Music Reviews

VV.AA: The Dreams of Gaia

 Posted by Julia Soultanova (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 12 2003
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Artist: VV.AA
Title: The Dreams of Gaia
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Earth Ear Record (@)
The double disc published by Earth Ear Records is in fact two separate products - the sampler of ecological music and the collection of various texts. Attempts to understand the mysteries of nature as well as to get to the underworld of the Earth and civilization form the basis for each one of them, but also trying to show the links between all living things via acoustic media. I recommend to patiently read everything that's written in the booklet if you are willing to listen to this sampler. The hypnotic, unobtrusive and tangible poetry of John Luther Adams helps you to tune in emotionally to the music. The introductory text by Jim Cummings accentuates the necessary elements and provides the obligatory context, which helps to understand the meaning behind the music. The quotations from different authors featured on the sampler reveal their common ideology, which lies in understanding the world in all its wholeness, dynamics and complex interconnections via the sonic experience. The briefly explained View of Gaia is the result of merging various conceptions about the essence and meaning of the creative work of "the sound sculptors". It's an important part that leads to understanding THE DREAMS OF GAIA in all its wholeness. There's no point in telling you about all virtues of this wonderful booklet, I can only stress that this information will not burden you, will not complicate the process of listening. Quite the opposite - it will enrich your perception directing it along the path of the highest delight.

To be able to move in space without leaving your seat is one of the most important advantages that the art is able to give you. This is also true about music. Especially that kind of music which IS space itself - space in its sonic form. THE DREAMS OF GAIA takes you on journeys whose trajectories cross many different corners of the world - North and South America, Africa, Europe, Siberia, Australia and Antarctica. Megalopolises and national parks, deserts and glaciers, moorlands and meadows - all are kind tributaries of this single sonic river.

The main intrigue in DREAMS OF GAIA is that the objects are not visible, their presence only indicated by sounds and we are free to build our own associations, to imagine landscapes, time and... ourselves. By surrendering to our own imagination we will be able to change the state we're in. The hints provided by the devotees of "natural audio" will find their own continuation within us, revealing our own human connection with everything that exists both materially and sensually.

The flow of a river, the splashing of waterfalls, the whooshing of wild duck's wings, the screaming of hunchback whales and the rumbling of gorillas, the chirring of water insects, the whispering of a forest, the crackle and rustling of its dwellers, the neighing of horses, the wailing of sirens, the noise of highways, human speech and laugh and the slightly perceivable breath of wind - everything seems to be fixed, the fragments are taken out of reality and built into full compositions. So, where does the feeling of something mythically mysterious that permeates each composition comes from when we know that all source material is quite mundane? The blind man, suddenly recovering his sight on a gloomy evening somewhere on the darkish edge of town will probably find everything that surrounds him to be extremely colorful. For a dull ear the simplicity of everyday sounds seems like a supernatural revelation. And we can only repeat the words of Jim Cummings "Thanks to the sound". But even greater gratitude must go to those who scrupulously discovers and collects the sounds, "opens" our ears and conducts us to the wealthy universe which is often left unnoticed by us. There are works of 19 different authors on this disc, including such masters of natural sound as Bernie Krause, Gordon Hempton and Walter Tilgner along with other non-ordinary artists of sonic space.

David Rothenberg & Douglas Quin: Before the War

 Posted by Julia Soultanova (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 11 2003
Artist: David Rothenberg & Douglas Quin
Title: Before the War
Format: CD
Label: Earth Ear Record (@)
There's something utterly symbolic in the fact that I got this CD in the beginning of March when the war in Iraq was about to begin and people's feelings all over the world were boiling hard while all thoughts revolved around that approaching catastrophe which was just one of the many events in the history of mankind.

David Rothenberg and Douglas Quin offer their own vision of the lost Eden on BEFORE THE WAR. It's not fruitless "yearning for innocence", though. It's an attempt to find that "painful point" where the natural flow of things is interrupted and the world is submerged in the depth of chaos. The war is the main drama but possibly the most intricate and painful experience is the prelude to war. Agonizing wait, oppressive numbness, confusion, inscrutability of the reality, tension in soul, and, as a protective reaction - carelessness and longing for one-minute delights, blindly following the life-loving nature of man - it's all there, within ten stylish, laid-back jazz compositions. The artificial beauty adds to the natural one and gives relief to this soft and melodic sound painting. The open topics - our world, people and the nature - everything transforms and becomes intimate by means of the personal and expressively restrained playing.

As was stated by the creators of the album, the leitmotif of BEFORE THE WAR is the nostalgia. This leitmotif doesn't allow confusion to creep in and helps to retain the clear perception of the geographic kaleidoscope found on this CD. Zimbabwe, Algeria, Karelia, Sweden and Lebanon - all are perceivable in that way or other. These were the places where the musicians - David Rothenberg and Douglas Quin - took their inspiration from, either indirectly - by using native acoustic timbres and musical stylistics, or directly - by reciting (narrated by David Rothenberg) the facts about tragic moments in the life of various corners of the world. Wonderful instrumental passages of David Rothenberg (clarinet, keyboards), Bill Douglas (bass, flutes) and Russ Gold (percussion) surround the hypnotic samples of wild life and human voices from Alaska, Madagascar, Costa-Rica, Kenya and Brazil, all collected by Douglas Quin. The fifth composition called "Karelian Night" deserves special attention. Here we can hear the only appearance of Mari Jarvinen. Jouhikko (Finnish bow instrument with three strings) was brought to life in her hands. We can also hear her crystal voice which can only be called disarming, that gave the composition completeness and deep lyricism.

Earth Ear Records that has released this album as always doesn't leave the listener embarrassed. The disc comes with an extensive booklet, from which you can learn the real situation that provoked the appearance of this album, as well as the methods and principles, upon which musicians built their improvisations, the conceptual basis of their creative work.

MOAN: Clear your consciousness

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 02 2003
Artist: MOAN (@)
Title: Clear your consciousness
Format: CD
Label: AFE Records (@)
One very long track (43') of top-notch dark ambient from this Polish artist (with other records on Soulworm), released by AFE on a limited run of 100 copies. Rafal Sadej/Moan takes the classic - and ultra-abused - "The Monstrous Soul"/"The place where the black stars hang" sound but manages to build a remarkable work of ultra-heavy drones, subterrean rumblings, hidden melodies and disappearing swirls. Perfectly balanced, it mesmerizes you but keeping you awake and alert at the same time. Excellent sound, and an uncommon control on the dosing of patterns and atmospheres. Since this was recorded back in 2001, I can't wait to listen to his upcoming new work which will soon be released by AFE. A pity that the layout is a bit flat and unattractive, because this is truly a little jewel.

COMA DIVINE: # 10110

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 02 2003
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Artist: COMA DIVINE (@)
Title: # 10110
Format: CD EP
Both Coma Divine members, C768 and Nox, also belong to Weltschmerz (one of the few good dark acts in Italy - see archive for reviews of their last work on Eibon, "Capitale de la Douleur"), respectively on drums and keyboards; in Coma Divine the former switches to "software, processing and noise search". Born in 2001, C.D. now debut with this self-released cd-r (with good pro-printed layout) offering 8 tracks for 23' - an uncommonly short length for the genre, but a good sign since they keep their music tense and to the point. 8 movements, or rather fragments, of obsessive dark ambient drones, at times verging on industrial for the heaviness of their textures. Clean keyboard patterns mixed with heavily processed samples, probably even some mangled field recordings. All sounding very digital and cold. The result is pretty good, though at times I craved for something more organic and distinctive - but a good debut nonetheless, let's say it's in the vein of Bestia Centauri, or Acherontia Styx to stay in Italy.

Chandeen: Echoes

 Posted by KlingKlangBedlam   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 28 2003
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Talking to Harald, the mastermind of Chandeen, on my messenger last week, he told me this CD would be a good bit more organic than "Bikes And Pyramids". So naturally, I didn’t expect another pop journey, given that and Harald’s massive palate of musical skills (hence my nickname for him, "Der PopMusikMeister"). The CD takes a much more classical approach to the Chandeen formula, yet still has that same beautiful kind of wave undertone. And Antje’s vocals are solo this time, no longer accompanied by Stephanie’s harmonious pipes. But that also helps give this CD it’s emotional edge, as the music would not quite mix in with dual vocals. It would simply overwhelm such delicate and fragile melodies, which are to be the full cast of actors, not hiding behind a curtain of vocals. Many ethereal groups make that mistake, yet Chandeen did their homework not to fall into it. Antje’s vocals have also improved, as if there was much more improvement needed! The more laid back tone of this music gives her more power to show off her real vocal talent, which is an effortless flow from key to key. It’s as if she sings scales on a wavelength rather than having to divide notes and separate them. And not one crack in her voice to be heard! Her voice is perfection, like a wine aged through centuries and centuries.Much of the keyboard work of "Bikes And Pyramids" you’ll notice has been replaced by piano and guitar, with the subtle keyboard-aided backdrop breezing on by like a playful ember on a cool spring wind. It could be safe to say Harald has learned his fair share of instruments through the years, and has perfected the one man band style (well one man if you take out vocals). The style reminds me of his Lowy/Javelin project gone through a classical filter, with a touch of Opeth’s folk moments. Literary fans will notice a song version of Edgar Allen Poe’s "A Dream Within A Dream" (oh if only Poe were alive he’d be a happy 160 year old man hearing this haha), as well as song versions of William Blake and Oscar Wilde. Could this get any better??!?! Well, if Anne Sexton poems were on there, but eh you can’t ask for the world you know ;-). Plus her poems would be a bit gruesome for this. Pretty solid CD throughout, as well as any of Lowy’s works.Rating: 10.

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