lightly tinkling cascades and resurfacing nocturnal chirps. But peculiarly eerie ingredients are safely riding atop. Awesomely transcendental!!! "Of Mouldering Stone" employs rather monotonous, but quite intense and deeply mesmerizing drone pierced by hissy organics. Phantasmal sceneries keep on rising. The next piece, "Drifts Of Primrose", firmly holds its flatlined background, but the fore is stolen by poetically expressive piano patterns. A soothingly ethereal walk awaits this time!!! "Abandoned Fountain" immediately slips deeper into an ancient, forgotten drone realm, filled with perplexing undulations, while the sounds of gurgling water are echoed by the immense darkness of subterranean recess. "Of Thorns And Brambles", at 9 and a half minutes the longest track, leaves the cavernous world and heads into more gracious and expansive landscapes, with blossoming natural marvels, serenely nuanced, spiced with mysterious tinkles and again lushly embellished with location recordings. It sounds magnificent with headphones!!! "Evening's Dusky Glow" closes this nightly journey with enigmatically drifting and billowing drone texture, which is calmly permeated with longing smoothness and bridged with hypnotically humming noises. A very nice ending!!!

"What The Moon Reveals" is another strong album by Robert Davies, it doesn't reach the expansive intensity of "Arboreal" for example, but this wasn't the sculptor's intention. As usual for this in Ithaca, New York based soundscaper, the strength of this album lies in his constant ability to punctiliously amalgamate utterly embracing, at times deeply mindscaping and stirringly dissonant drone escapades with carefully selected and polished on-site recordings. All the time loaded with euphoniously rewarding subtleties!!! And by the way, scheduled for release on Databloem is Robert Davies' collaborative project with Canadian drone sculptor Blake Gibson aka Broken Harbour, so stay tuned!!!

Richard Gürtler (Sep 21, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

9


Robert Scott Thompson "Arcana" CD

US composer Robert Scott Thompson, who is based in Roswell, Georgia, belongs to the most productive and versatile artists recording on the scene, no wonder he describes himself as musical alchemist working within ambient, minimal meditative, electroacoustic, contemporary and avantgarde genres. With "Arcana" Robert Scott Thompson revisits acclaimed "golden age of ambient" period, when his masterworks such as "The Silent Shore" or "Frontier" were released. Since then more than 16 years passed, but of course "Arcana" is wrapped by his distinctive signature sound design developed over his extensive recording career. For this purpose Relaxed Machinery gang seem to be an appropriate place for publishing this album. Released in the middle of April 2014, the album is packaged in eye-catching digipak with stunningly ambiguous cover and inside images taken from a painting by Victoria Bearden and design by rM companion Steve Brand. Mastering by Nev Walker. And on the top of that "Arcana" comes as a glassmastered CD. Wow, that's a full package, definitely a collector's dream!!!

The opening piece, "Liminal Worlds", unfolds with helically reverberating sounds, strongly mesmerizing, punctiliously amalgamated with wistful washes, heavenly choir-like drones and assorted gently tinkling subtleties. Hauntingly nuanced throughout, this is a grand master introduction of Robert Scott Thompson's infinite virtuosity!!! Shorter "Imagination Is Memory" continues on highly distinctive path with gorgeously cascading texture, masterfully melting warmly soothing passages of velvety strings and gentle washes with suddenly piercing crescendos. Organic cacophony announces nearly 10-minute "Night Has A Thousand Eyes", which swiftly blossoms into blissfully expansive panoramas, utterly gracious and balmy guarded above by flickering rumbles. Rattling rustle fragments sneak in as well and are as much tranquil. Dive deeply into this nocturnal paradise with your headphones on, because this composition reveals all the magic of Robert Scott Thompson's soulful soundsculpting. An Ambient Hall of Fame listening experience awaits!!! And unforgettable "Cloud Fragments" are reawaken once more... "Arcana", the title track and the longest one, clocking to nearly 12 minutes, keeps on soothingly embracing paths taken by its predecessor. Gracefully floating and quietly undulating through spaciously symphonious sceneries. And even if fragilely swirling embellishments evolve in the last third into few sharper outbursts, the overall feel is still strongly harmonious and melodiously captivating. On "Unwoven" humming wind surrounds some sparse piano notes merged with minimal, but transcendentally cacophonous patterns. "Epoché" quickly returns to more euphonious terrains with ebbing serenities unveiling truly enchanting nostalgic reminiscences. Vague apparitional gradations emerge irregularly in the distance and add peculiarly mysterious touch to this outstanding composition. Bravo!!! "Last Hours Of Ancient Sunlight" attracts immediately with larger dose of abrasively ear-tickling percussive sounds intermingled with other ominously tense fragments and vigorously counterpointed with dramatically traversing cinematic layers. Additional credit for stunning percussion performance goes to Robert Scott Thompson's colleague Stuart Gerber, who is Associate Professor of Percussion at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Wow, this is a truly colorful sonic escapade, strangely disturbing throughout, but at the same time uniquely gorgeous!!! Yes, this contrasting layering might be easily applied as one of the Robert's most trademarking earmarks, wealthily exhibited also on "Arcana". "In Situ" returns to more sublime terrains, although strongly encircling, and again meticulously enhanced by well-hidden, but immense reverberations, quickly unfolding and appearing in massive tides. "Waning In The Glow Of Unknowns" is fronted by expressive, exotically scented string-like sounds arising from tranquil sadness reflected in the water of lush swampland. A very nice, soothingly deliberate conclusion.

Audible insignias of Robert Scott Thompson are all over this highly polished album, so immerse deeply into "Arcana" and let his highly distinguishing soundsculpting reveal all its magic on you. Certainly one of the highlights of 2014 and an exuberantly glowing addition to the growing roster of Relaxed Machinery artists. And by the way, if you prefer digital version of "Arcana", then you can count on extra 45-minutes long version featuring 3 exclusive bonus tracks (including nearly 30-minute ambientscape "Zero Point Field"), recorded during the making of this album. "Arcana" is an all-inclusive aural and visual delight supplied by one of the undisputed creative geniuses of the genre!!!

Richard Gürtler (Sep 13, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

10


Mathias Grassow "First Gift Of Life" CD

Enigmatic drone visionary Mathias Grassow has released "Second Gift Of Life" at the end of 2012. One and half year later comes its inverted follow up, the first chapter "First Gift Of Life". Again released on Databloem (May 2014) and packaged in uniformed digifile tastefully designed by Theo Rabou.

Announced as a 60-minute long monochromatic drone piece, so I am pretty sure this is going to be a quite challenging task to review this album. A dedicated exploratory session is a truly crucial thing in this case, no question about this, because passive listening might easily turn into an absolute disaster. But I am not afraid of this, because all devotees know exactly the most hidden entrances into Mathias Grassow's spectacular inner domains. "First Gift Of Life" is divided into four parts, ranging between 16 and 13 and half minutes. Of course don't expect any pauses or overlapping passages, the drone can't glide more seamlessly. "Part One" immediately unfolds with ultra flatlined drone therapy, drifting through subtle tides and exquisitely augmented by perplexingly twinkling distant subtleties, while mysterious gongs ride atop. Powerfully mindscaping dronescape reaches almost inconspicuously its intense peak toward the end with pervading dissonant layers. Welcome to the drone Eden!!! I am reawaken for a brief moment by buzzing discordances and I see that "Second Part" is already in its full bloom. So don't expect any pauses or overlapping passages, this stunningly intense drone scenario can't glide more seamlessly. Yet precisely tickling my ears with high-pitched, mesmerizingly towering oddities, while guarding viscous magmatic flow of drones. This is certainly Mathias Grassow at the very top of his ferocious dronesculpting. Blissfully transporting magic indeed, there is no way to escape from the realms owned by this undeniable Drone Emperor!!! Yep, I again missed transmuting point between "Part Two" and "Part Three", but around 4th-5th minute the drone quietly extends into even more immense and gracious expanse, but accompanying piercing delicacies are slowly substituted by meandering hissy blankets. But this dominates for few minutes only, then mysterious tinkles resurface again and continuously reinforce monolithic drone fields. Toward the end occasional cyber-tech bleeps rise from the immersion and tranquilly amalgamate with oracular sparkles and solitary gongs, when preserving deliberately vanishing drone tension. Wow, I am finally detecting inaudible gap between two parts, "Part Four" is ignited!!! Spacious, but quietly free-floating, with slightly decreasing volume through the beginning, but that seems to be the calm before the storm. Drone monochromatism slips into the deepest abyssal domains with enormously humming reverberations, illuminating scraps disappear in unfathomable depths of nothingness. Absolutely breathtaking transition!!! But the drone mysteriously crescendoes through the entirely fascinating subterranean sceneries. Heavyweight drifts, which in the meantime smoothly move upward into brighter glimpses, are meticulously interrupted with crepuscular rumbles and intangible squeaks. A grand finale, the destination birth!!!

Did I say monochromatic? Sure, utterly monotonous, but thrillingly adventurous at the same time with constantly rewarding, well-hidden treasures, more please!!! A headphone listening guarantees an extraordinary journey to explore and map the most spellbinding mysteries of the body and mind, follow the drone Shaman!!!

Richard Gürtler (Sep 07, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

11


Anomalous Disturbances "Archive Three" CDr

Anomalous Disturbances, a drone guitar project driven by Terrence O'Brien from Vancouver, Canada, belongs to the most active members of The Ambient Ping community, which, by the way, celebrated two weeks ago its 15th anniversary (I am wishing many happy years to come!!!). "Archive Three" is comprised of 5 tracks recorded during 2007 and 2008 as a part of "Archive Two" recording sessions. Originally released in digital formats in the middle of October 2013, now, since May 2014 additionally available on pro CDr format packaged in a nice 4-panel eco sleeve with disc flap holder. Definitely a great decision, Terry, for all those nuts-collectors like me!!!

The title of the opening track, "A Sad And Beautiful World", exactly displays the atmosphere of this gorgeously floating ambience. A very calm and deeply evocative soundsculpting with hauntingly interplaying passages of soaring, slightly high-pitched wistfulness and soothingly permeating stillness. Nearly 11 and half minutes of virtuoso guitar aesthetics!!! "Pipe Dream # 1", although revealing calmly, incorporates more intense and cascading texture, yet keeping throughout a very warm approach with graciously unfolding immense panoramic touch. My ears are continuously bathed in splendidly embracing drone blissfulness, more please!!! "Mysterium Tremendum # 17", as indicated by its title, straightly dives deeply into a giant, chasmal realms filled with remote, eerily monochromatic hums, which are persistently pierced by mysteriously undulating and illuminating tenseness. A journey into a truly mindscaping zones, where spectacular, shadowy subterranean images are revealed with massively towering sceneries. "When Darkness Falls", with 16 minutes the longest piece on "Archive Three", begins with tensely penetrating dissonances, backed by expansive drifts and occasional chirping effects. But the leading dense drone gently increases and inconspicuously reaches remarkably grandiose dimensions, warmly ethereal and symphoniously spacious capturing all the essences of fascinating nocturnal journeying. An awe-inspiring sound magic awaits here, bravo!!! The last piece, "Melting Worlds", moves on rising and falling waves of tranquil soundscapes mingled with unsettling flutters exquisitely colored with oscillating spatial twinkles, but always surging within intriguing earthy feel. A very strong finish!!!

I remember well reviewing few years ago "Archive Two" 2xCDr as well as Terry O'Brien's collaborative project Wassonic with Matthew Poulakakis. Once again, Anomalous Disturbances showcases his exceptionally crafted and distinctively sophisticated artistry in guitar sound manipulations. So it's quite obvious that "Archive Three" gets my highest recommendation, it's a must-have listening experience for all aficionados of guitar-driven dronescaping!!! And just the same goes for the rest of Anomalous Disturbances' discography, which include 6 solo albums and except already mentioned Wassonic also "SADU Live" album with Sylken and URM kindred spirits. Not to forget regarding "Archive Three", cover photo-art and design credits go to Paul Cook and Tim Gerwing, Richard Dolmat is credited for recording and mixing, while additional mixing and mastering was executed by Chris O'Brien (Terry's brother).

Richard Gürtler (Sep 01, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

12


Byron Metcalf & Mark Seelig "Intention" CD

Virtuoso drummer and shamanic powerhouse, Byron Metcalf, and bansuri player and throat singer, Mark Seelig, both certified transpersonal therapists, joined their spiritedly galvanizing forces on "Intention" album, which was released at the end of April 2014 on Projekt. Jaw-dropping cover art by Kancano of deviantART gang and additional graphic design by Sam Rosenthal make from this 4-panel digipak a pure visual bliss!!! Let's fire the journey...

The title track "Intention", the longest one on this album, goes just over 22 and half minute mark and unfolds this powerfully creative sound wizardry with rather slower, but utterly mindscaping medicine bridging Byron's mesmerizingly passionate hand drumming with Mark's mysterious overtone voice magic hovering above and bansuri flute delicacies. Kindred spirit, didgeridoo par excellence player Dashmesh Khalsa (known from celebrated works such as "Dream Tracker" or "Live At SoundQuest Fest") delivers on the stage his immense talent as well. Primordial languages of these shamans are precisely dissolved into a highly ecstatic amalgamate curing the listener's body and mind. You simply can't go wrong with such line up, so the gates to the tribal-trance paradise are unlocked, enter now!!! "Surrender" kicks with much more vibrant palette of drumming, while Mark's throat singing is still safely riding atop. But the artistry of Byron's volcanic drumming can't be stopped, so Mark levels the tension with his overtone turmoil. Emerging spasmodic didge barks are provided this time by another world-class ace of this instrument, Rob Thomas of Inlakesh. A truly thunderous performance and a serious workout for your speakers!!! Feel the heat, feel the beat!!! "Encounter", with 16 minutes the second longest track, slows down the tempo a bit, at least for the first 6 minutes, but then this ancient blend of drumming, overtoning and growling erupts again into a hyper-active, blazingly spellbinding adventure. This is certainly another masterly accomplished dose of explosive tribal ambience!!! The next piece, "Focus", remains tightly on deeply mesmerizing path, when a soulful fusion of drums, throat singing, flute and didgeridoo is fronted by sharply hitting rattle sounds. The piece smoothly evolves into rapidly shaking, mind-expanding tempos and continuously keeps on tickling the ears of devoted journeyer with towering circular helixes. The closing "Vision" holds Rob Thomas as guest with his Aborigine drone pipe and invites to this ceremony Daniel Hirtz with tabla (he partook on "Dream Tracker") and Max Link with water pot udu (if I am right, Max is a step-son of Mark Seelig), who join Byron's stock of drums, this time played in more relaxing pace, while soothingly surrounded by Mark's droning voice and seductive bansuri. Gorgeously embracing and hauntingly invigorating 10-minute finale!!!

Intense insignias of both curanderos and their guesting tribesmen led into one singular accomplishment, where primordially absorbing rites of ancient cultures of the Americas are exquisitely crossed with deeply mesmerizing Dreamtime artifacts, while the North Indian and Tuvan fragrances mysteriously permeate the air. Immerse yourself deeper into this continuous, 69 minutes long acoustic journey and experience these profoundly imaginative and magnificently mindscaping tribal-trance realms. Your discovery will be fully surprising and rewarding and it will go far beyond the ordinary reality. The shamans have opened their hearts, feel the infinite power of deeply focused "Intention"!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 30, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

13


The Eclipse Project "A Perfect Gradient Sky" CD

The chief protagonist hidden behind The Eclipse Project is Beau Lukes, in Toronto based hand-percussionist, didgeridoo player, electronic music composer and a graduate of Madison Media Institute. I firstly came across this multi instrumentalist on a highly applauded album "Music For Spaceports" by Eric Hopper's Sylken ensemble (released in May 2014). Beau Lukes appeared on two unforgettable tracks "Dreamship" and "Starsong", so I immediately started to search more about this crafted musician. At that time The Eclipse Project was already in full bloom and "A Perfect Gradient Sky" album was in the pipeline already. The Eclipse Project features talented collective of artists and "A Perfect Gradient Sky" is a debut album, released in May 2014 as a self-release by Beau Lukes, who is also responsible for the graphic design of this elegant 4-panel digipak (with additional landscape photos by Larry J. Herscovitch). The album is inspired by the geological wonders of the Scarborough Bluffs, which stretch for about 15 km along the Lake Ontario shore.

Tranquil sounds of water flowing announce the opening piece "Who Taught The Birds To Sing", but soon spoken words by Gary James aka Black Bear step in together with catchy children voices, all surrounded by warmly inviting vistas of synths, exquisite strings and field recordings. Later on gorgeously embracing native chanting with hauntingly expansive flute and subtle tribal drumming sneak in for a truly expressive prayerscape. This composition is filled with stunningly efficient harmony between the affinity of primordial and modern, a timeless world of aural pleasure awaits here!!! Bullroarer awakes the next ceremony, "Red Rock Dawn", but it's the rich palette of didgeridoo magic that quickly steals the show, accompanied by vague female chants and delicately nuanced tribal horizons. Profoundly mesmerizing amalgamate!!! And a highly recommended headphone listening too!!! "A Perfect Gradient Sky", the title composition, quietly unfolds with soothing field recordings, winding dusky blankets and embracing spoken meditation and backing chants by Sue Hutton (known from ethereal/goth band Rhea’s Obsession). A sonic elixir exhibiting enchanting interactions between expressive voice magic, warmly organic panoramas and gently evolving downtempos. The next piece, "Solar Winds", meticulously merges dreamy expansive voice washes, rhythmed synthetic and percussive layers with hauntingly filigree strings of classical guitar played by Bruce Jones. Calmly drifting "It Has To" features spoken poetry by Tony John, then it slowly shifts into a mildly tribal-driven extent highlighted by fragile tinkles, didgeridoo drones and shamanic vocal buoyancy by another guest, Michael Moon. Uniquely comforting and high-spirited composition, a truly extraordinaire, kudos to all performers!!! "Solstice Ice Meditation" reveals with serenely meandering reverie guarded above by heavenly chants and enriched with tranquilly engrossing organics and iridescent rhythm passages. "Calling Down The Elders" opens with intriguing drifts and roars, which inconspicuously transmute into weirdly fragranced mixture of didgeridoo drones, hypnotic djembe and percussions and exotic malletkat. Beau Lukes is joined on this track by Michael Moon (electric guitar, malletkat). Highly distinguishing adventure goes on!!! "Invoke" dives straightly into deeply contemplative realms leaded by delicate marimba tinkles, reverberating milieus and Michael Moon's voice wizardry. And all wrapped by sparse, but intense tribal beat and occasional ethereal female chants. Another amazingly rewarding listening experience for all aficionados of tribal ambience!!! "Journey's End", the closing piece, features Laura Nashman on silver flute, who joins Beau's utterly soothing soundsculpting with her gorgeously expressive yearning flute prayer. Strongly immersing conclusion!!!

"A Perfect Gradient Sky" is a very powerful debut by The Eclipse Project, offering a truly broad range of sonic colors with top-notch sound quality!!! Mastering and final mix editing credits go to Taras Petryk of SerpentONE Productions. Beau Lukes and all his team mates show a huge amount of talent, creativity and dedication on this recording. I think The Eclipse Project still remains unexplored, so don't hesitate to support this multi-talented group of artists, you won't be disappointed!!! To me, certainly another big one Made in Canada and a truly masterful, all-inclusive tribute to the natural beauty of the Scarborough Bluffs. Keep on going, guys!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 29, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

14


Hollan Holmes "The Spirits Of Starlight" CD

Wow, I will start this straightly as the visual splendor is immediately delivered at the first sight. I am holding in my hands a true piece of art, a glossy 6-panel disc eco wallet with magnificent cover image and design by the artist himself. As I said once, Hollan Holmes is living his dream and his newest album, his 4th, "The Spirits Of Starlight", released on his own at the beginning of July 2014, is another huge proof of that. Not to forget, kindred Texan spirit Chad Kettering of Soniclayers Mastering adds his skills as well.

"Impulse" fires the show right away with vigorously pulsing portion of sequences, with delicious cyber distortion thrown in making from this swirling passage a truly blissful listening experience. Choir-like drones join the journey and glide across with utterly infinite grace. A 7-minute jaw-dropping impulse for unlocking the gates of Ambient Hall of Fame, welcome to your sonic paradise!!! "Constant Velocity", as displayed by its title, keeps the speed more than precisely with exquisitely merged sharply hitting and whirling rhythms and expansive star gazing layers. Diligent dub techno fragrances constantly permeate, oscillate, ear-tickle and hypnotize the listener. This is another example of highly refined mastery of Hollan Holmes, bravo!!! "An Uninvited Guest" briskly awakes Berlin EM school memories with quietly pulsing crystalline sequencer lines. Slenderly dramatic passageways masterfully interplay with mildly evocative horizons. The overall flow of this composition is absolutely gorgeous, a virtuoso souldsculpting securely continues. "Enduro" unfolds with immensely gracious washes, but soon fresh pulsations steal the center trajectory. Mesmerizingly insistent helical cyberscapes tranquilly alternate with balmier surroundings. Amazing, four tracks are over, each one sounds not only quite different, but also as a true top-notcher and on the top of that, there is exceptional harmoniousness and complexity between all of them. And of course always strongly connected to the featured theme. An all-inclusive virtuoso performance so far!!! "Pale Blue Dot" attracts with continuously circling vintage sequences and chilled space drifts, hovering on the wings of eternal elegance and spirit. The next composition, "Scattered Across The Heavens", reveals with its grandiosely expansive and massive washes the deepest ends of cosmic paradise. Majestic, infinite and mesmeric!!! My body and soul is totally immersed in ultimate sonic blissfulness, I am short of words... But the odyssey proceeds with "The Departure", an ethereal reverie bridging sublimely soothing and effortlessly gliding blankets with guarding angelic choirs. The title track, "The Spirits Of Starlight" mingles large dose of lushly shimmering and sparkling sequences with meandering catchy cinematic melodies. Water percolates the sand, gentle sea breeze sweeps over, nocturnal magic happens here... "The Eternal Cosmos" closes this truly spectacular journey with gracefully drifting and winding space symphony, filled with intangible magnificence. By the way, as far I remember, the first working title for this album was "The Eternal Cosmos", but later the name was changed. But anyway, we have here a perfect closer!!!

The conclusion of this review is simple, "The Spirits Of Starlight" must be titled as a magnum opus by Hollan Holmes, and I am penning this down with the fact in my mind that he has released previously three truly phenomenal albums. Hollan Holmes is constantly virtuosic, both musically and visually. Releases like this one constantly remind me why I am a huge collector and connoisseur of ambient soundscaping. "The Spirits Of Starlight" is a very strong competitor for The Best of 2014 release, that's for sure!!! I also would like to add, if I can, a little story from Hollan Holmes' interview for Bert Strolenberg's Sonic Immersion website dedicated to electronic music (highly recommended source!!!). In this interview Hollan has mentioned how he first met with Steve Roach, it was in 1990 when he was working as a baggage handler for an airline. One day he was loading the luggage onto the plane for a Tuscon flight, when he noticed crates of musical gear with Steve Roach's name on them. So Hollan immediately ran up to the jet bridge, begged a flight attendant for a pen and asked Steve for his autograph. I like so much this story!!! So don't let your dreams fade away, follow them and fulfill them!!! Since the beginning of 2011 Hollan Holmes is starring in the same league as the Master. It's well-deserved, deep respect to you, Hollan!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 17, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

15


Maneki Neko "muichi motsu" CD

Maneki Neko, a project of Al Mikula, based in Austin, Texas, certainly belongs to the best kept secrets on the contemplative verges of ambient soundsculpting. It took me quite long time before I was able to explore his soothingly immersing debut album "Auracle", released back in 2005. "muichi motsu", the second installment was originally scheduled for its release during the autumn of 2012. After longer time of silence, "muichi motsu" album finally became a reality in June 2014 through Stray Pointer Records, which is, I believe, own label of Al Mikula. The CD is packaged in tasteful digipak. I remember I was praying for Maneki Neko's return in my review of "Auracle" in May of 2013, so now I am really happy to be a part of this continuing journey...

"Chadō" opens with deeply meditative gongs and reverberations, then breathy flute roars sharply overflow and alternate with fragile tinkles and edgy percussions, while continuously permeated by eloquent stillness. Quite short, sparse and slightly cacophonous beginning, but distinctively expressive, undoubtedly Maneki Neko is back at the very top of his craft!!! On 10-minute "Between Heaven And Earth" tranquilly embracing washes masterfully interact with expressive flute magic and sporadic elusive chimes. This ethereally expansive composition is absolutely gorgeous and it sounds exactly as it is titled. "Water Margin" unfolds with contemplative bells surrounded by richly colorful atmospheric thunder cloudscapes and delicately amalgamated with native flute artifacts and sparkling organic essences. Voice-like drones guard above, but the high-pitched swampy dissonances emerge here and there with its mindscaping touch. Stunningly magnificent auralscape awaits here, just enter the gates!!! Ear-tickling bells announce "Maitreya", but the journey is quickly stolen by serenely immense drifts, always meandering and traversing with breathtakingly panoramic grace, exquisitely augmented by mysteriously fragranced tinkles. Intensely evocative sonic elixir for my ears!!! "Ajna", another longer piece clocking over 10-minute mark, again reveals warmly peaceful scenic vistas, enriched by tinkling subtleties, and caresses the inner realms of each dedicated listener. "The Deeper Well" dives into adventurous subterranean domains, where assorted swirling sounds irregularly rise and glimmer, while rather monochromatic, but circuitous tambura-like drone rides atop. Slightly weirder, but gracefully spacious and mesmerizingly engrossing. Another 10-plus minute composition, "Adrift", remains in cavernous terrains, but it slowly floats and spirals toward bigger subterranean passages protected by occasional divine choirs and undulating rumbles and noises. "Morning Mist" closes this serene journey with hauntingly expansive ambience, safely gliding through beautiful cascades of balsamic natural wonders. An impeccable finale to wrap up this album!!!

"muichi motsu" is another stellar accomplishment by Maneki Neko, it offers eight expertly sculpted sonic meditations with own signatures and it's filled with over 58 minutes of enchantingly absorbing aural symmetry between western ambient textures and traditional Asian instrumental explorations. If you are an aficionado of deeply reflective soundscaping and you are not familiar with Maneki Neko yet, then I highly recommend to you to reconsider your targets, because artistic expressions of Al Mikula deserve to be fully explored, trust me!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 16, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

16


Gleisberg & Grassow "Ad Lucem" CD

German drone kaiser Mathias Grassow has found his safe home longer time ago at applauded Swedish label gterma. After several solo albums and one collaboration with Carsten Agthe on this label, Mathias Grassow teams up with another kindred spirit, Rüdiger Gleisberg, with whom he extensively worked on acclaimed projects such as Nostalgia and KarmaCosmic. "Ad Lucem" was released in June 2014 and as usual for all gterma jewel case packagings, it features 16-page booklet with catchy panoramic pictures by gterma's owner Johan Rehn. The booklet's info says the tracks were composed between 2009 and 2014, while the mastering duties were handled by A.P aka Anders Peterson (also the man behind Ghost Sounds).

14-plus minute "Arcane" ignites the journey with mesmerizing drone monochromatism, spirally vanishing in deep chasmal realms, but whispering female voice persistently illuminate this mysterious trajectory surrounded by undulating phantasmal hums. Clandestine choirs permeate intangibly through crepuscular sceneries here and there. A very strong overture!!! "Cicada" is awaken by Middle East duduk fragranced moans, but the center stage is quickly stolen by graciously expansive horizons intermingling with soothing natural fragments. The drone intensely spreads and placidly traverses through grippingly mindscaping passageways accompanied by remote female and male chorus and urban environments. The title track "Ad Lucem" delves into more flatlined foundations with escalating cacophonous turmoils and ghostly apparitions thrown in for navigating the listener into the dark unfathomed caves of nothingness. Yes, a truly transcendental listening adventure awaits here!!! But "Mirabile Dictu" continues on journeying through an unplumbed depths, industrialized squeaks sound quite foreboding, while other eerie embellishments evoke a quite hazardous subaqueous odyssey. But after 5th minute this underwater dronescape serenely transmutes into more static, yet expansively majestic zones of utterly immense dimensions. Prayers of Buddhist monks occasionally emerge from oblivion and augment monstrously monochromatic panoramas. "Sapere Aude" is unfolded with exotic tinkles, but deeply mesmerizing drone sharply invades, while celestial choirs guard above. Fragments of overtone voice magic add another pleasant scent, although wrapped by brumous blankets. "Nova Incognita" is the shortest piece and closes "Ad Lucem" with rather organic intro, but quite dissonant too. Swelling sonic walls persistently interact with noisier outbursts, even if thick and intense, the overall mood is hauntingly illuminated with some sparkling scraps.

"Ad Lucem" is a joint endeavor at its most thrilling and immersing, where a genuinely mind-blowing scenario is guaranteed!!! Definitely a must-have for all followers of Mathias Grassow & Rüdiger Gleisberg. A headphone listening is strongly recommended, although your speakers impatiently await another drone exercise. A high-five to Johan Rehn/gterma for continuous support of this gifted drone brilliance!!! Tack så mycket!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 03, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

17


Phillip Wilkerson "Highlands Outtakes" CDr

Prolific US drifter Phillip Wilkerson has released "Highlands" album originally back in 2012 through Free Floating netlabel, while a CDr edition is still available through Phillip's store at Kunaki. "Highlands Outtakes", released in the middle of May 2014, features three additional tracks from "Highlands" recording sessions plus extra 25-minute closing piece, "The Silence Of One", recorded at the beginning of May 2014. All complexly wrapped by breathtaking cover image, on the top of that I am awarding extra points also for the layout concept firstly introduced on "Sojourner" album.

The album launches with 15 and half minutes long piece, "The One In All", which immediately shifts into endless sky high spheres. A quite monochromatic drone slowly escalates and becomes more massive and immersing, while occasional distant rumbles enrich this monolithically mindscaping heaven. A superb drone panoramas are fully unfolded!!! Shorter "There You Are" gets close to 7-minute mark, but it's very effective in its drifting harmonies. This time more tranquilizing, but strongly expansive blankets are still safely floating above. Gentle vibrations reveal graciously reverberating nuances. The drone magic continues, after experiencing the first two compositions on this album I can easily rate this album as the most monumental and intensifying journey by this Floridian. And Phillip Wilkerson proves quickly these words with his following track, "Transcended", it is no short of its title. You can't ask for more in this 14-plus minutes long journey filled with mammoth drone walls, magnificently expansive and stunningly reinforced by assorted well-hidden, but strongly rewarding traceries, ranging from unfathomably mind-bending through intangibly sparkling to warmly embracing. An ultimate drone tour de force, hats off to Phillip Wilkerson!!! No wonder "The Silence Of One" is promptly needed for more relieving gliding, but don't expect any soapy ending, because this composition moves through enormously rich palette of adventurous billows. Ear tickling shimmers are masterfully interacting with continuously oscillating and crescendoing drone mysteries. Did I mention soothing transition? Not sure about it, because this is another utterly grandiose dronescape transporting the listener to the forefront of powerful, drift-driven soundsculpting. Absolutely triumphant finale!!!

What a journey, I am totally addicted to this album!!! Sure, this is more intense and less balsamic release that any other I have reviewed by Phillip Wilkerson so far. But hey, this is my medicine too, more please!!! And with headphones on, your drone Eden is eagerly waiting for you!!! Yes, I should mention that Phillip Wilkerson is also busy with his collaborative projects, which include Time Being with Jourdan Laik, as far I know they are working on their second CD. And as announced few days ago, scheduled for November 2014 release on Spotted Peccary is Phillip's collaboration with Chris Russell. Don't say I didn't warn you, but I am afraid there is no way to escape anymore...

Richard Gürtler (Aug 02, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

18


Bruno Sanfilippo "clarOscuro" CD

In Barcelona based Argentinian composer Bruno Sanfilippo keeps on his virtuosic journey into modern classical realms. While in his acclaimed "Piano Textures" series he bridged expressive piano textures mostly with tranquil natural sounds, with this newest album Bruno Sanfilippo demonstrates his full transition into contemporary instrumental arrangements. Released in May, 2014, on Bruno's and Max Corbacho's ad21 label, "clarOscuro" comes in a truly elegant 4-panel digipak (cover photo by Kaifa Ceralde Sarmiento and layout by Bruno's wife Ximena Contreras) and features two guest artists, Manuel del Fresno on violoncello and Pere Bardagí on violin. Additional credits go to Lluis Molas for his engineering assistance as well as to Splendour Mastering (a studio run by Max Corbacho).

Nostalgic grand piano tune by the main protagonist announces "Claroscuro", the title composition. Soon the bowed string vizardry of both guests joins the stage for richly evocative listening experience. Intimate piano playing is beautifully blended with sorrowful cello and violin. A very strong composition!!! The next track, "Absenta", embraces the listener with its deeply evocative piano subtlety and gorgeously saturating stillness. A true masterpiece!!! "Aquarelle Sur Papier" remains on the same, captivatingly sparse path, filled with poignant intimacy and nostalgic serenity. A piano bravura at its most expressive, more please!!! "A Constant Passion" marks the return of Manuel del Fresno and Pere Bardagí, who excel with their stringed sadness, masterfully expressed by lamenting cello and wistfully surging violin. The piano playing on "The Movement Of The Grass" is magnificently displayed by its poetic title, while occasional hazy echoes add a new dimension to this intensely scenic composition. With 9 and half minutes the longest piece on "clarOscuro" and certainly one of the pinnacles of this album!!! "Luciana" straightly dives into touchingly yearning cinematic refinement, with carefully interacting fragile piano, weeping cello and heart-warming violin. Rather sparse, but continuously intense and strikingly effective. To me, the most exceptional composition on this album so far showcasing the talent of all its grandmasters. Bravo, señores!!! "It Happens On The Ship" merges mesmerizingly undulating strings with slightly euphoric piano notes, a rather abstractly refreshing texture. "Aquarelle Sur Toile" attracts with filigree piano delicacy, passionate and joyful. "Day By Day" closes this beautiful album with solo piano performance, again deeply reflective with warmly cascading moods. A very nice conclusion.

"clarOscuro" is completing Bruno Sanfilippo's return to his origins. As a classically trained pianist with a Grand Piano in his basement studio, he is ready to fulfill his long time dreams and challenges. Bruno Sanfilippo has already proved many times his amazing talent and flexibility within ambient genre and "clarOscuro" is the next, giant step in his recording career. No matter if piano based or delving into electronic soundworlds, Bruno Sanfilippo is always here to deliver the best of his artistry. So I can only repeat my usual words when wrapping my review of his albums and collaborations, muchas gracias, Maestro!!! And of course kudos also to all other contributing artists!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 01, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

19


Steve Roach / Kelly David "The Long Night" CD

Long awaited collaboration between iconic Steve Roach and in Colorado based capable kindred spirit Kelly David, who is responsible for two remarkable, highly adventurous albums "Broken Voyage" (2002) and "Angkor" (2006), was released during January 2014. The album's title as well as its awesome cover image by Stan Yeatts clearly reveal what to expect from this journey through nocturnal magic.

Comprised of 5 tracks, each clocking between 10-plus and 14-plus minutes, the album reveals with "Last Light". This serenely embracing composition glides through mysteriously undulating passages, hauntingly enhanced by various, richly detailed dissonant subtleties, while warmer expansive drone layers slowly sneak in, massively billow and guard above with all its grandiose beauty. These shadowy zones are essentially comforting and contemplative!!! "Season Of Nights" is immediately intensified by whistling infusions, but soon the monumental drone announces its domination, while glimmering modulations join the fore as well and continuously interact throughout with manifold volume. Splendidly immersing, and trickily disturbing too!!! Transition to the next piece, "The Deep Hours", is masterfully spiced by various rumbles, clicks, all luxuriantly biotic and wrapped by underground grotto echoes, while cicadas excel with chirping noises. Serenely weaving wide-screen atmozones shortly invade, tranquilly expand and precisely evoke brooding voice-like sounds. Lazy tribal groove permeates quietly through fascinating nightly scenery, which is fully unfolded in all its blissful grace and serenity. This is nothing but pure moonlit magnificence delivered by two virtuoso composers!!! The journey continues with "Calm World" when deep drone hums invade, joined by distant rumbles, while spiraling dissonances deliver their mindscaping force before completely fading away. Then monolithic drifts take the lead and briskly amalgamate with remaining remote noises, but soon they dissolve into various disruptive, but tranquilly captivating layers, which graciously waft throughout and safely land into spellbinding stillness. 14-minute closing title track, "The Long Night" sharply dives into calm blankets with its colossally expansive meanders, cascades and climaxes. There are absolutely marvelous chameleonic transitions between breathtakingly gigantic passages and decreasing panoramic quietude. Toward the end vague euphoric sequences awake and cruise on the night skies. A sonic transmutation at its finest!!!

"The Long Night" was released 13 months after "Tales From The Ultra Tribe", a Hall of Fame collaboration of Steve Roach with Byron Metcalf. Yes, we certainly have here immensely triumphant fellowship as "The Long Night" is another stunningly transporting collaborative effort starring Steve Roach, who splits this performance extraordinaire with gifted veteran soundsculptor Kelly David. A man, who really deserves this glory, because his solo works "Broken Voyage" and "Angkor" undeservedly remain as well hidden treasures. Please, try to change this!!! Bravo, gentlemen!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jul 06, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

20


Steve Brand, Roy Mattson "Meltstream" CDr

Steve Brand needs no bigger introduction here, he is constantly confirming his reputation as one of the giants of primordial shamanistic electroacoustic soundsculpting. But Roy Mattson comes here as a new name on the ambient map. Based in Stony Creek, NY, Roy Mattson has been making music for many years, but according to my knowledge, he didn't share it until 2013, when his collaboration with Mystified "Pluto And Charon" was released on Treetrunk Records (July, 2013). Steve Brand and Roy Mattson have met for the first time on Steve Roach’s Into The Soundcurrent workshop in Sonoita, Arizona in September, 2007. And that was the triggering point for "Meltstream". The album comes in beautiful 4-panel digipak, for sure both artists and Relaxed Machinery deserve this catchy packaging, a way to continue!!!

10-minute opener "My Shadow And The Morning Sun" quickly shifts into gorgeously ethereal spheres, attractively melting distant drone undulations with evocative string subtleties. Drifting, expanding and peaking into heavier, unbounded realms, before inconspicuously transmuting into lushly colored primordial paradise led by tranquilly swirling, rattling and embracing cacophony of various eclectic shakers and rumbles. I am really hooked on this track!!! "Just Above Treeline" graciously floats and meanders on soothingly waving cloudbeds of gorgeously majestic pensiveness. Ancient whistles quietly sneak in during the second half and take the listener deeper into enthralling contemplative realms. "Leeward Shadows", the longest piece clocking to nearly 15 and half minutes, immediately dives into monstrously abyssal drone depths. Watch your speakers, because that's a really huge drone blaze, but fortunately soon joined by the graceful symphony of panoramic drifts, enhanced by intensifying blankets and pierced with mysteriously crescendoing reverberations. Crickets are awaken too during this nocturnal magic and deliver their chirping virtuosity, while assortment of bells illuminate the path to the gates... Psychically supreme and spectacularly transcendental magnum opus awaits here. Bravissimo, Gentlemen!!! "Meltstream", the title composition, returns into earthy wistful terrains filled with warmly ebbing wide-screen reflections, masterfully unfolding into thrillingly immersing vistas, which slowly metamorphose along the way into magnificently expanding and imposingly culminating drone scenario. Another breathtaking tribute to surrounding natural wonders, more please!!! "Unlost [Strange Lights & Firefly Stars]" starts with ear-bending drone escapade, soon the journey calms down a bit, but the drifting intensity is still absolutely unfathomable and mindscaping. Lushly colored field recordings inconspicuously permeate through mysteriously dark, moonlit landscape, but then spiritedly interact with gargantuan dronewaves. Utterly embracing!!! A grand finale? Sure, it was!!!

What to add? I am short of words, because it's the music that speaks for itself, you must fully experience "Meltstream", because otherwise you will miss one of the most glorious dronescaping adventures released in last few years. Steve Brand did it again, but that's nothing surprising anymore and for Roy Mattson this turned as a really great introductory performance. "The Great Hoop" was one of the ultimate sonic jewels of 2013 and now, "Meltstream", a 67-minute long soundsculpting magic is heading for the same title in 2014. Hats off to Steve & Roy!!! The official release date is scheduled for May 30th, the countdown is running!!!

Richard Gürtler (May 18, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

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