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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)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Invisible" CD by Steve Roach
« on: April 26, 2015, 08:32:37 AM »

Steve Roach "Invisible" CD

Steve Roach, the genius ambient soundforger, is known for his numerous legendary long-form releases. "Invisible", released though his Timeroom Editions imprint at February 13th, is the latest one, if I count physical editions only, released just in time before Steve Roach's two live shows at the Galactic Center in Tucson, Arizona at February 13th & 14th. Originally, a slightly shorter, 58 minutes long version was released at 2015 New Year's Day as a New Year's gift for all Steve's dedicated journeyers. The CD was released in limited edition of 300 copies, while the first 100 copies were signed and hand numbered by the artist, but it quickly sold out.

Created during the last cold and rainy days of 2014 over the Timeroom, the journey quickly dives into fascinatingly unfolding euphonious soundfields exquisitely displaying Steve's window and patio views of shadowy, gently sloping Rio Rico terrains guarded by Mount Shibell and immersed by breathtakingly dramatic cloud formations. Deepest sonic meditation has just begun!!! Aural bliss unfathomably invades my listening room, The Dream Alive memories from February 15th awake, while heading for the Timeroom with Steve and the tribe, we are approaching this cloudscaping rainy spectacle, this must be the call of the Timeroom's magic!!! Precisely layered and traversed, melting meticulously the very best of ambient and dark ambient billows with perplexingly ear-tickling fragments and ghostly groans continuously permeating through this massively embracing stratum, while strikingly intangible tribal groove rides atop, giving extra workout to my speakers. There is no way to escape, so all you can do is to connect profoundly to the wizard's sanctum, close your yes and let his intense and monumental earmarks reveal all its magic, sheer atmospheric grace awaits here!!! But don't hesitate to choose also an headphone journey, it's fully rewarding as well. After about 25 minutes distant beat inconspicuously dissolves into hauntingly coalesced mass of dronescapes, spectacularly nuanced and crescendoed. Towards the 40th minute groovier feel resurfaces, drives sharper and guides the composition into warmly mesmerizing, organic-infused fields, reinforced by piercing cyber-tech rumbles. Sonic turmoil escalates and climaxes before 50th minute, when an utterly jaw-dropping transition conquers. A truly magical heavy drone escapade steals the show, merging splendidly majestic, yet gloriously enigmatic magma with erupting high-tech scraps and click-clacks. Thrillingly crepuscular, extraordinarily adventurous and intriguingly mindscaping 20-minute conclusion, a pure eargasm, welcome to the Drone Pantheon!!!

With "Invisible" Steve Roach reveals the very best of his most nebulous soundcarving, the title couldn't be more precise!!! This is undoubtedly another ultimate long-form 70-minute jewel, I even won't hesitate to write a milestone, bravo Maestro!!! Last but not least, all above lines are just my personal feelings about this recording, but this CD will be always a very special one to me. After exploring the first digital version, I didn't have any idea there is a CD version in the pipeline until the evening of February 12th, when Steve gave me this CD during our first ever personal meeting at the Hotel Congress Pub in Tucson. As most of you know already, I was Living The Dream between February 11th and 19th!!! Please excuse me for being more personal during these lines, but to me, this is a truly essential part of this journey!!! For all those who missed this CD version, I will always pray for its reissue, but since the Master constantly takes care of reissuing his out of print titles, I see there a glimpse of light. Until then you can always grab the extended 70-minute digital version. Do it, because "Invisible" is a sonic phenomenon!!!

Richard Gürtler (Apr 26, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Juta Takahashi "The Door Into Winter" CD

It seems like Japanese drifter Jutaro "Juta" Takahashi took a little break during 2014 as his previous CD, remastered edition of "Seabound" album, was released during April 2013. "The Door Into Winter", which is out since the beginning of March 2015, is another chapter in Juta Takahashi's series of his reissued/remastered albums. This album was originally released as a CDr, back in 2007 as his second album. Even if I am quite familiar with the discography of this respected dronescaper, I didn't have any chance to explore the original edition, so I am really excited to unlock "The Door Into Winter" even if the winter time is gone in the Northern Hemispheres. As usual for each release of Juta Takahashi on his own Lunisolar Records, a glass mastered CD is packaged in jewel case with elegant artwork and additional liner notes.

"Northern Horizon", the opening piece clocks to 13 minutes and instantly transports the listener into stunningly expansive panoramas, thus the title couldn't have been any better. Magnificently monochromatic drone securely rides above hauntingly evocative layer, balmily undulating and continuously counterpointed with distinguishly piercing blankets, always holding the insignias of this crafted soundsculptor. Maybe I repeat this quite often, when reviewing Juta Takahashi's albums, but every time I am enthralled, how he is constantly able to carve all those gorgeously immersing disruptive sheets and then masterfully mingle them with mesmerizingly surrounding flatlined and barren vistas. "Northern Horizon" is definitely a great example of this wizardry, it's utterly harmonious and spaciously engrossing mindscape, I feel like I am listening to some long-form composition, eternally lasting. Well-shaped, Juta!!! The next piece, "Enlightenment", is only slightly longer, remains on the same static route, but this time conjugated with tinkling contemplativeness and celestial choir-like drones, while weeping fragments occur here and there along with sparse warm cinematic glimpses. The listener calmly walks through torii gates to approach an entrance to a shrine. Graciously sublime journey!!! 21-plus minutes long title and closing composition "The Door Into Winter" delves into dazzlingly enigmatic terrains, bridging tranquilly reverberating movements with pleasantly sneaking dissonant subtleties and occasional meditative sounds of singing bowls or suzu gongs. Floating, meandering and cascading through stunningly spectacular wintery sceneries with sunshine permeating through the morning mist. A truly exquisite driftscape navigates the journey into its undesired conclusion. Bravo, Maestro!!!

Juta Takahashi fully unfolds his dronescaping analog magic on "The Door Into Winter", it certainly would be a shame not having this little gem on remastered and reissued CD format. With "The Door Into Winter", "Seabound" and "Quiet Rain", now only the first "Across The Flow" (2007), third "Remembrance" (2008) and fourth "Moonlit Flowers" (2008) remain as unreleased albums in remastered editions. Few years ago, around 2012, when I have explored the soundworlds of Juta Takahashi for the first time through his 8th album "Silence", I thought his older albums maybe might be more lighter, less droney, but now, after experiencing above three albums, I know how wrong I was. So with this in my mind, I really hope Juta Takahashi will continue on reissuing his older albums along with releasing his new recordings. By the way, if you prefer digital formats, then don't miss the latest collaborative release entitled "Liebesträume", featuring Juta Takahashi's ambientscapes crossed with readings of poetry and prose by Rebekkah Hilgraves, the host of At Water's Edge radio show on It was released only few days ago. All in all, the entire discography of Juta Takahashi gets my highest recommendation for all drone ambient aesthetes!!!

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


Blake Gibson & Robert Davies "Quiraing" CD

Edmonton based Canadian dronescaper Blake Gibson, rather known under his moniker Broken Harbour, has 3 solo albums to his credit, while Robert Davies from Ithaca, New York, a master od drone subtlety, is one of the familiar names constantly releasing through Canadian DataObscura label. His discography features 15 solo albums (one on Stefano Musso's Hic Sunt Leones label) plus 5 albums as The Winterhouse (with DataObscura's Anthony Paul Kerby/APK). Now, Blake & Robert have joined their drift routines for "Quiraing" album, which was released at January 25th, 2015 on Databloem. It looks like this Dutch label has resurrected their Practising Nature packaging concept featuring slim maxi single jewel case with a j-card, but this time with a glass mastered CD. Stunning picture of Quiraing by Ian Cameron, showcasing part of this distinctive landscape in Scotland, formed by a great series of landslips, immediately sets the atmosphere both these dronesculptors are ready to ignite.

So no surprisingly, it's the title piece, 11-minute "Quiraing", that unfolds this journey. Deep drone scenario immediately invades the listening environment. Spiraling monochromatism secures its dominant mindscaping position, while organic traceries ephemerally keep on emerging. Enigmatically growling sounds sneak in as well, but alternate with occasionally climaxing dissonances, which awake even some phantoms. The drone consonance is fully blossoming, a pure magic, just like the awe-inspiring green slopes of Quiraing. Well-done, guys!!! "Seaside Surreal" delves into quieter dreamy terrains, but as much intense as the title piece. Expanding into magnificently celestial infinity, where utterly graceful choir-like drones are soothingly nuanced, crescendoed and alleviated with intangibly crystalline ear-tickling tinkles. Nearly 7 minutes long only, but grandiosely transporting listening experience transmuting into a pure sonic evanescence!!! More please!!! The next track, "Moorlands", clocking over 13 minutes in length, safely carries on the extensive waves of dronescaping magic riding atop of moorland habitats and collaterally drifts across these fascinating sceneries. Peter James is credited in this composition for additional mixing (he works with several Relaxed Machinery artists, which include also Broken Harbour and mastering of "The Geometry Of Shadows" album). "Stone Circle" unfolds with perplexing groans, while the drone slowly increases into more monumental magnitudes and distant chimes keep on swirling and intensifying. Further helixing tensions surreptitiously pervade through the surface of mind-bending texture along with scanty hissy wrapper, when fading away. "Megalith" reveals with static drone, transcendentally oscillating and authenticating its title, intermittently commingled with subtle sibilances. "Lochs Obscured" ventures into tenebrous terrains, weirdly circling and magnifying, with voice transmissions surrogated by lush biotic recordings and mesmeric rumblings. Another mind-blower!!! "Sunshowers" enter absolutely clandestine, when the drone eeriness is still bridged with piercing organic coils, but warmer, choir-driven drifts inconspicuously emanate and splendidly interact with everlasting sharpened clutters. Actually another almost undetected transition follows after about 5 minutes, when eddying tension calmly metamorphoses into soothing sounds of rain and storm, while the surrounding arrangements dissolve. Thus obviously the closing piece is entitled "Only Rain", containing the lone field recordings, which bring this incredibly immersing album into its finale.

"Quiraing" is undoubtedly a truly worthwhile collaborative effort of two highly crafted soundspainters with own distinctive styles, who have triumphantly accomplished their mission to pay a monumental, 70-minute sonic tribute to one of the breathtaking sites around the world. In case you are not familiar yet with the discographies of these two gifted artists, it's time to explore their uniquely challenging and strikingly gratifying drone-based endeavours. Normally, I would conclude my review with making sure to follow both these soundsculptors, unfortunately, about one week ago Blake Gibson has announced quitting all his musical activities, because according to his words, his life has become complicated over the last few years. I was all the time deeply honored to journey with Broken Harbour and I will always hope for the rebirth of this project. All the best, Blake, I will keep my fingers crossed for you!!! When it goes to Robert Davies, among others don't miss his latest "Nightshade" album, which was released at the end of 2014 on DataObscura. "Quiraing" is a must-have CD for each dedicated connoisseur of deep drone adventuring!!!

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


Cousin Silas "The Sound Of Silas" 2xCDr

Cousin Silas (aka Dave Hughes) is an enormously prolific soundsculptor based in Huddersfield, UK, who is active since 2001 releasing his music almost entirely on digital formats. So that's the main reason Cousin Silas' music has remained unknown to me until then end of September 2014, when a double CDr album "The Sound Of Silas" was announced by We Are All Ghosts netlabel run by Thomas Mathie aka Headphonaught (Motherwell, UK), who strongly supports this highly crafted ambient guitar soundscaper since 2012. The double album is packaged in a really catchy 6-panel fold out digipak hand-made by Brin Coleman (known as Bing Satellites) with gorgeous photographies by Ukrainian artist Oleg Tishkovets and extensive liner notes about Cousin Silas story by Kevin Lyons. "The Sound Of Silas", as the first physical release of We Are All Ghosts, was released in limited edition of 100 copies and, unfortunately, it was sold out in one month. Yes, I understand I am coming with this review a way too late, but you can always grab a digital version of this stunningly magnificent recording and I still really hope one day a reissue of this double album will see the light of day, because there is much huger potential in it, I would certainly love to see this reissued in a glass mastered version for example!!! That's my dream, even if I am one of those 100 happy owners of this monstrous double CDr beauty!!! Anyway, I always wanted to pen down my feelings about this utterly immersing gem, I won't hesitate to even use the word milestone, yes, that's how great is this collection!!! I should add that physical copy was sold with We Are All Ghosts badge and a download code to a bonus album of remixes from Jack Hertz, Kevin Lyons, Bing Satellites, Shane Morris and Ade Hodges.

Disc 1 starts with shorter "In One Corner Of The Sky", a wistful piano piece with glitchy subtleties thrown in. Brief, but soothingly embracing intro!!! "The End Of Winter" follows the expressively warm piano path, slightly enigmatic, sparse, yet hazed by glimpses of long time buried memories. The next, again shorter piece, "Of Passing Days", keep the piano magic on the lead, backed by distant drone gracefulness, until the string evocations insignificantly permeate through. "Into The Dark Part 1" is the first longer composition, clocking to 10:25 in length. Subterranean sceneries immediately arise, masterfully evoked by cavernously echoed eeriness. Someone might expect a bit of discomfortable mood, more especially if some apparition-like voices emerge surreptitiously, but the sound design is by far more minimal than massive and in spite of that immensely engulfing and extraordinarily rewarding listening experience awaits!!! "Endless Summer", another 10-minute composition, straightly metamorphoses, as displayed by its title, into splendidly expansive halcyon blue sky, ethereally guarding above warmly shining piano keys, while occasionally ascend field recordings of children's voices and urban noises along with some ear-tickling stringed poignancy. The listener is drifting away into utterly evocative paradise of euphonious serenity!!! "Future Tense" masterly mingles catchy insistent downtempos, cinematically undulating washes, joyous guitar riffs and scanty male voice samples. "A Place Of Magic" follows the footsteps of its predecessor with the addition of female chants riding atop. "Into The Dark Part 7" is another longer and darker chapter of venturing through forebodingly barren landscapes, where awaits some of the most breathtaking, yet hazardous arctic cave diving. Deeper and darker fearsome realms are fully unfolded!!! "The Far Distance" would be by far more risky within the previous track, but fortunately more relieving terrains are entered with gracefully traversing imaginative valley floor. This journey continues also through the 17-plus minutes long "Mini Dronescape", which closes the first disc with utterly spacious, orchestral-like elixir, majestically drifting and crescendoing through powerfully enchanting panoramic sceneries. Wow, a truly grandiose finale of the first disc, which focuses on previously digitally released pieces on We Are All Ghosts label, but all these tracks have been remastered. The only exclusive composition on this disc is the closing "Mini Dronescape". Thus the overall feel is abundantly diverse, less thematic, but always deeply evocative and fascinatingly immersing!!!

Disc 2, featuring only exclusive compositions, reveals with celestially waving "Artificial Lifeforms". Cybernetic-infused voice samples sneak in at the beginning along with piercing electric string outbursts and perforations, which are distinctively counterpointed with persistent choir-like washes. "Through The Moon's Opaque Light" continues voyaging through magnificently colossal realms, free-floating and quietly expanding into an uncharted, stunningly stellar emptiness. Surging celestial choir-like drones of "Down The Darkening Hills" are meticulously juxtaposed by shrilly guitar intensifications, continuously surfacing in serpentine timbres. The next piece, "A Convergence Of Leylines", is slightly calmer with more consonant strings, harmoniously surrounding the listener. 10-minute "Sinister Intent" keeps its robust structure, although, as indicated by its title, this time rather delving into hauntingly flavored enigmatic domains guarded by monochromatically mindscaping drone. Another longer track, slimmer "The Empty Mall" possesses its mysterious feel with sporadically emerging spoken words, while rawer guitar nuances keep on refined resurrecting. "Inside Chernobyl" immediately brings back very sad reminiscences with its background flatlined drone, which is bridged with extraordinarily touching strings and elusive layer of warmer flows. A monumentally evocative memento of this major nuclear disaster. "Time Flow" clocks over 15-minute mark and closes this exquisitely immersing listening delight with gorgeously graceful drifts guarded by intangible angelic choirs and peculiar string bravura. Enter now the gates of this magnificently infinite void!!! A truly grandiose conclusion of the second disc, which I find more focused and homogeneous than the first disc. The result is again strikingly transporting, undoubtedly a must-have listening exploration awaits here for each devotee of symphoniously eloquent ambient soundsculpting!!!

Yes, "The Sound Of Silas" is a really triumphant celebration of Cousin Silas' virtuosity, no less than 150 minutes of high quality ambience is delivered here, exceptionally fusing electronics with piano and electric guitars. Not to forget, the last credit goes to Tim Jones for mastering job. Bravo to Cousin Silas for his artistry, bravo to Thomas Mathie for bringing this jewel to us, bravo to all others mentioned above, you all have my deep respect for this prodigious sonic document!!! Obviously one of the pinnacles of 2014!!!

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

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Glaciology" CD by Strom Noir
« on: April 07, 2015, 09:21:40 AM »

Strom Noir "Glaciology" CD

It looks like the relation between acclaimed Polish label Zoharum and leading Slovak dronescaping project Strom Noir, driven by Emil Maťko, is getting stronger and stronger. The result of this rewarding collaboration is entitled "Glaciology" with additional subtitle in Slovak [štyri skladby pre sneh & ľad], in English [four songs for snow & ice]. The album is out since February 2nd, 2015 in limited edition of 300 copies. Just the same as with applauded previous "Urban Blues" album on Zoharum, the CD comes in beautiful 6-panel eco wallet with matte finish featuring some impressive panoramic photos by Martin Matula, precisely interacting with vast wintery solitudes. Attractively executed, guys, so I am awarding first bonus points!!!

14-plus minutes long "Névé" reveals the journey with mesmerizingly reverberating drone texture, soothingly billowing through gorgeously poetic terrains, introspectively expansive, although here and there accompanied by dimply piercing dissonances. The track continuously grows on me and inconspicuously expose all its shimmeringly splendorous magic, before calmly fading away into embracing elusive stillness at the end of second third. After that the drone kaleidoscope gently awakes again and smoothly crescendoes into contemplative emptiness. A pure listening pleasure awaits here!!! "Firn" tickles the ears with more discordant texture melting monochromatic drone helixes with long forgotten memories evoked by stirringly whirling strings, slightly cacophonous tensity achieves its climax, before diminishing into weirdly mindscaping outro. "Penitentes" safely hangs in the spellbinding spheres, when ceaselessly expanding and painting nearly hallucinogenic spirals, spaciously engrossing and enigmatically piercing, just like the tall icy blade formations, yet sparsely counterpointed with warmly encircling string fragments. "Moréna" ("Moraine" in English) is wrapped into hauntingly captivating hissy nostalgia, exquisitely intertwined with continuously monotonous drone loops and distant stringed currents generating astonishingly beautiful vistas of glaciated valleys. Euphoniously glorious dronescape, bravo, Emil!!! The closing composition "Niekedy Sa Vracajú (Original Full-length Version)" clocks to 20:30 in length, in English "Sometime They Return", and it's listed on the CD as a bonus track. Its shorter, 16-minute version has already appeared on "Tanec Rusaliek" cassette (out on Dronarivm label). This track delves into more serene terrains, yet strongly mindscaping, but always poignantly augmented by glimmering reflections, while ephemeral high-pitched string fractions pervade through the surface of droning wistfulness along with glimpses of harshly edged riffs. A true sonic bliss, monstrously thrilling with utterly expressive harmonic desolations, which will gratify each dedicated connoisseur of guitar drone sonorousness.

"Glaciology", recorded between October 2012 and January 2013 (except "Niekedy Sa Vracajú" from February 2012) and mastered, same as "Urban Blues", by Michal Iliaš, is undoubtedly another victorious achievement in Emil Maťko's recording career, standing shoulder to shoulder with "Urban Blues" and traversing to the summit of his already praised discography. All the time filled with Strom Noir's unmistakable insignias of extraordinary poignancy, which magnificently drifts the listener into absolutely fascinating sceneries persistently caressed by gentle wind of nostalgic treasures. It's always a great delight to journey with Strom Noir, this guy must be one of the best export articles in Slovakia. Big congratulations, Emil, and keep on droning!!! And by the way, in the meantime Russian label Pantheon (ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ) has released an artful cassette entitled "Esoptron" ("ΕΣΟΠΤΡΟΝ"), limited to 50 copies.

Richard Gürtler (Apr 04, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Phillip Wilkerson & Chris Russell "Vague Traces" CD

Acclaimed Floridian soundforger Phillip Wilkerson, who has an extensive discography on his credit with many pro CDr releases and digital downloads, has teamed up on "Vague Traces" with talented Illinois based artist Chris Russell. Chris Russell is mostly know for his four albums released on Relaxed Machinery. I am very glad to see both these crafted composers on Spotted Peccary roster, a really nice move by this sympathetic label, because both these artists really deserved a glass mastered CD. If I am correct, it's second for Phillip Wilkerson, who has already appeared on Spotted Peccary with his Time Being project (featuring also Jourdan Laik), with an album entitled "A Dimension Reflected" (April 2011), while for Chris Russell this is his debut on pressed CD format. "Vague Traces" album was released during November 2014 and as usual for latest releases by this, in Encinitas, Southern California, based label, the CD is packaged in attractive 4-panel eco wallet, which showcases the trademarking visual artistry by photographer Jourdan Laik and designer Daniel Pipitone.

Rather shorter "Far Past" grandiosely unfolds this exploration with utterly gracious drifts, magnificently infinite. when entering the deepest ends of pure atmospheric bliss, yet intriguingly strengthened with assorted cyber-tech-infused subtleties. Absolutely awesome introduction of this collaborative endeavour, congratulations, gentlemen!!! But there is one small complaint. I just can't identify with that, rather insensitive cut at the end of this track when it soothingly evanesces, maybe it's not that much noticeably disturbing, but it's there, so for full deep listening immersion this should be avoided. "The Diamond Sky" is by far more reverberating, bridging mindscaping, at times quite piercing drones, with intangible tinkles and hints of organic sounds. Floating from contemplative quietness through murmuring surges to puncturing transcendence. "Across The Sun" straightly delves into deeply enigmatic spheres, where spiralling and oscillating drones are intermingled with abundant cyber-biotic dissonances and sparse elusive chimes. This intensely undulating and oddly carved composition is a real mind-blower. If the previous piece was hanging at the edge of transcendental realms, this one immerses us deeply into these mysteriously crescendoed and powerfully spellbinding zones. "Evening's Empire" clocks over 12-minute mark and dives immediately into unfathomable depths, although remote rumbles flicker here and there. But monolithic dronescape continuously keeps on emerging until it's permeated by environmental sounds, some hi-pitched nuances sneak in, but the journey is clandestinely stolen by warm-hearted piano blankets, tranquilly monumental with touch of medieval gracefulness, before dissolving into fascinating horizons of nocturnal silence. An epic soundscaping awaits here!!! The next piece, "Just A Shadow", starts quietly, but persistently unfolds into tenser monochromatic backgrounds, contrasted with fronting, windingly cascading sonics, both diaphanous and exaggerated, and velvety guitar and harp-like strings. 11 minutes long "For Dreaming" takes the route to the tranquilizing paradise, crossing through calmly nuanced celestial terrains with few incisive peaks, and meticulously fragranced with fragilely acoustic reminiscences. The listener is bathed in absolute aural peacefulness!!! "Until Tomorrow", with 12:33 the longest track, remains on the same, spaciously engrossing fields, where amorphously drifting drones amalgamate with vaporously meandering piano notes. Immensely transporting conclusion!!!

To complete the credits list, the album was mastered at The Armory by Ben Cox, of the ex-Lotuspike gang (now fused in Spotted Peccary Music community). "Vague Traces" album gorgeously melts common artistic visions of Phillip Wilkerson & Chris Russell, it safely finds its significant place in lustrously vast catalog of Spotted Peccary and proves their soundsculpting talent within ambient/deep space journeying. I should add that Phillip Wilkerson has self-released few weeks before "Vague Traces" his solo album "Wondrous Encounters", while Chris Russell has released during December 2014 his another collaborative project, "Memory Palace" with Greg Moorcroft of Eyes Cast Down. There is a lot of essential recordings to dive into, so don't hesitate to explore them, these guys really deserve it!!!

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


Bruno Sanfilippo "Inside Life" CD

"Inside Life" is the newest album by Bruno Sanfilippo, an Argentinian composer with domicile in Barcelona, Spain. Released in elegant digisleeve in the middle of February 2015 through his usual co-owned ad21 label. Being familiar already with the aural part, I must say the packaging precisely levels the quality thanks to the visual artistry of Buenos Aires based Andy Ruggia. As far I remember, this is the first digisleeve packaging at ad21, like it so much, good choice, amigos!!!

The opening composition "Sudden Quietness" unfolds this listening bliss with minimal, but deeply expressive piano, meticulously merged with sparse stringed sadness of guest appearance by cellist Julián Kancepolski. Intangibly spiraling subtleties are continuously guarding above, while gorgeously encircling placidness permeates through these profoundly evocative piano blankets. A true masterpiece!!! Pensive piano magic wrapped by hissy nostalgic moments leads "Freezing Point", touchingly embracing and serenely nuanced. And later gorgeously amalgamated with inconspicuously awaken weeping cello. Certainly another exquisitely poignant composition showcasing the virtuosity of both soundpainters and their sophisticated interaction. On "Camille", dedicated to French composer, pianist and organist Camille Saint-Saëns, euphoniously tinkling crystalline piano is backed by amorphously floating operatic female voice of Mariel Aguilar, all masterly surrounded by elusive monochromatic drone cushion. Bravo!!! A joyful piano evocations announce the next piece, "A Door Opens Forever", which smoothly transform into warmly inviting and tranquilly meandering passages, where elated piano shares artistic brilliance with intensely emotional cello and occasionally emanating clickety-clacks. Wow, the first three tracks were already really outstanding, but this composition is absolutely splendorous, a true piece of art, deliberately merging exceptional piano performance of Bruno Sanfilippo with Julián Kancepolski's cello grandness, all raised into an ultimate sonic equilibrium!!! Certainly one of my all time favorite piano-based efforts by Bruno Sanfilippo, magnífico, Maestro!!! And kudos also to Julián Kancepolski!!! A brief cacophony opens "The Place Where Dying Crows", but placid, more meditative terrains are quickly entered with rather scanty, but deeply embracing piano undulations, quietly minimal, although contrasted with perplexingly scattered string experiments. "Tea Leaves At The Bottom Of A Cup" invites us into gorgeously poetic sceneries with intimately narrative piano playing. A real beauty filled with profoundly enveloping soothingness!!! The title composition "Inside Life", with 7-plus minutes the longest piece, closes this highly enthralling aural experience with deeply suggestive squeaking bowed string finesse intricately coalesced with majestically flatlined drone layer, ethereal piano tracery and magnified by nebulous wordless transcendence of the sole protagonist. A tremendously engrossing finale!!!

To wrap up this review, I will only repeat my words from January 2015, when I was honored to preview this enchantingly fragranced masterwork, which was, by the way, mastered in Tokyo by Ian Hawgood. "Inside Life" immerses the listener into magnificently expressive modern classical realms, tranquilly minimal, yet exquisitely nuanced, abundantly poignant and delicately filigree, where stirringly pensive sadness is masterfully counterpointed with hauntingly embracing stillness, while intensely evocative ambient subtleties are deliberately permeated by yearning haze. A truly fabulous bravura performance by Bruno Sanfilippo and his guests!!!

Richard Gürtler (Apr 03, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Anátēxis" CDr by Jarguna
« on: March 29, 2015, 07:34:01 AM »

Jarguna "Anátēxis" CDr

Italian soundexplorer, photographer and ethnobotany adventurer Marco Billi aka Jarguna returns with his newest "Anátēxis" album self-released during January 2015. Recorded between 2013 and 2014 at his Sound Course Studio, the album comes with attractive jewel case design, which include except stunning photos also painted and signed tray.

"Anátēxis" journey reveals with 21-plus minutes long "Lithogenesis", which straightly dives into deeply mysterious subterranean realms, where echoed organic sounds amalgamate with ghostly rumbles and undulating dronescapes. Heavier dissonant layers slowly permeate through before metamorphosing into cascades of industrial-infused rhythm movements. These sonic elevations are soon joined by perplexing voice ventures with didgeridoo howls. Expanding, intensifying and climaxing, then around the middle part relievedly diminishing into quieter terrains, yet hauntingly flavored with assorted cavernous and primordial traceries. Wow, a very immersing exploration awaits here!!! Primal rumbles announce the next piece, "Compression", on which Jarguna is joined by Tucson based soundcarver Nathan Youngblood, who is mostly known for his "Asunder" debut CD released in 2007 on label. Although the overall mood of this composition is rather cacophonous, its soundpalette is richly organic and acoustically hallucinogenic. Don't know exactly who is responsible for what, maybe Nathan might control most of those primordial scrapings. In any case, according to the pictures of Sound Course Studio, Marco is equipped with lost of toys and Nathan's studio is the same story, I can confirm that personally as few jam sessions still deeply resonate. Dense circles of menacing clouds persistently hang above, at times stealing the center stage, but the listening experience of this bridged archaic and technology remains always fascinatingly irritating. "Lithification", the longest 26-minute track, safely retains its mindscaping scenario with swiftly helixing and surging reverberations reinforced by ear-tickling cyber-biotic fragments, which silently alchemize into magnificently transporting cavernous discordances. Expansive drone layers clandestinely pervade through the prehistoric nether sceneries, moving from warmer vistas through tensely crescendoing cinematic sweeps to mind-blowingly enigmatic cybernetic culminations. A magnum opus!!! Shorter "Cooling" blends lush organic manipulations with freakily traversing drone stratums, the sole protagonist of Jarguna again shares his soundsculpting passion on this composition with Nathan Youngblood. The closing chapter "Geodes" explores rather serene panoramic drifts, even if riding on massively undulating waves, where piercing vertexes and consonant vibrations are contrasted with amorphously meandering warm blankets. A really nice outro!!!

With "Anátēxis" album Marco Billi/Jarguna, with the help of his connate spirit Nathan Youngblood, takes each devoted journeyer into unique shadowy wonders, where all ancestral memories are amply awaken and excavated. Full, almost 77 minutes long immersion is guaranteed!!! I think Jarguna still might be unexplored by many ambient/dark ambient devotees, so don't miss this thrilling experience, because the discography of this gifted Italian soundsculptor features no less than 10 solo or collaboration albums plus few additional digital only releases. Available through Marco's Shangri-la Association dedicated to supporting and preserving local cultural traditions in many countries. Keep on adventuring, Marco, and have a safe journey!!!

Richard Gürtler (Mar 29, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Filaments" CD by Robert Rich
« on: March 22, 2015, 11:30:11 AM »

Robert Rich "Filaments" CD

Quite long time has passed since the last album of Robert Rich, "Nest" was released in September of 2012. However, it doesn't mean this iconic soundexplorer was silent during the last two years. On the contrary, in this period of time he resurrected his legendary sleep concert format, which firstly led to his live presentation in Krakow, Poland, in October of 2013 on Unsound festival (his first sleep concert in 15 years), and one year later, "Perpetual - A Somnium Continuum" monstrous 15 hour Blu-ray was released with 8 hours of new soundscapes. In the meantime, Darren Bergstein's Anodize label has released in December 2013 "Morphology" CD, a stellar sonic document from May 15, 2010. On the top of all that, April 2014 saw the release of "Premonitions 1980-1984", a 4 LP set featuring highly treasured pieces from cassette releases, out on German Vynil-On-Demand label. A quite productive silence... Now it's time encounter the "Filaments" odyssey!!! Released during January 2015, the first impression is splendid, no question about that, because the 6-panel digipak comes with gorgeous front and inside paintings by Nad Wolinska and Daniel Cake and photography by Christian Tanimoto III. As usual, the design and layout is expertly handled by John Bergin. This visual bliss is completed by in-depth liner notes by Robert Rich, displaying the title story behind each track, when focusing on cosmology realms. I am holding in my hands a true piece of art!!!

I am taken on the board as quick as the opening track title, 5-minute "Filaments" spreads across the listening room. The journey has been ignited with utterly immersing and spellbindingly expansive driftscape, gorgeously nuanced with cinematic climaxes, spacious quietudes and cyber-tech biotics, all intriguingly shaped by Robert Rich's innate wizardry. I would say this grandiosely stellar composition is slightly untypical for Robert Rich's soundforging. I am weightlessly drifting into ultimate sonic Heaven!!! "Majorana", with 10:45 the second longest composition, remains on the immense spacefields, cinematically undulating and guarding above euphorically swirling sequences, which continuously counterpoint with piercing lap steel cries. Also utterly gorgeous transitions emerge over the course, when celestial choir-like insignias guide the voyage, before entering breathtakingly unfathomable depths toward the end. Wow, another triumphant aural adventure showcasing musical genius of Robert Rich in full bloom!!! Shorter "Scintilla" effectively merges unmistakable sequencer work with stunningly evocative siren weeps and ear-tickling clinks. "Aetherfields" invade straightly with enigmatic reverberations, gently cacophonous and mindscaping, but wistful piano motif serenely meanders across and meticulously softens this delicate perplexity. "Entangled", the longest track clocking to nearly 11-minute mark, embraces the listener with its peaceful, but gently expressive piano, while lap steel whines ride atop along with distant pulses, which slowly permeate through the nostalgic blankets, transmute and steal the center stage as earmarking melodious meridian, sublimely joyous that is only Robert Rich, before silently fading away into infinite paradise of stillness. But my ears won't get any rest of this delight, because "Eulalia" keeps the attention with its sequencing signature wizardry, again cheerfully shimmering with distinguishingly exuberant cyber-organic percussive layer, all virtuosically reinforced by gorgeously yearning lap steel guitar imagery. Yes, the lap steel sounds in this wonderfully evocative composition are absolutely magnificent, a pure sonic bliss awaits here again, bravo, Maestro!!! With "Laniakea" some exquisitely mysterious horizons reveal, although safely floating on the waves of brightly shinning sequences. The next piece, "Aetherfolds", bridges nearly reverberating, squeaked-like sound ventures with poignantly flavored sparse piano subtleties. Stunningly peculiar, yet deeply contemplative sound collage!!! 10-minute closer "Telomere" gets back to fresh sequencer-driven domains, hauntingly winding and crescendoing through wide-screen, warmly fascinating space expanses. A very strong conclusion to this highly accomplished recording!!!

"Filaments" album is another proof of Robert Rich's musical superiority and a tremendously essential addition to his already glorious discography. Each of his new releases is worth the wait, no matter how long it takes. This album is, as always, filled with Robert's many signature sounds, even without his flute artistry this time, and trademarking perfection is displayed in every single detail of this album. Even the way the transparent tray is glued to the digipak is absolutely flawless... Aural and visual thrill is served here in huge doses, certainly another tour de force by this Californian sound aficionado!!! And don't forget, by the time I am publishing these lines, Robert is optimizing dates for his North American spring tour, with most dates during April and May, so if you have a chance, don't miss another spectacular experience!!! For those based not far from Copenhagen, Denmark, note that April 18th is a date for Robert's another sleep concert taking place in the beautiful former church of Nikolaj Kunsthal. We couldn't ask for more!!!

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


Byron Metcalf - Steve Roach - Rob Thomas "Monuments Of Ecstasy" CD

Long time kindred spirits and collaborators Byron Metcalf and Steve Roach have been constantly challenging their extraordinaire musicianship. Now their tribe has expanded as Rob Thomas of Inlakesh duo (with Tanya Gerard) returns after acclaimed "Medicine Work", a high-spirited cowork with Byron (June 2013) and his guest performance on "Intention" by Byron & Mark Seelig (April 2014). Steve and Rob, if I am right, haven't collaborated since 1999, when Steve delivered some groove magic to Inlakesh's "The Gathering" album. So all in all, we have here a tribal super group to fire up some of the most adventurous shamanic performances. The team is joined also by Stan Yeatts, who is responsible for the photographic bliss, the inside 3-panel panoramic picture is absolutely stunning and provides as much monumental input to this groundbreaking work, which was released in 6-panel digipak at Projekt during January 2015. Additional credits include Sam Rosenthal (design) and Spotted Peccary's Howard Givens (mastering).

The journey unfolds powerfully with 11 and half minute piece, "Archaic Layers". Steve's expansive desert drifts and engrossing grooves are quickly joined by Byron's passionate drumming magic, a quite razor-sharp. Unmistakably tribal-driven, but this time heavy pounding with nearly industrial touch. Along the way, Rob's didgeridoo droning spirals infrequently keep on arising. A truly hyper-active blend exhibiting the very best of each tribesman, welcome to their spectacularly multi-dimensional performance!!! "Monuments Of Trance", with 16:31 the longest ecstasy, slows down a bit, fronted by continuously encircling didge drones and barks, but the intense drumming quickly ties the score while distant glimpses of Southwest stark landscapes occasionally pervade. After 10-minute mark a tranquil transition awakes, before locomotive-infused tribal grooves and winding didge transcendence steal the center stage and navigate the final ride into the mesmerizing, mind-transporting trance paradise. No way to argue about the track title... "Primal Analog" dives straightly into sequencer-driven realms, but safely remains on the path, tirelessly opiating and reinforced by remote scanty beat and oscillating whizzing drone pipe. Perpetually spellbinding listening experience is guaranteed!!! The next piece, "Molecules Of Momentum", incorporates an array of ecstatic aboriginal sounds, hauntingly evolving infectious rhythms and diaphanously floating layers. Perfect blend of strongly mesmerizing Dreamtime artifacts and shamanic rites of the Americas bridged with modern sound artistry. Then comes the title track "Monuments Of Ecstasy", which clocks just over the 15-minute mark. The first 4 minutes transport the listener into unique amalgamation of primordial carvings with cyber-trance-induced grooves. But then Steve takes over the torch, when thrillingly awe-inspiring expansive melody sneaks in. This was absolutely unexpected, what a jaw-dropping transformation!!! I am deeply fascinated by this composition since the very first time it was officially introduced. The limits have been pushed once again, when already highly distinctive tribal-trance ambience is confronted with some electro-industrial flavorings. The track title fits more than precisely, a pure eargasm awaits here, no question about that!!! Shorter closing composition, "This Place On Earth", is under Steve's dominion and it soothes my ears with gracefully immense drifting panoramas reaching the eternally magnificent portal of atmospheric blissfulness. While delving into the deepest zones of monstrous calmness, delicate cyber-tech fragments inconspicuously permeate through. A massively embracing meditation!!!

This is certainly not just another rather ordinary tribal ambient journey, this is a genuine sonic (and visual) elixir approaching and achieving a new level in the collaborative evolution between Steve Roach and Byron Metcalf, this time with an enormous contribution of Rob Thomas, the master of the didgeridoo (player, teacher and crafter). Bravo Gentlemen!!! I just can't imagine where these curanderos want to shift their next chapter, it will be a quite tough task, but I am sure this will again challenge innate visionaries of these shamanic powerhouses. For now, explore, feel and absorb all the magic of these "Monuments Of Ecstasy"!!!

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

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Broadcast" CD by Spuntic
« on: January 24, 2015, 10:43:07 AM »

Spuntic "Broadcast" CD

Databloem's Dennis Knopper is always very good in bringing into the map some new unknown names and Spuntic is certainly no exception in these adventurous explorations. Mehdi Saleh aka IX, the driving force behind Spuntic, is an Iranian soundscaper, based in Tehran, who belongs to the leading forces of the growing electronic scene in this country. Actually, although Spuntic has released so far several albums, mostly on Portuguese netlabel Enough Records, I believe Mehdi is rather known for his dark ambient infused project Alphaxone. But back to Spuntic, "Broadcast" was released during May 2014 in traditionally tasteful Databloem's digifile packaging with exceptional design wizardry by Theo Rabou. Let's ignite this 68-minute transmission now...

"Alternate" transports straightly into nocturnal rainy street with circling texture bridging enigmatic layers with smoothly soaring swells. At times slightly piercing, yet hauntingly percolating. Gorgeously cinematic fragments quietly sneak in and continuously undulate throughout. Organic, surreptitious, exquisite... A very strong introduction by Spuntic. "Piramoun (Interlude)" dives slowly into desolate drone reverberations, reaching nearly unfathomable depths and then astonishingly transmuting through soothing acoustics of the environment into gracefully expansive skylines. Thrillingly transporting odyssey awaits here!!! But the journey continues with "Hybrid Snow", which should be cold, but the distant spirals of sky high choir drones are uniquely warm, masterfully counterpointed with extremely polished and utterly magnetising hissy/glitchy blankets and delicately piercing cybernetic subtleties. Deeply mesmerizing and spectacularly embracing composition, bravo Mehdi, to me, certainly an Ambient Hall of Fame piece!!! "Erosion" is driven by nature sounds and tidal drifts bridged with contemplative tinkles, rumbles and retrospective scenic vistas. Gently crescendoing and tranquilly engrossing!!! Monotonously twinkling "Convergence" is rather inconspicuous while the next one, "Beneath", integrates persistent organic sounds with softly discordant nuances. Subtly minimal, yet richly flavored with an array of crystalline bleep-like sounds. "Spread" shifts into beautifully halcyon terrains, calmly floating and waving through enchantingly reflective panoramas. "Island Of Reil" returns to more undulating pathway with slowly emerging expansive layers crossed with sibilant driftscapes and warmly inviting cinematic quietudes. Delightfully evocative!!! "Omniscient" with heavier and darker drone sorcery easily evokes barren sceneries, although later joined by strangely circling bleeps, while the dronescaping scenario stealthily metamorphoses into spellbindingly grandiose drifts. "Limitation" remains floating in celestial spheres, majestically transporting and reinforced by intangible tinkles and placid sounds of nature. "Visual Light" incorporates euphoric sequences bridged with ongoing organic embellishments. Toward the end the composition changes like a chameleon into serenely contemplative outro. "Horizon", with 8:20 the longest piece, closes this broadcast with drones that could be easily abyssal-benthic, strongly monochromatic and mind-bending, yet illuminated with sort of sonar pulses and noises, but emanating rainy sounds swiftly shift the whole scene just near the surface of a mysterious ocean tunnel leading to an awe-inspiring water cave realm, stunningly immersing!!! Additional eerie scraps widen the sonic spectrum throughout this magnificent subterranean odyssey. But don't be scared, even if journeying through this breathtaking watery wonder, you can still safely catch a glimpse of the ocean horizon...

"Broadcast" is undoubtedly a really strong debut CD album, a true revelation and a very fruitful addition to the expanding international roster of Databloem's artists. I will definitely keep an eye and ear on this highly gifted soundsculptor. For now, great job Spuntic & Databloem, keep on going guys!!! And by the way, in case you belong to the dark ambient aficionados, then don't miss two new CDs by Mehdi's Alphaxone project, which are most recently released on Cryo Chamber label and entitled "Altered Dimensions" and "Living in the Grayland".

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


Neu Gestalt "Inside The Rain Chamber" CD

The sole protagonist behind Neu Gestalt, in Edinburgh, Scotland based ambient downtempo sound wizard Les Scott has released his 3rd album "Inside The Rain Chamber" on domiciliar, Paul Croan's label Alex Tronic Records, just like his previous two albums "Altered Carbon" (2008) and "Weightless Hours" (2012). Out since December 5th, 2014, and packaged in catchy 6-panel digipak designed by Neu[e] (aka Les Scott) with additional front cover and disc photographs by Natashah Azim. The mastering duties were handled, as usual, by Paul Croan.

Known for his quite unconventional high-tech sculpting alchemy, Les Scott again brings to his listeners a truly energetic, crystalline polished synthesis of pulses, glitches, break-ups, voice-like fragments (evoking Japanese words) and haunting melodies with nostalgic reminiscences. Comprised of 12 tracks, mostly clocking between 4 and 5 minutes, the album opens with "Voyager" that immediately sets the feel for the upcoming 52-minute trip. Hissy reflections, cyber-tech rhythms, broken Japanese female wordless fragrances, all texturally rich, strongly polished and uniquely interwoven. Slightly lazier, downtempos dominate "Sagarmatha Before Falling", yet abundantly undulating with attractive piano-like evocations. "Capsule" again focuses more on voice-like fragments, which are juxtaposed with sharper, synthetic pulses and swirls. A truly magnetic mixture. And that's the case of the following piece too, "Luminance". Based on bouncing rhythms, amply flavored with assorted glitches and hisses. The next piece, "Landing Lights", precisely bridges slightly distorted beats, enchanting backgrounds, although rather scattered and female voice scraps, this time sounding almost earthy. "Islands" shift straightly into soothingly poignant terrains, gorgeously organic and cinematically embracing. Very refreshing!!! "Neon East" quickly returns into ear-tickling passages, hypnotically whirling with occasional piano wistfulness sneaking in. Slower tempos on "Hidden Leaves" are hauntingly melted with signature voice fragments and distortive outbursting subtleties. "Tokyo Tipping Point" is strangely fragmented and nuanced, yet surprisingly enchanting and euphonious. "Twilight Of Tears" is fragile, hazy, enigmatic, exotic, dubby... Definitely one of the highlights on this ride. "A Year Without Sun" shifts into a deep cyber-biotic realms while the closing "Weightlessness" mesmerizes the listeners with its delicately pulsing, blipping and tinkling texture.

Musically and aurally again a very strong and distinguishing work by this Scotsman, but that's quite obvious for Neu Gestalt since "Altered Carbon" and "Weightless Hours" albums. Regarding to this, I should also mention that the main sound source used on this recording are two shakuhachi flutes, but these sounds have underwent lots of processing, so I wouldn't recognize them without seeing them among used instruments or mentioned them in the creative process of carving the album. Although I might prefer more variability this time, even if all details are enough diversified in each track, to me, the overall feel is a bit repetitive throughout. Few extra hooks in the vein of brilliant "Twilight Of Tears", "Islands" or "Sagarmatha Before Falling" would certainly more reinvigorate the album on the long run. Maybe it's the case of generated vocal sounds, maybe I would appreciate more drifting glimpses across. Nevertheless, "Inside The Rain Chamber" album is a must-have for each connoisseur of peculiarly crafted downtempo cybertronica!!!

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


The Circular Ruins "Full Circle" CDr

Two years have passed since the previous solo TCR release "The Birth of Tragedy", but in the meantime Anthony Paul Kerby (APK) has been quite busy collaborating with Specta Ciera and Mystified, as well as with his Lammergeyer project and also focusing on his co-works with Robert Davies (as The Winterhouse), and Tomas Weiss. The brand new album "Full Circle", released at the beginning of November 2014 in the usual slim poly case packaging, also introduces a new design concept realized by the artist himself. Full wrap-around insert printed on both sides looks again very elegant, so no wonder the previous design, which featured photographs by Angela Weiser and paintings by Robert Davies, became DataObscura's hallmark. Nice job!!!

The album unfolds with the 10:30 title track, "Full Circle". Serenely meandering primal drifts are permeated with fragile transparent glitches, tickling the listener's ears, while a nostalgic melody placidly floats throughout along with reverberating layer and soothing tinkles. An array of additional sonic accompaniments keep emerging and fading away, always in a very gentle way, which makes headphone listening a truly rewarding exploration. Gorgeously embracing opening!!! Short "Protozoan" remains safely on the tranquil path, although led by mildly pulsing euphoria. The next piece, "All Your Questions", hangs on joyful tracks with its richly tinkling structure, yet always warmly refreshing and engulfing. "Slipstream" incorporates repetitive and progressing rhythm surrounded by evolving crescendos, which transmute occasionally into lushly colored escapades of bouncing pitched bleep-like sounds. Again with each detail precisely polished. "Hall Of Mirrors" returns to delicate glitchy terrains bridged with stunningly gorgeous poetic horizons, utterly warm and longing expansive drone beds, joyous melodic patterns enthrallingly percolated across, silently emerging nuances, all meticulously coalesced together into a blissfully harmonious and immersing sonic Eden that can only be The Circular Ruins. Hats off!!! Brief "Sublimation" floats on the immense retrospective clouds of its predecessor, while the longest, 11-minute "The End Of Everything" shifts into richly organic realms, distinctively intensified with trumpet-like infusions, sparse flimsy tinkles and continuously perceptible hissy wistfulness. "Delayed Gratification" resurrects euphoniously spacious landscapes, magnificently grandiose and soothing, which are inconspicuously intermingled with the vague clickety-clack of machinery-like sounds. "In Memorium" dives straightly into breathtakingly infinite and sorrowful choir-infused drone expansions, masterfully conjugated with miscellaneous biotic grumbles and ear-warming chimes. Definitely a gracefully embracing conclusion awaits here!!!

Nine individual chapters generating totally exquisite "Full Circle"!!! I can't help it, but I have always been deeply fascinated by APK's ability and sense to precisely insert all kinds of highly sophisticated embellishments into his soundscapes, without being too disruptive or too fragmented. Every time a true sonic elixir unfolds when taking active listening involvement with your headphones on. Top-notch sound quality "Full Circle" is again no exception, your deeply focused attention is required and even if my following words might sound cliché, this album must be labeled as a magnum opus of The Circular Ruins. Thus my nomination for "The Best of 2014" Award is quite obvious in this case. Bravo, Anthony, this is a true virtuoso performance!!! And thus "Full Circle" album is another shining pearl in the already admired body of work of this proficient Anglo-Canadian soundcarver!!!

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


Amongst Myselves "The Past Is Another Country" CDr

Behind this Australian project, based in Blackwood, suburb of Adelaide, is hidden Steve Roberts, who is releasing his soundworlds since 2001. "The Past Is Another Country" is his 7th full length album, which was self-released in the middle of October 2014 as a standard jewel case edition with 4-panel front insert and transparent tray. The seven tracks for this album were created between March 2011 and April 2014, and as usual for latest releases of Amongst Myselves, the cover images are quite sparse and abstract.

The 6-minute starter and title track "The Past Is Another Country" tranquilly drifts and meanders into gorgeously expansive panoramas reinforced by strongly embracing cinematic crescendos with deeply introspective drone surges. Lush environmental sounds diffuse toward the end and carry the fading drone blankets into the infinite serenity. A very nice, refreshing intro!!! The following cut, "Dark Places, Winter Shadows", clocks over 11 minutes and dives straightly, as displayed by its title, into shadowy terrains, although leaded at the very beginning by some chirping birds. It's precisely spiced by assorted glitchy infusions, phantasmal choirs, voice transmissions and other weird fragments, at times quite mind-bendingly transporting, and eerie rumbles, all mysteriously echoed. A truly significant departure from the longing sceneries of the opening composition. But still a very strong one!!! "He Who Bathes In The Black Sun" remains, no surprisingly, in heavier, perplexing terrains, sculpted with undulating dronescaping spirals, which are bridged with occasional urban noises and vague industrial machineries. Slowly reaching shadowy climax, before relievedly vanishing into the void. "Cave Of The Swimmers" is by far more cacophonous, with all its hummed winds, noisy fragments, piercing outbursts, weird rumbles, bleeps and chitters, yet at some stages rather minimal, but certainly unsettlingly engrossing soundcollage. And obviously quite nuts driving when reaching the dark unfathomed sceneries with your headphones on. "The Day The Crickets Listened" sounds definitely relieving, the light quietly penetrates through the obscure realms and the listener mostly explores hauntingly embracing friction of ear-tickling electric stringed escapades and poetic images of acoustic riffs. Uniquely sculpted and stunningly evocative composition, certainly one of the highlights of this album, bravo!!! "Campfires Of The Night Sky" attracts immediately with its serenely expansive mixture of heavenly drifts, beautifully waving, and warmly flickering guitar subtleties with other delightful shatters discreetly thrown in. Thus a truly magical sonic elixir is delivered here by Amongst Myselves!!! Nearly 13-minute "In My Depths, All Treasure Dwells" closes the journey with magnificently graceful drone, augmented by spellbinding hums, monumental culminations and glistening tinkles. The circle has closed, a very gratifying and intense finale indeed!!!

The album might sound a bit fragmented during the first explorations, but repeated, deeply attentive listening sessions reveal all the beauty of these distinctive soundsculptings, which are always glowing and adventurous with lots of hidden, precisely detailed sonic wonders. Actually much more compact than I have ever imagined and even if presented as rather darkly infused ambience, to me, "The Past Is Another Country" album tightly hangs in the enigmatic fissures between ambient and dark ambient terrains. A strongly challenging recording by this Aussie, which definitely deserves to be fully explored and experienced!!! The album is dedicated to the iconic German sound experimenter Conrad Schnitzler. Well accomplished, Steve Roberts/Amongst Myselves!!!

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

Everything and Nothing / Christmas greetings!!!
« on: December 24, 2014, 05:38:12 AM »
I am wishing to everyone at Hypnos Forum a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous new year!!!

With friendly greetings, Richard :)


Steve Brand "The Space Between" CDr

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

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

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

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

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

Aglaia "Hymns" CDr

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

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

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

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

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