Reviews 1-15-2017

Music Reviews 



Muzikhala Michael Bruckner album cover


by Michael Brückner

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Wow, this wealthily packaged triplet looks to me as one of the most challenging releases Michael Brückner has ever self-released. You almost won't believe this is "only" a 3 pro CDr release with gorgeously designed 6-panel digipak with additional 6-page foldout insert featuring extensive liner notes about the history of "Muzikhala". A true visual bliss is delivered here, well-done, Michael!!! This triple album is out since the end of May 2016 in a limited first edition of 50 copies.

"Muzikhala" is taken from the Chichewa language, which is spoken in African countries Zambia and Malawi, and it means serenity. And that's exactly how this long immersing odyssey unfolds. Long-form "Muzikhala - Part 1 (The Aeronaut)", running to 78 minutes, sweeps the listener's ears with subtle cascades of warmly spacious washes, enriched here and there by assorted, delicately interacting cyber-biotic subtleties and intangibly poignant bass reflections. Gracefully ethereal choir-like blankets clandestinely sneak in and guard above, while translucent piano notes silently permeate as well. The journey relentlessly meanders from soothingly embracing horizons to splendidly majestic immenseness, from mildly ear-titillating mesmerizing vistas to illuminating, tribal-infused passages, from spiritedly ringing percolations to cybernetic vocoder obfuscations. The overall flow of this long composition is refreshingly colorful and masterfully reinforced by magnificently lithe arrangements. So no matter if sonorously engrossing or melodiously tranquilizing, this is certainly a really strong, tour de force ambient recording by Michael Brückner! Bravo!!!

The second disc, comprised of 5 longer tracks clocking from 12 to 22 minutes, starts with "Bem Betél", which precisely merges panoramic washes with crystallinely tinkling quietudes, then metamorphosing into more massive, yet transitory zones, before delving deeply into Middle East fragranced percussive terrains. Sensual rhythm-charged ethno perfumes meet exquisitely vellicate tapestries and sinuously riding solitudes. A blazing sonic elixir! "Reanimation (Zoom In)" dives straightly into ambiguously unfathomable depths, where rather flatlined driftscapes are fastidiously brightened by ephemeral gossamer fragments, gurgling dissonances, longing glimpses and bizarrely faunal peeps (maybe seagulls?), while afterwards evocatively balmier Berlin School layers inconspicuously emanate from the void and safely guide through a maze of paths. Another top-notcher although strongly contrasting against its predecessor. "Muzikhala - Part 2 (The City Planners)", the longest piece on this CD, incorporates twisted cosmic meridians coupled with stringed flickers. Then metamorphosing into rhythmed factory-driven labyrinth and again returning into more spatial zones, enthrallingly euphonious, yet augmented by an array of cyber-tech traceries. "The Vishnoor Incident" attracts with slightly sharper rhythms thrown into an subterranean grotto, while later transmogrifying into intenser, sequencer-propelled adventure. "Drowning", as indicated by its title, moves into calmer and deeper terrains albeit bridged with pervading sequences, ear-tickling droplets, yearning glimmers and cinematic climaxes. A really nice ending to this 77 and a half minutes long ride!

"Muzikhala - Part 3 (The Rift)" is a 76-minute composition masterfully winding through extensive variety of territories, ranging from amorphously droning to galactically rumbling, from cybernetically transcendental to serpentinely intriguing, from diaphanously elegant to effulgently galloping, from ethereally engulfing to enigmatically spellbinding. An all-inclusive cosmic odyssey fully blossoms here and exhibits Michael's tremendously creative potential within this particular, vintage-infused style of spacemusic. This third part splendidly wraps up the whole story!

"Muzikhala" 3xCDr is a real winner by Michael Brückner, both musically and visually!!! And kudos go also to Mathias Brüssel, who was already Michael's partner in crime on extensive "Ondes Intergalactiques". This time he is credited for his guest appearance (guitar, slide guitar, additional keyboards and drum programming) on three parts of "Muzikhala". Michael Brückner's composing flexibility is just amazing, but when it goes to my rather zealous die-hard ambient taste, then "Muzikhala" is definitely among my most esteemed recordings by this German soundexplorer. And "Muzikhala - Part 1 (The Aeronaut)" could be a magnum opus!!! Before I forget, for all those who prefer digital version of "Muzikhala", be prepared for extra 4 and a half hours (!!!) of recordings featuring mostly the original early versions. And that's a hell of a lot of space journeying!!! It's quite obvious for such prolific artist that several other albums have landed in the meantime like self-released "The Giant Illusion" (a double compilation), "Trois Briques" on SynGate or a live document by Tommy Betzler & Michael Brückner (featuring Sammy David and Fryderyk Jona) "Triplet" (CD+DVD), which is out now on Groove Unlimited. Join the odyssey now!

Reviewed by Richard Gürtler (Jan 05, 2017, Bratislava, Slovakia)


Central Plateau Alargo album cover

Central Plateau

by Alargo

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Alan Brown, a respected jazz pianist based in Auckland, New Zealand, who has joined ambient community during 2015 with his piano-infused debut "Silent Observer", has in the meantime joined his creative, this time electronic-driven forces with fellow renowned jazz trumpeter, tubist and wind instrumentalist Kingsley Melhuish and gave birth to Alargo project. With a quite extensive schedule of live performances during 2015 and 2016 on their credit, at the end of November 2016 their debut CD entitled "Central Plateau" has landed. Released via Pacific Echoes, which I believe is their own label, "Central Plateau" album comes in a catchy 4-panel eco wallet designed by Alan Brown with cover photographs provided by Angus McNaughton, who is also the mastering engineer behind this recording. Additional credits go to P.W. Streekstra (recording, mixing), Mike McMinn (recording assistance) and Christopher John (band photography). 

The album unfolds with the title 8-minute composition "Central Plateau", which delves deeply into gorgeously vast cinematic horizons, when meticulously coalescing soothingly introspective expansive meanders, delicately permeated here and there by gossamery fragments, with utterly poignant trumpet evocativeness, wandering from engrossingly wide-screen to queerly ephemeral. An equilibrium of embrace is in full bloom, what a beauty!!! A Hall of Fame composition and an ultimate balsam for my mind and body!!! Bravo, gentlemen, and more please!!! The next piece "Scratch It", which clocks to a 10-minute mark, is a quite distinctive cup of tea comparing to its predecessor. On this composition Kingsley Melhuish exhibits his unconventional approach to wind instrumentality, when bridging his minimal, yet flamboyantly colored experiments with intangibly hissing monochromatic solitaries and nuancing eerie layers riding above. There are all kinds of minimal barks and peeps, sort of "drive nuts" endeavors, but also slowly ascending, more massive dissonant curtains. If I am right, it's the pervasion of conch shells' calls and drones that add a truly transcendental feel to some passages of this bizarrely sculpted sonic mindscape. Although it's not mentioned on the sleeve, I have noticed this composition is dedicated to Philip Dadson, who was one of the prime creative souls on New Zealand's alternative scene as the leading figure behind From Scratch ensemble. "Actopia" runs over 17 and a half minutes and it's again a totally different story. Actually, it unfolds with longing poetic quietudes reinforced by gently fizzling blankets, persistent bass undulations and evocative quena glimpses and vestiges, but after about 5 minutes first chameleonic metamorphose appears and the track shifts into galloping synthetic downtempo paths magnified by trumpet whistles, shrills and filigrees. During 11th minute another transition follows and the composition glides back into serenely encircling drone sceneries embellished by tuba-like murmurs and elusive diaphanous chinks. The closing part mutates into more monolithic panoptic stratum amplified by primordial rumblings, percussive patterns and Suzuki Andes cravings (unique kind of flute/pan pipe/keyboard instrument), all clandestinely surrounded by phantasmal meridians. An adventurously enthralling conclusion indeed!!! 

Yeah, the track selection on "Central Plateau" is a quite dazzling, it certainly showcases the potential of this crafted Kiwi duo, because Kingsley Melhuish and Alan Brown strikingly commingle their talents and distinguishably amalgamate acoustic virtuosity, both evocative and twisted, with balmy and wiggly electronic canvas. It's a pity the album clocks only to 35 and a half minutes, because its challenging arrangements, attractive packaging and a glass mastered format would deserve extra one or two tracks. In this case both protagonists would be able to demonstrate their undisputable artistry even more. However, this is my only complain. Otherwise, bravo, Kingsley & Alan, you can be really gratified for what you have achieved with this exciting debut release!!! This is the way to go, keep the fire burning!!!

Reviewed by Richard Gürtler (Jan 06, 2017, Bratislava, Slovakia)