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Maurizio Bianchi & Atrax Morgue "M. Plus T." (Silentes Minimal Editions, 2008)

Here we have a collaboration of pioneering industrial musician / sound artist Maurizio Bianchi aka M.B. and Italian Power Electronics legend Marco Corbelli alias Atrax Morgue. Completed shortly before Marco's suicide in May 2007, "M. Plus T." features two bleak, massive tracks of grim and noisy soundscapes, titled "Mord" and "Tod", respectively (hence the albums' title). So, as one would expect, the imagery and theme of this music is not of bright variety. Both tracks are divided into many short parts, but it is hard to tell where one part ends and another begins. In fact, both tracks sustain a single dark tone and atmosphere throughout, with various sounds and snippets of melody coming and going out of this unearthly soundscape. The first track begins with low-fi, noisy sounds. After a while we hear manic, fast and heavily processed piano playing. It is then interrupted by heavy layers of unidentified noise. The processed piano notes return for a while, sounding doomy and desperate. The noisy layers of sound come back, only to be interrupted by the doomy "piano" again. This is like sonic hide and seek with a heavy, somber result. The music is pretty ambient in nature but the sounds themselves can be pretty grating and imbued with a hidden sense of aggression and despair. Good and strangely hypnotic stuff. Resonant, looped piano notes that coalesce into a monolithic grim tone, followed by pitch-bended noises end this long piece of sound art. A piercing sound heralds the coming of the second track. Looped textures of unknown origin follow. Low sounds of an ambient nature dominate for what sounds like the deepest part of this album. A melodic chunk is repeated over and over, providing a hypnotic and mysterious effect. In stark contrast, the next section features a brighter melodic loop and provides a breath of fresh air after the heavy-handed and even depressive electronics of previous minutes. However, the melody is accompanied by background static noise. Low chords follow that ring like some demented bells in the distance. A new melodic loop appears, having a loungy air to it. However, it's still heavily processed and accompanied by static noise. Everything calms down for a quiet interlude of low tones and chords, before the grating sounds return, followed by resonant structures, alternating with doomy chords that get almost melancholic at times. More melodic loops follow and draw this strangely attractive piece of music to an end. Sitting somewhere on the line between Ambient and industrial / noise / power electronics, this release will be enjoyed by fans of both genres. If noisy sound sculpturing (no clearly identifiable melodies or rhythms) is your thing, go for it. I found it an excellent addition to any Ambient / noise collection.

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BIOnighT "Back To Orion" (private release, 2007)

At last I am holding a new outing by Mac & FaBIO in my hands! Let's see if the results are worth the wait. "Return To Earth" starts with resonating bells and fat synth pad. This is pretty haunting stuff. Soon a terrific sequence arrives, making this short opener a true Berlin School gem. The track's got anthemic qualities, too, especially once the drums come in. One can see how BIOnighT's sound has evolved from their previous efforts released several years ago. The music has become more powerful but at the same time crystalline-clear. "Sinus Iridum" has reflective harp-like sequence coupled with cello leads. This is almost classical music in its scope and feel. What a surprise and what a great track it is! All textures are organic and / or sampled and yet everything is arranged like an EM piece. Subtle synthetic bass pulses can be heard that do not, however, interfere with the flow of this acoustic-sounding number. Everything then stops abruptly as we are left in a windswept landscape. Bass drum beats a couple of times and then goes away. Strange sounds like electronic flies swarm around the stereo spectrum. The bass drum pattern constantly repeats until a relaxed section supported by a steady drum rhythm appears. Is that the theremin I hear? At least it sounds like it. Excellent, moody music! If you like epic EM (and I mean epic in the sense of Symphonic Rock) then you must listen to this! "Floating Thoughts" begins with sparse melancholic notes. After a while some fat synth pads appear. What a reflective track, this one. Although "Back To Orion" is a collective work, this particular track was composed entirely by FaBIO with some contributions from Mac. A tinkling sequence appears towards the end, never really becoming a mainstay, the track remaining essentially an atmospheric number. "Moon Rocks" (excellent title for an EM track!) starts with strange sounds as if multiple balls are jumping off the floor. However, this one turns out to be the "pop single" of the album. Ok, I don't mean pop music of course, but this track is perhaps as catchy and "easy-listening" as BIOnighT gets. Seriously, you can even whistle along to it! It's a good song that somehow reminds me on an updated version of French band Space. Excellent work with sound here, the guys really managed to fill all the stereo space, resulting in the music sounding very intense, but at the same time open-ended, not compressed as is often the case with recent releases. The next track is "Little Gravity", composed entirely by Mac. What can I say? Sequences galore would be the description of it! Excellent, excellent pulsations, and that unmistakable "classic EM" feel. Pure cosmic power! Sorry, been away just enjoying the GORGEOUS sequences on this track! In stark contrast, "Falling" surprises with an aggressive sequence, heavy drums and excellent echoey analogue leads. Very evocative of its title! By now it is quite clear that "Back To Orion" is one of the best (if not the best) releases of 2007. At least in my book, it will be right up there with the top ones! But wait, there's one (long) track left, called "Ride On the Moon". Abstract sounds give way for a bass sequence. It is then joined by various synth sounds and mellotron choir. This track has a rather loose structure, akin to mid 1970's Tangerine Dream. Until the upbeat drum rhythm is introduced, that is. After that it turns into some rocky EM with a bite to it that only a couple of Italian guys like Mac and FaBIO could achieve. It all then calms down, leaving us with the sounds of wind and a tolling bell. Synthetic textures then attack us from all sides before calming down again. A pad is heard and a nice relaxed sequence starts. More sequences are added together with one of the tastiest synth solos I've heard! This is some EM to die for! On this album, Mac & FaBIO have created something spectacular: they've showed why Electronic Music is the best genre in the world!

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Ron Boots "See Beyond Times, Look Beyond Words" (Groove Unlimited, 2008)

“Hour of the Wolf” begins in a mysterious way, with a moody sequencer line and sustained pads. A bass pulse starts, serving as the backbone for the piece. Strong choirs appear, giving the music the kind of symphonic grandeur and richness often associated with classical music and film scores. Some key changes follow, before everything erupts into a rhythmic miasma of sequences, rhythms and various atmospheric synth sounds. Gert Emmens delivers great analogue solo in his typical style. This is genuine EM and so powerful it is, too. Melodic and rich, sequential and dramatic, so many adjectives can be applied to this wonderful piece of music. The sounds of rain herald the coming of the next piece, fittingly titled “A Walk In the Rain”. Beautiful piano notes give way for a sequence and some acoustic guitar strumming by Henri Peeters. New sequences appear, as Harold van der Heijden adds a complex drum rhythm. A liquid solo takes the place of the guitar, as we are gradually gaining altitude with this toe-tapper of a piece. I think it certainly has cross-genre appeal and will be enjoyed by fans of both Electronic Music and Progressive Rock with which it shares a typical interplay between synth and wailing guitar. “Boellistian” was recorded with Paul Ellis and as such, it differs from Ron’s usual style by having some of that “sequencer web” type of sound that Paul is famous for. If past-paced pulsations and mournful synth solos are your thing, I am sure you’ll find much to enjoy in this track. “Storms over Io” begins with dark pads and some effects. Soon, a punchy bass sequence appears out of nowhere, as do the mellotron choirs. A drum rhythm starts, as the sequences pulsate at quite a pace. The drums gain in tempo as an aggressive solo starts. A key change follows, which brings even more aggression and urgency into this rhythmic EM track. A section dominated by mellotron choir follows with sequences returning after a minute or so with an extra melodic component. Ron then plays the fastest solo I’ve heard from him. Pity it’s too short, though. Towards the end the track becomes so intense, it does, indeed, sound like storm. “Harbours” is a short interlude, consisting of very deep pads and various atmospheric sounds, all superbly done. Next is “Radar” which is a collaboration with fellow musicians Martijn Ruissen (bass), Harold van der Heijden (drums), Henri Peeters (guitar) and Mr. Frank Van Bogaert. Warning: spoilers ahead! In no way you can be prepared to what actually awaits you. It’s actually quite rhythmic jazz-rock with prog moves. Excellent stuff! The piano playing is very good as are synth keyboards, guitars and drums. The EM elements get more noticeable towards the end, but the track does retain its Rock flavour throughout. “We Are Off” is trancey and danceable, with a steady beat and some tasty sequences to boot (no pun intended). Smooth guitar lines and New Berlin School pulsations are combined in a unique way to make for an enjoyable and exhilarating listening. “See Beyond Times, Look Beyond Words” features great compositions from Boots, peppered with other great talents of the EM world. Get this magnificent album from Groove.

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Javi Canovas "Red Metal" (download album, 2007)

Like its predecessor, Javi's latest album is available as a download at Synth Music Direct. The first track "Circadian Rhythms" is straight into business with upbeat rhythms, sequencing and an effective melody. This is dynamic Electronic Music that comes off as something like a cross between Tangerine Dream and the ballsy upbeat Laserdance! Froese & Co jamming together with Michel van der Kuy in hyperspace anyone? Can you imagine such a combination? I couldn't. Before I've heard this track, that is. I am sure this music will appeal to a wide audience, but it does demonstrate pure class! All the sounds, rhythms, melodies - everything is close to perfection. This is cosmic music of the highest order that I loved to death! "Radiometry" is next. Bell-like melodic sequences cast their spell while undulating bass synth washes lure you into an electronic haze of sound. A slow rhythm appears, along with yet another sequence. Everything is kept to a necessary minimum and yet the music bears a richness rarely heard in any type of music, not just EM. "Conmutation Q" calms things down with ambient washes of synth and hypnotic drones. This is one of those rare Javi Canovas tracks with no sequences. However, "Cibercafe" soon "rehabilitates" this album with upbeat sequencing, electronic rhythms and a catchy theme. This is one of the most "commercial" compositions Javi has ever created (sounds very much inspired by 1980's Kraftwerk). "Dark Memory System" starts with bell-like sequences that dance around the stereo spectrum, while bright synth pads play underneath. Soon more psychedelic sequenced keyboards are added before it all comes to an end. "Liquid Crystal" takes us to a mysterious place, with its slightly abstract proceedings of melancholic notes. Reminds me on those early 1980's atmospheric pieces that Klaus Schulze played on his CS-80 and GDS computer. "Circadian Algorythm" returns to the style of the first track, although in a more laid-back, less upbeat mode and with Tangerine Dream influences to the fore. Great Berlin School music ala early 1980's TD, with a rich sound and a spacey atmosphere. Some great screaming solos on this one! The title track is next, with its mysterious synth-based drone. It's nice to see Javi trying a hand at more ambient styles of EM. "Sphinx" suprises with quite heavy rhytms and nice melodic sequencing. There are some great melodies here and overall the track sounds like a mixture of Kraftwerk's "Computer World", Tangerine Dream and typical moody minimal synth music of the 1980's. Next we get "Radar" that starts with a deep bass drone. Soon an excellent (and I mean it) sequence appears, with sounds jumping back and forth across stereo channels. Another (upbeat) sequence joins as a weeping lead line just floats on top. We then get a beautiful electric piano interlude with auxiliary synth backing. Towards the end, heavy synth drones return along with whooshy effects and various echoing sounds. "Voices In the Space" has galloping sequences combined with digital pads. Another bleepy sequence joins the galloping one to form an infectious and curious electronic brew. Excellent psychedelic sequences and pounding rhythms are then added, making this an intense and driving track. Unfortunately, the track ends rather abruptly just when I started to "get into the flow". "Epilogue" closes this album with ethereal synthesizer textures and heavenly pads. A moody piece and an excellent closer. Overall, I think that "Red Metal" is Javi's most diverse album to date. He tried a hand at many genres here, sometimes with stunning results. However, the album as a whole feels more like a collection of songs or ideas and lacks cohesion. Also, I did miss Javi's trademark long suites, "Red Metal" being a showcase for shorter, more compressed tracks that sometimes end all too abruptly or are not given time to fully develop. Having said that, I did find some of the tracks here to be utterly terrific.

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Javi Canovas "Nights of Brightness" (download album, 2008)

"Nights of Brightness" is the newest album by Spanish electronic musician Javi Canovas. It begins with a long track called "Nimbus". Abstract effects are what we hear for a couple of minutes before a pulse gradually develops. Excellent sequences are something of a trademark for Javi and here you will hear them in all their glory. Some sci-fi soloing can be heard but the essence of this track certainly lies in the sequences. I noticed that Spaniards have a special style of sequencing, different from, say, the Dutch or the Germans. Spanish sequencing is often sharp, manic and relentless (Dom Scab, John Lakveet and Javi Canovas all have this type of sequencing) and this track demonstrates this perfectly. In Spanish EM, sequences often interact with each other, resulting in totally hypnotic combinations and Spanish musicians try to avoid simple patterns, instead going for a "sequencer soup" type of sound. I love this style of sequencing and I loved this track. Of course, it also offers other elements, like subtle atmospherics and the already mentioned solos. "Elipse" is another instant favourite. The main ingredients of this catchy track are the melody that sticks in your head, the beepy sequences and a perfectly programmed, punchy rhythm. It's so driving, urgent and propulsive; it will get your adrenaline levels growing in no time. If you like racing down the motorway, make sure to have this track blaring out of your car stereo next time. And, ah, those solos... Sharp, cosmic, synthetic, piercing, wailing, they got it all. "Metallic Core" begins with heavy effects before a metallic sequence emerges. Another bass guitar-like sequence joins. During the course of the track, various atmospheric sounds come and go, as well as some noisy effects. The track is somewhat monolithic. I liked the music box-like melody - very nice! "Mr. Ivan" is very Kraftwerk-like in its execution, with repeating melodies and acid bass sequences. However, there's also a hint of modern-day techno in how the drum rhythms are handled. And the jazzy solo is a nice extra as well, giving this track a unique flavour. "Fugitive Star" starts with a phased pad, before an urgent sequence emerges. Mournful mellotron flute plays on top. New sequences and more effects are added to what sounds like the most Tangerine Dream-y piece on the album. "Beta" features a heavy dub-like rhythm, urgent sequences and a catchy electronic melody. I like the interplay of melodies and solos on this one. Another winner! Heavy echoing effects herald the coming of "Protoplanet". Excellent harpsichord-like melody is heard as a slow rhythm starts. mellotron flute combines to great effect with the electronic harpsichord. The sequence that appears towards the end is pure genius! The track is dark, moody and somewhat melancholic. I liked it a lot. Overall, "Nights of Brightness" is a top-notch EM album. There's not a bad track on it, and some tracks are just perfect!

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Centrozoon "Angel Liquor" (Divine Frequency, 2006)

Bernhard & Markus have returned to give us their new production - an album called "Angel Liquor". As usual with the German project's music, it's all quite angular and daring. Take the first track, called "Fear", for instance. Heavy-handed bass stabs are combined with abstract pads (or is that processed guitar?). Strange stuff, but perfectly in line with other music I've heard by this project. Gradually, the track becomes more intense, as more sounds are added. This music is pulsating and whirling and is able to induce vertigo, so do not listen to it if you are stoned, as they would say in the 1970's! "Distress" is next. Initially it's a much calmer track than the opener. Soon heavy broken rhythm is added as a backbone for the composition, while Markus' guitar wails on top of some synthesizer pads. These are the main ingredients here: guitar, programmed drums and various complimentary sounds. It might seem simple but the music is not without its charm. As always with Centrozoon, a sense of mystery and abstraction permeates the tracks. The music is emotionally detached, as if you are hearing a soundtrack to your daily (routine) life. Ironically, the next track is called "Vertigo". Cold abstract sounds get things underway. A slow rhythm appears, as more soundscapes envelop it. Unusual, strangely warm and inviting track. I like this one. With the beginning of "Decoy", warm organ-like tones sweep in. Beautiful stuff. Mysterious, and yet beautiful. Very impressionistic. The last track, called "Cruciform" starts with heavy and quite dramatic synth strings. Strange chirping sounds start to dominate after a while, together with complimentary textures and melodies, while the rhythm is barely heard underneath. Once the pads are gone, I could hear rhythmic splashes that actually made me startle, thinking something is lurking behind me. Great work with sound! "Angel Liquor" is a curious experimental album with a haunting and sometimes warm atmosphere.

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Computerchemist "Icon One" (Terrainflight, 2007)

Dave Pearson: Cubase SX3, Behringer BCF2000, MAudio 88ES, Hercules 16/12, Behringer MDX2600, Behringer t1953 valve preamp, Behringer DI4000, Yamaha bass, Fender Stratocaster, Zoom guitar effects, Yamaha drum pads.

"Icon One" is the second album by Dave Pearson from Staffordshire, England, who records under the artistic name Computerchemist. The title track begins with neo-classical strings, but after a while, a bass sequence enters. Another, higher-register sequence enters and is joined by a steady electronic rhythm. This is driving, energetic music that will be enjoyed by fans of mid-1980's Tangerine Dream. However, this is only a point of reference, as Dave certainly has his own style. Dramatic synth stabs give way to a floating section. The sequences subside and what left are some synth pads and a few effects. The sequences return after a while, this time being more complex and enveloping. Another neo-classical melody gives way for a more uplifting section dominated by major chord progressions. It then gives way for yet another neo-classical interlude, this time sounding more epic and dramatic. The bass sequence returns, combined with a piano melody and some flutes. After this rather ethnic-sounding section, different sequences and different pace altogether are introduced, with relaxed rhythms, but energetic sequencing and melodies. This is the most Tangerine Dream-y part of this suite. "Timethorns" begins with mellotron flute melody that is then complimented by moody piano playing. Soon, a simple sequence enters, but the melody remains the main feature of this emotional track. "Chaos Theory" is introduced with a very effective sequence and, once again, a profound piano theme. The piano seems to be sort of a special feature of this album. And it works quite well, too. A rhythm appears, although essentially it's still a very relaxed and easy-going track. Surprisingly, all elements of this track disappear after 3 minutes, to give way for a chaotic guitar solo. The rhythm does return after a while, this time combined with the aforementioned guitar solo and noisy effects. The melodies return, taking this track to its logical conclusion. "Icon Zero" is another long suite, clocking at just under 17 minutes. Excellent atmospheric pads make this one of the most effective intros I've heard in a while. The piano and mellotron flute are then introduced. A relaxed, and a bit jazzy rhythm starts and drives this moody piece along. A sax solo makes this track even more jazz-like. Now, this is dangerously close to background lounge / smooth jazz stuff. However, I found it very enjoyable and original. The first real sequence arrives towards the 7-minute mark, together with a distorted guitar solo. The drums go berserk, as the sequence mutates with new notes added and existing ones altered / accented. Powerful stuff. Hard Rock EM, anyone? The piano gives way for an extremely distorted guitar solo (sounds like screaming monkeys) and lots of layered flutes. Great use of bass guitar as well. "The Message" concludes this album on a melodic note, with piano melody as intro / outtro and rhythmic / Rocky main part, with guitars, synth strings and quirky electronic melodies. "Icon One" is a great progression over Dave's previous effort. This is EM with a strong Rock edge. I guess if we take Tangerine Dream's instrumentation of the 1990's (keyboards, guitars, drums, sax etc) and take away most of the Pop / easy-listening sensibilities typical of their music from that era, we'd get something like "Icon One". Dave Pearson is certainly an artist to look out for. Best track: "Icon Zero".

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Create "Lost On An Island of Adventure" (Groove Unlimited, 2008)

Steve Humphries: Access Virus B, Access Virus Indigo, Alesis Andromeda A6, Arturia Jupiter 8V, Creamware Pro 12 ASB, Dave Smith Mono Evolver, Doepfer Schaltwerk sequencer, Doepfer MAQ 16/3 sequencer, EMU PX-7, Kawai K5000R, Korg Triton Rack, Korg MS2000 BR, Korg Electribe ER-1 mkII, Korg Mono/Poly, Roland JV-1080, Sequential Circuits Prophet 600.

Here we have the latest release from British electronic musician Steve Humphries aka Create. "Just Above the Surface" begins in typical EM fashion, with twittery effects and mysterious pads. Very soon, a moody synthesizer melody is heard. However, things remain pretty much retrained for a few minutes more. After the 5-minute mark we hear the long-awaited sequences slowly creeping in. They are supported by a heavy noisy rhythm and a symphonic lead line. Another excellent upper register sequence joins and we are now firmly in Berlin School territory. The music is unusually soft, gentle and flowing for Create, which is mostly known for a rougher, more biting sound. Not that it was an unwelcome change, though. Excellent atmospheric section closes this epic track that is, in many ways, a formulaic Berlin School composition and yet has enough originality and new interesting sounds to really keep your attention. "Out of Bounds" begins with phased pads and exotic effects (like tropic birds for instance). Excellent synth lead line comes in, in stark contrast with the sounds of wildlife. A curious sequence appears, making the track sound more urgent and somewhat restless. A symphonic lead line is a nice extra, before the atmospherics return and draw this track to its close. "Follow the Shoreline" begins mysteriously with synth atmospheres and tinkling electronic bells. The pads then take over, joined by high-pitched mellotron flutes. Nice atmosphere! A very unusual, slow sequence starts as all of the above-mentioned elements appear in various combinations. A high-pitched sequence appears, as an analogue lead line plays on top. The track is finished with mellotron flutes and a lot of phased pads. "Run For Cover" introduces heavy rain / thunder effects and unnerving pads. Interesting synth sounds compliment this moody and totally atmospheric (no rhythms!) piece of music. "This Island Life" begins with some twittering effects and pads. They are combined with a low, siren like bass synth. Mellotron flutes also appear in small doses. A sequence appears, sounding somewhat out of tune. I am not sure if this is intentional or not but it does create (no pun intended) a strange, vertigo-like effect. Another sequence soon joins, and a very strange one it is, too, sounding as if coming from a 1980's digital synth. The third upper-register sequence compliments the first two, creating (man, it becomes tough avoiding this! :-) a very intense sound. "Paradise" begins with soft atmospheres and some contrasting effects. A sharp, but at the same time liquid lead line hints at the glory to come. A sequence appears as the track gets even more dramatic. Fat, dual-oscillator lead lines are very nice. As it turns out, the sequencer part of this track was relatively short and three minutes prior to the track's close, we are back to atmospherics. "Heaven Waits" is a bonus track dedicated to Steve's Grandad. Gentle pads and heavenly voices is what we get from the beginning. The track sounds very emotional and sincere. Nice mellotron choirs are a classic extra. After a while we hear a slow tinkling sequence, sounding very melodic and ethereal. Although the track is somewhat different in style from the rest of the material, I thought it was also one of the best tracks. "Lost On An Island of Adventure" is certainly the best one I've heard from Steve and it does manage to create that special atmosphere of being on a deserted tropical island. Best tracks: "Just Above the Surface" because it shows some new sounds and possibly new style; and "Heaven Waits" for its sheer emotional power. Get this album from Groove.

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Dreamaiden "Blue Light" (Dreamaiden Music, 2007)

Dreamaiden is US-based electronic composer Susan Baird who makes dreamy and melodic music. “Reflection” starts on a nostalgic and reflective note, with great melodies, a steady rhythm and subtle sequences. This is accessible, melodic EM, nothing fancy here but very emotional and nicely done. “Blue Light” welcomes the listener with chromatic percussion-like notes and atmospheric pads. Some exotic samples also appear several times during the course of this piece. But the main attraction is certainly the perfectly-programmed rhythm and a few sequences that are constructed in a unique and original fashion. “Emoshun” is more exotic, with Ethnic textures, ethereal vocals and atmospheric pads. Soon, everything erupts into a rhythmic groove with drums, sequences and an excellent analogue-sounding synth lead. Perfect combination. The music just flows effortlessly among the sparkling clusters of warm and cold synth sounds. “Indra” combines electronic sequences with Ethnic flute and a steady dub rhythm. It’s the most “World Music”-flavored track. “Spell” is much more laid-back. Reflective pads are combined with gentle flute bursts and a relaxed rhythm. A bit later, a synth melody comes, giving more focus to the proceedings. Echoing percussion gives way for a driving sequence. A reflective synth melody is a great addition as well. “Hidden” begins with ethereal pads and synth atmospheres. It is not long, however, before a sequence emerges, together with absolutely stunning echoing / atmospheric sounds. This is EM of the highest order which Tangerine Dream would be proud to call their own. A chilled rhythm starts but despite the rhythmic elements, it’s still one of the deepest tracks on the album. And I loved those tasty arpeggios at the end! In stark contrast, “Dromen” surprises with a relatively heavy rhythm and a bit abrasive sequences. After the soft and emotional tracks that came before, this one sounds like a really punchy number. The main melody is close to perfect – very nicely done! Somehow it reminds me of the best tracks off Tangerine Dream’s “Optical Race”. It has the same drive to it and there’s even a bit of electric guitar. “Hypnotika” begins with hypnotic (pun intended) sequences and a bass pulse. More synth flashes follow and a heavier bass comes in. Then comes a section dominated by rich symphonic synthesizers – very Vangelis-like. The rhythm returns together with growling aggressive synth bass and a lot of great effects. This for me is the best track on the entire album. “Deeper” begins with atmospheric sounds and voice samples. A punchy rhythm starts as wonderful synth arpeggios cast their spell. More samples follow, before a real heavy electronic rhythm starts and a piercing lead line appears, taking us straight into space. The lead line transforms into a melodic solo, only to return to the main theme a couple of seconds later. More symphonic synths appear but the main theme always keeps returning to keep things focused. This is a perfect end to this enjoyable album. Susan’s music is smooth, accessible and melodic. The sound quality and the production are perfect and the melodies and sounds are superb. One thing to add is somehow I like Susan’s dreams much more than the current dreams of certain Germans who also have the word “dream” in their name. Best tracks: “Hypnotika” and “Deeper”.

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Gert Emmens "The Nearest Faraway Place" (Groove Unlimited, 2008)

Gert Emmens: Akai AX80, Akai SGV01, Boss Dr-660, Doepfer MAQ 16/3, 2 Elektor Formant modulars, EMU E4600 ultra, EMU Proteus 2, EMU Vintage Keys Plus,Korg MS-2000, Korg Wavestation EX, Memorymoog Plus, Minimoog, Moog The Source, Moog Sonic 6, Moog Taurus MK1, Novation A-Station, Novation Nova, Philips Philicorda GM-751, PPG 1020, Roland MDC1, Roland MVS1, Roland SH-32, Transidrums U77, Vermona ER9, Yamaha AN1x, Yamaha SY85.

Jan Dietrich: Fender Stratocaster.

The newest release by Gert Emmens, like all his recent output, was released by Groove Unlimited and is available directly from them. It consists of basic material prepared by Gert for his live performance at the Gasometer in Oberhausen, Germany. The tracks are named simply Part 1 through 7 which is a tradition of sorts for EM records. The first part begins with mysterious pads. It's probably the darkest music I've heard from Gert in a while and it's quite excellent too. A mournful mellotron flute cries on top of the electronic backdrop. An excellent tinkling sequence then starts, joined by yet another simple sequence and more tasty pads. A more punchy bass sequence begins in the melodic mode, as various synth sounds come and go. A rhythm starts, together with a melodic theme - so simple and yet so beautiful. This is flowing melodic EM of highest order. The rhythm subsides and we are confronted with a rich and lush symphonic section that sounds almost classical in its grandeur. A smooth transition leads us to Part 2 that is greeted by optimistic sequences and mellotron choirs. A soft rhythm starts, supported by bright symphonic synths. Again, there is a great melodic quality to this material. A tasty guitar solo is a nice extra and it combines perfectly with Gert's textures. A symphonic Minimoog solo follows, sounding very emotional and cosmic at the same time. The third part begins with dark textures and rumbles. However, it's not long before we hear an upbeat sequence coming forth. The track then progresses in typical Emmens fashion, with relaxed rhythm, crisp sequences and flowing pads. A melody cries on top, sounding very epic and even Symphonic Rock-like. A Minimoog solo follows, and then some layered mellotron strings. From the dark depths of atmospheric effects and drones we get to Part 4, which is welcomed by ultra rich symphonic synths in the 1970's fashion. A slow bass sequence is revealed, punchy as ever. It is combined with absolutely stunning cosmic analogue textures (reminds me on some Craig Padilla tracks I've heard). This is a new style for Gert and a very very welcome change if you ask me. In fact, I was blown away by this track. It's still melodic, but darker than the usual fare and it's got some new interesting sounds, some of them of decidedly cosmic character. And those sequences are as perfect as they get. The track ends with great deep Philicorda chords (I think Gert should use more of this wonderful instrument) and mysterious female choir. The sounds of rain serve as transition to the next part. Didgeridoo-like drones give way for an upbeat and crisp sequence which is then joined by familiar 'tron sounds. Excellent relaxed rhythm starts, combined with warm analogue pads and some subtle fx. Typical Emmens lead line is followed by a tasty guitar solo. Very nice! I also like the closing ambient part, with a mournful mellotron flute and excellent resonant sounds. Part 6 begins with some wind effects and reflective pads. A bass throb is heard underneath which gradually grows into a sequence, as the mellotron strings sing their mysterious song. A bright melody is heard than harkens back to the style of Gert's previous album, "A Boy's World". The rhythms are different, though, and very interesting they are, too. A solo cries on top, played with real expertise. I like it when Gert lets rip on an analogue synth, I just wish his solos were longer. I can imagine two or even three minutes, filled with Gert just soloing on his analogue beast in his usual harmonic way. That would be great to hear. Anyway, back to the track. A more experimental section follows, with resonant noisy sequences and various dark sounds. After a while, a typical several-note Emmens melody comes, sounding simple but very effective. Mellotron strings and darkish bass notes bring this long track to a halt. The cosmic analogue-scapes return at the beginning of the last part. Very soon a sequence comes in, along with lush pads. This is more or less a formulaic track, which relies on floating sequences, pads and richly symphonic melodic themes played on synthesizers. However, we also get a little extra with the addition of a reflective guitar solo by Jan Dieterich. In many ways a typical Emmens album, "The Nearest Faraway Place Vol.1" is significantly darker than most other recent works by Gert. There are some new tasty sounds and the addition of a guitar player was a welcome extra as well. The best track: Part 4. Why? I just love the darker side of Gert, I guess. Besides, I also thought it showed a new style, more cosmic and "psychedelic", at least the first half of it. All in all, another winner from one of the most significant Dutch EM musicians.

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Gustavo Jobim "Symphony No.1" (download album, 2005)

Gustavo Jobim: digital piano, processing.

"Symphony No.1" is a double download album by Gustavo Jobim and one of his recent experimental releases. Dedicated to Gustav Mahler and Conrad Schnitzler, this work consists of several long real-time improvisations based on processed electronic piano. The tracks have long titles that represent rough translations of Brazilian sayings. The playing is tough, intense, and is sometimes embellished by weird distortion / processing. Some sections are melodic, dramatic and deep, reminding of the classical works of the Romantic period. Sometimes the sound goes berserk (as for example during the fifth minute of the first track), with totally abstract and seemingly aimless plinkety-plonk. Strangely, although only synthetic piano and processing were used, some sections are populated by weird noises that do not sound like piano at all. So, those looking for abstract soundscapes, might, too, find here something of interest. Amazing stuff! The piano returns to finish this track with cascading notes and powerful bursts. The second improvisation starts with low metallic clangs and various other factory-like sounds. The mood is pretty dark and menacing. Soon, some sort of twitterings appear, completely taking over towards the 7-minute mark. Metallic drones combined with watery bubbles are what we get for a couple of minutes, before the drones become more intense, transforming into heavy throbs, as if you are trapped inside a working factory engine. Heavier resonant drones return together with electronic bubbles before calming down. The third track immediately starts with super-fast piano playing in... how many hands are there? At least the track is called "Piano Spanked By 1860 Hands, To Exorcise the F Minor", so you sort of know what to expect. I think it's excellent! Everything - the playing, the deconstructed notes / clusters, the phasing effects - is top-notch! The best track so far. The second disc has only two lengthy tracks. The first track begins with layered piano notes, all playing in a seemingly random fashion, only slightly resembling a melody of sorts. The sound then breaks down and some sustained notes based on piano appear. Various echoes and echo-derived textures are explored for the next several minutes. After 12 minutes, the sound gets deeper, with various low drones and experimental whistling. Towards the 20-minute mark, the sound becomes more intense, as the note range goes down the keyboard, with author heavily hitting the bass notes and with longer resonances. Some more abstract piano plonking follows, with sustained notes bringing the piece to its end. Some really weird noises begin the last part which is also the longest piece, clocking at over 40 minutes. However, very soon dramatic piano notes enter, taking us to the already familiar territory. Heavy and noisy effects follow, ready to split your ears. The sounds become really unpleasant and irritant. This is some hardcore experimental stuff that only the extreme will appreciate. The drones and whizzing sounds continue for a while, together with piano spanking in the background. The harsh textures return for a while, but the buzzing, rumbling sound is the main feature of not only this section but the whole track as well. The resonances give way for some serious twitters. After a while, dramatic piano notes return to finish this experimental and a bit hard-going track. "Symphony No.1" shows Gustavo Jobim as a promising experimental artist.

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Gustavo Jobim "Marchian Sketches" (download EP, 2006)

"Traditional Pulse" begins with heavy synth effects before a gentle TB-303-like sequence appears. This rhythmic pulse then changes key several times, resulting in an intriguing melody. And... well, that's it! Simple? Yes! Effective? Hell yes! It's a minimalist piece for sure but it's built in a highly captivating and hypnotic fashion. Abstract synths return to finish this track. "A Tumultuous Dream" begins with irritating wailing synths. Sounds like an electronic equivalent of a buzzing fly. However, soon another pulse starts and we are back in the minimalist rhythmic territory. The pulse then mutates in a strange way, like going through a super-fast phasing effect. The sound then breaks down, as lone piano notes are heard. The buzzing synths return before a more atmospheric section follows. It then transforms into a harsher concoction, with dissonant wails all over. Another super-quick mutated piano section finishes this piece. Not the easiest of pieces, it's fairly interesting nonetheless. "Electric Pulse" is another rhythmic piece with fast notes built in shifting patterns. There is also a brief atmospheric section. "Introspection At Half Past Midnight" is dominated by similar bass synth patterns that were prominent on the first piece. However, an interesting organ-like melody plays on top this time. Another improvised melody, this time played on thin square wave synth timbre follows. This is probably the most "traditional" EM track on this rather experimental EP. Not that it's your average EM, of course, but it's much closer to that. An organ section reminding on Schulze's "Irrlicht" follows, before the sequences / pulses return. The patterns then shift to the higher register as organ drones return. I found this piece to be the most inspired one of the lot. Overall, "Marchian Sketches" will be enjoyed by fans of both experimental electronics and more traditional Prog EM sound.

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Gustavo Jobim "The Art of Boredom" (download album, 2007)

"The Art of Boredom" is the final (so far) experimental release by Gustavo Jobim available as download package together with "Symphony No. 1" and "Marchian Sketches". Let's see what he prepared this time and hopefully I don't get bored. :-) "Watching Paint Dry" immediately sets the minimalist tone, with endlessly repeating notes. In fact, the bloody thing does not change at all! Does Gustavo switched his sequencer on and went for a couple of coffees? Don't be misled, this is Minimalism taken to its very extreme. Do I like it? Hell yes! Lets be honest here folks, this is not your everyday listening, but it's great for its sheer boldness. And roughness. Ok, there ARE some changes in sound, but they are way too subtle (mostly filter tweaking) to influence your perception of this track being a fest of endlessly repeating notes. In other words, this is stuff that lives up to its title, not less, not more. Towards the end, the notes get muffled, turning into a homogenic bass drone. "Irritating Ambient Music" (now, how's THAT for a title?) is next. Well, it's piano music. Is it irritating? Could be, depending on what you are used to. Me, I found it ostensibly primitive and naive. It's something that a 5-year old would come up with and I guess that was exactly the whole idea of this song. It does get on the nerves towards the end, just like a plinkety-plonk from a small boy would, so I guess Gustavo managed to irritate even the most patient listener in the world. Bravo! :-) "Arm Wrestling" is basically two notes repeated over and over, like the ticking of a watch. Sometimes a third note intrudes into the flow. In the middle of the track the sound breaks down and resumes with even more oomph. So, who won? It doesn't matter. "Very Molto Avant-Garde Pra Caramba" is basically just random piano playing, sometimes hitting hard and heavy, at other times going surprisingly smooth and nonchalant. "Even More Vanguardissima" is a short piece of hard-core experimental stuff. It's still based on the piano, but the textures are rougher, more aggressive and loud. Some weird processing is used to great effect. "The Art of Boredom" (sub-titled "Atonal Music") is next. What we get here is piano again, arranged in slow notes. Extremely simple, profoundly unimaginative and even downright silly. Again, this is meant as a compliment (this couldn't have been an ordinary review in either case). "Different Trainwrecks" starts with super-fast piano notes that get repeated over and over again (boy, does this guy just LOVE repetition!). The notes then change several times, sustaining the rather urgent rhythm. However, it's not long before the rhythm changes completely into a super-fast frenzy. If some play fast, this guy plays super fast! An impressionistic section follows that flows like gentle rain on a summers' day. Each note is like a drop and this is the symphony of raindrops. They are felt almost physically. Outstanding stuff! "The Art of Boredom" is the most interesting and alluring of Gustavo's experimental releases, and I mean it seriously this time. There are two great mysteries in this world. One is how people can actually eat lutefisk. The other is how an album called "The Art of Boredom" turns out to be such an interesting and daring release.

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Gustavo Jobim and friends "Belles Alliances" (download album, 2008)

"Belles Alliances" sees Gustavo Jobim collaborating with other musicians worldwide, both famous and not so famous. The first track is done with the Chorlton Radiophonic Workshop from the UK. It's a relatively short, 5+ minute piece called "I Tasted Jobim". Yeah, right. It starts with a great resonant sequence, until some melancholic sounds and a bit of mellotron strings appear. Some reflective guitar playing can be heard, as well as some tasty experimental sounds. The piece has a hazy, ambient feel, in spite of it being fairly rhythmical and active. Floating pads come towards the 3-minute mark and then suddenly a voice appears, reciting an English text, shifting duties with a vocoder. Interesting stuff... "Joan Mitchell's Ici" is next and at 16+ minutes it is the longest composition of this album. It was created in collaboration with That Hideous Strength from the USA. Low synths and drones start this spooky piece, as experimental electronics add a nice touch. Real drums appear, together with fuzzy guitar sounds. This is some intense, doomy music which is half synthetic and half guitar-based but is totally out-there. If you liked some of the heavier moments of Hawkwind, you ought to like this as well. After 8 minutes the track shoots itself into space with upbeat sequences, heavy drums and heavily processed guitar. This is a Space Rock fan's dream! An untitled track with Nathan Siter comes next. What we hear here are basically some spooky effects and drones. So, this is the Dark Ambient piece of this album. And not a bad one, too. If you're into the genre - check it out. Beware, that there are some pretty grating and harsh textures towards the end of the piece, so I suggest that you don't listen to it at high volume. Another untitled track, this time with Conrad Schnitzler, follows. It's a short piece that only slightly exceeds the 2-minute length. It features avantgardistic piano playing and... this is it. Pretty simple but a nice interlude all the same. "Musica Sem Nome", recorded with Helder Correia (Portugal) is next. Electric piano is combined with some growling synths and a bass throb. A nice melodic theme is introduced to what sounds like the most accessible piece so far. Some heavy bass sequences are introduced and the track becomes urgent, rhythmic and repetitive. A superfast bass drum rhythm is added to what now sounds like an outtake from a Hardcore / Gabber compilation. Nice try. A short piece "Crepusculum" is next, done in collaboration with Brazilian Amyr Cantusio Jr. (aka Amir Cantusio aka Alpha III). Cosmic synthesizers arranged in cyclical patterns are heard. Background melodic pads and piano clusters add a nice touch to this very harmonic and enjoyable number. Pity it's too short, though. "Will-o'-the-Wisp" with Robert Jaz (USA) is next and it's a much more experimental affair, with repeating bass notes and synth improvisation on top. "Summer Breeze" is done with someone from Germany who calls himself "Member". Organ chords reveal beautiful clusters of piano notes. A Froesean guitar is heard but the main sounds (the chords and the piano) remain rather static. An untitled track with Daniel Bordini follows. It features a repeated melody and some heavy wind effects. Very soon an acoustic guitar sound appears and a slow dubby rhythm chugs along nicely in a relaxed and serene manner. And yet another untitled track with Brazilian Leandro Theodorico follows. It's full of absolutely crazy sounds and effects. This avant-garde and somewhat chaotic piece reminded me on some Robin Julian Heifetz stuff I've heard on a few samplers released by Electroshock. "Abstract Painted Train" is next. It's a piece done in collaboration with Norwegian noise artist Ronny Waernes. Accordingly, this piece is quite intense and heavy, with distorted sequences and grating sounds / effects. Well, to be exact, this track is basically a barrage of noise. There are different sounds here, but they are processed to the point where they become a painful wall of sound. "Cyprinodotinform Manifesto" is a short piece of abstract electronics and English text recited by Justynn Tyme from the USA. "Belles Alliances" has something for everyone and with a variety of styles displayed here, it's difficult to recommend it to any particular group of listeners. However, it's difficult not to recommend it either, as there's some top-notch stuff in there. Best track: undoubtedly, "Joan Mitchell's Ici" with second best being "Crepusculum".

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Andrei Klimkovskiy "On the Edge of Dream" (NEANE Records, 2001)

This album was released under the "DreamOcean" moniker and contains just two long tracks. The first part begins gently with airy pads supported by echoing atmospheric sounds. Excellent bass synth sounds are added, together with melodic drops. This is some great Space Music that for some reason reminded me on the soundtrack to the PC game "Freelancer". The music has an expansive, enveloping sound to it and yet manages to come up as something airy and light. Those who enjoy long-form Ambient in the style of Steve Roach might also check this out. However, Andrei's music has a decidedly cosmic character. During the course of this track, various atmopsheric sounds come and go, all making up for a hazy, airy, dreamlike texture. It's like being on that line that separates dream from reality, never straying too far into either side. Part 2 starts in even more subtle way, with barely heard low whooshes, like distant echoes of a supersonic jet. However, dramatic drones gradually creep in, supported by an excellent melodic motif. This is psychedelic, dreamy stuff. I like the mood of it even more than that of the first track. Various synth pads soon take over, resulting in a rather intense, but spaced-out sound. After 15 minutes, a soft relaxed rhythm appears, taking us straight to classic Space Music territory. Those who enjoy Jonn Serrie's gently rhythmic works, will like this, although Andrei's sound is richer than that of Jonn. There's also a sequence running beneath the rhythm, as Andrei alternates between various sounds on his keyboard. Perfect late night listening!

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Andrei Klimkovskiy "Mercury" (NEANE Records, 2004)

Andrei Klimkovskiy: Korg N364 workstation, Alesis MidiVerb 4, Elektronika PM03 mixer; Vyacheslav Kulikov: Vermona synthesizer, Elektronika EM25; Nikita Kalutskiy: guitar.

"Mercury" is part of Andrei's recent series called "Planet Parade". These albums are dedicated to the planets of our solar system and feature both floating Space Music and more rhythmic styles. "The Elusive Planet" starts with majestic warm pads and subtle synth effects. A heartbeat-like bass rhythm appears, as well as spacey guitar chords. This is some seriously relaxing and evocative stuff. A nice piano melody can also be heard. Those who enjoy melodic, easy-on-the-ear but relaxing music, will find this exactly to their liking. A tasteful sequence appears and is then joined by a nice relaxed rhythm. It all reminds me a bit on latter-day Tangerine Dream, but way more cosmic. I encourage all EM fans to check this one out. This is top-notch melodic EM - accessible and yet not overtly sweet or new age-like. Cosmic winds and subtle guitar effects finish this relaxing trip into space. "Mariner 10" begins with quite heavy synth noises. After a while an upbeat but spacey sequence appears in a true Berlin School fashion. However, soon a heavy dance rhythm appears and takes things to techno / trance territory. Not so much of a welcome change as far as I'm concerned, but expertly done nevertheless. I suppose those who like New Berlin School or Jarre's recent music will find a lot to enjoy here. I am reminded a bit on the rhythmic pieces off Jarre's "Chronologie", although when the guitar kicks in, it becomes similar to modern Ashra. Overall, this piece is diverse enough to sustain an interest throughout its length. "Mercury - the Dark Side" begins with barely heard wind effects and sparse metallic synth tones. Intense pads go hand in hand with a darkish bass sequence that just gains in volume with each second. A reflective lead line is heard, taking things directly into spaced-out Berlin School territory. Excellent stuff! All the effects, melodies and rhythms are at the right places. "Solar Wind" is the last piece. A reflective piano motif can be heard underneath the already familiar wind effects. Subtle sequence gains in momentum, until new, more intense sequence is introduced. Ahhh.... pure EM! Great! A soft 4/4 rhythm appears, never dominating the flow. This track is rich in synthetic colours, reflective melodies, and is characterized by a pure, spaced-out electronic flow, sucking you in, like a universal whirlpool. Verdict: Mercury is a masterful EM work with four long opuses that will be enjoyed by fans of both Space Music and more rhythmic styles, from Berlin School to Dance-influenced. Highly recommended.

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Kracq "Circumvision" (Pop Promotion Foundation, 1978, re-released by Polumnia, 2003)

Cees Michielsen: drums, percussion, tunes percussion; Twan v.d. Heijden: bass guitar, percussion; Jos Hustings: guitars, vocals; Bert Vermijs: piano, strings, clavinet, synthesizer, vocals; Sam Samshuijzen: electronic intervisions and background, phasing; Richard Davies: vocoder; Nicos Tsiloijannis: percussion; Marij van den Berg: vocals.

Kracq were a short-lived Dutch Progressive Rock band that released one album in 1978 and then disappeared. The first track is called "Summer of My Life". It's filled with various percussion sounds until heavy phased synthesizer sounds appear, taking us straight to the territory of experimental electronic fusion. The synths are ubiquitous and are supported by good drumming. The tempo change toward a slower section follows with warm synth strings added. The drums then subside to leave us with melodic guitar playing and a theremin-like synth lead line. The sound then goes berserk and that's where the vocals enter. They are nothing special and the words are unintelligible either for the most part. Another aggressive section follows that is, in turn, followed by yet another rhythmic / vocal-oriented one. The track ends on a lonely theremin note. "Day In Day Out" starts with birds singing and a repeating motif. A siren can be heard (synthesized of course). A nice vocoded voice sings and overall it's a very enjoyable track, with tempo changes and multiple themes so typical of progrock. Some of the symphonic synth soloing reminds me on Vangelis circa "Albedo 0.39", it has the same feel to it. There are tons of synthesizers here to please even fans of EM. "Somewhere In the Evening" is a fine upbeat piece that reminded me of Daevid Allen's Gong. It's amazing how many themes they manage to stick into one 5-minute song. "Y" follows in similar fashion, with fluid drumming, lots of jazzy electric pianos, synths and a few guitar injections. Some nice acoustic piano playing on this one as well. "Cobweb" is just 30 seconds of wacky rhythmic noises. "Y Live" follows which is a live (or so it sounds) jam with mucho synth solos. The quality is sub-par but all in all a nice piece, regretfully too short. "Opening the Gate of Noise" is 10 minutes of... well, noise. Does it sound simple? Heck, this one was very Zappa, if you know what I mean. "Put Up the Organized Fight" is a piece with vocals which, again, reminds me on Gong. "Crimpse (part 1)" is another short abstract interlude. "To A Square", once again, has vocals that I thought didn't blend very well with the music which was fairly good. The problem is, you can hardly discern the words and the singers' message gets lost. Not that I am into vocals though. Before we move on, I should mention a nice guitar solo on this track. The synth solo is tasty as well. Another 10-second abstract track bridge follows and we are then treated to "Partnership" which flows in the already familiar jamming progrock / fusion mode. The vocals were awful though and almost ruined an otherwise excellent track. "Crimpse (part 2)" sounds like one of those wacky 1960's Zappa experiments. "Keep Controle of What I Am" is a long track with multiple parts. Nice slow drums, synths and processed vocals (they DO work this time!) on the first part make this one of the strongest and most imaginative moments on the entire album. That gurgling analogue synth sound (EMS?) is very very good. Gradually, the rhythm becomes slower as all kinds of noises invade the track. "Encount", which closes the album, is one of those zany experiments. "Circumvision" is a fine album that mixes equal doses of symphonic rock (Yes style), space fusion ala Gong and Zappa-like weirdness. Some of the themes and tracks are a bit underdeveloped, but, on the other hand, there's plenty of improvisation which is fairly good and convincing.

Related links: Sam Samshuijzen

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Les Libriums du Desir "Nut System" (Samarkande Records, 2007)

Charles Belanger: Roland Juno 60, Roland Juno 106, Yamaha CLP-880; Xavier-Claude Nantais: voice and texts; Marcel Renaud: voice and texts; Sylvain Lamirande: sorpano sax, technical advice; Frederic Lebrasseur: drums, percussion; Guillaume Lizotte: cello.

"Nut System", released on Samarkande Records (an outlet for the Canadian experimental group Samarkande and several other projects), is certainly not something for regular EEM pages. When I received this CD, I first thought it was some kind of story-telling record. Anyway, it turns out to be some sort of experimental album with spoken poetry layered on top of music which was played by Charles Belanger. Both Xavier-Claude Nantais and Marcel Renaud, who recite the texts, do a great job providing accents where necessary. It would greatly help, though, if I understood French. From the booklet it is clear that the lyrics are fairly impressionistic and at times humorous and they deal with human emotions. Unfortunately, as I don't understand French, the message got lost for me. Not that I am into words anyway, so naturally it was music that attracted my attention. On this album Charles plays synthesizers and electric piano, while several others (including Sylvain Lamirande of Samarkande) contribute sax, drums and cello. No doubt, this album will appeal to fans of Electroacoustic music. Most tracks consist of either buzzing and abstract electronic textures or liquid cello / sax lines. I guess if you combine abstract electronics with contemporary Chamber music, you might get something of the same quality. Apart from that, some tracks feature effective sections of acoustic or electric piano playing and there's also a hidden track with organs and lots of electric pianos. The mood of the disc varies from dark and depressive to pure anger and aggression. Some sections could easily be an outtake of some improvisational noise sessions. I thought the music was fairly strong and effective, with several sections really sending shivers down my spine. It's really bone-chilling stuff, especially when they process the voice so that it turns into an unhuman growl. So, not Prog EM by any stretch, but still a fairly enjoyable and solid work of contemporary Electroacoustic / Chamber music.

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Nattefrost "Transformation" (Groove Unlimited, 2008)

Here we have the latest album from Danish electronic musician Bjorn Jeppesen aka Nattefrost, released by the Dutch EM label Groove Unlimited. The first track "Decadence" starts with perfectly balanced resonant sequences. Soon, deep bass notes appear as well as subtle atmospheric sounds. A hi-hat rhythm appears, making the track more urgent and propulsive. Some German words follow before a very Kraftwerk-like melody (circa "Computer World") appears. To me this track sounds like an exciting mixture of Kraftwerk and the Berlin School. "A Path Less Followed" follows with rich symphonic synths, all playing in a major mode, making this track very uplifting and bright. A crisp melody is heard as the sequences cast their melodic and playful spell. Once again, it's propulsive and focused EM. Bjorn certainly has his own recognizable style that is very hard to imitate. It's modern and yet has enough classic elements to satisfy even the most hardened of EM fans. It's also very urban-sounding if you know what I mean, but I could be influenced by the album's artwork here. The resonant sequences from the first track return for "Perfectly Connected". This time, however, the sound is even more intense and saturated with sequences, various synthetic textures and melodic elements. This track is the first of the two that have participations from Robert Schroeder. "Fields of Infinity" is downright dark, compared to the previous tracks. What we get here are growling bass sequences, some really tasty atmospheric pads, an electronic rhythm and mucho experimental bleepy sounds. Nice lead line as well. Again, stylistically it's somewhere on the line that separates Dusseldorf from Berlin. Bjorn has one leg in one city and the other in another and does both styles with equal ease. The title track begins with moody sequencers and twittering effects. Soon, a reflective pad melody appears and a great vocoder voice. This is the perfect urban electronic track Kraftwerk never made! Everything is so good: the sequences, the melodies, the sounds. "Destination Nowhere" starts with rather heavy distorted sequences that multiply in no time, resulting in an exciting electronic brew that will have your head nodding and your feet tapping to the groove. A mysterious melodic motif is heard. Once again, it's rich-sounding EM with a unique flavour. Let's see what "The Contact" brings us. Upbeat, cheerful sequences give way for a repeated melody. However, the main attraction are of course the ubiquitous pulsations which are built in an elegant and flowing manner. "Kopenhaachen" is a bit different. It's the second track with Robert Schroeder, and here the rhythm is much more restrained. Echoing guitar is heard as well as a melody, catchy as hell. This is much closer to mainstream melodic EM, but it's done with so much talent and emotion. Great track! And the sequences are tasty as ever. "There Is A Light" makes that speed meter go up a few notches, with laser-rapid sequences and phased pads. Blistering cosmic lead line is heard, going up and down the scale. If this track had a dance beat, it could easily pass for a Trance / Goa number. "A New Direction" begins with mysterious pads, a vocoded voice and a relaxed sequence, gradually coming into prominence. This is probably the closest this album ever gets to the Berlin School. Multiple pulsations wrap up the repeated melodies like a comfortable blanket. Mellotron choir appears to add that special "epic" touch. Another instant favourite! Wonderful celestial arpeggios add a bit of cosmic grandeur to this tasty composition. Perhaps, owing a bit more to Kraftwerk than to the Berlin School artists, "Transformation" is a great album from an artist with an individual style.

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Guido Meyer "Connected To the Dead" (Solarise Records, 2007)

Guido Meyer: Alesis QS6.1, Alesis D4, Alesis SR 16, Roland JD 800, Korg 03RW, Korg 05RW, Kawai K4r, Guitars, Voices, Coffee Cup, Door, FM/ AM Tuner, Glockenspiel, Waterglass, Windchimes, Woodshaker. 

The long awaited follow-up to "Lightyears" is here! Moreover, it's a concept album and it starts with "The Gathering". That's a rather spooky piece, with all sorts of nightmarish effects. After a while melancholic Schulze-like strings come in, making this a very emotional and heartfelt track. Excellent introduction! The title track waits around the corner, with spooky clanging sounds and dark resonating drones. This is some of the darkest and scariest music Guido has ever recorded. After a while the track becomes brighter, with all sorts of synth strings, pads and echoing effects. What's interesting is the laid-back, ambient nature of the music, something you wouldn't expect from an artist famous for his high-energy, rocking numbers. Having said that, I found the change highly enjoyable and overall it's some of the best music I've heard from Guido. "On the Other Side" begins with much overused digital ohs, but after a few seconds heavy guitar riffs come in and it's not EM by any stretch anymore. Hard hitting drums accompany the riffs, along with some voice / siren samples. This track has got that "80's criminal drama" feel to it. Not that it's a bad thing... Ok, I did find some sections a bit on the cheesy side of things, but it's still an enjoyable number. Once the drums and guitar riffs depart, we get an AWESOME mysterious synth section! Now, this is what I call a contrast. Thinking back, the track does make perfect sense. "On the Other Side"... Hmmm... I am surprised and very pleasantly surprised, too. The riffs do return after a while, this time accompanied by the horror voice samples, going completely over the top. It's like being in a nightmare, torn apart by monstrous creatures. "Meeting Amely" is a slow melodic instrumental ballad. Midway between Rock music and EM, it's a moody atmospheric piece, with good use of voice samples. "Paranormal Activity", despite its title, starts in a bright and serene, even new agey, manner, as all sorts of synth atmospheres and pads fly across the stereo spectrum. An arpeggiating pattern appears as well as a marching rhythm. Guido's typical guitar soloing can be heard. Distorted piano pattern finishes off this strange track. "Multidimensional" starts with spooky effects but they are soon gone, once a melodic line is introduced, along with an effected male voice. Laid-back rhythm appears, while intricate guitar lines make the track sound more intense. "Ghost Sonata" is filled with piano chords and synth atmospheres and sounds more like an interlude that a full-blown track. "Among the Living" begins with excellent distorted chords and overlaid voice samples. After a brief busy section we get a steady rhythm, supported by Guido's guitar playing. Excellent track with a "Towards the Blue Horizon" feel. Some very nice acoustic guitar playing on this one. "In Memory" continues with spooky effects, until an excellent melodic theme is introduced. This music is so emotional and rich in melodic colors, it can hardly be described in words. "Will We Meet Again?" starts with unearthly effects and a melancholic mood. However, all this soon transforms into an optimistic bass line and a bright, hopeful atmosphere. Whether it's a good choice to finish an album with such a subject matter on an optimistic note, is debatable, but in any case it's quite obvious by now that Guido Meyer has recorded his best album to date and certainly his most experimental one. Highly recommended!

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Guido Meyer "The Glassforest" (private release, 2008)

Guido Meyer describes "The Glassforest" as his first serious composition. Conceived and arranged in 1990 - 1992, the music was recorded in 2007-2008 and is therefore currently available for your listening enjoyment. Fluety synths get "Into the Forest" underway. They are then joined by orchestral strings. A rhythm appears as the track gets more solemn and bombastic. This is medieval-like orchestral music played on synthesizers, so it's nothing like what Guido is currently known for. "Shimmering Light Through the Trees" brings in the darker shades of sound, with mysterious pads and an echoing rhythm. Another flute-like melody is heard. A relaxed rhythm is introduced and then a harpsichord-like melody, combining with the rhythm to great effect. A rich section with symphonic arrangements follows, very classical in its scope and structure. A bagpipe-like melody serves as an introduction to "The Mountain And the Lake". Again, the track sounds very classical, where synths try to imitate orchestral instruments. This is majestic music that should be enjoyed by a wide audience. A drum rhythm appears, providing that special "Rock" flavour to an otherwise strictly classical piece of music. "Deep, Deep In the Forest" is introduced with a sequencer-like run and an oboe lead (or is that cor anglais?). The track sounds somewhat restless. A rather upbeat drum rhythm appears and it's easily one of the catchiest pieces on the album. We then get a transition to the next piece, which is titled "Night Falls". Dramatic strings and some auxiliary pads are what we hear for a few seconds. A mournful, oboe-like lead sound is introduced. Slow bass notes creep in, falling apart in small cascades of notes. A harpsichord plays a mysterious melody. A flute carefully plays on top, as dramatic orchestral stabs appear. The track then settles into a marching groove. Things become even more intense when the rather prominent chords and beating drums appear. After a while everything goes quiet, as new orchestral chords herald the coming of "A New Morning". This is the most dramatic piece on the entire album, with chords that just get under your skin. The last track, "Lost And Perished In the Forest", is basically just rapid arpeggios, comprised of various flute-like sounds. "The Glassforest" is without a doubt an interesting release that differs substantially from Guido's main output. First of all, there are no guitars. And the music itself sounds more like classical music, with added drums on several tracks. I enjoyed it.

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Craig Padilla & Skip Murphy "Analog Destination" (Groove Unlimited, 2008)

Craig Padilla: Akai EVI 1000 with EWV 2000 wind synth, Alesis QuadraSynth, ARP 2600, ARP Axxe, ARP Solina String Ensemble, ARP sequencer, EMU UltraProteus, Ensoniq ESQ-1, Roland U-220, Roland SH-32, Roland SynthPlus-10, Roland D-50, Roland TR-909, Sequential Circuits Pro-One, Yamaha TG-33, Univox rhythm machine, effects.

Skip Murphy: Alesis QuadraSynth Plus, Alesis D4, ARP 2600, ARP 2500 sequencer, Doepfer MAQ 16/3, Korg DW-8000, Korg Mono/Poly, Kurzweil PC88MX, Minimoog, Clavia Nord MicroModular, Roland D-50, Technosaurus Microcon, Yamaha TX-7, effects.

Excellent dark synth soundscapes herald the coming of the title track and we are drifting in space for a few minutes. Wonderful symphonic synths are rich in color and texture. A sequence can be heard, gradually gaining in volume. Another sequence appears and then in comes a rippling analog solo. A wonderful rhythm starts, as a new solo and echoing sequencers are combined to wonderful effect. This is quite simply some of the best EM I've heard! It's so warm and floating and yet so cosmic, it's uncanny! After the 10-minute mark the rhythm departs but the electronic pulsations continue casting their spell. This track is monumental; it has everything that's so great about EM. You will hear so many different sounds here, so many atmospheres, that you won't notice how these 18 minutes fly by. "Stellar Nursery" begins with strange ring-modulated sounds, all sounding explicitly analog. Dramatic pads enter the stage, together with wonderful resonating synths. Perfect gentle electric piano melody can be heard. It's all very Schulze-like, the sense of anguish and grandeur prevails as one can only think of the endless stretches of space, bright stars and picturesque nebulae while listening to this. A mournful flute can be heard and I can tell for sure it's one of the most emotional EM pieces ever created. A beepy sequence appears, as the electric piano melody returns for a short spell. Various other cosmic sounds come and go, making it not an easy task to try to describe the music. Perhaps it's useless to describe each sound in detail. There's just so many of them, all sounding extremely fat, cosmic and analog. The track has than archaic feeling that permeates many of 1970's EM recordings - totally improvised, unpolished and free flowing. I also loved that popping analog drum machine ala "Oxygene". The sequences subside and leave us with the aforementioned drum machine and wonderful punchy twittering effects from the glorious synthesizers. Soon the bass pulse resumes, sounding quite laid-back and unhurried. A punchy ARP solo, very much in line with Schulze's mid-1970's works, can be heard. Once again, you can't describe what comes next. It will be enough to say that the effects are aplenty, as well as dramatic melodic pads. The sequences return after a while, this time slowed down and sounding heavily echoed, as if coming from a great distance. "Live Illusions" begins with dark synthesizers, before moving on to brighter textures, all executed superbly. Excellent echoing sequences are heard, providing the necessary punch. A wind synth solo enters with the track remaining firmly in the cosmic realm. A rhythm starts, supported by sequences. Wonderful stuff. And that melodic theme that starts a few seconds later was totally unexpected and a pleasant surprise it was, too. A mournful flute gets "Quantum Swirl" underway. Dark pads are followed by a slow bass sequence that sounds a bit funky and somewhat playful. A great melody is heard, followed by phased pads. The sequences gain momentum as the track retains its somber atmosphere. An organ-like melody can be heard, in duel with flute. The sequences get more and more aggressive before turning into a real electronic frenzy. A monstrous! analog solo starts, as all the other elements of this track get more intense and loud. You are simply sucked into this whirlpool of electronic sound. Cerebral and hypnotic, cosmic and relentless, that's what this track is. It ends with beautiful chords and cosmic effects. The first impression from this album is that it's one of the staples of Neo-Prog EM. If you like 1970's Klaus Schulze, you owe it to yourself to check out "Analog Destination", as in many ways it occupies a similar terrain of completely improvised analog cosmic electronics. It has even chances to enter my all-time Top 10. Time will tell. Kudos to Groove for releasing this gem!

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Phrozenlight "Phasewind" (download album, 2007)

"Phasewind" is one of several Phrozenlight albums available as downloads from MusicZeit. Cosmic wind sounds and subtle synth flashes get this long-form work underway. Soon, melodic drones are introduced. After a while a phasing effect is applied to them, giving the sound a very early 1970's feel, reminding on both Tangerine Dream's "Zeit" and Klaus Schulze's "Blackdance". The mood of the piece is somewhat dark but a bit restrained. The sound is raw, unpolished and archaic. I think those who enjoy classic 1960's - 1970's science fiction and those early experimental EM records will find this exactly to their liking. As we are making a progress, some ethereal choirs appear and come to the fore. Out of this sound miasma, a random sequence slowly creeps out, giving more focus to what is still a very abstract and freeform track. However, soon the sequence becomes more strident and prominent. The music subtly changes key, while the choirs go from spooky to ethereal and back. After 55 minutes, the sequence departs, leaving us in a space where cosmic flies swarm in plasma winds. Piercing sheets of metallic sounds find themselves in the company of ethereal choirs and ubiquitous whooshes. We finish firmly in the "Zeit" territory, with low drones, oozing pads and phased organ-like sounds. In a way this album is similar to "Digital Images" but whereas the latter was built exclusively around drones, "Phasewind" is based on a random sequence which dominates the middle section of the track and does not change much throughout its length. Like "Digital Images", it is great music for passive listening which means: you can turn it on, turn off the lights and just drift off to it. It will be enjoyed by fans of Space Music and maybe also the Berlin School and even Dark Ambient, although "Phasewind" is more ethereal and mysterious than dark.

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Brendan Pollard "Flux Echoes" (Acoustic Wave Records, 2007)

Brendan Pollard: 2 mellotrons M400, The Beast Duophonic Modular System, Bohm Soundlab, Mars Modular System, Digisound Modular System, SRS RP3 Noise Generator Modular System, Doepher MAQ 16/3, Fender Rhodes 54, Elka Rhapsody 610, ARP Pro DGX, Moog Micromoog, Octave Kitten, SRS Aurora, SRS Philtertron, SRS FXStation 2, SRS ZV3 Bass Monosynth, SRS Dual Phaser Units, Solina Strings, Electro-Harmonix Flanger, Dynacord EC280 Echo, Maplin Spring Reverb, Maplin Echo, Roland Space Echo, Dynacord Analogue Delay.

Shelley Walker: Guitar.

Adrian Dolente: Mellotron M400, SRS Aurora, Korg Sigma.

Mat Roberts: Steinway Piano, Hammond Organ.

A massive gear list (see above) accompanies this new release by Brendan Pollard and some guest musicians are also featured. The title track starts with fat analogue effects of mysterious nature. Soon, a low bass line appears, accompanied by a mellotron choir. More synth and mellotron voices are added as we are starting to really groove with the rhythm. Lovely mellotron flute and Elka sounds are all you need really for an archaic, Tangerine Dream-like journey through hazy forests of a faraway planet. I have to say that the sound on this CD is HUGE. It's so fat, only true analogue instruments can sound like this. An atmospheric section follows but soon a high-register sequence appears, along with some shattering effects. Another upbeat sequence appears and it's a real chugger this time. Wonderful mellotron strings complete the picture. This is some top-notch sequencer music, guys! I can't even count all the sequences going on here, they are constantly morphing, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Now, THIS is what I call Electronic Music! By the end of the track the sequences subside and we are left with an analogue string sound and a few thundering whooshes. Soon, the mellotron flute starts weeping and is then joined by strings and typical tron effects (the birds!). Froese & guys have returned! And it's 1974 again! Or am I only dreaming? Ok, this is probably as TD as it gets. Remember: no digital replica sounds like a real mellotron, and this record proves it. "Radiant Transmission" begins with heavy and noisy effects. A heavy upbeat sequence appears and is then joined by another, high-register one, just the way it should be. Mellotron choir joins the proceedings but it remains a strictly sequencer-dominated piece. We then hear typical mellotron brass, as if we are listening to a Tangerine Dream concert circa 1977. Some guitar soloing by Shelley Walker can be heard but it's buried deep in the mix. Nevertheless, it worked perfectly. Now, this is an EM track of truly monumental proportions. Even as the sequences are still going at full speed, one can hear heavy synth effects piercing though. Soon the sequences fade out, leaving a room full of synthetic ghosts. Another chunky sequence steadily creeps in, as the mellotron flute plays a beautiful melody. Another, higher-register sequence completes the picture. Excellent electronic guitar plays hide and seek with a mellotron flute, resulting in a rather melancholic mood for this part of the track. "Phosphor Skyline" again starts with a lot of effects and mellotron choir bursts. Mysterious Rhodes notes can be heard. By the 5 minute mark, low, growling bass notes take over, as well as an exotic mellotron solo line. A sequence develops and then fades away. A different sequence appears and this one does not look like it's going to disappear. A rhythmic groove is established and a great, restrained guitar solo can be heard. The sequences then subside for an acoustic piano solo. Excellent stuff! "Torque" is a short closer. Spacey effects and eerie mellotron choirs are all this track is about, really. Might sound simple but it works. Excellent finish to an excellent album. Sequencing is forever!

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Samarkande "3 Synapses" (Samarkande Records, 2008)

Here we have the latest album of Canadian electronic / experimental duo Samarkande. We start with "Synapse #1". A whining sound is heard, before some analog twitters appear, accompanied by a mysterious music box melody. The melody becomes more prominent and is joined by some strange distorted "soloing". A female voice appears, reciting some text, as the music becomes more chaotic and outright spooky. The voice gets louder and goes into overdrive, as an alarm-like beeping sound pierces your brain. A distorted sequence appears, as glimpses of mellotron choir slowly creep in. Everything is then submerged into a wall of noise, before quiet radio noises and electroacoustic textures change the face of this piece completely. Wailing sounds are added, together with a spooky male voice. A miasma of synthetic bubbles and wails unfolds before your ears sucking you into a whirlpool of experimental sound. A dry analog melody appears and is submerged into a pool of dark ambient sounds and resonances. Glitchy textures serve as a safe bed for processed violin improvisations. And this is the end of this piece. "Synapse #2" begins with slightly ethnic sounding chromatic percussion and background violins (or is it processed soprano sax?). The level of intensity grows, as the sound becomes more aggressive and scary. It sounds like a soundtrack to a thousand skeletons in the closet, all that creakiness. Weird. An experimental rhythm (if you can call it that) starts, as the sounds become abrasive and resonant. A strange clicking sound invades the flow, as background synthetic drones add that spooky touch. At times they almost sound like a noise from a transformation booth. Melodic chromatic percussion appears as the background sounds turn into cosmic twitters. Wonderful analog string chords add a dramatic touch. Sax improvisation is heard on top. This is one of the most effective sections of this album. However, it's not long before we return to the abstract and the bizarre. The next section is dominated by seemingly random saxophones and other processed instruments. Things calm down for a while, before the saxophones grow more intensive again, supported by subtle mellotron chords. Abstract piano playing erupts in a last effort as noisy sounds pierce your brain. Warning: some of the frequencies herein are really uncomfortable to the ear and will be enjoyed only by fans of total sonic destruction or by deaf people. This is the harshest stuff I've heard from Samarkande yet. "Synapse #3" begins with abysmal resonant hits and low drones. Snatches of melody and sounds can be heard but everything supports the experimental nature of this music. The next part is dominated by dark textures and subtle drones. Something slightly resembling a sequence appears, along with a mournful sax line. A sudden burst of harsh noise heralds the coming of the final part, dominated by resonant metallic clangs that, for some reason, remind me on the intros that Klaus Schulze played on his Yamaha CS-80 during his 1979 tour with Arthur Brown. Overall, "3 Synapses" is one of those more experimental and uncompromising releases by Samarkande. It's excellent, daring and highly original stuff. I enjoyed it but if you are more into Prog EM, stick to "4 Cadavres Exquis".

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Sunyata "A New Beginning" (Inner Light Music, 2005)

"A New Beginning" is Sunyata's second release that gathers pieces recorded by both members of the duo (Steffen Scholz and Martin Höwner) between 1993 and 1998. "Return To Paradise" combines reflective flute playing with mysterious pads and upbeat melodic sequencing. After a while, a 4/4 techno rhythm starts, making this a very dance-oriented effort. "Raindance" is once again very techno-influenced, with lots of ethnic samples. Not my cup of tea at all. In fact, I'm not sure I'll ever want to hear this track again. "Forest", unsurprisingly, begins with nature sounds, until a steady hi-hat rhythm, combined with Ethnic samples, appears. A slow techno-ish rhythm kicks in. This is pure downtempo "electronica". Again, not my cup of tea, but slightly better than the previous track. Perhaps "Trancy" will be better to my ears? Let's see. A bleepy introduction gives way to the same boring techno rhythms and sequenced synths. If you like commercial dance music, this might be right up your valley. Me, I could hardly resist pressing the "skip" button. "Sunra" is next. With a title like that one expects something mysterious. And indeed, the track has got a nice introduction with low pads and cascading piano notes... Until the same old techno rhythm ruins my last expectations for a good listen. So it goes for the rest of the album. This stupid rhythm fills every track of this album, driving me nuts! I cannot recommend this album. I am sorry to say so, because I understand that a lot of effort went into making this music and if they recorded music in this style, this was probably what they wanted to do at the time, but this is absolutely not my thing. If you like upbeat commercial techno / trance music, you might want to check "A New Beginning" out. Me, I'll stick to their first one.

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Ian Tescee "A Traveler's Guide To Mars" (private release, 2008)

The master of Space Music returns with this new album recorded exclusively for Buhl Planetarium production about Mars. "The New World" starts in a bombastic manner, with all sorts of sequences and symphonic textures. A steady rhythm starts to support this fine, dynamic piece that reminded me on the most active Jarre. The rhythm subsides for a fine atmospheric section with bell-like synths and voice samples. Synthetic distorted guitar adds a nice touch. This is vigorous, propulsive music. A typical warm melodic theme ala Tescee is heard together with a soloing guitar or an imitation thereof. Heavy drums finish this effective piece of music. "Passport" begins with a somewhat restless sequence before it settles into a cosmic theme accompanied by a relaxed drum machine rhythm. The rhythm stops and we get a very good piano theme, supported by a bluesy guitar. Very soon the melodic theme returns, this time together with an upbeat 4/4 rhythm. This track successfully blends some modern elements into a classic Ian Tescee sound. "Earthrise" is greeted with echoing arpeggios that remind me on the intro to Klaus Schulze's "Stardancer". We then get a reflective theme, supported by the somewhat melancholic guitar. Acoustic guitar starts in a track that almost sounds like a lullaby by now. All those acoustic sounds, bells, lulling synths, pianos. Very emotional and enjoyable. "The Lost City of Mars" begins with a steady rhythm and wonderful synth pads. A symphonic theme is unmistakably Ian Tescee - propulsive, cosmic, grandiose. "Aquamarine" is a new mix of an already familiar track from the first volume of "Analogy" sampler released by Groove Unlimited. In the beginning, it is almost undistinguishable from the original, with perhaps enhanced dynamics and only the slightest additions (a pad here, a synth lead there). However, the melodic theme is not always there, as in the original. There is a section where it is submerged under a layer of windy effects and then goes to the surface again. Overall, a lovely melodic piece. "The wooden" Prince" is an adaptation of a Bela Bartok composition. It sounds grandiose, cosmic and bombastic. "Dust-Red Sky" features excellent reflective synth lead line over a bed of pads and subtle effects. "God of War" sounds like a march of sorts, with pounding drums and a symphonic synth theme. "Beneath the Ice" consists mostly of ethereal synth pads. Very cosmic. On this track, Russell Storey plays synthesizers. "It's Time To Go Back Part 1" is a very mundane piece, with mostly acoustic instruments, like cellos, pianos, guitar. Pretty relaxing, this one. Part 2 begins with voice samples and a laid-back rhythm. A guitar solo is heard on top - very Prog. Very soon Ian starts singing. Don't let that put you off, as his vocals are actually pretty nice - silky smooth and not over the top at all. "SpaceTourist Mars" is a relatively heavy track, with prominent bass sequences and lots of atmospheric synths. I also like that synth lead line, which is again, very Ian Tescee. Drum programming and piano are also very nice. "Life On Mars" begins with pretty dark and mysterious atmospheres. A great melodic theme appears, supported by live cello playing. There are also heavily processed vocals by Ian, which do work very well with this piece of music. I think "Life On Mars" is fairly melancholic and even grayish. "Billions And Billions of Stars" serves as a nice conclusion, with excellent melodic piano playing and some cello flourishes, while the finale is enhanced by symphonic pads and a couple of other synth sounds. Overall, I would describe "A Traveler's Guide To Mars" as a mixture of electronic and acoustic instruments with that typical Ian Tescee touch in the melodic department. It is diverse and will appeal to a wide audience. But if you liked Ian's previous works, this CD is a must!

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Various Artists "Analogy Vol. 3" (Groove Unlimited, 2007)

And you thght it was over? Heck no, there's another one for you. It's Analogy, Volume 3 - the new and possibly final chapter of the legendary series of samplers released by the Groove Unlimited label. The concept remains the same: make music with analogue instruments only, and use as little instrumentation as possible. This time a plethora of new names can be spotted, along with the "usual suspects" (EM mainstays, that is). Gert Emmens and James Clent begin the journey with fat analogue bass sequence and melancholic mellotron strings. The track is called "Vintage Contemporaries" and the music suits the title very well. If you enjoy classic Berlin School stuff, you will love this composition! Sequences, pads, and a mournful CS-80 harmonica solo is all you need for a terrific starter. After a while, an electronic rhythm kicks in, along with a great jazzy solo. This is one monster of an EM track - a real musical journey! Create continues with the atmospheric "Red Alert". Fat, resonating synth sounds are combined with mellotron choirs to great effect. This is a short (under 3 minutes) but epic EM track that will be liked by all fans of analogue synthesis. There is a fat solo in there as well. Stephen Parsick gives us "A Molecular Surge". This track is built like a Dark Ambient piece - it's all pure sound design, with no real melody or rhythm. An expansive, deep electronic soundscape that I enjoyed a lot. Gert Blokzijl is a new name to me, and he gives us "Monopology", created exclusively with a Korg Mono/Poly synthesizer. Metallic tones develop into full-fledged synthesizer effects, as a bass sequence comes to the surface. Wow, what a great sound - rich, warm and purely analogue! It's amazing how much one instrument can do in the right hands! You will hear pads, sequences, effects - all arranged into a cohesive whole. Russell Storey continues his trademark "Cosmic Kiwi" series with Part III. Spacey wind effects and unusual bleeps is all it is about, really. The track lasts for 40 seconds only. Synth.nl aka Michel van Osenbruggen gives us "Synthology" - a melodic piece, filled with whooshing sounds, a slow bass line, and a playful analogue lead sound. An asserting sequence comes and goes, while a melodic lead line departs and then returns, this time embellished by additional / supporting sounds. Francois-Pol Cornec continues with "Sea Click". After a brief introduction one can hear a bass line straight out of "The Thing" soundtrack. Soon a sequence appears, while most other sounds fade to silence. A gliding lead line bursts forth, making this a solemn and heroic piece, or so it sounds to me. Interesting composition and somewhat different from the rest. Erwin Hofstede prepared a special gift: a short track, filled with nothing else than a warm, phased Solina sound. Ahhhh.... heaven! If this doesn't send shivers down your spine, nothing will. James J. Clent has cooked something else in the form of "Ambiology": heavy slow sequences are complimented by a relaxed rhythm of the jazzy variety. I know it's not your typical Berlin School piece, but I thought it was still a very competent melodic EM composition. There's even a great steel guitar solo on this one. And why not? Another winner. Russell Storey returns to feed us some more abstract spaciness with his "Cosmic Kiwi III Part 2". This is probably my favourite of all the "Cosmic Kiwis". The sounds here are really unusual and great. "Familiar Surprises" from Terje Winther follows with intriguing, sharp sequences, Minimoog solos and warm pads. This is excellent and unique Berlin School track, As Terje points out, he wanted to make an atypical track with familiar elements. He did succeed, as I really thought it was a whimsical and very interesting composition, a bit rough around the edges but still highly satisfying. Studio35D follows with a track made exclusively with a Sequential Circuits Pro-One synthesizer, aptly titled "Probe One". Heavy marching bass throb is combined with sharp rhythms and analogue melodic lines. It's amazing how versatile these vintage instruments are - the range of sounds here is great! This little synth does all the drums, cymbals, basses, effects, indescribable experimental sounds, solos and everything in-between. Mario Schonwalder is a guy that needs no introduction. Together with Frank Rothe, armed with a memotron (a digital replica of mellotron), an Alesis Andromeda synth and an analogue sequencer, he makes a classic-sounding Berlin School track with urgent sequences, tron choirs, solos and a few effects. Sounds simple? Yes! Is it indeed simple? Yes! Does it make the track less enjoyable? Hell no! It's what you craved - pure and unashamed EM. This track just rocks! "In the Moog" is a familiar 1978 piece from Eric G (it is included on his solo album "Conclusion"). The instrumentation is 100% analogue, and the melody is 100% "Oxygene". Need I say more? Rene van der Wouden kicks in with a 80's synth-pop influenced number titled "Ceci n'est pas un Analogue". If you take 1980's style bass line, combine it with mellotron strings, EMS-like effects and a few melodic sequences, you'll pretty much have what this track is all about. Mono-Poly gives us "Semdrone" - a track made exclusively with modular synthesizers, except for voices, and I must say there are plenty of them. The modular synthesis is restricted to abstract effects and drones. It's perhaps the most experimental track on "Analogy 3". Intriguing! The album concludes with a track by Ron Boots titled "Analowho". Warm analogue string sounds serve as a comfortable bed for sparkling effects, solos and great sequences. It's an emotional and nostalgic piece that takes us back to the golden age of Electronic Music. Music is art. Art is timeless. And Analogy is timeless, too.

Related links: Emmens, Gert, Create, Parsick, Stephen, Storey, Russell, Synth.nl, Winther, Terje, Schonwalder, Mario, Eric G, Wouden, Rene van der, Boots, Ron, Blokzijl, Gert.

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WintherStormer "Electric Fairytales" (Bajkal Records, 2008)

“Cucumber Salad” gets into a quick start with abstract analogue sounds. Classic twittering and ring-modulated synths are a real ear-candy for an analogue enthusiast. The sound is fairly rough and heavy. A sequence seeps in, jarring and cacophonous. However, soon, another sequence appears and things become more structured and melodic. Mellotron flute is another classic ingredient of this modern Berlin School track. Excellent, warm, analogue music with classic warm string sounds and even a bit of that wailing guitar, too. I like the soloing in this one as well – very professionally done. And it’s been quite some time since I’ve heard phased mellotron strings in an EM track, and “Cucumber Salad” delivers, just like in the old times. “For the Love of All Things Electronic” (how’s that for a title?) begins with excellent ambient soundscape – very serene and peaceful. After a while, a subtle bass pulse is heard, while things stay pretty much calmed and chilly. Perfect cold guitar textures really remind on the hazy world of Terje Rypdal. Real drums add that special human touch to the otherwise completely synthetic music. The most wonderful thing about it is that it is both warm and cold at the same time. And it is very Scandinavian in feeling, if you know what I mean. I am reminded on Barre Phillips’ “Three Day Moon” that was recorded in Oslo and had the same warm / cold feeling to it. Needless to say, the music is completely improvised and sounds like a tasty mix of “Nordic jazz” (if there is such a thing) and Electronic Music. Perfect balance! “Rising Ashes” begins in an abstract way, with a lot of strictly analogue effects. Some totally mind-blowing mid-paced sequences appear just to show us what is it that we love about EM. Perfect chilling atmospheres serve as a comfortable blanket for the venerable pulsations. A steady drum rhythm reminds us of the great Harald Grosskopf, as it feels like Berlin relocated to Norway for this recording session. The drums subside, as the sequences get more intense, adding a bass guitar or at least what sounds like it to their roaster. A totally wacky experimental section follows, with all kinds of crazy sounds flying by. By a stroke of genius, the sequences return out of this chaos, supported by some dark and harsh textures to finish this epic piece of music. Little by little the sequences furl inside themselves to create an effect of a microscopic sound. The title track is next. Ah, the vocoder! Just what we needed really, especially when it’s done in the tastiest way possible. It’s all a bit dark, a bit disturbing, and even horror-like, with echoing sighs and dark synth drones. The scariest stuff I’ve heard from this duo so far. A melody is trying to make it through the forest of electronic noises but is all but drowned by swarming dwellers of this synthetic realm. Gradually the melodic bursts of analogue synth become more prominent. Despite this, the abstract noises never really let go and it’s one intriguing piece of music, with its juxtaposition of the abstract and the harmonic. Perhaps not for everyone, I found it highly original and enjoyable. Overall, “Electric Fairytales” is a huge improvement over “Woodwork”, which was already very nice. Best track: "For the Love of All Things Electronic".

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Rene van der Wouden "Alchemia" (private release, 2006)

Rene van der Wouden: Korg Z1, Korg Trinity V3, Kurzweil K2500, Yamaha SY77, Roland JV880, Roland JV1080, Yamaha AN1x, GEM Equinox, E-Mu E4x, E-Mu E5000 Ultra, Alesis Micron, Clavia Nord Modular, Reaktor 5, Filter Factory.

"The True Glass Alchemy" begins with mysterious synth pads that set the tone for this moody piece of music. Very soon, bass notes are added, flowing in smooth waves. Excellent atmospheric music! Some effects and samples are applied to great effect. New sounds are added, together with layered synth pads. If you're looking for interesting atmospheric EM - this is it. Little by little, a sequence creeps in subtly, gradually gaining in volume and intensity. However, it remains relatively simple, while the main attraction of this track are the atmospherics. I must also mention that excellent melodic section that comes towards the end of this track. Floating atmospheric EM at its best. "Far Across the Heavens" begins with some strange effects and windy synths. Soon, a catchy melody develops, having an almost ethnic flair to it. The melody is then supported by a pulsing bass synth that transforms into a nice, albeit fairly static, sequence. Another higher-register sequence joins and we are riding on one roller-coaster of an EM track. A third sequence appears, supported by a strong bass and a nice distant melody. Nice work! In the beginning of "Golden Dreams of Silver Elements" we hear wind sounds, a mallet-like sequence and a mysterious melody. The sequence then mutates, with low-register notes added. However, it's all pretty whimsical so far. The melody has something of a Tangerine Dream-y quality to it. It's a nice track for those relaxed moments. Nice use of mellotron string ensemble sounds as well. Towards the end, the sequence becomes fairly intense. "The Alchemists" enter with heavy effects. A brilliant emotional sequence arrives, supported by a simple but effective three-note melody. It's rather straightforward but very effective. A steady electronic rhythm serves as the backbone, as the sequences mutate and various melodies come and go. "Gone To Earth Through the Book of Minerals" begins with excellent mellotron choirs and solemn symphonic synths. A sequence develops, as synth flute play a bright melody. Some hi-hats appear, supporting the sequence. This is EM with bright and crisp arrangements. If you liked Rene's debut album, you might as well like "Alchemia". On this album, he refined his arrangement skills and added a few really effective melodic hooks. An enjoyable listen! Best track: "The Alchemists".

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Rene van der Wouden "Universal Quiet" (private release, 2008)

Rene van der Wouden: Crumar Bit 99, Akai AX73, Roland JX3P, Yamaha SY77, Roland Alpha Juno 2, Kurzweil K2500R, E-Mu E5000 Ultra, Korg Trinity, Korg T3.

"In Silence" begins with thick synthetic pads and great effects. Some lovely analog timbres are used together with more ordinary digital atmospherics. A square-wave sequence appears, gaining in intensity and momentum. A steady groove develops as the mellotron choir casts its spell. Subtle bell sounds can be heard in what sounds like a very Schulzian finale. "Pin Drop" begins with strange effects creating an eerie atmosphere. Dark pads bring in even more uneasiness. Very soon great analogue effects herald the coming of a growling sequencer line. Excellent minimalistic lead melody can be heard. This is some quality EM. The sequences are steady and yet floating and enjoyable. Lovely mellotron choir adds to the picture, as well as some thick analogue fx. "Be Quiet" begins with synth atmospheres, lots of effects and a background melody. It's all rather pastoral and restrained at this point. An extremely bright and crisp sequence comes, as the track gets brighter, too. A percussive rhythm starts, as mellotron string ensemble plays an uplifting melody. On the other hand, "Go Quiet" surprises with a very upbeat sequence and smooth synth pads. It has something of a Gert Emmens feel to it. This does not only relate to the sounds themselves, but also the arrangements, the melodies and the structure of the piece. If you like Gert's style, you owe it to yourself to check this track out. This melancholic composition finishes with a lot of bubbling analogue effects. The final track, titled "Get Quieter", begins with sustained mellotron choirs, some effects and a somewhat plodding sequence. The atmosphere at this point is very Schulze-like circa "X". The tron choirs leave and a reedy lead line is introduced, again reminding on Gert Emmens' style of emotional and a bit melancholic floating EM. "Universal Quiet" is a relaxing Electronic Music album for those reflective moments, or moments of unexpected sadness. More Eindhoven School than Berlin School to my ears, it's brimming with simple but effective sequences, crystalline atmospheres, restrained melodies and warm effects.

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Rene van der Wouden "Sequential Tourism" (REWO Records, 2008)

Rene van der Wouden: Yamaha CS50, Macbeth M3K, SE Moog, Moog Rogue, Sequential Circuits Pro One, Yamaha SY99, Yamaha SY77, Yamaha EX5, Korg Trinity, Korg Wavestation EX, Kurzweil K2500, E-Mu E5000, Akai AX73, Roland JX3P, Roland JV880, Korg MS2000R.

The newest album by Dutch synthesizer artist Rene van der Wouden promises to be a sequential blast. Let's see if the music lives up to its title. The title track kicks in with some wonderful analogue effects. Dramatic chords appear out of nowhere. After 5 minutes, the first sequence appears - one of the bass variety, going at quite a pace. A melodic, bell-like theme is played which sounds extremely familiar. It works very well in combination with the sequence and background sounds. A rapid hi-hat rhythm starts as well as a flying synth solo. Things calm down for a while, with only the bell-like melody and background pads left as this track gradually moves to a close. "Sequential Solitude" is the title of the next track. Wonderfully warm pads play in an almost classical manner. Very nice. A wonderful distorted analog tone from the Yamaha CS50 comes next, floating on top of the atmospherics. This is quite simply the best stuff I have heard from Rene so far, it's so emotional and strong, even aggressive I would say, but in a spacey, proggy kind of way. Background sounds of thunder can be heard, as a rapid sequence slowly creeps in. A great broken drum machine rhythm appears as the track settles into a relaxed and dreamy mood. Wonderful and melancholic. A warm, improvised solo can be heard. Everything then calms down, with only the drum rhythm and a pad drone left. Windy effects provide a haunting effect before the track fades into silence. "Bataille dans les Nuages" begins with dark sounds and analogue twittering. A relaxed sequence appears, accompanied by a strange melodic theme that works extremely well. After a while, an already familiar hi-hat rhythm appears, together with a compact harpsichord-like theme. A rippling, high-pitched solo makes a sudden appearance, accompanied by the analogue twitters. The solo re-appears a few times, as synth choirs get more prominent. "Arcadia" is next. Some heavy, crushing noisy effects start this piece. Then, all of a sudden, a tinkling sequenced melody appears, accompanied by soft pads. Strong drums kick in and the track settles into a groove. Some excellent analogue effects can be heard. I like it when Rene adds more analogue textures and sounds to his music. Also I thought this song was great in sound creation department. Rene has obviously spent some time sculpting sounds for this one. After 10 minutes, the rhythmic elements subside, leaving us with just the pads and the analogue effects. However, in just a few seconds, an aggressive sequence appears, with Rene playing around with its resonance for a while. The sound becomes even more aggressive and asserting, with a drum machine rhythm appearing as support for the flowing sequence. High-pitched twittering makes the sound even more intense. It all ends with an array of distorted synths and effects. "The Sequential Tourist" is the last and shortest track on this album. It starts with typical Rene van der Wouden atmospheres. Soon a laid-back rhythm appears and a nice melodic theme is played on top. This is an emotional electronic ballad, with tasty sounds and great atmosphere. An enjoyable end to a nice electronic album that is certainly a progress over Rene's previous efforts. This album is slightly more sequence-centered. Besides that, the sound is more refined, the melodic themes more developed and the sounds are unique and imaginative. I just wish he'd let rip on his CS50 a bit more often.

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© 2014. All reviews are © 2007 - 2008 Artemi Pugachov.