This Just In
03 Sep 95
Atmospheric trance, worldly excursions, light romanticism, new age essence and harbingers of late summer surprises. Save your pennies, gang, some truly EXCELLENT albums are coming out....
DIGITAL PLANET, Verity (Atomic City Atom CD 03; 59:07), 1994. Steve Verity's guided tour to an imagined world is a dreamy, deft excursion. Sounds of water and bells herald our half-hour splash-down sequence, and the subsequent suites travel through a world of ethereal, synthesized desolation. This CD is an unexpected pleasure, one that yields familiar tranquillity on subsequent spins; those with whom I've shared it immediately want to borrow it. Currently in limited release, DIGITAL PLANET is available in San Francisco area Tower Records stores, and via mail order from Backroads Music, 1-800-767-4748.
ELEVATED, Cyberhum (Carte Blanche Music Carte 40627; 40:15), 1994. Techno is raucous and excited, ambient is spacey and typically used to drift off into autohypnotic bliss, and trance combines the two into something ... you can dance off into a dream state to. English band Cyberhum is here creating a dance music grounded more in disco, steadying the beat amidst some metallic and jazzy riffs that cycle and rotate through the songs. Each track flaunts a slightly different origin, with the same destination: cool music. The final cut, "The Well," builds from a random, fractured edit of disharmonious sounds to a slinking march of samples, back beat and sweeping synths -- unusual but unavoidably interesting. Although I can't rate ELEVATED highly, the CD shows promise for future releases. (I understand that lately the band is working orchestrating a "virtual tour," in which audio and visual work will be transmitted to various clubs via ISDN, and local performers can collaborate with the downloaded portions. E-mail email@example.com for further info.)
EM:T 2000, Various Artists (Instinct/t:me ex.311.2; 130:46), 1995. The English ambient/trance label, t:me, keeps on releasing really drifty music that combines rock, jazz and samples from obscure films and TV programs. This double CD is an ample introduction to the variety of their offerings, but I shouldn't mislead you. Each track blends into the next, and the entire suite plays like a very slick soundtrack for a subliminal message IMAX film (should such a creation ever be produced). Each musician/group effects a sly melding of the more conventional space music genre with glossy dance ideology, resulting in a slow canter to chill out to. Some might find the music a bit monotonous, but I was exhilarated by the epic grandeur of the Gas cuts "Shockwaves" and "Microscopic." All of the tracks blend one into the next, some with spoken components, others with such anti-ambient elements as guitar, jazz riffs and trip hop distorted with bagpipes. This CD set was prepared with a 3-D sound imaging process originally developed for film, and it sounds as lush as this would indicate -- the soundscape stretches luxuriously from side to side.
THE EROTIC NATURE OF AUTOMATED UNIVERSES, Mysteries of Science (Instinct AMB:005.2; 64:54), 1995. Continuing in a bold plan to release great ambient/trance music monthly, Instinct recently introduced this offbeat CD. Dominic Woosey here deftly blends the conventional ambient music (spiced with early space music effects), keeping it aloft with some deliberate analog flavouring. What I find refreshing about AUTOMATED UNIVERSES is Woosey's execution: most trance albums start off active and danceable, then mellow to an inner core of aridity, but this work begins cool and orbital, and lands with an extended track of more active music. The final movement, "Interfacing," is a whirling finale of measured intensity, building and layering to its climax. Where the music isn't innovative, its presentation is refreshing. Instinct Ambient's continuing series bears close watching.
THE GRACE OF STRANGE WEATHER, Abstract Speed (Dear Swirl Records CMD9425; 27:46), 1995. Far too short, this understated suite of atmospheric half-melodies floats upon a minimalist bed of ambient chords. Reminding me of the quieter moments of DUNE, STRANGE WEATHER is rather like an echo of the wind over forgotten precipices. Minute disturbances barely touch the soothing surface of this music, a welcome draught of solace from so many ambient works that have carefully applied layers of activity. Abstract Speed has conjured music that is inspired by the seminal work of Brook, Eno and Lanois, and reminds us that space music ... needn't be cluttered by chattering satellites. This is one of those rare gems that you loan out, and end up giving away.
HEAVENLY VOICES III, Various Artists (Hyperium 3910118242; 73:30), 1995. Getting past the obvious gender-specific PC violation of an album featuring lovely, female vocalists isn't easy when the artwork features a haunting image of an attractive woman, bare-breasted, reclining in subdued light. The apt design of the package suits a long-play collection of contemporary music that shouldn't be missed. Hyperium has assembled songs from a variety of independent groups who compose music of the heart ... for the head. Notable contributors include Love Spirals Downwards, Bel Canto, Miranda Sex Garden, Yoko Ueno, Fairies Fortune, This Ascension and others. Good for a relaxed study session, or an intimate, midnight snack with someone special. With so many "alternative" voices signing up with the Big Record Companies, it's a treat to find great groups like these, unencumbered by MTV market pressures, packaged in a great-value compilation like this.
HIGHER OCTAVE COLLECTION 2, Various Artists (Higher Octave HOMCD 7078; 83:34), 1995. Higher Octave is a source of excellent new age/jazz music, and this 2-CD set provides the discerning buyer with a breathless overview of their catalog. Broken up into two discs, Daytime and Nighttime, the set unleashes a mini-concert of the shining stars of HOM. Many of the names here will be familiar to fans of "The Wave"-style radio stations (in San Francisco, KKSF seems to reign supreme): Alter Eko, Craig Chaquico, Deuter, Lara & Reyes, Ottmar Liebert, Neal Schon, Shahin & Sepehr and 3rd Force. Both discs are marvelous, well recommended for light, background listening; in fact, excellent as backdrop tunes for your next dinner party.
MYSTICAL HAUNTS, Michael Milazzo (Fantasongs 1030; 61:36), 1995.This New Jersey musician has authored a nice little set of contemporary, romantic music. There's nothing dark or threatening here, just some nice, genuine music for a lazy Indian Summer afternoon, sipping iced tea and sighing into the ear of a loved one.
MYTHS OF THE NEAR FUTURE PART TWO, Mo Boma (Extreme XCD030; 41:35), 1995. In this second release from a 1993 session, the Australian world beat band Mo Boma brings forth more of their scintillating music. Taking the title and (I presume) a lot of conceptual inspiration from the fiction of J.G. Ballard, band members Carsten Tiedemann, Skuli Sverrisson and Jamshied Sharifi present world music in a new light, by arranging the instruments and melodies against trancey suites of synths and ambience. Sounds easy? Sounds like Deep Forest? Nope, Mo Boma is a well-oiled concept executed with dedicated finesse. MYTHS OF THE NEAR FUTURE races forward in a carriage constructed of polyrhythms and folk instrumentation that belies it's futuristic, sleepy spirit. Listening to the music, one is thrilled by the complexity and spontaneity; focusing elsewhere, the music diffuses into a veil of subdued music that sneaks into earshot. From a base Down Under, Mo Boma reaches out to the world with a musical message that is as enthralling as it is timeless.
SONIC ACUPUNCTURE (Mystery School Vol 2 + 3), Ambient Temple of Imagination (Silent SR9586; 55:57), 1995. Like Richard Sun's previous adventure on Silent (MYSTERY SCHOOL), this album isn't so much a performance of ambient music, as a full-scale journey through a fantasmagorical, audio hallucination. Sun is an aficionado of the origins of today's trance music: psychoactive music of the 60s, and radicals William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, and is said to edit these albums purely in the analog domain (how very un-wired, but the result is lush). As the beats bubble up to the surface for a brief jig, voices echo and invite, as from a television set playing softly in the next room. This form of trance music can be either relaxing or troubling, and ATOI balances the two adroitly. I find myself returning to this disc repeatedly, slipping into a dream conjured up by the needles that ATOI inserts. Imagery and sound come together in this great Silent release, which includes a bonus, live-performance CD.
P r e v i e w W i n d o w
Asphodel is poised for a September release of Sombient's SWARM OF DRONES, the 2-CD follow-up to this spring's unconventional THRONE OF DRONES. This second DRONES release will include works by Biosphere, Jeff Greinke, Vidna Obmana, Robert Rich, Steve Roach and others. It's the second outing in what's planned to be a trilogy of dark-ambient ("sombient") submersions.
Steve Roach is also collaborating with Stephen Kent (Trance Mission) and Kenneth Newby (ECOLOGY OF SOULS) for a Hearts of Space/Fathom release in 1996. Steve's signed a new, exclusive agreement with Stephen Hill's San Francisco record label, and will inaugurate the partnership with THE MAGNIFICENT VOID early next year.
Hearts of Space/Fathom is just releasing Michael Stearns' follow-up to SINGING STONES with Ron Sunsinger. Steve Roach joins the pair on KIVA, named after subterranean ceremonial chambers that Southwest Native Americans gathered in to sing, share stories and experience visions. The album is far better structured, with some unique source recordings of actual kiva rituals.
Been looking for the video to complement Michael Stearn's soundtrack album for BARAKA (Milan)? Not to worry, Ron Fricke's 70mm film, shot in over two dozen countries, is coming out on VHS.
Further south in California, Projekt is preparing to release the Timebase sequel to the eerie TWILIGHT EARTH. Look for #2, featuring Temps Perdu, Suspended Memories and Stephen Kent, late this summer. Projekt has also licensed Steve Roach's THE LOST PIECES from Rubicon, previously available only in Canada and France. It collects several of his most beguiling pieces (composed from 1988-1992) from diverse compilations, some of them really masterful.
R e w i n d / U n w i n d . . .
Hiroshi Inagaki's Musashi Trilogy (SAMURAI I - III, Janus/Nelson Entertainment), Laurie Anderson STRANGE ANGELS (Warner), The Sundays READING, WRITING AND ARITHMETIC and BLIND (DGC), Vangelis THE CITY (Atlantic), Philip Glass GLASSWORKS (CBS), Steve Roach ORIGINS and ARTIFACTS (Celestial Harmonies).
-- D.B. Spalding
(C) Copyright 1995 D.B. Spalding. All rights reserved. Please send e-mail for licensing information.
A self-described multicareerist, D.B. Spalding is a writer, musician, independent radio producer, computer consultant and online sysop; he writes frequently about music, film, computing and the mass- and multimedia.
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