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Messages - richardgurtler

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Thank you so much, guys, I am always very happy when my words help a bit someone in exploring new music, so I really appreciate your comments!!! Keep on journeying!!!

Richard  :)

Thank you so much, Julio, for your very kind words, I am deeply honored!!! And I really hope you will continue releasing your music on physical formats, as mentioned already, your upcoming "A Tide Pool of Memories" CD eco wallet design looks really gorgeous, keep on going!!!

With friendly greetings, Richard  :)


Julio Di Benedetto "Original Light" CD

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

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

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

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


Strom Noir "ΕΣΟΠΤΡΟΝ" cassette

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

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

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

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

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Alio Die on BC
« on: October 13, 2015, 08:43:43 AM »
I just noticed this evening that there are two new Aglaia releases listed on Alio Die's bandcamp page. Does anyone have any scoop on this (e.g., whether there will be physical releases)? The samples are wonderful; I would hate to impulsively buy these digital albums and find out next week that the CDs are being pressed.

No newsletter updates or updates on Stefano's website yet.


Got message from Stefano, both new Aglaia albums, "Ephemeral Blue" and "Florealia Nocturna", are available on CD format, out now, first orders being prepared today... Although no news yet on Stefano's Alio Die website, just send him e-mail with your order, if interested in physical copies. Really looking forward to both these beauties, Gino is a true genius of fantabulously spellbinding ambience!!! All the best!!!  ;)



Hakobune "All My Regret For Nothing Remembered" cassette

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

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

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

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


Steve Roach "Etheric Imprints" CD

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

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

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

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

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Steve Roach - Bloodmoon Rising
« on: September 27, 2015, 03:08:41 AM »
After phenomenal "Invisible", here comes another milestone in long-form soundcarving, bravo, Maestro!!! Journeying since Friday, still a lot of deep listening sessions ahead, but the first impressions are profoundly enrapturing. It arrived just in time for the total lunar eclipse and with included "Bloodmoon Rising" coaster, now even fresh IPA can be served!!! Enjoy the magic, both visual and aural!!! Cheers!!! ;)



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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Washburn "Wave Mantra" CD

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Brand "Second Spring" CDr

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

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

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

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

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

Radiant Mind "Strands" CD

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

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

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

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


Forrest Fang "Letters To The Farthest Star" CD

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

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

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

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


Mathias Grassow & John Haughm "Auræ" CD

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

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

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

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

A really enjoyable reading with stunning photos, thanks a lot for sharing, Julio!!!

Richard  :)


Time Being "A Place To Belong" CD

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

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

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

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

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

Remanence "Lamkhyer" CDr

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

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

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

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


Bruno Sanfilippo "Upon Contact Reworked" CD

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

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

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

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

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

Chad Kettering "Pathways" CD

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

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

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

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

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Grassow on BC
« on: August 08, 2015, 10:54:35 AM »
Drifting through "Celestial Oasis", what a journey!!!


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