28 July 1996
Whirling souls, black marble, and dark dreams.
BLACK MARBLE & SWEET FIRE, Al Gromer Khan and Kai Taschner (Hearts of Space HS11061-2; 50:02), 1996. His previous release, MAHOGANY NIGHTS (Hearts of Space), was a dreamy, ambient excursion in to a Middle Eastern dreamscape; Robert Rich's lush PROPOGATION delved into the same shifting sands of slow, introspective music (in Rich's case, climbing inside the traditional form of "alap"). This new album has a decidedly peppier kick, introducing lazy backbeats and slow dancing impulses to half-light serenade. Khan's command of melody is sustained ... the drama simply shifts to a more active stage. Another sharp release from Hearts of Space.
EVERYONE WILL EVENTUALLY LEAVE YOU, SoulWhirlingSomewhere (Projekt PRO61; 60:26), 1996. In this moody follow-up to his 1993 release on Projekt, EATING THE SEA (PRO43), Michael Plaster introduced a singularly dark voice to the otherwise slick world of ambient music. His arrangements of lush synths, solemn guitar and morose vocals had disturbing presence, and several tracks immediately became favorites. This CD doesn't disappoint the listener who's longed for more of the same. Though a couple of tracks drift into a sort of self-absorption (not exactly a long vault for cutting edge gothic music), but overall this is a dark, somber ... and totally hypnotic album.
GRACE, Mandible Chatter (Manifold MANCD05; 56:54), 1995. As Mandible Chatter, Neville Harson and Grant Miller record rather subtle, dark sonnets. The opening track, "Nevermind the Credits; Start the Dream" is a disorienting track, opening with odd voices and scraping sounds, as if heard from the Theatre of the Grotesque next door ... but sinks into your head with gentle guitars and vocals. It puts you a little off balance for the quirky music that follows ... which includes "The Silent Presence," a droning piece that introduces subtle shadings of background edginess. Ambient, dreamlike and inventive, GRACE is a quizzical album that goes well with those by O Yuki Conjugate and Tuu; the percussive and otherworldly portions are fresh and unexpected.
HOW ABOUT NOW, Meridian Dream (Visible Records VISCD- 1007; 71:40), 1995. Like earlier releases on this label, Meridian Dream's disc is a dense, psychotropic album combining the sounds of ambient, trance and sampled dialog. Their music is less juxtaposed than most efforts in this genre, and the result has an epic, unhurried pace to it. Beginning with a sweeping, spacey overture, the album jigs from upbeat, danceable tracks ("Automatic Transmission") to more introspective refrains ("Nazarene," "Insect Soul Dream"), ending in a moving piece ("Chicone") that uses voice and rhythm to wrap it all up. Very nice.
IF THEN ... ELSE, Candice Pacheco (RGB Records RGB503-2; 46:44), 1995. This is the musical genius of someone who finishes everyone's leftover cappuccino, then bebops into the studio to whip up some hyper-inspired electro-world music. As a member of the live, multi-MIDI performance group (audiences even get to participate in creating the music) D'Cuckoo, Candice Pacheco's known around the Bay Area as an innovator with an inspired bent. The music here is as spontaneous as it is hyperactive. Some tracks become too busy, but others such as "In Two & Then" and "With the Light Still On" delighted me with memorable hooks that erupted out of sophisticated combinations of instrumentation and catchy melodic development. Most albums this jammed get on my nerves, but Candice's measures flirt with my ears and tickle my antsy right to the end, when I feel like my ears have been taken on a wild rollerblade ride through her imagination.
NARRATIVES: MUSIC FOR FICTION, Robert Rich, Paul Schütze, Voice of Eye (Manifold MANCD08; 55:40), 1996. With this new compilation, Vince Harrigan adds to his ENDLESS series with another striking work of original, ambient thinking. Three leading ambient composers have penned music based on a literary inspiration: "Kalimantan" by Lucious Shepard, Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha," and "Starmaker" by Olaf Stapledon. Each of the artists composed separately, but the album has a wholeness that captured me. The dark, "take me away" power of these three pieces is remarkable.
SONG OF THE IRISH WHISTLE, Joanie Madden (Hearts of Space 11060-2; 54:01), 1996. Joanie's well know for her work with the American Irish music group Cherish The Ladies, garnering strong notices from both sides of the Atlantic. On this release on Hearts of Space (rapidly becoming a strong new source of contemporary Celtic music), she explores a more relaxed, progressive side of the gentle whistle. Backed by an impressive array of accompanists on various acoustic and electronic instruments, she shines and ancient light into contemporary waters, much as Nightnoise, Enya and Clannad have in their efforts. She shines on one particular song, "Women of Ireland" -- I'm a sucker for this tune, so memorably arranged many years ago by The Chieftain's Paddy Moloney for the love theme in Stanley Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON. Like Kubrick's film, Madden's album is a sly invasion into the soul, introducing the Celtic tradition to contemporary ears.
I recently received an advance copy of the mesmerizing new Dead Can Dance album, SPIRITCHASER (4AD 2/4-46230; 51:58). One could expect no less from Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard -- their previous incarnations have been mystic, ethereal, disturbing and wholly original. This album mixes their trademark Early Music background with new innovations, including an instrumental lifted from The Beatles' "Within You, Without You," if I recall correctly. This disc will cement their well-deserved, worldwide prominence.
-- D.B. Spalding
D.B. Spalding is a cross-media “infopreneur”: columnist, reviewer, producer, consultant and online content developer. He writes frequently about music, film, computing and the mass- and multimedia. Many of his articles can be found on the World Wide Web at www.korova.com.
Contact Information4AD/Warner (US), 8533 Melrose Avenue Suite B, Los Angeles, CA 90069, fax: 310-289-8680
Extreme, c/o OUTSIDE MUSIC, 25 Defries Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5A 3R4, Canada fax: 416-364-1685
Hearts of Space, PO Box 31321, San Francisco, CA 94131 fax: 415-759-1166 e-mail: email@example.com WWW: http://www.hos.com/
Manifold, PO Box 12266, Memphis, TN 38182 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Projekt, Box 1591, Garden Grove, CA 92642-1591
RGB Records, a division of Hearts of Space, PO Box 31321, San Francisco, CA 94131 fax: 415-759-1166 e-mail: email@example.com WWW: http://www.hos.com/
Visible Records, 2443 Fillmore Street #336, San Francisco, CA 94115 fax: 415-380-3963 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact information for record labels whose material we've reviewed. (Updated periodically.)