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Deborah Martin "Eye Of The Wizard" CD

Deborah Martin joined Spotted Peccary team in 1991, became partner/owner of this label and debuted on "Tracks In Time" label compilation with several collaboration and solo contributions. In 1995 her first album "Under The Moon" was released, this quickly became a benchmark release for the label and artist and it was used also during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. By the way, about 7 months ago, a 20th Anniversary special, re-mastered edition of "Under The Moon" was released on Spotted Peccary. But the most recent album, "Eye Of The Wizard", which is out since the beginning of October 2015, marks return of Deborah Martin after her longer silence on this Californian label. About 6 years have passed since Deborah's last Spotted Peccary release, a collaboration "Between Worlds" with Norwegian ambient guitar ace Erik Wøllo. Back to the newest recording, "Eye Of The Wizard" 4-panel eco wallet immediately strikes with gorgeously enigmatic cover images shaped by Spotted Peccary's visual master Daniel Pipitone. What a beauty!!!

"Dance Of The Faeries" unfolds this magical journey with pristinely balladic acoustic strings counterpointed with calmly ethereal washes and distantly meandering whistles. Soon vivacious hand percussions join the stage along with additional fanfares and clandestinely emerging mesmerizing shakers. A highly spirited blend of richly flavored acoustics and subtly glimpsed ambience. The next composition, "Watchers", reveals with another lyrical delight scrupulously amalgamating hypnotically pulsing subtleties, fascinatingly nuanced oracular blankets and persistently ear-tickling glimmers of dulcimer. Stringed poignancy announces "Lords Of The Vale", while ephemeral percussive echoes intermingle with empyreal choirs and orchestral patterns. Crystalline clinks inconspicuously sneak in as well and add another dimension to this textural delicacy. "Waiting" explores quietly mysterious horizons, where placidly, yet spellbindingly undulating and mind-bendingly helixing layers are permeated by warmly cinematic blankets and intricately coalesce with serenely arising bulky drone glimmers and organically swirling fragments. Intensely transporting soundscape!!! "Metamorphic", with 8-plus minutes the longest piece on the album, quickly returns into acoustic stringed terrains, poetically embracing, while guarded by distant waves of hummed winds. After about 2 and half minutes the track calmly transmutes into a sparklingly cadenced and abundantly fragranced texture, ingeniously wandering through variously crescendoing and diminuendoing passages, before closing the circle. "The Alchemist's Robe" is ignited by euphorically enrapturing dulcimer magic, meticulously backed by spaciously drifting enigmas and tinkling fragility. Then another stirringly chamaeleonic change resurges and shifts the composition into high-tech-infused laid-back scenario, exquisitely nuanced and leaded by synthetic downtempos, shaking hypnotics and dulcimer wizardry. Wow!!! This must be one of the most pinnacling moments on this magnificently rewarding odyssey, masterfully melting galvanizing electronic enhancements with brilliantly engrossing acoustic tapestries, more please!!! On the title track, "Eye Of The Wizard", Paul Frye on E-bow guitar joins Deborah Martin and Matthew Stewart, who accompanies the main protagonist throughout the album. Buzzing electric guitar dissonances keep on meandering and add a brand new feel to this expansive ballad, while acoustic strings, mesmeric pulses, gossamer percussions and sinuous oddities join this fascinating spectacle as well. Another tour de force of strikingly crafted hypnotic-charged ambient alchemy!!! Shorter "Into Mist" closes the album with heavenly-driven, orchestral-like washes reinforced by intangibly shimmering chimes, dreamy strings and transient opaqueness.

To make the credits complete, Jon Jenkins joins the team on the opening composition with his technical support and extra mixing, Chriss Lemmon (Deborah's husband) enriches the creative process with additional support, while Howard Givens controls the mastering duties. "Eye Of The Wizard" album, which clocks to nearly 43-minutes, is a truly fascinating potpourri of tricky melodies, mesmerizing beats and ambiguous soundscapes, exhibiting distinguishing artistry of Deborah Martin and her guests, and showcasing uncanny finesse in bringing acoustics and electronics into an intriguing equilibrium. Deborah Martin is incredibly passionate and experienced story teller and her craft on "Eye Of The Wizard" safely guides each listener through bewitching forest realms imbued by fabulously magical mysteries. A little gem of soundsculpting and musically superior listening experience!!! I should also mention that other notable Spotted Peccary collaborations involving Deborah Martin include label mates and artists such as Steve Gordon, Greg Klamt, Mark Rownd, Cheryl Gallagher and J. Arif Verner.

Richard Gürtler (Nov 07, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


The Gateless Gate "Сибирь Sibir" CDr

Canadian duo The Gateless Gate, comprised of Allister Thompson and Teri-Lynn Janveau, has released before six digital albums. Active since 2012, actually firstly as a solo project of Allister Thompson, while Teri-Lynn Janveau joined The Gateless Gate during 2013. "Сибирь Sibir" CDr album was released at the end of November 2014 on Irish label Psychonavigation, better said on its sub-label Offshoot, in an attractive 4-panel digipak with layout by Emma Dolan and cover NASA images of the Sea of Okhotsk, taken by Jeff Schmaltz.

10-minute "Winter In Yakutia" opens this highly adventurous sonic exploration with soothingly nuanced ethereal dronescape, graciously gliding across the stunningly scenic and immensely uninhabited panoramas of Yakutia's snow-capped wilderness, some of the coldest places in the Northern Hemisphere. Rather monochromatically drifting layers are relentlessly guarded by wistful choir drones, while some flute-infused passages sneak in to add exquisitely embracing evocativeness. A very nice beginning indeed!!! "Yenisei", a big Siberian river that flows into the Arctic Ocean, is another piece clocking to 10 minues, it unfolds with tranquil shoreline recordings, which are quickly bridged with gorgeously expressive bowed strings scenario. Organic subtleties transmute into mesmerizingly insistent sounds and intangible female choirs persistently ride atop. Another beauty, bravo, folks!!! Additional credit for field recordings used in this composition goes to Kiril "Dantes" Danilov. The next piece, "The Hills Of Buryatia", reaches nearly 9 minutes and transports the listener into awe-inspiring landscapes of conspicuously Buddhist and Mongolian influenced territories. Rawly spiraling drones invade along with throat singing transcendence, strangely swirling hypnotic traceries and peculiar voice fragments. Later on harsh strings try to steal the show, but overtone magic safely levels this breathtakingly enrapturing listening experience, where distinctive sacred fragrances meticulously melt with spellbindingly helixing dronecarving. A truly shamanistic and ecstatic ride!!! "Wrangel Island", is a remote mountainous island located in the Artic Ocean, it also may have been the last place on earth where woolly mammoths survived and today it's one of the most protected wilderness areas in the world. This peaceful place is also very often called as "polar bear nursery". It reveals with rather quieter, multi-dimensional, albeit enigmatically flatlined drifts. Then stern sheets continuously permeate, heighten and reach cinematically inexplicable magnitude masterfully exhibiting this pristine environment, truly an ultima Thule on the way to the Pole. What a journey!!! 21-plus minutes long opus "The Sea Of Okhotsk" closes this fascinatingly intriguing expedition with serenely wistful drones, mindscapingly monochromous and clandestinely undulating, spiced with weird faunal groans and calls. This expansive sea, located in the north-west corner of the Pacific Ocean is with its plentiful wildlife also known as "bird lover's paradise". And just the same as with previous compositions, The Gateless Gate duo flawlessly captures the incredible beauty and magnificent grandness of this maritime territory. A splendidly epic conclusion!!!

The music on "Сибирь Sibir" is mostly rather rawer, "unpolished" with low-fi surface, yet always utterly immersing and imposingly evocative, but I suppose both protagonists made this intentionally in order to authentically document the harsh grace of Siberian landscapes and all above mentioned natural wonders. Huge thanks, Allister & Teri-Lynn for your thrillingly rewarding, one hour long explorations!!! With minimum expenses I was taken to some of the most spectacular places on the Earth. Thus to all dronescaping adventurers out there, join the journey!!! And when visiting The Gateless Gate's Bandcamp site, don't miss additional three "Сибирь Sibir" digital bonus tracks recorded during the same sessions. And during 2015 another four digital albums were released by The Gateless Gate, including "Cold Front", which is out since October 20th. And not to forget, Allister Thompson is also the driving force behind Make Your Own Taste blog, where he shared his passion about music. And even if the end of this summer saw Allister's signing off, the site remains accessible with all its archives, so in case you don't know it yet, feel free to give it a look, because a very nice reading awaits you!!!

Richard Gürtler (Oct 28, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Sector Four" CDr by Phobos
« on: October 29, 2015, 10:30:51 AM »

Phobos "Sector Four" CDr

Phobos is a pseudonym of UK based droneforger David Thompson, who is active on the scene since 2009, when his CDr debut "Darkness Within" was released on AmbientLive label. Since his second "Monolith" CDr, which was released during 2010 on US label Dark Duck Records, Phobos continues with releasing his drone escapades on his own. Few digital downloads plus additional 4 CDr albums complete his discography, with "Sector Four" being the last one released at the beginning of September 2014 in limited edition of 50 copies. The CDr is packaged in standard jewel case with transparent tray with 8-panel front insert featuring images, design and layout by Phobos.

As displayed by the artwork, album's title and the long-form scenario, clocking to nearly 70-minute mark, the listener is ready to take a venturesome journey way beyond the ordinary realms. Desolate hums and derelict rumbles ignite the ride, but soon emerge massive drone wall and smoothly crescendoes into powerfully undulating zones guarded by gracefully gliding phantasmal choirs. Intangibly tinkling subterranean fragments inconspicuously emerge here and there. Intricately magnified tides are masterfully reinforced by ear-bending convulsions and perplexing cyber-biotic subtleties. Around 20th minute the colossal thunderousness clandestinely diminuendoes into more serene, yet still enigmatically colored barren terrains. But this metamorphosed scenery easily could be a quiet calm before the storm... The track gently progresses through desolate drone passages, but towering helixes awake, slowly permeate across the monolithic stratum and elevate into climaxing heights. Now the horizon finally reveals the magnificent vista, enter now the gates of the drone pantheon!!! The entryway is rather quiet, but 46th minute seems to be the ultimate turning point, when the journey transmute into awe-inspiring transcendental zones. Rather flatlined at the very beginning, but the center stage is quickly stolen by continuously nuanced multi-dimensional drone inferno. Additional ear-piercing disruptions join the stage for more intensified exploration. Heavy drone wizardry at its most grandiose!!! During 63rd minute the journey starts to evanesce into tranquilly embracing expanses navigating the listener through warmer drone layers into earthy existence. Although ephemeral ghost calls pop up occasionally and counterpoint with ethereal choirs, the odyssey ends safely in halcyon oasis.

To be honest, about one year ago when considering to enter into Phobos' droneworlds, I wasn't really sure about this adventure, as I am not a huge aficionado of dark ambient-infused domains. But now, after unveiling complete CDr discography of Phobos, I can confirm this was a really rewarding discovery, meticulously hanging on the edges of ambient and dark ambient styles. "Sector Four" is a truly precise example of carefully balanced ominously devastating magmatic endeavors with more drifting soundsculpting. For all connoisseurs of ultra deep dronecarving, put your headphones on and experience tour de force entitled "Sector Four"!!! Bravo, Phobos, bravo, David, I can't wait for your future explorations!!!

Richard Gürtler (Oct 25, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Darwin Raymond & Jacob Newman "Transitions" CDr

Starting with Darwin Raymond, an Ohio based guitar-infused soundsculptor, I must say he is a brand new name to me, while his teammate in this project, Jacob Newman from Colorado, I noticed for the first time back in 2011 when he released on DataObscura a thrillingly textured collaboration "The Vivid Unmapped" with Devin Underwood. To be honest, I first overlooked this release when making my DataObscura order, but fortunately Anthony Paul Kerby (APK), the driving force behind this highly sympathetic Canadian label turned me onto this well-hidden project, and I am now very grateful for his efforts!!! Huge thanks, Anthony!!! "Transitions" CDr is out since the beginning of July 2015 and as usual for all DataObscura physical editions, it comes in a slim poly case, which is very handy, light and stable, especially when it comes to rather longer and pricey overseas shipping nowadays. The artwork is always attractive, identified as a wrap-around insert, printed on both sides. Usually executed by APK (who is also responsible for mastering), but this time Jacob Newman joins the visual part with his photographs.

Focusing on a wintery theme, which is quite common for this label, the album opens with "Beneath A Frozen Moon". Although some glaciate soundscaping might be expected, the journey reveals gorgeously expansive, yet velvety meanders. Ethereal voice-like drones are hovering above and mingle with soothingly yearning traceries. A really nice introduction to these "Transitions"!!! "The Quiet Air" with poetically silken strings precisely displays the track title, while deeply poignant retrospective drones, hauntingly hazed, emanate here and there along with transiently tinkling contemplativeness. Fragile, sparse and cinematic. This is strikingly evocative aural bliss, bravo, gentlemen!!! "Wind And Winter" promptly elevates into graciously immense monochromatic magnitudes meticulously interwoven with delicate grains and wistful harmonies. Another beauty!!! Glitchy fragments announce "Night, Shimmers", but the center stage is quickly stolen by deeply evocative stringed subtlety, while transient organics, intangible tinkles and misty reflections precisely interact. Rather shorter with 3-minute length, but utterly captivating!!! "Flames And Shadow", only a few seconds longer, delves into grandiosely drifting enigmatic paths, again quite flatlined. It looks like more floating pieces on the album constantly alternate with strings-driven nostalgia. The next composition, "A Plains Remembrance", at nearly 9 minutes the longest piece on "Transitions", immediately confirms this scenario with richly textured, yet utterly nostalgic electric guitar filigrees delicately surrounded by subtle drone reverberations. Immensely reflective aural paradise!!! "Blue Evening Snow" soothingly embraces the listener with its euphonious sinuousness, spreading across strikingly beautiful crepuscular sceneries. "Frost Covered Field" keeps on a fascinatingly scenic path, this time reinforced by enigmatic opaqueness, where faintly humming monochromatism is bridged with stringed imageries and continuously emerging, gently dramatic cinematic tides. "Fade To Sleep" sustains its monotonously droning surface, while fragile strings commingle here and there, along with distant yearning blankets and vague contemplativeness. My ears are bathed in absolute atmospheric elixir!!! Shorter "Distant Mirage" with its mild undulations might serve here as a transitional piece, because "Re-emerging" quickly attracts us with its heartwarmingly poetic strings backed by grandiosely infinite sky-high drifts and murmuring glimpses. Gossamer guitar magic at its most enveloping in punctilious equilibrium with vaporously sweeping remoteness. A magnum opus!!! "Unseen" follows a rather sinuous route, persistently permeated by gleams of stillness. "Re-emerging (ii) Spring Sun Turning" closes this highly accomplished collaborative effort with voluminously gliding layers coalesced with longing meanders and masterly juxtaposed by diaphanously tinkling chimes.

62-minute "Transitions" exhibits a truly splendid amalgamation of two undeniable virtuosic subtleties. Darwin Raymond's guitar wizardry is intricately synchronized with Jacob Newman's dronescaping, and all is impeccably polished. Creative insignias of two talented artists are in full bloom, "Transitions" album is a hidden gem and a must-have for each true connoisseur of distinctive guitar drone auralscaping!!! When focusing on the most recent works of both protagonists, I should add that Darwin Raymond has released several weeks ago his digital album "Honor", dedicated to all Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island, while Jacob Newman has resurrected his collaboration with Devin Underwood and their second CD album entitled "Sending The Past" is out since the end of August on Carpe Sonum Records. Plus two additional solo digital downloads "Quanta Flora" and "Summer" on his credit. And the summertime at DataObscura was quite busy too with three additional CDr albums, Nunc Stans "Further Afield", The Winterhouse "Slow Awakening", and Robert Davies "Dwelling Place". Lots of amazing music to discover!!!

Richard Gürtler (Oct 25, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Oophoi "Penumbra Recollected 3" CD

Dennis Knopper, the driving force behind Dutch label Databloem continues in keeping alive the legacy of Gianluigi "Gigi" Gasparetti, The Lord of unfathomable drones, and persistently dusts off some rare, deeply treasured Umbra and Penumbra CDr editions. June 2015 was graced by additional 4 CDs with remastered Penumbra titles, originally released during 2005 and 2006, "Penumbra Recollected 3" is one of them. With kind permission of Gigi's wife Alessandra Clini, we can continuously celebrate some of the deepest primordial, beyond the gates adventures available within the drone ambient soundsculpting. On "Penumbra Recollected 3", released in slim maxi single jewel case with j-card featuring winter images of Alessandra, is Gigi joined by several of his regular kindred souls such as Luna, Tau Ceti (Enrico Cosimi) and Perceptual Defence (Gabriele Quirici).

Over 24 minutes long opus "Awakening The Nagas" reveals this magnificently immersing journey diving deeply into ultra abysmal depths, precisely enhanced by profoundly contemplative chimes and rumbles and counterpointed with reawakened, heavily reverberating climaxes, while intangibly mysterious tenuous chants of Luna persistently emerge from awe-inspiring subterranean domains. The magic of thrillingly enigmatic drone sceneries is fully unfolded and authentically transcendental listening therapy can be experienced, the Drone Heaven awaits, enter now!!! This composition was originally released on "Awakening The Nagas" CDr EP on Penumbra in 2005 and was recorded live in concert, autumn 2002. The next piece, a 22-minute "Algol", where Tau Ceti joins Gigi, is resurrected from Penumbra's "Algol" CDr EP from 2006. "Algol" transforms the listener into weirdly enveloping terrains, sculpted with ominous oscillations, transient phantasmagorical groans, nuanced dronescaping bizarreness, razor-sharp ear-blowing outbursts. This broad palette of dim colors and strange spices creates a massively submerging and intensely mindscaping atmospheric splendor, guiding each devoted ears way beyond the ordinary known, intriguingly perplexing horizons. The closing "Where The Green Ants Dream", which clocks just over a 21-minute mark, utilizes additional choir samples by Perceptual Defence and efficiently melts them with rumbling primeval artifacts and colossally humming monochromatism. Towards the 15th minute, organic subtleties clandestinely sneak in, evoking the midnight zone, but ear-piercing towering helixes culminate and erupt, followed shortly by crescendoing gargantuan drone walls. Then calmly diminuendoing before strangely transmuting into another climaxing amplitude, highlighted by bizarrely twisted choirs. A grand finale!!! This track was recorded live in concert, spring 2004, and released during 2005 on Penumbra's "Where The Green Ants Dream" CDr EP.

Regarding to this CD, I should mention that another three CDs released together with this collection are "Penumbra Recollected 1", "Penumbra Recollected 2" and the last one with Tau Ceti,"Penumbra Recollected 4". If you are an aficionado of both, Oophoi and ultra deep dronescaping, each "Penumbra Recollected" CD is highly recommended!!! With deep respect to Gigi, who is greatly missed, grazie Gigi, grazie grande Oophoi, we will always remember!!! Extra kudos deserve also all Gigi's guests participating on this recollection!!! And huge thanks to Dennis and Alessandra for making all this possible, we are all really grateful for these gifts, which eternally revive our connection to Gigi's soulful oasis!!!

Richard Gürtler (Oct 18, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Julio Di Benedetto "Original Light" CD

Julio Di Benedetto is a Floridian soundcarver, based on the Treasure Coast, who returns to a glass mastered format after 7 years, when his 2CD debut "Living At A Higher Frequency" was released through his Digital Voices label. In the meantime, during 2012, he has released three digital only albums ("The Sense Of Being There", "Pathway To Pelada" and "A Tide Pool Of Memories"), but the newest album "Original Light", composed between 2012 and 2015, gets deserved physical version. Out since May 2015 in simple, but nice, 4-panel matte eco wallet with captivating panoramic images in a limited edition of 150 copies. The artist himself is credited also for photographs and sleeve design. Nice work!!! No wonder, Julio is also known as a crafted photographer, you might want to check out some of his photographs for his Driftwood Photographs project published on his Ello account. Back to album's credits, "Original Light" was mastered by Don Tyler at IO Mastering.

A 7-plus minutes long "Before Gravity" ignites the journey with humming dronescape, reinforced by an array of rawer, intricately high-pitched meanders, crescendos and diminuendos, which are masterfully counterpointed by spaciously embracing introspectiveness. A very strong opening!!! "Inner Radiance" clocks to nearly 8 minutes and delves deeper into stunningly enigmatic terrains, constantly highlighted by monolithic, yet weirdly nuanced drone layers, intensely flavored with otherworldly eclectic squeaks, shrills, glitches and rumbles. With your headphones on, get ready for a real mind-blower!!! Then "Inner Radiance" tranquilly evanesces into "Chromosphere", where unfathomable depths reveal, although fizzling tides persistently interact with yearning reverberations. Almost 9-minute "Helios Rising" unfolds with more contemplative buzz of tinkles, but shortly it's invaded by heavier sheets of eccentrically helixing drones, elusively undulating dissonances and sweepingly nostalgic glimpses. Incredibly distinguishing sonic ride!!! "Spectral Horizon", with 5:55 the shortest piece, is imbued by waves of scenic patterns, smoothly emerging and expanding with ephemeral hissy subtleties thrown in. But the stage is quickly stolen by amplified drone magnitudes, gorgeously embracing with ethereal choir-like evocations and meticulously intensified by ear-tickling razor sharp twinkles. Wow, a truly jaw-dropping listening delight, bravo, Julio!!! "Still Quiet After" bridges velvetly oscillating sibilant fragments with poignant silken piano motifs, while warmer solitary subtleties with poetic drifts surreptitiously guard above with all its intangible grace. The title, 10 and half minutes long composition "Original Light" closes this gratifying trip with graciously enrapturing washes masterly coalesced with calmly ebbing and flowing, yet richly structured wistfulness. Reaching trebling magnitudes when serenely pinnacling and climaxing, but always surrounded by magnificently panoptic aerial vistas occasionally permeated by opaque coastal reminiscences. An utterly expressive conclusion!!!

"Original Light" is an uniquely sculpted recording showcasing sophisticated artistry in amalgamating fabulously engrossing yearning stratums with finest essences of extraordinarily ear-bending ambiguousness. Numerous deep listening sessions with headphones are required, but then the listener unlocks the gates of sonic Eden, where splendidly textured drone consonance meets rewardingly dissonant exquisiteness. Almost 56-minute "Original Light" is a must-have CD for each connoisseur of abundantly flavored enigmatic drone ambient escapades!!! And on the top of all this, Julio Di Benedetto is planning to release on physical formats also his three previous, above mentioned digital albums. At some moment he was even considering a 3CD edition, but the most recent scenario speaks about three separate releases. But in any case, we can really look forward to these CDs!!! I already saw on Julio's Ello page a CD artwork for his "A Tide Pool of Memories" album (mastered by 12k's Taylor Deupree) and it looks strikingly beautiful. According to the latest info from Julio, this one is scheduled for November 2015, so I can't wait!!!

Richard Gürtler (Oct 17, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Strom Noir "ΕΣΟΠΤΡΟΝ" cassette

For this gorgeously looking release Slovak guitar dronescaper Emil Maťko aka Strom Noir has teamed with sympathetic Russian label ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ, based in Yaroslavl and run by Tim Six. This label has quickly achieved its glory with attractive hand-made editions of CDrs or cassettes. This young label is active since the beginning of 2014 and so far they have released almost 20 various CDrs and cassettes in limited editions, featuring artists like Creation VI, SiJ, Dvory, XPAAM and others. Each release is a true collector's item and Strom Noir's "ΕΣΟΠΤΡΟΝ" cassette is no exception. Released at March 4th, 2015 in edition of 50 copies, white-shell cassette comes with additional 0-card sleeve and three inserts. A top-notch work, kudos to Tim Six, Aloe (who is also credited for the artwork) & ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ!!!

8 and half minutes long title track "Esoptron" ignites the journey with stunningly spiraling texture, which floats into magnificently panoramic introspectiveness imbued by warmly nuanced tapestries and meticulously hazed by hissy subtleties. Monotonously encircling, yet stunningly evocative masterpiece, more please!!! 6-minute "Kaleidoscope" delves, as revealed by its name, into more vivacious terrains, mesmerizingly mindscaping. Nearly hallucinogenic helixes are backed by continuously permeating and voluminously increasing harsher string collages. "Heart Of Stone" unfolds with soothingly enveloping mood, which slowly evolves and heads towards deeply contemplative zones, spiced with hauntingly shimmering undercurrents. The B side opens with "Polnoc Celý Deň", clocking just over the 8-minute mark. This is the only piece with Slovak title, which can be translated as "Midnight Whole Day". This composition incorporates all Strom Noir's trademarking insignias ranging from intensely hypnotic oscillations through roughly desolate consonances and pensive stringed imageries to exquisitely poignant evocativeness. Another listening delight awaits here. Did I mention these dronesculptings are highly recommended to enjoy with your headphones? No, so put them on and dive deeply into Strom Noir's thrillingly ambiguous harmonic drone ventures!!! The next composition "There Are Still Secrets" magnetically melts winding drone monochromatism with intangibly gurgling effects, stringed solitudes, sinuous weepiness and ephemeral sibilant fragments. A spellbindingly enigmatic 7-plus minutes mindscape!!! Poetic "Where Rainbow Ends" closes this intense listening bliss (and visual too!!!) with warmly embracing and insistently tiding reflections, where stirringly meandering palette of stringed arrangements dusts off long-lost memories. Slightly shorter, but very decent conclusion.

Even if the tracks on "ΕΣΟΠΤΡΟΝ" were recorded in two quite different time periods, August 2012 and November 2014, the overall feel seems to be rather homogeneous, yet richly flavored with always presented distinguishing signatures of Strom Noir, which earned a very strong reputation during the last 5 years. 42-minute "ΕΣΟΠΤΡΟΝ" cassette is a truly rewarding addition to the growing discography of this Slovak guitar drone wizard along with other cassette editions such as "Analog Venus" (Ginjoha), "Tanec Rusaliek" (Dronarivm) and "Travel To A Human Heart" (Sacred Phrases). Not to forget, today is Emil Maťko's birthday, so this review is my little gift, all the best, cheers and keep on droning, man!!! And by the way, I am not sure if "ΕΣΟΠΤΡΟΝ" cassette is still available, it looks like it's sold out on ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ label, but some copies might be still obtainable via Discogs. Or go for "name your price" download, in any case, I can't recommend this release highly enough!!! And just the same is for the complete discographies of both, Strom Noir and ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ!!!

Richard Gürtler (Oct 11, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Hakobune "All My Regret For Nothing Remembered" cassette

Wow, since I returned to reviewing back in 2010, this is the first time I will focus on a release available on a cassette format. Yes, except vinyl it seems like also this almost dusted format is being resurrected quite successfully by some labels and artists. Warm Drone Label (simple, but concise name, I like it so much!!!) is a newborn Dutch label, run by Casper van der Veen, big drone aficionado from Utrecht and his companion Bram Gollin from Hilversum, who is the sole protagonist behind dark ambient project Kave. Japanese drone guitar virtuoso Takahiro Yorifuji, known as Hakobune, is a quite productive ambient composer releasing his music through various established labels across the globe such as U-Cover, gterma, Somehow Recordings, Hibernate and Rural Colours, Psychonavigation, Dronarivm, White Paddy Mountain... "All My Regret For Nothing Remembered" is a C25 cassette with j-card printed on textured recycled paper, released at September 8th, 2015 as a premiere release of Warm Drone Label in limited edition of 200 copies.

"Part I", exactly clocking to 10 minute mark, reveals with gently intense dronescape, graciously drifting on gorgeously nostalgic blankets. Sublimely helixing dissonances continuously pervade and paint slightly reverberating images, hauntingly mindscaping, but they are promptly softened with mellowly nuanced layers. Monolithic on the first glimpse, but underneath delightfully multi-dimensional palette of ascending and gradient patterns persistently unfolds. The length of this composition passes rather quickly due its powerfully enrapturing aura, I definitely want more, so let's turn to the next side. "Part II" is only several seconds longer than the first track and it immediately shifts into kind-hearted terrains, again meticulously graced by expansive drone scenario, which immerses the listener into profoundly deep atmospheric bliss even if some high-pitched subtleties or hummed consonances inconspicuously percolate here and there. On the top of that weeping sinuousness magnificently sneaks in, crescendoes and reaches the balmily sweeping zone, a sort of grand finale, which exquisitely exhibits the label's name. Yes, a hallmark sound of Warm Drone Label just have been introduced!!!

"All My Regret For Nothing Remembered" is a very strong and sympathetic debut of Warm Drone Label, I could easily enjoy much longer recording, because Hakobune masterfully utilizes during these 20 minutes all his dronescaping potential and creativity. Although I am not that much familiar with his other releases, I certainly want to explore much more. And his most recent collaborative effort with Dirk Serries, entitled "Obscured By Beams Of Sorrow" and released few weeks ago on White Paddy Mountain seems to be the right choice. Anyway, back to "All My Regret For Nothing Remembered" cassette, hats off to Hakobune and kudos to Casper van der Veen & Bram Gollin for originating Warm Drone Label. I hope the future will bring many exciting releases from this Dutch label, keep strong!!! Speaking about the physical format, as far I know the cassette is still available through Warm Drone Label's Bandcamp site as well as via Discogs directly from the source. Or pick up your digital version.

Richard Gürtler (Oct 10, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Steve Roach "Etheric Imprints" CD

After triumphant 2015 releases such as nebulously embracing "Invisible" or spectacularly sparkling analog projects "Skeleton Keys", Steve Roach delves deeper into tranquilly enrapturing terrains, significantly marked by his "Etheric Imprints". Released on Projekt during July 2015 in elegant 6-panel digipak graced by gorgeous images by Vietnamese visual artist Tuyen Q. Nguyen with additional graphic design by Sam Rosenthal. As usual for the latest recordings of Steve Roach, exactly since "Structures From Silence" 3CD edition. the mastering job is handled by Spotted Peccary's wizard Howard Givens.

Nearly 30-minute long title track "Etheric Imprints" immediately sets magnificently elusive atmosphere with its amorphously introspective processed electric grand piano. When Steve Roach has revealed some first, "behind the scenes" informations on this album, he has promised a really surprising opus and I must admit that "Etheric Imprints" composition shifts his soundcarving into a brand new level, where profoundly poignant atmosphere is reinforced by monstrously delicate piano serenity precisely bridged with intangibly nuanced drone blankets, perplexingly spiraling tenuousness and suggestively engulfing stillness. I don't know how the connection between the sounds and visuals was built, but their symmetry is incredibly gorgeous. "Etheric Imprints" composition showcases Steve Roach at a quite unique edge within ambient and modern classical realms, deliberately minimal, yet intensely evocative. Bravo!!! This utterly immersing sonic meditation clandestinely permeates across the next piece, "Indigo Shift", but dramatic undulations quickly invade and steal the journey. Tenser drones continuously cascade and interact with otherworldly crescendoing sculptings. Weirdly pinnacling, helixing and disrupting, nearly cacophonous and hallucinogenic. 12 minutes long sonic endeavor is in strong contrast with the opening piece. Undoubtedly this is a truly peculiar metamorphose, absolutely unexpected, which certainly spans a lot of controversy. But to my ears, this is another proof of the Master's visionary, when encountering extraordinarily challenging and intricately mind-blowing realms. The more I dive to it, the more enigmatic is this escapade!!! Why not? And on the top of that, and that amazes me quite a lot, Tuyen Q. Nguyen's cover images can interact even with this mysterious piece!!! The artwork can be in one moment serenely embracing, but in the next moment as much tumultuous. With the next track Steve Roach safely returns to more comfortable zones meticulously utilizing arsenal of his monumentally graceful and thrillingly panoramic insignias. 17-plus minutes long piece vigorously drifts on immensely infinite and perpetually blissful tides. A fully rewarding listening experience awaits here, a pure magic, so connect deeply to the genius' ultra atmospheric oasis!!! I keep on "Holding Light" with goosebumps on my arms since the very first exploration!!! "The Way Forward" clocks to nearly 15-minute mark and it closes this stirringly poignant adventure with rather weeping waves and meanders persistently counterpointed with warmly sinuous layers, masterly permeated by earmarking shimmering sensual heat. Feel the wonder of desert life, because no one else is capable of transferring these awe-inspiring images into profoundly enveloping sonic canvas like the Master.

After the bundle "The Delicate Forever" and "The Delicate Beyond", Steve Roach continues in expanding his artistic horizons, thus "Etheric Imprints" album is a truly vital addition to his enormous body of recordings. We all must be really grateful for such consistent creativity and passion!!! And keep in mind, this iconic sound architect has released few weeks ago his long-awaited colossal 4CD project "Bloodmoon Rising". And last but not least, a very special year-end release is scheduled for December!!! Still going forward, the journey continues...

Richard Gürtler (Oct 05, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Markus Reuter, Zero Ohms "From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete" CDr

This is the second collaborative effort, but first released on physical format, between respected German touch-style guitarist Markus Reuter and US woodwind wizard, Richard Roberts, known as the sole protagonist behind Zero Ohms. Their first collaboration entitled "The Sun Is Just The Sun, But The Stars They Call The Heavens" was released back in 2011 as digital download through Ian Boddy's label DiN. Extensive discographies of both artists feature numerous collaborative releases with kindred souls, for example with Ian Boddy, Robert Rich, Craig Padilla, Numina or Brannan Lane. "From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete" is one of the latest releases on US label Relaxed Machinery, out since August 7th in 4-panel gatefold eco wallet featuring photography and design by Steve Brand. I don't know the number of this limited edition, but I believe it might be available in a very small run. Additional credit for mastering is given to Lee Fletcher. I also should mention this isn't Zero Ohms' debut on this label, as he is already a part of rM roster since October 2011 with "Worlds, Afterworlds" album, which was followed during the summer of 2013 by "369" recording.

The album, containing 5 longer compositions, ranging between 12 and 17 minutes in length, ignites with "Unseen" odyssey, when drifting through gracefully expansive, infinitely immense and gorgeously yearning realms, sinuously moving from warmer spaciousness to more profound dronescaping, and inconspicuously intensified with luminously filigree transient high-pitched traceries. The longest piece, "Boundless", incorporates tighter monochromatic layers flavored with hissy winds and mesmerizingly emerging cyber-tech fragments. Assorted ear-tickling undercurrents sneak as well, along with ethereal layers hanging above and continuously bathe the listener's ear in an amorphously oscillating elixir, mind-blowingly enrapturing, here and there intricately scented with harmoniously ear-piercing ephemera. Tobias Reber is credited on this composition for his filter treatment. Reverberatingly transporting listening experience continues also with the next track, "Pinnacle", although meticulously reinforced by graciously delightful choir-like drones and mildly hissing tides, floating and undulating through spellbindingly celestial wistfulness. The grand emptiness of outer space is magnificently displayed by sophisticated symmetry between challenging artistic techniques of Markus Reuter and Zero Ohms. A really grandiose, yet thrillingly supernal soundscape exquisitely soothing my mind and body, bravo, gentlemen!!! "Recondite" safely keeps on the path of diaphanous tranquilness, gently drifting through majestic cascades, while heavenly chorus-like drones relentlessly emanate and grace the sky high domains. "Indescribable" closes this balsamic journey with subtly nuanced texture, where more massive, yet calmly emerging surges are precisely counterpointed with glimpses of embracing stillness. Lusciously gliding melodies constantly interact with etheric choirs, brief sibilances and softly resonating drones. What a beauty!!!

"From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete" album is masterfully polished, ethereally magnificent and poetically comforting dronescaping, exhibiting utterly precise amalgamation of two uniquely distinctive virtuosities. On one side, Markus Reuter's refined performance using his designed Touch Guitars® U8 with his nontraditional use of looping devices, on the other one, Zero Ohms' Richard Roberts with his unique utilization of wind-controlled synths with additional software synths. Hats off to both of you, Markus and Richard!!! You have reached with this collaborative project a truly synergistic level, where instant perfection meets prodigious elegance. Entering these gloriously grandiose aural cathedrals illuminated by your magnificently consonant artifices continuously leave me deeply fascinated!!! Limited CDr edition is available directly from Richard Roberts via his Zero Ohms' Bandcamp site, while digital version can be obtained through Markus Reuter's Iapetus account on Bandcamp. This album is a hidden gem, I can't recommend it highly enough!!!

Richard Gürtler (Sep 20, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Wave Mantra" CD by Sean Washburn
« on: September 20, 2015, 02:37:20 AM »

Sean Washburn "Wave Mantra" CD

"Wave Mantra" CD by American soundexplorer Sean Washburn, based in Maryland, was released on Swedish gterma label during the middle of April, 2015, but the story behind this album is much much older. As far I know, it was originally released on CD format by the artist himself back in January 2000, now I believe out of print title, but unfortunately I have never got aware of this amazing piece of music until gterma made their announcement about reissuing remastered "Wave Mantra" at the beginning of this year. What a shame on me!!! Anyway, I am really happy to able to explore this classic tribal ambient jewel, even if more than 15 years passed already. As usual for gterma, the traditional jewel case packaging is accompanied by attractive 16-page booklet featuring additional photographs by gterma's driving force mr_rehn aka Johan Rehn. The mastering duties are handled by frequent gterma engineer Anders Peterson of Ghost Sounds acting under his A.P moniker.

Enigmatic gong announces the opening, 8-minute "To Thee Homage", which delves into deeply profound terrains driven by Tibetan throat singing and velvety whisperings by guest artist, Laura Numsen, while mesmerizingly meditative drone nuances continually float across. Tinkling subtleties with organic delicacies join this utterly tranquilizing spectacle as well. A very strong overture, which seamlessly moves through "Hemlock Grotto", where flute murmurs are persistently bridged with intangible tribal drumming and commingle with helixing drone mindscapes. "Cirrus" remains on the path of bizarrely spiraling patterns, slightly ear-piercing when hitting the climax. Flimsy tinkles clandestinely permeate through the undulating drone sheets. Distant primordial rumbles sneak towards the end and disclose the next piece, "Trans-World India", which mysteriously drifts through more expansive panoramas, yet perplexingly cascading and reinforced by fragile chimes. Assorted environmental urban sounds elusively infiltrate throughout and help to draw trance-inducing mandalas. "Welcome" immediately broadens the drifting scenario, moving through spaciously grandiose, stunningly rainstick-infused realms, magnificently augmented by ear-bending oscillations and enthrallingly rattling and shaking traceries. A truly shamanistic performance showcasing Sean Washburn at the very top of his magical craft, bravo!!! 9 and half minutes long "Inner Gate" introduces another guest and another sound shaman, a didgeridoo par excellence player, John Vorus. Soothing sounds of floating water coalesce with Sean Washburn's whispers, while hypnotic didgeridoo drones are hovering above. Then exquisitely expressive flute steals the journey and commingle with synth and didge walls, before bridging with contemplative Tibetan monk chants, transcendental throat singing and crystalline tinkles. Total sonic immersion is again meticulously achieved and the listener continuously explores a uniquely majestic and extraordinarily inexplicable landscapes on the Tibetan Plateau!!! Kudos to Sean Washburn and John Vorus!!! Shorter, nearly 3-minute "Low Barometer" is sculpted of thunder sounds (Peter M. Sullivan is credited for these recordings) and remote, yet gorgeously evocative flute. "Between The Heartbeats" reveals with relaxing, nocturnally delicious natural sounds and magically transporting udu beats, surrounded my gentle tides of drones and serenely embracing flute contemplations. Nearly 20-minute closing opus "A Sacred Voice - Cloud Tree" reveals with peaceful, cavernously echoed field recordings, then calm synth meanders join the scenery along with more gliding drone layer and distantly emerging drumming, which slowly becomes more apparent and profoundly engrossing together with inconspicuously arising Native American flute and persistent nightly songs of crickets. After the beat and flute evanesce around the middle of the track, Laura Numsen again steps to the stage with her airy whispering voice, remote throat singing calmly emerges as well and together paint seductively mesmerizing images. The closing, around 5 minutes long passage returns to deeply organic terrains counterpointed with smoothly cascading drone texture. John Vorus gets additional credit for his synth and obsidian shimmer (?) on this composition. Spellbindingly rewarding finish of this 74-minute album!!!

"Wave Mantra" precisely melts electronics with a variety of ethnic instruments and masterfully equilibrates them with large dose of exotic fragrances. Huge thanks to Sean Washburn and Johan Rehn/gterma for resurrecting this enigmatically distinguishing sonic gem!!! Keep in mind, there is no excuse for missing "Wave Mantra" again!!! And I really hope this reissue also marks the return of Sean Washburn after his long silence. His deeply soulful sonic meditations are always welcome!!! Keep on the path, Sean!!!

Richard Gürtler (Sep 14, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Second Spring" CDr by Steve Brand
« on: September 14, 2015, 08:18:27 AM »

Steve Brand "Second Spring" CDr

One of the most exceptional ambient soundforgers these days, Steve Brand, returns with his second 2015 album entitled "Second Spring". As usual for this Kansan maestro, the album is released through his own Pioneer Light Music label. Out since March 20th and packaged in attractively designed 4-panel digipak, which means return to previously used packaging concept with releases such as "The Space Between" or "Meltstream", because his previous album from this year, "Into The Current", was published in a cardboard sleeve. Although I like both packaging types, I think catchy digipak gets my vote. Anyway, it's the content what counts the most and when it goes to Steve Brand, my expectations are always enormous. If I would use the term "unsigned" artist, which is not exactly correct in this case, because of Steve Brand's Pioneer Light Music imprint and his co-ownership of Relaxed Machinery, or when focusing on artists, who release their music in small pro CDr runs, then Steve Brand would for sure belong to the best kept secrets on the scene. So it's no surprise that during the last few years Steve Brand always gets my nomination for Best of the Year album. Masterworks such as already mentioned "Meltstream" (collaboration with Roy Mattson) and "The Space Between" or other highly praised older recordings like "Over-soul", "The Great Hoop" or "Subtle Movements Inside" are the best examples of his virtuosical eminence. And his mission still continues and I can easily confirm it's stronger than ever throughout 2015, stunningly evocative "Into The Current" (released and reviewed several months ago) is the most relevant proof. And the deep listening session with "Second Spring" is still ahead...

"Second Spring" is also the title track, which ignites this journey and it does it in an absolutely thrilling way. Ultra gargantuan drones are bridged with outbursting high-pitched intensifications, swirlingly traveling across the listener's head. Ear-piercing sinuousness is continuously charged and counterpointed with glimpses of warmer blankets or cyber-biotic traceries. Disruptive, expansive, peculiar, mind-blowing!!! After about ten minutes transition into slightly calmer ethereally-infused passages follows, although still crossed with eruptive escapades, before soothingly disappearing on the wings of organic subtleties. A truly grandiose 16-minute intro!!! Deeply evocative flute calls announce "The Sun Resides Within My Body", contemplative tinkles join the stage along with slowly emerging distant pulsation and all drone gods are being awaken as well. But soon overtone singing slowly permeates until this wizardry completely steals the show and reveals its utterly powerful magic. Undulating magmatic movements are jaw-droppingly intense and exquisite, although intriguingly softened with tiding warm expanses. Then primordial artifacts emanate from fascinating subterranean domains and amalgamate with heavy drone elevations. What a journey!!! Absolutely phenomenal composition masterfully displaying the track title, it clocks to nearly 17-minute mark and it's certainly one of the most extraordinary moments of 2015!!! This must be Steve Brand at the very top of his soundsculpting transcendence, bravo!!! "Transitional Experience" unfolds with delicate cavernous rumblings, surrounded by intangible flute patterns and meandering drone hums, until magnificently soulful flute moves to the forefront and crescendoes until reaching its vertex towards the end of the first third. Then the remaining, about 7 minutes long part slips into serene, yet profoundly mindscaping terrains persistently reinforced by ear-tickling organic earmarks, strongly mesmerizing and spectacularly transporting into the majestic terra incognita. This thrilling journey continues with "A Drop Becomes A Stream, Becomes a River, Becomes The Ocean", where Steve Brand again excels with his richly nuanced shamanistic flute bravura, ranging from whistling through droning to outbursting palette. Monochromatic drifts guard above throughout, while contemplative tinkles inconspicuously ascend and coalesce with slowly escalating texture. Another astonishing symmetry between the track title and its aural expression!!! "The Fruit Of The Spring" calmly glides across and heads into graciously expansive vistas, when contrasted with sharply invading, yet gorgeously evocative strings, while awaken tranquil natural sounds with pristine primeval rumbles join the floating spectacle of this serenely relaxing spring scenery. The last piece, "Love Never Dies", delves deeper into desolate drone terrains, smoothly drifting, yet immensely spacious with ear-bending surges, before magnificently metamorphosing into warmly monumental dronescaping tour de force. Ethereal stringed embellishments excessively perforate across and later soothingly fade away in delightful synergy with balmily surrounding reminiscences. A tremendously imposing conclusion!!!

Lushly colorful, over 78 minutes long "Second Spring", released in limited edition of 50 copies, is another hugely significant recording of Steve Brand, confirming his remarkable consistency and firmly strong position among the leading forces within the genre. And yes, if you ask me about the number of released copies, it will always stay way behind my understanding... And if this is still not enough convincing for you, then check out the latest recording of Steve Brand, a double pro CDr album entitled "Sanctuary", released during June 2015 on Pioneer Light Music. And along with that, get ready for another beauty, "Songs From Unknown Territory", which is scheduled for September 25th. And on the top of all these exciting news, Steve Brand is also polishing in his Sanctuary basement his live concept. As always, I stay deeply connected!!! And I am dreaming about joining the live gathering one day...

Richard Gürtler (Sep 12, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Strands" CD by Radiant Mind
« on: September 09, 2015, 10:54:38 AM »

Radiant Mind "Strands" CD

Almost three years ago I reviewed debut CDr album of Radiant Mind, entitled "Sense", released on emerging US label Periphery, now active as Anodize (run by Darren Bergstein). Radiant Mind's driving force Robert Englis was at that time a quite big mystery to me. About two years later, his second album "Strands" was released on Steve Roach's label as a third release, after Brian Parnham's "Mantle" and Nathan Youngblood's "Asunder". Released at the end of October 2014 in a 4-panel eco wallet with cover photography by Steve and additional graphic design by Sam Rosenthal. The master is credited also for production, mastering, sonic enhancements, processing and looping. Since then another 10 months have passed and the name of Robert English remains to me as much enigmatic as it was back in 2012. This kind of anonymity drives me quite crazy, so the more I am fascinated when diving deeply into his soundworlds.

As soon 8-minute "Beyond The Barriers" invades my listening room, everything is more than clear, Robert Englis' soundsculpting is no short of his unidentified occurrence. Mesmerizingly helixing dronecarving, amorphously intangible, is intriguingly reinforced by transient, ear-tickling spatial fragments, while warmer ethereal blankets persistently ride atop. But the magic is fully unfolded on "Beacon Of Sound", this 7-plus minutes long piece immediately shifts into graciously divine domains and safely cruises through magnificently elevated atmospheric horizons. Choir-like drones and balmily gliding layers are carefully counterpointed by elusively tinkling patterns. Aural bliss continuously permeates... "Womb Of Healing", with similar length as its two predecessors, safely hangs on soothingly drifting expanses, monochromatically mindcaping, here and there intensified by assorted emerging, oscillating, guarding and dissolving cyber-tech effects. 14-minute "Released", the first of three longer pieces, delves deeper into mysteriously sculpted terrains, hypnotically reverberating, and winding on everlasting tides of nebulous eeriness with pinnacling edgier tension. This serpentine opaqueness seamlessly overlaps to the next piece "Twilight Weave". The pressure slightly softens, although it insistently undulates and ear-piercingly resonates, and the overall feel tortuously glides and meanders towards more earthier, yet staggeringly deserted majestic realms painted by dramatic stormy cloudscapes magnificently punctured by crepuscular sky rays. A land of extremes fully reveals its breathtaking panoramic spectacle, masterfully augmented by the distinctive touch of the Master. The title track, nearly 22 minutes long closing opus "Strands" safely glides on the path of deep, monolithically spiraling drones brightened by celestially glistening subtleties and dissonances. Powerfully drifting through unfathomably nuanced, infinitely expansive and awe-inspiringly climaxing magnitudes. A deliberately accomplished deeply embracing adventure at its most transcendental, a grand finale!!!

After "Sense" we have got another superb recording by Radiant Mind, this time less kaleidoscaping, but more sweepingly spacious with voluminously crescendoing and ambiguously diminuendoing profoundness. "Strands", a 71-minute album meticulously bridges warmer serenities with perplexing darkness and safely hangs on the edges of grandiosely immersing atmospheric ambience. Once again, it drives me nuts I don't know any additional informations about Radiant Mind and its mysterious sole protagonist, however, I will always keep my ear to the ground when it goes to his future projects!!! And kudos also to Steve Roach for keeping this artist on the track, I really hope the journey of label with releasing works of gifted kindred spirits will continue!!!

Richard Gürtler (Sep 06, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Forrest Fang "Letters To The Farthest Star" CD

As usual for this Chinese-American master of electro-acoustic world/ambient soundsculpting, it's almost impossible to list all the instruments he uses during the recording sessions in his Hangar studio in Berkeley. This inventory is as much broad as it is exotically-fragranced and it's quite obvious that I won't be able to exactly recognize them in each particular composition. But what I am 100% sure is that Forrest Fang virtuosically utilizes every single instrument in his hands with his innate mastery and passion. Spellbindingly rewarding journey from 2012 entitled "Animism" still deeply resonates, so I am absolutely thrilled to explore "Letters To The Farthest Star", Forrest Fang's latest album released at the beginning of March 2015 on Projekt in traditional 4-panel eco wallet packaging with stunning cover and inside images by Polish photographer Maciej Koniuszy and designed by Sam Rosenthal. The mastering job is again handled at Soundscape by renowned Robert Rich. The newest album comes in limited edition of 300 copies.

The album unfolds with 18-minute four part suite, gorgeously entitled "The Unreachable Lands". Shorter "Sunsail" provides the opening with its soothingly expansive driftscape, which smoothly overlaps to the next part, "Song Of The Camel". An array of richly perfumed stringed instruments is intriguingly amalgamated with vivacious drumming, the result is a truly euphoric, rhythm-driven multi-cultural sonic tapestry with the signature that can only be Forrest Fang. Ultra deep drone bliss announces "Water Village", counterpointed here and there with emerging trenchant outbursts, before ephemerally transmuting through contemplative gamelan-like tinkles into hauntingly melodious blend of Eastern Asia, violin-infused flourishes and mesmerically spiraling rhythm patterns. The interaction of evocative stringed essences with relaxing downtempos is just amazing on this composition and as much spectacular as the transition from calmly sunrising horizons to vital daylight waterscapes. "Hermitage" reveals with enigmatically helixing drones, but soon utterly expressive duet of piano and violin steals the journey, while ethereal electric guitar mastery by Jeff Pearce rides atop. Yes, "The Unreachable Lands" have never been closer!!! The next composition, "Burnt Offerings", with 11 and half minutes the longest piece on album, serenely glides and slowly expands, before exotic strings, maybe those of cumbus, sneak in along with ear-tickling tribal drumming. The closing 4 minutes jaw-droppingly slip into magnificently panoramic, ultra profound dronescaping sceneries, continuously permeated by intangibly whizzing subtleties and exquisitely evocative strings of Japanese palm harp. But I firstly thought these are baglama-like strings. Anyway, this is Forrest Fang at the very top of his craft, demonstrating his musical intelligence and ingeniousness, to me, a Hall of Fame composition!!! Bravo, Forrest!!! The opening passage of 8-minute "Veldt Hypnosis" is strongly contemplative with its tinkling sounds merged with organics and distant sinuous embroideries, but then the composition quickly turns into lushly scented polyrhythmic scenario sounding quite twisted, nearly cacophonous and freaky, before evanescing through more comfortable zones, merging meditative delicacies with bizarrely hypnotic dreamscapes. The following piece, "Fossils", immediately hooks the ear with its soothingly gossamer mood, bridged with field recordings evoking uniquely processed duck quacks and later reinforced by intensely expressive, slightly reverberating sounds of, most likely, some out of tune piano. A quite extraordinary, fully rewarding soundsculpture!!! On "Seven Coronas" ephemeral native American flute calls interact with fragile tinkles, but soon deeply poignant cinematic wistfulness of violin captures the lead along with remote dronescapes, which are persistently permeated by mesmerizing gamelan delicacies. Flute rejoins towards the end with its nuanced growls and barks. A true elixir for my ears, feel all the magic of beyond the ordinary sonic exploration!!! Hats off to the Maestro!!! "Lorenz" delves into intriguingly desolate subterranean terrains, augmented by perplexingly ear-piercing and peculiarly undulating drone transcendence. The closing track, 10 and half minute long "Lines To Infinity" shifts into gorgeously immense celestial domains, when utilizing dimmed electric mandolin mastery along with graciously eternal driftscapes.

"Letters To The Farthest Star" meticulously blend a potpourri of Middle and Far East musical traditions with Western-infused atmospheric splendor, always thrillingly multifarious with filigree trademarking touch, yet exquisitely amalgamated and focused. Forrest Fang, one of the world's most creative electro-acoustic sound explorers did it again!!! Immerse deeply into these fascinatingly perfumed regions and experience these magically transporting letters. Forrest Fang is one of our most unique guides on these journeys for three decades. We all must be really grateful for his sonic visions!!! Thank you, Forrest!!! And by the way, if you prefer digital version of "Letters To The Farthest Star", you will get three bonus tracks, two of them are ambient remixes while the third is an ambient deconstruction of selected three album tracks, so you can add to your 69-minute trip another about 24 minutes. In any case, "Letters To The Farthest Star" album is one of the indisputable pinnacles of 2015!!!

Richard Gürtler (Sep 05, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Mathias Grassow & John Haughm "Auræ" CD

After amazing collaborative debut "Mosaic", released during June 2012, German dronescaper par excellence Mathias Grassow and one of the driving forces behind acclaimed progressive US dark metal project Agalloch, John Haughm, celebrate their return with second chapter entitled "Auræ"!!! Released during June 2015 on Agalloch's Dämmerung Arts label. Visual splendor is just like on "Mosaic" delivered by eye-catching 4-panel digipak with 8-page booklet, featuring stunning collection of images by Agalloch's fine art photographer Veleda Thorsson with art direction and design by John Haughm. Additional credits include Chris Greene (final engineering and mixing) and Gus Elg (mastering). Last but not least, this album is dedicated to the memory of Edgar Froese.

Utilizing a wide line-up of electronic and acoustic instruments, more or less traditional, for example chimes made from railroad spikes, bowed psaltery, electric kantele or bodhrán, plus field recordings, vocals/voices, samples..., Mathias Grassow & John Haughm ignite the journey with "Eindringliche Präsenz". This 10 and half minute long track immediately sets the atmosphere with its deeply immersing palette of magmatic drones with growling cello, mesmerizing angelic choirs, perplexingly helixing throat singing, cavernously echoed array of rusty bells... Colossal drone walls undulate in a truly mindcaping style and the listener experiences exquisitely breathtaking aural odyssey, a journey to the forefront of trancendental electroacoustic dronecarving!!! Bravo, gentlemen!!! Certainly one of the most puissant sonic escapades of 2015!!! 12-minute "Æther" sounds quite inconspicuous, more serene and meandering during its first five or six minutes, reinforced by assorted fragments and traceries, but then the primary drift smoothly progresses until it fully transmutes into another multidimensional drone ecstasy, painting imposingly towering spirals, and astonishingly amplified by mysteriously intangible trembles. My jaw drops once again and my ears are bathed in spellbindingly infinite drone bliss!!! The following piece "Ereignis" delves into more quieter, celestial-infused terrains, where monochromatic layers with voice-like drones are intricately magnified by ephemeral razor-sharp stringed scraps (maybe electric kantele?), which later metamorphose into slightly rawer and rumbling scenario imbued by surging tension with weirdly coiled distant biotic glimpses, while the drone base voluminously swells and perpetually hypnotizes. "Eindruck" dives deeper into fascinatingly unfathomable depths with its massive dronescapes, displaying all innate and mastered insignias of the Drone Kaiser, devastatingly, yet expressively flatlined on first sight, but underneath the surface warmer layers calmly arise and surreptitiously permeate through the monolith. Then follows John Haughm's turn. Tiding and cascading high-pitched wistfulness sneaks in along with organic glints and elusively remote beat, mesmerically spiraling and slightly awaking the unforgettable tranquilness of "The Road To Wirikuta". Silent departure from subterranean domains is securely accomplished. Certainly a very suitable conclusion to this staggeringly mind-blowing recording!!!

"Auræ", same as its predecessor "Mosaic", reaches 45 minutes only, so this must me my only complaint, otherwise this is a very strong nominee for the Best of 2015 release in the genre!!! Magnificently broad spectrum of ingeniously equilibrated drone magic meticulously interacts with each track title, hats off to both maestros for their alchemistical bravura!!! "Auræ" is another superb collaborative effort!!! And when focusing on Mathias Grassow, get ready for the next journey through magnificent nothingness, his "AeroAreA" monster 4CD Set was released only several weeks ago on Russian GS Productions label. On the other side, John Haughm has most recently completed with Agalloch their extensive "Serpens In Cvlmination" West Coast and European tours.

Richard Gürtler (Aug 30, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Time Being "A Place To Belong" CD

Respected Floridian soundscaper Phillip Wilkerson joins his forces with crafted Spotted Peccary photographer, designer and composer Jourdan Laik, based in Wisconsin, to reactivate their Time Being project. Their notable debut "A Dimension Reflected" was released in 2011 on Lotuspike (now member of Spotted Peccary gang), now four years later, it's time to explore the next chapter of their fruitful collaborative efforts. "A Place To Belong" album is out since June 9th in visually attractive 4-panel eco wallet, featuring original photographs by Jourdan Laik with design by Daniel Pipitone and poignantly extensive narration by John Alley, where are concealed all track titles. Ben Cox completes the team with his mastering duties at The Armory studio.

"The Wind Has Called", nearly 8 and half minute long track, unfolds the journey with dusky organic subtleties, contemplative tinkles and hissy surroundings, efficiently counterpointed with remote voice enigma and intensely tiding drone ephemera, while warmer washes smoothly permeate and extensively spread across utterly magnificent panoramic sceneries. These monumentally drifting layers continuously interact with drone surges and sibilant sheets, before clandestinely reverting into tranquilly mesmeric paths. The track title is comprehensively displayed, this is nocturnal ambience at its most exquisite!!! "Every Memory" keeps its immense texture, although more ethereal and monochromatic than colossal and nuanced, yet still thrillingly hissed, while intangible children voice samples add gorgeously reflective dimension. Gracefully gliding through powerfully evocative vistas, more please!!! The next composition "From Where We Are" reveals with soothing night sounds bridged with meditative Japanese-fragranced piano sounds, guarded by crescendoing and decreasing drone blankets, rather rawly dissonant than sweepingly embracing. "State Of Being" swiftly returns into profoundly drifting scenario, powerfully gliding at the beginning, then calmly transmuting through weirdly oscillating realms into spellbindingly grandiose horizons, here and there reinforced by some delicate organic and ear-tickling traceries. Second longest piece, "Farther Worlds", clocking over 9 and half minute mark, paints hauntingly diaphanous images, which relentlessly emanate from fascinatingly subterranean realms, occasionally crossed with vigorously helixing transience, while monolithic drifts persistently ride atop and undulate. Towards the end the drone magic serenely dissolves on the waves of artificially flavored seashore sounds. On "The Elements Melt" cyber-tech sounds and ominous rumbles arise from unfathomable depths and engross the listener with dramatically carved drones, voluminously cascading through spectacularly adventurous terrains. With an arsenal of ear-piercing intensifications a truly transcendental listening experience awaits here!!! "Here Is Life" brings us back to earthy paradise and drifts on aeonian tides of stunningly massive layers of drones, meticulously augmented by distinctive alloy of ambiguously hi-tech sonic glimmers. Certainly another triumphant soundsculpting!!! The longest piece, "An Infinite Home", gets over 12 and half minutes and closes this immensely transporting album with epic endeavor, melting or alternating placid on-site recordings with gorgeously floating, meandering and climaxing cinematic washes.

A truly splendid synergistic 62-minute alchemy, showcasing precisely fused insignias of experienced drifter with challenging patterns of talented artist, that's "A Place To Belong" in a nutshell, bravo, Phillip Wilkerson & Jourdan Laik!!! You guys have undoubtedly achieved with Time Being's second sequel all the goals you wanted and each devoted listener is carried through your virtuosity away into an awe-inspiring landscapes, fueled by ceaselessly coalesced amorphously comforting dronescapes with glimpses of eerily mindscaping tapestries, when moments of calm introspection awake. And obviously kudos to Spotted Peccary Music label must be awarded, because "A Place To Belong" album is another big one released by this Californian crew!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 23, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Lamkhyer" CDr by Remanence
« on: August 19, 2015, 09:30:26 AM »

Remanence "Lamkhyer" CDr

I will nail it straightly, releases such as "Lamkhyer" are the main reason, why I am a nut when it goes to collecting physical releases. Yeah, this is a really great example of a true collector's item, and no matter if available as a pro CDr and not as a glass mastered edition. But the story behind this release is much broader, as the original "Lamkhyer" edition was released back in 2002 on mPATH Records as a 3 track 3" CDr, packaged in a beautifully unique earth tone booklet. Nowadays out of print title. So visual and aural delight was already delivered 13 years ago, but now, Brian McWilliams and John Phipps, the both protagonists behind Remanence, shift "Lamkhyer" into a brand new artful level, again exceptionally crafted and polished in all details. Out since the end of March 2015 on Resonant Effects (mPATH Records' successor), expanded into a 8-track version featuring remastered original tracks and additional outtakes, mixes and demos from that same time period. And on the top of all that, newly repackaged in 5" x 5" real to real tape box with 6-panel gatefold booklet with extensive liner notes, 6 gorgeous black & white wintery photographs (taken by Brian McWilliams in 2001 at Asylum Lake, near Kalamazoo, MI) secured by a velum wrapper and printed velum sleeve. The box is stamped with its number and hand assembled by the artists and it's released in a limited edition of 100 copies.

Remastered version of the title track "Lamkhyer" ignites the ride. In Tibetan, Lamkhyer can be divided in two words, path and carrying, and its meaning can be translated as anything happens in your life should be included as a part of your journey. 9-plus minutes long piece dives into stunningly enigmatic terrains, meticulously merging intricately undulating drones with light percussive tribal essences, lush organic artifacts and transient flute reminiscences, all ingeniously equilibrated into a mesmerizingly transporting listening bliss, deliberately connecting primordial with artifical. Bravo, Brian & John!!! "K'an, The Abyss" is another composition from the initial release, again revisited and remastered with the most current tools. The piece masterfully merges perplexingly tiding and helixing drifts with ear-tickling contemplative tinkles and soothingly embracing biotic traceries, all magnificently surrounded by awe-inspiring abysmal sceneries. Immerse yourself into these deeply fascinating soundworlds!!! This intriguingly flavored journey continues also with "The Left Hand Path", firstly delving briefly into eerily unfathomable depths, but soon warmer panoramic washes sneak in along with gently rumbling tribal downtempos, which quickly steal the show and persistently keep on heightening. This is the third and last piece from the original EP, again remastered. "Reflecting Pool" is a resurrected demo version of the track, which appeared on Remanence's "A Strange Constellation Of Events" album in 2005 (another top-notcher from these guys!!!). It follows the darker path, hauntingly meandering, yet much reverberatively magnified and bleakly rough when comparing with the version from the above mentioned album. "Nocturne" is a longer variant of another piece from "A Strange Constellation Of Events" and the listener is taken deeply into mysteriously adventurous terrains, where meditative gong-infused realms are continuously contrasted with permeating transcendental stratum and disharmonious outbursts. Wow, this an uniquely colored tapestry!!! "Lamkhyer" is back again, this time in the original demo version, which is shorter than the title piece, this one clock just over 6-minute mark. It's slightly rawer, by far more desolately droning, both flat and sinuous, without the tribal and organic parts. And now we can even recognize some ghostly voices hanging above. "K'an, The Deep" is a slightly longer version, as much enigmatic and even more, peculiarly mindscaping with its heavier drone currents. "The Left Hand Path" is an alternate edition, which was remixed especially for this release. The arsenal of percussions seems to paint extra intense hypnotic circles in this one, before tranquilly dissolving into concluding silence.

I should also mention that additional credits are given to Michelle McWilliams (recorder on "Lamkhyer") and Experimental Method (I-Ching text, co-writing "K'an, The Abyss" and K'an, The Deep", random events). Overall, this is a really nice, 48-minute long upgrade of the original "Lamkhyer" edition unveiling some rare recordings with fully-packed artful presentation. Certainly a dream for each true collector!!! With this in mind, don't miss also Aperus' 2013 reissue of "Tumbleweed Obfuscated By Camera Failure" pro CDr edition, originally released back in 2003. Aperus is a solo project of Brian McWilliams. And by the way, he has in the pipeline another beauty, remastered and expanded reissue of 2004 "Hinterland", an out of print 5-track mini album by Aperus, which will feature additional two tracks. I think both, Remanence and Aperus, are strongly underrated projects, unfortunately, there is no justice in this industry. So in case these names are brand new to you, I urgently recommend to give a try to these skilled artists, they really deserve much wider audience!!! So do it now and make the scene more fair, I bet you, you won't regret!!! Last but not least, keep on going, Brian & John, my ears and eyes are always ready for more, distinctively exquisite sonic and visual bliss!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 17, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Bruno Sanfilippo "Upon Contact Reworked" CD

"Upon Contact Reworked", released during May 2015 on ad21, is a very interesting project driven by Bruno Sanfilippo, an acclaimed Argentinian composer, who is based since 2000 in Barcelona, Spain. This collaboration features several of his colleagues across the globe, who focus on "Upon Contact", the original composition by Bruno Sanfilippo and charge it with their challenging artifices. The packaging of this CD is rather simple, it's a cardboard sleeve, but simply elegant with beautiful sparse artwork with additional insert, all designed by Bruno Sanfilippo's wife Ximena Contreras. A very nice work indeed!!!

"Upon Contact Reworked" collection opens with the initial composition, "Upon Contact", recorded by Bruno Sanfilippo at his Onix II Studio and mastered by Taylor Deupree. Intimate piano nuances immediately embrace each listener with utterly gorgeous subtlety scrupulously permeated by expansive glimpses of immersing stillness. This is deeply expressive minimalism and a true aural delicacy of introspective poignancy, meticulously intermingled with the visual part of the album. Bravo!!! Italian soundscaper Francesco Giannico is the first guest, who joins Bruno Sanfilippo and brings to the table his translucent urban recordings and sweepingly gliding evocations, which are hauntingly bridged with warm piano notes. Another beauty!!! Enigmatic drones of UK's Olan Mill take Bruno Sanfilippo's composition into intensely delightful hazy serenity, where long-buried memories awake. Portuguese sound manipulator Leonardo Rosado (now domiciled in Göteborg, Sweden) safely holds the piece on intense pathway, guarded by ambiguous dronescape, smoothly undulating through hissy terrains, while elusive piano rise and fall throughout. Intricately engrossing piece!!! The next "Upon Contact" is carved by Argentinian experimental composer Jorge Haro, his name is a brand new to me. Submerging hi-tech beep sounds add a brand new feel to Bruno Sanfilippo's mesmerizingly circling piano. Some remote dub-techno-infused fragments ephemerally emerge as well. A really intriguing blend!!! Quivion is another unknown name to me, this Swedish project basically continues the route taken by Jorge Haro, it's less experimental, more organic, although later the humming drone with piano softness is continuously counterpointed with distant intangible industrial beats and rumbles. Also the last guest, Greek sculptor Hior Chronik, now residing in Berlin, is new to me. His palette of distinctively subtle glitchy-like sounds masterfully reinforces the piano magic by the main protagonist, shifts the composition into gorgeously melancholic fields and provides a really gratifying conclusion to this cooperative effort.

I should add that all reworked contributions on this CD were mastered by Ian Hawgood and this collaborative work is available in a limited edition of 500 copies. For me, there is only one low point here, the length of this collection, which clocks to 37 minutes in total. I could easily imagine one or two additional reworked versions (maybe one by Bruno's fellow companion Max Corbacho with the infusion of his amorphously colossal drifts), but that's just my rough idea. Otherwise, this is a truly fruitful project exquisitely exhibiting a collective of kindred spirits within deeply expressive ambient/modern classical realms, who have masterfully enriched "Upon Contact" recording with their own distinguishing insignias. Well-done, Bruno (& Ximena), and kudos to all participating artists, you all have done a really wonderful job!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 15, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Pathways" CD by Chad Kettering
« on: August 11, 2015, 08:54:13 AM »

Chad Kettering "Pathways" CD

Five years have passed since the extraordinary album "Voices Of The Ancients", now we have here, for a long time awaited, third album by this Texan ambient soundsculptor and mastering engineer Chad Kettering. Self-released "Pathways" album is out since the end of May, 2015. I must admit the whole presentation of this album was made on top level, which featured even some preview trailers, presented in different countdown stages, gradually revealing the album's title plus a video documentary of the new album. Quite unusual, although I remember that Chad Kettering posted a presentation video few years back about the inspiration and creative process of making his previous album. Anyway, everything was handled and polished in a truly exceptional quality. And that's the case for the visual part of the album too, when renowned Polish photographer and graphic virtuoso Michal Karcz got the invitation to participate on "Pathways". So it's quite obvious that 6-panel digipak packaging delivers immediately a really spellbinding visual experience. Bravo, Chad, bravo, Michal!!!

A track entitled "Openings" unsurprisedly unfolds this intensely enrapturing journey. The listener is straightly invited to take a hauntingly crescendoed and strongly orchestral, 6-plus minutes long ride full of adventurously breathtaking transitions. Electronics, synthetics, live acoustics, choirs... all meticulously blended into one utterly entertaining compound. An avalanche of cinematic drama awaits here, join in and follow Chad Kettering's "Pathways"!!! "Finding My Way" follows the rapid route with its swirlingly traveling sounds, again moving through various uplifting elevations. Some female voice samples join the amalgamate of ecstatic electronic orchestra. "The Fire Within", with 8 minutes the longest track on "Pathways", delves deeper into wistful terrains highlighted by the weeping cello by Chad Kettering's wife Kari (from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra). But soon the cello strings metamorphose into rawer drama, reinforced my ethereal female chants of Francesca Genco and additional orchestral explosions. Towards the end the composition gorgeously evanesces on the wings of poetic tranquility, embracingly panoramic, and bridged with organic subtleties. "Free Falling" carefully fuses serenely translucent field recordings with warmly alluring gentle tribal downtempos and ephemeral chant/voice fragments, again sinuously floating, meandering, undulating and engrossing. A large dose of sonic elixir is delivered here!!! "Closer To You" starts with intangible cacophony of sounds, before smoothly converting into dramatic scenario, coalescing orchestral cascades of powerfully climaxing cinematic layers, expressive chants and poignant cello with jaw-droppingly raw surface. Rather shorter composition, but strongly efficient!!! "Provenance" moves into quieter terrains, soothingly sweeping expanses enhanced with velvety tinkles, but during the second third the center stage lushly progresses and transforms into spectacularly panoramic, spine-tingling ancient surges augmented by Native American flute, awaking the magical beauty and monumental grace of "Voices of the Ancients". Wow, certainly one of the pinnacles on "Pathways"!!! "The Infinity Mirror" is driven by powerfully embracing vocals of Francesca Genco, remote dramatic waves slowly rise and fall, while little gamelan-like fragrances are clandestinely thrown in and pleasantly coexist with female voice mastery. But the beauty of Francesca's voice is fully unveiled on the next piece, "Vanished Dreams", where it shines along with piano serenity, Kari's utterly yearning cello and ear-tickling tinkles. Deeply evocative coastal sounds bring the composition into its eternal silence and leave the listener in a true sonic paradise eagerly wondering what will follow. "Apotheosis" just starts where its predecessor left, but soon distinctive Morse code and transmission sounds sneak in and powerfully majestic cascades collide with transient cello parts. Grandiosely pinnacling tides reach the climax and tranquilly decrease into magnificently breathtaking amplitudes exquisitely counterpointed with thrillingly enveloping moments of stillness. Glorifying soundtrack-infused ambience at its most awe-inspiring!!! But the grand finale is just about to blossom, when Chad Kettering rises his trumpet and resurrects this instrument after a 20-year hiatus. To those unfamiliar, Chad Kettering used to be a professional classical trumpet player, who performed with various orchestras and small ensembles throughout Texas and Colorado. And the magic of this instrument is fully unfolded on the closing track, "Standing Upon The Edge", when coupled with mesmerizingly droning blankets. This calm before the storm is spellbindingly immersing!!! The tension slowly rises, expands, outbursts and then calmly disappears through the nocturnal quietness. Only 3 and half minutes? More please!!! No, okay, next time...

Wow!!! No questions here, the more primordial Southwest desert feel was this time proficiently shifted into a brand new level, precisely merging older signatures with newly challenging adventures, showcasing the huge creative potential of this, in Dallas based, artist. But I also must admit that in some glimpses the music of Chad Kettering is slightly ruined by strong influences of his musical guides, thus his own signatures are a bit sacrificed. That's my only complain, but I am mentioning this, because I know that Chad Kettering can be as much triumphant with his own sole insignias, I am 100 % sure about that since his previous two albums "Into The Infinite" and "Voices Of The Ancients", released back in 2008 and 2010. These "Pathways" are fully packed with perfection, it's an all-inclusive masterwork with top-notch sound quality that immediately deserves to be explored, experienced and celebrated. It's a piece of art masterfully connecting the visual and aural part. For example, you can check out the video documentary and you will get an idea of what I am writing about. Bravo, Chad, Kari, Francesca and Michal!!! The first two big steps were already made with previous two albums, now with "Pathways", Chad Kettering achieves the pedestal of grandiosely epic cinematic soundsculpting. I think that's what he was always fascinated about!!! "Pathways" CD is an absolute must-have release, just like "Voices Of The Ancients" and "Into The Infinite"!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 09, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Robert Rich "Premonitions 1980-1985" 4xLP Box Set

This amazing sonic document was released at the end of April 2014 on German Vinyl-On-Demand label run by Frank Maier, who passionately focuses on releasing various limited vinyl editions, which are mainly taken from various rare tape releases or feature unpublished material. VOD's catalog includes huge list of artists from industrial, noise, avantgarde, ambient... scene and each release with its packaging is a true piece of art. "Premonitions 1980-1985", released as a 4LP Box Set in limited edition of 500 copies with extensive liner notes about each track and including an official hand-numbered certificate card for each customer, is no exception, a pure visual bliss awaits after its unwrapping!!! So no wonder this release was a triggering point for me to finally acquire a turntable shortly after the release of this box set. Shame on me, I didn't get it earlier, but it's always better later than never... To all those who follow my reviews it's no secret that Robert Rich belongs to my top fave artists, so I simply couldn't resist... and now, 15 months later, I am still exploring the magic of these dusted off recordings by this Californian sound venturer.

The first LP opens with "Selene & Ether", a 27-minute piece recorded in the summer of 1980. Well, this must be around the time when Robert Rich turned his 17th birthday!!! The track enigmatically meanders across hauntingly nuanced sceneries, ranging from rather ominously dissonant motions to more tranquilly droning expansive vistas. Wow, this is undoubtedly a jaw-dropping listening experience and exploration, perfectly showcasing the innate artistry of Robert Rich at his young age and confirming his status of a teenage soundsculpting genius. And by the way, as mentioned by Robert, this was his first recording that ever received radio airplay, and no wonder it was on "Music From The Hearts of Space" radioshow in Berkeley. Immerse yourself deeply into these magnificently transporting realms, because the growth rings of the genre are being carved by one of its true pioneers. And the vibe of timeless "Trances/Drones" slowly emanates... Deep respect, Maestro!!! The B side unfolds with "Collage For Low Tones" and as its title indicates, this 18 and half minutes long composition, and another from the summer of 1980, dives into more experimental improvisations driven by PAiA modular and analog delay kit. Rather minimal, mysterious noises, but always weirdly efficient and disturbingly engrossing. Then "Ghosts" awake and encircle the listener with transcendently monochromatic drone scenario.

The second LP fires up with "Clouds 8-15", a 26-plus minutes long piece recorded during 1983. It's a mesmerizingly oscillating dronescape meticulously incorporating throughout some distant flute-like layers, other perplexingly undulating cloud formations and voice-like amorphousness. Although this track remained unpublished, I can imagine it maybe just narrowly missed the selection for "Trances/Drones". Powerfully mesmerizing drone magic is fully unfolded and Robert Rich's insignias slowly invade... "Nocturne", the B side composition with almost the same length, is less intense, more serene with its lushly organic feel. It evolves into a strongly contemplative, trance-like mood, drifting through warmly fantabulous night trails. Even if created during 1983 and maybe more rumbling here and there, this piece easily could fit also to Robert's legendary all-night Sleep concert journey, which originated in January 1982, when performing his first solo concert in the lounge of a Stanford University dormitory. According to the liner notes, the original tape composition of "Nocturne" clocks to 40-minute mark.

Chapter III is dedicated to live performances, documenting two concerts, one in Monterey on September 15th, 1983 and the second in Stanford, March 13th, 1984. Both pieces clock to 25 and half minutes and they originally appeared on "Live" cassette released in 1984 on Swedish Psychout Productions, which later became Multimood Records, and in 1987 on UK based Auricle Music. Both cassettes feature longer versions, about 45 minutes long. "Live Monterey" reveals with the beginning section of this two hour concert, which was performed at an art exhibit opening by painter Todd Friedlander. Euphorically tinkling sequences immediately steal the center stage, while Robert's voice enigmatically cruise above. These are certainly some of the signature sounds that later continuously paved the recording career of this virtuoso. But significant characteristics permeate also during the second half of the piece, which smoothly transmutes into richly biotic dronescape, triumphantly drifting through gracefully emerging and grandiosely tiding panoramas. A spectacular glimpse of slightly lighter and organic-charged version of phenomenal "Hayagriva" arises... More please!!! "Live Stanford" piece is less immense, more hypnotic, counterpointed with crystalline fragments, nebulous field recordings and radiating synthetics. Contemplative tinkles sneak in during the second third and amalgamate with mesmerizing pulses, while guarded by lushly green forest sounds. But then mysteriously hazed Southern Asia fragranced flute work permeates across and adds a brand new, distinguishing extent to this live performance. The closing part returns again to otherworldly mindscaping paths driven by Robert's unmistakable ethereal lap steel alchemy, the wail of a siren cry. A stunningly exuberant live piece, which took place in Robert's dorm room, where he lived during his third and fourth years at the Stanford University.

Nearly 15-minute "Guitar Drone 8-15" from 1983 starts the last LP. As displayed by its title, this composition focuses on Robert's experiments with strumming and brushing the strings. Gorgeously echoed and looped sounds create a deeply evocative atmosphere, which superbly fits this collection. During the second half the piece inconspicuously metamorphoses into more monotonous, yet profoundly droning, fascinatingly elevating and stirringly piercing texture. "CCRMA Voices", 7-plus minutes long track recorded during 1984, while taking the computer music course at Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, invites the listener into grippingly unfathomable domains, with transcendental voices persistently helixing inside. The B side unveils with "Inner Landscapes Introduction", which clocks over 9 minutes. This piece was a part of the two and half hour live concert in Berkeley, from March 9th, 1985, which was later, in 1988 released through Auricle on cassette as "Inner Landscapes" (90 minutes long). A 74-minute remastered CD version was released on Hypnos in 1999 and then in 2013, a double CD reissue as "Sunyata & Inner Landscapes" followed. However, this LP piece utilizes joyful sequencer-infused insignias gorgeously bridged with warmly embracing cinematics. "Manna" gets over 17-minute mark and delves back in droning tension, reinforced by gossamer cyber-tech bleeps and peculiar warbles, all intermingled with mesmerically ear-tickling sirens and strangely undulating and spiraling sheets. This piece comes from the recording sessions from 1980 with newly acquired Prophet-5.

Even if I am not a really huge vinyl aficionado, this 4LP Box Set is an ultimate, all-inclusive must-have collector's item, authentically transporting each listener into the very early stages of Robert Rich's spectacular recording career. The rest of the story is well-known already!!! To me, it's absolutely thrilling to own this piece of drone ambient history!!! Huge kudos to Robert Rich, Frank Maier and Thomas Heckmann (for mastering and restoration)!!! As mentioned at the beginning, the Box Set is available in limited edition and as far I know, it's still available at Vinyl-On-Demand's store or directly from Robert's Soundscape Productions shop. Trust me, these premonitions are worth every cent!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jul 31, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)

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