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Andreas Akwara “Solar Eclipse” (Andreas Akwara Music, 2002)

On this CD by German electronic musician Andreas Akwara you will find eight pieces of Space Music. The music flows gently, dragging you to the depths of the cosmos. This is perfect late light listening to put on the headphones and just sit and relax after a hard working day.

The album is divided into eight parts called “Solar Eclipse Part I”, “Solar Eclipse Part II” etc. Each track has all classic components of Space Music with some extras. You will find drifting tonalities, atmospheric pads, laid back rhythms and occasional sequences and synth effects. Pretty evocative and calming stuff. Once in a while Andreas uses some unusual and experimental textures that sets this work apart from the majority of Space Music albums.

This is original and interesting music that is sometimes rhythmic, but is generally very relaxing and slow. Recommended.

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Edward Artemiev "A Book of Impressions" (Electroshock Records, 2000)

"A Book of Impressions" is a collection of pieces recorded by Edward Artemiev during the 1975 - 1996 period. The album starts with "Out There, Where" from 1988. The atmosphere of grandeur is strongly felt here and overall the sound reminds me on some of Vangelis' work on "Direct". The melody is top-notch, by the way. Then comes "I'd Like To Return" (1993), the first part of which features abstract harsh noises and then comes a very calm and peaceful section with subtle synthesized choirs and pads. The contrast works extremely well here. The only other artist I can think of, that uses contrasts so effectively, is Klaus Schulze. A great track! "Ritual" (1991) is a short piece with low drones forming a mysterious melody. "Three Regards on Revolution" (1987) has three different sections and is also very strong piece. "Touch to the Mystery" (1993) is a small mysterious piece, while "In the Nets of Time"(1993) is a rhythmic sequencer number. The track is a bit too short. "Noosphere" (1975) is one of his mid-seventies masterpieces, very ambient. "Mirage" is a warm, spacey piece reminding of Vangelis and Kitaro. "Intangible" (1996) features wailing guitar sounds over strange rhythmic backdrop. We finally get to "Peregrini" (1975). The track was recorded in 1975, but it seems to me that some new sounds were added during remixing. The basis of the composition remained intact, though. It starts with fast tribal rhythms, then cosmic effects and strange voice reciting and after the prolonged intro - yes, you guessed it - a sequence appears which drives the rest of the track along. The track is one of the masterpieces of Electronic Music, right up there with Schulze's "Timewind" and Tangerine Dream's "Rubycon". To sum up: a very diverse collection, but extremely enjoyable. Highest recommendations!

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BIOnighT "Afterpost" (BIOnighT, 2001)

If you call yourself a Berlin School fan and can't get enough of those nasty old sequences, you MUST hear this album. Each track is a rhythmic onslaught of classic pulsations done with real attitude. I think this is my favourite BIOnighT album so far. Every track here is a winner. Ironically, the album was created during BIOnighT's worst period, when the group nearly split. Sure, the fact is evident in the music, as the bright and sunny moments of the first CD are gone and replacing them are dark, throbbing synthetics with great depth and feeling.
The album starts with the title track. We hear dark atmospheric pads for a few seconds before lovely sequences appear along with some percussive sounds. More sequences are added and before we know it, we quickly enter the classic Berlin School territory on top of those pulsating synth waves. Really strong stuff. I think it's one of the most intense EM pieces I've heard. Just get sequenced and float away in space! By the middle of the track there are so many sequences that you can't count them. The sounds constantly mutate - you won't be bored. Some melodies are also added. Listen loudly!
Next is "Saturdaydown". Straight to the business here with heavy synthetic rhythms and dark cosmic atmospheres. Intense is again the appropriate word here. Turn up that volume and enjoy this great ride. The track sounds retro and modern at the same time. It is greatly done with some nice synth detail here and there and the sounds are very tasty. Again, a rather dark (even sad) atmosphere predominates here. By the way, that symphonic lead line towards the end is just majestic.
"Snowy Park" is a little (4+ minutes) atmospheric number with just enough melodic sequences to keep any Berlin School fans on their toes. There are echoes of mid-80's Tangerine Dream here.
"Motherwater" is right away into heavy sequences. It is a rhythmic outing with several overlapping sequenced patterns playing their symphony, creating something like an electronic sonic soup. It does resemble in some way the mxing of water currents in the ocean. Some subtle lead lines are added on top of the ever present pulsations. Hard to figure out why, but the track has something of a schulzian flair to it. Maybe it's the same kind of urgency that is felt in some of Schulze's early to mid-80's works.
Finally, "Evolution Dawn" starts things with heavy reverberating gong sound and then POW! Real heavy sequences are added, two or three at a time. This is really intense. The adrenaline rises as we are propelled straight back to the primordial forests where huge reptiles roamed. Really evocative and strong stuff, I must add. The level of energy is kept on top mark throughout as more sequences come in and out of the mix. Some hammond-like organ leads are added which was a curious addition that sets this track apart from other EM works.
After the album is over you still want more. This is really strong and interesting music that will make any classic EM fan drool. Mac and FaBIO have done it again! 


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BIOnighT "Daybreak" (BIOnighT, 2002)

The title track starts things up with energetic sequences and a blistering synth solo. Great hypnotic track which every fan of Electronic Music will love. The soloing is superb. By the way, great solos seem to be the trademark of this album, unlike previous one, which focused more on sequences. This doesn't mean, however, that this album features none of those classic pulsations. In fact, sequences are featured more or less on every track. It's just that the focus is more on soloing this time. Great track and I loved every minute of it. "Mosse dal Vento" has a very beautiful and atmospheric beginning and then extends on a very laid back groove. The calmer piece on the album. In contrast, "Nodune" features a steady mid-paced sequenced rhythm and atmospheric sounds which take the role of the solo voice from time to time. Fans of early 80's Tangerine Dream should hear this. Great piano / sequence combination near the end. "Mind Probe" surprises with sharp energy bursts until fast sequence appears which is joined by those typical Arabic lead lines that call to mind "Body Love" or "Mirage". Excellent track that no synth music fan should do without. Absolutely mesmerizing and should be played loud. Those solos do not get any better than this! The closing sounds have something about them which I cannot explain but find extremely appealing. Equally energetic is "Metropolitis", although this track is a bit more repetitive. At just 2.47 in length, this is no handicap and after you know it, the track is over and we move into "Rachele", a remix by FaBIO of a track originally written by Mac. Well, this is certainly a very beautiful piece: slow (compared to the majority of the CD) and atmospheric. At 2.00 minutes it sounds more like a musical sketch, and a very good sketch it is, I must add. "Boreal Light" starts with atmospheric choirs before we hear mid-paced sequence which is joined by yet another one, forming the backbone for the extremely enjoyable and evocative electronic trip. Those cello sounds add certain spice to the already great track. An easy-going and relaxed feeling (which often characterizes the album) permeates this composition. The mellotron-like (not mellotron, though) choirs return near the end. We then get a remix by FaBIO of the title track which is as good as the original before "Sequoia Rossa" finishes this awesome album with arpeggiating synths and lots of atmospheric sounds and tribal-like rhythms.

Verdict: The third chapter of BIOnighT's "Cosmic Trilogy" really shows how talented these guys are. The album will give you about an hour of pure listening pleasure, creating the most vivid images in your mind. No synth music fan should do without having it in his collection.

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Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij “Return To the Origin” (Emmens/Heij, 2004)

Ruud Heij: ARP Odyssey, ARP Sequencer, Arrick Modular System (synthesizers.com), Doepfer MAQ 16/3, EMS Synthi A, Moog 55 Modular System, Minimoog, Clavia Nord Modular, Yamaha A4000 (with mellotron set), Yamaha S30, Korg Wavestation EX.

Gert Emmens: ARP Pro Soloist, Elka Rhapsody 610, Elka Solist 505, 2 Minimoogs, Polymoog Synthesizer, Moog Sonic 6, Roland M-VS1 (mellotron), 2 Yamaha’s AN1X, Yamaha SY85, Hohner (Logan) String Melody II.

I must admit that with the announced album of traditional Berlin School Electronic Music I was a bit fearful that it will be a complete copy of 70’s Tangerine Dream, but thankfully this is not the case. Sure, the structure of the tracks is genuinely Berlin School and the sequences and soloing do bring to mind some of the classic TD/Klaus Schulze stuff, but it’s certainly not a rip-off. The tracks on this album are traditionally long and drumless, all rhythmic elements being provided by the ubiquitous sequences.

“Vortex” has long atmospheric introduction of the dark variety. It’s a tad similar to “Rubycon”, but pretty unique overall and very moody. It’s only inevitable, though, that after around the 6:50 mark, fast sequences appear that are complimented by the brief EMS effects. It’s an energetic but flowing track. More sequences are added together with background pads. The sequences slightly change here and there to keep things interesting. Warm analog string sounds are a welcome addition. The solos are also pretty tasteful. As the sequences subside, the track ends with another atmospheric section. Next we have the title track that starts with choirs and strange otherworldly sounds. Very delicious! A harmonic higher-register sequence is added along with soft EMS sounds. This is soon replaced by fast Rubycon-type fat analog bass sequence. This is 100 % Berlin School. Fortunately, it’s not very derivative at this point. I say fortunately because a 100th copy of Tangerine Dream circa 1975 is certainly not what I’d like to hear. The solos are top-notch - lovely analog timbre. Overall, the track is a sequencer fan’s paradise. “Solaris” is a busy track that’s straight into up tempo melodic sequences. It’s beautiful stuff that’s similar to Gert Emmens’ solo music because of the Elka harmonica solos and the use of the pads. At 8:34 , it’s the shortest cut on the album. Now the longest cut, “Life in Motion”. Very deep and atmospheric beginning, sparse EMS flashes here and there, strange sounds and very deep windy whooshing, almost on the edge of hearing at times. Then a fat sawy sound appears out of nowhere, something like slightly distorted analog strings, pretty dramatic and evocative. The sequence arrives at around the 5:06 mark, soon joined by another one and then another one, in the bass register. All then settles into a steady rhythmic groove with soloing on top, similar to some of Schulze’s seventies stuff. This section is a bit too derivative for my tastes, mainly because of the solo timbre. The track ends with that already familiar analog string sound. “So Long”, the last track on the album is also the best one. It manages to be gentle and comforting, although a bit mysterious, while at the same time having a mind-bending, super-fast sequence throughout its middle part.

I’d like to mention the mixing. The album sounds as if it was recorded on analog tape. Therefore, it is possible that Ron Boots (who mastered the album) or the musicians themselves made use of the “analog” function on the desk, although I wouldn’t bet on it.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable album of Electronic Music that all sequencer heads will love!

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Frank Gingeleit “Nightmares & Escapades” (private release, 2002)  

Frank Gingeleit: guitar, guitar synthesizer, fx.

This release features 8 tracks of experimental ambient music. To create his unusual soundscapes, Frank Gingeleit uses only guitar, guitar synthesizer and effects. And this is truly amazing, how Frank can get such diverse and extraordinary sounds from his limited setup. You’d never guess from listening to this music that everything was achieved via triggering sound from a guitar controller. There are pad sounds, drum sounds, guitar sounds, abstract and unidentifiable sounds, so, as you can guess it, the music is not limited to just dist guitar or overdrive. The compositions are pretty much static, with few changes during the course of each track, but interesting, nevertheless. The title track has great pads and atmospheric sounds and is not as dark as the title would suggest. Quite similar is “Everest! – “And Then?”, although a bit more busy. “Going Native” features a lot of tribal rhythms; “Abstract Jazz” is calm and generally rhythmless, while “Fractals” is dissonant and a bit harsh. “Go Space, Young Man” is rhythmic with some drum sounds, and “X-tra-Terrestial Language Studies” features lots of abstract electronic sounds. The gorgeous “The Industrialization of Mars” (great title!) is in my opinion the best track of the lot and features rather appropriate industrial atmosphere. Overall, a great collection, especially if you are already bored with “ordinary” ambient Electronic Music.

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Frank Gingeleit “Megalopolis” (private release, 2003)

Frank Gingeleit: Yamaha AN1x

The second Frank Gingeleit album sees a complete change of instrumentation from guitar synthesizer and effects to pure virtual analog synthesis. All pieces on this album were created using just the Yamaha AN1x synthesizer. The music is highly repetitious and at times approaches the territory of the so-called classic Electronic Music, i.e. Berlin School. The hypnotic quality of sound is what differentiates this work from the previous effort. Whereas “Nightmares & Escapades” was highly atmospheric and ambient, if not particularly calming, “Megalopolis” sees Frank pumping up those sequences and heavy analog sounds. At times the intensity is simply overwhelming – just listen to the track “Adjust Your Clock” – it will probably meltdown your speakers on high volumes. As stated before, each track is a study of heavy repetitious modeled analog sound, built in intricate sequences or cycling musical phrases. There is one exception, though. The last track, called “Sacred Mountains Serenade” is actually pretty flowing and even relaxing, as it features no rhythms, relying instead on atmospheric pad and string sounds, still generated by that same virtual analog synth.

So, an odd diversion, this one, but quite interesting.

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Frank Gingeleit "Toy Island" (private release, 2003)

The third Frank Gingeleit album sees him experimenting once again, this time adding a home keyboard designed for dance music to his setup of guitar synthesizer and virtual analogue synth. The result is pretty intriguing. You will find some already familiar elements wrapped in a rhythmical blanket which sounds modern, but you can hardly dance to it. In fact, the album is highly experimental. There are tracks which sound like nursery rhymes put to music and done in a twisted way. Others feature thick rhythms and floating pads, with liquid soloing on top like the title track in two parts which is the centerpiece of the album. On Part Two you will find some rhythm changes that make the music even more interesting. Sometimes Frank comes up with really weird sounds, like on “Talk with Your Children”, where the textures may hint at voices or other natural instruments, but they end up sounding so unique that I’d be hard pressed to even try to describe them. In the CD sleeve Frank points out, that no samplers were used during the making of the music and all sounds on the album were achieved with the filters, modulators and arpeggiators of a synthesizer.

This is probably my favorite album of Frank Gingeleit so far. It is perfect toy music that all adult children will like. Also kudos to Britt Neuhaus for such beautiful and cute artwork.

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Hal McGee “My Brain” (CDR, 2003)  

This disc from 2003 features more than 77 minutes of pure collaged noise from one of the veterans of underground cassette scene. Hal McGee has been making Electronic Music for more than 20 years. During the early 80’s he released many albums of homemade music under the moniker “Dog as Master”. He has collaborated with a lot of luminaries from the underground electronic / noise scene.

The disc contains just two long tracks: “Look At the Mess I Have Made!” and “Propagation Disturbation”. Each track is a crazy collage of concrete sounds and Hal’s own voice reading out loud from e-mails he has sent, as well as describing the process of making the CD, etc. You can also find theremin, piano improvisations, percussion, short wave radio, analog synth sounds, and so on. You won’t find any melodies or structure here. Hal is obviously having fun on this album; there are no boundaries for him. He does whatever he wants to do, creating what can only be described as real sonic mess. Moreover, Hal doesn’t hide his intentions to create this mess, in contrast to some other artists that create similarly disjointed works while at the same time trying to justify their messy results by means of “clever” theories or obscure philosophies. Hal certainly shows his sense of humor calling one of his compositions “Look At the Mess I Have Made!” By the way, this “mess” turns out to be quite interesting as a whole. It is irritating and strangely comforting at the same time, like our own life itself, full of contradictions and disorder.

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Klaus Schulze “Irrlicht” (Ohr, 1972)  

This album represents three monolithic slabs of sound from 1972. It was Klaus’ debut as a solo musician and it still sounds fresh and daring today. The music will take you on an otherworldly journey through the vastness of space. Some may argue that the music found here sounds cold and inhuman, but after repeated listens this album reveals sheer beauty found in the music. This attitude often appears when listeners with untrained ear face Electronic Music for the first time. Human mind tries to associate everything that’s coming out of speakers with something familiar, something which is around us, not being prepared yet to look INSIDE us, as well as above and beyond… The key to understanding lies in the basic approach of listening to music. If you listen closely and listen several times, your ears will become familiar with the otherworldly flow of sound and you suddenly reach the point where you will be able to see the beauty, depth and, yes, SOUL hidden in these classic gems.  If you use your imagination, you won’t be limited to just the mundane anymore and then maybe you will discover an abyss of infinite worlds that fill the cosmos.

The tracks that make up this album are: “Satz Ebene”, “Satz Gewitter” and “Satz Exil Sils Maria”. The album starts with deep otherworldly sounds and distant orchestra bursts from time to time. We then proceed to the lengthy electronic organ-led section forming a flowing and mesmerizing wall of sound. The organ sounds also have some rhythmic elements in them. We then face the breathtaking contrast (typical of Schulze) where the previous busy section is replaced with atmospheric effects and very deep sounds. It’s as if the storm is approaching. The air is heavy; you look up at the sky and see distant lightnings cut through the dark clouds. The album finishes with flowing atmospheric section, very beautiful and totally out-there. A great debut and a real classic which should be listened to with open mind to be fully appreciated.

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Klaus Schulze “Picture Music” (Brain, 1973)

Klaus Schulze: EMS VCS3, ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, Solina String Ensemble, Farfisa Professional Duo, drums.

On “Picture Music” you will find two long tracks synthesized and recorded by Schulze in 1973 and released on LP two years later. Both are masterpieces of Klaus’ early period and essential for any Electronic Music fan. Truly progressive works, full of imagination and feeling. Schulze uses a variety of synths to create his otherworldly symphonies, with ARP 2600 and ARP Odyssey being especially prominent on track one, and ARP 2600 and VSC3 – on track two. Apart from his synths, Klaus also plays drums on the second track which gives it a rockier feel.

The first track is called “Totem” and it features sequenced electronic rhythm while other instruments improvise on top of this rhythmic base. It has a phenomenal ending with multiple cosmic themes done with real attitude. It is sometimes hard to believe that this stuff was recorded in 1973. It sounds so fresh and daring, even by today’s standards. Truly timeless music that should be heard by all synth fans.

The second track (“Mental Door”) starts in the atmospheric way until drums appear and it all turns into an aggressive and ferocious synth / drums workout. This is probably a unique example of Schulze playing his synths in such an aggressive manner. Heldon would be proud to call it their own. The album is brought to an end with typical schulzian contrast and the following mild and atmospheric section with cosmic melodies and twittering synths, while drums take the back seat and eventually fade out with the rest of the sounds.

This is a classic album of Electronic Music done by a true genius. Excellent!

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Klaus Schulze “Blackdance” (Brain, 1974)

Schulze's album from 1974 is easily one of the classics of Electronic Music. A great work that differs from maestro's other works of the same era in that it is generally more brooding and dark. The first track "Ways of Changes" starts with gentle acoustic guitar playing (!) and soft organ lines and just when you start to wonder if you're listening to a Schulze album at all and begin looking at the cover to check out once again if there's really Klaus' name on it - in comes a steady rhythm over which Schulze unleashes monster synthesizer sounds. By the end of the track - as is often with Klaus' music - you're totally exhausted! Brilliant powerful track! Very experimental. "Some Velvet Phasing" features just that. A study in electronic phased sound. But, again, as always with Klaus' music, it's not simply aimless synthesizer noodling. It's a very beautiful track that manages to trigger the imagination with it's simple but effective proceedings. Again, a great track! Finally, we have "Voices of Syn" that starts with Ernst Walter Simeon's operatic vocals. He sings a Verdi collage here. Then, his spooky voice is joined by phased electronic textures. The atmosphere is VERY dark, VERY scary. Later the track evolves into a strange rhythmic outing which ends on a very incredible climax! This is a damn fine album from the great maestro of Electronic Music. Don't expect easy listening stuff here. Listen carefully! This demands your full attention and, believe me, it will grow on you. A masterpiece! 

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Klaus Schulze “Body Love” (Brain, 1977)  

1977. Klaus Schulze plays the Big Moog, EMS Synthi A, Minimoog, Polymoog, PPG, Korg 3300, ARP 2600, mellotron Mark V with Harald Grosskopf on drums. 

Klaus' "Body Love" is a soundtrack for Lasse Braun's film of the same name, but don't let the fact confuse you. In spite of being a musical score for second grade porno - this is prime electronics, and you would never tell that this is a soundtrack by just listening to this music. In fact, this is one of Klaus' masterpieces. (are there any of his works, that can't be considered masterpieces at all?) Three flowing works that define the genre of Berlin School. "Stardancer" has a very atmospheric beginning and after you hear the first cosmic shimmerings emanating from the speakers (or headphones, which is recommended) you already know that this will be a real treat. A punchy sequence emerges, on top of which Schulze plays monstrous minimoog solos. And this bliss goes on and on and on.. My God, this is pure analog heaven! Don't think that there's not enough variety - the melodies NEVER repeat themselves and the sounds are not static, changing and mutating constantly, dragging you to a real whirlpool of fat electronic sound. Absolutely mesmerizing and totally out there. In fact, otherworldliness is the feature of the whole album, which feels like one continuous journey to the farthest reaches of space. This extraterrestrial quality of music is both hypnotic and fascinating. "Blanche" is next. I don't know what to say about it except that it's probably the most beautiful piece of music I've heard. A VERY strong track, IMHO. "P.T.O" is the last piece and it's a real epic. A solid slab of pulsing synthetics and spacey atmospherics. The piece reaches it's rhythmic climax and stops abruptly only to give way to a very slow and atmospheric ending. This is all very epic sounding and almost impossible to explain - too delicious for words. Klaus uses contrasts quite often and I find his way of using them to be really effective. This is a very strong ending to a brilliant album! Bravo, maestro! 

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Klaus Schulze “Miditerranean Pads” (Brain, 1990)

Let's get it straight to the point - I LOVE this album. It contains some of the most beautiful music I've heard from Klaus (and from anybody else for that matter), retaining the experimental edge, because it's still good old Klaus Schulze doing his stuff. "Decent Changes" is a mild and calm piece but quite rhythmic with lots of percussive sounds. The melody is typical Schulze - very sublime and effective. A sad, and at the same time bright, even nostalgic piece, capable of bringing tears in your eyes and sending shivers down your spine. (most of Schulze's music is capable of doing so if you listen closely) The piece lasts for half an hour and after it's over you still want more. Next is "Miditerranean Pads" which is an absolute masterpiece (as if the previous one wasn't). The track is very melodic but you can't hum along to it because of it's intricacy and sheer beauty, just lay back and enjoy it's atmospheric flow. It's classically powerful and is not like anything I've heard. The last track "Percussion Planante" is a very complex work involving more elements that I can count. It's one of the pinnacles of Klaus' sampling-dominated creative period. One thing to note is that although the album continues the tradition of play-with-words titles, clearly indicating Klaus' fascination with MIDI technology at that time, the whole thing actually has MEDITERRANEAN atmosphere to it, at least so it sounds to me. Maybe because of the percussion or some other particular sounds - it's hard to tell. But the album does call to mind my stays in Spain and Italy, which makes it an even more pleasant listening.

Verdict: the sounds chosen are tasty and interesting, as usual, the compositions superb, so, yes, an absolutely recommendable work.

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Klaus Schulze “Das Wagner Desaster” (ZYX, 1994)

"Das Wagner Desaster" double CD consists of recordings from Klaus' 1994 concerts in Paris and Rome. This album is very unusual as it features several remixes of basically the same tracks on both CD's. In other words, "Wagner" from CD 1 is basically the same piece as "Liebe" from CD 2. And "Nietzsche" from CD 1 is the same piece as "Hass" from CD 2. The versions are entitled "Wild Mix" for CD 1 and "Soft Mix" for CD 2. This should give some indication about the differences between two versions. Besides the above mentioned two tracks, each CD is complimented with one more track, both being the encores from Paris and Rome, respectively. Ok, so what's the music like? It absolutely outstanding, masterful work, almost Wagnerian in scope (no wonder). The concept is (I think) the confrontation between Nietzsche (whom Klaus seemingly associates with hate) and Wagner (who is associated with love) and how Wagner influenced Nietzsche's philosophical views but later they turned away from each other. Fittingly, the album is really strong and dramatic. This should've sounded absolutely fantastic live. There are plenty of sampled operatic voices and this gives a very thoughtful quality to the music. Although Klaus' trademark minimoog solos are not very frequent here and not so aggressive (in comparison with, say, "Dosburg Online" where he goes absolutely mad with soloing), anyone who thinks of Electronic Music as of the aimless wallpaper muzak that couldn't cut through soft butter should listen to this. We will be ready to accept his apologies.

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Klaus Schulze “Historic Edition” (Manikin / Serie Poeme, 1995)

Well, saying that "Historic Edition" is an absolute must for any EM enthusiast would be incorrect simply because of the cost of this 10-CD set. But for hardcore Schulze fan it is an essential collection. I will not describe every CD in detail, as it would take too much place anyway. Let us just say that the "Historic Edition" set provides us with a lot of classic Schulze material - both concert and studio and for those that are interested in the golden era of Klaus' Electronic Music this is a real find. The most funny thing is that after listening to this huge collection you actually want MORE of this stuff. It's still not enough. Any more "historic editions" planned, Klaus? 

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Klaus Schulze “Dosburg Online” (WEA, 1997)

This album is composed of several live outtakes with Roelof Oostwoud guesting on two tracks. The first track is "L'Age C'ore" and it is a great atmospheric number with bell-like tones and that typical KS flow that tends to lull and disturb at the same time. "Requiem furs Revier" is hated by some fans. As for me, I think this is a fantastic track! Roelof Oostwoud's vocals are very emotional and (despite the lyrics) the track really works well for me. Oh, and that mellotron strings playing from Klaus is simply matchless. "Groove'n'Bass" takes us into rhythmic territory as Klaus emphasizes drummachine rhythms for a while before "Get Sequenced" takes things back home with great synth sequences (no pun intended) emerging out of nowhere. And then POW! Minimoog kicks in, as we are propelled into the appropriately titled "The Power of Moog". The track is (in fact, when I say "the track" I just mean certain section, because most of the tracks here flow into each other) really powerful and raw, the level of energy emanating from it is impossible to describe. As if it was not enough, "Up, Up And Away" doubles up the speed as we are taken straight into the stratosphere with this pulsating, groaning and screaming electronic soup! I'm simply starting to run out of words here. THIS IS Electronic Music! This is what the energy and raw synthetic power is like! Sequences pulsate, drummachines hammer, minimoog roars... Hell, this is truly aggressive and strong stuff, let alone the fact that it manages to sound alien and spacey at the same time. And then...it's all gone! It stops quite abruptly as if the energy is out of reach now and we are left with some pretty brief sound snippets before everything becomes silent. WOOOW! "From Dusk Till Dawn" is a very gentle number and listening to this after what has gone before is like.. I don't know. It is as if you are on a space station and you see lots of huge spacecrafts passing by with enormous roars (I know there is no sound in vacuum :-) and then, after they're gone, you're on your own again, the excitement is gone. You're lonely. Yes, I get this feeling when listening to this. Great track. It flows into "The Art of Sequencing" which is, again, a great track! Needless to say, the sequences are impeccable and overall the track has many of those "typical KS" qualities to it. If some friends ask you "what is Electronic Music?" - play this track to them. It is very representative, IMHO. The album finishes with "Primavera", misprinted as "Prima Vera" on the CD sleeve. This is another fine atmospheric track featuring Roelof Oostwoud's vocals over Schulze's electronic backdrop. Verdict: You can't realize the power that lies within Electronic Music, until you listen to this. A must have! 

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Tangerine Dream “The Keep Special Edition” (TDI, 1983)

This is a reissued 1983 motion picture soundtrack with a few extras, I guess. The first thing to notice is that the tracks are usually longer than your normal soundtrack album, usually clocking at no less than 3 or 4 minutes. The sound quality is top-notch and the music sounds as if it was recorded just yesterday. I’m not sure which amount of “tangentizing” (remixing of tracks by Froese with the addition of some sounds) was actually made, but most of the tracks sound as if they were left mostly intact. There is one odd track, though, namely “Love and Destiny” which sounds like it was recorded in late 80’s, instead of 1983. This composition seems to be played by Froese.

As for the material itself, it ranges from slow and mysterious pieces to upbeat cheering melodic stuff, which is a bit at odds with the more haunting material. It’s not their best soundtrack, but it has its moments. By the way, I should notice “Arx Allemand” as one of the most unusual tracks ever written by Froese. It really shows his talent, because I never thought that Froese is able to compose music like that. It basically sounds like a classical piece performed on synthesizers with a folky German tinge. The last track “Heritage Survival” is classic “Logos”-era Tangerine Dream. A great tune.

I’ve never actually seen the movie, so I can’t comment on it, but as for the music itself, it’s a bit uneven collection, although for a soundtrack album this is something to be expected. Essential item for any fan of Tangerine Dream.

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Tangerine Dream “Mars Polaris” (TDI, 1999)  

Tangerine Dream's ''Mars Polaris'' is a surprisingly good album for me, after all these boring new age-like efforts from mid-nineties. I think that the collaboration with NASA is a very good idea, I've always liked space-themed albums. But, man, musically this album is VERY interesting and tricky! Sequences, reminding of Phaedra period, cool rhythms, experimental sound - it got it all. This album has become one of my favorites. The pace changes really fast, it's all very intense and exciting. The atmosphere is great. Nuff said! You cannot describe this music using words - just buy it and listen to it. 

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Tranzit “Voyage” (Groove Unlimited, 1997)

Those of you who have heard this album and who know my tastes in music may wonder "what the hell is he doing, writing a review of a new age album?". So, let's cut the talking right away - this ain't new age. Maybe this album has new age sensibilities, but Dirk H.J. Nusink (the musician behind Tranzit) doesn't deliver any spiritual stuff often associated with the term "new age" music. He doesn't suggest any meditation or self-finding etc., he just provides an album of mellow melodic electronics. Yes, it IS new age-like, but in a good sense. In fact, this is EM that your wife or girlfriend might even like.

"Lowlands" starts the proceedings in the appropriately quiet and melodic way. Then we have "Nostalgia" which is a very atmospheric number. Nothing special here, but ok. "Desertdust", the longer track that clocks at 12.20 starts in a very unusual way with resonating metallic "slamming door" sounds, then a simple sequence emerges on top of which more sound and melodies are added. The track does drag on a bit, though, could have been shorter. Next is "Rick's Theme" which is a fantastic track. Very pleasant and emotional piano playing is augmented by appropriate synth tones. Overall,one of the best piano pieces I've heard. "Quiet Waters" features phased synth pads and several other electronic sounds and effects. "Alexandria" is a very good atmospheric number with slow rhythm, while "Cryptonite", the next track, is very rhythmic and upbeat. Could have been a bit shorter, though. "After Age" seems a bit disjointed, but it has it's moments. "L.F.O." is a typical example of this kind of "new age EM". The track is spiced up by some decent electronic effects. Overall, a good track. "Anklung" finishes the album in a rather optimistic way. It features some electronic effects over which a new-agey melody plays. This song tries to lift the listener up as if saying "Look, life is beautiful, cheer up!" Unfortunately, the track doesn't quite succeed in what its all about, as it didn't do nothing for me.

Overall, for a debut album, this is pretty good and if you like melodic, delicate electronics and don't mind some new-ageisms, you owe it to yourself to check "Voyage" out.

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Tranzit “Tranz-Rapid” (Groove Unlimited, 2002)

The latest album by Dirk Nusink aka Tranzit sees him consolidating his style while retaining his unique sound and approach to composition. There are 9 tracks that range from 5+ minutes in length to almost 13 minutes. Some tracks are typically melodic and rhythmic with a trademark Tranzit sound, others are formless and abstract. One thing to note is that the pieces generally work better when they are more compressed, focused and melodic. Those long abstract pieces are just not up there with the rest of material, at least my attention tended to drift away from the music after several minutes. This is no big problem, of course, but it’d be nice to hear in Dirk’s next effort more of the melodic and rhythmic material (that he is particularly good at) and less flowing and abstract pieces (that he is not so proficient in, I.M.H.O.)

The album starts with “Coloured Candy” and it’s a real corker. Great rhythms and inventive sounds abound. We then get "Phantasy Island" which has a nice synth solo, but does drag on a bit. “Pulsarz” seemed a bit on the boring side, while “The Lakes of C.” is a great track with once again great drum programming and quite unusual (but melodic) sounds. It is typical Tranzit and overall one of the best tracks on the album. “Nightshift X” consists of just abstract electronic sounds and concrete samples of citylife (I think). It’s one of the weaker tracks and it shows the lack of ideas. I’m sorry to say so, but the track could’ve been 1 or 2 minutes long and it’d be fine. But because it lasts for almost 10 minutes with not enough variation, it just made me yawn. “Mambo d’Electrique” is the best track on the album – great sound, great atmosphere. “A Virtual Fertility” is a bit bland and I would certainly do without “H2O” which sounds like a Jean-Michel Jarre rip-off. Check out “H2O” versus “Oxygene 4”. “Dad’s Pillow” is a nice atmospheric (almost orchestral) track. Nice harp sounds and an appropriate way to finish the album.

I found this work a bit uneven but I still give it 4 points out of 5 for the good tracks alone.

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The Tunnel Singer "Water Birth" (Tunnel Singer Records, 1999)

One of the reasons to create the reviews section was that I needed a page where I could place more or less detailed CD reviews I've written over the years. This also allows me to expand the format a bit in that I'm free to write here reviews of items that otherwise wouldn't quite make it to the general EEM pages for various reasons. This is one of those instances, and in spite of the material presented here sitting firmly in the Ambient camp, the fact is that this music is all-acoustic. Prior to "Water Birth", Lee Ellen Shoemaker (aka The Tunnel Singer) had already released two albums "Inner Runes" (1995) and "Ravens In Moonlight" (1997) where she combined her own voice "processed" by natural acoustic reverberation of places like the Sound Column in San-Francisco and fog-muffled World War II artillery tunnel with minimal instrumentation and concrete sounds. "Water Birth" is entirely based on voice, as all sounds on this recording were derived from Lee Ellen's singing using the 45-seconds long reverb of empty underground concrete 2 million gallon cistern. The results are nothing short of brilliant. Lee Ellen's voice, supported by echo, creates absolutely otherwordly journey into blue depths, very warm and emotive. This is magical music that proves the fact that you don't need to have sophisticated equipment to make beautiful and convincing music. In fact, most of it sounds as if it was electronically processed, but it wasn't. This is absolutely magical music that's among my top Ambient releases. Actually this album reminds me on "Le Gran Bleu", that's been my favorite movie for a long time now. I'm especially reminded of the final scenes because you really feel like drowning sometimes, when listening to this. But you're not afraid at all because this is music like a warm bed. A bed of deep blue abyss that surrounds you. It's amazing how this music manages to be extremely calming and relaxing and so very beautiful and touching at the same time. My top recommendation! After this album, Lee Ellen released "Night Skies" (2000) and the more electronic "Sailing the Solar Wind" that's reviewed on regular EEM pages.

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Frank Van Bogaert “Human” (Groove Unlimited, 2002)

“Awakening” starts things out with windy effects and mysterious e-piano notes combined with symphonic CS-80-like “brass” synth flashes. At 2:25 it’s the shortest track on the album. “Ballet” initially has bouncy bass synth bursts and gentle cymbal rhythms. It then gains lushness and beat, turning into a pleasant laid-back chugger. Nice quirky lead melody here. At this point the music is fairly reminiscent of Vangelis. Some voice samples and strange whooshy synths are heard at around the 4:30 mark. “Technologika” is an upbeat rhythmic number. In my opinion, one of the weakest tracks on the album. It’s not a bad track but it pales next to some real masterpieces that are yet to come at this point. “Atmospheric Conditions” starts with the sound of rain and symphonic pads / gentle melody combination. Trademark e-pianos are abundant here. They create beautiful, cascading lushness. Great stuff and pretty unique. The rhythms kick in after the 3 minute mark and they support this easy-going, relaxed track along its way. It’s like being unhurriedly driven along the night street in a luxurious Cadillac. “Meander” surprises with a tribal rhythm and effects until we are treated again to gentle e-piano improvisation. Talking about improvisation, whereas Frank’s previous efforts were largely perfectly composed pieces, this album sounds largely improvised instead. It’s a welcome change, I must add, at least I like this approach much better. Anyway, back to the track. Sax playing adds some spice to the composition which is easily one of the best cuts on the entire disc. The title track is next. Slow sequence, some voices, a rhythm and great improvisation, what else do you need? This is another highlight of the album (probably the best track of them all?). There are some Byzantine edges to the playing or maybe that’s just the way I see it. “Lullaby” is basically a gentle piano/synth piece, while “Overture des enfants” starts with heavy synthesizer sounds and then in comes a fast echoing sequence that combines with another one and there’s also the addition of martial-type drums (and later more regular rhythm) and some voices. This track was a bit too pompous for my taste. Track 9 - “ Reunion ”: windy effects, slow rhythms, the CS-80-like synths, e-pianos. Great start to a thoroughly enjoyable track that forms yet another highlight. “Naked” is another great track, very atmospheric! “Reve d’Afrique” seemed a bit trite, with expected native song samples and tribal percussion. It’s one of the “composed” songs on the album. Finally, “Warmth” closes the album on an appropriately sedate and relaxing note.  

Overall, this is my favorite album by Frank and in my opinion it’s his best work so far, with “Meander”, “Human” and “ Reunion” being absolute masterpieces! When this man starts these mid-paces relaxed improvisations, he then treats his keyboard like a god. Therefore, even with some less exciting tracks, this is still a damn fine album of unique Electronic Music!

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Dwight Ashley "Four" (Nepenthe Music And Publishing, 2004)

"Four" is the second solo release from Dwight Ashley which came as a bit of surprise. Whereas "Discrete Carbon" was nice, this second offering really opens up a world of deep soundscapes which is as good as it probably gets. Excellent effort that was enjoyed by me from start to finish. For the most part the album creates pretty gloomy visions but not exacly in the way most of Dark Ambient does. It's not a world of infernal chasms, darkly lit medieval corridors or abandoned factories. It sounds more like the coming of a storm, heavy clouds abound, the only place you can hide in being an old, rusty windmill, with it's smell of grain, dry hay, and ancient metallic workings.. Anyway, that was the imagery that accompanied me during listening to "Four". The first track, titled "I Saw A Thousand Swallows" sets the mood with its frozen meanderings. Mysterious tonal drifts is what this track is all about, with a decidedly cold and abstract bend. "Machina Ex Deus" initially has an industrial sound to it, with strange rumbling sounds, but after a while a synth drone and various atmospheres take over. The track has a raw character that somehow reminds me on the industrial scene. "Stranded II" is one of the best pieces - really deep stuff and essential Ambient listening. "The Art of Standing" is brighter, but somewhat less convincing. "Holes Within Holes" features several relatively harsh elements, as strange noises are combined with deep synthesizer strings and atmospheres. The track is rather intense and loud by Ambient standards, sounding like modern symphony even. The way washes of sound appear out of the ether is pretty effective. "I Swallowed A Thousand Saws" returns to the style of the first track. Again, it's all abstract and mysterious tonal drifts, with only the slightest hints of melody. "The Mighty Fallen Rust In the Sun" (talk about best EM titles!) is the longest cut that's all about atmosphere - the atmosphere of desolation, achieved via static, droning and totally dehumanized sound where distant, distorted guitar ala Fripp plays an important role. "Best of Times" is somewhat bombastic for an Ambient album (even featuring a marching drum rhythm), but effective nevertheless, with strong emotional input from the composer. As with previous album, there is a small hidden piano track on "Four". This album comes as highly recommended for those into Ambient and soundscape music. Especially of note are the tracks "Stranded II", "Holes Within Holes" and "Best of Times". Great effort, overall.

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Campau / McGee "Hoax" (private release, 2003)

Here we have two whacked-out tracks from Don Campau and Hal McGee, called "jdbgmgr.exe" and "Forward As An Attachment". (Yep, if you are a computer geek, you'll like these titles) To be honest I don't even know what to make of this album, although I can't say that I didn't like it. Not prog EM by any stretch, this contains what can only be desribed as musique concrete / collage music, for want of a better term. Whereas Hal McGee's solo outing, called "My Brain", was rather humurous, and in spite of it's chaotic nature, carried some strange and comforting breed of coherence, he we are confronted with a stark, inhuman madness. There are strange synth sounds, noises of obscure origin, drums, percussion, wacky piano playing, acoustic instruments, theremin and a lot of raw, distorted electric guitar. At times it seems that a more or less distinguishable and structured melody appears out of this soup, before it all sinks back into total chaos. At 77 minutes, "Hoax" is pretty hard to swallow, but you knew it was going to hurt! Only for the very adventurous.

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Paul Ellis "The Sacred Ordinary" (Groove Unlimited, 2004)

The album starts with "Icon" which features multiple sequences that make up a mesmerizing and intricate tapestry of sounds. The track reminds me a bit on Steve Roach's and Robert Rich's rhythmic, sequencer works. This is Berlin School, but done in a special way. Very enjoyable, the track just flows effortlessly in a relaxed, even a bit detached mood. Those flute sounds really add their own special touch to the proceedings. On this, and the next two tracks Rudy Adrian assists with additional keyboards. "Shining" has just one thing about it - it's intense! And when I say intense I mean it. There are so many sequences in it that I can't even think about trying to count them... It's the longest cut on the album that will make any fan of sequencer music drool. Nice atmospheres as well. Paul's music sounds improvised for the most part. There are some subtle melodies but it's not something you can hum to. Actually I think this music is all about sounds and atmosphere. The title track must be one of the most beautiful and mysterious ambient pieces I've heard in a while - totally rhythmless, and very deep. There is a moment where a sound is pitch-bended in a way that pleasantly recalls the sounds that Robert Rich used to coax out of his lap steel guitar. It's really useless to try to describe with words the next track, called "Blue Heron". Let's just say that it's got an intricate structure that's based almost exclusively on sequential elements. "The Still Center of A Turning World" has more recognizable Berlin School elements such as the solos and some more typically German-sounding sequences. "Presence" features fat upbeat sequencing and has an oriental (Middle Eastern) feel to it. I must say that the range of sounds and influences on this album is huge. Rudy Adrian appears once again on "Cascade", providing some overtone chanting (heard at the beginning of the track) and additional keys. It's another sequencer track. Rudy's trademark sounds can be spotted within the sequences. Great melodic solos on this one! "After All" calms things down for a 3-minute ambient interlude. It's got excellent sounds and programming - very subtle and effective! "Turning Towards the Sun" takes it's cue from an extremely effective slow sequencing. This is simply perfect stuff - very cosmic! "Slowly Beating Wings" is the most beautiful track - symphonic and majestic, with great mellotron strings and flute sounds. It's so strong, this track is sheer genius! It's evocative and bitter-sweet, simply epic-sounding stuff. I can't recommend this album enough. Also of note is the beautiful artwork created by an Argentinean artist Pablo Magne.

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Paul Ellis & Craig Padilla "Echo System" (Groove Unlimited, 2004)

The sleeve notes to this album say: "The creators of Echo System assume no responsibility for unaligned chakras". Good to be warned! ;-) Paul Ellis and Craig Padilla are among the top US synthesists on the scene today and on "Echo System" they have crafted an intense improvised blend of Electronic Music that often relies on heavy sequences and intricate atmospheres. The title track gets things going with a a brief introduction after which a lot of echoing (no pun intended) sequences appear that just keep mutating and changing over the course of the composition. It's a long epic that's refreshing and involving - I really enjoyed it. Great for fans of sequencer music. The intense, full sound that one comes to expect from someone like Paul Ellis is perfectly on show here. Not suprisingly, "Windy Plains" features electronic wind sounds serving as the background to melodic sequencing and flutey synth lead sounds. Very moody. "Writing On Water" has some barely heard rhythmic bass throb in the beginning which is soon added by various synths and subtle pads. From the 2:20 mark a sequence is heard that never dominates, instead complimenting the other elements nicely. Then another, more upbeat sequence is introduced that's still not in your face, serving more as the background. It's a reflective and soothing number with some subtle mellotron string flashes from time to time. "Shanti" initially features reflective solo synth part but soon a brief string section appears which gives way to a laid-back sequence that suddenly goes down the scale, turning into a lower-register pulse. Needless to say it's all very cool, very tasty. The track doesn't stay still, sequences changing, replacing each other and finally settling into a groove. If the idea of a slow, improvised, sequential synthesizer jam appeals to you, I think you will find this to your liking. "Shadowlands" is all about reverbed synths, effects and atmospheres. Great cosmic track that lets you mind travel to places unknown. "Everybody's Sky" is a strange track in that it features a prominent sequence that just seems to be at odds with the rest of the sounds or perhaps it just has this rough, disjointed nature that makes me think that way. The long closing number, called "Death of an ARP" has all necessary ingredients to make it a classic of contemporary Berlin School, from sequences, to atmospheres and soloing, that makes use of a very warm, symphonic analog timbre. Also of note is the masterful and effective use of key changes. It's a multi-part cosmic track in the best traditions of the genre. Overall, "Echo System" provides you with a healthy dose of sequences, atmospheres and delicious synth programming. Berlin School fans take note!

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Gert Emmens "Live - A Long Way From Home" (private release, 2004)

This is a CD-R with music from Gert's E-Live 2003 performance. It features music from his "Obscure Movements In Twilight Shades" album as well as from his collaborative effort with Ruud Heij "Return To the Origin" (although this music was performed prior to the release of that collaborative work). The sound quality is very good, so I asuume it is a "mixing board recording". We start with "Entering the Dark Depth" from "Obscure Movements..." which is a lazy, groovy, relaxed cosmic number with great echoing sequences and captivating rhythms. I especially like the first part of this track. Some new solos have been played by Gert on top of the already familiar sounds. The next track is "So Long" and it was co-composed by Ruud Heij. A very fast and energetic track. Great sequences! "The Day the Wind Blew Out the Light" returns us to the relaxed and laid-back mode. This track is in "typical" Emmens style. "Solaris" is next and it's even better than the album version. Great tinkling sequences, solos, and that special sad atmosphere. The album closes with the very Tangerine Dream-y "Voice From the Past" that has lots of great mellotron. There are of course some modern elements in there as well. Overall, it's a very nice and enjoyable collection of traditional "Berlin School" synth music. The tracks slightly differ from the album versions, especially in the solos department. Also, the mix seems to be a bit different as well. If you like Gert's music, this album is a must, no matter if you have visited the concert or not. And if you are new to the EM world, this album could serve as a good introduction to this great style of music. Icluded with this release are nice photos from Gert's performance and of the place the concert was held at.

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Gert Emmens "Waves of Dreams" (Groove Unlimited, 2004)

Gert Emmens: ARP Odyssey (whiteface), Boss DR-660, Doepfer MAQ 16/3 sequencer, Elektro Formant modular synthesizer, Elka Solist 505, EMU E-6400 Ultra, EMU Vintage Keys Plus, Korg MS-2000r, Korg Wavestation EX, MAM MB33, Moog Minimoog, Moog Polymoog, Moog Sonic 6, Roland M-DC1, Roland M-VS1, Roland SH-32, Solina String Ensemble, 2x Yamaha AN1x, Yamaha SY85.

Gert Emmens continues to shine on the EM scene and "Waves of Dreams" is his new album that further pushes the boundaries of Berlin School with his unique style of atmospheric, a bit mournful music. There are 6 tracks on this album. The first track, called "After the Rain" gets things going with deep arpeggiated synths and after a while sequenced bass notes appear out of nowhere. It then morphs into a full-blown melodic sequence which is then joined by yet another one, and at around the 1:25 mark, the mellotron choir kicks in. This is typical Gert Emmens and the combination works perfectly here. A lead line is playing on top of the sequences. The album has that typical "Emmens touch" that can be characterized by a somewhat mournful and reflective, maybe even a bit romantic, atmosphere. At around the 4 minute mark, a completely different section starts - somewhat industrial noises and sounds, plus a strange resonating rhythms. This is just great, mysterious stuff! The final section of the first track is again heavy on bright sequences, pads and atmospheres. "Another Time, Another Space" is initially pretty melanchonic, with lots of mellotron strings and of course, sequences. It uses theremin-like solo timbre which I find highly enjoyable. About half-way through, things become more dark and driving, with a more powerful, lower-register sequence that mutates now and then to keep you on your toes. Then another great sequence joins in and we really start to groove. I found my head nodding and my toe tapping to this one. Sequencer music is not dead! It's alive and kicking as you can clearly hear from this track! Great stuff that makes me reach for that volume control, especially after the solo kicks in! I just wish it was longer! Next we have the title track which is pretty laid-back affair. Good to sit back, relax and just enjoy the flow. There something atypical for sequencer EM in there, but I won't reveal what it is. Let's just say that I found it highly refreshing and very beautiful. A laid-back rhythm and fast-paced sequences is what we have as the core of the second part of the track. "Dawn" features delicate sequencing and rich pad sounds. Gert seems to have a knack for creating rather laid-back, unhurried type of EM and this track is very characteristic of his style. Nice mellotron touches near the end. "Heading Towards Unknown Destinations" is the best cut on the album. It's a genuine cosmic trip. Great sounds, rhythms and soloing. This is too delicious for words. Sorry, I'm off enjoying the music.. <...> Are you still reading? Ok, the last track is called "Bright Spot On A Grey Day". It offers more mid-paced sequences, pads, choir-like sounds and, despite the title, sounds pretty mournful and desparate to me. The most delicious aspect of this track is the background sounds / atmospheres. A nice finish to this strong album. There is also a surprise at the end of the track (THE bright spot, perhaps?), but, once again, I won't reveal it, sorry. :-) Is there anything left to say in the genre of sequencer music? The answer is yes. And "Waves of Dreams" is the proof of that. 

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Etherfysh "Yule Tide 2" (Chris Christou, 2003)

"Yule Tide 2" is a 4-track album with two of the tracks being cover versions and the other two original compositions. Covers include Edgar Froese's "Stuntman" and Goblin's "Profondo Rosso". In this review I'll concentrate on original stuff. The first track is called "Armada". It's an amorphous electronic jam, with bleeping synths and a lot of atmospheres. It all could probably become too disjointed, but it really sticks together as a whole. It sounds a bit influenced by the more experimental moments of Tim Blake's "Crystal Machine" period. The electric piano that's used for some bluesy, improvised runs is a unique touch that adds certain spice to this strange and intense track. The mood of this track is not easy to define, but it's certainly not joyous, but more darkly mysterious/melancholic. Some background hiss is mentioned in the sleevenotes, although I didn't notice any major quality problems. The second track ("Salamina") starts with excellent repeating motives/sequences and pads combination. Excellent relaxed number with synthesized flute that somehow avoids sounding clichéd. Apart from flute, there is also acoustic piano and a lot of other, more synthetic sounds on show. There are also skillfully programmed drums that never dominate. The track has something of a late night feeling to it. The second part of the track is more sequencer-dominated with a few atmospheric interludes. Of note is also the strange beepy lead sound that improvises on top of gently sequenced soundscape. Pretty chilled stuff. The album ends with the aforementioned cover versions, of which "Profondo Rosso" is an appropriately rocky number that features (sampled) distorted guitar riffs and some great Hammond organ sounds. Great late-night listening album (except for "Profondo Rosso" which is not that relaxed to put it mildly).

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Frank Gingeleit "Lost In the Deep Blue" (private release, 2003)

Frank Gingeleit: guitar, guitar synthesizer, fx.

On this album Frank Gingeleit only used guitar, guitar synthesizer and fx. So, the istrumentation seems to be identical to that used on his first outing - "Nightmares & Escapades". But, in contrast to his former work where he tried to coax experimental textures using his limited setup, here the purpose was to make the tunes sound as "natural" as possible. Frank set out to create a bunch of pieces and the purpose was to make them sound like impovised band-performed blues music. And boy, does he succeed! Most of the pieces here sound very electric / acoustic. The "jams" are bluesy, with echoes of Ash Ra Tempel, especially on tracks like "East of India" and "Ride On A Tiger". Some pieces, like, for instance, "Love And Reality", "Don't Know Where To Go? (I Don't Either)" and some others have a more atmospheric guitar sound, that actually approaches the areas explored on "Nightmares...". In fact as a whole, this album is much closer in timbre to "Nightmares & Escapades" than to either "Megalopolis" or "Toy Planet". The "cello" on "Some Kind of A Cello Sonata In E Maj" sounds pretty "real" although this, too, was achieved with the help of guitar synthesizer. The percussion is abundant. In fact, this album gives you an overdose of percussion sounds, just like some Schulze albums from the "sampling" period. The best track is probably "Ride On A Tiger" - very bluesy guitar improv and other electric / acoustic sounds. This is really close to early Ash Ra Tempel at times. Something in the manner of Frank's performance on the guitar really reminds on Manuel Goettsching's style, although, I suppose it was not intented. "All Suns Eclipsed" closes the album with a lot of rhythms and repeating bassy, heavy guitar riff (!).

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Goff / McGee "Verve of the Void" (private release, 2003)

"Verve of the Void" features four long tracks of free-form abstract electronics. Musically, a lot of it can be filed under Dark Space, with several sections slightly resembling Tangerine Dream's work on "Zeit" although the sound here is rougher and more "in your face". Some noisy bits are included too, especially on the lengthy final track, called "Transmission". Generally, if you like free-form electronics, some avant-garde and noise stuff, or are a fan of vintage sci-fi flicks, you will enjoy atmospheres served by Charles Rice Goff III and Hal McGee on "Verve of the Void".

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Sven Hansen "Timeframe" (private release, 2004)

Sven Hansen: Casio MT 70, Korg Polysix, Yamaha SY 22, Yamaha CS01II, Yamaha CS6x, Korg SQD-1 sequencer, Roland TR 505, Yamaha RX17.

What we have here is a Berlin School album by Sven Hansen (aka Ivo Keers). The album features three long tracks brimming with sequences, atmospheres and lazy electronic grooves. Well, certainly unofficially there are two types of Berlin School EM, one is frenetic upbeat type of stuff (exemplified by some classic Tangerine Dream concert and studio material and by some bands influenced by them) and another one is laid-back, spacey type of sequencer music, pioneered by Klaus Schulze and also heard in Software's early works, with everything in between. This album certainly leans towards that second category. In other words, it's clearly in the Schulze school of thought, although it lacks Schulze's dramaticism, instead presenting a relaxed brew of Berlin School with a "lounge" flair. "Sense of Snow" is the first of the three epics that starts in a mysterious way, with sparse notes, twittering synths and some atmospheres. Not bad. Already two minutes into the track and we hear a distant laid-back sequence that is joined by another bass one and a bass drum. It's amazingly unhurried - gorgeous stuff. I am reminded of early Software at this stage. Drum machine rhythm keeps things tight while the sequences settle into a nice, relaxed groove. This is music to watch the stars or travel through space. Some subtle soloing can also be heard. A treat for an EM gourmand! I enjoyed this track a lot and I can recommend it without reserve. "Timeframe" was performed live during a radio show. Twittering synths get things underway. Some organ notes appear and it all becomes very Schulzean. According to the fact that the music was performed live, there is a loose feel to the proceedings, if you know what I mean. After 2 minutes an echoing sequence appears, again, totally unhurried, taking its time to get under your skin. I like that kind of stuff - totally cosmic trip! Some brighter melodic sequences are introduced towards the 6 minute mark. After 10 minutes, different sequences are introduced and we are really starting to glide. The drum machine rhythm doesn't take long to join the party and the sequences have new members in their family as well, mostly those of the bass variety. The rhythm subsides for a few seconds, only to reappear a bit later. Sven then uses a nice solo guitar-like timbre. Delicious! Thus it goes on for the rest of the track (with some variations) and although it may sound tedious, it isn't. In fact, you will want more when this track is over, despite the fact that it's the longest of the bunch. At almost 39 minutes, it's a real treat for all sequencer / classic EM heads. "Supralounge" is another track in similar style (albeit more cheering), but I would probably do without some of the harsher sounds that crop up every now and then at the beginning, really making your hair split and spoiling the experience. Take away these sounds (that only appear for a brief stint) and you get over 17 minutes of wonderful analogue solos (a special feature of this track!), sequences and atmospheres. My only other gripe about this track is that it could use slightly more variation. "Timeframe" is an album that should appeal to fans of Klaus Schulze, Software and such, in other words, to fans of sequencer / classic EM / Berlin School music.

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"Painting With Sound: The Life And Music of Hans-Joachim Roedelius" by Stephen Iliffe (book)

This is a great book about one of the most significant fugures of German Electronic Music. It is available from Meridian Music Guides (UK). First of all I should mention the great quality of print and paper: it's a luxirious 118-page edition with a flexible cover, packed to the full with rare photos, quotations, and profound insight into Roedelius' life and music career. The book tells the story of the whole life of Roedelius from the moment of his birth (October, 26, 1934) up to the present moment (2003). I found it extremely interesting to read about Roedelius' "early" years, before he became part of the Berlin underground scene in late 60's The story of each album and happening in Roedelius' career is told very carefully, with lots of curious facts mentioned and some other people's thoughts about the work of Hans-Joachim. Quotations include those by Brian Eno, Artemiy Artemiev, Tim Story, Alquimia and others. That is not to mention the great archive photos from all periods in the musicians' life, even his school photograph is included! The author avoids some silly and naive clichès that can unfortunately be spotted quite often in some writers' and journalists' view of the German "krautrock". He obviously understands the fact that every honest musicians' work is only based on his own life experience, and not affected by some "invented" truths, theories, myths and such. I'll tell you something: a musicians' work is a reflection of his life, his feelings and thoughts. As simple as that. Therefore you won't find any silly stories about "LSD", "meditations", "yoga" etc. etc. in this book. Meanwhile, some other authors seem to have a very idiotic and naive image of German experimental music which is reinforced by the fact that media and general public like such stories. Kudos to Stephen - this book is a true research, profound and honest.

The structure of the book is as follows: first we have a foreword from Brian Eno, an introduction and six chapters, each corresponding to one specific period of Roedelius' life (and career). Then we have reviews of all (!) the many albums Roedelius was involved with, both solo and with other projects, such as Kluster / Cluster. Each review is headlined by a carefully scanned cover of the album. There is also an album rating provided, with three stars meaning an all-time classic, two stars - good, one star - average and no star - for completists only. In the end of the book you will find a list of further reading and useful resources / websites.

As for the general impression of the books' contents, it is mostly very adequate and accurate. Some albums and events are paid more attention to than the others, but overall one can say that all major events and turning points in Roedelius' career are described in detail as much as it's probably possible. Nevertheless, in the book I found a). a minor omission b). a minor error and c). a minor misunderstanding.

1. Omission: I didn't find anything about the fact that when Cluster came to Paragon studio they suddenly had access to all the equipment that was there, hence the difference in sound on "Grosses Wasser" (especially the title track) compared to their previous releases. I once had a nice geartalk with Roedelius and he told me that when they (he and Moebius) moved to Forst, they had only Farfisas and various other primitive tools (like test equipment, for instance) in their studio. Some years later, Moebius also used a minimoog. Of course, when they recorded at Conny Plank's studio, there were also synthesizers, but Roedelius doesn't remember, which ones. But when they came to Paragon, there were a lot of electronic instruments, including the mellotron (which IS mentioned once in the book, in the review section), various other keyboards and the big "Projekt Elektronik" modular synthesizer built by Peter Baumann and used by him during the last stages of his stay with Tangerine Dream. Roedelius told me that when they came to the studio they didn't know how to use this tool but Peter Baumann showed them a few things and as a result this instrument forms large parts of "Grosses Wasser".

2. Error: Moebius' & Planks' "Rastakraut Pasta" was actually recorded in 1979, not in 1984.

3. Misunderstanding: When speaking about "La Nordica" Stephen mentions the word "Satz" which he says translates to "Salt" which is false because "Satz" means just "Part", therefore the tracks on this album are named "Part 1", "Part 2" and "Part 3".

Overall, this is an excellent book. If you are a fan of Roedelius and Cluster or just interested in German electronic scene, then "Painting with Sound" is a must.

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Ken Martin "Beyond Ultraviolet" (SpaceForMusic, 2004)

If you are raving about the music of Klaus Schulze from the era of "Body Love" and "Mirage" and have the desire to hear more in that style - this is it. Of course, the addition of some digital timbres and the fact that Ken has his own manner of playing make this much more than just a copy, but formally this is as close to Schulze circa 1977 as it gets, although there are moments (like track three) where there's absolutely no points of reference. During these moments you'd be hard pressed to notice any concrete influence from the masters of EM. All in all, there are four long pieces on "Beyond Ultraviolet". "Space Cruise" starts with deep chords that could easily come from one of Klaus' live sessions from 1977. The EMS-like effects are there, too, as well as the tinkling sequences. The long introduction really takes its time to get under your skin. This is not going to be a lightweight easy-listening muzak. The sound is pretty nice, although some additional mixing wouldn't be out of place, as the sequences are a bit drowned by the surrounding textures and pads. To make a long story short, this is an extended sequencer number with mucho classic sounds and spacey analogue timbres. Some parts do sound too derivative, at other times Ken really lets his imagination fly, making this quite a unique track overall. "Ancestral Voices" has a deep introduction with haunting mellotron strings, a sound, that appears more than once during the course of this album. This sound seems to be processed by Ken, it's more of a new timbre built on base of mellotron strings. Soon after the 1 minute mark, the sequences appear, but it's all really deep and mysterious. It's a great track - unique and individual, but certainly Berlin School. The processed strings mentioned earlier are prominent throughout the whole composition. "Alien Detection" is next and...ahh...it's deep deep in space! Very ambient and certainly the best track on the album, totally unique. One of the best neo-prog EM tracks I've heard in a while. The title track takes some time to gain momentum, as we go from dark atmospherics at the beginning and processed mellotron strings to a long sequence / solo section, where Ken's lead synth gets a real workout. It's similar to the endless soloing on "Body Love" although Ken probably even "outsolos" Klaus on this one, at least this track (and the solo section) is much longer than the gorgeous "Stardancer". The sequence is a nice low pulse that serves as the backbone for the soloing and atmospheres. It's a fitting (and very Berlinish) close to this diverse EM album where the author, although not hiding his influences, still manages (sometimes more, sometimes less) to create his own sonic world.

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Guido Meyer "Towards the Blue Horizon" (Solarise Records, 2004)

It's always great to hear an album which is done in a sincere way, with lots of feeling put into compositions, album which is simple on the surface but reveals great beauty and perfection within that can only be felt when listening to it and can't be described in a review like this one. Guido Meyer's "Towards the Blue Horizon" is exactly this kind of album, which, apart from the great music, comes with a beautiful inner sleeve artwork that fits the concept and music perfectly. So, ok, it's a special album in many ways, so here I decided to part with my habit of describing each track separately, trying to concentrate on the feeling and essence of the whole album. Whereas "Episodes 1" was exclusively based on synths, here we have electric guitar, and a lot of it! In fact, this album can be classified as guitar-fronted EM, while for many of the tracks the term "guitar instrumental" is even more suitable. Ok, the basis for most of the tracks is still synths, and they are delivered with real taste. Featuring restrained, masterful programming, this album has something that just conquered my soul and that is... digital synthesizers! Strange? Yeah, for an analog-biased guy like me it could sound odd, but really, Guido used these tools to create simply perfect atmosphere - cool (not cold), detached and at the same time extremely warm and comfortable. He has created some great sounds, avoiding the well-known presets and overall the synth production is so smooth and enjoyable that I can only put my hat off to Guido, his talent is quite obvious and I can hear sincerety and depth in every second of this albums' length. The guitar is played immaculately as well, mostly coming in the form of distant-sounding solos, done with real feeling. There is a certain 80's flair in Guido's guitar timbre (very cold sound if you know what I mean), I can't even compare his style to other artists, it's quite personal, but perhaps Edgar Froese sometimes came a bit close during the 80's. But really, from listening to some of Guido's solos, I'd say that the young Guido could easily teach the old Edgar a few lessons on the guitar. Yes, he is THAT good, he has proved to be a first-class improvisation artist. Melodies? They will play in your head and touch your soul from the first time you hear this album. "Towards the Blue Horizon" gave me 45 minutes of pure listening pleasure. To say that I enjoyed it would be a huge understatement. Every track here is a winner, with the awesome title track leading the way. This album is a piece of art, period. 

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Modulator ESP "Random Fluctuations" (private release, 2001)

Jez Creek: Akai SG01p piano module, Kawai K1R, Korg Electribe EA-1, Korg Electribe ER-1 drum synth, Korg Wavestation, Korg X5dr, Novation Supernova II, Roland Juno-106, Yamaha AN1x, Yamaha DX7IId, Yamaha QS-300.

"Random Fluctuations" is a two-part electronic suite composed and recorded by Jez Creek in 2001. Each part is divided into several sections that all have their own subtitles, so in the end it's kind of a musical story. By listening to Jez' music, I'd venture that he has progrock background - there is a sense of thematic development and multiple part transitions typical of classic progressive rock works and also some classic EM albums like Tangerine Dream's "Tangram" or "Logos". So, if you like early 80's Tangerine Dream or the music of Mark Shreeve, then this CD is for you. It's also quite symphonic sounding, with great dynamics and rhythms. Dark sounds get the first part underway. Soon subtle bass textures are introduced as the soundscape becomes even more intense. This is brooding music - very good stuff. After the 6 minute mark the rhythms are deployed full-time as well as some solos and sequences. I found my head nodding as I listened to this. Great themes and melodies! All is quite and mysterious again after 9 minutes into the track. Of course this section is a transition to the next part that has some warm flowing pads and is surprisingly gentle. Very, very good! Slow rhythm keeps things tight, while the melodies do soar in the sonic ether in a soothing and comforting way. There's even a hint of solemnity in there. The rhythm becomes faster and there are some symphonic textures that strongly remind on "Tangram"-era TD. This is uplifting EM at it's best. And, oh, those solos...! It reminds me on EM from the days gone by. The track ends rather abruptly. The second part starts with dramatic string / drum section. Pretty suspenseful stuff. Some e-drums are introduced along with a melodic sequence and we have a rhythmic section that's halfway between sad and mysterious. The dramatic strings and drums return after a while, sounding like an orchestral movie soundtrack. This time the string sounds are combined with the electronic rhythm and piano playing. Some great synth soloing is also welcome. There's a short intermission after which we get upbeat sequencer lines and a fast theme depicting the war I guess (according to the subtitle). Some very 80's electronic drums (Simmons-like) are used to great effect here. A piano theme comes next, with the sounds of wind in the background. The rhythmic elements do not take long to appear and take control of the proceedings. It's a mysterious and somewhat reflective part. Some processed voices are heard as the screaming solo takes over after 17 minutes into the track. Everything fits perfectly - from voices, to rhythms, to sequences, solos and atmospheres. It all calms down and all we hear for a while are phased / processed synth pads along with some recurring effects. But after a while another excellent melodic motif appears. I loved this part - very complex, even reminding a bit on some of Klaus Schulze material from the 80's. The final section starts with bleeping synths and upbeat rhythm. This is a bit techno influenced (mainly in the rhythms department). I loved the urgent electric piano motif although the main theme is a bit too "techno" for my taste. "Random Fluctuations" is a darn fine album of melodic thematic Electronic Music, that those into most of vintage EM will enjoy, be it early 80's Tangerine Dream, the less sequenced Mark Shreeve, some 70's Vangelis or even Dave Greenslade's "Pentateuch of the Cosmogony".

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Noring / McGee "Blue Planet" (private release, 2002)

Brian Noring: Moog Sonic 6, FX.

Hal McGee: Analogue Solutions Tri Tone 24, Big Briar Etherwave theremin, FX, Acid Pro 3.0.

On "Blue Planet" Brian Noring and Hal McGee offer a set of tracks that can be best described as Ambient Noise. That is, they are harsh enough to be called noise and yet ambient enough to be enjoyed, especially on low volumes. The title brings up images of space, but I wouldn't describe it as "space music". In fact the sound is rather claustrophobic to my ears. It's more like being on a huge space station, orbiting a blue gas giant, listening to the mechanical sounds of the orbital complex's inner workings. All the buzzes, noises, whirring, beeps and bleeps, will fascinate you. This may sound tedious, but it isn't. In spite of the static nature of most tracks, it does work perfectly and I'd say that Noring and McGee have managed to create a highly atmospheric album - the one that has a certain edge to it, but at the same time is very comforting, and not assaulting in a way a lot of the more in ye face noise stuff is. 

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Phinney / McGee "Antenna Club" (private release, 2003)

"Antenna Club" is an album with a wide range of influences, such as avant-garde electronic, noise, industrial and progressive EM. Most of the time the noisy elements are quite prominent, so 'aggressive electronics' is something that can be used to describe the bulk of what's found on this work. Such is the first track, called "Timetunnel". Basically it consists of raw, distorted electronic sounds, with some noise and atmospheres ala "Forbidden Planet". "Shocking Secrets of the Crab Nebula" combines harsh electronics with menacing synth lines. "Calcutta Brothel Raid" features what sounds like subtle tabla rhythms, together with radio static and insistent atmospheres. The next track, "Death Spiral" has a doomy feel to it. Sounds like the musical equivalent of falling into a black hole. Scary stuff, indeed. On the other hand, "Stargrove" is surprisingly light and spacey, even beautiful, with nice organ chords and pitch bended choirs. Excellent track. Not exactly what you'd expect from a Chris Phinney / Hal McGee collaboration. "Tapestry of Creation of Destruction" is a stark mass of sound, raw and distorted. "The Wrong Kind of Galaxy" has a steady rhythmic loop that's all but obscured by the harsh sounds. I am reminded here of the most aggressive japanoise stuff. Very intense. Is this music for a torture session in an alien prison or what? "Insectoid Assembly Line" is very industrial-sounding. Basically it's abstract looped sounds that will fry your brain. Finally "Milky Way Marauders" closes the album on a completely different note, because, surprisingly enough, it's a sequencer track and perhaps the closest Hal McGee ever came to electronic prog. It has some nice sounds and atmospheres but sooo repetitive. Actually there's almost no change at all throughout its length, although I enjoyed it all the same. "Antenna Club" is an interesting offering, but most of the tracks are rather repetitive and I did miss a change in sound here and there, although I realize that might be the purpose and stylistic essence of this album - to create rather static soundscapes and to make the process of listening to them approximate the experience of looking at a picture. Also the rougher bits urge those of the timid kind to stay away, so beware.

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Samarkande "4 Cadavres Exquis" (Samarkande Records, 2002)

Eric Fillion: ARP String Ensemble, mellotron, Moog Prodigy, Roland D-20, Micromoog, Yamaha EX5R.

Sylvain Lamirande: Yamaha EX5R, Roland D-50, Micromoog, Korg MS-10, Roland PG 1000 Programmer, Yamaha WX 11 Wind instrument.

Samarkande is the duo of Eric Fillion and Sylvain Lamirande from Montreal, Canada. On "4 Cadavres Exquis" they have crafted a totally unique kind of music that I'd be hard pressed to try to pin down. Sort of unusual Experimental EM, perhaps, with lots of mellotron and featuring a mix of traditional electronic prog (aka "EM") and some kind of academic electronics. All music is completely improvised. A couple of words about the feel of this record. Here we are confronted with a stark, dark and brooding type of synthesis that really sounds a bit like Klaus Schulze gone mad at places, and at other times it comes off as a demented prison cell or catacomb muzak. It's not all that surprising with a title like this, of course. All in all, there are four long tracks. The first one is called "Cadavre No. 2" (Cadavre No. 1 is not found on the album). Initially we get some effects and a strange rhythm that forms the basis of this track. An interesting start to this fairly unusual album. Low, growling synth melody gives it a really sinister feel. Mellotron strings are deployed to great effect. There are lots of experimental sounds to be heard. Some of them are rather distorted and harsh. At the same time the track is not aggressive as one could be led to believe. It's more sort of doomy, you know. Great mellotron choir at around the 5 minute mark. Also remarkable is the final part with some tasty distant solos. "Cadavre No. 3" has pretty abstract sounds at the beginning, with a very dark atmosphere. Great stuff indeed that should even be liked by fans of Dark Ambient. It's like being inside someone's nightmare. Don't play this to your kids. The track actually stays in rhythmless, abstract mould up until the end. Intriguing! The subtle recurring strings / pads that are used from around the 9 minute mark will give you the goosebumps! At the very end there is mellotron choir to be heard. The third track is called "Cadavre No. 5". Let's see what we have here. Ok, it's also pretty ambient. Ah, my favourite mellotron sound again: the choir! It's used to stunning effect, really giving you the creeps! Eric Fillion uses the real thing (a white model 400, if I'm not mistaken) and he knows how to do it. I must admit that this album is easily among those that feature the most effective mellotron use. Man, this track is simply soaked in tron, having both choirs, strings and some flute as well! It's a magnificent, sparsely populated sound space. On to the last track. It's called "Cadavre No. 4" and starts with the same (or similar) sounds that opened the first cut. Then we have a really strange sort of rhythm / sequence on top of which all other sounds and atmospheres build and interact. Another sequence is soon introduced as the track gains momentum and the sound becomes fatter. Of course, this is all still rather doomy and deep. There is great resonating bass melody at around the 9 minute mark and a recurring melodic line. Near the end some of the sounds break up and go weird and the finish is embellished by great tron flute sounds. Overall, in spite of this album's experimental nature, I found it very listenable and even accessible. I recommend it not only to those that love all things dark and challenging but also to general EM audience. Believe me, it's a great album that will grow on you. And of course it should be heard by all fans of the mighty mellotron!

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Samarkande "Rude Awakening" (Samarkande Records, 2004)

Sylvain Lamirande: Yamaha EX5, Yamaha EX5R, Yamaha WX11, Yamaha WT11, Korg MS-10, Korg MS-2000, Roland D-50, Roland PG 1000 Programmer, Teisco 110-F (on "Analgesique"), homebuilt modular synthesizer (on "Analgesique").

This album was released under the project name "Samarkande" but in fact it's a solo work of Sylvain Lamirande, who I think has academic background, judging from the sounds and approach found on this release. While this may not be correct, I'm afraid I'll have to draw the line between this work and "4 Cadavres Exquis" which was done in collaboration with Eric Fillion. And when I listen to the two albums, it's easy to hear who's responsible for the experimental / sound sculpture type stuff and who brings in elements of progressive electronic (EM) to "4 Cadavres". Most of "Rude Awakening" is more or less in academic electronic vein and out of scope of EEM. Don't get me wrong, this is in no way a bad album. I have heard a lot of experimental / academic stuff, so I had no problems with this release either. But for someone who is used to a more directly melodic / prog synth approach this may be a bit of a pain to get into. Just a word of warning here. Ok, on to the music. "Episodes" mainly consists of random sounds and noises, more like short snatches of various textures and a bit of background atmospheres. Sometimes it becomes really intense, at other times it's rather sparse. And that's pretty much all about it. "Analgesique Analogique" is more synthetic sounding but the approach is no different to the one deployed in the previous track. Here we have lots of beeps and some darker, bass-laden sounds that just seem to fight with some sort of squeaking noises. Nice resonating synth textures at around the 3:20 mark. The title track is similar to what has come before, but here we are confronted, in spite of the tracks' chaotic nature, with a more purposeful approach, that creates some sort of dark and unsettling atmosphere. This almost sounds like a Dark Ambient track. "Presences" continues this albums' exploration of abstract and at times collaged sound. On this track Eric Fillion is credited with playing the mellotron and Indian pump organ, but the tron use is limited to short snatches of pitch-bended flute and choir near the end. I guess there's not much organ either, just some subtle background playing, although I'm not certain of that because I'm not sure I can recognize the sound of Indian pump organ. On the other hand, the harpsichord, played by Karoline Leblanc, is working overtime here, dominating the second part of the track with its virtually aimless abstract patterns. "Les Depossedes" ends the album in a fittingly experimental manner. The first part sounds pretty dark and quite impressive (I liked it - very Dark Ambient-like), while the second part is dominated by distorted samples and other strange and harsh sounds. Overall, I enjoyed this album, but I can only recommend it to the experimentally-inclined. And now I'm curious to hear what an Eric Fillion solo album would sound like. I am already salivating at the thought of a mellotron-laden prog EM masterpiece!

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Ian Tescee "Continua" (private release, 1989)

Ian Tescee: Yamaha DX7, ARP Axxe, Moog Opus-3, Yamaha upright acoustic piano, Sequential Circuits Drumtracks, drums.

Here we have the second album from Ian Tescee, that's been recently re-released on CD-R by Ian himself. The first track is called "In My Beginning Is My End". It's a cheering symphonic number with a very bright and clean sound (characteristic of the whole album, by the way). A great melody can be heard that makes use of a sawy Vangelis-like timbre. The second track is "Eternal Dreamer". It starts with percussive rhythms and laid-back bass drum. Then all morphs into a great melodic number with prominent FM sounds. The synth programming here is excellent. "Haunted By Water" is initially full of pads and pitch-bended synths and after the brief introduction becomes more focused and melodic. It's a great symphonic track. Around the 2:50 mark it becomes very triumphant with great drumming and outstanding soloing! Perfect! "Shino" get things going with tinkling notes akin to some sort of lullaby. The deep bass notes and some effects are introduced a bit later. There is also wordless background singing to be heard. It's a serene track that gets pretty solemn towards the end. "Crista", the next track, is very folky sounding initally. After a while the drums / percussion are introduced, although the track retains it's gentle folky edge. The sawy synth lead sounds give just the right amount of color to the proceedings. Next on the map is "The Big Bang". This track has a lot of acoustic piano sounds and very delicious synths. Wow, what's this? A rhythm starts! Superb melody plays over the top. This is top-notch stuff! It's one of the more upbeat tracks on the album. And, yes, there is also a bit of guitar in there as well (played by Rich Mouser). "Hnau" has flutey synths, pads and gentle melodic sequence running in the background. It's one of the gentler numbers on the album and is also one of the shortest (1:28). Next is "Free To Fear" and it's another upbeat track. This time, however, the rhythmic base is provided by the bass sequence. "Effect And Cause" is a very dramatic and urgent sounding track. It's has a phenomenal big synth lead sound. This is simply superb stuff and the best track on the album. "The Cosmic Dream" sounds like a continuation of the previous track, with different themes and rhythm. The album concludes with "In My End Is My Beginning", which, surprisingly, features prominent acoustic guitar playing. It's a very beatiful, soft and gentle track. Overall, "Continua" is less spacey than "Io", but it still delivers a high dose of symphonic electronic bliss. Recommended for all lovers of melodic EM!

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Ian Tescee "Breathwork" (private release, 1992)

"Breathwork" is the first album of Ian Tescee. It took a while to complete but it is finally released by Ian and available from his website (www.musicphrenia.com), together with his previous works, "Io" and "Continua". The album has 11 tracks, ranging in length from under 3 minutes to just above 11. The first track is called "Descending In Mist". It's a melodic number with piano, flute and several other sounds and instruments. A good tune. It's fairly rhythmic and the drums are enjoyable, too. "Muladhara" comes next. It's the longest cut on the album. It has a lot of percussion and ethnic elements. Overall, it's something like a cross between Kitaro (in his "rocking" mode) and Vangelis styles, with that special Ian Tescee atmosphere, of course. Very epic sounding and one of the best cuts on the album. "Creation" has simply wonderful melodies, rhythms and sounds. It's the best track for me. A relaxed and at the same time triumphant atmosphere prevails here. Great stuff, indeed. Got my head nodding to it. "Sanctity" is more upbeat, but features a tad more guitar touches. It's an urgent, but very bright number. Fittingly, the next track, called "Sea In the Dark", starts with the sound of waves, recorded by Ian at the coast of the Pacific. We then get subtle synth lead sounds and flute melodies, then a solo piano section comes in and the melody which it creates is merely stunning - this will play in your head long after you finish listening to this album. It may sound simple on paper, but it isn't. Just listen to this and you'll know what I mean. You should also remember that I'm not so easily impressed by melodic stuff because usually it's not melodies that I'm most interested in. And still this music manages to touch me which just proves that it was done with heart. The piano then is accompanied by other instruments and sounds. The last part of the track is dominated by pretty powerful drum rhythms and sounds like some good progrock instrumental. "Real And Imagined" is gentle and atmospheric, even romantic with plenty of acoustic guitar / harpsichord timbres. A voice (Ian's?) also makes a short appearance which fits in perfectly. "Opening" is melodic and rhythmless. I must admit that at this point this is all becoming a bit too gentle and romantic for my taste. But don't let this put you off - maybe it's just that I'm not romantic enough for this. Still, the musicianship and playing is top-notch. "Zero Gravity" makes use of a subtle mid-paced bass sequence, on top of which Ian plays some melodies ans solos. "Treelight" is a short atmospheric number, even closer to Ambient, perhaps. Lots of "breathy" sounds here (including flutes). "Caliope House" is ethnic-sounding and again very romantic / atmospheric. "Friend For Life" finishes off this interesting album with melodic pads, piano notes and after a while - a rhythmic part with flutey leads and acoutic guitar. This album is a bit different from both "Io" and "Continua", perhaps veering a bit into new instrumental / new age realm, especially the second part. Still if you liked both "Io" and "Continua", there's no good reason why you shouldn't check "Breathwork" out.

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tvs.2 (fünfundvierzig, 2002)

I don't even know where to start with the review of this disc. Ok, first of all - it's a dub album. I don't know much about dub music per se, not to mention the fact that I am not that interested in it, therefore, my judgement of this disc can only turn out to be a very superficial one and that of a novice. I suppose this music is pretty nice as far as dub / techno stuff goes, but then again, I have no points of reference here, nothing to compare it to. And, besides, such comparisons would be useless, as I'd probably end up saying that to me, all dub or techno releases sound identical and this one here doesn't stand out either. The interesting fact about this album is the appearance of Klaus Schulze on one track. This number (track 2, "testdept.") is typical Schulze, with sequences, rhythms, pads, and soft liquid solos. This track is worth buying the whole album for, but bear in mind that the rest of the CD was done without Klaus

Overall, it's just a normal collection of club music which is sometimes nice to play as the background to your activities. In other words, not my cup of tea (except for track 2, of course). 

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Frank Van Bogaert "Closer" (Groove Unlimited, 2004)

The title track has some sequenced synths and rich sounds at the beginning. It then incorporates a nice piano melody (very much in the style of Vangelis). It's a rhythmic / melodic track that involves some modern elements, such as the rhythm itself. Typical Frank Van Bogaert in his "composed" mode. Some voices can also be heard. Overall, it's a very cheering, ubpeat number. "Coming Up For Air" is next. We get very atmospheric with this one, the beginning sounding very berlinish, with sequences and a great melody playing on top. Again it's a composed (not improvised) track and a very tasty one, full of grandeur and, well.. simply class! The synth sounds are very rich and there are also some choirs (a bit similar to the ones used on "Conquest of Paradise") that play an important role. Overall the track has something of a 90's Tangerine Dream quality to it (the sax perhaps?). "Rorogwela" is based on a traditional melody from the Solomon Islands. I find it a beautiful, melodic World Music track, very easy on the ear, but quite substantial to maintain interest. Very good. "High Above" is pretty ambient, with floating, velvet synths all over the place.. Beautiful stuff that also has some brilliantly rendered sax melody floating on top of the synths. The track sounds more or less improvised. The next cut is called "Melting". Lots of piano on this one and a marching electronic rhythm. The mood is pretty relaxed. Some heavier drums appear in the second part of the track. The main melody is pretty catchy which reaffirms once again the fact that Frank Van Bogaert has a real knack for creating great melodies, in this regard certainly being one of the best composers on the EM scene today. "A Picture of You" - a sad, romantic track. So simple, but SO beautiful! This is simply outstanding! I'll give it to Frank, he really managed to touch my soul with this one. Next comes a short reprise of the title track which features an already familiar melody, but in a more floating, rhythmless setting. We are slowly gliding towards "Caleidoscope" and you can't imagine my delight when I had to find out it's largely an improvised track!! Very cosmic beginning with super delicious sounds. So perfectly done, and then this rhythmic, jazzy, spacey improvisational jam, with electric pianos, keyboard sounds, synths etc. This is the Frank Van Bogaert I like most (the style which was first heard on "Human") and I found this track simply amazing! I'd go anywhere with this music playing. "Europe's Dawn" -  a slow beginning and, what's that? Another impovised track!! By this moment I'm already in heaven but this track sounds more perfect than heaven itself. A very relaxed rhythm, mysterious sounds and improvised structures. This one delivers the goods big time! As I've stated earlier this is the kind of stuff I like most, so this album has made my day already. "Good Morning Song" is a mid-tempo, melodic number that returns to the more composed style of Frank's music. "Dans [da:ns]" features a stomping rhythm and belinesque sequences combined with male choirs and some voices. Interesting combination. "Falling Leaves" is very evocative of its title. This is really October music. Great track! "Sweetness" is very romantic but gets rather intense towards the end and the fact that the track is (again) largely improvised makes it all the more enjoyable for me. "Night Brings Silence" is a sparse atmospheric (again - improvised!) number and a perfect way to end this diverse and full-sounding album. Overall, "Closer" has slightly more sequences than usually with Frank's music and sees him further developing his unique improvisational style that was introduced on "Human" and that yours truly finds extremely enjoyable. There are many EM albums out there but don't forget that there's good stuff and then there's GOOD stuff. And with tracks like "A Picture of You", "Caleidoscope", "Europe's Dawn" and "Sweetness" (plus many others) this album ranks up with the very best of that second category. 

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Kees Aerts "Slices of Time" (Groove Unlimited, 1997)

Kees Aerts: Alesis D 4, Cheetah MS 6, E-MU Orbit, E-MU ESI-32, E-MU Procussion, E-MU Vintage Keys, Kawai K4, Kawai K5M, Korg MS 10, Korg Wavestation EX, Korg Wavestation SR, Roland D 50, Roland Juno 1, Roland Juno 60, Roland U 220, Roland JV-1080, Roland D 110, Roland R 5, Roland W 30, Roland XP 50, Sequential Circuits Sixtrack, Waldorf Microwave, Yamaha TG 77, Yamaha CS1x, Yamaha CS 50, wooden chimes, voice, rainstick. 

"Slices of Time" is notable for being the first ever release of the Groove Unlimited label. The title track opens the album with atmospheric synth background and female voice. Dramatic string sounds are dominating the picture, all tied by stiff electronic effects and some samples. "Waiting for Curtain" continues in that direction and ends with the sound of waves. "Eire" introduces gentle rhythms in mid-pace mode so typical of this work. The flutey leads sound pretty new agey and overall the track fails to impress me. It's all too comfortable, too sweet for my taste. The track again ends with the sound of waves and next on show is "Balance" - a lengthy number with relaxed rhythms, nice pads and subtle sequences. Not exactly groundbreaking, but fine. Note the excellently executed synth fx. With the title "Darkness" I expect something mysterious and perhaps minor key based. And, yes, the track does start in a haunting mode - all we get for a while is a sonic field sparsely populated by sounds that fly like ghosts over a barren land. After the 2 minute mark rhythms are introduced and unfortunately the track becomes brighter and more cheerful - major harmonies are dominating the picture and the sequences are so optimistic, this should've been called "Brightness". Ok, not a bad track of course, just doesn't exactly live up to its title. "The First Time" is more upbeat and more successful overall - great melody, this time with a somewhat urgent, dramatic character, in contrast to the positive sounding major-key sensibility that was more or less obvious up to this moment. Along with the title track, this is the best cut on the entire album. What I like most is how the sounds fade away at the end leaving us with a voice, humming the track's main melody and the sounds of feet walking around the room. Nicely done! "Travel" immediately introduces bass sequences and propel us forward at a neat pace. The pads soon join the flow and it all ends up being a relaxed and comfortable number, with enough variation and key changes to keep interest throughout. Some lead synth work is the highlight. At around the 4:50 mark there's a nice brief atmospheric section before it all returns to sequencing / pad / strings / e-perc formula. "Lovers" is next wich serves as a brief prelude to "Other Worlds". Nice sequencing and effects are an asset of the latter, as well as the track's urgency - must be great for in the car. "Friends" contains contributions by three fellow artists - Ron Boots on synthesizer, James J. Clent on guitar and Harold van der Heijden on electronic drums. All of them did an admirable job of adding some colour to Kees' composition which is one of the highlights of the entire disc. Ron's synth solo is very good, the guitar playing by James is pretty neat too, and the fact that Harold broke his arm shortly before the recording of "Friends" and eventually had to play with one hand only (his plying was recorded in two takes) proves what an expert drummer he is. The album closes with a reprise of the title track that features nice use of samples.

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Dwight Ashley & Tim Story "Standing + Falling" (Nepenthe Music, 2005)

Here is the anticipated new collaboration between sonic alchemists Dwight Ashley and Tim Story that seems to be a concept album of sorts. It starts with deep sounds that are soon joined by sad atmospheres and more effects - an effective beginning. This track is called "Obstinato". True to the Ambient formula the composition sustains its mood throughout. This is perfect, melancholic Ambient, way deep and emotional. Enjoyed this track from start to finish. "Weights And Measures" introduces us to a darker mood with its strange sounds and ultra-low drone. Excellent stuff. "Poppies [for Irene]" is mysterious, deep, atmospheric... haunting, but at the same time bright... true sonic world. "Chicken Pot Pie" surprises with its strange rhythms and whistling textures. Later some other sharp and resonant electronic textures are added. Boy, this is by no means Ambient! Sounds more like some rave kid gone mad! Very original stuff and super cool at that. "13th Station" starts with concrete sounds (railway, birds, voices...) but after a while a low drone makes its appearance and in no time it is joined by distant synth atmospheres - all very emotional and effective. All synth sounds are processed in a strange but compelling way. Everything calms down at the finale with only subtle ticking sound left. "Wax Staircase" starts with echoing noise waves and some complimenting synth effects. After a while a shimmering sound appears that is joined by ethereal piano notes. Other ingredients are ghostly fx / sounds and high-pitched strings. Some wailing guitar can also be heard in the background. This is true Ambient in the classic sense, although it's not as much relaxing as it is mysterious and melancholic. "The Curse of Spee" is the shortest number clocking at just under 2 minutes. It consists of nothing else than a synth pad, some effects and doomy orchestral / flute chords. "Standing And Falling" is next and boy how great it is - a slow percussive rhythm keeps things tight while some of the most beautiful synth atmospheres I've ever heard do unfold on top, along with some odd plonking sounds. "Ohmen" is next and lets see what we have here. Aha, it's probably the darkest piece so far. Low drones, raspy textures and obscure atmospheres are the key elements of this track. The longest (and the final) track "Dysnipsia" starts with subtle humming textures and what sounds like a distant sonar. During the next 20 minutes we are treated to melancholic synth wails and atmospheres in classic Ambient tradition. "Standing + Falling" is a great and diverse Ambient album that comes as highly recommended.

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Greg Breden "Stones" (private release, 2005)

This is NOT a re-issue of Greg's old cassette release, but a new album with the same title, containing some remixes of old tracks plus new material. The first track is called "Apollo" which is in fact a re-working of an old title "Earthrise". If you've read my article about Greg Breden on the general encyclopedia pages, you probably remember that it was my favourite composition on the demo CD-R I got from Greg some time earlier. The track presented here adds techno rhythms while in essence the track is similar to the original. Needless to say, I found the original much more substantial and exciting. Overall, this album does to old tracks what "Dream Mixes" did for classic Tangerine Dream material. Adding a techno beat and a couple of "modern" sounds on top of an old title is not very exciting of an idea and "Apollo" is no exception. Although still a fine number, I could certainly do without the super cheesy voice samples (especially the female "hey-hey-hey" sample). The synth soloing is very strong but all too brief. Nonetheless, the original was so convincing that it's still the best track on this CD-R. I'm reaching for the "repeat" button now... Another one of those remixed versions is the title track. The "Dream Mixes mode" continues, as the approach here is the same as on previous number - what we get is basically - the original, "spiced up" by some new elements and rhythms. "Indigo" represents a finished version of the jazzy track "Blue" off the 1998 demo CD-R. A nice relaxing number, but more like "lounge music" to my ears. "Abandon Yourself" is the first completely new track. A nice atmospheric piece that's unfortunately marred by the rather silly reciting voice. The synth soloing (somehow reminding on Pink Floyd's "Welcome To the Machine", although much smoother and not that piercing) in the second part is top-notch. Yes! Give me more of that! This track would rank very highly if it weren't for the voice. The second phase is still great EM, though, with even some nice sequencing. The version of "Undercurrents" presented here first appeared on the 1998 demo album and was completed for the release of "Stones". The music here is almost identical to the 1998 version, so my old description also applies here. It's an "atmospheric track with laid-back rhythm and strong melodic hooks". "Stratalight" is an upbeat number with some echoing guitar work in a style similar to "Indigo" which means some sort of jazzy EM that sounds very much like "lounge music" to me - too unengaging. "Metamorphosis" is a long number with several changing themes. It does sound a bit disjointed, although with a title like that this could easily be the intention. The synth solos are again what makes me smile with pleasure. Pity they are too brief. My other gripe concerns sound quality. The thing is that when the music gets intense it all sounds muffled and overcompressed. Either the volume level of the original recording was too high or the compressor is working overtime here. In either case I hope Greg solves this little problem in his future releases. "Until Tomorrow" is an earthly (guitar-based) ballad, much like "Going Home" from the 1998 demo CD. "Stones" is a mixed bag but could serve as a good introduction to Greg Breden's work. I just wish he takes away the voice samples and trashes the compressor. Best tracks: "Apollo", "Abandon Yourself".

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Create "From Earth To Mars" (Groove Unlimited, 2005)

"Light Bank" starts with deep atmospheres and subtle leads. After a while some arpeggiating synths can be heard. A strange combination of a rhythm and a sequence then appears. Intriguing. The sequences have a galloping quality to them making us motor along at quite a pace. Really, this piece is all about sequencing. Well done! At the end of the track lead lines come into prominence. "Oblivion" is next. Strange, strange sounds get this track going. Very echoey metallic banging of sorts, broken sequences. All topped by dramatic strings. After a few seconds a sequence appears while the strange backing continues to cast its spell underneath. "Earth To Mars" starts with some nice effects but soon a toe-tapping rhythm and sequences appear. And what sequences! They'll have your head nodding and your body moving in no time! The rhythm is then embellished by additional subtle bass throbs. A melodic theme is played on top and the journey begins. This is a very, very strong and mature track in pure New Berlin School style. Sequences sequence, rhythms bang, pads float, lead lines scream - everything sounds as if it was meant to be exactly that way. Top notch stuff! The top of the crown is of course the sequencing - these are definitely pulsations done by an expert! To make long story short, this is one hell of an epic sequencer track. "Gethsemane" kicks in with bass sequences and sampled mellotron strings on supporting role. The track gradually gains momentum with more sequences added so in the end it's another sequencer-dominated track with only slight strings / choir background arrangements. "Solar Flare" is a high-energy number with very intense sequencing. Nice melodic hooks and rhythms on that one. This is probably as energetic as prog EM gets. At the conclusion of this track the sequences shine in all their glory for a while, before an atmospheric section brings things to a close. Interesting use of processed shakuhachi flute as well. "Re-Entry" initially is chock full of alien-like effects. Soon a middle-paced sequence appears together with a bass rhythm. A curious and rather unusual track with different textures & overall atmosphere. The solos are abundant and have a pleasant, "retro" (arghhh....I hate using that term!) sound to them. The sequences are also an attraction - very nicely done. "Goodbye" is a track written as a tribute to the late musician Michael Garrison. Guess what! It actually starts like a lullaby! Yes, the slow melodic sequencing really sounds that way to me. Anyway, it's a soft, major-key number - quite a contrast to the rest of the minor-key, energetic and a bit bleak material that dominates "From Earth To Mars". Overall I think that this album is more diverse than its predecessor, but has the same sort of vibe. After the first superfluous listening I'd say that the title track and "Re-Entry" are the strongest and the most interesting tracks, therefore, they are my favourites. Great sequencer album.

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Paul Ellis "Silent Conversations" (Groove Unlimited, 2005)

This album is a bit of a departure for Paul Ellis, as well as for sequencer EM in general. In addition to synthesizers it features a nice use of guitar, bass, voice and some other acoustic and electric instruments. That doesn't mean, however that Paul's style is unnoticeable, because there are still plenty of rhythmic sequencer tracks done in the typical Paul Ellis manner. On some tracks, Paul is helped by friends Steve Roach, Jeffrey Koepper, Otso Pakarinen and others. So, strictly speaking, some of the tracks on "Silent Conversations" are actually collaborations with other artists. We start with "The Only Known Photograph of God" that has Steve Roach and Jeffrey Koepper helping out on synthesizers, while Paul plays synths, guitars and bass. It has an atmospheric beginning but after a while in come the sequences and several minutes later it settles into a nice rhythmic groove. There are some stunning jazzy chords that make the track really stand out, giving the proceedings a slightly funky vibe. The mood is relaxed and very enjoyable, like a comfortable space voyage in a warm, enveloping capsule. The track really took me back to the golden age of EM with its subtle pulsations, electric pianos and warm analog string sounds. "Trillium" is a Paul Ellis solo synth piece that starts with a slow, echoing sequence of the kind that Paul is so good at. The pace remains slow and relaxed throughout the piece, while the atmosphere is decidedly alien and unearthly. Nice deep bass sounds on this one. Some faster sequences are playing alongside the slow ones, giving the track a rich, full sound, in spite of the fact that the music itself is based almost exclusively on rhythmic elements, with a few weird FX injections here and there. The way the sequences are changing, mutating and interacting is simply gorgeous. "Peripheral Vision" is a collaborative track with Steve Roach (pad and bell synths, processing) and Will Merkle (bass). It's firmly in the Ambient school of thought, with Steve laying down the atmospheric background on top of which we can hear Paul playing Rhodes piano and a bit of mellotron flute near the end, while Merkle provides a few subtle touches on bass guitar. Rhodes is certainly what gives this track (and album as a whole, because this instrument is used on some other tracks as well) its own specific atmosphere. It's a pleasant diversion, as the sounds of Fender Rhodes are very characteristic of 70's progrock, fusion and even EM records, so the album has a lot of that "good old" feeling in it. "The Wind-Up Synthesizers of the Glass Reich" (talk about odd titles!) is a collaborative piece with Otso Pakarinen also known as Ozone Player, who plays (no pun intended) synthesizers. The piece is based on a matrix of sequences with some great melodic moments as well. "Trance Figure" could be considered typical American Ambient, akin to Steve Roach and similar artists, but the guitar (quite a bit of it), voice (Paul's!) and flute played by Laurie Guild are something unusual for EM camp. The track sounds very close to new instrumental music, with synthesized structures taking the back seat, while the upfront solo elements are provided by guitar, Rhodes, flute and so on. Paul Ellis even plays electric bass on this cut. The final chords gave me the goosebumps - pretty dramatic stuff. "Continental Drift" - solo Paul Ellis again, on just synthesizers, coaxing more sequences than I can ever count. Making them all interact and stay synced and in tune with each other must have been an enormous task. "The Dumb Angel's Periscope" (this way he may even outdo Edgar Froese in the weird title department) is once again a collaboration with fellow musician Steve Roach. Both play synths and sequencers while Paul also plays guitar. Taking into account the title of the song I do notice a humorous touch in the music, albeit a very light one. The sequences are a bit chunky and.. well, *clumsy*. Interesting composition overall. The title track is a calm piece with processed cello sounds and vocals (both provided by guest musicians). The cello gives the track a vaguely Schulzean flair. Again, a non-typical (for EM, that is) number. The album closes with Paul's own interpretation of Steve Roach's "Sundial" that first appeared on Steve's "Life Sequence" album and where also Paul played synthesizers. Here the track is called "Dialing In the Sun" ;-). My favorite element in this piece is the soloing, which is sparse but spot-on. Interesting sequencing as well. It's nice to hear the album finish with this upbeat optimistic composition. "Silent Conversations" comes as something really different for Paul Ellis. The concept here is perhaps slightly more obscure than that of "The Sacred Ordinary". Feeling more like a collection of tracks, rather than a single piece of art, it is still a very enjoyable disc that will possibly require a few spins to be appreciated in its entirety by die-hard EM fans, but I still think that the sheer beauty of some of the pieces will be noticed and enjoyed by followers of Paul's talent.

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Embrase "Dreamworld" (Groove Unlimited, 2005)

Marc Bras: Access Virus kb, Clavia Micro Modular, Kawai K1R, Korg MS2000, Korg N1R, Korg Triton Le 61, Roland JV-1010, Roland U-220, Waldorf MicroWave II, Waldorf Micro Q, Waldorf Pulse, Yamaha AN1X, Yamaha RM1X, Apple Logic Pro 7, Korg Legacy, LinPlug Albino 2, Spectrasonics Atmosphere.

"Mysterious Landscape" is a short melancholic introduction. It's classically tinged with sparse piano and various synth pads / symphonic textures. "Soundtracking" starts in a similar manner before the first tinkling sequences appear as well as a mournful lead line. I must say this is all rather melancholic sounding - very sober stuff. It's an OK number with a fair amount of changes to keep it all interesting. At the end of the track the symphonic synths return. "Come On" is straight into sequencing coupled with symphonic synth pads. I am sorry to say so, but this track turned out to be too generic and banal for my taste - there's just nothing that really stands out. Not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but I would've preferred something more daring. Also the use of digital preset sounds is somewhat unimaginative on this particular piece. Let's hope "Underwater Secrets" does deliver the goods. Well, I must admit the water samples were something I expected, but otherwise the beginning does create a nice atmosphere with symphonic synths and some more unusual sounds. It's got a laid back rhythm that I found very relaxing. Very good, indeed and the proof that to create a nice EM track you have to spend some time searching for interesting sounds, provided you have all the other necessary skills. "Time Is Killing" is next. This track has a dramatic start with various effects and a generally dark and reflective atmosphere. A bass throbbing is heard. After a while we get a drum rhythm together with some synthesizer sounds that wouldn't sound out of place on a 1987 - 1992 Tangerine Dream album. I'd say this sounds fairly typical of late 1980's synth music, although interestingly enough it was recorded in the New Millennium. Not much to say about this track. It's sort of normal and pleasant - nothing fancy here, but also nothing that would make me reach for the skip button. If you like the said period of Tangerine Dream - you will like this one. The title track is flooding your ears with obligatory digital synth atmospheres. A lone flute is heard on top. All is fairly delicate and melancholic. However, urgent bass slabs make an appearance and destroy the idyll that preceded it. Nice lead sounds sing their song and in the end it's a nice track with enough sequencing and atmospheres / solos to please any mainstream EM fan. "First Movements" tries to convey a dramatic mood by way of special effects and rich synth timbres. It doesn't take long before we hear bass sequences and a rhythm. It's a good, dynamic track mostly based on sequences. With a track title like "Blue Ambience" I expected an ambient track; however it turned out to be another melancholic rhythmic number along the lines of the rest of the album. "Moving To the Limit" is based on a throbbing bass coupled with a piano melody and some male choir sounds. A bit different from the rest of the album I must admit but doesn't take me to any "limit" at all. The bass transforms into a steady sequence as we hurtle forward on top of waves of synths. It's an interesting upbeat track, in spite of not exactly living up to its title. "E-Motional Sequencing", quite expectedly, is based on sequences and has much more interesting sounds that most tracks on "Dreamworld". Certainly the best cut on the album - typical EM, emotional, laid-back and cosmic - music for star travels. The solo that comes after 7 minutes is too prominent, though. "Journey To the Unknown" is another rhythmic composition in the style of late 80's - early 90's Tangerine Dream, sometimes using almost identical sounds. "Less Is More" is quite cheerful compared to the rest of the album that tends to be based on minor, low-key harmonies. Overall "Dreamworld" lacks the otherworldly qualities of EM and concentrates on rhythm and melody. That said, I must add that texture-wise a lot of it sounds pretty one-dimensional. However, the best tracks on this album are actually very good. I think Marc is a talented artist and I recommend "Dreamworld" for melodic / rhythmic EM aficionados. Nice debut, if a tad too long (the CD runs at almost full 80 minutes).

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Gert Emmens "When Darkness Falls Upon the Earth" (Groove Unlimited, 2005)

Gert Emmens: ARP Odyssey, Boss DR-660, Doepher MAQ 16/3, Elektor Formant, EMU E6400 Ultra, EMU Vintage Keys Plus, Farfisa Syntorchestra, Hohner String Performer, Korg 700S, Korg Lambda, Korg MS2000r, Korg Wavestation EX, MAM MB 33, MFB Synth II, Moog Minimoog, Moog Opus 3, Roland M-DC1, Roland M-OC1, Roland M-VS1, Roland SH-32, Transidrums U77, Vermona ER9, Yamaha AN1x *2, Yamaha CS-80, Yamaha SY-85.

"Rendezvous With 2004 MN4" has a few seconds of atmospherics before a sequence appears which is then joined by a bass one and some lovely mellotron string swells. The effects on this track are excellent. Some of the sounds reminded me of Gert's previous effort, "Waves of Dreams". Typical melancholic, sad atmosphere prevails which has by now become a trademark of Gert. Nice soloing with a new timbre as well. A very laid back number. After the 8-minute mark the sequences are emphasized and let to fly on their own. The mellotron string sound returns, adding extra depth and atmosphere. I do notice the excellent sound quality of this release - nice mastering work, indeed! A mournful lead line can be heard that after a while cries alone, in a desolate, misty soundscape. Wow! This is some moody stuff! The epic title track starts with dark sheets of sound. Incredible sound design - Gert just gets better and better in this regard. A whistling synth solo gives it all a vaguely Kitaro-ish mood. After 2 minutes, though, the expected sequences do come in and... BOY, this is some DARN GREAT sequencing!! All my thumbs are up in sheer ecstasy! Somewhat reminds me on Jarre's "Arpegiateur" (my favourite Jarre track). Excellent melodies as well. I'm telling you, guys, this is some of the best Berlin School music I've heard. Looks like Gert has mastered the art of sequencing to a degree where few can follow him. An atmospheric section comes at the 6-minute mark and gets somewhat darker towards the end. Another sequence starts supported by lovely mellotron strings. The sequence is more bass-laden and menacing this time. The rhythm that comes a few moments after is very enjoyable and swiftly supports the sequencer runs. A lead line flashes on top - this is pure Berlin School EM which is simultaneously atmospheric and melodic. The next synth solo had me in raptures - this is so tasty - it sent shivers down my spine as I flew through desolate landscapes and cosmic ether - very moody stuff. Ok, enough of the new-agey talk, the finale to this track is anything if pure bliss, with the mellotron string sound giving may to dark sheets of sound we heard at the beginning. "Nostalgia" starts with gentle soundscapes but then a few melodic notes suddenly drop out of nowhere and then a misty synth lead joins - sort of romantic sounding stuff, but still way out in space. A galloping bass sequence fades in that is then joined by another melodic one. An impeccable journey that has so much feeling put into it, it's amazing. A total change of pace and rhythm comes after 6 minutes into the track - a more floating section dominated by synth solos and melodic sequences. It all ends on a reflective note with some excellent use of mellotron flute sound. "Casting Shadows On the Cold Ground" (those titles...!) begins with some of the deepest sounds so far, like echoes from a subterranean world. Whisper-like effects add to the spooky atmosphere. A mellotron choir fades in ever so slightly with the whole picture bearing an almost Lustmordian air. This is some new ground for Gert in which he seems to be equally skillful. A persistent bass sequence appears along with some more familiar synth / mellotron sounds. After a while it turns into real sequencer heaven. Really, if you dig sequencer-based synth music - this is it! Dramatic effects, mournful leads, soundscapes, rhythmic pulsations - it's all there. On this album you will find lots of whistle-like (or theremin-like if you know what I mean) synth soloing and this track is no exception. We finish on a sad, dark and dramatic note - this music expresses fear, longing, pain and anguish and does it so well - you can almost feel it down your throat. Gert's emotional prowess has never been so strong and evident. "The Morning After" is an extended version of a track composed for an analogue sampler project. It's a bright number with melodic sequences, EMS-like effects, melodies and slightly phased pads. After the darker tracks that preceded it it's like seeing a sun ray glide along the surface of long suffering Earth. The second part however is more insistent, with slightly more aggressive sequences and a return to minor chords. This section has an almost classical feel to it, especially when the sequence subsides. There is a strange humming sound underneath and when I listened to it, I thought someone forgot to turn off the hairdryer. :-) "Requiem Pour Sam" ends this excellent album of neo-prog Berlin School Electronic Music on in a rhythmic sequency fashion, still retaining the aura of sadness and melancholy.

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Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij "Blind Watchers of A Vanishing Night" (Emmens/Heij, 2005)

Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij: Boss DR-660, Clavia Nord Modular, Clavia Nord Micro Modular, Elka Solist 505, EMS Synthi A, EMU E6400 Ultra, EMU Vintage Keys Plus, Korg MS-2000r, Korg Wavestation EX, Roland M-VS1, Roland SH-32, Yamaha A4000 sampler with mellotron & stringensemble sets, Yamaha AN1x *2, Yamaha S-30 with PLG150-AN, Yamaha SY-85.

"Blind Watchers of A Vanishing Night" is an album consisting of live tracks recorded during various gigs in 2004. The title track wastes no time with the lovely sequences appearing almost instantly - and what sequences they are - lovely pulsations straight out of the "Ricochet" school. Great mellotron choir sounds add to the picture, as well as subtle synth soloing. Pure cosmic bliss! Stylistically this continues what started on "Return To the Origin", which means Berlin School music of the highest order. If upbeat sequencers with a melancholic flair (courtesy of Gert, I think) are your thing - this is the album for you. "A Journey Through Time" is a long suite (44:01) with multiple parts. The first part, "Solaris" is known from Gert & Ruud's previous effort as well as Gert's solo performances. Floating pads, melodic sequences, mellotron flutes and a no-nonsense CS-80-like "harmonica" solo are the key elements here. The second part, "Red Clouds Over A Misty Swamp" is all-atmospheric, with subtle synth soundscapes and distant mellotron choirs. This is some real moody stuff! "The Rise And Fall of Atlantis" takes things back to sequencer territory, with insistent string slabs and supporting pads. "Waiting For the Day To Come" calms things down once again, but this time the atmosphere of suspense and fear prevails. "Crystal Tears" has sequences that are slower but have more oomph to them - bass pulsations that remind on Klaus Schulze circa 1976 - 1977. Some lovely use of mellotron flute sound on this one as well. "The Day the Moon Will Leave Us" closes the suite on an atmospheric and a tad dramatic note. "Moments of Unexpected Sadness" starts with excellent soundscapes but after a few seconds in comes an excellent melodic sequence which is then joined by yet another one and we are propelled forward on top of floating waves of sound. Excellent sounds, melodies, atmospheres and of course, sequencing. The whistling synth lead line is pretty tasty as well. Any fan of sequencer EM will swallow this track in no time! A lot of mellotron strings are heard towards the end as well as some EMS chirping. "Conspiracy of Two Forces"... Wow! This is simply the strongest bass sequencing I've heard from these guys so far. The pulsations are so punchy, they'll have your head spinning and your heart racing at full speed. On top of that we can hear Gert churning out a reflective solo. This is the best track on the entire album. The ultimate Berlin School number? The essence of Berlin-styled electronics? Perhaps. "Driving Home On A Rainy Night" sounds like a continuation of the previous number with added electronic drums and mellotron strings. Excellent and somewhat cheerful / reflective finish to this great album laden with sequences, solos and atmospheres.

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David Girard "Hydrosphere" (Inorchestral, 2003)

Appropriately enough, the title track starts with aquatic noises, like echoing drops of water. They are then joined by strange sounds and bass rhythm. A tinkling melody can be heard, along with atmospheric pads and various effects. The track is somewhat repetitive - I think it would benefit from a bit more variation. At this point there's no one I can compare David's music to, it's pretty much has its own style. "Echoes" features nice mid-paced sequences coupled with synth strings. Various drop-like electronic sounds embellish the picture as well as hints of rhythm. Reminds me a bit on early Software. Great stuff. "Naïade" again features Software-like sequences as well as phased pads. Very enjoyable atmospheric number that seems to be influenced by the Berlin School, but also brings to mind those great times of French Electronic Music classics (think Jarre's "Oxygene"). The track finishes with an atmospheric section that exposes those French influences more overtly. "L'Aube" features plenty of bell-like sequences and melodic pads. "H2O" is next and with a title like that you'd expect it to be another affair in the style of vintage Jarre. Well, you are not far from the truth, except that you won't find any copying here (has anyone managed to successfully emulate the "Oxygene"-era Jarre sound with today's tools? I can't think of such example), just music that's in similar terrain, but using different timbres. There are also German influences served in almost equal dose. So what is it like? Fast-paced sequencing, piano melodies, effects and varied atmospheres. This is not a sea or an ocean, it' more like a fast stream of water. "Quelques Minutes dans le Cerveau de Lotus" is David's foray into classic Berlin School territory. It's a long track with an atmospheric introduction where we can hear the sounds of David's parrot singing and long drawn-out organ lines (ala Schulze). The organ is pitch-bended in a strange kind of way. I cannot seem to get why David decided to add this pitch-bend feature, as it really sounds weird and somewhat cheesy (the kind of stuff you could do with today's cheapo Casio keyboard... Although it does remind a bit on the detuned organ waves in the first part of Klaus Schulze's "Irrlicht"). Then in comes a fast sequence (sounds very virtual analogue to my ears) which pretty much defines the second part of the track. Nice try at the pure Berlin style and a success overall. "David's Memory" sounds too busy, somewhat muffled and a bit underdeveloped. Overall, one of the weakest tracks on the album. "Hydrosphere" successfully blends French and German influences into a cohesive and unique whole. Nice and promising debut from this young newcomer. "Hydrosphere" comes with a second disc that contains great QuickTime video for the title track designed by visual artist Cimon Charest. 

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David Girard "VertBeat" (Inorchestral, 2004)

"VertBeat" is David Girard's second album that was apparently inspired by nature. With a concept like that, you'd expect something of a new age affair and... nothing could be further from the truth, as "VertBeat" is prime EM, with obvious nods to the German classics, but having its own personality, full of atmosphere and with an outstanding execution. I'd say that "VertBeat" is a huge step forward for David Girard, as it really shows his talent, while the fact that he is a young composer from Quebec City proves that there is future for EM and it's partly located in the Northern part of Western Hemisphere... A surprising diversion - whereas "Hydrosphere" was all-electronic, "VertBeat" features guest musicians Miguel Puerto (guitar) and Françoise Comelli (cello), which gives it a more organic feel, the performances being top-notch! Finally, to express my enthousiasm ever futher, I'd say that "VertBeat" is certainly one of the best EM releases I've heard from 2004. Now that my raving's done, let's start with the usual track by track description. "Morning Dew" is a melancholic piece whose first minutes are dominated by cello and slow rhythms - excellent start! After a while the guitar steps in, playing bluesy notes that take us to the Ash Ra Tempel territory. What a great track, with all instruments played superbly. As we are closing the 3 minute mark, a sequence appears and the guitar just goes with the flow. Relaxed, delicious, rhythmic are the words that could be used to describe this track. "Minikorg Dragonfly's Last Flight" features more sequences and nice pad melody / piano chords combination. Just like with the previous track (and the whole album for that matter), David relies on improvisation to build the track. And boy, can he improvise! "My Small Flower" just proves my conviction right. This track has so much feeling put into it, it's uncanny! By the way, the initial tinkling sequences coupled with pads remind me a bit on some melancholic Kitaro pieces from his early works. Some great effects are heard and overall it's one of the most beautiful EM pieces I've head in a while. The rhythms do add some oomph, and the bass sequence that comes not long after the rhythm is introduced is simply gorgeous. It's a great tapestry of sound that just pulsates and floats. "Life And Death of the Poplar" features upbeat sequencing and cascading piano notes before the solo comes in and takes things right home - this is pure classic prog EM. Call it Berlin School, Retro, whatever - it just rocks! We finish with synth noises and the sound of wind. "Lay Down In the Grass" is a slow-pacer. Relaxed rhythms, nice chords and outstanding improvised bluesy guitar - again reminding of the best Ashra moments. This is simply excellent! "A Tiny World" starts with a somewhat static rhythm that is complemented by great cello playing. The mood is that of solitude and reflection. A very somber piece, this one. It's not long before we hear phased pad sounds and an excellent bass line. This is all too good for words, got my head nodding to this one. It will have any EM fan in raptures. And then, oh my, a solo!... And what solo!! This is one of the best synth playing I've heard - so much feeling, so much emotion is put in those soaring lines. So you are one of those who think EM is emotionless and lifeless?... Go listen to this one. You'll have your mind changed in no time. The best piece on the album - everything is perfect - the sequences, the solos, the atmospheres... Ok, enough words, I'm going to just listen to the rest of the track without distractions. "Green Power" starts with lonely drops of sound and, again, great cello that brings to mind some of Schulze's works with Wolfgang Tiepold. It's a relaxed piece with, again, great soloing - pure EM! The pace quickens after the 5 minute mark as we are propelled forward on the wave of a fast sequence. This is so intense! Dramatic bursting cello chords finish this mindblowing excursion. The title track is next. No messing around here - staright into business with repeating bass notes that gradually build and mutate into a sequence. The mood is somewhat dramatic and suspenseful. A rhythm kicks in while the sequence and soaring melodies continue doing their thing. Another sequence makes its appearance after the 4 minute mark - and another one!  Then all sounds subside to emphasize the rhythm until those excellent (and I mean it) low sawy leads appear out of nowhere. The lead line gains momentum shifting to the higher end of keyboard, while the super delicious sequence returns just in the right second. Wow! This is so good, it's unbelievable. The last track, "A Sea of Mist" proves that David is also able to compose excellent Ambient tracks. Again the cello playing is immaculate while the melodic atmospheres created by David are deep and wonderful. Excellent close to an outstanding EM work. I guess my excitement about this album is pretty obvious. And on top of that all, "VertBeat" comes with a bonus DVD disc that contains a great video created by visual artist Cimon Charest. The combination of Cimon's images and David' music is really something to experience. There is also a nice interview with David Girard on the DVD, where he explains the concept, his working methods & more. "VertBeat" is an essential Berlin School work. Visit www.inorchestral.com for more imformation.  

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Sven Hansen "Atlantiz"(private release, 2006)

Sven Hansen: Korg Polysix, Yamaha SY 22, Yamaha CS01II, Yamaha CS6x, Korg SQD-1 sequencer, Roland TR 505, Yamaha RX17.

This new album of Sven Hansen is described by the author as "1 hour 2 minutes of diving atmospheric Atlantic adventure music". A good description of the music it is, too. The first track "Traum Insel" initially consists of slightly phased synth pads, wave sounds and various other atmospheric textures. After the 3-minute mark a relaxed tinkling sequence appears. This sequence dominates the second part of the track. The flowing melodies make it an ideal stuff to sail to. The title track comes next and introduces more synthetic-sounding sequences and slow drum machine rhythms. This is pure EM that at times reminded me of Software and other Berlin School acts. The sequencing on this one is excellent. I also like the way the sequences and rhythms interact with melodies and pads - very smooth, natural and easy-going. Without a doubt, this is the best cut on the entire album. "Coral Dive" would be a perfect track for accompanying films about diving and sea life. There is a certain "Underwater Sunlight"-era Tangerine Dream flair to it, but the influences are very subtle and absolutely not upfront. "Kelpforest" consists of insistent rolling chords, subtle whooshing effects and pad sounds. A simple, but effective track. "Deepdive" brings us back to the relaxed style of "Coral Dive" but this time it sounds much deeper and sort of distant. I must say that Sven does an excellent job of conjuring images of all things aquatic with his music. "MC Murdo Sound" is all deep, reverberating wave sounds and subtle crackling, while the last part is enhanced by liquid pad sounds. "Frogland" consists of nothing but the sounds of rain, frogs, repeating three-note phrases and some additional synth colouring. Again, simple but effective stuff. We then get "Sargasso" which is extremely relaxing but certainly rhythmic (mid-to-slow range rhythms). "Etheriopia" is similar in style. I must say that by this point the music becomes fairly new-agey, even reminding on some Medwyn Goodall's stuff, so those who don't like new age may find it a bit too much. "Orbis Terra" is, once again, similar to the previous two tracks, but this time there's also a slight techno influence in the form of heavier drums. Overall, this track is more urgent and energetic than the previous two that were pure relaxers. "Caraibe" is basically in the style of "Etheriopia" which means relaxed rhythms, flowing pads and subtle melodies. "Atlantiz Reprise" doesn't sound like the title track at all, instead relying on bell-like sequences and slow (but heavier) rhythms, with lots of pads and melodies to keep it going. I think "Atlantiz" will appeal to fans of melodic, relaxing EM, although new age fans who don't mind electronically created music may also want to check it out. There's no dark stuff here, just bright, melodic, aquatic atmospheres and rhythms.

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Andrei Klimkovskiy "From Dusk Till Dawn" (Neane Records, 1997)

The first track starts with deep synth atmospheres, floating pads and some subtle effects. I notice quite a few preset timbres in use, so it's not very exciting sonically, but it does possess a special calming effect. This is perfect stuff for those who are into Space Music and want to relax after a hard-working day. It's also the longest track on the album. Somehow the melodies remind me of the more atmospheric moments of Jarre, albeit here, digital instruments are dominating the picture. The track fades away slowly, and tinkling notes herald the coming of Track Two. Ok, I must admit it turned out to be too sweet and new-agey for my taste (this "new age" thing is the feature of the whole album, by the way). Sounds like music coming from a toy box - although it does have a nice melody to it. Not bad, overall. On to Track Three which is all about organ playing. I don't know if Andrei is trying to play a Bach-like piece but the results are vaguely in that musical area, except that the synthesized (digital) organ sound is too thin and artificial compared to the real thing. The organ is then all but drowned by the sounds of massive synth pads. Once again I am reminded of Jarre - perhaps, something off "Chronologie" (that also featured some organ stuff). Track Four starts with bell-like sequences and some effects. Sounds like it could be the best track on the album. The mood is similar to some of the Kitaro stuff and Andrei also uses similar pitch-bending on synth sounds. My main gripe though is the lack of variation, especially in texture - it's all very predictable, very plastic-sounding. Track Five has an excellent start to it with arpeggiated notes and then some emotional pads surfacing from beneath. I like this one! A sequenced rhythm surges forward, making it the most active and the most interesting track on "From Dusk Till Dawn". There are even some drum sounds here and whereas the previous number seemed somewhat marred by the almost total lack of variety, this one here does its job beautifully and Andrei's talent just shines through. The track ebbs and flows, with some nice key changes, great sequence and urgent drum rhythm. Give me that track anytime! Track Six returns to the floating realms of Space Music. Gentle piano notes provide the main melody while the pads serve as the warm and comfortable blanket for the piece. Not very original, but still ok. Some more interesting sounds are heard a bit later but overall the track does not deviate from the initial formula. Track Seven features a sequenced rhythm and is one of the more active pieces of the lot. It has some oriental motives that I enjoyed and it benefits from being fairly original. It's probably the shortest track also, and once I got used to it, the transition to Track Eight came imminently. The oriental motives return in a more subdued and ambient setting - a flute melody is played on top of subtle pads. Track Nine concludes the album in a peaceful manner, with wind sounds, swirling effects, as well as piano & flutey synth melodies. I'm sure it wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Kitaro album, especially once the laid-back drum rhythm kicks in. This CD will be enjoyed by fans of both Space Music and general rhythmic / melodic EM.

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Guido Meyer "Lightyears" (Solarise Records, 2005)

"Lightyears" is a musical story of how our Solar System could probably end in 7 billion years with the Sun collapsing and humankind escaping to another nearby system using a spaceship. The tracks segue into each other forming a continuous journey, according to the album's concept. "Flashback" starts with various noises & samples provided by Alexander Seewald and Manuel Bumb. Similar sounds are used during transitions between all tracks. Dramatic synth chords can be heard as the intensity of the piece grows, although it never becomes threatening. The chords are pretty much all we hear in this track but it manages to come up as something quite effective. Upbeat drums herald the coming of "Apocalyptic Birds". The drums are joined by excellent improvised guitar and we are straight into trademark Guido Meyer sound that was first introduced on "Towards the Blue Horizon" which means driving melodic synth / guitar combination. It's a great track and a perfect choice for when in the car. The piece ends with abstract noises and next in queue is the title track - and what an awesome number it is! Starting with low bass throbs it flourishes with melodic laid-back sequences and skillful rhythm programming. It's the best track on the entire album and one of the best melodic EM pieces I've heard. Synths and guitar really compliment each other on this one. Gorgeous stuff indeed! "Black Hole" is rather mysterious, with fast sequenced notes which morph into a laid back rhythm / chunky sequence / deep bass notes combination. The guitar wails on top - a strange but very enjoyable concoction. The fast sequenced notes return now and then, making it a very intense track. Simply superb! (I'm listening to it for the second time as I write this and it's interesting to note that I didn't like this track very much upon first listening) Strange spacey notes end the track and lead us to "Cosmical Beauty" - a piece that for some reason reminds me a lot on 90's Tangerine Dream output. Although I've never been a fan of that period in TD's career (to put it mildly) Guido Meyer's piece sounds very cohesive and enjoyable. One of the most "rocky" pieces on the album with guitars put upfront and synths taking a back seat, mostly providing background pads. The next piece is called "Solar Sunrise" and a pretty cheerful number it is too. Arpeggiated synth notes are combined with heavy Simmons-type rhythms with background synth atmospheres bringing in some spaciness to the proceedings. There is no guitar on this piece, it's all synths and it comes as a very serene and bright number expressing the feeling of hope that we feel when watching the birth of a new day. "Starglancer" features sampled sax - something that rarely works for me. Well, it does here actually, and although the track is not so evocative of its title in my opinion, it still features nice atmosphere and expert guitar playing. "Class M" continues where the previous track left off - mysterious synth notes and great synth programming make this one of the most effective compositions on the entire album. If you like 80's Tangerine Dream - this track will be right up your alley - great melodic electronics with some tasty guitar thrown in! "Second Chance" is a relaxed number in a familiar style but slightly darker than the average Meyer affair, with urgent guitar notes played on top of the somewhat mysterious-sounding synth music. "Reprise" is indeed a reprise of the first track with added programmed drums. "Lightyears" is another winner for Guido Meyer. No weak tracks here, with the highlights being "Apocalyptic Birds", the gorgeous title track and "Black Hole". Highly recommended to all fans of melodic EM and instrumental rock.

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Guido Meyer "Installations" (Solarise Records, 1996 / 2006)

This album contains music that was recorded in 1996 for various installations. It is the first time this material gets released to the public. The first track called "The Seed" is a "Berlin School" number, with melodic sequencing and atmospheres. It's a bit untypical for Guido Meyer and pretty good. If you like Tangerine Dream's output from the early 80's or even some of their sequencer-based material from the 90's, you will enjoy this one! "Confused Hunchback" is a short reflective piece that sounds like a musical sketch rather than a full-blown composition. "Useless Toys" relies on a rhythm / sequence combination and is much more representative of Guido Meyer's output. The track reminds on the material heard on "Episodes 1". "A Pair of Shoes" is once again a reflective electric piano piece similar to "Confused Hunchback". "Ramon" is a cheerful rhythmic piece but rather generic. The melodies are good but the sound pallette is rather lackluster. "Way Home" contains GREAT (and I mean it) melodic sequencing and a bit harder rhythms than what I'm used to hear on Guido Meyer's records. Overall, this composition has some slight techno leanings that, however, do not alter the general impression I get from this track. Nice one! Who said accessible music can't be good? This may be not the most serious composition on Earth but who cares if it makes you move?! The desire is strong to press the "repeat" button, but I have to go on with my review. "Gazah Stripe" starts with well-crafted rhythms but after a while a growling synth enters that is joined by mysterious melodic theme. This track is strongly reminiscent of Tangerine Dream's strongest moments from late 80's. The synth solos on this track are simply excellent! This is complex, expressive, melodic EM of the highest order. On "Your Fields" electronic marimbas are introduced along with synthesized saxes that together make up for some exotic brew of sounds. Things get even more intriguing as more sounds are introduced and Guido improvises on top of the track's rhythmic base. Mournful strings are introduced and the mood changes from exotic to melancholic nostalgia. There is a romantic flair about this track that is so slight it's hardly perceivable but it does add a lot of charm to this unusual composition. The mood then swings back to exotic lounge as brighter chords replace the nostalgic ones. "Installations" sounds more like a miscellaneous bunch of tracks rather than a "proper" album. However, there are some real gems here that are up there in the highest league of Guido Meyer compositions. Highlights: "The Seed", "Way Home", "Gazah Stripe", "Your Fields". Best track: "Gazah Stripe".

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Nattefrost "De Som Sejrede" (Nattefrost, 2004)

With "De som Sejrede" Bjørn Jeppesen aka Nattefrost takes you on a journey to gloomy Nordic landscapes by means of ambient, classically-influenced electronic sound. Whereas his 2004 EP called "Vejen til Asgård" featured some rhythmic berlinesque material, this album, released during the same year as "Vejen.." is focused on beatless, flowing, dark passages, where symphonic keyboards and epic Scandinavian atmospheres play an important role. There is, however, some rhythmic movement present on some tracks in the form of slow electronic pulse. Such is the case with the opener "Mod Lindisfarne" that features a repetitive brew of a low, grumbling sequence and mysterious pad melodies. "Sejlende Gennem Dybe Dale" is a dramatic symphonic keyboard number, complete with slow marching drum and strange rain-like effect. Talk about doomy! We then get "I Krig" that sounds as if it came straight from Endura's "Black Eden" album (the similarity to the opening chords of "The Devils Stars Burn Cold" is striking!) Ok, so you have guessed it's a dark symphonic anthem, and a very good one at that, although clocking in at under 2 minutes it's too short. "Slaget Som Varede Evigt" is based on a low electronic pulse which is complimented by all manner of cold atmospheres and effects. "Sværdet" is a string-heavy number that sounds like music accompanying a suspense scene in a thriller movie. However, some vibraphone notes that appear a bit later into the track are a bit at odds with the atmosphere of the track and the album as a whole. Curious stuff. "Stormende Mod Fjenden" is a frosty ambient number. One might easily think of the long polar night while listening to the recurrent atmospheres herein - dark, snowy, windy landscape captured in sound. The stomping funeral-like drums do not add any unnecessary brightness to the proceedings. "Tårnets Krigere" is an urgent sequency track, but somewhat sparse and reflective, even mysterious. After a brooding and anthemic interlude called "Nattefrost" we are treated to a track ("Mit Hedenske Blod") that would again serve as a great epic movie soundtrack, with marching drums, bells, symphonic arrangements, some electronic harpsichord and surprisingly enough - that vibraphone tone again. "Vintersolhverv" is all about dark, gloomy atmospheres that conjure up a frosty, desolate landscape. Overall, "De Som Sejrede" is a pretty cinematic experience. I enjoyed it, although the album is a bit lacking in focus. Nevertheless, highly recommended for fans of atmospheric EM, Ambient and dark symphonic anthems.

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Retreat Syndrome "Limit of Separation" (Solitary Sound, 2001)

Retreat Syndrome is one of the projects by Steve Law from Australia. On this release he is helped by Andrew Belcher on OSCar synth sequences. "Limit of Separation" is an odd CD, the music mostly consisting of strange noises and jarring / random synth sounds. Pretty experimental stuff somewhere between electroacoustic music, noise and electronics. The noises are mostly not very harsh in comparison to real ear assaults offered by some representatives of the noise scene. Still, they make this CD as far removed from the easy-listening, as it could be. At times subtle melodies appear out of this miasma of sounds, but they are not bright melodies, rather going for the brooding and the depressing, making the proceedings somewhat dark. I should mention the sequences that are completely mad and random. They sound like Berlin School gone totally out of control. Intriguing stuff, I must admit. I was expecting an album full of dark textures but instead got a full-on assault which is deliberately intense and insane. Track 9, titled "Theatre of Loneliness" is more structured and straightforward stuff based on slow repeating synth melodies. Track 12, titled "Casting Shadows" is, on the contrary, quiet and reflective and veers more towards the Dark Ambient side of things. Same can be said about the last track, called "Hidden From the World". Overall, this album is recommended to EM fans who want to hear something really different and perhaps dig a bit into all things noisy and experimental.

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Janet Robbins "Carrying the Bag of Hearts, Interpreting the Birth of Stars Vol. II" (Star Seven Records, 2005)

This is the second volume of "Carrying the Bag of Hearts...". Once again it's a small, three-track album. The first track is called "Prisons In Democracy". Yeah, right. A strange echoing rhythm is heard as well as some wailing voices. Pretty spooky stuff. Some nice electronic bleeps support the main rhythm. The atmosphere is quite dark and opressive. This is not Ambient by any stretch. I don't even know what to call this music. Perhaps, a tribal / atmospheric / industrial / symphonic / techno hybrid would be a close description but not an exact one. Interesting material I must admit and the one which I had lots of fun listening to. Well done! Janet is not shy of using aggressive, piercing textures where necessary, making this track a dramatic and expressive number. The second part of the track falls into quietness with more dark atmospherics and rhythmless, half-heard structures. This is pure Dark Ambient. I should've known this would be a dark affair from reading the title. After 10 minutes the rhythms return, together with menacing wails and a bleepy sequence. "Under the Wesak Moon" is the second track and once again it starts with dark echoing textures of unknown origin. A propeller-like sound penetrates the picture but after a few moments, some tinkling melodies appear supported by sparse but shattering bass notes. Melancholy strings and distant chirping add to the otherwordly picture this track paints. A pulsing rhythm supports the proceedings while a flute plays on top. It's a very bright piece that's in complete contrast to the bulk of the preceding track. "Moid" is the last cut. It's mysterious and dreamy, with great sounds. I would describe it as some sort of strange mixture between Space Music and synthesized violin playing. After the 2 minute mark the violin subsides and we are left with out-there atmospheres and sparse, echoing rhythms. After a while synthesized marimbas come to the fore and I must say they compliment this serene otherwordly music very well. This is a great little CD with diverse and interesting music! Quality over quantity? It's sure the way to go.

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Frank Roozdant "Mix the Signals" (private release, 2005)

"Aliens Among Us" is a dramatic prologue with grand symphonic synths and a tinkling sequence towards the end. "Was sich liebt, das neckt sich" starts with somewhat melancholic pads and phased synthesizers. Dramatic choirs can be heard as the track gains intensity. After a while a sequence emerges that gradually grows in volume, although the main focus here are the melodies. This is great stuff, despite the rather generic flute synth leads. The sequences (that are of a very rasping, sawy nature) sound like something from the Virtual Audio Project repertoire or the stuff the guys from BIOnighT were doing a couple of years ago. It's been a long time since I've heard this type of EM. Apart from that, Frank uses a lot of very clean digital bell-like sounds. After 7 minutes there's a calm interlude where we hear once again those flutey leads and mucho pads. I must admit that, being 15+ minutes long, the track overstays its welcome by a few minutes. The variety of sounds is not so great, although this is pretty moody stuff. "Fabelhaft" starts with darkish synths and whooshing effects. Soon enough, a fast sequence emerges while the dark pads and whooshing sounds continue to swell around. However, after 2 minutes brighter pads and atmospheric sounds appear. In effect, this track sounds somewhat like Schulze's "Bayreuth Return", but performed on different instruments, before the electronic drums are introduced and we float away on top of these rhythmic, groovy, floating textures. I enjoyed this one, despite of the same old flutey lead sounds that, once again, somewhat spoil the whole picture for me. Just tell me, tell me, why would one always go for the flute as the lead instrument? Thankfully, the flute is soon replaced by dramatic string parts, resulting in me liking the second part of this track much more than the first one. "The Outerworld System Part 1" has a very subtle beginning with animal noises, flutes (again!), a sequence and gentle pads. I must admit this track didn't do anything to me. It all sounds too "digital" and the overreliance on preset textures is nothing to get excited about either - on to Part 2. This one's dominated by pads and subtle atmospheric flourishes. However, it then turns into a piano and flute dominated rhythmic number. Quite different to the preceding track. It would be a very good number if it weren't for the same unimaginative flute leads that I hear in most tracks here. I must mention the rhythmic base, though, which is quite unusual and inspired. The sampled guitar is OK. The synthetic leads are great but all too brief. I'd like to hear more of that during the course of this album. Overall I think this is still one of the best tracks. "Laura-Sophie" starts immediately with darkish effect but... oh, no! That flute again! And... what's that? A dance rhythm? Yes, yes, this is gonna be the "techno" track of the album. Quite a diversion I must add and very good if you like this kind of stuff. "Other Worlds" is the closing track. Dramatic synth sweeps are heard as well the whooshing of the wind. Great, moody stuff, that has those flutes again but they are thankfully drowned by other sounds. A warbling bass sequence starts around the 3-minute mark which is then joined by pan-flutes and after a while gentle synth pads appear that give this track a melancholic flair. Additional sequences appear around the 5-minute mark. The flutes return and this track gradually comes to an end. I think that "Mix the Signals" lacks a common theme that would unite different parts of this album and the overreliance on some preset sounds (flutes anyone?) turned out to be quite a distraction. Nevertheless, it's a nice effort as a whole.

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Frank Van Bogaert "One Out of Five" (Groove Unlimited, 2006)

"One Out of Five" is a sampler of previously released material with no exclusive tracks, but it's still interesting to review, as it contains a couple of tracks from Frank's first album "Colours" that I haven't heard. The title track from "Human" was chosen as the opener and if you've read my review of that album you probably remember my emotions about that release. The track (and the album as a whole) is certainly a creative pinnacle for Frank and this track is really one of those pieces that grab me by their sheer power and interesting improvisations. Listening to this majestic track again is like visiting a good old friend. For convenience I'll give each track a number of stars and this one here is a healthy five-star number. Another title track follows, this time it's the one from his latest album "Closer". Great melodic theme, piano and Vangelis-like bass synth lines. It gets four stars out of five in my book. Next track is "Deserts" from "Geographic". An uplifting theme with symphonic synths, great rhythms and rich sounds is what this track is about. Some mysterious moments are present as well. In the liner notes Frank says that "Deserts" is his favourite track on "Geographic" and I have to say he has a damn fine taste! Five stars out of five. "Rorogwela" is an adaptation of traditional melody from Solomon Islands that first appeared on "Closer". Very moving and, dare I say it, gentle number. Simple, emotional beauty. Five stars out of five. "Home By the Sea" from "Docking" is a relaxing melodic number with flute, waves, slow-paced rhythms and stuff. It's a good track but, in my opinion, a bit lacking in originality. Three stars out of five. "Ballet" from "Human" is, once again, an instant five-star number. Well, as you already guessed, I value this album quite highly and consider nearly everything from it to be genial or near-genial. The track has a flair of "Conquest"-era Vangelis but it's so much better than anything the Big 'V' created during those years, it's amazing! "Falling Leaves" is an autumnal piece with a touch of sadness taken from "Closer" that easily gets five stars again - it's so subtle and evocative, there're few pieces like this one. "Violet" is the first one of two pieces present on this album that were taken from Frank's first official release "Colours". It's much more "typical EM" than what was heard on following albums and contains very little of that "World Music" touch that became prominent since "Geographic". For now I'll give this relaxing, rhythmic and melodic track (that's very reminiscent of Vangelis, by the way) four stars out of five, but I'm sure it will grow on me. The title track from "Docking" could be my favourite Van Bogaert track of them all and, needless to say, this cosmic masterpiece (that wins the prize for some of the best sequences ever created) can only get five big stars out of five! Simply stunning! Feel the groove and tell me, aren't those pulsations gorgeous? The title track from "Geographic" is a complete contrast to the previous track - it's got none of the darkness and none of the subtlety of "Docking", going for triumphant and uplifting pomp in ethno-pop mould instead. It's a nice track but only three stars out of five for me. I must especially note the introduction for the nice sounds and atmosphere. "blue" is another track from Frank's first album "Colours". It's quite reflective and, again, different from Frank's recent endeavours. Great to dream or relax to. Five stars. "Atmospheric Conditions" is another winner from "Human". This track is completely improvised and you should know by now that I absolutely love Frank's improvisations. Feel like trying to guess how many stars this one gets? Yep, you guessed it, it's good ol' five out of five! One of the best Van Bogaert tracks of them all. "A State of Mind" from "Docking" could be described as Frank's vocal track. By "vocal" I mean half-singing half-whispering, not a full-blown song. It's a serene composition that, unfortunately, is not among my favourites, so it gets only three stars out of five. Finally, "Earth" from "Geographic" closes this compilation album on an uplifting note. It's one of those songs that have a prominent "World Music" and ethno-pop influence. Not exactly my type of music and, therefore, three stars only. "One Out of Five" is a good compilation for those who want to sample Frank's excellent work before buying his "normal" albums.

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Various Artists "Analogy" (Groove Unlimited, 2005)

A sampler with all-analogue tracks looks like a fine idea, doesn't it? Being that I was involved in the production of this album, it's hard to stay unbiased. Nonetheless, I'll try to do my best to just describe the music without raving too much about concept and realization. All warnings issued, one last note would be a short explanation. This sampler was the result of a discussion on the Internet EM board (www.emforum.nl) about the virtues of analogue and digital instrumentation. Spontaneously, an idea came to do a sampler, with every musician using not more than three analogue (no digital or virtual analog) synthesizers. This album is the result of that contest. And now on to the music.

All tracks on this CD are cross-faded to make "Analogy" a continuous journey. Create opens the sampler with "Analogue Revival" - a fitting title. A heavy bass growl and then the first punchy sequences appear. A super tasty way to open an album to say the least. The sounds are grungy, dirty and industrial-like, brimming with raw analogue power. Another high-pitched sequence can be heard. With only three analogue synthesizers and a drum machine (Jupiter 4, MS-20, Moog Prodigy and TR-707) Steve creates music that's so intense, it's uncanny. It's sequency to the tilt so if you're into those lovely rhythmic pulsations - look no further. The guys from Remotion continue the analogue journey with "Freeflight". This track was made with a Korg MS-10, Roland JX3P, Roland Juno 6 and a TR-606 drum machine. Noise fx and various analogue sounds get things underway. After a while a soft laid-back sequence appears along with an electronic rhythm. This track for some reason reminds me on early Software - a very pleasant connection, as I do enjoy Mergener / Weisser's early efforts a lot. A mournful lead line floats on top resulting in a very emotional journey. Loren Nerell with friends Steve Roach and Chuck Oken (Djam Karet) continue with "Zone Patrol". Using their modular synthesizers, the guys came up with some excellent sounds. It's a deep ambient journey with EMS-like twitters and some deep drones, plus various creaking sounds as if you are hearing some insects on another planet. Wonderful, wonderful stuff! A duo of Paul Ellis and Steve Roach is next with "Where Are You?" - An echoing sequence, some rhythm and subtle string sounds begin this track. This is urgent, upbeat number that still manages to sound spacey and atmospheric. Curious stuff. Nice mysterious melodies as well in the midst of improvisation. A very fat and intense sound here, with some 5 or so sequences heard simultaneously by the end of the track. "Elegy" by 4m33s aka John Sherwood was done exclusively with an Oberheim Matrix-1000 synthesizer. It's melodic, emotional and atmospheric and is a nice change of pace and mood after the somewhat neurotic (but cheerful) track by Ellis & Roach. Some lovely electric piano-like notes are heard towards the end. We then hear twitters that herald the coming of Gert Emmens' excellent "The Morning After". Lovely warm pads and a beepy sequence are what this track is all about, until sweet melodies appear that sound so bright and pleasant it's amazing! With just a Formant modular synth, a Minimoog and a Moog Opus 3 Gert creates a stunning tapestry of sound that is, as is always the case with Gert's music, extremely emotional and full of feeling. Excellent if a bit brief solo appears towards the end. We finish with a reprise of the melodic theme and lots of twittering synth sounds. Syn contributes "Viking Mission II" - a phased Eminent string sound straight out of Jarre's "Oxygene" and symphonic brassy leads plus a melodic sequence make this an extremely intense track. Pure analogue bliss! Syn achieves this with a Doepher A-100 modular synthesizer, an Eminent 310P with Small Stone phaser and a Korg 700S. Amazing Berlin School track, indeed! Bravo, Mr. Dewdney! Your track is like a crowning jewel of "Analogy". From New Zealand comes Russell Storey with "Cosmic Kiwi". The track is very cosmic indeed, with abstract sounds, wind effects and analogue what-not. This is some strange but very enjoyable and atmospheric composition. Sounds like a helicopter flying above Antarctica with all systems gone out of control! Everything was done on just two synthesizers - Korg MS-20 and Yamaha CS-5. Kees Aerts continues with "Grey Keys". We hear analogue synth pads (from a Solina String Ensemble) and subtle bass melodies, then an electronic rhythm with a marching bass line. This track has an urgent but at the same time melancholic character. Nice melodic theme on this one. Mysterious synth wails get "Brain Flame" by Altres underway. Subtle strumming on the guitar can be heard. A growling bass synth gives way to an aggressive sequence. This track perfectly captures the atmosphere of 70's Tangerine Dream, when their live music was often dark, rhythmic and aggressive. This track was also recorded live an almost complete darkness. An extremely effective number with some tasty wah-wah / spacey guitar playing and totally out-there synth soloing. Instrumentation consists of various guitars, Moog Prodigy and Roland SH-101. Modulator ESP gives us "Tsunami" that was created on a Roland SH-101, a Roland Juno-106 and a Doepher MAQ 16/3 analog sequencer. This track has a lot of Eastern feeling to it, with a slow bass sequence, some oriental sounding flute leads and no-nonsense fx. The second part, however features a faster, stronger sequence, while the track literally overflows with fx. This sounds like a feeding frenzy after the serene tea-drinking ceremony that preceded it. Sequencer heads take note - this track will have your head spinning, it's so sequencer-heavy. I think you will enjoy this one. Ian Tescee closes the album on a melodic note with a track named "Aquamarine". Finally it's the old Ian Tescee - the one we know from such excellent albums as "Io" and "Continua". This track is like being in paradise - full of emotion, with warm analogue synths, symphonic sounds and a melody that will stick in your head.

It's amazing how much great music there is on "Analogy", with so many styles represented and yet everything gluing so well together as a cohesive whole. Unbiased mode on: there's not a weak track here, just great analogue music from talented musicians all over the world. Biased mode on: it's so darn fine! You should get it as soon as possible! Period.

Related links: Create, Remotion, Loren Nerell, Steve Roach, Paul Ellis, 4m33s, Gert Emmens, Syn, Russell Storey, Kees Aerts, Altres, Modulator ESP, Ian Tescee.

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Various Artists "Collection 2: Moving" (Databloem, 2003)

The compilation starts with Mantacoup's "Sap". Strange effects and melodic bell sequences set the tone for this serene and pleasant composition. Shimmering notes and bright moods are what this track is all about, sort of a very delicate kind of Berlin School. The rhythms are laid-back and never dominate. Carbon Boy aka Andrew Ostler continues with "Nano". The track has an IDM vibe to it, with subtle broken rhythms, sampled atmospheres and deep, stiff bass lines. I enjoyed its ambient feel - it could be played in any environment without distracting too much from one's activities, making this a true Ambient composition, in the sense Eno meant it. "Empathy Test" by The Circular Ruins is heavy on synth soloing on top of experimental atmospheres. Interesting track and certainly worth your time. Anthony Paul Kerby (the man behind The Circular Ruins) definitely has his own, easily recognizable style that's halfway between the traditional Berlin School of Electronic Music and modern experimental soundscapes. Next track is by Spielerei which is in fact a project of Databloem label's founder Dennis Knopper. It starts in a deep Ambient mode, with slow pads, until the sequenced rhythms gradually glide up to the surface. This is a cheerful, major-key composition with some experimental textures and a modern approach. The sonic alchemist Saul Stokes makes an appearance on this compilation with "Sopra". Strange rhythms are what we hear in the first seconds of this track. Analogue experimental atmospheres soon enter the stage - great, unusual textures. There's a funny synth lead line which gives spice to this great relaxed nonchalant track. The best cut so far. Psychetropic (Todd Fletcher) gives us "China Radio Sunshine" - an enjoyable rhythmic EM journey. There are strong dub influences in this track, combined with more typical sequences and electronic atmospheres. A track by ENV(itre) called "Qulina" is next. This is a pleasant and interesting number, featuring melodic sequences and sporting a fairly emotional approach overall, although the rhythms are too heavy (and too "techno") for my taste. On to Makunouchi Bento's "Mipoetri". There's not much to say except that it's typical "IDM" music that relies heavily on sampling and loop techniques. The least interesting track of the lot, from my point of view. Not bad stuff, just not that exciting and generally not my cup of tea at all. On "Misty Hills" Subradial (aka Tomasz Szatewicz) uses processed sounds and electronic instrumentation to create an ambient, somewhat brooding atmosphere. A nice track and more dark than the bulk of what's found on the sampler. Very interesting rhythms seemingly made up various found sounds are an asset as well. Vir Unis' "Bead Game" is a massive slab of fat atmospheres and skillful electronic grooves. It's certainly up there with the best tracks on this compilation with it's rich, vibrant sound and cosmic drama. The disc closes with Cyscape's "Elumina" which is a slightly shortened version of a track that appeared on the "Deep Sea Explorer" album. Although it's not the best composition from that great CD, it still provides you with nice calming atmospheres, subtle rhythms and aquatic electronic sounds. "Collection 2: Moving" is a nice set of varied soundscapes. The best tracks are in my opinion those by Saul Stokes, Vir Unis and Subradial.      

Related links: Mantacoup, The Circular Ruins, Spielerei, Saul Stokes, Psychetropic, Subradial, Vir Unis, Cyscape.

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Various Artists "Suilven - TheFirstTen (Suilven Recordings, 2005)

This promo sampler starts with Daniel Patrick Quinn's "Channelkirk And The Surrounding Area" which combines guitar melodies, synth pads, a slow marching rhythm and a spoken narrative. Interesting. Next is the duet of DAC Crowell and Kurt Doles. The track is called "In Midsummer" and it takes us straight into ambient territory. It's all deep drones and resonating sounds that are somewhat dark but never menacing. Slight piano touches make this pretty much a classic formula ambient track. Daniel Patrick Quinn's "Dunstanburgh Castle" continues with again a slow marching rhythm, some background ambient synths and reflective bagpipe playing. On to DAC Crowell's "Untitled" which is a mysterious, deep ambient track, with cascading notes and some humming organ-like tones. Almost nothing happens throughout the piece, while at the same time it's kaleidoscopic and ever-changing - true Ambient! Lvxus' "Watercourse" is next. Seems like this track is only an excerpt. It starts with the sounds of water and until an ambient soundscape manifests itself. It has truly relaxing qualities and is pretty minimal- a light, bright and airy landscape, populated by glistening sparkles of sound. Excerpt from Daniel Patrick Quinn's "Jura" is all about organ drone. Excellent, minimal work which is monolithic, atmospheric and intense, while featuring as little sonic elements as there could be - just organ drone plus occasional cascading tones and distant fanfares. My favourite track. "From A Window" by DAC Crowell and Kurt Doles is surprisingly warm, with subtle analog string sound leading the way. It all remains very gentle and extremely warm and uplifting - subtle tones, bright, half-heard flashes, cascading drops - it's all there. This is Ambient in its most warm, uplifting and relaxing - simply charming stuff. We then have "Nine Standards Rigg" by an old pal Daniel Patrick Quinn. It has a folky sound with once again a spoken narrative (and even some singing!) and mucho bagpipes. Sounds like a drunk session by a pack of ambient musicians in an Irish pub! The sampler closes with an excerpt from DAC Crowell's "Harmundum" and Daniel Patrick Quinn's "Pilgrim's Way". The former is bright, with synth sparkles all over, while the latter is extremely folky, with organ and singing (!) A diverse compilation, overall, but with an obvious bend towards Ambient.  

Related links: DAC Crowell, Daniel Patrick Quinn.

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Zen Paradox "Numinosum" (private release, 2005)

Zen Paradox is a project of Steve Law from Australia who is also known for his former work as Starseed Transmission. Apparently, there were quite some releases under the name "Zen Paradox" during the 90's, but this is their first album in a long time. On this release Steve is helped by James Wilkinson and Andrew Belcher. "Numinosum" is an album of techno / IDM music. Interesting, but not my cup of tea, I must admit. It's full of straight or broken rhythms, funny beeps 'n' bleeps, occasional synth pads, bass lines, short samples and various other unidentifiable sounds. I think this music will be good for listening to while driving in the car and just playing it in the background while doing some work or resting. It's more interesting than most IDM / techno I've heard to date, mainly texture-wise and a lot of it sounds strongly influenced by Kraftwerk. At least some pieces create similar "mechanical" grooves with a lot of computer and robotic sounds. Different tracks are track 1 "Re-Entry" that sounds more like a prog EM piece with tinkling sequences, synth solos etc; track 5 "Symbiotic Transfer" which is quite busy and somewhat chaotic soundscape; and track 12 "The Opaque Stillness" which combines field recordings with heavy-handed synth string bursts. A curious effort.

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Dwight Ashley "Ataxia" (Nepenthe Music, 2006)

This album is comprised of 12 tracks of varying moods. "Impervious" is a somber and at the same time dreamy landscape, with synths, unidentifiable sounds and soothing textures. "When the Waters Came" is more brooding, conjuring up images of strange creatures hiding inside murky waters. Dwight's trademark style is clearly evident on pieces like this one. Bubbling, liquid textures complete the picture. "Black Swamp, Bright Sun" - thunderous sounds give way for a mournful synth pad - all in a wonderfully low-fi setting. Really deep and intense stuff, almost to the point of being orchestral. Noisy bits dominate the final part of the track. "Circus of Sharp Toys" is filled with processed voice (?) samples and concrete textures. Strange but very effective stuff - a fascinating piece of musique concrete that does manage to evoke feelings of eerie uneasiness. You feel something bad's gonna happen but the tension is never released, as emotional synth pads appear for a while and then disappear back into the void. Excellent, dramatic stuff that could work extremely well in a film soundtrack. "Dance of the Wobbler" - this one sounds like being heard underwater. A strange and charming little piece. "As We Became Complacent" is the longest piece on the entire album. Not sure I have much to say about this track except that it's typical Dwight Ashley, albeit a tad darker than his usual work. The track has lots of atmospheric samples, noisy textures and dissonant synths. The beginning of "Our Dark Shallow Spoil" is possibly the bleakest stuff I've heard from Dwight Ashley yet - pure Dark Ambient, with low drones, noisy textures, echoing clangs and water drops. As the strings come in, it all becomes rather apocalyptic sounding. There's nothing pompous or aggressive - it's all rather subdued but full of anguish and despair. Some processed guitar textures add to the cold, steely nature of this composition. "Holiday From Complexity" is the shortest piece of the lot at just above 2 minutes in length. It's a classic Ambient track in the vein of Brian Eno or Harold Budd (lots of piano) and a touch of dissonance. "Withdrawal of the Many" introduces a brighter mood. Synth pads playing in a major key paint an unreal and majestic space. Once again, this piece would make for a terrific soundtrack to a movie. However, things become more unsettling as the sound of a train comes in, while the music breaks up and literally goes mad, with dramatic, neo-classical stabs of orchestra. The track ends once again in a serene, flowing mode. "Isle of Inevitability" consists of dark drones and various sharp / noisy samples. "Days Into Years" is another dissonant piano piece. The title track ends this album in the most disturbing way possible - it simply crashes on you with battling synths, restless pads, vinyl-like crackling and whistling dissonances. Overall, "Ataxia" is the darkest album I've heard yet from Dwight and it's a good one for those who like their music a bit hard, relentless and cruel. This album also has a pleasant surprise that I won't give away in this review (wink!)

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Astrogator "Dreamlight" (private release, 2006)

Jez Creek: Clavia Nord Modular, Sequential Circuits Prophet 600, Sequential Circuits Prophet VS, Roland SH-101, Korg Mono/Poly, Waldorf Microwave XT, Korg Wavestation SR, P3, M-VS1, MS6, Korg ER-1, Doepher Regelwerk.

Steve Humphries: Roland V-Synth, Novation K-Station, Roland JV-1080, Access Virus B, Waldorf Microwave XT, Clavia Nord Rack 3, Doepher Schaltwerk, M300, Propellerheads Reason.

Part One starts with an otherworldly landscape: twittering synths, echoing sounds, distant mellotron choirs. It's all very well executed and extremely cosmic! After 8 minutes, a bass rhythm gradually creeps in, giving more focus and purpose to the soundscape. A mellotron flute can be heard, sounding melancholic, rather than mysterious. The rhythm then departs and a strange panned sequence emerges, backed by sparse bass beats. This is some intriguing music! A more upbeat sequence can be heard, along with a lead line. Even more sequences are added to the mix as the track becomes quite a ride. This is complex EM that beats most modern "Berlin School" to dust. The sequencing is really, really convincing and rich. A melody cries on top, and then another one. Intense is the word for it! Little by little the tension is released and one can hear some mellotron choirs, although the pulsations are still around. As we are closing the 23-minute mark, only one bass sequence remains that soon departs for a purely atmospheric section. Really weird sounds and twitters is what we get for some moments, before it all returns to the melancholic / melodic territory, with gentle liquid soloing over the breezing soundscape. This is simply great stuff and totally original, not a copy of anything! These guys sure know how to do it. This music is filled with cosmic grandeur and melancholia if you imagine such combination. It is amazingly gentle, without sounding twee. That high-register mellotron flute really gives me the goose bumps. A minor-chord bass sequence interrupts the flow to take us to another rhythmic section. This time the mood is that of menace and even aggression. The sequences are straight 'n plain and the occasional bass throb only gives them extra oomph. The guys really let their steam off with this ballsy sequencer fest. I can't even count how many sequences are running at the same time. A solo is blasting on top, as if there was room for it. Everything them calms down, leaving you totally exhausted. Part Two begins in a similar manner to Part 1: the whooshing of the wind, subtle twitters... Soon, a mellotron choir appears along with subtle lead sounds, taking us back to where the calm sections of Part 1 left off. Great, great music! A pulse appears after 5 minutes wrapped in a bed of mellotron choir. The pulse gradually develops into a full-blown sequence. Various lead lines and atmospheres are added where needed, resulting in a very intense, busy and energetic EM track. A moment of calmness follows where everything disappears into the void. Another sequence appears along with a playful mellotron flute refrain. I must say things have become very unusual by this point - distorted textures, some rhythms, strange sequences. However, a cosmic lead line reminds us we're still in the EM land. Little by little, things settle into a groove that finishes off this great slab of classic EM.

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Ron Boots "Acoustic Shadows" (Groove Unlimited, 2006)

Ron Boots: Access Virus, Dave Smith Evolver, Roland V-Synth, Clavia Nordlead 2, Moog Prodigy, Oberheim OB-12, Roland JV-1080, E-mu Vintage Keys, Roland D-50, Korg Wavestation, Creamware PRO-12, Roland JD-800, Yamaha EX-5, E-mu Ultra sampler, Atmosphere, Outerlimits, CS80v, M-Tron, Virtual Guitarist, RMX and PPG.

"The Unknown Soldier" serves as a very moody beginning to this album, with deep bass chords, pads and great drum programming. There are also some supporting sequences that I found extremely well crafted, as well as some excellent solos. The music is imbued with a sense of anguish and anxiety. Excellent EM! Bloody excellent! All those sequences, the dramatic solo, the insistent rhythm - everything is well achieved - it's quite simply some of the best EM from the last several years. The track eventually fades out and the next track, "the Battle of the Somme" starts with radio voice reciting key facts about the said battle and some deep drone / melody / bass throbbing combination. There are also EMS-like twittering and those dramatic chords that really get under your skin. This is not your usual a-walk-in-the-park affair. It's profound music that makes you think. Gradually, a bass sequence comes into the fore, slowly gaining in volume. Great moody lead line plays on top as we face a key change - yep, just like in the old days. This track's got a definitive Berlin School air to it. Additional sequences join the play and overall this track is an intense, improvised workout. It all ends with breathy pads and the same deep bass chords that started it. The title track begins with an ethereal soundscape. However, strange rhythmic constructions soon occupy the stage. Then a heavier rhythm appears that does not destroy the delicate structure of this track, but supports it. This is unusual, deep stuff. Best track so far! Lead sounds call like horns over deserted battlefields. Then there's that dark section where everything subsides only to return a couple of seconds later. This track just sends shivers down my spine and I just have to think of all the useless deaths that human greediness and stupidity has led to over the years. A little sound snippet with male voice explaining the phenomenon of acoustic shadows serves as the transition into the next track. "Assault" starts with female recitation, after which aggressive sequences suddenly come in that are joined by more sequences to create one intense piece of EM. A laid back rhythm supports the fast-paced sequences and then all of a sudden comes a key change, even adding more urgency to the track. The ending of this track is again embellished by a voice reciting battle-related text. We then segue into "Desolate Fields" which has real tragic atmosphere that makes you think of a deserted battlefield where there's hardly any place for human bodies anymore. A mid-paced sequence and pads, pads & more pads is essentially what we have here. Oh, and a mournful lead line that's wrapped in EMS-like effects. "Dresden" is the last track. After a short introduction by means of a speaking male voice sample, we get very deep chords / atmospheres while the voice continues reciting historical facts. Then a jagging bass sequence appears and then in comes a rhythm of the complex / explorative variety. A bright sequence sparkles into life as the rhythm intensifies, becoming more strident and urgent. A solo flies on top like a banshee over the moorland. Some TD-like harpsichord stabs only add to the strident nature of this track. This striking harpsichord sound can be heard at the finale when everything subsides to give way for a strange, alien soundscape. "Acoustic Shadows" is a very successful concept album and is for me one of the best EM releases. As I've said earlier, this is music that makes you think. Five stars out of five. Best track: the title track.

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Javi Canovas "Light Echoes" (Neu Harmony, 2006)

This album by Spanish synthesist Javi Canovas consists of three long tracks, just like its predecessor "Impasse". The title track gets things going with strange echoing sounds and harsh effects. After a while the soundscape gets more beautiful and gentle. The music's got a Sci-Fi atmosphere to it - just the way EM should be. A bass sequence fades in and takes centre stage, accompanied by great synth pads. This is Berlin School / sequencer music of the highest order. A very Tangerine Dream-like lead line can be heard, taking us straight to the times of "Encore". Javi's style is pure, direct and unashamed Berlin School, perhaps too direct for some but I found his compositions to be thoroughly enjoyable. After 7-minute mark the sequences get deeper while new sounds are introduced, this time having something of a "Sorcerer" aura to them. Those mellotron flutes only add to the mysterious / nostalgic nature of this track. The sequences then become more muffled and subdued using noise as basic wave instead of square / triangle waves. After a while the sequences get bleepy again. I guess you already know by now that the sequences are the main attraction of this track (and Javi's music in general). I mean, this guy has really mastered the sequencer to a great degree, producing intricate, rich patterns that just get under your skin. As usual with a classic-formula EM track, there is a nice atmospheric ending to "Light Echoes" when all sequences subside, leaving us floating through the void. "Two Toned Rock On Mars" starts in a bit toned-down manner (pun intended), the pads being gentle like echoes from times long gone. Of course, the sequences don't take long to appear and completely take over. Man, the guy just lets those pulsations rip throughout. I must admit that the mellotron flute doesn't fit very well with this piece but it could be that the effect was caused by the first superficial listening. However, I liked this energetic, hypnotic and at the same time laid-back and relaxing (yes, it does manage to both soothe and energize!) track. As usual the sequences are very well-crafted and sometimes they really don't need any backing. Javi lets them shine on their own which seems like a fit solution. Certainly a lead line here and there only adds to the experience, especially when Javi uses excellent analogue timbres for his solo parts. As a bonus, this track gives you a very impressive (and lengthy!) atmospheric finale. "Interpherometry", the third and final track, surprises with an unusually bright introduction. Cosmic flashes and light pads abound, this track really manages to conjure up a grandiose, cosmic landscape. However, it's not long before the sequences come in - a fact that doesn't make this track less cosmic or grandiose. Aggressive lead lines are something of a diversion for Javi and this album in particular. However, it does work in the context of waving, cascading sequencer lines of this composition. Excellent stuff, indeed! Nothing extraordinary or groundbreaking, really, just very-well done. Some of the sequences are so rapid - it's amazing human ear can keep up with them at all. Really hypnotizing stuff! The final several minutes of this track are dominated by floating synth pads and mellotron choir. "Light Echoes" is one monster of an album, filled to the top with excellent sequences. Favourite track: all of them.

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Javi Canovas "Strange Vision" (download album, 2007)

"Strange Vision" is available as a download from Synth Music Direct. I've got a CD-R promo from the author himself so I'll review it as normal CD release. I have heard this album several times prior to writing this, so the music already sounds familiar. "Forty Years Ago" is based on complex upbeat melodic sequences and liquid solo synth lines, all very reminiscent of the early 1980's Tangerine Dream. One can't go wrong with this track, as this is strong, straight, no bullshit EM. Fans of melodic Berlin School will drool over it. I must mention the excellent combination of drum programming and the ubiquitous sequences that give the track a propulsive character. I think this track could qualify for my personal "favourite sequences" contest. I mean, those pulsations are so rich and the notes are so well put together, this is an extremely infectious brew, indeed. In other words, "Forty Years Ago" is a real fasten-your-seat-belts experience for those who like their EM energetic and at the same time melodic, without losing the sequencer beat. Found my head nodding and my feet tapping to this one (just like before, everytime I heard it). "Tzu-Jou"  starts with deep synth pads but after a few seconds some tasty echoing sequences appear along with a lead line that comes straight off Tangerine Dream's soundtrack to "Thief". Indeed, this "Thief" feeling does pop up quite often during the course of this album, giving a pleasant feeling of being transported straight to 1981! I guess it's not only the melodies but also the sounds themselves that are often similar to those used by TD in the early 1980's. After a while great drums gradually shift into view along with an excellent jazzy synth solo. Imagine Jan Hammer jamming with TD and you get the idea. Wonderful stuff! "Prelude" is next. Not sure if it's really a prelude to anything but it's one of those tracks that are based almost exlcusively on sequences - a family that also includes Schulze's "Der Lauf der Dinge" and Terje Winther's "Waiting For the Next Wave", among others. This time it's the ever-shifting patterns supported by only sparse textures and colouring. Very cosmic and moody music that, despite its somewhat simple title, sounds more epic than not. I encourage all fans of the sequencer to check out this track as soon as possible. "Orthodox Vision" starts in a moody way with dramatic pads, before a wonderful, mutating minimoog-like solo bursts forth. After a while a mid-based sequence appears and it all settles into a nice groove with a very "Thief"-like lead line. Really, if you like that early 1980's Tangerine Dream sound or are a fan of the said soundtrack - this would be a certain addition to your list of must-haves. I think it's one of the best tracks on the album with great pulsations that make up for a vigorous and intoxicating sonic mosaic. It's so addictive that even at 10 minutes the track seems too short. "Missing Autumn" is a melancholic piece and the first section fits the title very much (you can almost feel the leaves falling in your hands while listening to those gentle electric piano notes) with nice mellotron flute appearing now and then, whereas the second half is a standard sequencer / Berlin School fair, although by no means banal. The sequences are impeccable as always as are the solos done with both synth and mellotron flute samples. "Skywatcher" is a hyperactive sequencer piece with a multitude of pulsing patterns, lead lines and phased pad backgrounds. "Lost Journey" is an atypical track in Javi's oeuvre. It's basically an instrumental electronic ballad. Slow rhythms and a recognizable melody that you can even hum along to is not something you'd expect from a hardcore sequencer head that is Javi Canovas. Nevertheless, the song is so catchy and it's done with heart, too. Not that there are no sequences but they play a supporting role instead of dominating. Excellent finish to this terrific EM work! With "Strange Vision" Javi has once again proved how talented he is when it comes to sequencer music, this time expanding his sound a bit and going for shorter, more focused pieces instead of the longer, 1970's influenced epics of his previous offerings. Let's see what the future may bring.

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Create "Biospherical Imagery" (Groove Unlimited, 2006)

Steve Humphries: Reason 2.5, Alesis Ion, Korg Prophecy, Novation K-Station, Korg Electribe EA-1, Yamaha CS1X.

The title track is one big chunk of synthesis that clocks at 46+ minutes. Drones, cosmic flashes, distorted sequences let us fly through the cosmos being surrounded by poisonous gas nebulae. The atmosphere is that of immense grandeur and epicness. A rhythm develops that only supports the soundscape, without dominating. A sequence appears and the melodic motifs make our cosmos a slightly more hospitable place. However, a solo rips through the miasma of sounds like a lightning bolt through the sky. The rhythm abandons us, but not the sequences that now have us flying through space at quite a pace. Everything calms down and we prepare for another vista. Engines roar while a bass sequence develops and mutates, the rhythms supporting it. This is EM that has guts. Heavy stuff. Melodies and sounds from the first part return and haunt us like ghosts on a hungry day. Sequences pulsate like hot hearts of the planets we pass on our journey through space that's full of wonders, excitement and adventure. We are then left alone in dark space once again, awaiting, wondering what comes next. Mysterious lead line warns us of the coming danger. Beeping notes hurtle forward like radar signals that let us know about the alien ships coming. The rhythms that appear are much heavier this time. However, we are soon left with yet another atmospheric section. We see colourful gas clouds passing by as the aliens escort us to their homeworld. Otherworldly fx and distorted spacey notes herald our entering into the alien realms. Everything around you is so unfamiliar, but beautiful. Strange sampled-voice effects only add to the strangeness of it all. Pulsing sequences appear as we enter the alien solar system, a green star warming a planet that's so similar, and yet so different from our own Earth. Rhythms pulsate as you can see all the alien machinery in work and the large stations they've created orbiting the planets. Everything glows with different colours, resulting in a rainbow-like experience. At this point there's a hell of a lot of sequences to be heard, from the bass ones to the higher register pulsations. Deep drones, ethereal pads and the subsiding sequences end this enjoyable trip on a mysterious, but not dark, note, as if we are left alone in the space once again, wondering when we can achieve what this ancient race has. Maybe once we give up stupid things like always fighting each other for our own prejudice? Perhaps. Track two is called "Endless Corridors" and indeed, it sounds like constantly speeding through the hyperspace (we are returning home now). Very evocative music. "Sings of Life" starts in a really deep and out-there manner. It's like we enexpectedly discover signs of (alien) life in an unlikely corner of the Universe. Frigid, icy winds blow above the surface of a snowy planet. A chunky mid-paced sequence rushes forward as the alien fx and whistling synths cast their spell. A heavier galloping bass sequence is added to the flow to make up for one roller-coaster of a track. Higher register sequences complete the picture as we scan the planet to see where the signals are coming from. An atmospheric section follows with strange noises indicating that a huge ocean is concealed below the thick layer of ice. The bass sequence returns as we begin drilling the ice to reach the alien ocean. Finally the sequences subside as we discover huge transparent cities hidden underneath. As we approach the city we hear "Mysterious Voices" which is probably the language of these aquatic creatures. We can't understand what they're saying but they do show us around and we only have to wonder what great civilization they managed to create is such a rigid and inhospitable place. The track is all distorted effects, drones and background mellotron choir. "The Day After" we fly through space in our own little spaceship, its engine purring slightly in the background, thinking about the marvellous discoveries we did lately. It's a very beautiful, cosmic and bright track, with steady rhythms and great melodic motifs. "Biospherical Imagery" is by far the most coherent and atmospheric album by Create. Well done!

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Create "Kindred Spirits" (private release, 2007)

Steve Humphries: Alesis Ion, Doepfer Schaltwerk, Evolution MK 261, Korg EA-1 Mk 1, Korg ER-1 Mk 2, Korg Legacy Collection with MS20 Controller, Korg Prophecy, Native Instruments Pro 53, Native Instruments FM 7, Clavia Nord Rack 3, Novation Nova II, Novation K-Station, Reason 2.0, Yamaha CS1x.

This album is currently available only from the author's website at http://www.create-em.co.uk. Note that the first 50 copies are signed and numbered editions. The CD is beautifully packed in a black mini-DVD case with stylish artwork showing Steve performing live. It's not by accident that I mention this, as "Kindred Spirits" is basically a collection of live recordings from E-Live and Awakenings festivals (both recordings made in 2005). So what about the music? After an atmospheric introduction with lots of synth pads, dark droning synths and twittering effects we get a raspy low sequence coupled with mellotron flute. The music is slow but somewhat menacing. A stomping rhythm develops after 10 minutes, taking our imagination to places distant and unknown. I love that mellotron flute refrain. An upbeat sequence suddenly appears, somewhat interrupting the flow. An aggressive lead line cries on top, really adding that necessary bite. By now the music has become extremely intense. The sequence then subsides and so does the stomping rhythm. Strange chirping sounds over growling synths and ethereal pads is what we get for a few moments, before a mellotron flute takes over. A two note sequence appears and after a while develops into a fully shaped pattern. After a while another, high-pitched sequence appears. A solo enters playing in a somewhat Arabic mode, reminding a bit on Seventies' Schulze. The sequences and all other melodic elements soon subside, leaving us in a windswept landscape. This section is an expression of desolation, emptiness and doom. Somewhat whimsical lead line tries to break through the mist but doesn't succeed. Only the mellotron flute weeps in the distance. Soon a great melodic sequence arrives that, for some reason, reminds me more on Jarre than on his German cohorts. An electronic rhythm appears and settles things into a groove. Excellent hypnotizing section that makes me reach for that volume button. Pity it's over too soon and we're back to atmospherics. Not that I don't like Steve's atmospherics, of course. Strange dry saw-wave sequence appears. A 4/4, bit techno-ish rhythm appears. Thankfully, things never become overtly techno or dancefloor friendly. In the end it's just good old Create dabbling with New Berlin School aesthetics. Nice try! "Biospherical Remixed Imagery" starts with strange industrial tones. After a few minutes a sawing sequence appears as the lead lines play over the top. I must say it's a rather strange track with somewhat disjointed elements, although of course it could have been the intention. Pretty intriguing stuff. Half way into the track an excellent sequence appears taking us back to more typical sequencer EM realms. The sequence is backed by a drum machine rhythm that sounds out of sync with the rest of the track. I can only repeat - it's a very strange track. Finally, "Secret Place" is the only studio track on this release. It consists of melancholic synth pads and a great simple melody played with a nice synth patch. I think it's one of the gentlest tracks by Create. If you like Berlin School, I suggest that you grab "Kindred Spirits" before it's gone.

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Gert Emmens "The Tale of the Warlock" (Groove Unlimited, 2006)

Gert Emmens: Akai AX80, Arp Odyssey, Boss DR-660, CRB string ensemble, Elektor Formant, Elka Solist 505, EMU E6400 Ultra, EMU Vintage Keys Plus, Farfisa Syntorchestra, Korg 700s, Korg Mono/Poly, Korg MS-2000, Korg Wavestation EX, Moog Etherwave theremin, Moog Minimoog, Moog Opus III, Moog Prodigy, Moog The Source, Moog Taurus mark 1, Philips Philicorda GM751, Roland M-DC1, Roland M-VS1, Roland RS-202, Roland SH32, Vermona ER9, 2x Yamaha AN1x, Yamaha CS-80, Yamaha SY2, Yamaha SY85. 

VST softsynths: Artphrase, Embracer, ProtoPlasm, STS-17.

A very moody beginning gets "Warlock Returns" underway - typical Emmens, although a bit different from what was heard on his previous albums. Soon a bass sequence appears, talking us straight to classic Berlin School territory. Great pads support the flow as we are flying on top of quite a stormer. Mind you, it manages to sooth while being extremely dynamic. Gert sure knows how to do it! A solo cries on top and what solo! Any analog sound enthusiast would kill for it! There's also a nice jazzy vibe to the sound that I found totally new in Gert's music. A highly welcomed change it is, I must add - I loved those reflective electric pianos coupled with synth pads. Of course, I need not remind you that the sequencing is, as always with Gert, simply stunning! "Warlock Meets the Young Princess" is somewhat dark at the beginning with long, drawn-out pads and whooshing effects. However, it's not long before a stonking bass sequence appears, supporting the track without dominating it. Everything changes once the lead line kicks in. No, no, it's still the same flowing / melancholic piece, and even romantic one, but this time it's a tad more intense. Now, I don't like to repeat myself but melancholy and sadness are the two nouns that could describe the mood of this piece. Sounds like a new direction for Gert. Although there has always been a touch of sadness to his music, here it's transformed into an all-enveloping nostalgia that grabs you by the heart. Some quirky synth-pop traits can be perceived after the 5 minute mark, once the sequences become more prominent, although then comes the mellotron choir that takes us back to fantasy land. Excellent track! EM has rarely been so emotional. The melodies, the solos, the pads, the sequences - everything is a stroke of a genius. And do I need to tell you of that lovely female voice patch that closes this number? Oh boy, you've been told too much already, let's move on. "Myths And Legends As Told By the Storyteller" continues this concept album and... Hell! Just how this guy does it? Only God knows, as he churns out one great EM piece after another. "Myths And Legends..." does not disappoint and this time it's more typical Emmens, both in mood and in sound (the solos, the sequences etc). After a section dominated by pads, another lovely rhythmic construction manifests itself in the form a relaxed sonic trip into your dreams. If you haven't been carried away by now, nothing will help you. "The Dream That Came True" is a little interlude for Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer that shows you just what this beast can do. Excellent symphonic piece that reminded me on Vangelis (no big wonder here!). I wish this track would last longer. The intro of "Confrontation" is fittingly creepy, with rich sound blanket enveloping the dark sounds. Once again those "Emmens" sequences are the focus here with pads dominating the melodic content. I must admit that for a confrontation I'd expect a more aggressive piece but Gert seems to have imagined a more peaceful land - a place where one has the time to reflect, to recall and to feel, a land which is million miles away from everyday troubles, so even a confrontation here is imbued with a sense of unhurriedness, vastness and romanticism. Great analogue solos make this track a wonderful experience - Gert really knows how to coax those weeping sounds out of his synths. "Ghosts Calling From Yonder" has a spooky beginning with unidentifiable sounds, but after a while a high-pitched sequence appears that somehow reminded me on Jarre. A bass sequence joins it as we are heading towards the unknown listening to the beautiful song of the theremin. This must be the most sequencer-heavy track on the entire album, with multiple pulsations forming a beautiful and intricate structure for the track, while classic mellotron sounds add mystery and vigour. "Warlock's Death" is probably as dark as it gets on this album, with howling wolves and some samples. And even the death is conquered by optimism in Gert's land - the sequences, pads and solos are anything but dark and desperate. Just the contrary - they scream about hope and rebirth. There's no such thing as death in Gert Emmens' fantasy land. This great work, despite being drenched in melancholy and sadness leaves you hoping for another day. No mistakes tonight, Gert produces a great piece of art with "The Tale of the Warlock", introducing some new elements as well as refining his trademark techniques. Well done!

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Gert Emmens "A Boy's World" (Groove Unlimited, 2007)

Gert Emmens: Boss DR-660, CRB Stringmachine, Elektor Formant Modular (x2), Elka Solist 505, E-Mu 6400 Ultra, E-Mu Proteus 2, E-Mu Vintage Keys Plus, Farfisa Syntorchestra, Hammond Auto Vari 64, Korg MS-2000, Korg PE-1000, Korg Wavestation EX, Memorymoog Plus, Minimoog, Moog Opus 3, Moog Prodigy, Moog the Source, Moog Taurus MK1, Philips Philicorda GM751, PPG 1020, Roland MDC1, Roland MVS1, Roland RS-202, Roland SH-32, Vermona ER9, Yamaha AN1x, Yamaha SY-85.

This is a very intimate work for Gert Emmens as it was entirely inspired by his young son Frank. "School's Out" hangs in the air like distant haze, with various tone clusters and gentle synth shimmers. After a few seconds a cheerful sequence appears along with a rhythm and a reflective melody. This is some of the mildest and brightest music Gert ever composed. Some great analogue soloing is used by Gert to great effect. Musically, this track takes over where previous album left, but with a much more sedate and I would say even mundane atmosphere. If you like Berlin School with a clear focus on the melody, you will find lots to enjoy here. The track ends in a reflective mode, with echoing rhythms, deep pads and melancholic synth textures. "Gaming Part 1" surprises with dark sounds and strange noisy sequence. Gradually, another pattern crawls to the surface - a one-note bass sequence. After a while Gert tweaks the sequence, changing the pitch of some notes, while the dark soundscapes do not leave even for a second. One can hear echoes of 1977 - 1979 period Tangerine Dream here, although as a whole the music sounds pretty fresh and unique. Typical Gert Emmens synth pads are then added, as well as reflective melodies. A high-register sequence is playing on top, along with some classic tron sounds. I also like the analogue drum pattern on this track - very 1970's (is that the Hammond Auto Vari?). After a brief atmospheric section, a new sequence develops, this time of a more aggressive character. Excellent distant sounds akin to some distorted guitar can be heard but after a while an "Oxygene"-like marching rhythm appears, as the track becomes more dramatic, with mellotron choir and an analogue solo. This is pure, 100% melodic Berlin School with many classic sounds and great atmosphere. One of the best tracks I've heard from Gert and one of the best neo-prog EM tracks in general. The fact that it lasts for 20+ minutes is a positive thing too, because this way you can really immerse yourself into the great atmosphere this track conjures. I wish there were more tracks like that. "Life Around the Sand Castle" starts similar to the first track until the sequence is heard - a lovely analogue pattern supported by various melodic motifs. Gert uses all typical elements of his style in this track, including mellotron sounds, analogue solos, slightly phased pads and soft electronic drum patterns. Of note is the final part dominated by mellotron flute. "Gaming Part 2" is next. Synth pads give way for an analogue bass sequence. A solemn keyboard theme plays on top, as the track obviously becomes one of the most emotionally-charged pieces of this album. After a long section dominated by a relaxed rhythm, we get an atmospheric interlude before the sequences return - this time a two-note pattern is deployed to great effect. The sequence transforms into a more complex type of pulsation as Gert concentrates on pads and various other additional sounds. Not the best track in my book (i.e. no surprises and almost no new ideas or sounds) but still very nice. Let's see what "Adolescant Behaviour" brings. Heavy intro transforms into a somewhat wacky sequence / mellotron flute combination. Excellent jarring rhythms like the ones used on the first track from "Waves of Dreams" introduce themselves. After a while the main theme is deployed - an excellent two-note motif. Terrific track! IMO, Gert is best when he has a main theme in his track, around which he builds his improvisations (another example that comes to my mind immediately is "The Voyage of Voyager" from "Wanderer of Time"). And you know what? This track here has even two main themes. The second one appears only for a few seconds and is similar to the afore-mentioned "Voyage of the Voyager". The somewhat busy solo is a nice asset as well. "Nothing Lasts Forever" is a nostalgic and very moving closer with a slow rhythm, gentle sequences and the ubiquitous pads / melodies of Gert. Some rocky touches are added as well. Overall, I tend to think of "A Boy's World" as a strong EM album with some outstanding tracks. Especially worthy of mention are "Gaming Part 1", "Adolescant Behaviour" and "Nothing Lasts Forever". Get this album if you love EM!

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Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij "Journey" (private release, 2007)

Gert Emmens & Ruud Heij: Alesis Ion, ARP Odyssey, ARP Pro Soloist, Boss DR-660, Clavia Nord Modular, Elektor Formant Modular, EMS Synthi A, E-Mu E6400 Ultra, E-Mu Vintage Keys Plus, Korg PE-1000, Korg MS-2000, Korg Wavestation EX, MAM MB-33, Moog Minimoog (x2), Moog Polymoog Synthesizer, Moog Sonic 6, Philips Philicorda GM751, Roland M-VS1, Roland RS-202, Roland SH-32, Synthesizers.com Modular, Yamaha A4000 with mellotron and string ensemble sets, Yamaha AN1x (x2), Yamaha S-30 with PLG150-AN, Yamaha SY-85.

The title track gets things going with strange effects that are soon replaced by a classic sequence, joined by another one and yet another one after a few seconds. Mellotron choir plays a chord typical of Gert - somewhat melancholic, emotional and a bit "romantic". A piercing analogue solo then joins the flow. Great Berlin School track in typical Emmens & Heij style. The next track has a distinctly Tangerine Dream-ish title: "The Endless Running Messenger". Dark sounds are joined by echoing water drops. After a while some sort of scratching sound appears in the right channel, while a reflective synth pad casts its spell in the middle. This is some seriously moody music. Mellotron string chords are then overlaid with choir and a terrific soft sequence! Another, low-register sequence soon joins as we start to drift along on the waves of classic analogue EM sound. In fact it's another relaxed, I'd say even sedate track in typical Emmens & Heij style. The electronic rhythm makes the music more dynamic while the analogue solo could only be played by Gert Emmens, it's so characteristic. Also of note is the excellent outtro with distant soloing over a synth pad. "A City Awakens" starts with an unusual galloping sequence coupled with windy synth effects. Soon another tinkling sequence joins along with some out-there textures. It's nice to hear some variation in the way the guys use sequences and rhythms. This is really a fresh sounding piece. The way it builds, the mood of it... I mean it's all more or less typical of Gert & Ruud, but somehow it's arranged in a different manner. A unique piece full of surprises. A sudden solo here, a distant mellotron choir there, an unexpected rhythm or unknown timbre - this is an enjoyable experience, like a journey indeed. I also like Gert's fusion-y solo on this one. Best track so far. "Rolling Thunder In the Mountains of Hope" starts in an extremely deep manner with low synths and echoing sonic colours. A bass sequence makes its way to the centre of the sonic space and this time the guys just let it rip! At last, an aggressive piece by Gert & Ruud - something I've been waiting for. Mellotron string sound dominates for a while as the track gets more intense. It's amazing how rhythmic and at the same time how melodic this track is - a perfect balance! There's a certain bite to it that makes it quite powerful EM. Once again, there's a jazz flair to Gert's soloing. Maybe that's because he has developed a cascading style where he goes quickly from high notes to low ones and back again, while many jazz / fusion keyboardists were famous for this style of playing. I must also mention the sequencing on this track which is as good and driving as it gets. "Red Clouds Over A Misty Swamp" is next. An experimental introduction is what we get for a few moments. Sounds fly high above you like unidentifiable creatures attacking you. However, the somewhat harsh intro soon transforms into a section dominated by pads and synth effects. This turns out to be THE ambient track of Emmens & Heij, i.e. no sequences! A welcomed diversion it is, too. The track sounds remotely like some sections from "Seven Letters From Tibet", but infinitely better. Very fresh and satisfying after the stormy previous number. Ahem... Talking about storms... The final chapter of our journey is called "Regaining Breath In the Eye of the Storm". A quiet beginning gives way for floating synth pads and suddenly - yes, a sequence! The track gradually develops, gaining intensity and adding new sequences, rhythms and sounds. A section of typical flowing Emmens & Heij music follows, with mellotron sounds and stuff. The sequence then mutates and gets more aggressive with each second, until the tension is released. This track has excellent work from Ruud. "Journey" is another winner from Emmens & Heij and a must for fans of sequencer music (aka Berlin School) and EM in general.

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Eric g "Conclusion" (private release, 2001)

Eric G: ARP Sequencer, ARP Pro-Soloist, Roland TR-505, Roland TR-606, Roland RS-09, Roland S-50, Roland SH-1000, Korg DW-8000, Korg MS-10, Korg MS-20, Korg SQ-10, Korg VC-10, Yamaha CS-15, Polymoog, EHS Modular Synthesizer.

"New Berlin" (1991) opens this disc by Swedish synthesist Eric g. The name screams "Berlin School" but let's hear what we have here. A subtle electronic rhythm is combined with some tympani and soon a bass sequence appears, joined by some drums ala mid-80 Schulze / Tangerine Dream. A mournful mellotron flute can be heard while additional sequences appear that mutate and resonate. This is 100% analog music in Berlin / sequencer style. All fans of classic Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze will drool over it! I can hear ghosts of both "Timewind" and "Ricochet" lurking somewhere beneath. Albeit recorded in 1991, this epic track (which clocks at 23 minutes, by the way) ends up sounding very 70's. All the key changes, subtle alterations, solo combinations - everything is in the right place to please any fan of classic Electronic Music. "Aritmos 7" (1999) is a relatively abstract piece that starts with dark atmospherics and subtle dronings. After a while a tinkling sequence appears along with some pronouncedly synthetic lead lines. The next part is loaded with classic vocoder voices, as the sequence mutates and goes from one register to another. A very biting solo is heard as the track gains momentum, really going into overdrive. This is one of those "push down the speed pedal for the excitement level to go up" moments. The track will have any Berlin School fan in raptures. "In the Moog" (1978) starts with a very "Oxygene"-like whooshing and a very "Oxygene"-like rhythm. In fact, the melody that comes a bit later is also very "Oxygene". It could easily be a lost track from Jarre's 1976 recording sessions. Pure analog magic, this one! "A Very Short Visit To A Froesen Desert" (1999) is loaded with classic tron sounds (naturally!) and bubbling analogue synthesizers. If you enjoy albums like "Epsilon In Malaysian Pale" or "Stratosfear" I am sure you will find much to enjoy in this track. The composition consists of a mellotron part and a sequencer part with some tasty solos and a rhythm that could be straight out of Tangerine Dream's 1975 - 1977 period. A short track named "Spring" (1985) is next and what we get here is a very TD-like ("Ricochet" - "Encore" era) piano / mellotron flute piece. Not bad, if a bit too derivative. It then segues into another track from 1985 called "Raindrops". Sounds of thunder set the stage for marimba-like sequences of a somewhat cheerful character. A quirky synth melody can be heard, making this track an odd but enjoyable experience. This is something you can whistle to, but still definitely EM. And of course, where would we be without that obligatory flying analog solo? Thankfully, Eric delivers one during the last part of this track, and a great solo it is, too. Lovely, clean, cosmic analog timbre. Well done! This collection closes with a long epic from 1984 called "The Icecream Van Repair Man". A spooky beginning is not something I would associate with ice-cream, to be honest. Nevertheless, the music itself is very effective at this stage. Muffled organ chords and indiscernible phrases only add to the spookiness of the picture. Absolutely not evocative of ice-cream! Sounds more like spying on a secretly held Satanic mass in a half-ruined castle! After a while some cosmic mournful leads can be heard with subtle whispering ala Schulze's "Velvet Voyage". I must admit that at this point Eric crossed the line of what some would call "copying". At least it's quite obvious he's trying to sound like Klaus Schulze from 1977 on this one. "Too derivative" would be my verdict, although if you can't get enough of this type of music and are desperately craving for more, this might be your salvation. But let's see how it progresses. At around the 9 minute mark a marching rhythm appears that lets me forget those Schulze comparisons for a while. A symphonic melody appears that takes things into completely different realms. Whereas Schulze relied completely or almost completely on improvisation, Eric applies a much more structured approach, incorporating more melodic / rhythmic elements so that the whole doesn't sound too freeform. Some of the sounds are very 80's to my ears (slap bass anyone?) which makes this track sort of a hybrid of "Mirage"-era Schulze and "Zoolook" by Jarre (complete with wacky low-fi voice samples). Can you imagine that combination? I couldn't, up until this moment. This track bears its influences quite obviously so I won't comment anymore on the music, but to call this stuff "The Icecream Van Repair Man" is an act all of its own. "Conclusion" is a diverse collection of material from an interesting artist who obviously has talent, but whose music sometimes (just sometimes) gets too derivative of the classic works by the pioneers.

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Hashtronaut "Bottle Universe" (private release, 2006)

"Bottle Universe" is my second encounter with Hashy's (as he is called by his friends) music, the first being "Lambda Variant". That album left a very favourable impression, so I approached this work expecting more Berlin School goodness. The title track starts with excellent atmospheric section - all the sounds, effects and melodies are in the right place here. A melancholic lead line casts its spell on me and I already know that this track is going to be a real treat! The author managed to conjure up a unique, rich atmosphere that's cosmic and grandiose. Colossal waves of sound crash on you before it all calms down for a while, only to return a couple of seconds later. This music just flows. Effortlessly, dramatically, effectively - whatever. I must admit being unprepared for what came next - a loud bass sequence that wants to just shake your friggin' house! Blimey, this is intense! A lead line that was first heard during the introduction re-appears here to make this a 100% Berlin School number. The floating organ tones are not something you hear often in today's EM. Sounds like "Cyborg"-era Schulze mixed with upbeat Tangerine Dream circa "Encore" (sans guitar, of course). And I absolutely LOVE the solo that comes after 16 minutes into the track. Outstanding! The sequences subside to give way for a dramatic atmospheric section that's filled with pads, mournful leads and spacey effects. After a couple of minutes the shaky sequence returns and so do all the other ingredients of this wonderful track. This is simply monumental and a must if you like Berlin School or simply great neo-prog EM. For the finale, the sound literally goes berserk - all the sequences, solos and effects are distorted as the track runs straight into overdrive. This is so loud and bloody strong, I can hardly believe that such music CAN exist at all. Something unusual to be sure and doesn't sound like any other EM act out there. "Mindbomb" initially starts in the hollow mode - hushed effects, barely heard sounds, echoes etc. The sounds gradually become more prominent but the atmosphere is still very whimsical and quirky. Growling phased bass timbre goes from on channel to another and back until it speeds up, forming a solid mass of sound. It then dissolves, leaving us with a pad and mucho EMS-like effects. A four-note bass sequence gradually comes forth in a relaxed, unhurried manner. A solo cries on top, although as a whole the track retains its restrained character. Looks like the author is not inclined to let rip this time, settling for a comfortable mid-paced electronic groove instead. It may be for the better, though. Not sure I could handle another onslaught (in the best possible sense of the word of course) of the type provided by the title track. If you like simple, straight sequencing and lots of solos, I think you will enjoy "Mindbomb". It all ends with same strange effects that started it. Conclusion: if you consider yourself a fan of the Berlin School or Electronic Music in general, please, do yourself a favour and get "Bottle Universe" as soon as you can. I am sure you will be in ecstasy by the time the title track is finished.

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Guido Meyer "Cyscoop" (self-released EP, 2006)

This 30+ minute EP from Guido Meyer starts with "Supervision" - a melodic, modern TD-like piece with great melodies, soaring guitar and pleasant soloing. If TD want to make interesting melodic music, they sure can learn a few things from Guido. This music is captivating and dynamic. It's melodic, without becoming twee. It's accessible and yet keeps your attention drawn to the sounds. This must sound great in the car, while speeding along a night city highway. "Ys" kicks in with strange / processed samples and low pads. After a few seconds a heavy drum rhythm enters. A very relaxed feeling permeates this track, especially compared to the previous (upbeat) number. The melodies are excellent, as is always the case with Guido Meyer. The guitar solos are also very nice. "Ultralight" starts with tinkling notes that give the track a Japanese flair. The track then develops to include other (more synthetic) sounds. This mid-paced number has similar rhythm and pace to the previous track and is a bit similar in mood, too, although with a title like that you'd expect a lighter affair, and, indeed, this composition has close to none of the dramatics found in the previous cut. Other than that, all necessary elements are there - the pads, the melodies, the guitar solos etc. "Rosaround" starts with sounds that remind me on his "Towards the Blue Horizon" album. It's another mid-to-slow paced composition, although this one has some melancholic / romantic (a bit nostalgic I would say) overtones to it. This is also where Guido's music approaches the territory of classical music. Not that it's a full-blown classical piece - no, it's still good old Guido, but the influences are there. Very good guitar on this one! As a bonus, this EP includes a live version of "Shine On" from "Towards the Blue Horizon", performed at the CUE-Records Open Air festival. The sound quality leaves much to be desired but the music is great. Although almost identical to the album version in the keyboard department, it has some unique (and great) guitar soloing. Overall, "Cyscoop" starts where "Lightyears" and especially "Towards the Blue Horizon" left off. If you're longing for great melodic EM with a dash of guitar - this is it!

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Modulator ESP "Time Zero" (private release, 2006)

"Tronic Pulse" starts with warbling & rasping synthesizers coupled with mysterious mellotron flute. After a while a sequence builds and we are immediately in mid-70's Tangerine Dream territory. Not bad! "Beyond the Sun" has excellent deep intro. Jez made an excellent job of synthesizing really out-there sounds on this one. This is cosmic EM of the highest order. I just have to wonder why they don't use this stuff in movies about cosmos these days, going for some boring orchestral drek instead. Excellent sequence starts and what a great sequence it is! Coupled with a super-punchy bass sound it really has a bite to it! The mellotron flute appears in this track as well, combining to great effect with synthetic textures. This is Berlin School with a fresh attitude - top notch stuff! "Quadratic", once again has quite an aggressive intro, with harsh, raspy sounds and echoing clangs. After a while a slow sawy bass sequence appears. Another sequence joins the flow, making this a real wall-of-sound experience. This is stark, dark and decidedly un-commercial Electronic Music. The sequences are excellent while the overall nature of the track remains absolutely otherworldly. I think if you're into geometry - you will enjoy this. Jez has really managed to express the beauty of simple geometrical forms with this one - sort of a dry, naked beauty wrapped in intricate forms. And where one would be without that mellotron flute? There's a bit of that too, but it only appears for the last several seconds of the track. Next is "Eos Flight" that initially sets the stage with deep and mysterious effects & pads. A rhythmic pulse starts but never dominates. Looks like it's the most laid-back track so far. Various lead sounds and additional sequences play on top but overall the track retains that relaxed, jamming feel. The title track starts with echoes of unknown origin but after a while we hear some whooshing sounds and very deep bass throbs. Various other sounds can be heard and this is easily one of those effective intro's you don't want to end. However, as we are closing the 10 minute mark, a slow bass / rhythm combination starts and takes us to the next section that is dominated by ever-so-slightly shifting and morphing rhythms, all of them of the laid-back variety. This is an unusual track indeed and it's unlike anything I've heard from Jez so far. A great lead line is heard around the 16 minute mark. Another sequence appears as the lead line continues its play. Some heavier rhythms can be heard after 20 minutes into the track that has turned into quite a journey by now. Superb analogue-sounding solos add a pleasant warmness and really make me go "wow!" This is quite simply some of the best neo-prog EM I've heard in a while. Fans of Berlin School will be delighted, especially those who favour complex, long-form compositions with great rhythms, lots of sequences, atmospheres and a sparkling solo or two to boost. One thing to add is that Jez' sound is now much more refined (compared to previous efforts) and supplied with a good dose of reverb, adding the pleasant "spaciness" to his compositions. He seems to have put much more effort in his songs which are now better thought-out and composed with a level of precision and feeling that many would be jealous of. The last part of the title track lets the sequences to shine in all their glory and adds a new bell-like sequence that sounds very organic. A mournful pad sound is all one needs to complete the mental picture of traveling through space & time. The journey's over and we want more. But wait, Jez serves us a little dessert in the form of "Chromium". It consists of typical "Modulator ESP" atmospheres - all in a mysterious and a bit claustrophobic setting. Interesting little track. "Time Zero" is the best Modulator ESP album so far and a real must for fans of Berlin School / sequencer music. Excellent!

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Modulator ESP "Zeta Reticuli" (private release, 2007)

Jez Creek: Korg Mono/Poly, Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, Sequential Circuits Prophet VS, processing.

Right from the beginning of this album one gets to notice that this work is something completely different for Jez Creek aka Modulator ESP. Deep drones rise out of nowhere, transforming into a gigantic, monumental, gargantuan wall of sound. The album is named after a binary star system where both stars are somewhat similar to our Sun. The system is known thanks to a legend (for want of a better term) that says that there was once a humanoid race living on one of the planets that orbited one of the suns, but the planet was later destroyed by its own dwellers. Therefore, these creatures started looking for a new home. The legend also says that some of them reached the Earth, but the information concerning the aliens was conspired by governments. There's a group of people who claim to be the descendants of this alien race or maybe even aliens themselves which of course can hardly be trusted. Anyway, the music is suitably spooky, out-there and cosmic in a mysterious and menacing kind of way. Not any sort of Berlin School by a long shot, stylistically it comes as close to Dark Ambient drone music as it probably can. Sometimes the drone is augmented by high-pitched sonic elements but overall the sound is deep, hollow and intense with several layers of drones making up for a very thick miasma of sound. All the changes on this album are subtle but they are quite discernible if you listen closely. Did Jez create his best work so far? It could be. In any case, if you enjoy Dark Ambient music and especially Dark Space or long-form Drone Ambient - you will find lots to enjoy here. This is a work that needs to be heard. Well done!

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Nemesis "Stereofields Forever" (private release, 2007)

This album represents a collection of archive live material recorded in 1997 - 2004. "Entrance" is a very cosmic introduction with lots of twitters and a nice pad sound. Dark shades are present but overall the mood is that of melancholy and mystery. "The Cosmic Garden" heralds its coming with a nice analogue sequence while the twittering effects continue to cast their spell. Soon another, more punchy sequence joins and it morphs into quite a rollercoaster of a track. Pure Berlin School magnificence, with a tasty, distant analogue solo. The sound of waves serves as a transition to "Desert Miracle" which unfortunately goes for the Enigma / Deep Forest route, which means laid-back techno-ish rhythms and general pop aesthetics. Mind you, it's not a bad track and some of the sounds were pretty interesting, it's just that it's a tad too lightweight and positive (read: "new age") for my taste. By the end of the track I really feel like reaching for the "skip" button. "People At Sunset" starts with reflective marimba tones and deep pads. These are then joined by various strange atmospheric / deep sounds that create a unique mysterious atmosphere. A distant fuzzy guitar solo is a nice addition to the already good, if a bit monochromatic, track. "Intro" is great, as are most of the short tracks by Nemesis (something that came to my head only after listening to this track, which was the fourth or maybe the fifth short track by Nemesis that I heard), consisting of unidentifiable sounds, effects and lots of atmosphere. "Sky Archeologist" has a wonderful punchy sequence that will sure have an appeal to all fans of Berlin School music and neo-prog EM in general. This is EM as it should be - profoundly synthetic, otherworldly and with GUTS! A bit lousy perhaps, like many improvised live jams, but almost impeccable in its sound design. And did I mention that I'm crazy about improvised EM? "Lunar Mansion" is straight into business with multiple sequences running at a comfortable pace. It's amazing how the sequences subside after a while to give way for an atmospheric section. The transition is rather abrupt but it sounds so organic, as if you've been waiting for it to come all the way long. The sequences return and again you somehow expect them to come to the surface for that one last ride through the ether. Oh, and where would one be without that Froesean guitar solo on top? The final section is simply some of the most expressive Electronic Music I've heard - excellent reflective guitar and whining synths. Heaven! The next track, "Gigaherz" is known from the eponymously titled album. I remember it was one of my least favourite tracks from that album and the same can be said here. Perhaps if I liked techno music a bit more I could find some appeal in it. As it is - just an okay-ish "Dream Mixes" styled track, nothing less, nothing more. Another thing to mention is that the music is very suitable for driving - you know, the dynamic kind of thing that you tend to play as loud as possible when speeding down the highway. "Finale", on the other hand, is typical Ambient, with long-drawn pads, slow rhythm and various reflective / mysterious sounds. A very nice and relaxing conclusion to this diverse but overall very enjoyable collection of tracks from the leading Finnish exponents of contemporary EM.

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Parallel Worlds "Obsessive Surrealism" (DiN, 2007)

Bakis Sirros: Doepfer A-100, Analogue Systems RS-Integrator, Technosaurus System D, 2 modified EMS VCS-3's, ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, Roland System 100, Roland System 100m, modified Oberheim 2-voice, Korg MS-50, Korg MS-20, Korg SQ-10, Korg Trident, Korg, PE-1000, Analogue Solutions Concussor, modified Roland TR-606, Clavia Nord Modular, Roland JP-8000, Waldorf Microwave-XT, Korg MS2000R, Roland S750, E-Mu Emax 2, Korg ES-1, Roland Space Echo, Korg SE-500, additional sound manipulators.

What caught my attention first was the title of this new album by Greek synthesist and sound sculptor Bakis Sirros. Now, let's see if there's anything Dali-esque about the music. Dark tones and some bleeps is what we get for a few seconds into "Beneath Fear". Then a moody melodic refrain comes in. It's all rather dramatic, with electronic rhythms and mellotron choir. This is the moodiest piece I've heard from Bakis so far and in a way it's a progression from his previous, IDM-influenced style. Don't get me wrong, it's still very contemporary sounding, but somehow the mood is different, despite the bass drum that really adds this "techno" element to the music. This is some mysterious and at the same time melancholic music. Not bad at all. "Different Pathways" has a more stiff rhythm and strange effects. There's still that mysterious aura and a somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere that permeates this track. Some of the sounds that Bakis coaxes out of his modular synths are quite unusual and it's clear that he'd spent some days (or nights) just programming the synths, searching for the right sound (isn't EM all about creating sounds?). "Empty Human Cells" introduces a more somber and outright aggressive sound. At this stage the music really starts sounding like the album's title. A strange thing to notice is that the rhythm seems to be somewhat out of sync with the bass line, but it sounds organic and intentional. "Increasing Complexity" starts with deep sine wave bell tones somewhat similar to the sound of an electric piano. Looks like the somber, dark and melancholic mood of this album is set to continue for a while, this time in a more minimalist framing. The track has only got a sparse accompaniment of strange and /or darkish atmospheric sounds and a repetitive structure (which is a bit odd, considering the track's title). "Into the Caves of the Mind" introduces some broken rhythms, while the atmosphere itself refuses to stray from the mysterious and, once again, somewhat claustrophobic. It's like the world has collapsed and there's only here and now - the singularity of sound. As if it was not enough, "Interlude" is even deeper and darker, approaching the territory of the darker forms of Ambient. Great, simply great stuff! "Reflective" brings in more cosmic elements; at least that's how it sounded to my ears. It's also one of the more techno-influenced tracks here. As someone who doesn't like techno music, I found most of it a bit hard going, but I still liked the mood of this track and most of the supporting textures. "Mindmists" sounds like a title for an atmospheric track. Indeed, this is deep stuff, with dark piano notes and mucho mutating, experimental synth timbres. Another attraction of this track is the appearance of mellotron strings (I think it's the first time they are heard on "Obsessive Surrealism"). "Pale Yellow Sky" has close to none of the darker shades present on most of the tracks, but the sense of mystery is still the focal point of this number. I really like the strings / pads arrangements of this one. "Distracted" is somewhat jarring, with its noisy textures and strident bass lines. Looks like it's the most upbeat track on the album. It's also one of those techno-ish numbers, but it beats most of what's sold as techno or trance to dust! Very interesting music with some tasty synth sounds. "Crying Spells" has a marching bass line that sounds like a procession heading straight into a hell hole! All the dark synth sounds, all the noisy injections make this track a real winner. Overall, Bakis presents quite stark (and decidedly electronic) music on this release. I mean, it's all grey. No other colors, just grey, mostly of the darker scales. There's hardly a bright section to be heard. The music is imbued in melancholy, mystery and claustrophobia. Going back to the title, there's a certain "manic" or "obsessive" feeling about most of this album, but "surrealism"? Hmm... I guess if Dali lived in an isolation tank that flew through cosmic void, then perhaps his paintings could have been the visual equivalent of the music presented here. A very interesting release on the DiN label and highly recommended for fans of contemporary EM and for those who simply want to hear something a bit different.

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Remy "Sense" (AKH Records, 2006)

Dark pads and piano playing start the first track "Being". Quite dramatic stuff and different for Remy. Subtle synth flashes glow from beneath, but otherwise "Being" is just a stark, dark and cold soundscape. "Destination" begins in no less dark manner, with low noises and sparse effects. A melody is trying to reach the surface but is suffocated by the dark monolithic sea of sound. Distant singing can be heard that adds to the spookiness of it all. At this moment it all sounds like a Dark Ambient album. Gone are the Schulze references, although with a bit of strain you can sort of compare it with the darkest moments on "Moonlake". After 6 minutes an echoey sequence appears, without interrupting the soundscape. A moog sound cries on top. However, things remain decidedly dissonant, jarring and un-musical. Interesting stuff. Another sequence soon joins and we have finally entered the more familiar Berlin School territory, although the feeling of unease never really lets go. Mellotron chords (chorus) can be heard in the background. Very intense stuff and at this stage it becomes very Schulze-like (1996 - 2006 period). And for dessert we have a ripping moog solo that just screams! Track three, called "Behaviour" has a few seconds of abstract sounds but after a while mellotron choir comes into play. Very beautiful stuff. The sound gets more intense and a sequence slowly creeps in. It then subsides to let the sounds float on their own. However, after a few seconds, the sequence returns only to end some moments later and give way to an abstract outtro. "Maze" has barely heard sounds as the beginning. Really deep stuff and very enjoyable. A cello-like sequence starts and a male voice recites some title-related prose. It all continues in this mode for a while. The music itself is very classically-oriented, with strings, lots of cello melodies and slap bass. This piece manages to invoke the feeling of unrest. A fast rhythm then appears while the cellos continue playing their improvised symphony. Amazing, anguished, but at the same time playful music. I must say that the Schulze influences are very strong here. It's not a copy, of course, but this track could have easily been composed by Klaus circa 1990. A roaring moog solo can be heard on top. Immaculately done! "Mortality" is next. Bell-like sequences are combined with heavy noises and hums. A mellotron choir can be heard and overall this track reminds me very much on "Moogetique" from Klaus' "Body Love Vol. 2". However, after a while a marching bass rhythm appears that's combined with more rhythmic sequences. This is the most 70's-sounding piece on the album. The sequences are very 1977-1978 Schulze, although some harsher / more disturbing sounds can also be heard. I like this one. Juxtaposing beautiful sounds that describe the beauty of eternity and the ugly ones that express the mortality of our own little lives he goes for the obvious solution, but in the end, it works. A track named "Deja Vu" concludes this album with mucho mellotron choir, male singing and strange vocal / noisy effects. "Sense" shows us a more mature Remy and sees him push his music a bit farther, while still retaining the influences. Best track on the album: "Mortality".

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Samarkande "Douglas' Basement" (Samarkande Records, 2006)

Eric Fillion: Moog Micromoog, Moog Prodigy, Grundig Short Wave Radio S350, Korg Delta, Korg Mono/Poly, Arp Solina String Ensemble, Hammond Porta-B, Roland D-20 and VS 1680, mellotron 400, theremin.

Sylvain Lamirande: E-MU E5000 Ultra, Moog Micromoog, Edirol MIDI Controller, Korg MS-10, Korg MS-2000, Yamaha EX5, Yamaha EX5R, Yamaha WX 11, Roland D-50, Roland PG1000, Roland VP9000, Sorpano and Tenorinette saxophones.

Finally I've got to listening to Samarkande's latest outing - the monumental "Douglas' Basement". Voice samples, noises and deep dark synth drones get the first track "Catharsis" underway. Theremin can be heard in the background and overall it's one of the most unsettling pieces of music I've ever heard. Soon pad sounds and other synth noises are added but things are getting more and more unsettling. Really gut-wrenching stuff. Strange heavy synth rhythms make this track an odd number indeed. Sort of "Phaedra" from hell, played by a bunch of fiends on frying pans. This may sound funny, but the music isn't. Just listen to it - it'll give you the creeps. Really, it's all so schizophrenic, claustrophobic and noisy - you'll have to wonder if any sane person could produce such stuff at all! Mellotron textures can be heard - totally dry, with no effects, no echo, no nothing. Given what has preceded it, the suddenly appearing organ drone comes as a glimpse of light. However, we soon enter another mysterious and rhythmic section that I found extremely enjoyable. Some distorted leads play on top and it seems like we have entered a quasi-Berlin territory. Very good. Another atmospheric section follows, with noises, distorted voices and a child's lullaby sung. This track really scares the shit out of me. Eerie! Compared to this, an average Dark Ambient album is just a walk in the park. Fans of EM with a dark and noisy twist will enjoy it and before you notice - this 15 plus minute track is over. The title track is next and it's as unsettling as ever. Various noises and spooky melody loops can be heard. Sounds like some ugly creatures are crawling from beneath, trying to get you. Theremin whistles give this track a bit of a cheesy, SF-ish flair. Next is "Pray Hard But Pray With Care". Hammond organ drone and some distorted guitar-like leads give way to a strange marimba-like synth sequence that ebbs and flows. Lots of mutating and twittering synths here as well as strange sax bursts. A mellotron choir can be heard in the background - unusual, but great stuff. In the second part, disturbing mellotron strings are added, as well as lots of noises and radio samples (some of them deal with Christianity). "Cadavre Exquis No. 8" has an outstanding intro, with pads and mellotron choirs - it's so sublime, haunting and beautiful, it sends shivers down my spine! The track builds but never really reaches the top. Instead, the feeling of suspense and uneasiness is sustained throughout its almost 10-minute length. Main ingredients here are drones, pads, half-heard radio noises and sublime background sounds. Sounds like an aural journey through misty lands. I must say that this track is much more in the "classic" Dark Ambient vein - a pure soundscape with no melody or rhythm. Excellent stuff! Funnily, the track ends with the so much overused (albeit here processed) NASA samples. The track then morphs into the last cut "Cadavre Exquis No. 7". Once again, dark noises of unknown origin dominate the picture. Soon, an unsettling string sound cuts through but everything is rather restrained, not counting the samples of a crying baby and a female voice singing. The singing becomes louder only to subside a couple of seconds later. Slow bass rhythm can be heard along with a whistling lead line. It all reminds very much on John Carpenter's soundtracks. Great dark piano playing adds to the picture which is dominated by strange noises and once again those seemingly random sax outbursts. Everything calms down for another atmospheric section populated by concrete sounds (voices) and low drones / rumbles. A synth drone serves as the background for this section that continues the piece in a pure Dark Ambient mould, with lots of samples and various sounds coming and going. Finally, we have another strange rhythmic section dominated by synth basses and subtle mellotron strings that eventually ends this piece. Conclusion: several sections of this album will scare even the most hardened of you, so be warned. Without a doubt, "Douglas' Basement" is one monster of an album!

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Samarkande / Oblivion Ensemble (Samarkande Records / Static Signals, 2007)

A split release is not something I happen to review very often, especially if it's a strictly limited edition of just 100 copies. Anyway, this release here is a mini-album clocking at just under 30 minutes (27:22 to be exact) with one track from each group. The first track is "Fondation .02" from Samarkande. Both members (Eric Fillion and Sylvain Lamirande) are credited on synthesizers and electronics only, so technically speaking this is pure electronic music. And what about the sound? Sound-wise, the track is definitely EM, but in a unique and dark Samarkande manner. Heavy drones and some noises as well as half-discerned voices are what we get for the initial few seconds. I think I can also hear some faint background mellotron choir. This is some utterly unsettling and foreboding music. Don't listen to this stuff at night if you are easily impressed. Me, I found this wall-of-sound approach very enjoyable. The Dark Ambient element is then joined (and subsequently replaced) by some strange noisy rhythm and distant phased string synth. I think if Tangerine Dream were recording "Phaedra" on the Moon, helped by the duo of Roedelius and Moebius, they could've sounded like that. Actually, at this stage, the music is not as dark as the intro might imply. In fact, major harmonies give it almost a cheerful, easy-going character, that is, if we don't count the wacky bits. This is the brightest music I've heard from Samarkande and yet it's highly original and experimental. However, for the final section we return to the unsettling sound of the intro, with voice samples being more prominent. This time it all sounds like some secret nuclear object several minutes before its meltdown. Next comes the strangely titled "I Fall, Sound[in]g Her Dream" from Oblivion Ensemble. I am not familiar with this project's music, but judging from the first seconds of this track it looks like some fine electroacoustic stuff. Very nice music, by the way, with all kinds of sound snippets, distorted rhythms, strange atmospheres and unidentifiable samples. There's also a strong voice component in the form of various whispers, wails and other such "vocalizing". Some moments were rather amusing (such as the twangy, distorted guitar playing), others dark and unsettling. If you like this type of music - this is highly recommended. Do the two tracks have something in common? Not much, I'd say, apart from both groups' love for sonic experiments. Whereas Samarkande's piece is one of the most structured ones in their oeuvre, Oblivion Ensemble's track is pretty chaotic and freeform. However, if you have a general taste for the weird and out-there, you'll dig both.

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T-30 Control "Hollow Earth" (Path of Action, 2006)

If you are familiar with T-30 Control's debut - you already known what to expect. As was the case with "Blade of the Sun", on "Hollow Earth" you will find a mixture of styles. Half is rather forgettable and dare I say it "cheesy" upbeat "electro-trance" pieces and the other half is excellent atmospheric / spacey numbers to die for. And I am not exaggerating here. It's only an opinion but I can't seem to get how they manage to make music of not only different styles but also such different class. Maybe that was the intention? Who knows? What I'm trying to say is that it's possible that upbeat "trance" pieces are simply not the group's strength. At least I get this impression, while listening to "Hollow Earth". Why? Simply put: they sound plastic. Plastic and samey. But just as much they are plastic as much terrific are the cosmic slow pieces. Heck, they sound as if done by completely different people! I don't know what else there is to say about the rhythmic numbers. They are pretty much samey and feature steady rhythms, the (not so imaginative) synths and the new feature seems to be guitar playing on a couple of tracks. The guitar works in one instance (I really enjoyed it) and doesn't work in another, where it seems to be out of place somehow. If you like your EM upbeat, technoish and stiff, give these pieces a listen. Maybe you'll like them more than I did. Last gripe is that as with previous album, the pieces start and end too abruptly, leaving no possibility for a good flow. As a result, "Hollow Earth" is a collection of pieces and by no means an album as a single piece of art or, God forgive me, a concept album. As for the atmospheric / spacey pieces they are all great and similar in style to the long closing track on "Blade of the Sun". These wonderful creations are: "End of Tomorrow" (the best one!), "Gateway To the Stars", "Edge of Darkness" and "Mist". Some of the tracks have bright shades while others submerge you into darkness. The longest and the best track is without a doubt the multi-part "End of Tomorrow", with its beautiful beginning, intense middle part and atmospheric finish. The track contains excellent, rich sounds and imaginative textures. "Gateway To the Stars" starts in an ethereal manner but develops into quite an intense track by the end. "Edge of Darkness" is suitably brooding, while "Mist" is brighter than most of the spacey tracks offered by this album. "Hollow Earth" is a diverse collection of pieces, some of them great; others needed perhaps just a bit more work on them, but if you have broad tastes, give it a listen. And those who like Space Music, believe me: the track "End of Tomorrow" is worth it alone.

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Frank Van Bogaert "Nomads" (Groove Unlimited, 2007)

Here we have the latest album of Frank Van Bogaert, a concept work of sorts, dedicated to all types of exploring new ground. "Ouverture" starts with deep sounds until dramatic symphonic passages come from the ether and a relaxed, marching rhythm compliments to this solemn piece. "Crack the Blue Sky" comes off as something more overtly electronic, with some sequences and lots of raspy, saw-wave based sounds. Some trademark Frank Van Bogaert textures can be heard as well. The melody that comes a bit later is a bit too "dancey" for my taste perhaps, but the sound design is great as always. The title track has strange sounds and some dramatic string stabs as an introduction. A typical Van Bogaert symphonic theme is the main attraction, although on this album most tracks are a bit less focused (which is actually a good thing in this case) than on previous releases. Anyway, here, Frank's music is as expansive as ever, which probably corresponds to the album's theme. Most cuts so far sound more or less composed and not improvised. However, with "Furious Jam" things change drastically. In total accordance with its title, the track is full of that typical improvisational style of Frank, only this time it's much more upbeat and, well, furious. Certainly the best track so far. I just LOVE it when Frank lets his fingers go up and down the keys, without any or almost any pre-conceived ideas. I also adore those jazzy / fusiony bits that are present thanks largely to the use of the electric piano. In total contrast to the previous number, "Aquatopia" calms things down with what sounds like an excellent soundtrack to a documentary about sea explorations. The track sounds improvised and jazzy, with lots of piano. This is some great music! I am so happy that Frank has chosen to go for the improvisation once again, but you already know how much I love this particular style. By the end of the track a recurring theme appears which is a logical conclusion to this enjoyable journey. "High" has a pronounced rhythm that differentiates this track from the rest. However, the rest is typical Van Bogaert in his composed mode. The theme is good and enjoyable but after the two improvised tracks he left me craving for more. "Mont Blanc" starts like an ambient track. Soon gentle piano notes appear. This is one of those soothing or "sleepy" Van Bogaert tracks that could help you relax after a hard day or perhaps surrender to the reminiscences. "Drive" has underlying sequence that reminded on Jarre's "Arpeggiator". However, it then morphs into quite a danceable track with a steady rhythm and a simple, but effective melody. "Blue Down There" makes you think of images of Earth as seen from space. A wonderful relaxing piece that has no clear melody but is very effective nonetheless. "Ritual" sounds like another improvised piece which I sincerely hope it is. Some heavy synth stabs are supported by an urgent rhythm, as a sequence mutates beneath. I'd say that the piece is half-improvised and half-composed. A very effective composition with excellent sound programming. "Heat" surprises with a lullaby-like electric piano and a subtle sequence. After a while, a two-note melody is introduced, together with a guitar / e-piano improvisation. This is just terrific! This time Frank improvises in a profoundly relaxed way with extremely interesting results. "Beneath the Ice" starts with a sound of a sonar, until an ambient soundscape takes over. This is one of those rare, totally ambient Frank Van Bogaert tracks. Very immersive and I'd say, chilling. I think that with "Nomads" Frank has proved once again that he is an expert musician in both composing and improvising modes. Making a concept album was a hard task, but Frank managed to put out something which certainly deserves any praise. Best tracks: without a shade of a doubt, "Furious Jam", "Aquatopia", "Ritual" and "Heat".

Go to Frank Van Bogaert entry

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Various Artists "AKH Records" (2006)

Here we have a sampler of Remy's AKH Records label. All names except Remy's own are unknown to me. Lebenswelt starts this disc with "And My Life Is So Frail". I must say it's an interesting jazzy track with some synth coloring and a bit of FX but not EM. Anyway, on to Soapkills "Kadzoura". Sounds like a folk / classical piece, compete with female vocals! Gentle electronic rhythm / organs provide a nice backing. So, again, not EM, but nice to listen to anyway. It does make use of interesting sampling techniques but it ends up sounding like a mixture of dub and progrock. On to Juno's "Spy" which opens with quiet piano playing but after a couple of seconds we can hear once again female singing similar to that heard on the previous track. I would say that there's little difference between this and "Kadzoura". In fact, they sound as if they were made by the same person. Another track by Juno follows that features jazzy rhythmic backing and once again those female spoken / singed vocals. I must say it's nice stuff but all really not my cup of tea. Well, perhaps it will grow on me, as happened so many times with a lot of weird and different stuff. A track by Remy follows, called "In This Place". A mysterious bell-like melody casts its spell, echoing into the distance. Background mellotron choir can barely be heard, as well as subtle strings. Great, moody stuff. A slow rhythm eventually appears and forms the basis for the last part of this highly repetitive, minimal track. We continue with Fractional's "Nirbel" that disrupts the flow with jarring rhythm / aggressive sounds. This is a nice track but it belongs to the techno culture in my book. We continue with Sutrastore's "Succeed". Urban atmospheres are combined with broken rhythms. Looks like the album made a complete turn towards the IDM side of things. Male voice half-sings and is then joined by a female one for some sort of a chorus (year, right). Nice music, this one. "Central Station" by The After Affects only confirms my presumption about this sampler going for the IDM thing. Nice Pet Shop Boys-like processed vocals on this one. Remy closes the disc with "Visions". Mysterious piano notes make up for a nice intro. Well, actually the piano and the background pads are pretty much all we have on this number, plus a bit of a rhythm at the end. Nice track, though, and very different. I enjoyed it. The "AKH Records" sampler is something of a mixed bag, then, where Remy's own tracks were the ones I enjoyed the most.

Related links: Remy.

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Various Artists "Analogy Vol. 2" (Groove Unlimited, 2006)

"Mellowtronthoughts" is an extremely beautiful and gentle mellotron piece by Rogue Element. It's like being in a magic, extraterrestrial forest. If you wondered what would the brighter version of Tangerine Dream's "Fauni-Gena" sound like - this is it. Excellent! "Tole Ondulee" from Francois-Pol Cornec follows in a more experimental and dark vein. The basic ingredient here is an echoing sequence that is then joined by heavy-handed bass lines and synthesized melodies. Very analog and very in-your-face. "Sunrise On Cyderia" by 4m33s is a sedate (but darkish) piece with some interesting effects. The synth pad sound is very dominant here while the rest of the sounds assume a secondary role. Nice piece! This track then gives way for "Velvet Sky" from Emmens & Heij. A very Jarre-like bass sequence ("Arpeggiator" anyone?) enters and is then joined by excellent synth pads. This track is in typical Emmens & Heij style and if you know (and like) these guys - you'll find plenty to enjoy here! This is pure Berlin School magnificence! One of those tracks to simply sit back and enjoy, while letting your mind wander. A mournful lead line cries on top - excellently done and very beautiful! "Cosmic Kiwi II Part 1" from Russell Storey gradually fades in with heavy analogue drones, effects and some bright synth flashes. Very good. "Black Tails" from James J. Clent came as a surprise, as it combines excellent Ashra-like guitar playing with very profound analogue synthesis and a bass rhythm. A very enjoyable number that reminds on the good old days of EM. A processed guitar-solo cries on top and we are heading straight into the stratosphere. (or is that stratosfear?) Anyway, James J. Klent is a new name for me and on this track he proved to be an expert musician. "Improbability Drive" from Craig Padilla follows with strange effects of the dark variety. After a while a super-fast sequence develops that is then joined by equally fast rhythms and we are motoring down the cosmic highway at quite a pace now. Some cosmic lead lines can be heard in the background. Words can't describe just how much I like this track. It does not have any recognizable melodies. It defies categorization. It's just one big mass of dynamic cosmic sound that sucks you in a whirlpool of dreams and nightmares. At 5+ minutes it's so short - I could listen to this stuff for ages. Kees Aerts provides us with "Branch Hopping" that starts in a peaceful manner that's in complete contrast to the previous number. However, it's not long before a heavy bass sequence enters the stage, forming the basis for yet another upbeat track. Excellent analogue sounds orchestrate this number that's as good as anything else on this fabulous compilation. Excellent lead lines take us back to the cosmos again. Wow! This sampler is quickly becoming my top album of 2006! "Creation Garden" by Zen Paradox (aka Steve Law) follows in a sequency manner with all kind of pulsations juxtaposed with mysterious pads and background effects. A TR-808 rhythm supports the flow, resulting in a gently rhythmic, smooth EM track. Steve's trademark style is very recognizable and yet this track is fairly unique. "Electromagnetic" from Stephen Parsick was another revelation, being basically an industrial-type piece with various metallic clangs and no-nonsense echoing structures. It's amazing what this man achieved with just a Moog synthesizer and a Rhodes piano. Ever fancied waking up in an abandoned industrial complex on another planet, with ancient, rusty, gargantuan machines surrounding you? If the imagery seems familiar, then this track is for you. Me, I was pissing my pants from excitation in no time. Outstanding! "Reaching Out" by Create follows. Mellotron choirs and analogue melodies is basically what we get for the first couple of moments, but after a while a sequence appears together with rather mysterious lead lines. The tron flute really adds to the mood of this track, while the sequences are as good as ever. Altres serves us an acoustic guitar piece in the form of "Dusktreader" with just enough analogue synths to please any fan of EM. A very unusual track I must add, that sounds like a folky version of synth music (or the synth version of folk music). "Cosmic Kiwi II Part 2" from Russell Storey takes us back to the darker realms with echoing analogue textures and the drones that opened part 1. The Remotion guys give us "Sonar Vision" - a track that's as emotional as ever. Their sequencing powers are evident on this track as well as their melodic skills. Mellotron strings give this track a mournful, melancholic flair, while the rhythms are as urgent as ever. Remy gives us "Expectations" - an extremely gentle piece with contrasting (more harsh) sounds. I must add that overall this track is pretty experimental, especially in the rhythmic department, where Remy's Memorymoog provides strange, clicking arpeggios. Interesting stuff. EM2 (aka Gert Emmens and Embrase) serve us with a dessert in the form of "Where Two Worlds Meet" - a gently sequency piece with all necessary ingredients to make it a top-notch EM number. The sequences are simply stunning, as are the melodies. Basically, this track is what you'd expect from a combination of Gert's and Marc's individual styles. This is the most melodic track on the entire album. "Analogy 2" concludes with Ron Boot's "Sneak Preview". A preview it may be, but a very spirited one. Great melancholic EM track with expert sequencing.

As was the case with the first volume of "Analogy", this compilation features a stunning diversity of styles and approaches, with not a single weak track on it! Two thumbs up to Ron and Kees for making this happen. Also kudos to Ron for great, smooth transitions between the tracks. Now, this is what I call a quality product!

Related links: Rogue Element, 4m33s, Emmens, Gert, Storey, Russell, Padilla, Craig, Aerts, Kees, Parsick, Stephen, Create, Altres, Remotion, Remy, Embrase, Boots, Ron.

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© 2014. All reviews are © 2000 - 2007 Artemi Pugachov.