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 ------vidnaObmana - Memories Compiled 2



Minimal, floating synthetic ambience - 30 brief tonal atmospheres in all. Disc one: Near The Flogging Landscape, is the more substantial of the two. Layered synths and wafting melodies weave among deep wistful pianos, reverberating drops of percussive sound, distant bells or simply open air. Refined on Gentle Clouds, the second collection on disc two has been well described as "beatless formless masses of soft sound". Here VidnaObmana has chosen a more limited range of voices and released them like coloured pastel smokes into the air. Slow, ephemeral washes unfold one upon the other with the least clutter imaginable.


The mood is serious throughout, but the ethereal, airy nature of most pieces stops the collection from becoming sombre. Near The Flogging Landscape unfurls a desolate hypnotic, nostalgia, feeling like the warm touch of the sun on a winter's day. For me this is the more beautiful of the two collections, tranquil yet just a little uneasy. Refined on Gentle Clouds has a more deeply reflective demeanour, pulling the listener into deep introspection where occasional dissonant tones and glassy discords bring a gravity to the constant drifting classical restfulness.

ARTWORK   Very tasteful artwork, completely in keeping with the musical content - serene warmth with a vibrant, twisting chill in the air. vidnaObmana's own blue-grey toned photography fills all of the graphic panels. The images focus on what appear to be classical ruins on a cold but bright day, veined across with the shadows of branches. Track titles for Near The Flogging Landscape include Between Changing Gloom, In Winter Calm and Above The Mellow Earth. Refined On Gentle Clouds contains Float Through Nights, Found Silence, Over Clouds.

These two collections were originally released as cassette only albums on Violet Glass Oracle Tapes and on the Direction Music label. The recordings were made between 1989 and 1991 and were remastered around 1997-8. The main difference between the two CDs is one of density rather than mood. Near The Flogging Landscape is more involved, the layers more distinct, whereas Refined On Gentle Clouds has a more restricted palette of sound. Both discs enjoy the same melancholy, vaporous indolence fading in and out over a large number of short pieces.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Beatless ambient lovers looking for something with a serious neo-classical emphasis. Music for thoughtful moments - optimism for cold December. vidnaObmana creates a beautiful emerging, shimmering sense of loss that wafts the listener into a weighty serenity.





 ------Steve Roach - Darkest Before Dawn



Darkest Before Dawn is a single track, long-form ambient composition intended to play continuously. This is truly minimal electronic ambience - no beats, no rhythms, no melodies. Not fully void of pattern though; the music rises and falls like imperceptibly rolling, billowing mists within a strictly limited tonal palette. The variations in sound are slow and hard to organise in the mind, seeming for all the world like a dense, unchanging sonic haze, yet in reality the shifting drone substance of the piece ebbs and flows, thickens and disperses constantly. This incredible recording was created entirely on one most heavily processed guitar, live, with no revisits to the final except to master the CD.


Like peering into an abyss, or gazing up at the vast night sky, Darkest Before Dawn has a resonant immensity about it. Initially the mood can feel dark and foreboding, but with constant play, gradually the darkness warms, becomes familiar and the chords start to feel open, ethereal, relaxing. There is no doubt that the tonal shades are thick and murky - monstrous bass washes warp and twist below shrouded waves and haunting swells - but colour is not absent, merely subdued and so very, very deep. There is a sense of isolationism but not loneliness - having said that, this is a CD that will shape itself within whatever mental environment you provide for it.

ARTWORK   Plain black with simply "DARKEST BEFORE DAWN --STEVE ROACH" laid near the base. Little more on the reverse except the words "74 minutes" across an infinity symbol. Solid black inner cover and behind the CD - inside the booklet we have (in my opinion) the closest imagery to the music, the photographic equivalent to a colourfield painting ..... the upper 70% in black merging into grey, but not colourless grey. No text, no credits, no detail to complicate the surface - view it as a three-dimensional field, stare at it until it breathes, heaves - now it approximates the sound. Steve says "The late visual artist Mark Rothko painted huge pieces that were like the feeling of the inside of the booklet..while the music was not directly from this place, for years I have felt a connection to the pure, deep quiet place in his work.

Despite the initial fade in and eventual fade out, there is no real beginning or end to this CD - come in at any point and you would notice no difference. Initially I was somewhat over-awed by the daring harmonic sparsity, but with time I've found myself lingering within the sound, reluctant to emerge. It seems almost strange that music with so little apparent structure could sound so personal and yet this is pure Steve Roach. Steve's website says "Created September, 2002. This minimal, immersive sound environment can be considered a prelude to MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES." That's good news.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Pure ambient fans who enjoy sonic minimalism, with variations so subtle as to be almost subliminal. Those wanting to capture the timeless, elusive, mood of the tenebrous pre-dawn, and to keep it caged and restless. There are doubtless those who want to like this album because it's clever or because it's so different to the mainstream. Then there are those who will tap into it, find the right place for it and invest it with meaning.





 ------Thom Brennan - Mountains
STYLE   In contrast to a number of Thom's later releases, this is quite a rhythmic ambient collection. Here carefully constructed melodies carried by guitar or synthesisers linger among deep drones. Nodding, pulsing or mechanical rhythms roll below the music drawing most of the pieces onward. Chimes, metallic rings and tiny bells punctuate some of the pieces whilst long, drawn out strains of strongly effected guitar add an air of melancholia. Steve Roach produced this album and contributed musically to 'The Burning Temple'.
MOOD   The mood is overwhelmingly one of drama and space. The fascination with landscape (that will increasing become a focus for Thom) is emerging already and provides a root for much of the tone of 'Mountains'. There are a number of oriental inferences in choice of voices, scales and titles.
ARTWORK   Of all of Thom's albums, this one has gone through the most cover permutations; it was originally released back in 1987 as a cassette only version. We've found five variations from the original black and white of the release to the current vibrant Raingarden Music version shown above. Text on the CD is functional with appropriate credits and details of Thom's website.
OVERALL    Thom's first album hints at the abstract sound that would follow on further releases - sheets of smooth ambience sweep across sequenced synths like clouds over the landscape. The powerful title track opens with voluminous banks of sonic mist shot through with piercings of bright strings, gradually a deep, rolling sequence sets in below and shoulders the softer ambient structures. Midway the throb of the rhythm breaks down and dies as dissonant tones enter bringing with them an otherworldliness that changes the mood - and suddenly it's as though we've climbed high enough to emerge above the cloud, looking down on a silken ocean of undulating vapour. Finally the rhythmic sequence re-enters, faster this time, driving the track to the end. There are six tracks on this album all of which have been digitally remastered at the Rain Garden in 2002.

If you are familiar with Thom's pure, floating ambient CDs, this album lets us see where it all began. There's more melody and structure to hang on to than in later pieces, however, the trade-mark ambient haze and velvet drones are all present, interspersed with hints of the Far East and repeating sequences.






 ------Maple Bee - Chasing Eva



Chasing Eva is primarily a female vocal album built around guitars and other live instruments, bound together with quirky electronica and crisp programmed beats. This is an album with a very contemporary sound both vocally and musically. Melanie Garside (AKA Maple Bee) uses her voice creatively - in whispers, confiding, intimate - close-up, spoken, distant, passionate and just plain good singing.
MOOD   The richly textured gothic aesthetic of the cover art appropriately sets the mood for Chasing Eva. There are brooding songs here with a dark edge, gentle mellow acoustics, words strung across sampled noise and imaginative sound effects and tracks with a chorus line that will have you hooked and singing along. Maple Bee clearly enjoys sound - her compositions are never too busy, each element luxuriates in its own space be it a recorder, pitch-shifted white noise, flanged guitar or layered whisperings.
ARTWORK   The sumptuous artwork is of a high standard - all twenty pages of it. There are plenty of photographs (presented as Polaroid snaps) and some interesting background information to browse through. Lyrics are cleverly laid out across worn scraps of paper taped to flaking walls, weathered woodwork and rust. Track titles indicate the range of emotional material explored: Moth Touch, Sadness Landed, Got Her Way, State of Waiting, Cocooner. If you like something to look at whilst you listen, this package delivers.
OVERALL    Melanie Garside herself is certainly busy musically; she works with the Mediaeval Baebes, is bassist with Queenadreena, handles guitar & vocals with Vertigo Angels and has even contributed her voice to Conjure One's 'Pandora'. Her solo CD Chasing Eva is no less whole-hearted for this though; here we have a double album of twenty-two tracks with hardly a weak moment between them! Happily Maple Bee is working a musical vein much deeper and more challenging than the mainstream trash that fills most radio stations. She is not afraid to experiment with her dream-like lyrics, widely varied vocals and even in producing some "weird noises on odd machines".
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Maple Bee will draw the post-rock, electronica generation that enjoys an individual approach to the female voice. If you like emotive songs, strange noises, guitars, loops and programming - this CD is a great choice. I'm sure this album will appeals to fans of Harland, Delerium, Collide and the like.





 ------Brannan Lane - Piano Dreams and Nightscapes
STYLE   Ambient master Brannan Lane presents here seven pieces of restful musical abstraction. The first two tracks, Piano Dreams [Pt.1] and [Pt.2] contain some of the most beautiful and dreamy piano music you will ever hear; like lustrous sonic globules deep within an ocean of thick heady ambience, notes rise to the surface, burst open and reverberate hanging heavily in the living atmosphere. Other tracks feature slightly percussive melodies and gentle sweeps of sound, or synthesised chimes tinkling up and down chordal patterns. An ambient album definitely, but with plenty of absorbing detail to focus on should you choose to do so.
MOOD   Soporific, languid, heavenly - in places the musical colour is so deep that it threatens to permanently tint the air in your room. The noises of insects and environmental sound feature strongly as aspects of the audio canvas upon which Lane paints his moving nightscapes. The mood is mostly shadowy, but invitingly so - somewhat lighter perhaps on Moonlit Reflections where the tone is almost playful, like ripples on water; spacious and vast on Daze Gone By.

As is often the case, Brannan's own photography adorns the album cover - hazy, green and abstract, as soft and suggestive as the music. The colours chosen are exactly the hues filling my mind as I listen, the titles most apt - Piano Dreams, Fallen Nightscapes, Moonlit Reflections. The inside cover is functional, pointing us to Brannan's website where more of this liquid nectar sound can be acquired.


Piano Dreams and Nightscapes has a lot of ambient space but isn't totally minimal. The loose melodies are engrossing, the openings between notes luxuriously lingering. Tracks are presented in themed pairs leading us onward to the final single piece Daze Gone By. This conclusion to the album is, at just over fifteen minutes, the longest piece by far and carries the music further off into electronic abstraction. Incidental sounds associated with the night and Brannan's carefully crafted ebb and flow of tones create a powerful drug that can float seductively in the background or just as easily fill your senses as a complete listening experience.


Ambient lovers who enjoy melodic elements within the sound. Insomniacs, lullaby seekers or anyone wanting something to complement the night. This is music to fall asleep to, to dream, create or just to think to.





 ------Cybertribe - Eons of Dignity



A fairly dense global fusion with emphasis on sounds from the Indian sub-continent and the didgeridoo. Rolling, breakbeats with a tribal edge underpin subtle musicianship and although this is essentially an instrumental album, soaring Asian vocals intermittently pierce the mix, low spoken voices murmur occasionally among the drones & washes and the sounds of a child peek out from behind smooth musical structures. Flutes, sitars, guitars and pianos all find a comfortable place in John Deere's creation.

MOOD   Although the beat tempos are generally in the mid to low range, Eons of Dignity has an upbeat mood, tracks are optimistic and warm - looking skyward seeking a higher plane. There is a trance-like repetition employed throughout many pieces that adds to the tribal mood the Cybertribe cultivates. The use of guitar in some tracks suggests some rock roots somewhere deep under the ground.
ARTWORK   Bathed in gleaming blues, purples and cyan, the whole package has a dark synthetic feel to it. The polished metal idol, standing unblinking in the shadows on the front cover hints at the ethnic spices that flavour the music; the rest of the imagery is mainly abstract and ambiguous. A quote from Huxley claims "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music". Track titles suggest a quest for the mythical or the mystical - To The Moon, Corridor Of Dreams and Cascade Of Light. John includes a brief explanation of the project on the inner sleeve, where we learn that he is man of more projects than simply this one.
OVERALL    Cybertribe's sixth CD is a sound combination of electronic beats, restful instrumentation and the traditional aboriginal didgeridoo sounds of Marshall Whyler morphing steadily below. The interweaving of sound tends to downplay the sounds of individual instruments, presenting instead a tightly bound sonic fabric where the chordal structures and harmonies take the front stage. Eons Of Dignity is a consistent vision, where all of the tracks work as a united entity, a distinct ambience runs throughout.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   This is a CD for the global fusion enthusiast who likes light percussion and what is now becoming known as the "lounge" approach to composition. The didgeridoo is present throughout most of the album, but it doesn't dominate, likely this album will appeal to new age fans who like modern beats and a hint of restrained trance music.