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 ------Gabriel Le Mar - Nightradio
STYLE   Relaxed, smooth, electronic techno-pop. Nightradio isn't consistently downtempo, but generally falls somewhere short of the standard dance-floor pace. The album takes a mainly chilled approach with friendly melodies, bright guitars and the odd ethnic sample stirred into the mix. Rolling basslines, computerised voices, electronic swirls and delays make for a full, often busy, sound. Catenia Quentin provides female vocals on track three with credits going also to Cylancer and George Din on tracks one and five respectively.

There is a laid-back optimistic vibe throughout most tracks with jazzy hints, dubby passages and effected spoken voices - usually male. Although an air of mystery is evoked occasionally, the predominant mood is warm, dreamy and slightly seductive. Nightradio sounds to me to be tuned in to the kind of station that would appeal to club-goers and dancers looking for a hint of the exotic.

ARTWORK   The front cover sports a metallic portrait mask split open down the centre to reveal a further split mask - this time daubed with electrical circuitry. Behind is a starscape featuring a series of starbursts that briefly hold our attention before leading us off into infinite distance. A more abstract photo-image supports the rear cover credits and logos. Inside the starbursts are repeated hanging in a fantasy green sky - there are LEDs, artist thumbnails and a repeat of the track titles. Cylancer is credited as having provided "spiritual guidance" alongside various other thanks.
OVERALL    Gabriel Le Mar has released numerous albums and 12" singles over the years and is also a remixer and DJ. Gabriel was a founder member of Aural Float and has also been a part of The Saafi Bros. This solo album sees Gabriel laying down layers of rolling arpeggios and oscillating synths in musical structures that generally use repetition over melody - developing cycling harmonic shades and textures that are rooted in solid basslines that frequently lead the chord progressions.

Dance floor lovers looking for something slightly chilled. Mid-tempo electronica listeners that fancy a softer sounding ambient techno-trance.






 ------Alio Die - Sol Niger



A series of eleven ambient sound installations built around drones, diverse strikings and manipulated radio noise. There are some low-key, loose recurring melodic elements here and there with guitars played by Massimo Iadarola and flutes by Gianfranco Cualbu. Bells tinkle, ambiguous low tones rumble, voices haunting and distant or gravelly with distortion mumble unintelligibly and percussive sounds that could be falling scaffolding, beaten tubes or ethnic drums punctuate the mix. Stefano's choice of instrumentation is most interestingly described as being 'sonorous objects' - this well encompasses sound sources that could be disturbances of industrial debris, shufflings of bizarre objects or manipulation of radio static. There are ethnic rhythms and hits, field recordings and zither musings.
MOOD   Still, lulling and restful as bell chimes carried on the wind - beautiful passages with flutes and water noises, lazy janglings and soft drones - uneasy, dark passages of weighty disquiet and looping, cycling areas of illusional space. The mood shifts as improvisations meander at whim and exploratory reachings stretch curiously through the imagination. The first tracks are especially tranquil with more uncomfortable influences creeping in as the CD progresses.
ARTWORK   Alio Die's beautiful irregular, natural collages and assemblages lie nestled between tight black borders and panels. Shells, husks, seeds and leaves are strung into arcane percussive constructions - very tactile and suggestive of sound. Text is simple, not competing with the imagery, yet still providing all the information we need: Track titles, credits, thanks, website and background details. Track titles tell us what mood to expect: So Far Away, Internal Haunt, Radiospace, Dead Cities.
OVERALL    The press release for Sol Niger tells us that this new CD contains unrealized material recorded by Alio die in the year 2001, mostly around the time of the winter solstice. Older recordings produced in Milan in 1990 along with radionoise from an old Valvular Model have been edited and integrated. The sound atmosphere of this release is close in some ways to the first CDs by Alio Die, with a light electronic taste, in the feeling of the dark that passes before a new dawn. Personally I find the juxtaposition of decayed transmission noise with organic environments to be very effective - creating a sense of remoteness and melancholy - suggesting a time far distant and yet an intimate presence, warm and inviting.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Artistic ambient fans with an ear for the unusual. Try this CD if you'd like a futuristic vision of dead cities and distant humanity wrapped up in a well crafted presentation - if you'd like to drift along to something that will both sooth and unsettle you. Sol Niger will appeal to drone fans looking for sound sources beyond the norm, to listeners-in on recycled worlds.





 ------Angel Tears - Vision
STYLE   Twelve easy going, worldbeat montages. Vision is full of echoing flutes, multi-cultural voices, deft acoustic guitar work and mid-tempo breakbeats. There are instrumental sounds with origins all over the globe: Bedouin dharbouka, Tibetan flutes, Indian sitar and Arab violins, but the emphasis is largely on the middle-east. Male and female vocals consist of a mixture of ethnic samples and sung performances from artists Natasha Chamberlain, Momi Ochion, Mary Harrington, Zohar Ben-Shitrit and Shira Applebaum. Ethnic percussion loops are frequently fused with light dance loops, underpinned by strong, beckoning bass patterns.

The mood here is largely bright and upbeat with ambient introductions and constant shifting exotic breezes. Many tracks are danceable (with almost Latin rhythms) and there is a feeling of being out in the open air about many pieces. The cut and paste aesthetic of much worldbeat music is enhanced on Vision by the various live performances both vocal and instrumental.

ARTWORK   Artwork consists of a monochrome digipack in bright purple drawing the eye directly onto the ivory statuette floating in the centre that is Angel Tears' trademark image. The inside cover features credits contact details and scans of the previous three Angel Tears CDs. A desert sandscape lurking behind the CD itself leads us toward the precarious craggy fingers of a rocky outcrop - at once serene and dramatic.

You might well have heard Angel Tears before, since they have appeared on Buddha Bar CDs and on various TV soundtracks. Momi Ochion brings his native Israeli sensibilities to the finished sound along with guitarist Sebastian James Taylor (of Kaya Project) - blending global rhythms, unobtrusively smooth synths & exotic instrumentation to form an invitingly chilled journey through tracks such as Marrakesh, Shanti and Mystic Desire.


Chillout lovers looking for a gentle sound with abundant world sounds. Exotic electronica fans preferring warmth and brightness over brooding darkness.






 ------Kukan Dub Lagan - Life Is Nice
STYLE   Downtempo, chilled techno-dub. A consistent approach across the album sees most tracks emerge out of digital abstraction into loose dubby basslines and complementary nodding, leisurely beats riddled with electronic swells, spaced out voices and psychedelic sequences. Simple melodic forms play between the off-beat keyboard stabs, whilst warm arpeggios, reversed loops and synth strings fill in the spaces - making for a thick sound.

Laid-back reggae-influenced rhythms and airy effects combine with spacey patterns to create a lazy sense of floatation, cast adrift in cyberspace. Vocal samples are mainly spoken - frequently rasta sourced and echoing or gated. A dialogue leading us into the first track says “How long have you been writing electronica? Oooh ten years - ten years.... They call it a decade - call it a decade…” this act doesn't take itself too seriously, amusing us with technological visions enhanced by clear production, hypnotising us with arrangements where the overriding vibe is as important as the tunes themselves.

ARTWORK   This is a pleasing digipack where sharp emeralds, limes and greens predominate in a dense assemblage of graphic elements. Heavier tones on the front cover create a depth that invites us to peer in and examine the details. The KDL logo with its red background adorns all panels, the three letters also appearing in abstracted variations sprinkled throughout the design. Indeed, the text is an important aspect of the overall design, be it the well-placed information sections or the stylised teardrop letters woven among the other imagery. Ample thanks and greetings fill the inner sleeve along with some credits and contact details.

Kukan Dub Lagan is a name that encapsulates the style of this act: 'kukan' meaning “space” in Japanese - dub - 'lagan' from the Hebrew“ba-lagan” meaning“chaos”..... hence chaotic, spacey dub. Itay Berger from Israel cites such diverse influences as Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Deep Dive Corporation and Nitin Sawhney. Overall this CD takes the various conventions of dub and reggae and places them in a fresh context, served up for the chill-out audience. Although the percussive patterns quicken and flutter at times or loiter and lumber along - the underlying plodding of the main rhythm remains firmly rooted in a very dubby downtempo.


This is an album that will surely appeal to the chill-out audience that favour dub-induced trance. It has a heavier feel than the likes of Bluetech, but the joy of downtempo electronic exploration is similar.






 ------Various - Mountain High
STYLE   Chilled digital snapshots of lush psychedelic dreamscapes by some of the most in-demand names of the current ambient trance scene. The style morphs from some very atmospheric, spiralling, rhythmic ambience from Solar Fields where percussions scatters and reverberates, through Vibrasphere's restrained 'All Green Seasons' and on into more beat driven tracks, increasingly heavy until Aes Dana breaks it all down again into the whispering, fluttering 'Seaweeds Corporate' with a melange of pulsing basses and arps that straddle haunting pads and effects - rising and falling eventually into oblivion.
MOOD   The overall mood is one of emotive bliss - deep, ambient and rich - wrapping the listener in thick liquid blankets of sound. Variations within the whole though range from soporific, loose structures where breaks echo in layers, coming and going like summer breezes to dub patterns and ethnic grooves, many scented with techno-aural incense rising in binary curls. There is the futuristic drum and bass lightness of Intocyrcle, the shadowy 'Numbers' by Nada and a sprinkling of sparingly employed ethnic samples and exotic waves that swirl and vibrate, illuminating the cycles and sequences of the synths and the programming.
ARTWORK   Another tasteful digipack (they are much nicer than jewel cases aren't they) lit with a glowing green warmth. Artwork combines verdant mountain photographs with hazy image manipulation and a gliding graphic seahorse design. Text is accompanied by some sharp graphic elements and layered panels with some transparent repetitions radiating into the background. Inside are full credits and recording details, a list of 'smiles' and a verse and dedication. Overall, the kind of CD that you like to put at the front of your collection because it looks good.
OVERALL    Candyflip Records from Greece take a step away from their usual menu of thumping psytrance releases here. Mountain High is mellow and absorbing, evocative and comfortably exploratory. Triac's beautiful 'Anticipation' typifies the strengths of the compilation - unhurried with plenty of open space where eddying loops and washes slipstream sparse melodies and mellow beats. You get the feeling that these guys have all the latest technology and are enjoying stretching it, restructuring it in ways the manual doesn't cover. Each track is different chamber to inhabit, part of the whole, yet confidently distinct and individual.

Pys-chill and ambient trance fans who like a journey rather than a fixed pace throughout. If you know the names on the track list - you, pretty much know what to expect.






 ------Healer - Higher Grounds
STYLE   Smooth, atmospheric electronica with slow, restful beats - often leaning close to a new age sound. Higher Grounds features a lot of strings, swells and soft pads. The disc is divided into two sections - the first five tracks (section one) are mainly supported by percussive loops, the last three (section two) opens with the stabbing mechanical sequencer piece 'Art Of Trancelucency' before twinkling off into the distance and fading into the increasingly ambient 'Resonate Within' and 'Apnea' - where curving, onion-like, transparent layers of sound lull the listener into deep relaxation.
MOOD   Clear and expansive, pure electronica. Healer tends to soar rather than drift - the sound is too purposeful to suggest the sleepy meandering conjured up by some ambient albums. Long fluid build-ups, distant bell trees and finger cymbals along with warm synthetic gusts create a sense of mystery or a mildly exotic mood. Long drawn-out strings and lingering washes bring a serenity and sheet-like silkiness to the music - so that the overall impression is one of restfulness.
ARTWORK   A glowing digipack with a sunset photograph of clouds over a harbour and a foreground knot of sharp 3D imagery. A tasteful package with the Healer logo standing out in white. The inner booklet is more subdued with sunset pinks that smudge away into abstraction behind the CD. The relevant thanks fill one inner panel along with credits and contact details.
OVERALL    Michael Andresen works not only as Healer, he also produces more upbeat trance music under the moniker 12 Moons. In addition, he compiled the Scandinavian chillout CD Ease Division on Spiral Trax Records, which included a piece by Healer. As far a Higher Grounds is concerned, a few tracks are floating pieces, without beats, but with oceanic swells of frequency, tone or intensity - the others are mainly rhythmic ambience carried along by low-key programmed drum loops and subtle melodies.

Healer might suit ambient trance fans that want something right down the far end of the spectrum - leaning towards new age and relaxation music. If you enjoy the pure electronic sound of, say, Zer0 0ne and you'd like to take it down a notch or two - Healer might suit you.