Reviews 12-21-2008

Music Reviews 



Home Without the Journey

by The Glimmer Room

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Further honing his musical skills, Andy Condon – better known as The Glimmer Room – has now released a fourth album called Home Without the Journey. Packaged in a DVD case, this album has been mastered to allow for more dynamics rather than squeezing every minute of music possible onto a CD. 

Opening the album is the title, and longest, track “Home Without the Journey”. Almost a mini-album in itself, it's a cohesive and fluid piece spanning emotions from reflective to joyous; likewise there are styles from ambient with chorales and piano to melodic synths and drum programming. Near the end it veers into downtempo territory and surprisingly includes a mouth recorder. 

The elegiac “Carbon Statues” is one of the best ambient tracks I've heard for some time. Swirling ethereal chorals and monastic chant vaguely reminiscent of John Foxx's Cathedral Oceans open the track alongside tolling hand bells. A mournful theme then comes in, adding to the subtlety and grace as voices and music rise and fall in flowing perfection. On top of all that is the serendipitous use of Robert Oppenheimer speaking philosophically about the atomic bomb. 

Lifting the mood and bringing the album to a lively close is the curiously titled “Cool Blue and the Plough”. Essentially a track of two parts, the first half features springy melodic refrains over  opaque drones and pads. A lighter second half goes for a more melodic use of bouncy notes played out over ticking percussion and angelic tones. Unless my ears deceive me there's a hint of 80s synth pop inspired by luminaries Gary Numan and OMD haunting this passage. 

Andy has described Home Without the Journey as his best work to date. It took me only one listen to agree with him!

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions



by Diatonis

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Stuart White recording under his Diatonis alias is now venturing into darker ambient territory. Pond is his latest album (apart from the re-release of Invisible Order) and marks a departure from pure ambience to include some rhythmic passages. Being familiar with Stuart's discography it came as no surprise to read that it's constructed from processed synths and guitars, plus flutes, horns, and natural percussion for the ethnic/tribal rhythms. Supplied alongside the CD is a DVD containing videos to 4 of the tracks. 

The title track “Pond” begins with a slow drone before moving into a passage of ritualistic hand beaten drums and pensive drones scanning across the soundscape. It's slightly Roachian in style, but with brief snippets of a female chant adding to the atmosphere. 

Despite some use of percussion Pond is mainly eerie and haunting ambience. The piece “Boggy Swamp” is especially so. Spaced apart gong, or singing bowl, tones ring out over initially shiny distant pads. Then scary hard sounds repeatedly come and go, slicing from nowhere to nowhere like something out of a fevered dream. All the while effects ranging from nebulous to upfront add to the unsettling mood. 

Closing the album is the superb “Whale Song”. Elongated blankets of sound flow past like muffled cries that are part human and part animal. This contrast is also found in the soft and hard drones, nearly vocal and nearly industrial sounds, and gentle and oppressive sonic aura. This piece exemplifies the mysterious sonic worlds created by Diatonis. It's as though he's distilled the essence of a whale song, slowed it, and taken us down to the dark ocean depths these creatures inhabit. 

Though I prefer Diatonis's pure ambience to the percussive tracks, it's good to hear him stretching his musical muscles. He's taken to presenting a greater artistic statement with a DVD to accompany some of his recent CDs. These give the listener's imagination something concrete to associate with the sounds, and are as well crafted as the music.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions


Piano Expressions

by Lore Constantine

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“Piano Expressions” is Lore Constantine’s follow-up to her 2007 debut recording, “Piano Impressions.” The fourteen solo piano tracks consist of a broad range of music most of which is played in a New Orleans jazz style. Two of the pieces are originals, and the others are Constantine’s arrangements of pieces by Lyle Lovett, James Booker, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and others – a rather dizzying mix that is held together by Constantine’s playing style and approach to the music. Her playing is often big and bold, so I wouldn’t call this music to fall asleep with. It’s more for energizing than relaxation, although a few of the songs are on the quiet side. Along with the obvious rock and blues influences, Constantine has a strong classical music background that is the most apparent in her original music. 

The CD begins with Lovett’s “She’s No Lady,” arranged in an upbeat, playful style that seems to grin. My favorite track is The Grateful Dead’s “Black Peter” with its slow, soulful, funky blues. Constantine’s “Serenity” is more delicate and peaceful, in keeping with its title. I never would have thought of Pink Floyd’s music being workable as piano solos, but Constantine’s version of “Breathe” is very effective. On the other hand, most of The Beatles’ music sounds great on the piano, and her take on “Norwegian Wood” is beautiful and flowing. I also really like Bruce Springsteen’s “New York City Serenade,” a slow, enchanting ballad that evokes real passion. Constantine included two of Bob Dylan’s songs, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” and “Lay, Lady, Lay.” The first is good-time music, full of fun and spirit; and the second is a tender love song – Constantine brings both to life even without the words. “Hop Skip Blues” is the other original piece, and Constantine calls it “a kind of blues meets Chopin” piece – also a lot of fun! She then finishes the album with another Grateful Dead tune, the bright and energetic “Ripple.” 

The music on “Piano Expressions” is a lot of fun to listen to and I’m sure it will bring some real piano pizzazz to many parties! It is available from,, and will be available soon from iTunes. Enjoy!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions



by Al Conti

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Scheherazade is Al Conti's third album in as many years, and is his musical rendition of her story - queen Scheherazade was the storyteller of 1001 Nights. As one would expect from the title and Al's previous work, it's a fusion of new age and world musical styles. I don't know for sure what has influenced Al's music, but it's hard for me not to draw a comparison to some of Yanni's music – particularly the more traditional styles on Live at the Acropolis. 

Mentally transporting us to the Middle East is the opener “Daughter of the City”. A pensive drone, various shaking and rattling sounds, and a heraldic flute gets the piece going before it moves to a melodic passage led by piano and accompanied by percussion. Here you can imagine a woman walking the bustling and colourful streets of her city. 

This is one of those albums that can't be described without using the word “evocative”. Many of the tracks work well at conveying a sense of time and place. In “Gold and Spices” hand beaten drums consort with the Eastern flavour of hurdy gurdy and dulcimer. It builds up to include a lovely, modern sounding, hypnotic rhythm as though we're passing through a bazaar where gold and spices assault one's senses. 

In contrast to most tracks, “Dunyazad” pares  the melody and percussion down to a minimum. A slow contemplative piano is joined by sparing bell tinkles and laid back hand beaten drum. 

Yet again Al Conti has delivered an album full of warmth. The theme of Scheherazade suits his romantic style and ability to play several instruments. With it he's scored a musical hat-trick – three pleasing albums in a row with nothing bad to say about them.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions

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