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Messages - richardgurtler

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1


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)

2


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)

3


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)

4


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)

5
Living within Toronto area? Don't miss The Eclipse Project live at Saturday, August 30th at Wonderworks, under The Dome!!! Yes, it's today!!!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1463100077286763/
http://www.gowonderworks.com/node/1651


 

6


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)

7


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)

8


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)

9
Show the man some respect ! I'm no Steve Roach fan-boy, but it's obvious he deeply knows what he's doing on a technical level.
A lot of artists use low frequencies to add 'weight' to their material, it's not a 'gimmick' for flips sake.

Nicely written, Pete, I can't agree more!!!

Richard

10
Once again, thanks a lot, Chris, for your good eye!!!  ;)

Richard

11
And the same goes for Laudanum, another mistake...  :(

Richard

12
Grassow never appeared on any Solitaire album with Gleisberg.

Oops, thanks a lot Chris, you are right, I thought of "Nocturnes", but I was wrong. I have to correct this mistake.

Richard


13


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)

14


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)

15


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)

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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)

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What a great news, Jeff!!! CD ordered, can't miss this sonic jewel!!!

Richard

18


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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John Lyell "Reflection Of Time" CD

"Reflection Of Time" CD by John Lyell is out since March 31st, 2014, as a self-release by the artist himself. I must say that the name of John Lyell is a brand new to me, but this is already 5th album by this US ambient composer, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. First two albums are collaborations with Brent A. Reiland, "Wormholes" (1998) and "Synthetic Universe" (2002), while the following recordings were released solo. "Dimensions" in 2006 and "Eternity" in 2012. Shame on me I didn't discover John Lyell much sooner, but I always keep on saying, it's better later than never!!! "Reflection Of Time" comes in 4-panel digipak with catchy front cover image executed by John, who is also a crafted digital art designer. I also have to add that John Lyell is a musician since 1984 and performed as a guitar player with various rock and hard rock bands. A quite interesting transition, so let's take this deep spatial voyage.

"The Deep Unknown" unfolds quite briskly with highly magnetizing texture delicately melting colder cybernetic sequencer motifs with quietly tranquil and panoramically expansive synth undulations, occasionally interrupted by alien sighs or invaded by sublime silence. Wow, a very strong launching by John Lyell!!! "Above The Stratos" cascades through shimmering hissy terrains, pierced by unpredicted fragments and outbursts, raw or high-tech, reaching a fairly reverberating magnitude. All guarded by mesospheric phantoms. "Dreaming In Sine Waves" is by far more calmer and minimal, moving through delicately detailed dreamy crescendos, the wind sings its anthem and counterpoints with seraphic chants. "A Far Away Place" quickly dives into harsher drone hums coupled with massive seashore sounds. Emerging ethereal traceries with awaken nostalgic memories intricately nourish the contrasting colors. "Space Ethereal" relieves the atmozone with serenely progressing contemplative space tinkles, while alluring angelic choirs hang above and once in a while intermingle with sighing wind. A truly peaceful and warmly enveloping composition!!! "Dreaming In Sine Waves 2" keeps on the similar path as its predecessor, although tranquilly embracing tinkling sounds are enhanced by infrequent sharper infusions and shift the listener into mysteriously infinite realms to explore its riveting secrets. The title composition "Reflection Of Time" quietly meanders through gorgeously boundless spheres, when melting mesmerizingly circling bass sounds with diaphanous tinkles euphoniously popping up. But also soothingly surrounding synth layers rise here and there and together with scattered cybernetic swirls, grumbles and sighs enchantingly illuminate the flight path. Fully loaded with subtle elegance!!! "Crossing The Barrier" returns to overwhelmingly unfathomable drone domains, enhanced by remote hissy vibrations and sparse high-pitched expansions. Tremendously mindscaping phantasmal voices contemplate throughout. A flawless closer!!!

John Lyell with his album "Reflection Of Time" has completely surpassed all my expectations, this is definitely a very refreshing and welcome addition to the pantheon of sophisticated deep space monuments, both, aurally and visually. "Reflection Of Time" is a definite must-have for all aficionados, who are searching for fascinatingly multifarious outer space odyssey. Kudos to John Lyell!!! By the way, the mastering job was given to Robert Rich, who has already polished with his engineering skills previous two recordings of John Lyell.

Richard Gürtler (May 08, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

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Robert Davies "Arboreal" CDr

"Arboreal" was released at the beginning of November, 2012, on Robert's usual DataObscura mainstay and it's supported by an eye-catching front cover image. As far I remember, it was his second album during 2012, following "The Alchemy Of Nature". Robert Scott Davies is a very crafted soundscaper and painter, who continuously keeps on impressing me with his gorgeously embracing ambience, always filled with his trademark insignias of deeply contemplative tranquilness.

10-minute opener and title track, "Arboreal", invites the listener into hauntingly soothing forested pathways, where monochromatic sheet, guarding above with strongly mesmerizing intensity, is softly merged with balmy natural sounds. Robert is always very careful about polishing every detail and then precisely sculpting them into gently evolving and calmly cascading textures. "Streamside Sentience" also contains richly colored field recordings, this time led by serene sounds of water flowing though rocks. The drones are sparser, but more active, moving through pleasingly mild undulations, which include a few rather dissonant reverberations and apparitions. But the overall feel is still very compact and harmonious. A truly masterful composition and enjoyable along the creek walking!!! "Field Of Muted Pastels", as indicated by its title, shifts into more mysterious and mindscaping terrains, where the prime monotonous motif is constantly permeated by various oscillating sounds, piercing, swirling or humming. Bird and insect chirps occasionally sneak in to soften the main theme. Certainly another ear-catching piece!!! The next track, "Cavern Shallows", safely remains in shadowy zones, meticulously evoking cavernous mysteries. The listener is deeply immersed by expansive drone sceneries crossed with eerie background rumblings and placid sounds of dripping water from the darkness. Subterranean sonic paradise is exquisitely unfolded in its full magnificence!!! "Nestled Feather Sanctuary" immediately grasps you with its dense massive hums, while cicadas excel with their high-pitched drone performance. Other quieter environmental recordings emerge here and there. But the leading dronescapade sustains its spellbindingly transcendental dimension, this is undoubtedly another pure sonic medicine for your mind and body!!! And I like so much its track title too. "Earthen Haven" is driven by a free-floating, monumental drift, augmented by distant, elusively swirling cicada-infused noises. A gloriously immense drone glides gracefully across divine elevations, spirals and outbursts. A drone inferno? A grand finale? Call it whatever you want, it's a truly exceptional conclusion of this masterful album!!!

As usual for Robert Davies, his sound sculptings are rather minimal, but enormously effective when it comes to capturing a deeply relieving and magnificently auralscaping atmosphere with excellently balanced lighter and darker subtleties. And always having that distinctive earthy touch for easy recognition of his signature sound. This gifted virtuoso, based in Ithaca, New York, is definitely one of the best kept secrets on the drone ambient scene!!! And please note, in the meantime Robert Davies has released another two solo albums, "Forgotten Harbors" on DataObscura (September, 2013) and "Woodland Alcoves" as a special item on Hic Sunt Leones (December, 2013), plus on the top of that another amazing collaboration with Anthony Paul Kerby as The Winterhouse, entitled "Gathering Autumn", a double album on DataObscura (January, 2014). Still not enough infos? Then keep an eye on the upcoming news from DataObscura, because Robert has a new album in the pipeline...

Richard Gürtler (May 04, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

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