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Topics - richardgurtler

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The Winterhouse "Slow Awakening" CDr

Anthony Paul Kerby (APK), the sole creator behind The Circular Ruins, Nunc Stans, Lammergeyer and most recently also Fictions And Poetics, and Robert Davies are the leading sound architects and unmistakable stalwarts on the roster of DataObscura, a Southern Ontario, Canada, based label. As The Winterhouse they have recorded since 2007. "Slow Awakening" is their sixth chapter, released July 15th, 2015 in DataObscura's usual slim poly case packaging concept with a full wrap-around insert, printed on both sides, with a spine.

The 13-plus minutes long "Following The Path" unfolds with ultra monochromatic stratum serenely counterpointed with abundant biotic field recordings and hissy blankets. Additional balmy meandering layers and remote urban voices sneak in along with enigmatically echoed and gossamer tinkling subtleties. Magically immersing quietudes are fully blooming in utterly enrapturing symmetry between the two creative forces behind The Winterhouse. This awesome piece culminates with expressive bowed strings-infused epilogue. Bravo, gentlemen!!! "The Lake Isle" clocks to 10 minutes and is again richly detailed on the background, while the multi-dimensional drone scenario tranquilly undulates. Subtle high-tech fragments permeate as well, but warmer, sweeping panoramas sustain on the foreground, merged with ephemeral nostalgic piano glimpses. Masterfully displaying, I believe, Robert Davies' panoptic droning expanses and APK's flamboyantly ear-tickling embellishments. Another strong one!!! Only slightly longer than its predecessor, the title composition "Slow Awakening" delves deeply into quiescently droning sceneries, which are commingled with nocturnally-charged musings and gently crescendoing poetic sinuousness. Mildly spiraling dissonant mindscapes join the spectacle as well. Towards the end evanescing through subterranean rumbling paths. "We Don't Know", at 14:26 the longest track on "Slow Awakening", opens with cyber-tech pulsing patterns, persistent forest calls, oracularly futuristic groans and whispers. This already exuberantly spiced texture is reinforced by intangibly lyrical piano traceries. On the top of that occasional, insistently high-pitched plateaus invade as well. A bizarrely sculpted venture indeed!!! The closing composition "Nocturnal Memories" is announced by rather rawer sibilating and humming drones bridged with evocative shoreline vistas. Titillating environmental filigrees soon steal the center stage along with ambiguously hypogeous gurgles and impalpably unathomable voices illuminate this thrillingly adventurous odyssey. A truly peaking finale awaits here, so grab your headphones now and enter these fascinatingly fragranced sonic realms!!!

At one hour "Slow Awakening" is certainly another big one from The Winterhouse duo. A top notch merging of creative insignias of two highly crafted sonic architects, who constantly prove their exceptionally accomplished artistries. "Slow Awakening" is another hallmark recording with many rewards, so don't hesitate to join this utterly transporting journey!!! It's quite obvious, Anthony Paul Kerby's and Robert Davies' most recent collaborative soundcarving gets my highest recommendation, just the same as with all their previous synergic efforts. And as usual, both artists keep busy with their newest solo projects, APK's Nunc Stans "Elementa" CDr is out since February 2016, while Robert Davies has released his latest "River's Edge" album only three weeks ago. All available via APK's DataObscura, so go out and explore these hidden gems!!!

Richard Gürtler (Apr 02, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Mermaids" CDr by Fellirium
« on: March 29, 2016, 11:30:14 AM »

Fellirium "Mermaids" CDr

Russian painter of sonic canvas, Andrey Vasilyev, based in Moscow, who is known under the moniker Fellirium, is not an unknown name among the ambient netlabels community. Releasing his music since 2007, Fellirium's discography features over 25 album and EP titles, mostly available via Russian netlabel Liminal Records. Since December 22nd, 2015 we can celebrate together with Andrey his debut "Mermaids" on physical format published by highly applauded ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ label (from Yaroslavl, Russia). This passionate and caring label is known for their stunningly gorgeous hand-crafted artful packagings (CDr and cassette limited editions). Fellirium's "Mermaids" CDr is no exception, 4-panel packaging is covered by fabric with hand-painted cover with additional promo card and little insert with hand-made mermaid scales and hand-written poetry in Russian by Valeria Kosternaya, I believe she is acting as Aloe, and together with Tim Six, the driving force behind ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ, she is responsible for all the visual magic showcased by this label. An immediate visual bliss is guaranteed, a true piece of art!!! Holding in my hands such beauty always reminds me the reasons why I have never ventured into the digital worlds. And by the way, at the same day as "Mermaids" CDr were released another two titles, Spiraľ Vremeni & Ugasanie "In The Aftersounds Of Echo" CDr (officially presented in Russian as Спираль Времени & Угасание "В Отзвуках Эха") and Furthers "Pineal Dreamer" CDr, all three presented as "Winter Solstice Batch" wrapped in sackcloth with additional inserts. The whole batch is highly recommended indeed!!! Back to "Mermaids", for additional inside artwork is credited also Andrey Vasilyev.

I dive deeply into a jaw-dropping subterranean domain, where I face "Ghost In The Water". This longest, 10-minute composition reveals with contemplatively rattling shells and mildly tinkling nuances. Breathy calls permeate through utterly tranquil poignancy coalesced with sweeping quietudes of rainsticks and remote enigmatic groans glance above along with profoundly evocative stringed vistas. My ears are endlessly bathed in an epitome of atmospheric elixir, bravo, Andrey!!! The next piece, "Slow Currents", exhibits mysterious drone reverberations, introspective electric guitar and persistent, slenderly biotic-charged clickety-clacks. Strangely ambiguous soundscape, well-done!!! "Beneath The Surface" gracefully glides through magnificently sculpted underwater sceneries, where immense sea expanses are exquisitely commingled with oracularly gurgling fragments and solitary wheezes. Ethereal choir-like drones effortlessly float and undulate with awe-inspiring grace, while weeping dissonant traceries rise, meander, ebb and counterpoint with impalpably gossamer strings. Awesomely intricate, yet strikingly beautiful composition!!! "Dreaming Fish" unfolds with the glimpse of poetic strings, but soon expansively invading washes steal the show along with fruitful palette of shells, bells and rainsticks. Perplexing breaths, whispers and cries are surreptitiously hanging above and whining strings emanate from brumous horizons. Towards the end the circle completes with ephemerally resurrecting poetic images. Masterfully submerging!!! On "Hidden Pond" distant drone sinuousness harmoniously amalgamates with cavernously enrapturing array of organic rumbles and trimmings, while tranquilly moving semi-acoustic strings sneak in along with soothingly ascending lonely e-bow evocations. A gracefully introspective opus!!! "Silent Cry", with 6:24 the shortest track on "Mermaids", closes this delightful voyage with abundant, yet delicate display of translucently tinkling and rattling primordial artifacts bridged with serenely sailing and fluttering drones, surrounded by nostalgic hissy blankets. A very suitable ending!!!

"Mermaids" album clocks only over 46 and a half minutes, I could easily imagine few more tracks, however, Andrey Vasilyev divulges on this masterpiece all his soundsculpting talent, potential and sensitivity. Every detail is precisely shaped and polished. Once again, bravo, Andrey, bravo, Fellirium!!! This physical edition is well-deserved and you can be really proud of it, hats off to you for "Mermaids"!!! On my side, I am a really gratified owner of this little gem of art!!! And of course huge kudos go also to Tim & Aloe of ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ for their splendidly inspiring visual artistry, you guys are doing a truly amazing job!!! Большое спасибо!!! According to the label's info, only last few copies of "Mermaids" are left, so it is for the complete "Winter Solstice Batch", so you should act rather quickly before these beauties are gone. Trust me, "Mermaids" album is an essential must-have!!!

Richard Gürtler (Mar 28, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Aestrata "Submental Vol. 3" CDr

"Submental" series continue with a brand new chapter, after Nautic Depths' "Vol. 1" (2012) and Wintersilence's "Vol. 2" (2014), here comes newest installment, "Vol. 3" by Aestrata, an enigmatic project by German droneforger Tomas Weiss, the sole protagonist behind El culto and its sub-labels, who has already released under Aestrata pseudonym in November 2012 acclaimed album "Beyond The Veil". As usual for these series, the album is packaged in a simple cardboard sleeve without any additional background info. I can only add the album is out since March 11th, 2016 on El culto's Submental label and it's limited, if I am right, to 75 pre-orders. In any case, only counts the drone magic what's hidden inside, I stay calm and deeply focused, so let's ignite the journey!!!

"Submental Vol. 3" is one long-form piece clocking just over 52-minute mark. Steady drone emerges out of the misty sceneries and persistently glides towards the infinite realms. Multifariously drifting textures, ranging from intangibly celestial to vaporously ear-tickling, clandestinely join this heavily flatlined spectacle. Quietly elevating and sublimely magnifying until reaching the first climaxing plateau around the 8th minute. Monstrously monochromatic stratum insistently grows and during 11th minute it metamorphoses into a truly jaw-dropping, transcendentally enrapturing scenario. Additional ephemeral cyber-tech traceries and organic glimpses sneak in and help to unlock the gates of breathtakingly enigmatic nothingness. We are approaching 20th minute and this incredibly mind-blowing monolithic bliss is constantly towering, its thickness is devastatingly monumental. A pure drone eargasm awaits here!!! Intriguing nuances surreptitiously permeate along with gracefully undulating expansions and announce subtly diminuendoing transitions, although still massively magmatic. After 32nd minute high-pitched dissonant subtleties counterpoint with enveloping heavy-weight dronewalls and safely navigate the listener into magnificently abyssal domains. Powerfully insistent in the search of the next ecstatic vertex, this is a truly ear-bending listening experience!!! Another 10 minutes of this disastrous dronescape are gone and I am still in total alert. Impalpable urban rumbles emanate from majestically nebulous terrains and guide the composition into embracing stillness, yet only transient, because unfathomable hums briskly arise and exquisitely coalesce with warmly floating and ebbing cinematic blankets for the closing 5 minutes of this staggeringly immersing journey. Balmily relieving outro!!!

"Submental Vol. 3" is without any doubts a great example of how multi-dimensional can be the dronesculpting adventure at its most monochromatic. I have no idea how many copies are left, so you better act quickly, before you miss this sonorously transcendental gem!!! Bravo, Aestrata!!! And by the way, first 50 pre-orders featured also additional 26-minute download entitled "Sonosphere", which delves deeply into mesmerizingly reverberating quietudes, shifting from inconspicuously silent through helically mindscaping to quiescently evanescing. Enter now The Drone Eden!!!

Richard Gürtler (Mar 26, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Sequentia Legenda "Blue Dream" CDr

French sound sculptor Laurent Schieber, based in the suburbs of Mulhouse, is better known under his artistic name Sequentia Legenda, a project heavily dedicated to vintage Berlin School Music and inspired by the iconic Klaus Schulze. "Blue Dream" is Sequentia Legenda's debut album, which is out since the end of 2014 as a self-release packaged in catchy matte 6-panel digipak. Designed by Laurent Schieber himself and mastered by Olivier Briand.

The album is comprised of three longer compositions, among them the opening piece "Fly Over Me" is the longest one clocking over 33 minutes. Although not indexed, the track is divided in another 10 pieces, mostly rather shorter with the exception of the unfolding part, 10 and a half minutes "The First Contact" and "Overhead", which reaches 7 and a half minutes in length. "The First Contact" is invaded by gracefully floating washes, strongly cinematic with utterly sumptuous and amorphously enrapturing yearning feel, and meticulously counterpointed with sublimely permeating sequencer sparkles, mesmerizingly persistent. Shorter "Approach (intro)" will later appear in its 22-minute version as a second main composition. The sequencing pace is getting slightly faster and energetic, while celestial choirs insistently guard above. The texture seamlessly floats between shorter sub-pieces, where sequencer arrangements move from briskly glittering to more, relatively soothing, then again shifting into up-paced, warmly inviting elevations. After about 20 minutes and 6 sub-tracks we enter another longer part, already mentioned "Overhead", which keeps on the path of immensely heartwarming vistas bridged with abundantly luminous melodies. Flying on the wings of this spellbinding scenario we clandestinely approach the closing part "The Return" and wrap-up the first composition, "Fly Over Me". Distant seashore winds announce "The Approach". This time the journey continues without any sub-passages. Again slowly revealing with serene, yet monumental washes, while the multi-dimensional sequencers gently fire up its engines. Some really captivating transitions emerge along the way when shifting to the next gear, although rather subtly diverse. But still these soft metamorphoses are utterly transporting, ranging from electrifyingly dynamic to panoramically spectacular. Imposing!!! The closing 15-minute "Vibrations" slows down a bit, when the sequencing patterns twinkle in a really gorgeous symmetry with free-gliding washes. An infinite equilibrium of magnificence between splendidly spacious drifting nostalgia and fascinatingly pulsing subtleties, here and there reinforced by additional cyber-tech glimpses. A top-notch conclusion and a magnum opus to my ears as well!!!

70-minute "Blue Dream" is undoubtedly a really triumphant debut album by Sequentia Legenda, bravo, Laurent!!! I would say even sensational, but on the long run I would prefer more varied arrangements, maybe some extra slower, more enigmatic sinuousness or cybernetic-infused ventures would bring more brilliancy to this already ambitiously accomplished and significantly invigorating recording. And while remaining in artist's shoes, maybe with the next release I would take the route with less promotional hype printed on the digipak's artwork, because I think Sequentia Legenda's music is strong enough and it "speaks" for itself even without this extra campaign. Sometimes less is more. Leave this for flyers and press packages. If you are a connoisseur of Berlin School-driven electronica, this is an ultimate must-have album awaking all the high-spirited magic of this classic style. Sequentia Legenda has released in the meantime another album entitled "Amira", this one is out since the end of November 2015. And the third recording, tentatively named "Extended", is scheduled for the release around September 2016 as a double album featuring a guest participation by German drummer Tommy Betzler, who most recently worked with Michael Brückner on their "Two" collaboration. So don't let Sequentia Legenda to slip under your radar screen!!!

Richard Gürtler (Mar 25, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Kloob "Solid Foundations" CDr

I have seriously noticed this Spanish project for the first time at the beginning of March 2015, few weeks after his debut album "Deep Emotional Phases" premiered on relaxedMachinery (released February 13th). Actually, I also remember Kloob's name among with other upcoming artists from conversation with rM's Geoff Small, while hanging at the Congress Pub just one day before its release date. Then, few weeks later I recall asking the sole protagonist Daniel Ferreira Stumpf aka Dani "Kloob", who is based in Barcelona, about the physical format of "Deep Emotional Phases", but this powerful debut remains available in digital format only. Fortunately, one year passed and Kloob returns, again on spirited rM gang, with his second installment entitled "Solid Foundations". Out since February 19th, 2016, the newest album is even available in physical CDr format, released few weeks later in limited edition of 30 copies and packaged in standard jewel case with 4-panel front insert. Good move, Dani!!! Graced by photo and design artistry by rM's Steve Brand while mastering duties are handled by another giant, Dani's Catalan fellow soundscaper Max Corbacho.

Ultra deep spiraling drone announce "Mystical Intuition", which clocks to nearly 9-minute mark. Immense layers of panoramic evocativeness with wistful piano glimpses join the forefront along with emerging and waning distant cyber-tech rumbles, ranging from vaporous to ear-tickling. At times intangibly nuanced drifts are continuously magnified and persistently metamorphose into heavily towering magmatic outbursts. Wear your headphones or give some extra warm-up to your speakers, in any case, this is a truly awesome intro!!! 7 and a half minutes long "Magnetismo" insistently rides on the wings of profoundly unfathomable drone scenario with soothingly emanating swirls and shimmers. Relentlessly drifting through fascinatingly amorphous zones constantly reinforced by ambiguous traceries before evanescing into closing ethereal realms. 6-plus minutes "Deep Mantra", as indicates its title, straightly dives into magnificently oracular terrains, sculpted with gently tinkling pattern, unfolding expansive sheet and enigmatically impalpable choir-like drone, shifting the listener into thrillingly transcendental Tibetan Plateau. A drone tour de force awaits here, bravo, Dani!!! "Devastado" immediately attracts with its tremendously cascading outline, again intricately abyssal, monstrously humming and spellbindingly subterranean, where glimmering organic fragments perpetually illuminate these jaw-dropping depths. The track title precisely interacts with its soundforging, this must be Kloob at his most abysscaping!!! "Alien Spaceships Arrival", with 11:26 the longest piece on "Solid Foundations" delves deeply into monumentally expansive realms enhanced by titillating cyber-biotic embellishments. Sinuously floating stratum smoothly crescendoes, blossoms, culminates and explodes with ear-bending intensity, then ebbing into relatively softer sceneries with razor sharp pads guarded by celestial drone choirs before shifting and reaching another climaxing magnitudes, where vigorously crystalline sequences steal the center stage and mutate into laid-back infused soundfields, yet powerfully kinetic although consistently counterpointed with heavenly quietudes. Another amazingly flamboyant sonic splendor!!! "Sedante", only slightly shorter than its predecessor, no surprisingly moves into more contemplative vistas leaded by tranquilly dronescaping texture, tenaciously encircling, spiced by elusive cybernetic molecules and exquisitely revealing fascinating spatial emptiness. "Seeking A Spirit Guide" is another composition getting over 10-minute mark and it firmly holds on the path of intensified multi-dimensional panoramic gracefulness, where utterly immense soundwalls coalesce with nuanced heavenly choirs and clinking subtleties. Drifting, soaring, oscillating, elevating and diminishing. "Inevitable", with 5-plus minutes the shortest track on the album, swiftly moves into animated terrains, where slightly rawer, endlessly quick-paced neuronic passages melt with dimly tinkling glimpses and transiently bizarre oddments and together paint mesmerizingly helixing mindscapes. "Sky Watcher" closes this spectacularly adventurous journey with more relieving structure, which floats from intangibly dissonant through monochromatic to warmly inviting, where gracious horizons unveil all its sweeping magic.

Richly flavored, yet significantly enigmatic 74-minute "Solid Foundations" is a very strong album by Kloob, exhibiting a wide array of soundsculpting talent of its creator. This Spaniard certainly deserves his spot on fruitfully growing relaxedMachinery roster and as a huge aficionado of physical formats, I am really glad Dani has decided for a small CDr run. Great job and keep on venturing, Dani!!! Without any doubts, Kloob is a very vital addition to Spanish ambient scene represented by names such as Bruno Sanfilippo, Max Corbacho, Ran Kirlian, Landru or Joxan Ruiz.

Richard Gürtler (Mar 20, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Al Gromer Khan "Day Of The Beloved" CDr

The newest album by virtuoso sitar performer Al Gromer Khan is out since the middle of December 2015 on his Rasa Music label packaged in a 4-panel digipak and available in limited edition of 50 numbered copies. Front cover of "Day Of The Beloved" is based on the painting entitled "Devaki, Mother of Krishna" by Austrian artist Marianne Stokes, who settled in England and was considered one of the leading women artists in Victorian England.

After thrillingly scented and flamboyantly instrumented "Far Go" and "Lalita" albums, released in 2013 and 2015, with this newest long-form piece Al Gromer Khan dives deeply into minimal ambient trance meditations in the tradition of his 2006, peacefully immersing and ambrosially enrapturing collaboration "The Alchemy Of Happiness" with kindred spirit Klaus Wiese. Monochromatic drone blankets are soothingly floating and perpetually guarding above, while gently nuanced traceries tranquilly emerge and glimpse on distant horizons. Some nearly palpable, swirling across the ears, some fairly intangible, almost clandestine, painting mindscaping eonian helixes, but the fore is quickly exhibited by transient, ear-tickling textures of pellucidly filigree sitar. Elusive, heavily flatlined and sublimely mesmerizing quietudes are delicately amalgamated with surreptitiously permeating ethereal-like subtleties and intermittently reinforced by orientally fragranced curclicue insignias of Al Gromer Khan's stringed wizardry. At multifold passages more steady, insistent, amorphously expansive and monochromously infinite, then awaking and shifting from remotely shimmering calls through vaguely clinking and rattling fragments to glistening vistas of piquantly textural sitar magnifications, yet always exceptionally minimalistic. This timelessly contemplative splendor is strongly recommended to experience at a low volume, a majestically rewarding journey displaying an immense dose of sophisticated sensitivity awaits here!!!

58 minutes long "Day Of The Beloved" is a must-have album for all connoisseurs of ultra profound meditative minimal soundsculpting. Turn your volume knob down and let the album freely reveal all its nectarous magic on you, it obviously gets my highest recommendation!!! And while remaining in creative realms, according to the latest updates, the Maestro is now working on his next, fourth novel, so stay tuned for more!!!

Richard Gürtler (Mar 14, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Common Ground "Common Ground" CD

I have been really excited about this collaborative project since the very beginning, as far I remember it was early summer 2015, when it was officially announced. Gary Johnson and Bill Olien, the two crafted protagonists behind Californian ambient tribal combo Resonant Drift have joined their forces with another celebrated ambient/Berlin School aficionado Hollan Holmes from Texas. While over 3 years have passed since the latest magnum opus "Full Circle" by Resonant Drift (released during December 2012), Hollan Holmes has graced the last year's scene at the end of March with his triumphant "Incandescent" CD. "Common Ground" CD is out since December 7th, 2015 as a self-release and packaged in strikingly gorgeous 6-panel digipak. Visual bliss is immediately delivered, now that's a truly promising introduction of Common Ground!!! So let's dive deeply into the aural tapestries...

Crepuscular tranquility is silently permeated by stunningly immersing wetland field recordings, distant drone hums slowly awake as well, but the show is quickly stolen by warmly expansive drifts, gorgeously evocative and gracefully enrapturing. Sequenced patterns clandestinely arise and mesmerizingly amalgamate with grandiosely floating wistfulness, while weeping electric strings quietly imbue vast movements. I am hooked, this 10-minute sonic bliss is entitled "Many Voices", so the exquisite inauguration of this collaborative project continues, bravo, gentlemen!!! "Finding Our Way", clocking to nearly 6 minutes, embodies deeper drone nuances, where unfathomably polychromatic magmatic glides with elevating enigmatic whistle-like meridians are surreptitiously invaded by glimmering sequences. Nebulously delightful soundcarving!!! "Spirited Encounter" bridges flatlined mindscaping echoes, yearningly winding layers filled with cinematic poignancy and ear-tickling ethereal acoustic strings. Writing credit for this composition goes except Gary Johnson also to German droneforger Tomas Weiss. Perplexingly desolate intro on "Ancient Whispers", with 4:50 the shortest piece on album, is merged with mysterious voices announcing animated tribal grooves, shamanisticly high-spirited with synthetic cyber-trance traceries thrown in. Intangibly dissonant subtleties are persistently riding atop. "The Apollo Frequency" delves into thrillingly immense realms, where amorphously embracing warmness is insistently metamorphosing into floating and ebbing high-pitched nostalgic magnitudes. The scenario is jaw-droppingly chameleonic over the course of 6-minute length, yet tightly harmonious achieving graciously majestic and balmily infinite equilibrium. A drone tour de force!!! "Edge Of Tranquility", shifts, as entitled, into more pastoral landscapes bridging heartwarmingly introspective washes with titilatingly reverberant, yet gossamery infused meanders by, I believe, the Moog guitar. Wow, what a beauty!!! "Tempest Rising", with 8 and a half minutes the second longest track, keeps on exploring magnificently grandiose horizons, which are continuously invaded by intensified apertures, blending percolating sequences with raucously spiraling climaxes. Then soothingly diminuendoing into the soul-surrounding singular opaqueness. Another masterpiece!!! "Long Voyage Home" safely maintains the route of evocatively awe-inspiring panoramic drones, celestially wide-screen and reinforced by the glimpses of remote twitchy cymbal fragments. The journey sustains through the closing 7-minute "The Ties That Bind", again with all-embracing expanses, serenely cascading through spectacular altitudes and counterpointed with an array of contemplatively tinkling quietudes, while rattling organic sparkles are glancing on the pervading blanket of stillness. A very strong conclusion indeed!!!

Gary Johnson, Bill Olien & Hollan Holmes have brought to the table the very best of their creative forces, that's why I will always appreciate such a joint effort recording. "Common Ground" album is undoubtedly a truly glorious, 61 minutes long example, where are effectively merged masteries and signatures of all three kindred souls. Kudos to all of you, guys!!! While this highly polished aural spectacle can be celebrated also thanks to the mastering wisdom of Robert Rich, I would like to focus a bit also on already mentioned awesome visuals. Although the cover image exhibits at the first sight a rather industrial-like feel, but still enough ambiguous, an enormous body of work was invested into its creation. According to the published infos, Hollan Holmes, the main visual architect behind Common Ground's images, which are based around Planetary Gear Set, has spent over 170 hours while shaping it. And the credit list features also talented Nathan Smithson, who is responsible for modeling the additional geometry. There is even a full story about the whole process published on Common Ground's website, so don't hesitate to find out more, it's a very interesting reading. Well, if you are familiar with Hollan Holmes' discography, then you know how much of his visual wizardry is showcased on every of his 5 solo albums, of course except the aural brilliance. And it's quite obvious that Resonant Drift's albums get my highest recommendation as well!!! I don't have any updates on the most recent works by Resonant Drift, but Hollan Holmes is now working on his newest album, which he has already described as his biggest musical project. So experience works by Common Ground, Resonant Drift & Hollan Holmes now and make sure to keep an ear to ground, because there is always a lot more to come from these respected ambient composers!!!

Richard Gürtler (Feb 28, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Robert Scott Thompson "Pale Blue Dot" CDr

Prolific US soundsculptor Robert Scott Thompson, based in Roswell, Georgia, has landed with his latest album on Darren Bergstein's Anodize label. Out since the beginning of November 2015 in simple, but elegant 4-panel digipak in limited edition of 50 copies. Unfortunately, as far I know, the album is sold out already at Anodize's Bandcamp shop, but few copies of its promotional CDr version with different artwork packaged in standard jewel case and released in edition of 20 copies might be still available at Robert's own Bandcamp account along with the digital version of "Pale Blue Dot".

8 and a half minutes long "Perigee" unfolds the journey with expansive nuances, meandering through enigmatic terrains, reinforced by choir-like drone tides counterpointed with contemplatively mesmerizing chimes, phantasmally high-pitched shimmers and gently dissonant glimpses. Strangely disturbing, yet hauntingly encircling piece. "Trajectory" is slightly shorter than "Perigee", but it safely remains on the mysterious path with weirdly cascading structure highlighted by intangibly winding clickety-clacks, panoramically reverberating dronescapes and sinuously brooding cello-like patterns. "Slow Rotation Of Stars" dives straightly into more cacophonous, although minimal fields, bridging myriad of swirling crystalline effects with sparse poetic piano, while peculiar clouds are hanging above, then metamorphosing into poignantly introspective slowed down electro-acoustic tempos, sluggishly charged, distinguishly twisted and bizarrely ear-tickling amalgamate precisely exhibiting creatively unique insignias of its protagonist. "Skyway" is announced by translucently glimmering subtleties, which soon coalesce with minimal, yet deeply evocative piano motif, while gently mindscaping blankets are riding atop with occasionally emerging mild fragments. All the exquisite colors of deeply touching minimalism are masterfully revealed in this composition!!! The title track "Pale Blue Dot" clocks over 16 minutes and shifts into more intriguing route, when meticulously blending contemplative layers, quietly cacophonous elements and expansively embracing essences. Another distinctively sculpted and highly refined piece, certainly a truly gorgeous longing horizons await here each attentive ears. Well-done, Robert!!! "Latticework" starts with quite strange intro, but soon converting into lushly colored scenario guided by highly polished tinkling melody persistently painting hypnotic-driven images, while labyrinthine sonic scraps permeate here and there. Another big one and the track title is precisely chosen too!!! Just put your headphones on, it's a true, 6 and a half minutes long revelation!!! "Lunar Idyll" moves into gracefully immense realms, although some celestial ghosts are hanging above and trying to steal this tranquil oasis, before transmogrifying into relaxed texture merging poetically engulfing piano passages, balsamic laid-back drones and gleaming parade of titillating nuances. Nearly 11 minutes of relatively minimal soundcarving, yet extraordinarily perfumed, strikingly evocative and flawlessly entitled!!! "Apogee" immediately attracts with its utterly lyrical character, where gorgeously undulating heartwarming piano notes masterfully commingle with sweeping cinematic washes, organic traceries and contemplative chinks. And again displaying a thrillingly sinuous soundscaping across the full length of 16 minutes. Obviously one of the pinnacles on "Pale Blue Dot" and a grand finale!!!

As usual for Robert Scott Thompson, this highly accomplished sound architect is playing his own league, a first-class of course. Sure, 78-minute "Pale Blue Dot" is not your easy listening ambient session, but with each new dedicated listen you keep on encountering new rewards, new filigrees, new glitters. It's more and more fascinating!!! A splendidly panoptic aural adventure with all trademarking earmarks and superb sound quality is delivered here by Robert Scott Thompson's infinite wizardry. The alchemy master at the very top of his craft, that's "Pale Blue Dot"!!!

Richard Gürtler (Feb 24, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Steve Brand "Songs From Unknown Territory" CDr

"Songs From Unknown Territory" is the last chapter of Steve Brand's powerfully enrapturing soundcarvings released during 2015. Although gracing every year the scene with phenomenal pinnacles within the drone ambient transcendence, I wouldn't hesitate to feature the year 2015 as a magnum opus in Steve Brand's already stellar discography. It all started with utterly introspective recording "Into The Current", continued through lushly colored spectacle "Second Spring" and enthrallingly mindscaping double album "Sanctuary". Now it's time to fully experience "Songs From Unknown Territory", an album released at the end of September 2015. As usual the aural part is magnificently reinforced by Steve Brand's visual artistry on 4-panel digipak with additional tranquilly embracing lyricism. Released via artist's own Pioneer Light Music label in a limited edition of 50 copies.

Enigmatically emerging drone and weirdly reverberant whistles announce the title composition "Song From Unknown Territory", which clocks to nearly 11 and a half minutes mark. High-pitched ear-tickling resonations meander and ebb, enriched by occasionally permeating subterranean rumbles, all intensely counterpointed by exquisitely enrapturing silence. Euphonious symphony of crickets inconspicuously join the scenario along with distinctively transporting woodwind wizardry that can be only Steve Brand. Soothingly engrossing glimpses of vast stillness are meticulously juxtaposed with towering helixes of ear-piercing billows. Although rather sparsely sculpted, always fascinatingly voluminous!!! Steve Brand again fully unfolds all his mind-bending insignias and delivers the very best of his perplexingly crooked soundcarving, bravo!!! The next piece, "When I’ve Left Behind All That I Was", which gets slightly over 12 minutes, sneaks into more expansive, yet tranquilly undulating terrains, augmented by gorgeously introspective vistas. Majestically immense and as always, intricately bridged with balmily glimmering silence. Harmoniously sweeping sinuous texture coalesces throughout the second half with winds heading from barren lands, but soon warmer, poetically-charged drifts awake and steal the journey, here and there enhanced by contemplatively ringing chimes. 11-minute "The Long Way Home" keeps on floating and ebbing path, impeccably counterbalanced with longing quietness, shimmeringly rumbling primordial artifacts and oracularly shamanic chants and whistles. The second half clandestinely shifts into more amplified magnitudes, floating, nuancing and metamorphosing. Certainly another truly rewarding listening delight awaits here!!! "Some Are Things Of Substance, Some Are Not" gets close to 15 minutes in length and dives at the beginning into monochromatically desolate drone depths, unfathomably magnificent and ambiguously humming, yet masterfully imbued by warmly encircling panoramas and ascending nostalgic patterns, ranging from intangibly distant to reverberantly ear-blowing. Massive dronescapes continuously ride atop, guard and climax, when unlocking the gates of transcendental Eden and then serenely evanescing towards the bottomless abyss. An epic sonic elixir indeed!!! "The Pause Just Before The Great Exhalation" awakes and immediately resurfaces on the wings of subterrestrial turmoil. Peaking outbursts, ominous hums, organic shimmers, cavernous traceries..., all masterfully amalgamated into a weirdly transporting stratum, gliding from disruptively mysterious realms through edgy passages into the gracefully revealing horizons of ethereal quietudes. From bizarrely venturesome into earwarmingly diminuendoing, an aural adventure at its most transmuting!!! "Beyond The Edge Of A Flat Earth", with 12:12 as lengthy as its predecessor, ignites sharply with glancing resonations, which calmly dissolve into waning expanses, monumentally drifting and undulating. Peaking disruptions join the forefront along with a myriad of phantasmal voices, abyssal vestiges and twinkling rumbles. An eerily flavored finale taking the listener way beyond the gates of ordinary. Well-done, Maestro!!!

Yeah, as always, an authentically "terra incognita" listening experience is celebrated when journeying with Steve Brand. Well, one can say, no coincidence in this case, when the album is entitled "Songs From Unknown Territory", but this Kansan soundforger constantly crafts a truly distinguishing gems. This album is certainly one of them!!! Usually with each new review of Steve Brand's album I am able to announce his upcoming release, but as far I am informed by Steve Brand, he is taking a bit of a long-needed hiatus, although there still might be a release entitled "Path To The Heart", that features a collaborative track with kindred soul Mark Seelig. In any case, I stay deeply focused, no matter how long the break will take, because Steve Brand is one of the most ingenious forces on the scene. If you are not aware of his artistry yet, you are making a devastating mistake!!!

Richard Gürtler (Feb 19, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Michael Brückner "Eleventh Sun" CDr

German sound architect Michael Brückner, based in Mainz, certainly belongs to the most prolific artists within electronic subgenres with his really extensive discography counting, I believe, over 100 solo and collaborative albums. Active since 1992, his vast body of work is available mostly on CDr formats, as self-released or available through few labels, among them German SynGate label seems to be the most recognized. Michael constantly ventures into various styles, ranging from Berlin school and ambient, through downtempo to more progressive and experimental. Due to his chameleonic transitions, always not easy to pigeonhole. To be honest, I am not that much familiar with many of his works, although I have been noticing Michael's name quite frequently on various ambient-based forums as a very active and dedicated talkative kindred soul. Finally, during the last few months I have been able to discover some of his multi-flavored albums, so it's no coincidence I will focus on more atmospheric side of Michael Brückner's soundsculptings. "Eleventh Sun" CDr is undoubtedly one of them!!! Out since October 2012 on SynGate's newcomer sublabel Luna, the CDr album comes in a standard jewel case with 4-panel front insert featuring mysterious photo by Danish photographer Tanja Rasmussen with cover design by SynGate's owner Kilian Schloemp-Uelhoff, while the artist himself provides visual editing and additional cover art. I should also add a bit of history behind this release, which was originally ignited by Michael Brückner's invitation to appear on "11.11.11: Light Side" compilation curated by Vlad Sikach for his netlabel GV Sound (also known for his SiJ project). Michael recorded and sent to Vlad 5 tracks in two different versions, that was all during 2011 and the idea for a possible full length album was born. Roughly around one year later, SynGate's sister label Luna was emerging, so that's the story in a nutshell.

12-plus minutes long "Caspiquan Part 1 (Liz In Mink)" opens the journey and dives into dimly colored terrains, sculpted with enigmatic undulations, ethereal chant ephemeras, experimental rumbles, evolving cinematic sequences and cyber-tech scraps. Floating and meandering through several metamorphoses, from phantasmally mindscaping through bizarrely flickering to warmly panoramic. Some exquisitely immersing magnitudes are reached, nice intro!!! "Purjah" incorporates monochromatic base, then clandestinely sneaking through celestial zones into vintage Berlin school, lightly sparkling downtempo arrangements. A strong mellow feel invades!!! "Chalamé" delves into spectacularly cavernous domains at the beginning, then revealing singular zones highlighted by perplexing traceries, weird swirls, desolately magmatic vistas, ear-piercing transiency and soothing horizons. Over the course perpetually emerging fragmented spirals and cyber-biotic consequences join as well. To me, a pinnacle of the album so far, well-done, Michael!!! "Caspiquan Part 2 (Liz And The Sea)" is a third track in a row clocking around 11:11 in its length (remember above mentioned "11.11.11" compilation?). This piece gorgeously blends wistfully lighthearted atmospheres, cyclically permeating, intangibly metallic echoes and enrapturing rhythmic laid-backness, although towards the end reinforced by some raucous peaks. Another top-notcher!!! Slightly longer "Kathroo Industry" swiftly moves into a more obscure scenario commingling industrial-charged outbursting glimpses with enduring helixes, while obfuscated choir-like drones are inconspicuously guarding above. Weird voices, cranky squeaks, grumbled oddments, subterranean tribals and ear-blowing spasms emanate here and there to add more intricate feel to this splendidly rewarding listening adventure. Then evanescing through tranquilly embracing immenseness percolated by transient dissonant surges. This could be the vertex of Michael Brückner's enigmatic soundcarving, bravo!!! "Agens", which appeared in its shorter, 11:11 long version on "11.11.11: Light Side" compilation, graces this album and navigates it into the finale in its longer form reaching 18-minute mark. High-tech faunal embellishments swirl across the ears, while puzzling drone slowly permeates through the distant horizon and gently invades the foreground with phantasmal subtleties and coalesces with arising sequences, which swiftly paint mesmerizingly spiraling images. Crescendoing piano notes join as well for some brief period. Afterwards drifting through tranquilly enveloping zones illuminated with ethereally distant choirs, while enthrallingly pulsing sequences subsequently steal the center stage along with ephemeral water drops, glancing, yet capriciously bent tribal beat, and serpentinely tiding patterns. Spiritual choirs surreptitiously move forward and join them too. The closing 4 minutes glide on gracefully panoramic blankets spiced by few disruptive glimmers counterpointed by vanishing choirs. A very impressive conclusion, a headphone listening is undoubtedly a true revelation here!!! By the way, "Agens" also appeared in shorter, slightly different version on famous 8 CD compilation "Die Welt Ist Klang: A Tribute To Pete Namlook" released by Carpe Sonum Records in 2013.

I am far beyond being an expert for Michael Brückner's discography, fully exploring it looks to me as a quite unachievable task. When it goes to my rather conservative personal taste, most likely I will continue to focus on his more darker, atmospheric-infused soundforging. 77-minute "Eleventh Sun" was an impeccably flavored example and even if I didn't get beyond the gates of exquisitely immersing transcendental realms, to me, it was a truly venturesome journeying with a myriad of gratifying magnitudes within the wizardry of ambient soundscaping. Hats off to you, Michael!!! Together with "A New Age" 2CDr (hey, all ambient purveyors out there, don't be frightened by its title...), this is my most favorite recording by Michael Brückner due to it relatively atmospheric complexity and harmoniousness. But if you are not afraid of more progressive or experimental touch, then for sure don't miss his latest collaboration with Tommy Betzler entitled "Two", involving additional guests, Sammy David and Fryderyk Jona. This one is out since November 2015 on SynGate.

Richard Gürtler (Jan 31, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Elrox Ambient Session "Tralfamadore" CDr

I remember well that day, November 10th, 2015, when two orders from Norway from two unknown projects arrived into my mailbox and graced my collection. Both absolutely new to me, now few months later, I can confirm they safely landed on my personal list of "Best revelations of 2015"!!! Some weeks ago I already focused on Super Fata's "Structural Tendency", now it's time to dive deeply into the soundworlds of Elrox, a solo project of Tom Ståle Engebretsen, who is based in Nesoddtangen. Known as a crafted photographer, journalist, writer and active supporter of local electronic scene, he is the good guy behind "NSDN - elektronika nesodden" 2CD compilation from the end of 2012 displaying local talents within varied styles of electronic based sounds such as ambient, Berlin school, downtempo, glitch and many more. A quite ambitious release, which by the way included also a 16-page newspaper presenting, introducing, interviewing and picturing each participating artist/band on this double CD. Although written solely in Norwegian, I definitely treasure this item for its very unique approach. How many times you have a chance reading or at least browsing through such newspaper? Well-done, Tom and all recording artists!!! But, let's move now back to Elrox. His debut "Colour Of The Past" was released two years ago on digital and physical formats, while "Lucent Echoes" followed few months later as digital download. Both these albums mostly cover more melodious soundsculpting like chillout, downtempo, Berlin school, pop/rock..., but with most recent releases under Elrox Ambient Session epithet, "Iceberg" and "Tralfamadore", Tom Ståle Engebretsen moves into more distinctively flavored minimal soundscaping. Spotlighting on "Tralfamadore", this newest album by Elrox is out since August 20th, 2015, as a digital download, but also as a pro CDr and cassette, announcing the birth of Tom's own label Tape The Sound. The 4-panel digipak comes with stunningly marvelous paintings by Freddy Holm and even if this is not a glass mastered product, the CDr edition looks really impressive!!! Kudos to Tom Ståle Engebretsen & Freddy Holm!!!

Based on Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Slaughterhouse 5", around the part when the main protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, is during the World War II kidnapped by extraterrestrials and taken to their home planet called Tralfamadore, the album opens with 5 and a half minutes long piece entitled after its leading character, "Billy Pilgrim". The listener immediately dives into an uniquely sparse aural zones, where contemplative tinkles and outbursting sonics are counterpointed with helically enigmatic reverberations. Remote piano motif sneaks in as well along with intangibly ephemeral cybernetic rumbles, while glimpses of eternal stillness continuously permeate across. Wow!!! Wearing a pair of quality headphones is an ultimate must-have here!!! The sound quality is just amazing and attentive ears are persistently rewarded with many distinguishably auralscaping delights!!! Only few seconds longer "4th Dimension", as Tralfamadorians are able to see in four dimensions, keeps on weirdly colored paths, where sudden oscillations are merged with hissy subtleties, ear-tickling fragments, buoyant patterns and cyber-tech bleeps. Phantasmal howls are enduringly hanging above. The next piece, "The Flying Saucer", precisely bridges gently metallic clinks, magnificently laid-back, with intricately nuanced drone spirals, cinematic cascades and introspective clatters. Clocking to nearly 5-minute mark, this is another absolutely enrapturing listening experience!!! Bravo, Elrox!!! "Tralfamadore Zoo", slips into more experimental, cacophonously colored terrains, no wonder due to its title. An array of high-pitched cyber-biotic chimes is hauntingly equalized with emerging mellow blankets. Bizarrely effective!!! "The Earthlings Dome" is invaded by desolate drifts, while translucent scraps and rattles swirl across the ears, razor sharp cybernetic traceries relentlessly titilate the synapses and relaxed downtempos paint spellbindingly fascinating sceneries. A true sonic elixir and another pinnacle of the album!!! "So It Goes" is maybe the most expansive soundscape on this journey so far, even if rather minimal with additional diaphanously transient traceries. Whistling vestiges amalgamate with undulating panoramic drifts, which awake, rise, climax and fade away, while isochronal cello-like weeps emanate and steal the center stage. Weirdly gorgeous piece!!! "Cyanid Atmosphere", with 7:40 the longest track on "Tralfamadore", continues on mysteriously scented path, when melting barren panoptic, yet lissomly sinuous drone, pensively meager sequences, sonorously ringing transitoriness and eerie groans surreptitiously exhaling from enveloping stillness. A rather scattered soundforging, but still a truly transcendental escapade awaits here!!! The title composition "Tralfamadore" effectively commingles mesmerizingly spiraling meridians with incisively stringed expressions and insistently swinging and swelling shatters. A quite eccentric piece driving me almost nuts with its perpetually hypnotizing circlets. The closing track "Montana Wildhack" is named after a nubile young actress, who is also kidnapped by the Tralfamadorians and becomes Billy Pilgrim's mate in their zoo. This piece safely maintains the unique approach of its creator with precisely detailed and richly entertaining fragmented texture with many swirling embellishments and catchy melody thrown in. Enthralling, cinematic, blazing, immersing...

It's absolutely evident here, Tom Ståle Engebretsen is equipped not only with a truly virtuosic musicianship, but also with a glowing sonic vision, because "Tralfamadore" is undoubtedly a really spectacular piece of art meticulously transforming fiction into a fantastic 51-minute aural story!!! This guy is playing his own league, that's for sure, since with his newest album he achieves a devastatingly peculiar progress and advancement when comparing to his debut work. Elrox's own unique, extraordinarily immersing signatures are all over this brilliant recording, bravo, Tom Ståle Engebretsen!!! And another bonus on "Tralfamadore", as already mentioned, is the audiophile sound quality, credit for exquisite mastering goes to Tore Stabell Kulø, who also acts together with Elrox as a mixing engineer and producer. And if you are an aficionado of vintage cassette format, don't miss "Tralfamadore", I don't own the cassette, but according to the pictures, they look really cool too!!! By the way, the artist himself said once, he must be the oldest music debutant in the world... Tom turned 50 last September. But why not, there is always a time to fulfill your dreams. You did it and you have my deep respect, Tom!!! Keep on creating and live your dream!!! I will always keep a focused ear to the ground!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jan 24, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


In The Branches "Expanse Sessions" CDr

I still deeply treasure the day from the beginning of August 2015, when Roy Mattson turned my ears to this unknown solo ambient project hailing from Portland (thanks a lot, Roy!!!). August 6th was the day, when Shane Cotee, the sole protagonist behind In The Branches project released "Expanse Sessions", as a debut album under this moniker. Actually, his main project is The Adaptive, a chillout/downtempo infused adventure bridging Western modern rhythms with Eastern fragranced melodies, with two digital releases so far ("Reinvent" EP from October 2014, and "Evolve" album from May 2015). Back to In The Branches, since the very first days of this encounter, I have been closely following this gifted ambient guitarist (and photographer too) and I was very glad when Shane Cotee has brought the physical version to the light few months later. A self-released CDr is out since the second half of October, although packaged in rather simple cardboard sleeve, the visual part of this release is breathtakingly gorgeous, when featuring stunning cover image by another talented artist from Oregon, Nevan Doyle, who has already contributed his visual talent to both above mentioned releases by The Adaptive. "Expanse Sessions" album was released as a pro CDr in limited edition of 100 copies and is available through In The Branches/The Adaptive site on Bandcamp.

Equipped with his guitar and assortment of effects pedals for delay, looping, reverb..., on nearly 7-minute opening piece, "Galaxyrise", In The Branches' Shane Cotee delves deeply into dazzlingly evocative terrains, where sparse, yet utterly expressive stringed patterns are continuously guarded by warmly gliding expansive blankets. Few glitchy ornaments ephemerally permeate as well. Yes, rather minimal, but hugely enveloping soundscape undoubtedly exhibiting the giant talent and filigree virtuosity of its creator. And the way the visuals support the music, and vice versa, that's just amazing!!! Bravo, Shane, bravo, Nevan!!! The next track, "The Second Half Of A Memory", clocking to nearly 9 minutes, continues the journey through heartwarmingly gracious plateaus with intricately nuanced riffs, panoramic quietudes and tenderly sculpted undercurrents. Floating, meandering and shimmering guitarscaping at its most splendorous!!! If I was only knocking on the doors of the tranquil Eden with previous two compositions, "Nebulae" unlocks the gates immediately!!! Fascinatingly enrapturing sceneries are fully unfolded by Shane Cotee's mastery in experimenting with his guitar and effects. A truly gorgeous yearning harmonies invade, profoundly evocative and intimately engrossing. This is a true masterpiece, sculpted with peacefully ringing strings, emotionally charged cascades and gliding through devastatingly immersing horizons. Almost weeping strings of "To Never Forget" leave me again totally delighted, unmeasurable exquisiteness of In The Branches' wizardry in painting blissfully atmospheric subtleties reaches most likely its climaxing magnitude. Waxing and waning dreamy melodies have never sounded more captivating!!! With "Nebulae" and "To Never Forget" my ears are intensely bathed in an ultimate euphoniousness lasting for nearly 13 minutes. I won't hesitate to pen down that with such astonishing performance Shane Cotee with his In The Branches project is ready to enter The Ambient Guitar Hall Of Fame. Not bad for a debut release, isn't it? Yeah, that's how sophisticated is this album so far!!! "Floating", with 11 and a half minutes the longest composition, keeps on the deeply longing cinematic path, where fragile, yet enchantingly hazy strings are punctiliously commingled with intangibly sinuous grace of ethereal washes. Subtly nuanced soundscape ceaselessly reveals an array of truly breathtaking vistas of long forgotten memories. Immensely sweeping sonic elixir awaits here!!! "Event Horizon", as displayed by its title, might be the most expansive and enigmatic dronescape on the album, relentlessly painting remotely reverberating helixes in the background, while warmer introspection inconspicuously sneaks in along with whistling glimpses. And over the course augmented by silently emanating stringed evocations, which surreptitiously metamorphose from elusive glimmers to poetic apparency. Another beauty on the track list!!! "The Return" closes this utterly gorgeous recording with mellow variety of embracing stringed motifs, which constantly interact with each other and amalgamate with plaintively lingering vistas. The closing notes calmly fade away and my ears as much tranquilly emerge from fluid warmth of Shane Cotee's emotionally driven bravura.

As usual, no comparisons in my review, but I can give you one hint, and a very strong one. Keep an ear and eye on this enormously crafted guitarist, because I have no doubt that big things await him and I am pretty sure Shane Cotee is heading to the same pedestal as Jeff Pearce. Sure, he must confirm his huge talent with his next physical release, but I am not afraid of his potential!!! But before wrapping this glowing review, I will also add some critical points of view, it's regarding the cardboard sleeve packaging. It's not a secret, I am not a big fan of this simple packaging, especially because of missing spine. Sure, sometime even this packaging can be executed masterfully, for example Bruno Sanfilippo's "Upon Contact Reworked" CD comes to my mind, but in the case of "Expanse Sessions", it simply didn't work for me and I am not speaking about the visuals, as mentioned already, they are absolutely fascinating. I think, for example, 4-panel digipak or eco wallet with spine would be much more attractive and suitable for such poignantly powerful recording with gorgeous visuals. Also I am missing some additional info on the sleeve, like some release notes and for sure credits for visuals, Nevan really deserves them, the same with mastering, which was done by Steven Taylor. Also the track list is not complete, "Floating" track is missing, so avoiding such mistakes is absolutely necessary with the next release. And if the album would be reissued by some luck as a glass mastered CD, that would be certainly the icing on the cake!!! Well, Shane Cotee knows all this already and I can guarantee he will release next time a top-notch packaged product, which will justify both, the music and the visuals. Keep on going, Shane, you need to take only few more steps and you can be sure, I will keep my fingers crossed for you!!! Not to forget, except "Expanse Sessions" you can check out his next album, "Vivid Memories", which is available since the middle of October 2015 as digital download only. Shane's sonic visions have widened once more, it's highly recommended too and I really hope one day it will end up on a well-deserved physical format. In any case, Shane Cotee aka In The Branches is one of the biggest revelations of 2015 and 53-minute "Expanse Sessions" album is one of its pinnacles!!! Shane, I take my hat off to you for taking me with "Expanse Sessions" into your abundantly soulful oasis!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jan 17, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Endless" CDr by Jaja
« on: January 10, 2016, 08:34:40 AM »

Jaja "Endless" CDr

German stargazer Jaja, with domicile in Köln, has been quite busy during 2015 with really gorgeous batch of pro CDr releases such as "Stellamare", "Endless" and "Starlight". Spacedrifting endeavors of Jaja started back in 2009, since then she has released numerous digital albums as well as first recording on physical format, a collaborative project with Spanish dronescaper Ran Kirlian entitled "Cosmos Vol. 1". This one is out on Ran's Altera Orbe label since April 2013. Before and after that all Jaja's albums were released through Cyan netlabel, of which she is as Jana Rockstroh a co-owner, together with Marco Köller. Their catalog is quite extensive featuring now around 55 titles covering about 14 various artists, mostly from Germany, but also some from Portugal, Croatia, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain and Argentina. As a huge aficionado of physical releases, I was very glad when Jaja decided to go tougher route and release her albums also as pro CDr editions, usually published in a very small limited editions of 20 or 40 copies. Even if the demand for physical releases is continually decreasing, I am really glad Jaja did this move. Always a great news for all of us, CD purists out there, well-done, Jaja!!! I must admit all their physical releases look really attractive, packaged in standard jewel case with transparent tray, usually with 8-panel front insert featuring stunning visuals, always precisely displaying expansive space odyssey Jaja is praised for. Additional points I award also for elegant print on each CDr. Of course "Endless" album is no exception with its impressive cover images, this time printed on 6-panel panoramic foldout insert, which are masterfully executed by Stan K. Yeatts, who is a renowned visual artist within the ambient community crafting his unique style, when coalescing photography and painting. This, in Santa Fe based, graphic designer, poet and literary author is know for his work on Jaja's previous album (digital only) "Startrail" as well as on album covers like "The Long Night" by Steve Roach & Kelly David and "Monuments Of Ecstasy" by Byron Metcalf, Steve Roach & Rob Thomas. Actually, "Endless" was originally released back in December 2014 as a part of the contemporary EP-series, but its physical version is out only since September 2015.

15 minutes long "Eclipse" unfolds the voyage with graceful, spaciously immense and warmly gliding movements, coupled with distantly intangible cosmic wheezes and tranquilly embracing piano quietudes. Gently monochromatic blankets are persistently permeated by ephemeral piano contemplations, while emerging nuances insistently counterpoint with gorgeously engrossing silent glimpses. Splendiferous stellar emptiness meets enchanting melancholic subtlety, this is spacescaping poignancy at its most enrapturing!!! Well-accomplished, Jaja!!! 9-minute "Orbit" immerse the listener with its quietly tiding texture, again tranquilly surrounding, where calmly arising celestial choir-like horizons meticulously commingle with gorgeously sparse, yet richly evocative piano hues, gently reverberating hums and warmly transient cascades. And again harmoniously amalgamated with glancing filigrees of introspective stillness. Rather minimal in layering, but always sonorously expressive soundcarving!!! Another beauty!!! "Satellite", with 17-plus minutes the longest odyssey on "Endless", delves into more shadowy, expansively drifting spheres, augmented by cinematically crescendoing piano patterns and intriguingly weeping cello-like solitudes. The composition serenely floats and meanders through various, fascinatingly panoramic elevations, reaches intensely climaxing magnitudes and then clandestinely vanishes into the sublime infinity. This could be a magnum opus of this album, which authentically exhibits its title and the mood of prodigiously vast realm with all its perplexes. A voluminously euphonious and utterly embracing sonic phenomenon!!! "Infinite", which slightly clocks over 12-minute mark, closes this album with peacefully sinuating soundscape, where meager poetic piano is bridged with discreetly waxing and waning cirrocumulus cloudscapes and subtly organic undercurrents. Mildly humming perpetual dissonances are hauntingly confronted with nuanced piano arrangements, ranging from almost elusive to warmly tighten, and soothingly ebbing field recordings. A beautifully tranquilizing conclusion!!!

Utilizing her traditional Roland JD-800 synth supported by additional outboard toys, 54-minute "Endless" is a great example showcasing Jaja's tremendous passion and immeasurable potential in crafting atmospheric bliss for all deep space connoisseurs among us. This interstellar voyage is always gracefully bewitching and harmoniously enigmatic, without becoming uninspiringly monotonous. And when merging with unforeseen tapestries of contemplative finesses, we simply enter into a truly magnificent ethereal domains with superiorly painted amorphous bridges between comforting expanses, tenebrous occurrences and balmy solicitousness. That's "Endless" in a nutshell!!! In case Jaja's spacescaping adventures are still a good kept secret for you, then I highly recommend to change this, because you might miss one of the most creative and spirited drifters within the space ambient journeying, and no matter if unfathomably dark or captivatingly engulfing. And to keep these lines most actual, since January 1st is out Jaja's newest, 10-track album entitled "Sparkles", its physical pro CDr edition is scheduled for the middle of February with visual spectacle by another genius and kindred soul, Kati Astraeir. Join the odyssey now!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jan 10, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Super Fata "Structural Tendency" CD

Wow, where this project comes from? These were most likely my first words, when rather serendipitously encountering the soundworlds of Super Fata, a Norwegian project based in Oslo and driven by its sole protagonist Jan Roos. Although "Structural Tendency" CD is out since September 2013, I didn't have any clue about the existence of this project until the end of October 2015, when I was guided through Michal Karcz's site to Super Fata's second album "Percipient" (Thanks a lot, Michal!!!). No coincidence this time, as Michal is responsible for the stunning visuals on "Percipient". But that might be the next story, so let's move now back to Super Fata's debut release "Structural Tendency" CD. The album was mastered during January 2013 by Jan Roos and Morten Lund at his Lunds Lyd studio, but after few delays it was released, as mentioned, during September same year on Norwegian Origo Sound label, which is known for releasing albums by renowned ambient artists such as Erik Wøllo, Biosphere, Circular or Green Isac. It somehow remains a mystery to me, because I feel like "Structural Tendency" CD in bigger part didn't cross radars of drone ambient aficionados like me. Have no idea what happened, maybe the promotion was not adequate, but fortunately this time is over and since there is no "Best before" on music (as usual credit for this one goes to Scott M2), I am really excited to be able to fully dive into Super Fata's dronescaping magic. The CD is packaged in an elegant matte 4-panel eco wallet with attractive front and back cover design by Jan Roos, while the inside cover art is based on the original digital artwork "Aquatic" by Sven Geier.

"Structural Tendency I" is a shorter intro track, which immediately ignites this adventurous odyssey with intenser drone magnitudes, where splendiferously humming abyssopelagic magnifications precisely commingle with helixing cyber-tech fragments and ear-ticklingly crushing dissonant surges. So it's quite obvious the listener is swallowed by ultra deep zones without any chance to perceive the next track. "Structural Tendency II - The Origins Of Intention" is slightly longer than its predecessor, yet the journey is as much immersing with highlighting, intensely oscillating drone sheets, mesmerizingly mindscaping and meticulously bridged with tinkling gossamer quietudes. And then clandestinely transmuting into sparsely sculpted terrains melting together intangible enigmas, contemplative subtleties, evaporating reverberations and phantasmal ephemeras. Minimal, but stunningly enrapturing!!! Not even 8 minutes have passed so far, nevertheless this is an utterly spellbinding listening experience, hats off to Jan Roos/Super Fata!!! With "Structural Tendency III - Alignment I" we enter now the long-form spheres reaching 21 and a half minutes mark. Glitchy swirls announce silently emerging monochromatic stratum, which drifts towards enthrallingly perplexing territories. Cascading from awe-inspiringly desolate plateaus through tranquilly peculiar sceneries to metamorphosing transcendental realms. A huge amount of jaw-dropping nuances is continuously delivered throughout this mind-blowing odyssey, high-pitched echoes, ethereal meridians, ear-bending escalations, primordial potpourris, sinuating unfathomable drone walls... An epic dronescape and a true all-inclusive drone tour de force awaits here!!! Bravo!!! The more I listen to this album, the more I feel ashamed and constantly asking myself, how could I miss such phenomenal release? And there also arise other questions, is this a dark ambient dronecarving? No, I would rather stick with ambient, yes enough experimental I could say, but certainly not in noisier dimensions, although persistently titillating my ears, it's definitely devastatingly enigmatic and intriguingly distinctive. With 7 and a half minutes long "Structural Tendency IV - Merge" we keep on freefalling with deep-diving submersible into the next layer, the hadopelagic zone, to explore surviving fauna in the most inhospitable places on Earth. Remote monochromatic drones, humming perplexes, euphonious discordances, ear-piercing spirals, emerging, elevating and climaxing. Afterward evanescing and emanating through tranquilly organic paths and entering breathtakingly expansive and warmly embracing panoramas of "Structural Tendency V - Passing Of The Threshold". Gracefully immense movements are strikingly magnificent and masterfully amalgamated with hypnotically ambiguous nuances, swirlingly permeating effects and transiently translucent subtleties. Clocking to 6 and a half minutes, this must be Super Fata at the very top of his serenely atmospheric soundsculpting, the peak of the deepest sonic meditation has just been reached!!! With nearly 17-minute "Structural Tendency VI - Alignment II" the listener is taken back into intricately colored and exquisitely amplified drone terrains merged with arising cyber-biotic traceries and shrilling scraps. But it's inconspicuously pervading vivacious cybernetic groove, which subsequently steals the center stage and pinnacles towards the 10th minute. Then quietly fading away through monochromatic vistas, counterpointed with intangibly tiding glimpses, into the gorgeously enveloping eternal stillness. My jaw keeps dropped...

Multifariously forged "Structural Tendency" CD debut offers to each focused listener an intense 60-minute journey to the frontiers of first-class dronescaping enigmas!!! A true miracle and a pure eargasm, Super Fata is to me one of the biggest revelations of 2015, that's for sure!!! Releases such as "Structural Tendency" should be praised and celebrated by devoted community, and not kept in secret. Jan Roos aka Super Fata is a criminally underrated dronesculptor, he deserves way more credit, so let's explore this hidden treasure!!! And don't forget, during October 2015 Jan Roos has released through his own Solipsis label his latest album "Percipient", which is available as a pro CDr packaged in 4-panel digipak in limited edition of 50 copies and featuring already mentioned splendid visuals by Polish kindred soul Michal Karcz. And as far I know, two other digital albums, one 4-track mini album "Cosmologic Relation" and one 7-track album "Natural Selection", are available via Super Fata's Bandcamp site. Welcome to the worlds of Super Fata!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jan 04, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Steve Roach "Bloodmoon Rising" 4xCD

The whole odyssey started Steve Roach quite clandestinely back in the April of 2014, when recording a long-form piece for the first eclipse at April 15th. Then followed another three compositions with, in the meantime announced, 4CD release, wrapping the final eclipse at September 28th, 2015, when four lunar eclipses in a row, visible to sky watchers across the North America, were completed. So after highly celebrated 30th anniversary 3CD remastered edition "Structures From Silence" (released during April 2014), all fellow travelers and connoisseurs of more droning, splendorously oracular soundcarving were eagerly awaiting another colossal journey by this genius sound architect. Over the course of officially announced three "Bloodmoon Rising" parts, we have been experiencing extraordinarily enrapturing compositions, meticulously portraying these latest lunar phenomenons. So no wonder, as a huge aficionado of physical releases, I couldn't wait to hold "Bloodmoon Rising" 4CD in my hands. This long awaited beauty was released through Steve's Timeroom Editions at September 12th, 2015 in limited edition of 1000 copies. So all those happy journeyers and spectators could fully experience the final eclipse of the lunar tetrad. Each 8-panel eco wallet is signed and hand-numbered. Additional credits are given to Sam Rosenthal for design and to Spotted Peccary's Howard Givens for mastering.

April 15th, 2014 marks the first eclipse and "Night 1" clocks to 73 and half minutes. This composition was recorded during April 2014, then enhanced during the summer of 2015, yet still kept in secret for a very long time, actually until the official release of the complete 5-hour collection. Steve Roach straightly dives with his soundcarving into the deepest ends of celestial emptiness, where he masterfully layers ultra deep flatlined drones with cyclically emerging enigmas and transcendentally sinuous ear-tickling reverberations. After phenomenally nebulous spectacle entitled "Invisible", here comes another intriguingly mindscaping listening and scientifically magnificent sky-viewing experience. This immensely infinite dronescaping scenario is utterly powerful and eternally enrapturing. Cyber-tech insignias continuously permeate across grandiosely magmatic flow and relentlessly commingle with warmer helixes and ambiguously flavored nuances. A top-notch amalgamate exhibiting ethereally light and unfathomably dark audible insignias in absolute equilibrium. And no matter, if giving a serious workout to your speaker system or voyaging with your headphones on. A quite jaw-dropping transmutation follows after about 52 minutes, when the composition shifts from endless spaciousness into more earthy, heartwarmingly inviting panoramic realms, yet again profoundly enveloping the listener with intensely sweeping quintessences, holding undisputable signatures of the soulful oases known as The Timeroom and The Timehouse. A sonic ambrosia!!!

70-minute "Night 2" from October 8th, 2014, was the first officially presented "Bloodmoon Rising" recording available as digital download, later remastered for the complete 4CD collection. Continuously cascading dronescape, where intensely peaking drone walls persistently alternate with tranquilly diminuendoing humming sheets, exquisitely pervaded by glimpses of ever embracing silence. Capturing all the magical essences of deep nocturnal immersion and subsequent reactions of kindred journeyers (and there was a tremendous amount of them) led to the final decision of Steve Roach to continue to reveal the lunar tetrad through his virtuosic sonic canvas. Billowy drones, efficiently coalesced with hauntingly dissonant subtleties, are breathlessly gargantuan and tenaciously dense, yet always dissolving on the blankets of ephemeral quietudes. Atmospheric grace at its most monumental, this must be no one else but Steve Roach!!! And undeniably a triggering point for releasing "Bloodmoon Rising" tetralogy on a CD format, so we all must be really thankful for such sonic gift!!!

"Night 3" from the April 4th, 2015, was released on Bandcamp April 2nd, on the CD available in a newly remastered version, which clocks to the same length as "Night 1". On this long-form piece Steve Roach delves into the deepest ends of his perplexingly-driven droneforging. Mega desolate drone hums insistently oscillate, intermingle with evanescent cybernetic fragments and paint thrillingly solitary sceneries during the first 20 minutes. Then warmer imageries surreptitiously sneak in and guide the composition through relatively earthier terrains, emphasized by abundantly expansive undulations constantly bridged with transiently climaxing ear-piercing resonations. Voluminously enthralling soundscape awaits here!!! All those fascinating metamorphoses are intriguingly clandestine and continuously exhibit intangible symmetry between abysmally tenebrous dronescapes and balmily introspective vistas. The listener is endlessly immersed by sheer atmospheric beauty of monumental blankets merged with magnifying movements. Majestically magmatic flow at its most infinite, graceful and spellbinding!!!

To nearly 74 minutes clocking "Night 4" continues voyaging through ultra gargantuan space depths with its monstrously nebulous and mind-blowingly helixing drones. The woofer certainly gets here another overtime!!! The 20th minute seems to be again a crucially transmutable, when shifting from breathtakingly immersing void into blossoming, primordial-driven pageant. Rumbling artifacts with organic dissonances are constantly guarded by intensely drifting, nuancing and climaxing unfathomable layers, before quietly dissolving into the enveloping stillness towards the 26th minute. Utterly enrapturing transition from deeply profound terrains into breathtakingly expansive desert insignias, meticulously evoking the stunning desert surroundings and precisely interacting with the magic of the fourth and final lunar eclipse. A true sonic and visual Eden keeps on unfolding throughout the following 24 minutes. A gracefully undulating medley with a colossally orchestral warmness, where awe-inspiring aural energies coexist in eternal equilibrium with incredibly expansive quietudes. The closing 23 minutes inconspicuously sneak into more serene, ethereal trajectories, although still gliding and meandering towards the pinnacling nocturnal stillness, exquisitely rewarding!!! "Night 4" undoubtedly shows Steve Roach at the very top of his intriguingly enigmatic long-form soundcarving, obviously an epic grand finale!!!

During 2014 and 2015, when crafting "Bloodmoon Rising", Steve Roach has explored many fascinatingly enveloping territories and shared his immeasurable passion with his dedicated audience across the globe. The end of 2015 has culminated into another amazing batch of soundworlds, which immediately need to be examined and experienced. Thank you so much, Maestro, and all the best for 2016, may this new year be as much fruitful for you!!! This might be the message from all of us, who are deeply focused with an ear to the ground. With "Bloodmoon Rising", connect deeply to the genius' artistic visions and amalgamate them with your own skywatching experiences of this spectacular celestial event. Reawaken your memories, as the next lunar tetrad won't happen before 2032-2033. I do it quite often, even with some tasteful IPA, because "Bloodmoon Rising" 4CD was shipped with additional "Bloodmoon Rising" printed coaster!!! Cheers!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jan 01, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "AeroAreA" 4xCD by Mathias Grassow
« on: December 14, 2015, 11:22:25 AM »

Mathias Grassow "AeroAreA" 4xCD

"AeroAreA" is a monster 4CD Set by Mathias Grassow, released during July 2015 on prolific Russian GS Productions label in limited edition of 100 copies. This Moscow based label mainly focuses on styles such as black metal, doom metal, death metal, trash metal, viking metal, post rock, neofolk..., but fortunately these guys seem to be really fascinated also by ultra deep soundworlds by one of the true purveyors of the genre. So Mathias Grassow is back with his third installment for GS Productions, after two gorgeous 6-panel digipaks from 2014, "Opus Posthumum" and "Harmonia Mundi", the Drone King offers to his aficionados another true gem. "AeroAreA" comes in old-styled 4CD jewel case with transparent trays and additional 8-panel foldout insert, while the front and back side inserts feature an interview with the Master. Such articles are rather rare when it goes to Mathias Grassow, so it's always nice to dive deeply into these soulfully fascinating inner zones.

Disc 1 ignites the journey with 65-minute long-form dronescape "Celestial Oasis". It's quite obvious the track title precisely reflects the expectations of each devoted drone connoisseur. Actually, there are two parts, although not indexed, the first part starts with monochromatic drone insignias, smoothly elevating and culminating, which after about 10 minutes surreptitiously transmute into heavenly multidimensional graciousness with additionally permeating ethereal choir-like drone layer. A truly grandiose, jaw-dropping listening experience is fully unfolded and the listener enters an oasis of magnificently transcendental droneforging. Only 13 minutes are gone and I am absolutely hooked by this enigmatic nothingness. Sure, even though this scenario doesn't reach any new frontiers, I am always and forever will be deeply immersed by devastating immenseness of Mathias Grassow's dronesculptings. This first part of "Celestial Oasis" certainly reaches these pinnacling moments, a 21 minutes of pure aural bliss!!! Second part moves towards cyclically roaring wistfulness, with slightly less tension, but over the course mysteriously intangible chants emerge from mesmerizing depths and tranquilly guide the texture through intricately sinuous magnitudes, perpetually enrapturing and showcasing Mathias Grassow at the vertex of his profound sonic meditations!!! Later on an auxiliary ear-tickling dissonances intensify this hypnotically quintessential dronescape. More please!!!

Disc 2 unveils with a 58-minute composition entitled "The Spacelight". It drifts very quietly, through static terrains, but after about 4 minutes elusive tribal groove clandestinely arises and tries to break though flatlined foreground, but it serenely evanesces and the gliding expanse persistently blossoms and gains exquisitely staggering drone spectrum, yet spellbindingly monochromous. In the meantime subtle pulses reawake, but sturdy drone walls keep them away in impalpably mesmeric distance. Then the intensity calmly diminuendoes, while distant pulsations again resurrect and counterpoint with ephemeral sound issue. But the drone magma invades once more and shifts the whole piece into massively enveloping spheres with disastrous thickness, a journey through utterly delightful monolithic stratum holding unmistakable audible insignias of the Drone Kaiser. Still monochromatic, yet vigorously undulating spectacle towards the end meticulously amalgamates with ear-piercing outbursts, cascades through adventurous terrains and then soothingly fades away into the void. Definitely a truly mind-blowing odyssey!!!

Disc 3, entitled "The Ancient Artefact", is divided in three parts. 50 minute "Premonition" dives straightly into perplexingly primordial depths. Transient groans and ghostly choirs insistently guard above, while hazy grooves and solitary primeval rumbles occasionally permeate through monstrously escalating and thrillingly engulfing stratum. Oracular choir-like drones inconspicuously transmute into gracefully embracing ethereal chants. Drifting, surging, sinuating, resurrecting, crescendoing, climaxing and burning. A true inferno of magmatic hums, revealing some of the most nebulous inner realms by this German drone shaman!!! The second part, "The Radiant Focus", safely keeps the path of its predecessor, a heavyweight sonic spectacle is stretched to extra 10 minutes, while the final four and half minute part "The Echo" closes this magnifying ride with more relieving ephemera, but soon powerfully ear-blowing reverberations invade and steal the center stage for devastating conclusion. Organic fragments fugaciously ascend along with phantoms hanging above and whispering through vast emptiness. A real battle between quiescent earmarks and staggering meridians, frankly, this Drone Pantheon delivers a huge dose of tranquilizers!!!

Disc 4 introduces 60-minute "Above The Karman Line", which evolves with statically oscillating surface, slowly progressing and amalgamating with contemplatively shimmering chime-like dissonances on the background, persistently reappearing and tickling focused ears of each journeyer. Intensely gliding soundscape calmly moves through various expansive plateaus, regardless of its heavily flatlined scenario. Again masterfully layered and stunningly magnified by enigmatically encircling choir imageries, which relentlessly coalesce with tinkling subtleties. Evanescing after 23 minutes and smoothly transmogrifying into slightly more tight, delicately disruptive mindscape. Yet still powerfully transporting through infinite emptiness, where is magnificently exhibited equilibrium between thermospheric light filigrees and exospheric dark sonorousness. Monochromatic poignancy at its most polychromatic!!! Indeed, this composition is a very strong conclusion of this 4CD celebration, which intricately expresses a gamut of distinguishing dronescaping visions Made in Mathias Grassow. Bravo, Maestro!!!

Huge kudos to Mathias, Vitaly/Виталик of GS Productions and 121 for mastering, keep on going, guys!!! And additional praise to GS Productions for a glass mastered format, even if released in smaller limited runs of 100 copies. There is only one thing I would improve next time, when releasing multiple CD project like this. Nowadays jewel cases are really light, so with this kind of CD edition you might run into some troubles during the shipping and it's rather difficult to locate spare multi CD jewel cases. An 8-panel 4CD digipak or eco wallet might solve this problem, although I understand it will require much bigger budget. For me, above mentioned "Opus Posthumum" and "Harmonia Mundi" packagings are the way to go. Otherwise, a top-notch, all-inclusive recording from one of the most productive giants on the drone ambient scene. Just make sure to ask for extra wrapping when ordering a physical copy. "AeroAreA" 4CD is undoubtedly an essential item for all followers of Mathias Grassow and a very nice starting point for possible newcomers out there, who are not afraid of exploring multifariously fragranced transcendental monochromatism by a stalwart dronesculptor, whose terrific recording career spans across four decades. I still deeply treasure those exciting moments when encountering "In Search Of Sanity" CD back in the middle of the 90's. And by the way, there are rumors about another rare albums by Mathias Grassow, which might be scheduled on GS Productions and reissued on CD formats, namely "The Darklight Quest" and "Untitled Rooms", which used to be available only as CDr editions long time ago. Stay tuned, the odyssey still continues...

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


Dirk Serries "Disorientation Flow" CD

Dirk Serries, the Belgian giant behind vanished vidnaObmana, is back with another spectacular chapter of his intriguing guitar drone magic. "Disorientation Flow" album, which is out since May 2015, is a follow-up to his previous acclaimed Projekt release "The Origin Reversal". Packaged in rather simple 4-panel eco wallet, exhibiting as usual immersing cover images taken by Dirk's wife, Martina Verhoeven, who is renowned for her unique, mostly organic and abstract photographs, which can be found on many releases and collaborations by Dirk, under vidnaObmana or Fear Falls Burning aliases. As usual, graphic design is executed by Projekt's Sam Rosenthal.

Nearly 14-minute "The Imperative Edge" unwraps in a truly grandiose way, although emerging silently, almost inconspicuously, stunningly gorgeous drone euphory permeates and cyclically floats and nuances on the wings of utterly majestic graciousness, while earmarking high-pitched reverberations persistently tickle the ears of each devoted journeyer. Dirk Serries fully utilizes his innate mastery in painting a jaw-droppingly intense elegiac evocativeness and delivers some of the most, prodigiously expressive compositions since closing the circle with vidnaObmana. Although I am familiar only with Dirk's CD albums, not with his numerous "Streams Of Consciousness" vinyl releases, this must be together with "There's A Light In Vein" one of the absolute pinnacles of his soundscaping escapades crafted under his real name. A true milestone resurrecting exquisitely memorable delights of vidnaObmana's extensive existence. Harmoniously enrapturing splendor is back once more, this time reshaped through meticulously resonating real-time improvisations with electric guitar and various effects during the crepuscular autumn and winter days, bravo, Dirk!!! "Metamorphosis" clocks to quite similar length than its predecessor and again it tranquilly arises from enveloping stillness. Hauntingly meandering structure might be slightly less reminiscent, without mindscaping disruptive subtleties, yet intensified spiraling magnitudes clandestinely sneak in and infuse this isochronally kaleidoscaping scenario with extraordinarily full-bodied euphoniousness. Well, did I say not as much engrossing as "The Imperative Edge"? Towards the end of this sonorously bewitching dronescape I realize more and more this might be just my uncertain feel, because this is undoubtedly another splendiferous powerhouse!!! "Disorientation Flow", the title track and also the longest one on this album, reaching almost 16-minute mark, languishingly emanates and counterpoints with poignant glimpses of silence. Then a milder tension persistently pervades across the evolving monolithic undulations, while shrilling traceries insistently glance on this harmoniously encircling wistfulness. "Blistering" keeps on the path of deeply profound scenic expanses, sinuously moving through lyrically warmhearted nostalgic evocations and dazzlingly coalesced with mesmerizingly ear-piercing reflections. With 9 minutes the shortest composition on the album, but certainly one of the most grandiose and thrillingly rewarding. A shimmering phenomenon of the legendary "The River Of Appearance" is reawaken, the legacy returns... It's obvious that a true aural bliss awaits here!!! "The Lament Broke" delves into soothingly immersing terrains with calmly gliding and tiding surface with intangibly ephemeral climaxes. A rather meager texture gently closing this gloriously monumental, 65 minutes long performance.

As I have mentioned before, I will always miss vidnaObmana, that's for sure, but with releases such as "Disorientation Flow", I am grieving less and less. Thank you so much, Dirk, for your guitar drone manipulations par excellence!!! "Disorientation Flow" album is a must-have, I even won't hesitate to call it another milestone in Dirk Serries' prolific career of a soundexplorer!!! And since "Disorientation Flow" CD is available in limited edition of 300 copies, I wouldn't wait too long with acquiring an own copy. And about the same time when "Disorientation Flow" was released on Projekt, Belgian label Consouling Sounds has published "Buoyant" CD, a collaborative project featuring Dirk Serries and Dutch soundsculptor Rutger Zuydervelt, who is known as Machinefabriek. And another two Dirk's collaborations involve Japanese droneforgers, Hakobune and Chihei Hatakeyama. "Obscured By Beams Of Sorrow" CD with Hakobune is out since September 2015 on Japanese White Paddy Mountain label, while joint effort with Chihei Hatakeyama is entitled "The Storm Of Silence" and the CD is scheduled to be released during January 2016 on Italian label Glacial Movements. That's a lot of serious reasons to keep an ear to the ground!!!

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

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Ephemeral Blue" CD by Aglaia
« on: November 30, 2015, 10:44:31 AM »

Aglaia "Ephemeral Blue" CD

After two albums released just before the Christmas 2014, "Primeval Nebula" and "Intangible Opacity", Aglaia's soundscape shaman Gino Fioravanti returns with another two new beauties, "Ephemeral Blue" and "Florealia Nocturna", both released during October 2015 under the usual flag of Stefano Musso's Hic Sunt Leones in limited editions of 300 copies. And it's obvious the CD comes in attractive 6-panel digipak with stunningly gorgeous photographs by Linda Serra (with additional artwork by Hic Sunt Leones), who already contributed her image mastery to several other Hic Sunt Leones releases, including above mentioned "Primeval Nebula" and "Intangible Opacity". This visual splendor immediately sets the distinctively enchanting woodland ambience Aglaia is celebrated for, a genius loci awaits you, enter now!!!

Nearly 10-minute piece, "Empty Nights", unfolds this fascinating ramble with sinuously poetic euphoniousness, reinforced by euphoric quietudes and spriralingly engrossing high-pitched subtleties. A very strong intro!!! "Holy Ghost", with almost similar length, delves deeper into weirdly organic terrains, with strangely oscillating texture painting mesmerizingly mindscaping mandalas. "Bright Venus" keeps firmly on spellbinding path leaded by graciously nuanced drones coalesced with warmly delicate moony meanders and gossamer hypno-cyber-biotic snippets. Journeying along "Dark River" is absolutely bewitching, euphorically cascading lyrical paradigms are meticulously amalgamated with bizarrely swinging traceries slightly evocative of processed bullroarer, while additional capricious twinkles stimulate the mind and illuminate the pathway guiding the listener through distinctively enrapturing atmospheric nocturnal enigmas. Undoubtedly all Aglaia's insignias are fully activated to rejoice this 8-plus minutes long night-blooming spectacle!!! Bravissimo, Gino!!! The next piece, "From The Stars", keeps its hauntingly disturbing measure, persistently radiating, which is intriguingly counterpointed with contemplative crystalline chimes, while ethereally-charged monochromatic layer continuously hangs above. Utterly captivating aural sceneries of a star-filled nighttime are revealed. "Quiet Wings" delves into desolately humming realms, hypnotically helical and surreptitiously permeated by crepuscular organics and chimeric oddments. "Cypress Trees", the longest track, clocking to nearly 13 minutes, follows the footsteps of its predecessor with mysteriously traversing backgrounds, isochronally sweeping with some medieval fragrances thrown in, while the fore blends a broad array of stochastic embellishments, from transient to abstruse, from calm to ear-tickling. With 6 minutes the shortest composition on album, "Invisible Forces" closes the journey with spaciously expansive harmonic drifts, insistently filled with engrossingly undulating balmy motifs, exhibiting undeniable signatures that can only be Aglaia. A true sonic elixir for my ears and a grand finale!!! I only wish this piece could be longer...

"Ephemeral Blue" is a very solid, almost 69 minutes long album by Aglaia, always prodigiously enigmatic, yet euphorically flavored within gorgeously organic terrains with incredibly unmatched moonlit feel. This is certainly the hallmark of Aglaia, an Italian project with extensive discography, featuring solo releases of Gino Fioravanti or as a duo with Gianluigi Toso. Also acting under Nada Experiences and Momenti Per L'Armonia monikers. All in all, this abundant body of work counts over 60 albums with many of them being enormously challenging to track down, especially for physical formats. And while surveying, pay attention also to already mentioned "Ephemeral Blue" album's companion "Florealia Nocturna". Join this fascinating nocturnal magic now!!!

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

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Sanctuary" 2xCDr by Steve Brand
« on: November 15, 2015, 11:45:48 AM »

Steve Brand "Sanctuary" 2xCDr

2015 is undoubtedly a very prolific year for Steve Brand, who has released so far four outstanding albums on his Pioneer Light Music label. "Sanctuary", being the third of them, is a double pro CDr album, which is out since the middle of June in limited edition of 50 copies and follows "Into The Current" (February) and "Second Spring" (March). The album features two long form pieces and it comes in a very elegant double eco wallet packaging with stunning cover and inside images. Regarding to this, Sarah Jane Hunt gets credit for inset art. As usual, the design is handled by Steve Brand himself, who is also the guy behind many nice layouts on various releases by Relaxed Machinery artists.

I am entering "Sanctuary" with disc one, 69-minute "Place Of Honoring (Inner Temple)". Calmly nuanced drone smoothly transmutes into humming reverberations, which mind-bendingly hang above. Ephemeral rumbles continuously permeate along with gossamer tinkles. Primordial cave fully reveals all its magic when Steve Brand's chants join these awe-inspiring sceneries. The distant drone constantly paints fascinatingly flatlined magnitude and primeval artifacts tickle the ears with delicately oracular diaphanousness. Metamorphosing drones evolve into voluminously expansive spirals, masterfully juxtaposed with sinuous dissonances, elusive, sweeping, buzzing, ear-bending. Wow, a truly jaw-dropping ride!!! Then Steve Brand rises his flute and delivers another breathtakingly mind-blowing pinnacle with his magnificently undulating whistling creativity. The listener constantly encounters absolutely unexpected surges of textural brilliance within this utterly enrapturing drone ambient scenario. Towards the 40th minute, this powerfully immersing journey diminuendoes into majestically relieving terrains, yet always secluded within grandiosely spectacular subterranean realms. But when glancing through the gates, this might be just a calm before the storm... After about 10 minutes quiet tides awake, escalate and intensely pervade across and commingle with emerging solitary magmatic flow. Spaciously sweeping drifts invade as well with warmer glimpses and navigate the closing passage through tranquilly grandiose expanses into intimate stillness. An epic listening delight!!!

"Place Of Unconditional Love And Acceptance (Valley)" unfolds with remote massive hums, which are promptly contrasted with nearly poetic waves, altering here and there during the opening 10 minutes into distinguishly disrupting high-pitched climaxes, later inconspicuously dissolving most of its intensity on the wings of warmly embracing drifts. Gorgeously panoramic vistas are revealed. Majestically immense and euphoniously resonant, yet persistently confronted with ear-tickling shimmers. Then flute calls ascend and float across this strikingly scenic valley. Elixir of natural water sounds joins the forefront, while graciously gliding blankets are surreptitiously invaded by progressing structure. Lucid tinkles also emanate, dizzy swirl and contemplatively bridge with field recordings, while humming dark nimbostratus clouds guard above meandering high-frequency evocativeness. Intricate didgeridoo growls clandestinely percolate for the closing 7 minutes, vivaciously interact with helixing drone murmurs and resurface soulful flute earmarks, before vanishing in the horizon of crepuscular depths and bringing the journey full circle back to the origin. 58 minutes of pure sonic bliss, what a ride!!!

After two phenomenal albums, "Into The Current" and "Second Spring", here comes another fascinatingly mindscaping listening escapade. These two long form pieces precisely display the reputation of this Kansan soundsculptor as one of the undisputable giant forces on the drone ambient scene nowadays. Steve Brand has a genius for powerfully transcendental soundcarving, meticulously amalgamating massively emerging unfathomable dronewalls, both diaphanous and prodigious, yet always ear-piercing discharges, enigmatically embracing acoustic insignias, subterranean voices, balmy organics, all thrillingly counterpointed with splendorous glimpses of graceful stillness. A real tour de force within the genre!!! If I would be forced to pick up my fave and most accomplished artist outside of the glass mastered CD "industry" releasing his music in small limited runs, most likely I would point to Steve Brand. Yes, hugely underrated, yet the more crafted, passionate and dedicated to his art!!! Bravo, Steve Brand!!! And last but not least, "Songs From Unknown Territory" is the title of the newest album by this soundexplorer, available on Pioneer Light Music since the end of September.

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

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Cyclic Movement" CDr by Frore
« on: November 14, 2015, 01:06:24 AM »

Frore "Cyclic Movement" CDr

Paul Casper from Virginia Beach, the sole protagonist behind Frore, remains united with Relaxed Machinery gang and his second album for this label, entitled "Cyclic Movement", is out since January 2015. Featuring attractive new rM design concept with cover image by Jan Casper, Paul's wife, who is a professional portrait photographer. Since not every rM artist takes the path with physical releases, I am really grateful to see Frore available at least on CDr format, keep on going, Paul!!! Frore's previous rM release "Shadowlands" from 2013 still strongly resonates, so let's dive deeply into another thrillingly fragranced tribal ambient adventure!!!

"Spirit Call", an 11 and half minute long piece ignites the journey with slowly circling enigmatic expanses along with awaken intangibly rumbling primordial ephemeralness. Then primeval percussions permeate and soon this vivaciously emerging rhythmic parade steal the center stage and gratifyingly interact with evocative native flute nuances, intricate shamanic chants and weirdly twisted whistles. Undoubtedly all Frore's distinguishingly rewarding insignias are fully activated and trigger a truly fascinating ride to the forefront of the galvanizing ceremony to Mother Earth. Superb, full-bodied intro!!! "Northern Wind", almost similar in length with its predecessor, drifts on the wings of celestial tranquility, while elusive ear-tickling cyber-tech subtleties with smoothly increasing laid-back downtempos persistently mesmerize and balmily commingle with warmly cinematic meanders, transient flute calls and primitive artefacts. A true elixir for my ears!!! But Frore sturdily keeps on unfolding all his intrinsic magic also on the next piece entitled "Gavia", which reveals with heavenly washes counterpointed with progressing array of percussions and high-tech swirls. The texture graciously expands into magnificently panoramic sceneries reinforced by climaxing tribal wizardry, gossamer ocarina-like glimpses and organic tapestries. Wow, the acoustics and electronics are sophisticatedly sculpted and meticulously balanced in this prodigiously delightful composition, which might be one of the most phenomenal Frore has ever recorded, bravo, Paul!!! A 15 minutes of pure tribal ambient ecstasy awaits here!!! "The Bell Garden" calmly blossoms with spaciously scenic glides bridged with contemplative tinkles and high-pitched yearning undulations. Remote percussions surreptitiously pervade until they capture intensely ponderous and spellbindingly mindscaping magnitude, occasionally illuminated by primordial gleams. "Fading Embers", which clocks just over 9 and half minute mark, immediately overwhelms with its gracefully drifting scenario, later occupied by enrapturing percussive splendiferousness, both indigenous and cybernetic with additional twinkling sequences thrown in. "Luminary" incorporates a variety of native flavored whistles, tiding flute invocations, ear-piercing rattles, evanescent bells and clandestine didgeridoo roars, all masterfully surrounded by exuberant biotic zones. Then this natural cacophony is overran by ascending high-spirited and mesmerizingly circling tribal grooves with heavy pounding beats. Again a big one and a perfect closer for this splendidly carved album!!!

"Cyclic Movement" is another triumphant, 69 minutes long proof of Frore's peculiar voice within the tribal/ambient soundsculpting, exhibiting his exquisitely filigree signatures when fastidiously coalescing immersing primeval languages with galvanizingly provoking electro/industrial-charged cadence. Bravo, Paul!!! Certainly a must-have exploration!!! And don't forget, Frore is also responsible, together with his Arkansas based collaborator Shane Morris, for one of the highlights of 2015, entitled "Blood Moon", which followed few months after "Cyclic Movement" on Spotted Peccary.

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

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