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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)


Howard Givens & Craig Padilla "Life Flows Water" CD

Howard Givens, the mastering wizard and one of the driving forces behind Spotted Peccary Music label, and also a member of Brain Laughter project, has teamed with one the label's most respected composers, Craig Padilla. "Life Flows Water" album is a result of live improvised recording from March 2013 in Portland, when both sculptors have finally squeezed this session into their plans, although both artists were waiting for this opportunity for quite some time. Packaged in traditional Spotted Peccary 4-panel disc eco wallet showcasing the visual artistry of Daniel Pipitone, with additional imagery by Jourdan Laik and artist photographs by Linda Brown, the album was released at the end of February, 2015.

"Life Flows Water" unfolds with "Opening To New Perspectives", the longest piece on the journey, which clocks over 19 minutes. Rather monochromatic scenario emerge, permeated by ephemeral translucent tinkles. Warmly nuanced cinematic washes slowly arise as well and continuously glide across these gracefully grandiose sceneries. Amorphously euphonious listening delight is promptly achieved as my ears are bathed in vast expanses of contemplative subtlety. Delicately rawer traceries keep on emerging throughout the second half along with radiating sequences and remain in magnetic symbiosis with magnificently spacious tranquilness. It's a truly immersing experience, so the next composition, "Awakened Consciousness", arrives almost stealthily. Distant, yet freshly bouncing sequences keep on expanding, prevailing and cascading, but always guarded by soothingly gliding blankets. Organic trimmings sneak in towards the end and announce the following track, "A Step Achieved". A calmly meandering sweep is carefully bridged with smoothly rising joyful melody. "Reflection And Metamorphosis" integrate mild ear-tickling cyber-tech embellishments, which later inconspicuously transmute into more biotic-infused delicacy, but always persistently counterpointed with utterly immense synth layers, maintaining its tremendously graceful structure. And it's this thrillingly expansive compendium, which again clandestinely overlaps to the following composition, entitled "Tide Of The Opposition Moon". Merged with mesmerizingly electrifying interstellar sequences and yearning whistle-like vintage patterns, continuously awaking Berlin School reminiscences. This must be your everyday dose of electronic-charged elixir fueling your beyond the edge, outer space voyaging!!! A masterpiece!!! But it's the title piece, "Life Flows Water", which takes me even farther with its lushly organic intro, while distant cybernetic pulses silently emerge and pervade across the eternally helixing grandiose atmospheric splendor until they completely steal the center stage with a vortex of vivid pulsations. A 12-minute aural bliss undoubtedly awaits here, exquisitely displaying the track title and gloriously celebrating the mastery of both protagonists!!! We simply couldn't ask for more, bravo, gentlemen!!! The closing, 10 and half minute long "Shavasana" quietly drifts into unbounded expanses and nourishes the body and mind of each listener with its deeply meditative tides reinforced here and there by intangible sequencing hypnotism and glimpses of Tibetan overtone and bowl. A really gorgeous conclusion!!!

"Life Flows Water" offers nearly 69 minutes of charmingly serene ambience, impeccably synchronizing creativity and earmarks of Howard Givens & Craig Padilla. This is certainly another very strong release of Spotted Peccary Music gang during 2015, so don't hesitate to check out the latest discography of this Southern Californian label, I can't recommend it highly enough!!! And other sonic jewels are in the pipeline, for example Chronotope Project..., so stay deeply focused!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jul 19, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Steve Roach "Skeleton Keys" CD

"Skeleton Keys" chapter, using throughout 2014 and 2015 the large format analog modular system, can easily be labeled as a monster project dedicated to the re-explorations of magnificently sparkling, sequencer-based patterns. Obsessed with this sound since the very first days on the scene in the late 70's, Steve Roach, the iconic sound architect, again activates all his audible insignias in the Timeroom in order to demonstrate his innate wizardry and flexibility within the genre he was born to enhance. Released on Projekt at the end of May 2015, the theme is attractively displayed by elegant 6-panel digipak featuring catchy cover images by Kyle Wright (of Diophantine Discs) and artist and modular photographs by Adam Fleishman, while the graphic design is handled, as usual by Sam Rosenthal. Behind the mastering desk is Howard Givens of Spotted Peccary fame.

"The Only Way In" ignites the journey and briskly transports the listener into stunningly euphoric sonic realms, with immediate connection to the Master's fully blooming wizardry, highlighted by an array of glistening sequences, which persistently emerge, swirl, helix and enthrall. This is a real celebration of 100% pure analog sound, welcome to the musical dome of ultimate passion and dedication!!! "The Function Inside The Form" gets closer to Berlin School reminiscences, although gratifyingly reinforced here and there by some buzzing cyber-tech mesmerism and elusive grooves. The next piece, "It's All Connected", straightly shifts into utterly laid-back, yet strongly hypnotic, high-tech-infused rhythms meticulously guarded by ethereally undulating blankets. Wow, a 9 and half minutes long sonic elixir reveals all its magic, bravo!!! Electronica cybernetica continues its domination on "Outer Weave", it shifts to much higher speed, but translucently polished, though celestial waves are still safely hanging above. They even overlap to "Symmetry And Balance", which emphasizes with vivid mixture of sharpened sequences, continuously pulsing, oscillating and painting mindscaping, trance-charged mandalas. "Saturday Somewhere" gorgeously blends exquisitely carved, refreshingly mesmerizing and hauntingly elevated rhythms with intangibly sweeping washes, while some nice Kraftwerkian feel is thrown in as well. "Escher's Dream Is Dreaming" pushes the magic even further, with all those splendidly ear-tickling embellishments, spiritedly bouncing, when the listener is bathed in an awe-inspiring perpetual epic of sequenced magnificence. This is a truly delightful listening experience and certainly one of the pinnacles!!! With 13 and half minutes the longest composition, "A Subtle Twist Of Fate", closes this essential album with an ultra rapid sequencing work, which moves through stirringly nuanced portals and forms fascinatingly spiraling images.

It's no secret that I was never really into Berlin School electronics and when it goes to Steve's sequencer-driven discography, I personally prefer more embracing slow-motion splendor such as "Living The Dream" or "Today" for example. Nevertheless, 74-minute "Skeleton Keys" collection grows on me with each new exploration, it's always fully rewarding, precisely polished in every single detail to its absolute perfection, no matter if listening through the speakers or with my headphones on. I am absolutely amazed by its lushly flavored scenario, each track is different, yet the overall feel remains always highly homogeneous. The old vintage sounds are masterfully amplified by Steve's own signatures, which keep on expanding over the course of his stellar career spanning across the four decades. Feel the "Skeleton Keys", feel the magic, feel the energy, feel the passion of the genius, who was born to enrich our lives with his infinite virtuosity and visionary!!! To make the story complete, of course don't hesitate to explore also "The Skeleton Collection 2005-2015" released on Steve's Timeroom Editions with 5 tracks originally recorded in 2005, while the remaining 3 pieces were created during February 2015. And last but not least, for all vinyl aficionados, there is available a 180 gram LP version "Skeleton Keys", with 3 tracks taken from the CD and one exclusive piece "Inner Weave At The Outer Edge", released in limited edition of 400 copies on Kyle Wright's Diophantine Discs. By the way, this is the first vinyl release of Steve Roach since "Desert Solitaire" LP in 1989!!! Big kudos to all involved for the whole "Skeleton Keys" package!!! The journey continues and I am thrilled to be deeply connected!!!

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


Max Corbacho "Splendid Labyrinths" CD

Time flies so fast, already two and a half years have passed since the release of breathtakingly monumental "The Ocean Inside" double album. "Splendid Labyrinths" mark the return of Spaniard Max Corbacho, one of the leading forces behind the pure atmospheric driftscape. Self-released at May 15th, 2015, and packaged in a glossy 4-panel digisleeve presenting cover design and layout by Spanish-American visual artist Michael Rodriguez Pletz, the album reflects The Flowing Path, a journey through the life as revealed by the artist.

And it's "The Flowing Path", with 16:37 the longest labyrinth, which ignites this exquisitely effortless, nearly 74 minutes long glide. Max Corbacho activates all his soundscaping insignias, utterly graceful drifts smoothly arise and shift the listener into a genuinely atmospheric splendor, where infinitely expansive washes gently free-float through hauntingly nuanced sceneries. Colossally fascinating soundwalls are precisely counterpointed with magnificently intensified billows. A truly exciting gateway to "Splendid Labyrinths". 12-minute "Towards The Center" unfolds more tranquil, less dramatic, although as much amorphously spacious with its rather monochromatic drift layers, which inconspicuously transmute into heavier deluge of drones, intricately amalgamated with ear-tickling swirls and transcendental dissonances. Quietly emerging, yet profoundly immersing "Earth Womb" straightly dives into tremendously unfathomable depths, revealing all spellbinding enigmas and showcasing Max Corbacho at his most subterranean. Obviously, he couldn't have chosen a more fitting track title for this adventurous odyssey. But it's "Wave Of Reflection", where Max Corbacho fully exposes his genius soundcarving. Sweeping monumentality of gracefully drifting layers is simply jaw-dropping!!! A parade of gossamer cyber-biotic traceries smoothly permeates through the undulating massive washes and continuously glimmers this aural grandeur. Pure magic!!! I only have one problem here, and it's a very crucial one, the length of this masterpiece. With nearly 6 minutes it's the shortest one on this album, I can't help, but to me it's way too short. However, "Wave Of Reflection" immediately enters the Pantheon of epic sonic canvas, just right beside the phenomenal compositions such as "Light-Matrix Portal", "Towards The Bottomless Sea" or "The Talisman". Bravo, Max!!! "Wonderheart", another 16-plus minutes long track, safely glides through warmly spacious realms, majestically waving and authentically evoking dazzlingly overwhelming immenseness. The closing "Shaping The Endless" keeps on free-floating, yet massive and tense path, although during the first 10 minutes I am somehow missing more engrossing scenario, when comparing to "Wave Of Reflection" or "Earth Womb". Fortunately towards the end the track clandestinely metamorphoses into more mysterious quietudes guiding your journey through "Splendid Labyrinths" into the finale.

No wonder, after two magnum opuses such as "Ars Lucis" and "The Ocean Inside" the expectations of all aficionados of atmospheric soundscaping were prodigiously high. With "Splendid Labyrinths" Max Corbacho has again delivered a high quality album, although it doesn't exactly reach the stunning magnificence of its two predecessors. It certainly depends on the theme covered and The Flowing Path can't always be grandiose and graceful with its sinuous ways. However, "Splendid Labyrinths" album is a very solid recording by Max Corbacho, featuring delightful glimpses of aural grace and tranquility he is persistently praised for. Good job, Max!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jul 02, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Frore & Shane Morris "Blood Moon" CD

Shane Morris is already known for his numerous collaborative projects, among them his co-work with Mystified on "Inspired Evolution" trilogy is the most famous (released on Spotted Peccary during 2012-2014), while Paul Casper, the sole creator behind praised Frore project, celebrates here his debut in a cooperative effort. "Blood Moon" CD was released at April 3rd, 2015 on Spotted Peccary, just in time before the total lunar eclipse. The album is packaged, as usual for this sympathetic Californian label, in a catchy 4-panel disc eco wallet designed by label's visual masters, Daniel Pipitone and Jourdan Laik, who is also credited for the original photography. Mastering is handled by Ben Cox of Lotuspike clan.

Equipped with wide range of electronics and acoustic instruments such as didgeridoo, duduk, various flutes, udu, frame drum, shakers..., Frore & Shane Morris fire up their journey with 13-minute "Lichen Patterns". Massively unfolding tides of drones are enigmatically merged with mesmerizingly circling Dreamtime artifacts, while subterranean organics and distant tribal beats gradually permeate and capture the front stage with its sharpened intensity. Masterful mix of primordial instrumentation with electronic enhancements spectacularly cascades and climaxes. Bravo, gentlemen, this is a truly mind-bending introduction!!! And don't forget to put your headphones on, a true sonic revelation awaits!!! "Ritual Sequence", clocking to 10-minute mark, safely keeps on exploring ancient terrains, again lushly flavored with powerfully shamanic percussive textures, which are precisely merged with sweeping atmospheric blankets. Some recognizable, yet ethereally embracing signatures sneak atop here and there, although the spectacle is also entered and highlighted by hauntingly evocative flute mastery. Wow, another top-notch tribal ambience!!! "Orison" glides through spellbindingly mysterious sceneries, masterfully bridging perplexing cavernous realms with ear-tickling dissonances, while intangible tribal groove rests above before fully awaking and stealing the ceremony. But the pinnacle is still to emerge, because shortly after that Paul rises his duduk, a traditional Armenian woodwind instrument, which immediately starts to reveal all its infinite magic. A jaw-dropping listening experience, magnificently expressive and monstrously rewarding!!! The use of duduk in ambient soundsculpting always leaves me breathless and "Orison" is no exception. Hats off to Paul & Shane, to me, an ultimate Hall of Fame composition!!! "Unfolding", another 13 minutes long track, opens with transcendent didge curlicues, while warmly cinematic washes gorgeously meander. Slowly arising tribal beats become more vigorous and mesmeric and exquisitely interact with utterly expansive panoramas. Crystalline tinkles and organic subtleties harmoniously augment the Southwest desert feel of this strongly evocative piece. Another large dose of aural elixir for my ears is delivered here!!! 16-plus minutes long closing composition "Night Rapture" unveils with mindscaping nocturnal sounds, but vivid electro-industrial-infused rhythms join the stage, soon meticulously coalesced with machinery-like clickety-claks. Mysterious atmo zones are activated as well and intriguingly undulate across robustly-driven ethno tribal adventures, reinforced by rawer flute pervasions and outbursts. During the closing three minutes overwhelming intensity evanesces into a gorgeously encircling still of the night. A grand finale!!!

"Blood Moon" is astonishingly refreshing addition to the genre, each track is slightly different, yet the entire mood is impeccably compact and delightfully complex. This stunningly full-bodied collaboration splendidly amalgamates creative insignias of two highly crafted composers and instrumentalists and brilliantly intermingles the primordial with the current. "Blood Moon" is another monument in tribal ambient soundcarving, certainly one of the best releases of 2015!!! I even won't hesitate to use the word milestone, yes, that's how breathtaking is this album!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jun 22, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Alpha Wave Movement "Earthen" CDr

Highly applauded electronic soundscaper Gregory Kyryluk, the man behind Alpha Wave Movement (also Within Reason, Open Canvas and Thought Guild) remains connected to Darren Bergstein's Anodize label and the latest result of this fruitful fellowship is "Earthen" album, released on May 19th, 2015 as a pro CDr edition packaged in 4-panel digipak.

"Earthen", a 6-track album ignites with 13-minute "Immerse", a tranquilly soothing piece, slowly unfolding into graciously expansive and utterly embracing dimensions. Tinkling keys gorgeously reinforce the overall mood. Spellbindingly ethereal soundscape reveals all its magic and precisely captures the essence of atmospheric beauty. Then euphoric sequences inconspicuously permeate through amorphously elegant blankets and try to steal the center stage of these utterly evocative realms. What an encounter!!! A virtuoso soundsculpting here, we simply couldn't ask for more. "Immerse" is an immediate Ambient Hall of Fame nominee!!! The title track, "Earthen" unfolds with a parade of contemplative chime-like sounds, ranging from placid through crystalline to ear-tickling, splendidly bridged with warmly sublime washes, continuously becoming wider and broader, until they magnificently transmute during the second third into more massive drone cascades. This is an absolutely jaw-dropping transition, devastatingly gorgeous!!! Ephemeral cyber-tech fragments emerge here and there. "Earthen" sounds like a monumental tribute to the natural wonders on Earth!!! This is undoubtedly Gregory Kyryluk at the top of his creative soundmagic, because we just have experienced 25 minutes of innately genius electronic magnificence, bravo, Maestro!!! "Pulseforms", as displayed by its title, incorporate subtle distant beats, coupled with hauntingly nuanced panoramic washes. More minimal, yet droning passage sneaks in for a brief expose, before metamorphosing into diaphanously ticking synth textures evoking the Southwest desert spectacles. Alluringly intoxicating and intangibly magnetizing composition!!! "Source" glides and meanders serenely through stunningly spacious vistas of distant mountain range, although during the second half meticulously counterpointed with intricately Far East fragranced pulses and translucent tinkles. Obviously another astonishingly earwarming quietude!!! "Helios" shifts into darker drone terrains, calmly expansive, yet graciously undulating and entering into the eternal peacefulness of sky high realms. "Helios" undoubtedly showcases Gregory Kyryluk at the very peak of his profound sonic meditations!!! Closing piece, "Forest", the shortest on "Earthen", at the beginning floats through deeply contemplative zones, but soon organic traceries and gently pulsing melody slip to the fore, while rather monochromatic drone guards above. This composition is balmily nuanced and it impeccably ends this gorgeous recording.

"Earthen" is another highly polished sonic pearl in Alpha Wave Movement's impressive discography, superbly displaying huge talent, creativity, ingenuity and musicality of its sole protagonist. Gregory Kyryluk is an ambient composer par excellence!!! A true virtuoso of sheerly elegant electronic soundsculpting!!! Gregory Kyryluk is constantly exhibiting this since 1996, when he landed with triumphant debut album "Transcendence". I should also mention "Earthen" album was released in limited edition of 100 copies and according to the latest updates on Anodize's Bandcamp site, only 9 copies are awaiting for happy journeyers, so if I were in your shoes, I wouldn't wait too long... "Earthen" is another glorious AWM's release since "Celestial Chronicles" and "Eolian Reflections"!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jun 16, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Numina "Through The Gate To Nowhere" CD

Jesse Sola, the solitary figure behind Numina, based in Denver, Colorado, has released his latest album "Through The Gate To Nowhere" via Relaxed Machinery at March 20th, 2015. Actually, this happened only 9 days after his another release, a collaborative album "Broken Stars Through Brilliant Clouds" with Zero Ohms on Spotted Peccary label. I still keep in mind Numina's previous outstanding solo work "The Deception Of Reality" on Hypnos, released back in 2012, so let's unlock the gates... Out in limited edition of 200 hand-numbered copies and featuring some stunning photographs by Peter James, taken in the Wasdale, a valley of the Lake District National Park in Cumbria, England. By the way, Peter James is responsible also for the mastering job, while the artwork layout is created by Steve Brand.

"Promontory" clocks over 7 and half minute mark and unfolds the journey with tenebrous array of meandering, drifting, traversing and piercing washes and drones, authentically displaying the album's cover images. The next piece, "Down To The Valley Of The Water", keeps on perplexing path, where dissonant layers continuously return, rumble, perforate and climax. Towards the end, the trail heads though more relieving terrains and "Arcfrost" almost imperceptibly invades. Nearly 13-minute long journey calms down a bit, although always hanging in the fascinating earth's fissure separating ambient and dark ambient soundworlds. Absolutely breathtaking sceneries reveal and immerse devoted listener into magnificently flavored realms, where tranquilly gliding expansive zones meticulously collide with intensely discordant mindscaping subtleties. Wow, a true epic, tour de force by Numina!!! Bravo, Jesse!!! "Furrowed Transitions" delve deeper into unfathomable depths, although massively surging dronescapes, guarded by ghostly choirs, are softened by mesmerizingly circling penetrating grooves. Sharper ominous rumbles announce "Reflexion Canyon" and hold it in majestically sculpted sceneries, intricately dark and spacious. The longest track, "Amidst The Mist" reaching almost 14 minutes, smoothly shifts into warmly expansive and thrillingly immense aerial vistas, gorgeously gliding, sweeping and elevating. This gate certainly leads to pure atmospheric Eden, graciously infinite!!! "In Our Absence" perfectly merges darker, yet delightfully enigmatic timbres with flickeringly helixing euphoric patterns. Spellbindingly tiding piece and a very nice conclusion to this strikingly adventurous and stunningly entrancing exploration!!!

"Through The Gate To Nowhere" is another very strong album by Numina, exquisitely distinctive, offering to each journeyer a truly rewarding listening experience hanging on the utterly immersing edges of ambient and dark ambient soundcarving. The gates are opened and a 74-minute journey awaits, join now!!! And don't forget, there are hidden many other sonic jewels among Numina's extensive discography featuring around 30 solo and collaborative albums released during a 15-year recording career.

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


Altus "The Time Collection" 2xCDr

Acclaimed Canadian, in Ottawa based drifter Mike Carss, acting under his moniker Altus, was always known as an artist, who focuses on digital formats only and offers them for free through his website. As a really huge collector of physical format, I have never paid any attention to this talented and productive soundscaper. But the turning point came sometime around the middle of December 2014, when Altus announced his first physical release, a double pro CDr edition entitled "The Time Collection" limited to 40 numbered copies. The release date was scheduled for January 7th, 2015, so no wonder this was for me the most crucial thing to do at this day. This attractive double set, divided to two parts, is packaged in elegant metal tin featuring transparent stickers on the front and back with two additional inserts/artworks, containing images and track list to each part. "The Time Collection" consists of "Part I: Ghost Of Time" with 6 tracks, while "Part II: Time Forgotten" features 4 pieces, with total time over 150 minutes!!! As a really proud owner of this nice collector's item, I always wanted to pen down some lines on this wonderful piece of art. Yes, it's way too long after its release, also this 2CDr edition is sold out for long time, as far I remember, it was sold in 2 or 3 days, but nevertheless, it really deserves to be praised and I am really glad I can do it now!!! And, as usual for all Altus' recordings, it's still available in digital formats for free, so the magic still awaits...

"Illusionary Progression", a nearly 15-minute soundscape ignites the journey with subtle organic intro, but soon utterly spacious drifts steal the show. Catchy undulations with fascinatingly increasing intensity venture into the deepest corners of atmospheric bliss. Magnificently crescendoing soundsculpting leaves me breathless after few minutes. What a journey, you must experience this!!! To me, an immediate magnum opus entering the pantheon of the giants of deep ambient voyaging!!! Bravo, Altus!!! "Like Sand Through Fingers", love that title, is only slightly shorter than its predecessor, but as much immersing. Less intense, more static at the beginning, choir-like drones continuously arise, smoothly nuanced and accompanied with eternally intangible tinkles. Enigmatic intensity inconspicuously permeates through graciously amorphous blankets, while hissy fragments emerge here and there. Another triumphant composition!!! "Absolve The Past" immediately dives into grandiosely symphonic terrains, enchantingly yearning and gorgeously tiding, with voluminous cinematic touch. "Live For The Now" is filled with interstellar grandness, gracefulness and magnificence. "Brave The Future" continues the odyssey with soothingly expansive washes, gliding, cascading and evanescing through ephemerally piercing altitudes. "Aetas" closes "Part I: Ghost Of Time" and delves into magnificently subterranean sceneries, exquisitely immense and enthrallingly transporting. An array of drones and transcendental choirs are hauntingly sinuous and meticulously reinforced by transient, yet insidiously puncturing outbursts. Colossally fascinating conclusion!!! "Part I: Ghost Of Time" is a real treat for each connoisseur of pure atmospheric driftscapes!!!

"Part II: Time Forgotten" unfolds with nearly 14-minute "The Patience Of Eternity". An ultra deep dronescape descending into shadowy zones of unfathomable depths. Monumental layers of intenser monochromatism are masterfully bridged with glimpses of dramatically illuminating dissonances counterpointed with warmer, more peaceful deep sea sceneries. 16-plus minutes long "Memory Thief" continues delving into perplexing zones, carving mesmerizingly mindscaping helixes, ear-tickling surges continuously awake and climax, and ethereal voices gracefully cruise above. "What You Leave Behind" merges serene, but immensely embracing undulations with wistfully euphoric string-like patterns. Soothingly meandering with immense billows. The closing, 30-minute "Walk With Oblivion" dives into fascinatingly otherworld realms sculpted with breathtakingly abyssal drones, splendorously fragranced with spectacularly flickering lights. A fully rewarding thrilling crescendos and transcendental transitions continuously emerge. This must be Altus at his most creative, grandiose and shapeshifting!!! A grand finale!!! Undoubtedly, compositions such as "Walk With Oblivion" or "Illusionary Progression" are the best examples why I am journeying with this kind of music, thank you so much, Maestro!!!

"The Time Collection", recorded between July and November 2014, is absolutely triumphant recording of Mike Carss/Altus, showcasing his huge auralscaping potential. A true sonic monument, hauntingly displayed also by Mike Carss' long exposure time photographs. The gates of Atmospheric Heaven are unlocked!!! Hats off to Mike Carss/Altus!!! As mentioned above, sold out for long time, but I really hope this is not the last CDr installment by this Canadian. The next step might be a glass mastered CD, if not, then there is no justice in this world!!! "The Time Collection" is available as free download since February 20th, so there is no excuse for not owning this milestone!!! Act now!!!

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


Ovod "Between The Days" CDr

Russian soundscaper Ivan Lavrov from Saint Petersburg, the sole protagonist behind newcomer project Ovod, has released his debut album "Between The Days" in digital formats at 2015 New Year's Day, while limited physical pro CDr edition, packaged in glossy 4-panel digipak, saw the light during March 2015.

As announced by the artist, based on midnight improvisations with guitars and synths, the album opens with "Flashback Voices" and straightly delves into weirdly tiding surfaces, merging windy, perplexingly-infused nocturnal landscapes with evocative strings and dramatic undulations, ranging from subtler through orchestral-like glimpses to rawer, noisier outbursts. An uniquely colored 9-minute introduction to Ovod's soundworlds!!! As displayed by the title, "Night At Port", remains in shadowy terrains with its hauntingly piercing and enigmatically engrossing electric guitar experiments, ephemerally softened with intangibly swirling melody. This is a really worthwhile piece precisely capturing a nightly atmosphere at some industrial port. Well-done, Ivan!!! "Kolomyazhsky" keeps its discordant feel, shrilly sounds counterpointed with more minimal ventures and poignant electric strings. As a guest, Alexander Tarakanov with his guitar joins Ivan Lavrov. This piece authentically unveils a night atmosphere of car lights exhibition at Kolomyazhsky Prospekt in Saint Petersburg. The next track, strangely entitled "Swamp Helicopters", dives into droning terra zones enhanced by the processed sounds of oscillating helicopter blades and lightened by nuanced string subtleties, although monochromatically reverberating hum is continuously bridged with eerily crescendoing tapestries. The piece climaxes throughout the last third into mesmerizingly mindscaping images before vanishing through ethereal echoes of strings. A truly peculiar soundcarving!!! Shorter "The Tale Of Time Lost" is most likely as much strange, but by far more accessible due to its more minimal and relieving texture, when long-buried memories begin to awake. "Butterfly Day" merges gorgeously scenic passages, pleasantly weaving, with evanescent cricket traceries and ear-tickling dissonances. On "Afterglow" Alexander Tarakanov rejoins the stage, where expressive electric guitar virtuosity triumphantly traverses across exquisitely mysterious horizons, while soothing field recordings of gentle rain falling on metal roof persistently hang above. Stunningly evocative composition, certainly one of the pinnacles!!! The closing piece, "When Rails Are Not Alone", is ignited by nostalgic feelings of a railway noises, that immediately set the atmosphere for this composition, where soothingly evocative washes are meticulously coupled with touching strings, both warm and penetrating. Scanty drone hums with sharper high-tech fragments emerge as well. Strikingly gorgeous finale!!!

It looks like this guy doesn't follow any rules, he simply seeks for his own path and even if this style is not exactly my fave type of ambient-driven soundsculpting, "Between The Days" is a very fruitful recording filled with huge dose of emotions and creativity. Bizarrely flavored, yes, but always enthralling, that's "Between The Days"!!! To make the credits complete, mastering job is provided by Taylor Deupree of 12k, while Ekaterina Topal is responsible for catchy cover images. "Between The Days" is without any doubt a very strong debut work, congratulations, Ivan!!!

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


Hollan Holmes "Incandescent" CD

I have been always deeply impressed by Hollan Holmes' consistency in delivering a high quality, fully packed artful, self-released and glass mastered product. Aurally and visually delightful!!! This Texan soundsculptor keeps triumphantly on accomplishing his mission since the end of 2010, when his debut album "A Distant Light" was released and it seems like his 5th album, issued at March 27th, 2015, will be no exception. First visual impact is very strong as the front cover image features Hollan's stunningly breathtaking photo taken in the scenic Monument Valley, while returning from his Tucson trip. As usual for each release of Hollan Holmes, the CD is packaged in a glossy 6-panel eco wallet, designed by the artist. I am hooked immediately!!!

8-minute "First Light" ignites the journey with utterly glowing sequences, masterfully spreading across the early morning, sunbathed sceneries of Monument Valley. Lushly pulsing layers, ranging from softly spiraling through ear-tickling to rawer, machine-like, are harmoniously amalgamated and guarded by graciously nuanced panoramic drifts. As much refreshing as the morning breeze and as much spellbinding as the golden light projected on these thrillingly colossal sandstone formations. Actually, I have been fascinated by this piece since the very first time, when Hollan Holmes has introduced it as an accompaniment to his video footage, when hanging with the tribe at the Saguaro National Park. My memories are reawakened once again!!! Well-done, Hollan!!! Soothing sounds of thunderstorm announce the next piece, "The Year's First Rain", which are hauntingly merged with delicately tinkling sequences and reinforced by captivatingly melodious patterns. Additional vibrant pads continuously emerge, while warmly expansive cinematic washes delightfully sinuate across and quietly move to the fore, before swallowed by resurfacing rainy sounds surrounded by distant booming. Another big one!!! "Letting Go" unfolds quietly with lusciously shimmering sequencer structure meticulously coupled in the second half with gracefully elevating symphony of grandiose epic drones. "Valley Of The Rocks" delves into darker drone terrains, spaciously drifting, with mesmerizing pulses hovering in vague distances, while warmer layers sneak in and smoothly traverse through intensely evocative vistas. Towards the end, when fading away, the track embodies a subtle piccolo part composed by Richard Burmer, to whom Hollan Holmes dedicates this album. Recalled as one of Hollan Holmes' biggest influences, Richard Burmer was respected composer and synthesist, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 50 years. The next composition, gorgeously entitled "Earth Song", magnificently displays the album's artwork with utterly grandiose movements, soothingly sweeping and gracefully infinite, exploring iconic images of the southwest with towering desert cathedrals. Pure atmospheric authenticity at its most majestic, bravo, Maestro!!! "Interstellar Lullaby", another catchy title, stays on the path with its magnific undulations, symphonically sorrowful and splendidly immense, yet exquisitely counterpointed with glimpses of enchanting stillness. This must be a deep sky hymn!!! "The Inevitability Of Change" floats in a vast space of dazzlingly spectacular emptiness and completely reveals all the grace of awe-inspiring driftcarving. Enter now the Eden of sonic amorphousness!!! "Ancient Atmosphere" safely glides on the wings of enthrallingly humming quietudes sophisticatedly bridged with terrestrially billowing sceneries and transports the listener from transcendent void through breathtakingly magmatic and powerfully crescendoing flow of primordial drone magic into colossally enduring desert plains with crimson mesas. A truly rewarding listening experience awaits here, no question about that!!! Another Hall of Fame piece and as much magnificent as these magical natural wonders!!! The title composition "Incandescent" closes this monumentally immersing album with profoundly dronescaping texture, again exploring with all grace majestically scenic beauty of these stunning earthen carvings. Sublimely floating and meandering through gorgeously ethereal magnitudes. A really nice conclusion!!!

With deep respect to Hollan Holmes' all previous albums, "Incandescent" is another phenomenal recording of this extremely talented soundscaper and I think I am going to label it as his magnum opus. Yes, that's how crafted and triumphant is this work!!! Once I wrote that Hollan Holmes is living his dream, now, more than 3 years later, the dream is still alive and the journey continues. I am so happy about this, because Hollan Holmes again proves to be one of the leading virtuosos within the genre. 68-minute "Incandescent" is the best example of such mastery!!! Bravo, Hollan, you can be really proud of this album, because "Incandescent" is certainly one of the highlights of 2015!!! And not to forget, another Texan, Chad Kettering again leaves fingerprints of his mastering wizardry on this all-inclusive milestone.

Richard Gürtler (May 24, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "The End" CDr by SiJ
« on: May 11, 2015, 08:13:09 AM »

SiJ "The End" CDr

Behind SiJ is hidden Vladislav "Vlad" Sikach, an Ukrainian dronecarver, based in Sevastopol, Crimea, as the main protagonist, although also visual artist Alena Perepadya is often mentioned as additional member. Vlad Sikach has begun his recording career during 2011 and since then SiJ has released over 40 solo and collaboration albums, singles, EPs and compilations, mainly available as digital downloads through SiJ's Bandcamp site. My SiJ exploration has begun much later, only during the autumn of 2014, but since then I closely follow this project and SiJ remains to me as one of the biggest revelations of 2014 and one of the most emerging, glowing and prolific dronescapers. "The End" album is certainly the best proof of this, but SiJ has released during the last few months several other outstanding new albums and collaborations across the globe. "The End", written by Vlad Sikach mostly during the end 2013 and the beginning of 2014, was originally released in the middle of March 2014 on Italian Batenim netlabel, but later self-reissued by Vlad on a CDr format in a very small run, as far I remember in a limited edition of 12 copies only. Packaged in a standard jewel case with transparent tray featuring original stunning sea shore photographs of The Black Sea at Batiliman, Crimea, by Margarita Yablonko with artwork by Vlad, while the cover design is completed by Alena.

Short intro "Breathing" immediately sets the atmosphere into serenely drifting zones permeated with enigmatic breathy enhancements. "Sweet Melancholy", as displayed by its title, straightly delves into utterly warm and hauntingly mesmerizing drone oscillations reinforced by ear-tickling chimes, all strikingly wrapped by sibilant wistfulness. Profoundly encircling piece!!! "There" brings to the stage two guests, Donakor (Sergey Stukov) & Wid (Anton Kozlov), on electric guitar and synth. As much droning, organic and mindscaping as its predecessor, although slightly less intense, but more sentimental. "Sorrow" dives directly into obscure cavernous realms guided by stunningly gripping monochromatism, powerfully drifting and intricately augmented by glimpses of mind-bendingly perplexing vertigos. The Drone Eden is unlocked!!! "The Beginning Of The End" is ignited with cacophonously biotic intro, then transmuting into sonic anxiousness wrapped by hissy blankets. "There Is No Life Without Love", a 15-minute epic composition recorded in 2012, unfolds with enthralling urban noises and female voice samples, gorgeously bridged with breathtakingly expansive washes drifting through utterly heart-warming nuances, where extremely embracing memories awake and appear as a dazzlingly beautiful slideshow movie. I have been deeply fascinated by this composition since the very first time I heard it and its magic still keeps on blooming. Although I haven't heard complete discography of SiJ, "There Is No Life Without Love" must be SiJ's magnum opus, a pure sonic medicine to my ears and an instant nominee for The Drone Hall of Fame Award!!! Bravo & thank you, Vlad!!! The title track "The End" belongs to the shortest on this album, but with its gracefully infinite choir-like drifts coupled with gently natural traceries also to the most expressive. Longer "I Saw The Light", clocking just over the 11-minute mark, unveils with exquisitely drifting tension, again masterfully magnified with ephemeral fragile organic rumbles. Soothingly crescendoing density at its most mind-blowing, this is undoubtedly another, all-inclusive drone escapade!!! I saw the light too, as it glimmered the path before it completely evanesced, but all trails lead to The Drone Pantheon... "Without Breathing" is a brief closing track, painting softly hypnotic helixes occasionally perforated by crystalline urban noises.

I should mention that digital version of "The End" features two additional remixed tracks, "The End" by Ilya Fursov of Textere Oris and "Without Breathing" by Paul Mineev of Paul Minesweeper. In any case, "The End" album is an absolutely triumphant recording!!! Unfortunately, there is no justice in the world when a masterwork like this is available on CDr edition only, so I will always pray for a glass mastered version of "The End", because this hugely gifted guy really deserves our immediate support!!! Trust me, if you don't know SiJ yet!!! But fortunately, Vlad can be proud of his most recent pressed CD, because Swedish gterma label has released his long awaited collaboration "Zhang Zhung" with Sergey Gabbasow, a jewel case edition accompanied by 16-page booklet. Also another three CDr albums were released during the last few weeks, the first is a pro CDr reissue of "Vale of Forgotten Sounds" on Swedish Reverse Alignment label in 6-panel digifile, the second one is "The Earth Shrine" CDr, a second "Shrine" chapter, an artful edition packaged in cardboard envelope with additional three postcards inside, released on Russian ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ (Pantheon) label. The most recent one, delving into dark ambient-infused terrains, is a collaboration with Ptarkh, a Moscow based project of Valentin Ozerov. This one is entitled "Kapalika" and it's released on US label Darker Days Ahead (from Minneapolis). It comes as a spray painted CDr in a clear slipcase with artwork. Last but not least, Vlad Sikach has most recently joined also acclaimed Relaxed Machinery gang with his newest album "Plæntágose". Not sure, if this will be available on physical CDr format, but I really hope, because it features gorgeous paints by Vlad's wife Anna. Definitely enough reasons to explore fascinating soundworlds of SiJ!!! My new drone guru is SiJ, he has a truly bright future ahead of him!!! Keep on droning, Vlad!!!

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


Steve Brand "Into The Current" CDr

In September of 2007 Steve Brand has attended Steve Roach's SoundCurrent Master Class along with other 3 artists Chad Kettering, Roy Mattson and Ben Garvie, held at the historic Apache Spring Ranch, in scenic Gardner Canyon in Sonoita, Arizona, which was at that time the base for Steve's Timeroom studio and his wife, author and horse trainer, Linda Kohanov's Epona Equestrian Center. "Into The Current" was released by Steve Brand's own Pioneer Light Music label at February 6th just before his another trip to Arizona, this time to Tucson. The album, or better said a 60-minute long-form recording, comes as a pro CDr in limited edition of 50 copies packaged in a cardboard sleeve. Simple, but simply elegant with evocative cover photograph. So with this sonic document I am ready to be carried away into this magical high desert oasis filled with balmy tranquility and surrounded with grasslands, Arizonian sycamores, cottonwoods, canyons and cactus-laden slopes of Santa Rita Mountains, as these "sky islands" are part of The Coronado National Forest mountain ranges.

The journey unfolds with utterly evocative flute calls, which are soon joined by tiding washes and soothing sounds of crickets, all meticulously counterpointed with the still of the desert. Love so much the wooden flute wizardry, with its crescendoing and diminuendoing breathy aeolian sounds, at some points even slightly reminiscent of fujara, a Slovak drone pipe. Peaceful and quiet magic of Gardner Canyon depths deliberately blossoms into an awe-inspiring display of beauty, where all memories calmly awake and deeply resonate. Heavier, humming drone stratum inconspicuously sneaks in, followed by crystalline water sounds, echoed throughout the enigmatically colossal cavernous space and captivatingly coalesces this euphonious symphony with ephemeral ear-piercing discharges. A blissful climax? Then again gorgeous flute nuances and heart-warming wavy synth blankets steal the core of dusty desert floor, but tenser drone reverberations resurface and unnoticeably culminate in exquisitely amorphous magnitudes. Mesmerizingly chirping sounds of crickets announce a breezy desert twilight with profoundly embracing and eternally lasting aural delight, while last flute deliriousness silently evanesces throughout guarding, droningly mindscaping, yet intangibly massive thunderstorm cloudscapes. Pure magic happens here!!!

Kudos to Steve Brand, who is one of the driving forces behind Relaxed Machinery and their design guru, for dusting off these wonderfully evocative memories!!! I am not a composer and I am pretty useless in this creative process (except few IPA-driven jam sessions with kindred souls...), but I can easily imagine how inspirational and challenging must be this, one of a kind experience. Personally, I have never been to Apache Spring Ranch in Sonoita, but with "Into The Current" I was able to journey through this life-enhancing experience of Steve Brand and his SoundCurrent spirits. I must write this encounter constantly nourishes my body and mind!!! On the top of all this, few months ago I was enough fortunate to explore the magic of The Timeroom and Epona Equestrian Center, now in different locations within an one hour drive of Sonoita, so the more I am fascinated by this extremely immersing sonic document!!! And becoming an owner of if, while hanging at the Sonoran Desert, that's another deeply treasured moment to me!!! "Into The Current", mastered by Peter James, is a must-have, even without live experiencing this breathtaking environment!!! And by the way, Steve Brand has released in the meantime on Pioneer Light Music another album entitled "Second Spring", so don't miss this one too!!!

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


Al Gromer Khan "Lalita" CDr

German virtuoso instrumentalist, sitarist and composer Al Gromer Khan has released during the middle of March 2015 through Rasa Music his newest album entitled "Lalita", focusing on The Eternal Feminine and its significance in music. 4-panel digipak nicely displays this theme with its rather plain cover design.

Shorter intro, "Tears At The Paisley", with its hauntingly infectious laid-back rhythm immediately sets the atmosphere, which is meticulously magnified by Al's narration and sitar subtleties counterpointed with ambiguous female choirs. The next piece, "On Golden Boat", keeps on the tranquilizing path, where gentle rhythms are bridged with voice fragments, chants, clapping sounds and sitar traceries. Uniquely scented and seductively nuanced!!! "Flower Child In Clearing" attracts by Al's expressively embracing lyricism (featuring words from the poem "Wake" by Timothy Allen) diverged with responding fragile female voice and distant chants of, I believe, Ute Gromer. Additional spectacle of sitar, guitar and piano patterns coalesces with fluttering beats. "Ahira" excels in stringed curlicue delicacy occasionally amalgamated with Al's voice and Ute's chant. A truly peculiar listening experience!!! "All Of This And More" swiftly fills the air with graceful soothingness, where misty monochromatic reverberations hang above strikingly splendorous piano nostalgia. The magic continues with the title composition, "Lalita-The Eternal Feminine", which masterfully blends richly fragranced sitar bravura with rhythmic delicacies at a leisurely pace. The next composition, "Elvis Went To Durgapur", is as much challenging as its title. Exceptionally enveloping serenity at the beginning transports the listener into an aural paradise of exquisite elegance, later fastidiously augmented by orientally scented vocal/chant magnificence. Deeply contemplative travelogue awaits here!!! A Hall of Fame composition!!! "The Pilgrim And The Crow" is another strongly unique, slow paced piece conjugating bizarre drifts and effects, sitar, tabla and string expressions with chants and voice fractions. "Less" dives into more enigmatic terrains, where isolated drone mindscapes ride atop acoustic contemplativeness, ranging from piercing through ear-tickling to balmy. "Lancron" is brief, but richly traversing escapade, where quieter, meditative passages contrast with eccentrically emerging lively arrangements. "Bhim Strats" attracts with an array of luminously warm sounds painting a truly mesmerizing circles temporarily enhanced by Al's chants. "Wanting Nothing", with 10-plus minutes length by far the longest piece, unveils with remote static drone safely guarding above occasional piano subtlety crossed with warmly cascading cinematic washes and puncturing sitar swells. Sublimely expansive and amorphously immersing, yet astonishingly fragmented finale!!!

Al Gromer Khan with his guests, which include except already mentioned Al's wife Ute, also Peter Maunu (guitar noises), Suman Sarkar (tabla) and Emin Corrado (sound treatment), delivers on "Lalita" a truly exceptional piece of music showcasing intricate instrumentation with some of the most unique scents. Sure, as a listener, you need to be fully devoted to these, beyond the ordinary explorations, but as soon you discover these long lasting perfumes, just follow them, because these truly enthralling soundworlds reveal all the magic. And as always they are complemented with spirit, dedication, refinement and exquisiteness!!!

Richard Gürtler (May 01, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)

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