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Steve Brand "The Space Between" CDr

US soundscaper and one of the Relaxed Machinery recording aces Steve Brand has released during the last three years several phenomenal albums, which include "Over-soul", "The Great Hoop", "Subtle Movements Inside" or his 2014 collaborative recording "Meltstream" with Roy Mattson. So no wonder my expectations are again really high. Just the same as with "Meltstream", the pro CDr album comes again in a very attractive 4-panel digipak (images and design by Steve Brand). According to the album's liner notes, Steve was working on initial tracks for this album since early 2011 and as far I remember, this album was originally scheduled to be released on Kristian Kotarac's renowned Nextera label (the home of many exceptional Oophoi, Klaus Wiese, Mathias Grassow... CDs). Unfortunately, this never happened due to Kristian's unexpected death at the end of February 2013. Thus life events with personal loses and changes are deeply reflected in "The Space Between", which was released at the beginning of October 2014 on Relaxed Machinery.

The album consists of four lengthier tracks, all clocking between 15 and 20 minutes. "A Thousand Little Wounds" unveils the journey with unfathomable dronescaping, powerfully immersing and drifting through magnificently nuanced sceneries, masterfully permeated with dramatically massive tensions and transcendentally culminating, ear-piercing dissonances. An array of contemplative tinkles occasionally sneaks in to diminish the magmatic flow of mammoth soundwalls. Credited as guest on this drone tour de force is Peter James for his bass craftiness. Stunningly transporting odyssey awaits here, join in!!! The next composition, poetically entitled "Quiet Moments In The Garden With You", slightly softens the overall tensity, where faint movements, quietly meandering, are hauntingly counterpointed with piano subtleties and sporadic reverberating crescendos. Nocturnal symphony of crickets awakes and inconspicuously percolates for utterly tranquil and warmly embracing conclusion. Another absolutely brilliant piece!!! Enigmatic choirs and abysmal drones announce "Inches From Eternity". Industrial-like rumbles and squeaks quickly invade, undulate and tickle the ears of the listener, while splendidly surrounded by immensely desolated landscapes and bridged with expanding introspective stillness. Spectacular soundsculpting alchemy continues and a fully transcendental listening delight is again achieved. Bravo, Maestro!!! "Viewing Effortless Beauty", the longest track, wraps up this aural magic with distant choir-like drones, rather sparser, but graciously drifting and exquisitely merged with high-pitched eerie disturbances, yet amazingly earwarming throughout the first half. The second part slowly expands into more massive vistas filled with increasing tumultuousness and poignantly contrasted with evocative flute calls, spreading across the arid canyon or perhaps over the ancient Cahokia Mounds. The closing two minutes fade away into encircling quietude...

"The Space Between" is another monstrous accomplishment in the glowing discography of Steve Brand and obviously one of the pinnacles of 2014, where is already nominated above mentioned "Meltstream" collaboration. Once again, this newest album confirms and strengthens the eminence of Steve Brand as one of the leading forces on the drone ambient scene nowadays. And another must-have release from the Relaxed Machinery kindred souls!!! With deep respect to all those "The Space Between" is dedicated to!!!

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

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Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Hymns" CDr by Aglaia
« on: November 09, 2014, 11:51:52 AM »


Aglaia "Hymns" CDr

Aglaia, an Italian ambient duo extraordinaire, leaded by composer virtuoso Gino Fioravanti and backed by editing mastermind Gianluigi Toso, has released this CDr album as a special item on Stefano Musso's Hic Sunt Leones label in December 2013. The album was recorded between August 2010 and September 2011. As usual for all these releases, each CDr is packaged in a 6-panel digipak, hand-made by Sara Luciani, and it's limited to 99 copies. So far, 8 various titles were released this way, among them also Aglaia's live recording "Out Of The Way" CDr from February 2012. Other artists or collaborations featured in these art editions involve Robert Davies, Nacht Plank, Luciano Daini, Zeit, Alio Die & Zeit and Memory Geist. "Hymns" visual credits include Lu (photography) and Hic Sunt Leones (artwork). Thus the visual bliss is immediately guaranteed, while the aural paradise is entered shortly.

The album unfolds with "The Flow Of Time", a gorgeously hypnotic dreamscape hazed by intangible tinkles and guarded by peculiarly sounding processed voices. These voices have strongly elusive quality, I am unable to understand to them, somewhere between organic sci-fi and phantasmal perplexity, but the overall feel of this soundsculpture is incredibly distinguishing and stunningly mindscaping, otherworldly nuanced, yet fascinatingly euphonious and high-spirited. Timeless soundmagic of Aglaia is back!!! "Nymphs" invade enthralling sunlight forest sceneries, catchy rumbles float throughout along with blossoming traceries and earmarking mesmeric euphoria that can be only Aglaia. And all exquisitely counterpointed with an array of piercing and ear-tickling voice fragments. Join this journey, a truly transcendental listening experience awaits here!!! "Full Moon Lepidopter", with 10 minutes the longest "Hymn", takes the voice sculpting into a newer level, where it becomes a new instrument and an essential complement for spirally undulating nocturnal symphony. "Memorabilia" shifts through soothingly floating transitions into graciously expansive realms augmented by ethereal voice relics. A deeply reminiscent and contemplative walk!!! "Morning Star" remains on the path, when painting subtly repetitive helixes, again mesmerizingly embracing. "Owl Light" is carried by magnificently mind-bending voices and spellbindingly oscillating drone expansions. The next piece, "Holy Relics", unveils with absolutely warm and tranquilly evocative, lushly organic texture. Shimmeringly enigmatic, yet balmily scenic!!! "Pranava" ceases the album with deeply subterranean ride melting insistent drone hums with oddly apparitional voices and groans. Astoundingly weird, mind-blowing conclusion!!!

Both protagonists of Aglaia make sure on "Hymns" to take the listener a way beyond the borders of his/her most bizarre expectations. But what it's the most exceptional on these adventures, the journey will always be enough earthy and always filled with fabulous insignias of these Italian sound sorcerers. And now on "Hymns" with the bonus voice treatments that transport Aglaia even further. Magnifico, Gino & Gianluigi, bravo to all other contributors!!! Don't know Aglaia yet? Keep in mind, there is no excuse for that!!!

Richard Gürtler (Nov 09, 2014, Bratislava, Slovakia)

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Independent Music Reviews / My review of "A Soft Circle" CD by John Sobocan
« on: November 05, 2014, 10:23:42 AM »


John Sobocan "A Soft Circle" CD

Although I am quite familiar with The Ambient Ping community, which is mostly based in Toronto, I can't remember crossing the name of John Sobocan. It seems like this Torontonian soundscaper, with family origins in Slovenia, prefers to work rather surreptitiously. So when his album, "A Soft Circle", was released on Dutch label Databloem at the end of 2012, I didn't pay enough attention to it. And that was a quite big mistake on my side!!! Fortunately, about one and half year later I was able to correct my fault and explore this little gem, thanks a lot to Dennis/Databloem for the second chance!!! Well, I also must reveal that John Sobocan is most likely better known under his artistic moniker Bubble, but no matter if John Sobocan or Bubble, his soothingly embracing soundscapes deserve to be explored!!! As usual for Databloem's uniformed cover design and packaging strategy, Theo Rabou makes sure to deliver his visual artistry.

7-minute "Free" unfolds the journey with enigmatically meandering and reverberating soundscape, reinforced by some sparse and gentle cyber-tech subtleties and intangible oscillations. Magnificently mindscaping opening!!! "A Castle", announced by ethereal choir-like drone, keeps on mysterious path, again masterfully sculpted with mesmerizingly resonant, yet exquisitely transporting layers. Serenely gliding through hauntingly expressive minimalism, what a grace!!! "Silence" invades with its richly organic texture, chirping, hissing, grumbling, encircling, immersing, tranquilizing!!! Poetically entitled "Leaves On A Forest Floor" safely remains in this nocturnal paradise, where ear-tickling environments meticulously amalgamate with enchanting drone wizardry and rumbling distant thunderstorm. Warmly diminishing nuances toward the end bring this composition into utterly gorgeous quietude. And that's where the next piece, "A Path", continues. Gracefully drifting into serenely surrounding organic stillness. And the sounds of, I believe, knocking woodpecker just fit marvelously. An ultimate sonic elixir!!! "Enoch" merges tastefully trumpet-like groans with acoustic strings, piano fragments, drones and hazy tinkles. Warmly wistful and expansively balsamic!!! "Ohms" quietly returns into reverberating drone terrains, enriched by assorted traceries, some more lighter, velvety, some others swirly dissonant. A quite mind-blowing track. The next piece, "Secret Giants", is more tight and eclectic, with some ghostly voices guarding above and continuously permeated with strangely undulating hissy harshness. "A Boat", the longest piece clocking to nearly 8 minutes, shifts back into amply flavored environments. An array of calmly luminous tinkles is fastidiously coalesced with lush natural sounds, sibilant consonances and all wrapped by poignantly yearning blankets. Shorter "Rove", although sounding slightly tumultuous, dwells in terrains abundant in natural beauty and wildlife. Brief, but spellbindingly absorbing and delicately incongruous!!! "Orange Sky And The Mountain" stays on freshly colored trails, while straying through spectacular traverses and exploring contemplative vistas. The closing composition, "Garden", invites the listener to experience the peace and tranquility of the landscape that can be easily a Japanese garden for example. Led by the play of crystalline clinks and field recordings and backed by vague gong-like sounds. Captivating aural symmetry and balmy, deeply meditative conclusion!!!

John Sobocan is a very crafted soundcarver, who offers through "A Soft Circle" album nearly 70 minutes long collection of enchantingly transporting sonic reveries, which will gently surround you not only during your relaxation, but also during your deep listening sessions with your headphones on. Huge amount of richly rewarding details awaits, no matter if soothingly unobtrusive or intriguingly transcendent. John Sobocan is definitely a very nice revelation for my ears!!! Not to forget, album credits include also three guest musicians with not specified roles, Bonnie Blue, Gretchen Hewitt and Ted Moniak. Kudos also to Dennis Knopper of Databloem for releasing this album!!! Most recently, newest "OI" CD by Bubble is out since September 2014 in limited edition on Carpe Sonum Records. And besides that, Bubble has available a fairly extensive digital discography on Bandcamp. So I strongly recommend you to keep an eye and ear on this gifted guy, it's worth your effort!!!

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

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

9


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)

10


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)

11


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)

12


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)

13


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)

14


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)

15


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)

16


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)

17


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)

18


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)

19


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)

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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)

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