This Just In
16 Oct 95
Trance, dance and lots of spirituality from around the world.
AMBIENT INTERMIX, Various Artists (Instinct AMB1002; 127:08), 1995. Like the WOOB2000 album released previously on Instinct, this compendium of remixes from some of America's rising trance music stars puts the listener in a relaxed state, more receptive to the trippy, beat-laced tunes. It's an unusual set: the preview CD I received didn't list artists, but an accompanying backgrounder indicated that various Instinct artists remixed each other's work, and so this album has a closely-knit, "family" feeling to it. You've got SETI, Human Mesh Dance, Omicron, Adham Shaikh, Escape Tank and others. As the set progresses, the music becomes more introspective, freed from constraints of singularity. Ambient, trance and trip hop take turns sliding from the left speaker to the right; voices and outer space sounds dart and saunter through the sound stage. It's so seamlessly blended, I found it hard to differentiate each track, and as a result think of AMBIENT INTERMIX as a seductive whole, particularly the second disc. It's far more beat-happy than the ambient I usually fall into, but I ... keep playing ... and playing ... and playing ... these discs. You couldn't get them out of my grasp for all the Orb in the world -- go get your own.
ANGELS EMBRACE, Jon Anderson (Higher Octave Music HOMCD 7080; 48:26), 1995. Yes member and Vangelis collaborator Jon Anderson wanted to do a mostly-instrumental album of heavenly music. That he's done. Though it gets a bit syrupy at points, and one track has a rather intrusive background water soundtrack, in all this is excellently crafted music for the spirit. One of the really good Christmas albums of 1995.
BARAKA, Dir. & Photographed by Ron Fricke, Concept by Ron Fricke, Mark Magidson & Bob Green, Music supervision and original score by Michael Stearns (MPI Home Video MP7060; 96:00), 1992, 1995. Original film soundtrack by Michael Stearns/various artists (Milan 73138-35652-2; 48:00), 1992. Named after a Sufi word for "the breath of life," BARAKA is the result of a seven-year filmmaking endeavor by producer Mark Magidson, Directory Ron Fricke (CHRONOS, SACRED SITES) and composer Michael Stearns (THE LOST WORLD, SINGING STONES, and the soundtracks to CHRONOS and SACRED SITES). They've crafted an audio-visual tone poem that meditates on the world and the varied cultures that clamber on its surface. Building on the tradition of Godfrey Reggio's non- verbal documentaries (KOYAANISQATSI and POWAQQATSI), it would seem at first glance to beat the familiar "Man Versus Nature" drum (subtitle: What A Mess We're Making Of Our Planet) ... but it's from that resemblance that the filmmakers diverge. Fricke makes the cinematic exploration a spiritual one. Sure, we gaze upon vistas of natural and manmade landscapes, but we also stare upon landscapes that men and women have etched into their faces -- Japanese Noh performers, Aborigine warriors, rainforest children, they all bear the marks of their cultures. What is the purpose of these illustrations? Perhaps it's all part of a shared belief in something grander than the mere physical world. At every turn, the Fricke lures us in with images of our reverence of the Unknown, and the Unknowable. Stearns' score (a blend of source music and his own sweeping space music) is the narration of the film, the whisper in your ear and the scream across the chasm. His expert use of the soundscape enhances the magnificent imagery, and the union -- Fricke's cinematography and Stearns' music -- becomes a concentrated, lyrical vision that demands our wonder. The film's meaning, and intent, are wholly dependent on the viewer's perceptions and interpretation. What I thought of it ... what you'll think of it ... and what a theatre full of viewers might think of it ... are entirely personal reflections of the enigma on the screen. BARAKA holds up a mirror for us to lose ourselves in. BARAKA is now available on videotape and laserdisc from MPI Home Video. Contact The Visioneering Group, 310-395-4416, for more information. (See my full-length review here.)
ECHNATON'S RETURN, Lothar Krell & Lenny Mac Dowell (Miramar 23063-2; 63:20), 1993, 1995. Continuing in their presentation of world-based, contemporary new age music, Miramar presents this unusual meditation on ancient themes. Similar to some Tangerine Dream (also on Miramar) excursions, Krell and Mac Dowell begin the set with a suggestive, ambient overture, followed by lively interludes. Looking for something new to travel off into? This will get you there and back with a little energy to spare.
GREEN MACHINE, Ben Neill (Astralwerks ASW6159-2; 57:42), 1995. Ben Neill's odd performance incorporating electronics and his mutantrumpet is startling. Both rock and ambient/drone music, the mixture of acoustic wind and keening synthesized instrumentation forms a wall of sound, an electrified aurascape that scintillates and beckons to the listener. Moving forward throughout the entire disc, seemingly turning sound into vector energy, the trumpet slips from conventional to avant-garde poses. It's a crisp rendition of the music to a computer interactive, multimedia installation the composer presented last summer in New York.
LITTLE BUDDHA - THE SECRET SCORE OF TIBETAN CHANT, Various Artists (Milan 73138-35723-2; 39:03), 1995. GENESIS, Original Soundtrack by Ravi Shankar (Milan 73138-35722-2; 40:17), 1995. The mysticism of the East is compelling ... and overpowering. In these two albums from Milan, the tranquillity of the raga, and the alap, flower into contemporary trance, reaching out of the rut of "soundtrack" or "More Hits From..." ghetto. The LITTLE BUDDHA album is a modest soliloquy from another world, traditional music that sounds downright futuristic in its utopian whisper. In addition to dialogue and location music from the film, the CD features music by L. Subramaniam, Zakir Hussain and others. By the uninspiring cover (Keanu Reeves, in period ornamentation), you'd pass it up without a second glance, but by the music, you'd never let it go. Ravi Shankar is a legend it traditional Indian music, and in contemporary realms; his associations with The Beatles, Philip Glass and other have given fruit to some of this century's most enduring innovations. His score for the Marinal Sen film, GENESIS, is an adept setting of folk and classical music of India ... at once familiar, hypnotic and strange. As always, the lilting, echoing quality of the sitar strikes chords deep within the listener's soul, promising insight into mysteries that can only be dreamt of in a speculative spirituality. Listening to these albums, I can imagine Arjuna, alone on a battlefield, seeking to understand the universe and his solitary place in it.
SANCTUARY, Deep Listening Band (Mode 46; 63:13), 1995. A true descendant to this band's classic DEEP LISTENING and THE READY MADE BOOMERANG albums (New Albion Records), SANCTUARY is more improvised ambient music for acoustic instruments ... in a super-acoustic environment. This time out, the Deep Listening Band (current line-up: Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster and David Gamper, with Julie Lyon Balliet contributing vocals to some tracks) performs in the Trinity Methodist Church in New York, the walls of the church rebounding the solemn tones of the musicians. As usual, the resulting improvisations are eerie and beautiful, though the vocals were a bit trying on my patience. For some of the selections, an Electronic Instrument System was employed, by which the band members could manipulate processing of the sounds on-the-fly.
SKYLAB#1, Skylab (Astralwerks 6161-2; 76:15), 1994, 1995. Sporting a cover of blue with gold emblem, this trance & space album lured me in with trip-hop and subtle-dance rhythms, then ascended into a stratosphere of introspective calm. It's soft, slow, surreal and even acoustic in certain parts. A really neat album.
TIME MUSIC OF QUAZARS, Not Breathing (Visible VISCD-1006; 69:58), 1995. Techno music for those on the move. This would bounce off me like typical techno, but that several tracks have an epic sort of grandeur to them. The whole thing is frenetic, as if the electronic instrumentation went amok, all feeding into a hyper-lucid mix of trance music.
P r e v i e w W i n d o w
Silent Records' Kim Cascone tells me he's working on a new Heavenly Music Corporation release, ANECHOIC. It'll be a departure from previous efforts (LUNAR PHASE was the most recent); as he puts it, "...A lot less bliss and a bit more grit...."
Manifold Records is putting together the sequel to ENDLESS Vol. 1, a long-play, compilation of exclusive "isolationism" cuts from Lull, James Paul Schutze, Sheephead and others. The new release will feature new cuts by Thomas Koner, Robert Rich, Final, Voice Of Eye, Steve Roach, Nicky Skopelitis / Bill Laswell, Controlled Bleeding, Null and Mandible Chatter. This promises to be dark ambience worth looking for. Due in October is GRACE, a new album by Mandible Chatter. Reminiscent of O Yuki Conjugate and A Produce, it's an exotic concoction of tripped-out ambience punctuated by complex rhythms.
Bruce BecVar has collaborated with his brother Brian and Deepak Chopra, MD, on a three-part album set, THE MAGIC OF HEALING (Shining Star Productions). It's light and soothing instrumental music, geared to providing sounds to aid in healing or bringing unity to your space. The three CDs, VATA, PITTA and KAPHA, are based on the three "doshas" of Ayurvedic medicine. Beyond the particular times of day that the CDs are meant to complement (each of my advance tapes featured a "morning" and "evening" side), the music is appropriate to play continuously, as they introduce a taste of tranquillity to your home.
R e w i n d / U n w i n d . . .
Robert Rich NUMENA, GEOMETRY (Linden) and YEARNING (with Lisa Moskow; Hearts of Space/Fathom), Vidna Obmana THE SPIRITUAL BONDING (Extreme), RIVERDANCE (Irish dance extravaganza, music by Bill Whelan featuring Davey Spillane; video of live performance), Porcupine Tree's THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS (C&S Records), Akira Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI (in a new film-to-tape transfer), Brian Eno, Rogero Eno, Daniel Lanois APOLLO (Editions EG), Dead Can Dance A PASSAGE IN TIME (Ryko), Tuu ALL OUR ANCESTORS (Waveform).
-- D.B. Spalding
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.
(C) Copyright 1995 D.B. Spalding. All rights reserved.
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