Reviews 12-24-2006 


Music Reviews 



The Call
by Yelena Eckemoff


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“The Call” is Yelena Eckemoff’s second CD release this year and her first recording of original music for acoustic piano ensemble. Eckemoff’s twelfth album is perhaps her most mature and fully-realized music to date. The quartet of musicians is comprised of Eckemoff on piano, Gayle Masarie on cello, Deborah Egekvist on flute and bass flute, and Michael Bolejack on drums. All four musicians have extensive and impressive credentials and play extraordinarily well together. Eckemoff was trained at the Moscow Conservatory and has a very rich background in classical music, jazz, experimental jazz-rock, and composition for various instruments and voice. All of those influences can be found in this music, making it very difficult to classify - a good thing! While not necessarily for the casual listener, Eckemoff’s music is complex enough to satisfy the seasoned classical music lover and accessible enough for those dabbling in art-music. Several of the eighteen pieces are more jazz-oriented than classical, so it’s a fascinating work.

The music for “The Call” was composed over a one-year period and varies widely in style and approach. Always full of emotion, some of the pieces are dark and mournful while others are joyful and full of energy. My favorite track is the title track, which opens the CD. Effectively conveying a real mix of emotions, this piece is mysterious, triumphant, dreamy, rhythmic, energetic, peaceful, and gorgeous. It swirls and dances, sparkles and glides, marches ahead and reflects back. It’s amazing that one piece of music can say so many things in 4 1/2 minutes without seeming fragmented or disorganized. Brilliant! “Daisy” is a beautiful and deeply-felt piece composed when Eckemoff’s beloved dog died unexpectedly. Full of love, sorrow, and happy memories, it will touch anyone who has experienced this kind of wrenching loss. “Sunny Day In the Woods” has a warm, serene mood and a feeling of freedom. “Suspicion” is another favorite. It begins gently and innocently, but a questioning feeling soon develops and then agitation. The piece builds momentum as the torment increases, pulls back a bit and questions more rationally and hopefully until doubt starts to take over and the intensity returns. This piece tells quite a story! “Forgotten Perfume” is a lovely daydream set to music. “Temptation” is dark and agitated, being pulled in two directions. Very effective! “Garden In May” is warm, graceful, and enchanting. “My Cozy Bed” is, well, cozy! The flute and cello create a dreamlike mood that becomes more intense and dramatic, melting back into the original theme. “Imaginary Lake” closes the CD with a more experimental piece that evokes a lot of visuals - placid water, birds flying, fish jumping, leaves fluttering. At almost eight minutes, it evolves naturally and peacefully - another very beautiful piece!

“The Call” is quite an achievement for Yelena Eckemoff. She is planning concerts with the ensemble - something to look forward to! Highly recommended for the serious music fan.

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions




by Todd Merrell

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Shortwave radio sounds have been attractive to electronic music composers since John Cage twiddled the dials for his Imaginary Landscapes and Karlheinz Stockhausen sought alien communication in the music of the spheres.  More recently, John Duncan has used shortwave sounds extensively in his recent experimental work.   The range of sounds that come from the deep unknown connects musicians with something larger than themselves, something from Out There (like Mulder’s Truth).  Connecticut composer Todd Merrell has used shortwaves in his work for many years, and his spirit on Neptune is closer to Duncan than Stockhausen, especially to Duncan’s more ambient works like Phantom Broadcast.   

Neptune is the second album released in the Australian label Dreamland Recordings’ projected set of nine Planetary Series albums. Each of the eight tracks (corresponding to Neptune’s named satellites) was composed in real-time, solo, with no overdubs or post-production.  Merrell used only a short wave receiver, a loop sampler, a couple of effects and a mixer.  Several tracks are deep ambient drones that wouldn’t be out of place on Oöphoi’s Umbra label, but on Thalassa and Galatea the voices from the original source transmissions are still in evidence, albeit heavily processed.  Proteus is the noisiest piece, with a continuous buzzing underlying the sustained drones.  The longest track, Nereid, has a repeating rhythmic ostinato with slow melodic lines over a low-fidelity background noise like tape hiss.   

Merrell succeeds in getting a variety of sounds from his material, with each track like a short vignette of messages from deep space.  At low volumes, Neptune is suitable for late-night drifting, but there is a lot of detail for headphone listeners. 

Reviewed by Caleb Dupree for Ambient Visions




by Soundician

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Memorophilia is the latest album from Odette and Keith Johnson who record under the name Soundician. Though new to me these artists have four previous, and apparently well received, albums under their belt. Falling somewhere between electronica and new age, and skirting a few other genres, their music is bright, melodic, and sometimes minimalist.

The album gets off to a great start in “Cornfield” where a bright melody of sparing piano notes plays out over a minimalist chattering rhythm. High pitched angelic chorales periodically pad out the background along with bass notes. Later in harpsichord style notes join in the melody making. Listening to this piece you can imagine children running through a cornfield with all the energy of youth.

The next couple of tracks are also bright and continue the uplifting emotional resonance of the music experienced so far. In the track “Edge” there's a more serious feel as synthetic waves and deep bassy disturbances in the sound field create a swell like being on a restless ocean. Ticking percussion and a melody of pingy notes conveys a slightly pensive or expectant mood.

In the piece “Lullaby for Jay” the artists show they can also do quieter more restrained tunes. Sparkling Kitaro-esque notes like a cosmic music box create a backdrop for a slow restful tune complemented by will-o-the-wisp wordless vocals and gentle plucked string notes.

Soundician excel at mixing repetitive rhythms and open melodies that easily capture one's interest. I especially like the tribally edged rhythm using a stick sound on “Seconds”. Airy vocal washes and a pipe or flute sound reminiscent of world music adds a further exotic element to this mesmeric piece.

Now I've heard Memorophilia I intend to seek out more of the work by this talented duo. They have a distinctive sound and style which I thought occasionally verged on the baroque. The unabashed pretty and innocent, but not superficial, melodies make it a delightful album.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions



Sacred Road Revisited

by David Lanz

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“Sacred Road Revisited” is the tenth anniversary edition of David Lanz’s 1996 Narada masterpiece, “Sacred Road.” In the process of moving ten years later, Lanz discovered the tapes of the original solo piano recordings he made for the album and the original unreleased mix that Narada found to be a bit overly-orchestrated. It comes as no surprise to those of us who have been playing from the “Sacred Road” songbook for all these years that the solos are a breath of fresh air and are perfect “au naturel.” This seems to have come as a bit of a surprise to David and his brother, Gary, who remastered the recordings for “this slightly new look at “Sacred Road.” “Revisited” includes eight solo piano tracks and six of the alternate mixes, but not all of the songs from the original CD are included. Both albums have fourteen tracks, but the “Revisited” album has two versions of “Dreamer’s Waltz” and “The Long Goodbye” (one solo and one orchestrated each) as well as a previously unreleased solo improvisation, “And the Road Goes On.” Longtime fans of David Lanz will be thrilled with the return to his dreamier, less jazz-oriented, deeply spiritual music. Unlike some of the Narada releases of Lanz’s music over the past several years, the versions of the material on “Revisited” have not been on other recordings - they are rediscovered gems that are a beautiful addition to any collection of Lanz’s many recordings.

“Sacred Road Revisited” is available from Recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions



Solar Nexus

by Dan Pound

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Dan Pound is an independent musician who specialises in ambient, acoustic new age, world, and soundtrack music created in his home studio. His album Solar Nexus is one of the more intriguing works to have come my way recently. Described as shamanistic spacemusic this is unlike any spacemusic or ethnic styled album I've heard before.

Though the track titles ground the themes in all things solar, the music conveys the feeling that we're experiencing it through the hallucinations of a shaman performing sacred rituals. This is done by the use of tribal rhythms, chants, and rhythms. Often these are layered so much that repeated listening sessions are needed to fully appreciate all that is going on.

Listening to Solar Nexus brings to mind Steve Roach's On This Planet, partly because of the tribal motifs but more so the intensity. Whereas Roach's rhythms can feel tacked onto the spacey atmospherics and washes they are an integral part of Dan's sound.

It's especially easy to lose oneself in the longest and frenetic track “Spectrum”. In this multi-layered piece thrumming notes vie with hi-hat percussion and drummed rhythms to be the most hypnotic. All the while tinkling notes, spooky washes, and animal calls add to the phantasmagoric effect. The shamanistic element is particularly strong in the track “In the Time of Helios” where chants and low growling didgeridoo conjure up images of aboriginal ceremonies round fires in the outback at night.

About half the album is gentler and less intense. In “Once a Planet” slow hand beaten drums play out against various reverbing drones panning across the soundscape while the atmosphere is adorned with whistles, distant clanking sounds, and wordless chants ranging from ethereal to guttural.

For me Solar Nexus is one of the hottest releases of the year; a pleasantly hallucinogenic musical trip through aspects of a star. This is a new take on a genre usually known for floating/drifting atmospheres or traditional sequencing.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions


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