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Messages - richardgurtler

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Perceptual Defence "Time Lines" 2xCDr

Perceptual Defence is a pseudonym of a Swiss-Italian sound constructor and psychotherapist Gabriele Quirici, who is based in Rome. As an owner of rather broad discography, during the last few years he releases his albums through German SynGate Records and its sublabel Luna. While looking back, the first self-released albums have been released at the beginning of this millennium, these are mostly soundtracks created for various Musictherapy Groups and Butoh Dance Performances. However, as mentioned by Gabriele Qurici, his first official album, "Sounds From Space" was released in 2004 on Gianluigi Gasparetti/Oophoi's label Umbra. Known as a frequent collaborator, the list includes fellow soundscapers such as Oophoi, Tau Ceti, L.E.M., Syndromeda..., "Time Lines" double album is no exception. Actually, firstly this album was planned as a solo release, but after shaping the first personal "Time Lines", Gabriele has decided to invite his kindred musical souls to participate on the second half of this ambitious recording. Out since February 2015 on SynGate, the album is packaged in a standard double jewel case with 4-panel front cover including additional 4-page insert, while the inside of the back tray card features poetry by Annemarie Borg, one of the guests on "Time Lines". Digital art credit goes to Kevin O'Neill, while SynGate's Kilian Schloemp-Uelhoff is credited for additional design.

The first half of "Time Lines", entitled "Personal Time Lines" and collected between 2010-2014, unfolds with nearly 9-minute "Dreaming Time", where enigmatic washes are counterpointed with invigoratingly pulsing sequences and mesmerizing cyber-biotic traceries. Extra euphorically tinkling enhancements sneak in towards the end, while distant longing blanket consistently rides atop. A very strong intro!!! The next, equally long piece "Time Travelers", is announced by droning overture, but soon the center stage is invaded by vigorously sequenced cascades and climaxes, intensely commingling high-spirited time-lapses with quieter introspective glimpses. The title track, "Time Lines", reveals with cavernous echoes, which are quickly perforated by expansive dronescapes. Then glimmering sequencer arrangements join the foreground and persistently hypnotize the ears along with glancing sonic pungency, while panoramic, yet serpentinely intriguing drifts guard above. "Meditative Times", with 12:43 the longest piece on "Time Lines", amalgamates liquid sounds with soothingly emerging sequencer patterns. Perpetually titillating pulses are safely backed by expressive sinuousness, but the journey is almost overrun by auxiliary cyber-tech intensifications. "Hypnotic Lines" is an 8-plus minutes long composition transporting the listener into futuristic sequencer-driven Eden, where nearly ear-piercing, briskly bubbling sequences relentlessly arise, percolate, shimmer, fascinate, culminate and evanesce. An aural bliss awaits here, bravo, Gabriele!!! "Walking Time" returns into more relieving terrains, sculpted with endless spirals of joyful flickerings, mesmeric chitters and airy melodic nostalgia. Heavenly choirs clandestinely join this tranquilizing laid-backness before seamlessly transmuting into insistently magnifying helixes. "Child Time" immediately attracts with its elated structure of commingling synth sparkles and celebrates the birth of Gabriele's second daughter Irene. "The Circular Sound (Healing Time)" Gabriele dedicates to Camilla, his little patient, who has finally found after many years of therapy his strength to live. It's utterly gorgeous, euphorically charged piece meticulously bridging blissfully ricocheting sequences with warmly embracing horizons. What a beauty!!! "Saluto Ad Una Persona Importante (Sad Time)" was composed at April 13th, 2013, at a sad afternoon, one day after the passing of Gabriele's cousin Gianluigi "Gigi" Gasparetti. Ambiguous dronefields are masterfully coupled with exquisitely eloquent tapestries, it's a gracefully drifting and grippingly obfuscated composition!!! Gigi/Oophoi was always Gabriele's spirited musical mentor and this composition is a truly embracing tribute to this unforgettable Lord of unfathomable drones. Molte grazie, Gabriele!!!

"Friends Time Lines", the second half of the double set, reveals with "Inner Space Time", on which Perceptual Defence is joined by Syndromeda, a Belgian solo project by Danny Budts, who has already collaborated with Gabriele Quirici on two SynGate/Luna albums "Fear Of The Emptiness Space" (2014) and "Wormhole" (2015). Deeper drones are soon pervaded by sharply oscillating electronics with some rawer elements thrown in, all together blended with ethereal meridians. Additional high-piched crescendos ascend as well. A quite mindscaping beginning!!! The next guest joining the line-up is Dutchman John Valk Heslinga aka Waveman, who is, except being a synth player, probably better known as a host of EM radioshow. "Friends Time" is the title of a 9-minute piece blending perpetually winding intangible hypnotics with guiding cathedral flavored arpeggios. On "Metaphysical Time" Gerd Weyhing, a German progressive rock and ambient guitarist steps to the stage and adds his quite experimental, weirdly nuanced and piercingly buzzing electric guitar riffs to Perceptual Defence's insistently sparkling synth peripheries. This piece really drives my ears nuts!!! And this rather bizarre journey continues also through "Ricochet Time Lines", a track hosting another guest from The Netherlands, René van der Wouden, who acts under the moniker of Rewo. More minimal, slightly cavernous timbres melt with coiled hallucinogenic signals. This alloy inconspicuously transforms during the closing quarter into warmly sweeping panoramas percolated by yearning sequences. "Subway Time To Castro Pretorio Station", featuring Ian Keely aka Kilian Schloemp-Uelhoff, the boss of SynGate, unfolds, as predicted, with urban subway sounds, which are soon substituted by calmly revealing hidden oscillations, while glimpses of eccentric fragments appear here and there. Piero Monachello from Italy, who acts as Alluste, adds his soundscaping talent to "Silence Time", the second longest composition on "Time Lines". On the overture more mysterious, when commingling expansive vistas with translucently filigree tinkles, but later this scenario is infiltrated by tranquilly illuminating rhythm paragons. This one rules, bravissimo!!! Sylvain Mazars, the French sole protagonist behind Pharamond, ventures together with Perceptual Defence into infinite spatial emptiness entitled "Cosmic Time", where unfathomable drones pair with poetic, flute-like passages, before fresh electro cadence steal the show, with some 1970s synth evolution thrown in. On 11-plus minutes long "Rainy Time" prolific German soundsculptor Michael Brückner enters the scene, where meandering and tiding sequences are blended with gorgeously memorable rural sceneries, filled with showery authenticity, rapturous breeze and glorious euphoria. Certainly one of the pinnacles on "Time Lines"!!! On "Reflection Time" Enrico Cosimi, known as Tau Ceti, Gabriele's companion on Umbra/Penumbra labels, takes the spot and together deliver perplexingly droning and weepingly waving spectacle reinforced by elusively hypnotic rhythm currents occasionally augmented by cyber-biotic ephemerons. Another top-notch synergistic performance!!! This flamboyant journey is closed with "Moments Frail", on which Perceptual Defence is joined by French (with Swedish background) artist Annemarie Borg, the founder of Antara Project based in London. An exquisitely celestial odyssey guided by Annemarie's graceful choirs and spoken poetry fortified by intermittent cyber-tech subtleties crafted by Perceptual Defence brings this accomplished project into its finale. Enthrallingly balsamic conclusion!!!

"Time Lines" double album offers 153 minutes of emotionally driven and abundantly flavored collection of personal and shared, mostly touching moments. A quite massive gathering of like-minded spirits with soundforging talent showcasing variety of distinguishing insignias. Sure, quite broad array of styles is explored, especially on the second disc, but that's quite obvious due to its wide line-up of diversified guests, although still linked to its principal creator. When turning to the most recent activities, a third collaborative album between Perceptual Defence and Syndromeda is on the way, "The End Of The Universe" should be out on SynGate, the release date is still unknown. And the latest news also speaks about a double live solo album entitled "Life Lights In The Shadow", this one is scheduled on Dutch label Databloem. So stay tuned!!!

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


Michael Brückner "Antiferromagnet" CDr

As I have mentioned several months ago, when focusing on Michael Brückner's "Eleventh Sun" CDr, this German sound designer is known for his flamboyantly extensive discography with many well hidden gems. And I think that's the case with "Antiferromagnet", an album, which was recorded mostly during one day in 2003 and then revisited and given the final touches in 2006, before self-released by the artist at the same year. I believe it's not easy to find out a lot of background info on this rare recording and as far I know, this album is one of those which are not featured on Michael Brückner's Bandcamp site. Well, I am quite sure Michael will reconsider this, because it certainly deserves to be explored by a wider audience. Although I think the album can be ordered on request via Bandcamp as a digital download or as a physical CDr edition. "Antiferromagnet" comes with a 4-panel front insert and is packaged in standard jewel case. Visually rather more ambiguously inconspicuous, connected to the theme, but it really matters what's "inside".

The album, comprised of 13 rather shorter pieces clocking between 2:39 and 7:10, unfolds with "Terbsee", a strikingly enigmatic composition merging mostly distant, sinuously reverberating, gauzy rumblings and tinkling lyrical passages. Seamless transition into "Pharn" follows and the listener remains in quite unique, mesmerizingly flavored zones reinforced by abstrusely hallucinogenic oscillations. "Avatiano" incorporates weirdly meandering patterns, permeated here and there by wrinkled surges and ear-piercing pinnacles. Otherwise the track clandestinely glides into serenely enrapturing horizons efficiently counterpointed with tenser transitions. "Haun Toshu" brings back the mind-expanding meridians experienced on "Pharn" and shifts them into bizarrely sculpted realms of tumultuousness. "Epók" marks an escape into relatively quieter terrains, yet occasionally percolated by titillatingly high-pitched tides and other mildly twinkling subtleties. "Dish" delves deeper into oracularly infused fields highlighted by foregrounding tinkling gradation backed by surreptitious drone sinuousness, while ephemeral puzzling fragments sporadically emerge. "Nekkan", the longest track on "Antiferromagnet", keeps firmly on the path of intensely immersing nebulousness, where warmly enthralling epic motifs, at times almost cinematic, are perforated by radiating pungent glimpses and strangely obfuscated helixes. All exhaustively guarded by wistful hissy drifting stratum. More please!!! "Kailas" is as much mysterious with its unfathomably dronescaping amorphousness exquisitely amalgamated with glimmeringly ear-bending cyber-tech ventures and sharply jangling eruptions. Another powerfully intriguing scenario!!! Weirdly weeping cello-like arrangements announce "Ozession", but soon freakily crescendoing sonic escapades steal the center stage, then during the second half rather calmly evanescing, although still pervaded by subtly irregular climaxes. "Deep String", as indicated by its title, mingles poignantly obscure stringed tapestries with solitary fragments and elusive clinks. Rather minimal throughout, except few magnifying culminations towards the end. "Ympho" remains in shadowy terrains, where mournful resonations commingle with gliding scenic expanses. Shorter "Tjachariva" displays a palette of metallic-charged rumbling undulations, before metamorphosing into the closing "Home", which is comprised of intensely droning monochromatic layers juxtaposed with cyber-tech glances, delicately mindscaping chinks and serpentinely encircling magnitudes. Undoubtedly a very strong conclusion!!!

Yeah, I am still a fan who knows a rather small part of Michael Brückner's massive discography, but "Antiferromagnet" has fastly became one of my fave recordings by this German soundforger. It continues to grow on me with every new exploration as the album continuously exposes a handful of peculiar soundcarvings. And what really counts on a 63-minute long "Antiferromagnet" is the strong "scientific" focus, relentlessly propelled by magnificently labyrinthine arrangements!!! Sure, to my taste quite bizarre at times, even nearly driving me insane at some moments, but always grippingly venturesome and distinctively engrossing. Well-accomplished, Michael!!!

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


Steve Roach "Live In Tucson - Pinnacle Moments" CD

Two live sets by Steve Roach at Tucson's Galactic Center from February 13th & 14th, 2015, still deeply resonate and "Live In Tucson - Pinnacle Moments" CD exquisitely documents these unforgettable performances. 4 tracks are taken from Saturday, 14th, while the closing piece was recorded live one day earlier. Graced by stunningly crepuscular golden desert photograph by Kati Astraeir, with additional design by Projekt's Sam Rosenthal, live recording credit goes to Kelly David and mastering wizardry is provided by Howard Givens in Spotted Peccary Studios. The CD was released exactly at one year Anniversary on Steve's Timeroom Editions and is available in limited edition of 300 4-panel digipak copies.

"The Desert Eternal" secures immediate transition with its utterly evocative distant, heavenly cries-like strings bridged with balmily mesmerizing nocturnal musings, while remotely gliding serenity is clandestinely permeated by translucent, yet intangibly immersing artificial beats. Silhouettes of majestic giant saguaros are masterfully revealed, this is undoubtedly Steve Roach at the very top of his innate desert soundcarving. The magic of this wilderness is captured in absolutely authentic way that can be only Steve Roach!!! In the middle the piece metamorphoses into intensely nuanced and tiding panoramic scenario just like the invading, awe-inspiringly cloudscaping spectacle over The Sonoran Desert. I am again sitting in the front row and living the dream!!! 17 and a half minutes of profoundly scenic aural bliss, meticulously symbolizing the American Southwest!!! Triumphantly entitled 8-minute "Endorphin Dreamtime" dives straightly into vigorously glistening terrains fronted by flamboyantly kinetic sequences, which persistently carve emotively spellbinding helixes, while massively expansive undulations are graciously guarding above. Another highly exhilarating performance!!! "Going - Gone", with 20:33 the longest track, masterfully bridges airy laid-back grooves with gossamer cyber-tech traceries, rumbling primordial subtleties and bizarrely meandering blankets. Over the course ancient ocarina sneaks in, coalesces with additional, intriguingly nebulous tribal artifacts and melts with high-tech sound alchemy, which later shifts into powerfully animated and sinuously outbursting state-of-the-art pulsing adventure counterpointed with weirdly emerging primeval groans. A thrillingly audacious venture to the forefront of phenomenal soundmagic, virtuosically amalgamating ethnographic-driven patterns with hyper-modern trance-inducing shamanic soundsculpting. A truly thunderous listening experience!!! "Skeleton Passage" clocks to 13 and a half minute mark and as indicated by its title, the journey transports the listener into euphoric sonic domains, where perpetually hypnotic sequences paint sharp curves and spirals, while magnificently yearning solitudes inconspicuously pervade along the way and ride atop in delightful symmetry with forefronting, bouncingly mindscaping momentum of sequencer syntaxes. This stellar soundforging seamlessly moves to the closing part, 14-plus minutes long piece "Spiral Passage". High-cadenced cybernetic transmissions lead the center stage, where abundant array of mesmerizingly spiraling, shimmeringly radiant and insistently ear-tickling synthetic emotions is precisely backed by warmly sweeping desert vistas. The ears of each devoted listener are perpetually bathed in infinitely blossoming and constantly progressing vibes of cyberscaping trance ambient meditations. What a jaw-dropping epic meridian!!! I still clearly remember one night, when journeying and falling asleep with this CD in my discman. Already gone during "The Desert Eternal", but then randomly reawaken in the middle of "Spiral Passage" and it was like re-entering the aural Eden at The Galactic Center. An ultimate pinnacle moment!!!

Sure, I could easily imagine in this live selection also "Today", one of my undisputable faves by the Master or the part, when par excellence didgeridoo performer Dashmesh Khalsa joined Steve on the stage during the Friday's show, but then this must have been released as a double album. However, this all-inclusive CD awakes all the aural memories from both these exceptionally breathtaking nights. So huge kudos to Steve Roach and all involved for releasing "Live In Tucson - Pinnacle Moments", to me, this live album will be always a very special as a truly essential part of the journey, when I was living the dream!!! As mentioned already, this is a limited edition of 300 copies, so make sure to grab your own copy and no matter, if you were among the crowd at February 13th & 14th, 2015 or not. Together with "Alive In The Vortex" 2CD (Vortex Dome Immersion concerts in Los Angeles, October 25th & 26th, 2013) these live recordings exquisitely demonstrate the spirit and power of the live moment, when the Master connects with his kindred spirits in the audience and shares his eternally creative bravura. And as always, the exploratory odyssey still continues through exploding studio work, so stay tuned!!! We can be all really grateful for such talent, consistency and visionary!!! Thank you so much, Steve!!!

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

Independent Music Reviews / My review of "Hinterland" CDr by Aperus
« on: April 26, 2016, 04:38:06 AM »

Aperus "Hinterland" CDr

Except releasing three years ago a collaborative album "Ecotone" with James Johnson, one of the monumental pinnacles of 2013, Brian McWilliams, the driving force behind Aperus (and Remanence), was quite busy during the last few years with focusing on reissuing, remastering and repackaging older gems like "Tumbleweed Obfuscated By Camera Failure", reissued April 2013, and "Lamkhyer" as Remanence, which was resurrected during March 2015. "Hinterland", originally released in 2004 as a 5-track mini album, keeps on the path of this strategy. The 2004 edition was packaged in a slim jewel case featuring additional photographs taken from Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, as data files. Personally, I have never been a big fan of slim jewel cases, without a spine, and I prefer much more physical visuals included within the release than those on my screen, so I have been very excited since the very beginning, when Brian has announced a reissue of "Hinterland". According to the extensive project updates via Brian's own Geophonic Records' blog, the reworking of "Hinterland" visuals and audio, was a quite in-depth task. Out since January 20th, 2016 as a pro CDr (duplicated at plant), I am now holding in my hands a truly gorgeous release packaged in 5" x 7" plastic sleeve with an attractive double sided gatefold cover and six 4" x 6" black & white photos taken by the artist at above mentioned Chaco Canyon. Undoubtedly, this is another collector's item from Geophonic Records (previously mPATH Records)!!! I should also mention that "Hinterland" features two additional guests on few tracks, John Phipps (who is a full member with Brian on Remanence project) and Carolyn Koebel. Although still as a mini-album, this edition is extended to 7 pieces and it gets over 36 minutes in length.

Remastered long version of "Magnetism" unfolds this inspiring journey with poetically lyrical piano soothingly backed by ethereal choir-like drones, while mesmerizingly rattling gossamer quietudes are counterpointed with nebulously ephemeral voice fragments. What a poignantly charged beauty!!! I keep in mind slightly shorter version of "Magnetism" on another stunningly packaged album, "Tumbleweed Obfuscated By Camera Failure" (released in 2003 and reissued 10 years later). Experimental mix of "Earth & Clay", as indicated by its title, incorporates an array of primordial-infused percussive elements coupled with bassline patterns and balmily encircling rattles (by Carolyn Koebel). Rather shorter, yet powerfully immersing venture into the sacred ancestral homelands of Pueblo people. Original version of "Echo Canyon" (remastered) delves deeply into warmly expansive and gracefully infinite drone sinuousness, enriched by assorted primal rumbles ranging from intangible to ear-tickling, remote groans and ambiguous breaths. Another exquisitely expressive composition precisely displayed by its name and meticulously bridging ancient enigmas with modern timbres. Additional keyboard and guitar credit goes to John Phipps, so kudos to both kindred spirits!!! Shorter "Kaskaskia Canyon", which appears in its remastered edition, invites the listener through its balsamic subterranean cacophony into magnificently sculpted hypogean sceneries. Remastered alternate version of "Vanishing Terrain", the longest piece on "Hinterland" clocking nearly to 12-minute mark, remains in breathtakingly cavernous realms, where warmly yearning washes insistently tide and delicately amalgamate with titillating clatters, wheezing tapestries and humming perplexes. All together meticulously carving the exuberant riches of these fascinating domains. A true sonic elixir!!! Demo version of the title track "Hinterland" leaves subterranean terrains and moves into tranquilly floating and serpentining soundfields carefully counterpointed with brightly tingling primordial percussions, while additional, more elusive tribal canvas are hanging above. The listener is guided through the vast areas of spectacularly eloquent desert solitudes, an infinite aural immersion awaits here!!! Shorter, reprised version of "All Good Things" closes this journey with slightly weirder batch of bass motifs, primal artifacts (Carolyn Koebel gets credit for rattles), synth helixes and crepuscular musings. When comparing to the version on "Tumbleweed Obfuscated By Camera Failure", this time the rumbling and metallic elements are less palpable. Still a very suitable outro!!!

"Hinterland" is another highly polished, re-evaluated and all-intensive journey through the ancient landscapes of the American Southwest, on which Brian McWilliams again brings its visual expression into absolute harmony with its aural authenticity. Don't miss this awe-inspiring exploration and tribute to the heritage of the Chacoan culture!!! I keep on repeating, to me, both projects, Aperus and Remanence, are some of the best kept secrets within prehistoric-driven ambient scene. "Hinterland" is a collector's dream!!! As mentioned by the artist, this release marks a clear line between the past and the future, so he can now focus on recording a new material. I will definitely keep an ear to the ground, because Brian McWilliams really deserves it!!!

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


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)

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: David Parsons - Puja
« on: March 25, 2016, 06:21:04 AM »
Experiencing "Puja"... A thrillingly transcendental journey through Indo-Gangetic Plains and Tibetan Plateau awaits here!!! David Parsons returns at the very top of his extraordinary wizardry, bravo, Maestro!!! Still in the middle of the pilgrimage, but it sounds already as a very strong competitor for Best of 2016. Thank you, David, thank you, Johan/gterma!!!



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)

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Closing the Eternity
« on: March 20, 2016, 01:13:59 AM »
Another work of Mathias Grassow & Closing The Eternity is released on russian ΠANθEON label

Thanks a lot, Andrey, for your hint, much appreciated!!! :) As usual for ΠANθEON, Tim & Aloe are doing absolutely amazing work!!! Deep respect!!! Although I prefer more CD/CDr format, I simply couldn't miss this beauty!!! And on the top of that, I still keep in mind breathtaking collaboration between Mathias & Anton on their Aquarellist release from 2013. Another must-have from mysterious terrains of Ural!!!



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)

Thanks for writing this review. Ended up picking up the album digitally through Bandcamp. Lovely stuff.

Thanks a lot, "cvac", it makes me always happy when my words help a bit to explore some gem. And "A Tide Pool Of Memories" album is highly recommended as well.

All the best!!! :)



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)

I think Mike is spot on: Max Corbacho's work seems most similar. The album of his that I think best captures the atmosphere in question is Ars Lucis. The entire album is great, but check out the track Light-Matrix Portal in particular.

Yeah, can't agree more, "Light-Matrix Portal" is a magnum opus by Max!!!



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)

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