by Mark Dwane
What I love about the music that is covered on Ambient
Visions is the diversity of what comes in to my PO Box and how great some of
the music turns out to be. Though the name of the site has the word ambient in
it I like to think that AV is open to many other types of instrumental music as
well. Mark Dwane’s CD 2012 is one of those albums that I liked from the first
and have grown fonder of with repeated listenings as each time through the
songs show me different aspects of the music or of the atmospheres that Mark
was able to create with this release. Mark is a fellow Ohioan who has been
making music since 1988 on guitar and midi-synths ever since. This project was
composed, performed and produced by Mark so his touch can be felt throughout
the music and that touch shows a skillful hand indeed.
One of my favorite songs on the CD is Codex (track 6) which
begins with a simple repeated sequence and the sound of rain in the background.
It builds ever so slowly and adds other instrumentation to augment the very
basic pattern that has been repeating to this point. The synth is added to give
it a smoother feel and then a more direct keyboard sound that still does not
overpower the other elements of the song but rather joins them in creating a
more complex palette of sounds to hold the listener’s attention. Mark does not
stop there with this song as about at the 4:30 point in the song drums are
added to bring the song up to another level entirely. Mark never lets the drums
overpower the basic vision of the song but rather lets them act to tie the
entire song together with a more vivid feel that offers a climatic point to the
music before drifting back down to the basic rhythm again and ending with just
the repeating sequence and the rain. This song is very well done and it shows
all too clearly that Mark is able to craft music that is effectively able to harmonize
the dramatic and the subtle elements of his music into single compositions with
That is not to say that all of Mark’s music will be as
subtle as Codex because another of my favorite tracks on this CD is Skywatchers
which is the second song on 2012. This song jumps right out at you with a very
catchy rhythm right from the start. From there it very quickly escalates into
synths, an acoustic guitar and finally into a soaring electric guitar solo that
rises above the other instrumentations to take the spotlight. This song is
another great piece of work by Mark and really shows off his capable guitar
playing and his production expertise as he weaves the instrumentation into an
impressive final mix.
As you may have guessed by the description many times Mark’s
music has more of a prog-rock feel to it than an ambient vibe. This is not a
bad thing but a good thing. There are ambient and space elements in Mark’s
music below the surface or even a little more obvious than that but there are
also very dramatic elements of prog-rock as well. 2012 consists of 7 songs that
are all varying degrees of those elements. The Sacred Tree is a little more
laid back with an acoustic guitar guiding you through the landscape along with
some voices and processed bird sounds that are interspersed in the music to
embellish the mellow feelings that the song generates in the listener. This
song has a steady rhythm but nothing that really dominates the song. It is
simply there to act as the canvas upon which the other elements of the song are
painted on by Mark.
Overall 2012 is a very enjoyable album and each song is an accomplishment in and of itself but when brought together into a single CD it takes the listener on a conceptual journey through the landscapes that Mark has skillfully created on this project. His storytelling is filled with elements that run the gamut from gentle and comforting to pulsing and soaring. There is an ebb and flow to the music that washes over the listener with dramatic elements and then eases back to more relaxing elements that caress and soothe the listener on their journey. I found that repeated listenings only enhanced how I felt about the music and added to my enjoyment of what Mark had created on 2012. With this release the listener will find a great CD filled with thoughtful, progressive and textured songs that will be sure to please anyone with a taste for music that showcases such a wide range of qualities. AV recommended CD.
Reviewed by Ambient Visions
by Dave Fulton and
Having been familiar with many of the Hypnos label releases
and expecting something similar on this release I was not prepared for what
awaited me on this new album from the duo of Dave Fulton and Giles Reaves on
the Hypnos/Binary release entitled The Range. Now granted my surprise was a
good surprise but a surprise nonetheless.
The music on The Range is not so easy to categorize as it blends many
elements from ambient, electronic and progressive rock music all into one
presentation that works quite well. This CD has been on the drawing boards for
about 4 years now with work being done via the internet since Dave and Giles
physically had some distance between them which necessitated a slower pace than
what would have been possible had they been physically a little closer to one
another. Add to that the fact that there were things going on in each of their
lives that brought further delays to the project and it becomes readily
apparent why it took 4 years to get this project finished. As I listened to
this CD the fact that it took 4 years to complete was not evident on any of the
tracks but instead the music seemed as cohesive and fresh as if these two
artists had started this effort last month instead of 4 years ago.
The CD is broken down into 4 parts according to the listing
of the tracks on the CD case. Part 1 is entitled Somedays Go On Forever and has
one song in this part. Part 2 is called The First Day and contains 3 songs.
Part 3 is called A Question of….. and contains 3 songs as well. Part 4 is
called The Long Walk Away and closes out the CD with another 3 songs giving
this CD a total of 10 tracks clocking in at 60 minutes. Musically the sections
seem to have themes that are brought out by
The CD opens in a similar way as to the way it closes with track
1 Endless Range and Time starting out by means of a few simple piano notes
echoing on the landscape along with a small number of electronic effects and
finally ending up with an electronic keyboard taking over while the piano still
floats above the entire piece in what seems like a loop that keeps it suspended
up there. This goes on right up to the point that the whole thing reaches a
crescendo that shifts the song into part 2 track 2 called Fascination where the
music steps into a progressive rock type piece with various great keyboard
pieces and features some first-rate drumming as well. All of this acts to keep the piece moving ahead
and adds to the stimulating feel of the song. I must admit that this is one of
my favorite songs from this CD and the more that I listen to it the more I
appreciate the complexities of all that is going on here.
The music on The Range is a dense soundscape that demands
focused attention from the listener but will reward them greatly when they dig
deeply into this refreshing world that
Reviewed by Ambient Visions
by Stephan Moccio
Although Canada’s Stephan Moccio has been writing songs for a very impressive list of superstars for years, “Exposure” is his debut as a solo artist. Moccio’s passionate and evocative composing and playing styles are accessible and easy to understand, but deepen and reveal new things with each listen. I fully expect “Exposure” to be on my favorite CDs list for the year. The twenty-two original piano solos came from a desire to capture a snapshot of the composer’s life so far, and Moccio says he “needed to return to the simplicity of the instrument I know best.” Lucky us, as listeners! I listen to a LOT of piano CDs, and this one has captivated me. The accompanying booklet with photos and brief poems about each piece makes this a most impressive package. Moccio’s music is very classical at times and more ambient at others, combining his classical and pop music backgrounds to appeal to a broad audience while keeping his unique musical voice. I loved “Exposure” the first time I heard it, and seems to get even better the more I listen to it.
Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions
A new album has been a long time coming from Norwegian musician Erik Wollo. His last work, Blue Sky, Red Guitars, dating back to 2004 is the only one I was familiar with until now. In comparison to its predecessor Elevations has been created by both synthesisers and guitars, the textures are more synthetic yet also incredibly evocative at the same time. The album and track titles suggest that Erik has a great appreciation for the natural world and this comes out in the emotional resonance felt throughout.
The slowly developing track “Elevation” provides a peaceful introduction to the album. It begins with synthetic noises that drop into the soundscape and then echo off as though we're inside a partial cavern. Strange quivering noises like distorted bird sound flit about the backdrop while a rocking effect comes in with walking guitar notes and brief passages of eerie high pitched effects.
I can only describe the track “The Wanderer” as superb. Cold gossamer washes and subtly resonant drones start the piece off before layered percussion and soul tugging melodies come in to fill out the soundscape. Part way through a melody like stretched silvery curtains reaches a poignant crescendo. For me this track created a vision of an epic and lonely journey by a person inspired by stark yet beautiful scenery.
Acting as a kind of interlude is “Sphere – Into the Dream” where gaseous washes rise and fall as imagined waves, while a slow tempo rhythm of shiny notes and synth refrains convey a feeling of understated wonder or majesty.
The lasting impression that Elevations made on me is of unexpected serenity. Despite the lively spirit of some tracks, overall it seems infused with a sense of peace and communion with the physical world. Indeed, it only took a few minutes of the first track to get me entranced by the atmospheric beauty of the music. Gorgeous sonic textures, graceful rhythms and melodies, plus top notch production make this essential listening for ambient and EM fans alike.
Reviewed by Dene Bebbington on Ambient Visions
by Amongst Myselves
Auburn Silhouette is the fourth album by Australian artist Amongst Myselves. Steve Roberts, the man behind the recording name, is a film maker and sound producer by trade so it's only fitting that this release includes a DVD containing three short films set to his music. The natural environment is the theme of this album, with Steve's inspiration coming from the South Australian outback and journeys overseas.
The album is primarily ambient, though there's also drone, shoegazer, experimental, and even a bit of soft rock! Opening the album is my favourite piece “Greybox Shadow” in which drones flow easily like leaves of a tree gracefully shifting in a light breeze. Adding to the natural feel is birdsong at the beginning which made me imagine opening curtains in the morning to see the world waking up for a new day. Gradually the mood becomes more intense and heavier as the drones become deeper and hybrid “ahhh” vocals/drones layer the atmosphere further.
In “Hole in the Sky” the manner of the music changes noticeably into shoegazer territory. Grey and silvery washes ebb and flow with the regular yet subtly different lapping of waves on a beach. Then a slow unobtrusive drum rhythm starts up along with cymbal percussion and aching electric guitar notes that are plucked only to stretch off into the distance.
Sometimes other elements add to the atmosphere, as in “Southern Lights” where tribal drum rhythms beat out against delicate drones and washes gliding over the soundscape like the the ethereal ribbons of colour in the Southern Lights themselves.
A fascinating aspect of several tracks is how electronically created drones feel organic and natural. This is sky music, as ever evolving and hard to pin down as the sky itself where clouds, sunlight, and stars paint shifting pictures and moods. Also, there's a good contrast of earthbound and cosmic experiences and journeys on Auburn Silhouette which I found to be a work that needs deep immersive listening sessions to appreciate fully; and headphones will doubtless bring out even more of the sonic nuances. It's a work that takes ambient impressions of the natural world to a new level.
The accompanying DVD contains three films, each set to music from the track of the same name. There's stunning day and night time-lapse photography in “Up Into the Air and Over Edge”; pictures of nebula, stars, galaxies etc in “Southern Lights”; and “Star” has some computer generated images. This DVD is a wonderful adjunct to the CD.
Reviewed by Dene Bebbington on Ambient Visions