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Topics - drone on

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The debut CD on Hypnos by Spanish ambient maestro Bruno Sanfilippo could not possibly be any more impressive.  In fact, to these ears it is one of the finest discs Hypnos has released in the last 15 years.  "Urbs", a strange title which makes sense when you discover the urban theme of the music, plays like an alternative, and more ambient, soundtrack to Ridley Scott's 1982 masterpiece "Blade Runner."  The striking cover imagery of a photo of Berlin taken through a bus window gives a hint of the surreal soundscapes contained within, which could describe both an urban city and all its stories and emotions, or simultaneously the landing of a spacecraft on a barren and undisturbed extra-solar planet.  Sanfilippo utilized only the Korg Radias synthesizer, samplers, and field recordings (of churches, cityscapes, subways, and bars), focusing on the "less is more" approach to sound design, making the music feel open, spacious, and uncluttered.  And seemingly, not a sound is out of place as the music unfolds like a radiant dream, a dream which you never want to end.  The album is broken up into four tracks but plays like one long track, the first three averaging 20 minutes a piece.  This kind of urban environmental ambient has been done before by other artists--check out Paul Vnuk's "Silence Speaks in Shadow" on Hypnos, or Pete Namlook and Charles Edwards' "Create" series on Fax--but "Urbs" never sounds derivative of those or cliched in any way.  And that's probably because the sounds employed on the album are just so jaw-droppingly, viscerally ethereal and beautiful that "Urbs" actually should have been the album to inspire those works.  The first two pieces, "Urban Flow" and "The City Reflected," set the stage with gritty, shadowy (but not dark) sound design;  "The City Reflected" then morphs into some melodic synth motifs that are incredibly pastoral and calming (I am reminded here of Namlook/Inoue's classic "2350 Broadway" album, which explored similar urban themes).  The third piece, "Chaotic Order," the longest, at over 25 minutes, begins with lush, beautiful melodic sine waves over city soundscapes of streets, voices, etc; here I'm reminded of Steve Roach's classic "Structures from Silence."  Slowly, some ultra-ethereal blips echo in and out (Tetsu Inoue fans take note) as the track continues its majestic path, pulling you from downtown to the Moon and back again.  Later in the piece, some glitchy sounds add some grittiness to the rainy streets.  The final 7-minute piece, "The Gray Umbrella," opens with heavily reverberated field recordings of voices in a train station, followed by some incredible metallic sounding synth tones that continue the pastoral feel of the album and create a perfect close.   What a phenomenal album!  "Urbs" has my highest recommendation, and is easily the best ambient album I have heard so far in 2012.  Congratulations Bruno Sanfilippo on an instant classic and unforgettable masterpiece.   

Everything and Nothing / Male menopause
« on: May 23, 2012, 12:20:52 PM »
I turned 44 a few months ago, and I've noticed some things going on with my body that I'm starting to realize may be a form of "male menopause."  I guess this is a controversial subject as some believe it's B.S. but some doctors are backing it up with research.   Anyway, my symptoms are low testosterone (I had symptoms of it such as low libido and worsening depression, tiredness, irritability, etc. and got it tested.  It was below 300, where "normal" range is 300-1200 I believe), and recently, a noticeable loss of height (I used to wear size 32 length pants, now I have to buy size 30).  I got to the point recently where I finally "woke up" out of my and realized I better start doing something about my health before it's too late.  I'm about 50 lbs overweight with a big gut which I got from excess sugar consumption and carb consumption, no exercise, skipping meals, overeating at times, and smoking about a pack a day.  So I quit smoking a week ago and have changed my eating, exercise, and sleep habits.  It's been hard but I can already feel the benefits.   

I was wondering if anyone is/has gone through this and whether "male menopause" is reversible through making lifestyle changes? There is a testosterone replacement therapy but apparently the side effects can include fertility problems, heart disease, increased risk of prostate cancer, among others.  The endocrinologist I saw was not willing to do the therapy and talked me out of it.  Any opinions on this greatly appreciated.  :) 

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Dead Can Dance 2012
« on: May 09, 2012, 10:19:02 AM »
Any DCD fans wondering what happened to the album Brendan and Lisa were supposed to be working on last winter?  Their summer tour tickets have already been on sale but there is no info anywhere about a new album.  Brendan's website has had no news, and I can't find anything when I do a Google search. 

It's looking like the 2012 tour will be similar to the 2005 tour in that there was no new material.  Much as I love DCD, I really think a tour should be supporting new material, otherwise it starts feeling like a nostalgia trip to make some quick money, like many 80's bands have been doing.  Don't know about Lisa, but judging from Brendan's solo tour last year, which was hands down one of the finest live performances (performance and sound quality) I have seen to date, I'd say the inspiration and ability is as strong as it ever was. 

If you have any info. on this planned 2012 release (whether it's happening or not), please let me know.  Thanks! :)

Everything and Nothing / "Album only" tracks on iTunes
« on: May 07, 2012, 01:10:54 PM »
Does it bug you when you have to buy the whole album on iTunes just because a track you want is more than 10 minutes long?  I think iTunes should do away with this practice as it's going to not generate as much revenue.  Think about it:  you don't like every song except the 11:00 one.  So you don't buy the album.  But if they'd let you purchase that song for 99 cents, that's 99 more cents in somebody's pocket. 

Everything and Nothing / How much are you willing to pay for a CDR?
« on: May 07, 2012, 01:06:53 PM »
I know this has been brought up before, but:

I buy a lot of music, and still greatly prefer replicated CD's, which do not deteriorate over time, to duplicated CDR's, which are not 100% reliable.  With most labels moving away from using the "sticky labels" now, CDR's going bad isn't as big of a problem anymore.  But there's still the concern...

Since I prefer replicated CD's, I tend to buy them much more frequently.  And due to the high volume of artists/labels I regularly support, CDR releases by obscure and lesser known artists get placed way down on my "want list" usually.  Because the artists are obscure and the releases are on "second-choice" media, I am also not willing to shell out the same amount of cash as the more established artists' releases on standard CD. 

Bottom line: I think $10 is reasonable for these type of releases.  And labels like Hypnos Secret Sounds and Relaxed Machinery are making it fair and feasible to collect more music.  However, when I see 2-CDR sets that sell for $19.99 when the single discs are $9.99, I don't think that's reasonable, or single disc CDR releases going for $13.99, $14.99, etc.  Also, when I see a CDR release selling for $12.99 or $13.99 at the Hypnos store or CDBaby, but I can get it on iTunes for $9.99, I'll get it from iTunes.  To me a paper insert and slimcase isn't worth the extra dough (plus add on shipping).  I admit I did spend about $25 on the new limited Aglaia, but I didn't realize you could download it.  Had I known that, I probably wouldn't have spent the $$.   

I guess it may not be a concern for those who are not CD addicts and are more economical about their music purchasing, but I'm more apt to buy music when I think I'm getting a good deal.  Does anyone else feel this way?

Can someone tell me what instruments were used on I've Lost's Relaxed Machinery album?  I know nothing about this artist but really impressed by this release.  Thanks.  :)

You've heard of people noticing "11:11" but over the last few years I've really noticed "9:11" displaying on clocks when I happen to look at them, and I'm not an obsessive watch checker or anything.  Really weird.  Any supernatural theories???

Available via, "Out of the Way" is a limited edition of 99 copies release in handmade digipak.  This package is a true work of art--a colored, textured paper-mache type 6-panel digipak with cover art insert attached on front and back, tray artwork, with black CDR signed on the silver-label side by Gino Fioravanti.  (For those who just want the music, it is also available on iTunes as a download).  Of the many Aglaia projects released over the years, the music here is some of Aglaia's strongest to date, reminding me of my favorite of Gino's which is "Reverberant Skies."  Like that album, "Out of the Way" pieces are incredibly tranquil, with drones that hover gently and soothe like a soft rain.  Pieces like "Northern Lights" and "Amaranthine Days" fall into this category.  "Night Glow" goes into darker, more surreal territory with a haunting theme overlaying the ambience.  Some of Aglaia's past albums, like "White Maps" and "Naked Movements," were quite a bit more experimental and challenging.  If you want a classically-ambient experience in the vein of Brian Eno, mixed with today's best drone artists like Alio Die and Oophoi, you can't go wrong with this very strong release! 

Hypnos Label Releases / Sublabels for Hypnos
« on: April 11, 2012, 10:18:36 AM »
Suggestion: create a new sublabel for Hypnos for more "structured" and/or electro-acoustic music.  Some releases on Hypnos sound quite "un" Hypnos-like.

Question: Whatever happened to Binary?

36 (pronounced "three six") is a UK artist who also runs his own small label, 3Six Recordings.  Starting in 2008 he released the first in a trilogy of albums called "Hypersona," followed in 2010 by "Hollow," and culminating in the 2012 release "Lithia."  All have been released in limited editions on pressed/silver discs.  I ordered the trilogy recently based on the strength of sound samples I heard from the "Lithia" release.  I'd have to say overall I was pretty disappointed with the trilogy as a whole.  The first part, "Hypersona," is pleasant enough instrumental electronic music, but of the 12 tracks contained within, nothing impressed me enough to want to listen to it again.  I'd categorize it as pretty ho-hum soundtrack music, and not exactly what I'd term "ambient."  Any by soundtrack, I mean slightly sterile, non-descript background music that isn't of much interest on its own:  think someone trying to sound like Cliff Martinez but not quite getting there.  The second installment, "Hollow," has 13 tracks and only three interested me, as these three tracks were somewhat darker and had an edge to them, bringing them into the ambient realm we all know and love.  The final and latest installment, "Lithia," has more than several phenomenal haunting tracks that define the term "ethereal."  I am reminded of the sort of yearning, melancholy feel achieved by Bvdub, but minus the beats, containing processed samples, grainy waves of cascading synthetics, looped ad infinitum.  So, "Lithia" is a vast improvement over the other two chapters and by far the most interesting musically.  And it is resolutely an "ambient" album, and I hope he will continue in this vein.  All in all, I'd recommend "Lithia" quite highly but can't say the same for the previous two releases.     

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Rapoon "In This World" Box Set
« on: March 29, 2012, 02:05:13 PM »
1 LP, 1 CD (2CD's on the more limited edition), 1 DVD, poster, artcards.  Does anyone have this?  I cannot find any reviews.  Thanks.   8)

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Bvdub influences
« on: March 20, 2012, 10:05:21 AM »
Watched a 15 min. interview posted on YouTube with Brock Van Wey (Bvdub) where when asked his influences his #1 was Steve Roach (which was surprising to me in a way), and #2 was "Hypnos label 90's releases."  So at least we know he's got good musical taste. 

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Overrated Ambient
« on: February 14, 2012, 11:09:42 AM »
What do you think are the most overrated ambient albums?  By this I mean albums that are put on a pedestal to near mythical status, but when you actually hear it you wonder what the big deal was about.

Off the top of my head, I'd have to say Wolfgang Voight's Gas releases (individually or the "Nah und Fern" box set).  There are a few excellent tracks but on the whole most of it to me is murky and repetitive. 

Voice of Eye were/are a phenomenal American two-member project (Bonnie McNairn and Jim Wilson) primarily active in the 90's during the heyday of the ambient genre.  They were members of Asianova and later formed VOE.  Self-built instruments which were extensively processed with electronics and McNairn's siren-like processed voice created some of the most surreal and alien sounding soundscapes in ambient history.  This two-CD collection on Germany's Transgredient Records gathers tracks from various experimental/ambient artist compilations and augments them with unreleased material intended for cassettes and an entire live set from 1996 (which is truly spectacular).  VOE's organic tribal experiments put them in the same league as other sonic innovators of the time such as Robert Rich and Steve Roach.  In fact, they shared space with Roach and Rich on the Manifold Records comp. "Endless 2."  Despite their use of strange objects like bicycles , "musical saw," and "'77 Chevy van," their sounds were so processed that the music did not have a grating industrial feel but rather a smooth, highly atmospheric one.  I highly recommend this compilation for all lovers of classic organic space music.  Bon appetit!   

Everything and Nothing / Automobile batteries
« on: January 27, 2012, 04:18:11 PM »
Hello all, I was wondering if someone knowledgeable about cars could answer this question for me.  I've been Googling and researching but still wondering.  My situation was:  my 2010 car was having very weak cranking on a cold start (after engaging the key, the engine wouldn't start up right away, there would be a delay of a couple seconds after the key was fully engaged) that got worse over time.  I suspected it was the battery, based on my research.  The dealer service dept. stated my battery was in "good condition," yet when I took the car to a trusted independent mechanic, they said the battery was bad and to replace it.  The mechanic gave me a printout of the battery test showing the voltage was 12.57v (apparently "normal"); however, a "capacity test" done showed the battery failed and the battery life was 0%.  Recommendation: replace now (which I did). 

My question is, do you think the dealer just didn't check my battery at all, or did they only possibly measure the voltage, and because they didn't do the "capacity test," they couldn't tell the battery was in bad shape or get a complete picture of its health?  In other words, are some methods of battery testing not very comprehensive compared to others?   Please let me know somebody as I'm trying to determine whether to return to the dealer service dept. in the future.  If you think they f'd this up let me know.  Thanks!!!

This album, self-released by Perceptual Defence (aka Italian synthesist Gabriele Quirici) in 2011, is just one part of an 8-disc series inspired by the Hieronymus Bosch painting "The Garden of Earthly Delights."  Quirici produces a brand of electronic music that is decidedly experimental, definitely ambient (headphones listening recommended to get all the details), somewhat "lo-fi" (it's not a huge sound with gigantic reverbs like Steve Roach), and often quirky and playful, yet in a psychedelic way.  Drone passages are interspersed with weird sequencer patterns (this is not Berlin School mind you) to concoct a heady brew.  Quirici has previously released a couple full-length albums previously on Oophoi's Umbra Records, and several solo and collaborative e.p.'s on Penumbra as well.  His Facebook page lists his influences as including Robert Rich, Steve Roach, and Zoviet France.  To me the ZF influence seems most prominent based on its kind of lo-fi experimentalism with more quiet microsounds.  Anways, back to "Hieros Gamos."  The disc is split between two long tracks.  "Hieros Gamos 1" starts off with some really pretty dark atmospheric drone soundscapes and we are in Oophoi territory here.  Heavily reverbed rainsticks echo in the background, followed by what sound like heavily processed didgeridoo samples.  This is spooky and surreal stuff, and very dreamlike.  Some chiming bell sounds then come in, followed by some industrial-tinged whooshes and electronic bleeps.  About halfway through this long 48-minute opus the dark ambient drones fade away and the tracks morphs into a quite upbeat, kaleidoscopic and playful series of dancing sequencers, horn sounds (albeit synthesized), and looped percussion.  The second track, at 20:00 long, follows a similar path;  atmospheric at first, morphing into more active sequencer territory.  I would recommend this album to fans of the Umbra/Penumbra label and Alio Die's sublabel Sempiterna Mutatio, but I don't think it's for everyone.  Sometimes the quirky factor overshadows the more drone based soundscapes and the music can become rather bizarre.  I'm also not sure you need all eight (!) of these albums.  I have a couple others in the series and they seem very similar to this one.     

Steve Roach starts off 2012 with the aptly titled "Back to Life."  The title did give me some hope that musically things would evolve for Steve out of the primordial ooze of his what can now be considered "late period" (I guess) music.  By "ooze" I mean the drifting, sort of formless masses of ambient clouds n' chords, the hovering e-bow guitars, the hushed echoes of tribal percussions, and in general a surrender to the ether.  The problem with this album is that he achieved all that back in 2003 with "Mystic Chords," and to a great extent, the subsequent releases have for the most part been of a similar nature.   The pieces on Disc One of this two-disc set in large part sound like they came right out of the "Mystic" sessions, augmented with other pieces like the lengthy "Tranquility Base" consisting of subtle tribal beats, e-bowed Suspended Memories/Suso Saiz style guitars, and drifting electronics, which he does so well and continues to do well.  "Tranquility Base" would have fit perfectly into the "Fever Dreams" series.  Disc 2 consists of one mammoth track called "Mist of Perception" and this is one of those quietly intense apocalyptic soundscapes that seem to describe some significant cosmic event.  I thought this piece was really good and more interesting than the material on Disc One.  So bottom line, this is another technically superb production from a master doing what he does best (I give it an "A" for production), but perhaps suffering from revisiting  the past too much (gets a C- in the "heard it all before" department).  Total score: B-.  Nice release, but I think it's time for one of the great innovators to innovate once again.  :)

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Amir Baghiri/Nimh "Entities" ltd. cdr
« on: January 20, 2012, 01:19:28 AM »
Anyone have this and care to comment? 

Computers, Internet and Technology / MP3 vs. FLAC
« on: January 17, 2012, 11:30:24 AM »
Relunctantly I've started downloading music out of necessity (for albums unavailable on CD) and for economic reasons (can't really afford to keep up with the volume of music I enjoy @ $20 a pop in many cases by the time you pay for CD plus shipping and other fees).  My question:

Is there a huge difference between MP3 files and "lossless" FLAC files?  So far I've only downloaded MP3 tracks off iTunes and they sound fine to me.  Is the MP3/FLAC difference noticeable, or just to people with super sensitive audiophile ears? 

Computers, Internet and Technology / iTunes incomplete downloads problem
« on: January 17, 2012, 12:59:14 AM »
Just started using iTunes.  About half the albums I've downloaded so far had incomplete tracks.  I have to report this to support and they reset for me to download again, which still hasn't always been successful.  Any idea what could cause this??? Thanks.

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