Michael Thomas Berkley:Images from Earth

ber-ife.jpg Michael Thomas Berkley:Images from Earth
(Numinous Records - 1998)

When it comes to his subject matter, you've gotta give Michael Thomas Berkley high points for ambitiousness. His CD, Images from Earth is a musical interpretation of the earth's 4,600,000,000 year evolution, and beyond.

The earth awakens, at Dawn in the Year 0, on a synth and string drift with distant, tribal beats . Tectonics begins on a similarly quiet note, then drastically whips into a more active new age/lite jazz style with a forceful synth lead. At 2:32, this is the shortest "era". Haunted in the Clouds features wafting/waning sound clouds all underpinned by steady percussion.

Thunder announces The Birth of Rain which swirls in a miasma of sound before the trickling synth notes begin their steady pitter-patter. Primitive percussion and and a sweeping choral-styled background drive the track, which ends rather suddenly (especially for a rainstorm). For the longest time (well, 7:31...), we are Suspended in the Womb, where slow, sparse piano notes echo and flow through an embryotic fluid. Definitely more in an "ambient-as-we-know-it" vein and reminiscent of Harold Budd perhaps. Ethnic clay drum beats provide grounding for the growth of the Liquid Canopy

Again opening on a quiet note, Dinosaurs grows and evolves by way of percussion and wailing violin. Though powerful, the track, to me, doesn't evoke awesome thunder lizards. Wave on Wave refers to the steady flow of mammalian lifeforms which follow the dinosaurs. Their musical representation includes more violin, chiming synth notes and wailing female vocals. With all the polish (albeit nicely-rendered), I'm not getting an animalistic feeling here. Oh oh... now the trouble begins (for the planet, that is)... It's The Emergence of Man. More ethnic beats and lead synth mixes occasional chanting, creating a nicely darker mood.

Humanity too, begins quietly, then is infiltrated by piano, sorrowful violin and eventually womanly singing. The arrangement is sparser than some of the previous pieces, though borders on maudlin. Between Terror and Hope notes that the planet is at the mercy of a single species. An apocalyptic ecology lecture is interwoven with a haunting mix of chorus and drift.

In the forecast, it sounds like thunder and rain... Beyond closes the disc with soft, atmospheric sound effects and quietly reverberating piano.

If I were to slap a genre onto Images from Earth, it would be New Age rather than Ambient due to instrumentation and structure. But I've still got to raise a Thumb for its well-done execution and scope.

This review posted October 31, 1998

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