Music Reviews



Weingarten - Charlton: Where There is Light

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 27 2016
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Artist: Weingarten - Charlton (@)
Title: Where There is Light
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Now this is something- a collaboration between guitarist Carl Weingarten and (Steinway) pianist Catherine Marie Charlton in an ambient excursion titled 'Where There is Light'. Not only a guitarist and a photographer but also the founder of Multiphase Records and the short-lived 80's band Delay Tactics, Weingarten employs acoustic and electric guitars, dobro, loops, delay and effects on this recording. Charlton has released numerous solo piano albums since 2000, some of them award-winning. If you're expecting this to sound like some Harold Budd/Robert Fripp collaboration it isn't exactly that, but in places you might be tempted to think so. For one thing, Weingarten's guitar style is different than Fripp's and more understated here. Charlton's piano is more impactful and not gauzy and submerged like Budd's, yet much attention given to spatiality. There is also the addition of Windham Hill house bassist Michael Manring in places, a seasoned musician quite adept at this kind of collaboration who supports and fortifies the ambiance rather than detracts from it. Throughout the eight tracks on the album there is a pervasive aura of melancholy, but it's a beautiful sort of melancholy that puts one in a reflective mood. These artists seem to mesh perfectly combining their talents in an improvisational tapestry that is simultaneously unobtrusive yet engaging; a real delight to experience. I think this team will find much favor among electro-acoustic ambient enthusiasts and hopefully more will be forthcoming from them.

Matthew Stewart: A World Bathed in Sunlight

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 27 2016
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Artist: Matthew Stewart (@)
Title: A World Bathed in Sunlight
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
It doesn't bode well when I get a "Forbidden: Access Denied" error message when attempting to visit an artist's website to get more information on said artist, especially if that artist has just put out his debut release. Hopefully Mr. Stewart will get that problem resolved soon. So all I really have to go on is Spotted Peccary's one-sheet from which I'll quote a little. "The album is a musical chronicle of a fictional story I've had in my mind," explains Stewart. "The literal story arc follows the destruction of earth, the escape of a few seeds of humanity, and the discovery of a new world." Kind of a generic sci-fi plot I suppose, but it's the music we're really interested in, not the story per-se. Stewart executes this undertaking with guitar, bass, synthesizers, drums and percussion programming, and most prominent- piano, and the only vocal is an atmospheric wordless one by Deborah Martin on one track.

Opening with the title track, a wistful, romantic piano-dominated theme with a nice melody and just the right amount of orchestration from synths and percussion, you should get a pretty good idea of what you're in for. As the journey continues, synth orchestration grows fuller and more lush, and there is an emotive quality that can't be denied. Still, overall I get the general impression of placidity as opposed to adventure, and in that regard it's kind of disappointing. Instead of being super-cinematic, the music on 'A World Bathed in Sunlight' falls more into the grandiose New Age category, and piano passages wouldn't be out of step with Jim Brickman, David Lanz, Michael Nyman and John Tesh. Still, if you like that kind of music, Matthew Stewart's debut might just be your cup of tea. I will probably play this occasionally in my bookstore where it won't ruffle any customer feathers.

Dronny Darko: Spira Igneus

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 27 2016
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Artist: Dronny Darko (@)
Title: Spira Igneus
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
This new release by Dronny Darko is another statement of how a label as Cryo Chamber choose their releases with sound quality in mind. When liner notes state that "massive deep drone builds momentum as reality cracks open to reveal the darkness of the void", there's a sense of exaggeration that is suddenly erased as the disc begins and the first seconds of the first track show a real craft.
While the first part of "Scriptures" is made out of thick drone, the second one reveals subtle sounds, perhaps samples or field recordings, hidden in the mix. "Rotten Orchestra" intertwines deep basses with quiet meditative moments while "White Eyes" use even noisy moments, as an SW radio, to create a real dynamics and "Three Rulers" reveals a circular structure as it starts quietly to evolve in a deep mass of sound to return to a quiet environment. "Endless Cave" uses the soundscape to underline the sparse sounds emerging during the development of the track. "Forbidden Wisdom" is apparently static as it unfolds small nuances during his duration. "Grey Echoes" closes this release featuring long notes instead of drones over an evocative soundscape.
This is those kind of release that is completely based on carefully chosen sound manipulations that could be so imperceptible in a noisy environment as charming in proper listening environment. It could be structurally derivative in his musical writing but the sound production is so overwhelming to stand upon the best releases from this label. Recommended if using headphones.

Isothesis: Stern Und Opium

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 24 2016
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Artist: Isothesis
Title: Stern Und Opium
Format: CD
Label: Steelkraft Manufactory (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of this French artist, but this makes sense when the only other release was a limited edition from almost a decade ago. According to the press sheet, “Isothesis produces deep dronescapes and sound sculptures, ever evolving noise starred pieces, halfway between improvisation and thought structures. "Stern und Opium" is a long term process, a digestion of field recordings and synthetic sources melted into rich and evolving sonic textures. Its compositional approach includes micro and macro structures, blended to create a profound organic feel. This record focuses on ambiances and evocative soundscapes, revealing unique and cinematographic atmospheres.” Fair enough; let’s get into it. “Stern” opens up the disc with the sound of plate tectonics at work. Rocks crumble and crack before all is quiet in a sea of peaceful drone. But all is not still here; rumbling bass undercurrents remind us at times of what we just went though. Next up is “Opium.” If the title is meant to evoke a kind of peaceful, hallucinatory state, it succeeds well. This is a 33 minute kaleidoscope of calm, slowly shifting, swirling done. This is really mellow, but there is a lot going on here with multiple layers coalescing into each other. Overall, this is well worth picking up, but you’ll want to get on it because it is limited to 100 copies. This album weighs in at around 42 minutes.

An Infinity Room: White On White

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 24 2016
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Artist: An Infinity Room (@)
Title: White On White
Format: Tape
Label: A Guide To Saints (@)
Rated: *****
The first thing I'd think about when speaking of white on white is...onion! I'd take this wonderful vegetable as a starting point to describe this interesting output by Australian sound artist and composer Julian Day's durational project An Infinity Room. Actually the only similarity against onions is the juxtaposition of somehow distinguishable layers and their "concentric convergence", where the homogenous layers are pure tones (despite its title, I perceived no white noises in the three tracks of "White On White"), which got gradually piled till they generate aural illusions, and the center of such a convergence is listener's ear. No real similarities with other feature of an onion, as far as the psychoacoustic experiment, aimed to render "rooms within rooms" according to Julian own words, won't infer tears of ecstatic joy during the listening experience, he provided. The delicate flow he renders over the three tracks (two of them - "Intercessions" and "Void", my favorite one - last more than 40 minutes, while the central piece - wisely named "Rhetoric" - I'd like to think he found some matching between the embellished emptiness of rhetoric and his sound art -) are aimed to explore the intimate nexus between perception and environment and are fundamentally based on psychoacoustics principles of illusions, rendered by layering of similar or identical frequencies. Tones of the three tracks, composed and recorded in Sidney, are played by identical keyboards, but Julian wisely exploits the illusion of "movement" or variation that can be reached if they got played in unison. Good speakers and an aptly sized space to play them are recommended to enhance these refined drone-like outputs (strictly on tape).


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