Music Reviews

Roots Tonic meets Bill Laswell: s/t

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 10 2006
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Artist: Roots Tonic meets Bill Laswell
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: ROIR (@)
Rated: *****

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Roots Tonic are Josh Werner on bass & keys, Aaron Dugan on guitars & sounds and Jonah David on drums & percussions; they also are the band that accompanies and co-writes with NY-based hasidic jewish reggae star Matisyahu, who in turn is produced by ambiet-dub mastermind Bill Laswell himself. As you might have gathered by now, this is one of those epic and unforgettable sonic experiences for all fans of dub, reggae, ambient and experimental music (as much as that defitiong might still represent too big of a constriction for a genre-defying producer like Laswell).Roots Tonic lay down the law and the foundation of this album (of which they wrote all the songs), and although Laswell is well known for his skills on the bass guitar, on this one he sticks to just producing, creating his own usual blend of magic made of sounds, stabs, reverbs, delays and a whole slew of other sonic enrichments (all happening at his NJ-based studio Orange Music).If you don't know what you are getting yourself into I suggest you check out Matisyahu's music and Bill Laswell's website (it'd be an unthinkable and impossible task to check out all the music where he was involved in some shape or form) at to get a better idea of the geniuses at work you are dealing with here.This is of course a stricly instrumental record, so don't expect the rhymes and all of that, but do expect that groove and vibe is business as usual for these cats!To complete the picture of NY downtown people, this album is out on New York City's ROIR records.

Scott Solter: One River

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 08 2006
Artist: Scott Solter (@)
Title: One River
Format: CD
Label: Tell-All Records (@)
Rated: *****
First, the comparisons. Solter’s work reminds me of Vidna Obmana ("River of Appearance") and some of Harold Budd’s more ethereal work. If you like these artists, you will probably like this album. This album seems to lack some of the structure of Obmana or Budd but this is not a bad thing. Instead, Solter strips the sound down to textures and drones, creating peaceful soundscapes with processed guitars and other sound sources (I could swear that in one track I heard one of those plastic tubes that you whip around to make a whistling kind of noise... .) This seems to be a significant departure from Solter’s previous album on Manifold Records, "The Brief Light," which Manifold describes as "a complex tribal/percussive-ambient trek into the heart of bright rainforest worlds and afro-alien rhythms, an endless list of primitive instruments and ephemeral human voices" (I haven’t heard this disc but the sample on their site corroborates well with this description). One River seems to perform the drone/ambient formula well. The songs intertwine and blend together and work well as a whole. Nothing too startling in the mix – this is nice ambience that provides an ideal background for reading or other activities. According to the promo material that came with the disc, the disc takes inspiration from the movement of water and "combines to form a continuous flowing piece, with titles that suggest a journey both through physical space, and through memory." This is a pretty accurate description. The music is the aural equivalent of watching a river. The water moves and shifts, but it is difficult to perceive any real change. The only real problem with this album is that it is a bit short. Weighing in at just over 35 minutes, the album is not quite long enough to sink into. Other than that, this is well worth checking out.

Enya: Amarantine

 Posted by Donovan Tate (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 07 2006
Artist: Enya
Title: Amarantine
Format: CD
Label: Reprise Records
Distributor: Amazon
Rated: *****
The beautiful Irish new-age ethereal songstress, Enya, is back with another extraordinary tranquility atmospheric album that is a follow-up from her 2000 release "Only If". Like all her previous releases, she will take you on a magical and mystical journey where love serenes, the birds flying and chirping , the sky is blue and the clouds moving so freely across the sky, the sun's shining so bright, the moon is full and the night is dark and cold, you can hear crickets and other insects noises close by and miles away, children laugh and play, taking a strode by the river and sea and listening to it sing, lovers embrace one another, the snow and rain falling from the sky, a moment of being sadden because of a lost love or saying a long goodbye to a dear friend who you may not see for awhile. So many times I've listened to this cd and laid in my bed listening to it and went to sleep like a child. I felt so calm and hynotized by Enya's beautiful trained vocals and harmonies. All 12 overwhelming emotional tracks are coaxed with the strength of happiness, sadness, loneliness, and lost. "Amarantine" is truly a passionate and compassionate dreamy and heart-warming album that shines and is polished majestically. Some music critics like Rolling Stone magazine criticized Enya for making the same type of music for years and a decade and not being challenged by doing something else different. Who cares what they think or say. Enya is the only recording artist who can sell 45 million records worldwide without touring. That my friends, shows you how well Enya can accomplish by winning hearts with her gifted voice what God gave her to use.Tracklistings:1. Less Than Pearl2. Amarantine3. It's In The Rain4. If I Could Be Where You Are5. The River Sings6. Long Long Journey7. Sumiregusa8. Someone Said Goodbye9. A Moment Lost10. Drifting11. Amid The Falling Snow12. Water Shows The Hidden Heart

BRIAN ENGLISH: Beyond words

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 30 2006
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Title: Beyond words
Format: CD
Label: Record Label (@)
Rated: *****
After Fluorescent Grey and Sote another cd with the Record Label trademark and it’s actually well done, thus I'm taking into consideration this label has an high profile. Mr. English’ electronic music is not weird/unconventional like the releases we've already reviewed from this label, but he probably doesn't even care, electronic for the electronic?...maybe, but he likes good melodies too and it all make the record accessible to a wide crowd of listeners. I've read Brian has a large collection of sounds he captured here and there but don't expect it to be an experimental release or else you'd be dissatisfied. "Beyond words" is based on soft rhythms far from being too fast or even worse obsessive, but the emphasis is mainly concentrated on song-structure and melody, according with these basic informations the end result is far from cold electronic music fixed on being the coolest Autechre replica of the block. This salsa has a soft Eighties savour that can recall some Mix Master Morris’ masterpieces but you hear the cd has been produced now, even if another name that I've been thinking was dear ol’ Plaid. This label has still to find its own outsider but it's again a good release.

Akiko Grace (Bill Laswell): Illume

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 25 2006
Artist: Akiko Grace (Bill Laswell)
Title: Illume
Format: CD
Label: J room Jazz
Distributor: Columbia Japan
Rated: *****

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Among other things and other great musicians, Japan offers a long list of outstanding young female jazz and clasically-trained piano players that enjoy a pretty big following in their own country but often also come to New York to soak in and breath in that unique mixture of air made of ambitious sky-is-the-limit entrepreneurial attitude, yellow-cab gas emissions, great musicianship and awesome collaborations. A good example of that is Akiko Grace, who continues to collect praise and kudos from fans mostly in Japan but also overseas and who therefore can afford to collaborate with ground-breaking and genre-defying pioneer musicians and composers such as Bill Laswell, who takes these piano-only recording to a whole new level with his expertise and taste.
"illume"'s ten pieces are enriched by textured layers of rapturing electronics and electric bass parts that sneak into these sophisticated arrangements as if they were part of a greater scheme of things, with the same grace and unobtrusive elegance of all the other ethereal and floating soundscapes constructed around her performances.
With the exception of one track where Akiko Grace sings a whispery part, "Illume" is an instrumental record featuring gorgeous piano ballads who fly on the wings of Laswell's ubiquitous electronic approach.
A truly beautiful record.

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