bigover.gif Ahhh... a return to Springtime at the AmbiEntrance, and we're awash in an April shower of sounds... a rather wide variety means there's bound to be something pleasing to your own ears here... check 'em out!

Acts Magdalena: Acts Magdalena   (Zombie Florist Records - 1999) (7.8)
Have to hang the old "non-ambient content" warning on this 5-song ep... The densely swirling organ drones (actually peformed on bass) and guitar thrums of Elliptical Mind's Eye (7:07) provide a fog through which Christian Merry's vocals slice, originating in a bit of a retro-rock sound. Christian's sweet tones roughen as the track builds... the angel has a dark side... until she's snarling as if channeling Beelzebub directly through her vocal chords. Other tracks (The Only Thing, The Bridge and bass-powered ballad Wasteland) don't take such extreme measures, instead rocking in entrancing neo-psychedelic bliss flourished with rich tones of voice.

Serpentining bass and sweltering guitar waves are pelted with determined drumbeats in Bullet (2:57), another soul-scorching hair-raiser from Merry. If one weren't actively seeking this type of sound, they might be overwhelmed; whereas if one were seeking monstrous female vocalizations (and actually more less-aggressive stylings as well), they'd certainly find it here. E-mail Acts Magdalena for more info and/or read an article here.

Koji Asano: Preparing for April   (Solstice - 2000) (7.8)
The only treatment these dextrous piano meanderings receive is a low-fi recording technique. No beats, electronics, etc.... just nimble fingers, occasionally detouring into dissonant territories, but never losing site of the path. With numbers instead of names, 1 (3:37) leaps right into this purposely low-tech recording as densely sustained notes spiritedly roll and reverberate from an acoustic piano. Jazzier free-form explorations imbue the (again dense) soundwaves of 2 with a lively, sometimes noisy, sense of motion. The false starts and stops and the spacious notes of 6 (27:35) readily reveal the non-silence between notes in the form of tape recorder hum or room buzz.

While I can appreciate the skill involved and the non-traditionally "natural" recording, Preparing for April isn't really something that just anyone would sit and listen to exactly, but when you take it in like a documentary of the creative act (with dead-end trials-and-errors, clinkers and all) it seems to make more sense... or consider it as an audio-voyeuristic ear on a monophonic practice session. Check out the Solstice website to see Koji's evergrowing catalog of experiments in sound and music.

Bunker Soldier: Innuendo   (Neo-Cultural Front - 1999) (8.0)
Hardworking electrogothrockers Bunker Soldier fire a salvo of synth, guitar and drum tunes... some hit and some miss, though cover a fairly wide territory. Put a whirl in your dervish with the faux Arabic riff which chimes through my favorite, Break the Ice, pumped up by bass-heavy industrial-strength guitar and drum accompaniment. Vocals (courtesy of Tony Greene) appear with Come to Me, though add little to the darkly thumping mix. Frankly, I'm not too inspired by the vocal tracks (which songwriter Tim Tyran also sings), but then again, I'm not much of a "vocals" guy. Slash and Burn exchanges assaultive force for a softer, though sinister mood.

I do particularly dig the surf guitar vibe of instrumental Innuendo (2:56), cool beach tunes for the undead. For being the longest piece, the next track, Amazon Girl (4:36), probably accomplishes the least with its banal lyrics. Overall though, I appreciate Bunker Soldier's tenacious war effort, despite a few duds. Listen with your own ears at this Bunker Soldier website, or this one, or even at this one.

Cihan: Music of the Spheres   (Cihan Barris - 1999) (8.1)
How to describe the electronic music of Cihan Baris? It's a bit too energetic to be called "dreamy", but not quite beaty enough to be called "dancy"... too musical to be "abstract" yet too free-flowing to be called "formulaic"... actually, this four-song 19-minute self-produced ep reveals a sweet blend of all those things. fragile's chipper bleeps and lush sweeps receive a dose of rhythmic effects and steady syncopation.

T he serious keyboard noodling and bass pulse of that was too soft are accented with amusing spoken samples and mid-tempo rhythmic effects. A slower pace runs through 17342, though plenty of inventiveness abounds. All in all, only a taste, but very nicely done. Hear with your own ears at Cihan's mp3 page.

David Hastings: Electric Cafe   (Broad Vista - 2000) (8.1)
I'm happy to report the sounds which fill (19 tracks in 73'54") the Electric Cafe aren't nearly as cheezy as the cover art (which as a graphic designer frightened me with yellow and pink Broadway font...). Hastings approaches his music in an improvisational style, freeflowing with arpeggios and multiple layers of analog and digital sounds. Almost hidden in a speedily progressing stream, the joyous musicality somewhat furtively slips between cascading tonal showers, steadily percolating rhythms, energetic sequencing and decidedly crisp "early-electronics" feel of these pieces.

Laced with prancing chitters, whistles, beats and a certain islandic flair, Day of the Decaffe (5:53) leaps right into spritely freeform synthtunes. Hazily dancing e-piano notes and non-intrusive beats shine through Yo Grabo. Faux tribal flourishes adorn the rippling crystalline keyboarding of African Awakening, underscored by several other layers of sound. Twinkling stringsounds glint through the subdued rhythms of The Road to Rancho Forsako.

There's alot going on within these sparkling electronic compositions, so much in fact as to almost seem chimingly repetitious; while no two tunes are alike, most aren't that different either, i.e. short runner St. Angie's Eve (2:00) glistens just as harmoniously as most of its predecessors. Still... these pieces, while generally overt in their musical nature, manage to magically swirl into a unique ambient listening experience. Samples are available at the Broad Vista website.

I saw it all happen from beginning to end and sometimes I still can't believe what I saw: Life Everlasting, Amen   (Firework Editions - 2000) (8.1)
With this intriguing bit of audio-expoloratory surgery, I'm into the concept more than the actual listening experience. Commenting on the critical condition of the medical system is fine and worthwhile, but I'm afraid not just anyone might listen to a 68-minute recording of mechanically respirating breathing apparatus. Sure, once you're in it's "natural" in-and-out rhythm of hums, clicks and faraway bleeps, it has a sort of subtle industrial appeal. Barely noticable pattern breaks become apparent and possible electronics may appear... once hypnotized, it's hard to tell... though toward its end though, the respiration stops, and everything locks into a densely thrumming drone and blip/glitch mode (which gives way to an annoying stop/start climax. The other 10 minutes 24 minutes revisit the respirator, with additional, very obvious (often downright noisy) alterations.

I'm all for thoughtful, thematic works, but I'm also into more "listenable" listening. Those more firmly into mechanical/medical audio-appreciation may get more out of it than me certainly. (Additionally mysterious: the track times are listed in negative numbers and completely throw off my CD player as far as correctly reading the time elapsed, etc...)

Roach/Burmer/Braheny: Western Spaces   (Chameleon - 1987) (8.4)
With slow tribal beats and sensuous synth drifts, The Breathing Stone presents a listen into Steve Roach's formative emergence into his "trademark" sounds, though topped with overtly twinkling belltones. With atmospheric strings and textures, Burmer's beautiful A Story From The Rain still carries a sense of majesty and power. Though the sweet violin and delicate piano meanderings of Desert Prayer may seem a bit New Agey these days, Roach's flowing synth passages remain timelessly appealing. Across The View, though quite "nice", does conjure too many bad New Age memories.

Thom Brennan cowrites and joins in on the hypnotic (and dare I say, overlong) In The Heat Of Venus (22:45). The title track, featuring all three title artists, closes on lush strands of serenity which defy time and/or space.

Steve Roach: Quiet Music   (Fortuna - 1988) (8.8)
Steve Roach originally recorded these nine lush, shapeless hymns of serenity between 1983 and 1986 on three separate albums designed for aural healing. More than ten years later, Celestial Harmonies combined them into a double CD which delivers 142'32" of preternaturally tranquil soundwaves. Short runner Towards the Blue (3:29) dips and hovers with intermingling synth loops. Resonating strands serpentine around Something in Tears which is bathed in a thrumming energy field of pensive beauty. Evolving and revolving, Air and Light (32:11) cycle through organic patterns, slowly mixing like warm and cool air currents; listening is like stretching onto a comfortable blanket and watching the clouds transform in a bright sky.

Wafting in hushed tones and flutey swirls, CD 2's The Green Place is a more-than-half-hour-long electronic pastoral. Wrapped with floating waves and a renaissance style, the previously unreleased Quiet Canon proceeds as a buoyantly lilting ballroom dance. Just a gorgeous collection... about as peaceful as it gets.

Tony Stoufer: One Swell Foop   (absolute obscurity - 1999) (8.2)
Warm, sweet analog electronics are lovingly layered and impeccably arranged into light-yet-dense mixes which are heavy in a distinctively '70's vibe without actually going full-blown retro. With tropicana percussion tapping a steamy tattoo Particals of Light swings into a cheesy lounge groove (and don't get me wrong... cheese can be good, as evidenced here). Hazy guitar sounds drift across Nudie Suit which picks up a strutting bassline that could have been lifted from a 1977 stag film. Sustaining a cool progressive build-up, The Magnificent Catastrophy (6:17) mines the same semi-funky territories and is similarly somehow-antiseptic, as all-synthetic music can sometimes be.

More subdued, though powered by breaking beats, Artifacts detours into semi-tribal areas with wispy flute strands and a drippy rhythm. Smooth-yet-drummy No Direct Sun radiates at a leisurely pace with rippling guitar, blippy keyboarding and light piano explorations. The most experimental track is the closing piece, Politician's Love Song (2:18) in which distorted, muffled voices chant amid a binaurally panning clatter. Overall an impressively "swell" effort, if not pretty straightforward.

Indie Contact Bible   (Big Meteor Publishing - 2000)
Not music, but pertaining to independent music-makers of all shapes and sizes, the Indie Contact Bible is an encompassing promotional research tool. 311 pages compile lists of 3400 contacts... reviewers, radio stations, websites and more which are all about letting the independent musician be heard. This information is updated quarterly and available in electronic or hard-copy.

Posted April 29, 1999 | 1999/2000 Overviews Index

AmbiEntrance © 1999-97 by David J Opdyke (except CD cover art, rights retained by original owners).