Reviews 03-27-2004


Music Reviews 


Emotional Landscapes

by Erik Wollo

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Erik Wollo has established himself as one of the premier multi-instrumentalists performing ambient music today. His sound is uniquely identifiable; Emotional Landscapes exists on my iPod with some 1,900 other songs, which I play in random rotation. Whenever a Wollo piece begins, it is instantly recognizable. I am not alone in my opinion that Emotional Landscapes is a tour de force., Backroads Music, and Wind and Wire have all given this album rave reviews. Small wonder: Wollo's music reflects the austere, reflective nature of his Nordic heritage. His soundscapes are tapestries that evoke the stark, silent arctic nights, providing lush introspective escapes. One can almost feel the sense of drifting in an open boat under the crystal clear northern sky.

Music From the Hearts of Space, the radio program that has aired since the 1980's, has featured Wollo a number of times. His sometimes-stark, powerfully stirring pieces are perfect for those times when one just wants to sink into the flow of the moment. Wollo has the enviable talent of melding separate pieces of varying tenor and timbre into an album that is a cohesive whole. In this day of the "downloadable single," this talent is to be respected and honored. Emotional Landscapes satisfies at both the album level and at the single track level. Personally, I prefer to listen to this one from start to finish.

I do have personal favorites. Sounds of the seen, Part I, the fifth track on the CD adds the melancholy, sometimes insistent thrum of cello. As an interesting side note, a portion of this piece was recorded under the World Trade Center in New York, shortly before September 11, 2001. This track too, was recently featured on Hearts of Space. Echo Of Night/Cadence, the final track, is a resplendent example of ambient music that is moving, inventive, introspective, and oh-so-enjoyable.

There are many songs currently occupying space on my iPod. Emotional Landscapes by Erik Wollo has permanent residence there!

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions.




by Vivian Khor 

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"Paradise" is a rich and lush collection of original pieces that combines electronic piano and keyboard sounds with a variety of composing styles that are sometimes melodic and at other times more ambient. I am often reminded of Suzanne Ciani's electronic music while listening to this CD; Vivian Khor also composes strong but gentle and decidedly feminine music that is graceful and very accomplished. Several of the pieces are mysterious and haunting while a few are more upbeat and sunny. The CD carries a smooth and peaceful mood all the way through, making this a good choice for relaxing, reading, or meditating.   The opening title track is especially "Ciani-esque" from her "Velocity of Love" era, and flows like a cool, lazy stream. "Rivers of Blessing" also has a beautiful, leisurely flow to it, and is one of my favorites. "Soothing Moments" is another favorite; melancholy and wistful, a simple, emotional melody floats above atmospheric string washes.

"Cloud9" is the longest track at 7 1/2 minutes, and floats along as the title implies; piano is accompanied by ambient, atmospheric sounds that give it a very dreamy, peaceful feeling. "Unconventional Wisdom" is quite different; very mysterious, this piece has little or no melody and feels very exotic. I also really like "Another Moment," which is reflective and tranquil - gorgeous!   "Paradise" is an excellent album, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it in a number of different settings. It can set a mood of quiet peace as a backdrop or serve as a wonderful massage for the mind. Very "new age" in the classic sense, but Vivian Khor has her own distinct musical voice. It is available from, and

This Kathy Parsons review originally reviewed for  Mainly Piano website. It is reprinted here on Ambient Visions with permission.



Beautiful World

by Patrick O'Hearn  

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Patrick O'Hearn's musical career has led him into many collaborations with the likes of Frank Zappa, Mark Isham, and Missing Persons. Fans of ambient and electronic music have been long familiar with his name; if there was a Rock-and-Roll Museum for New Age musicians, O'Hearn long ago would have been inducted as a charter member. Phil Spector may have invented the Wall of Sound, but O'Hearn seems to have invented the "Well of Sound." One can dip a sonic ladle into O'Hearn's well and come up with a rich, nourishing mix of tones and textures.

Beautiful World is O'Hearn's latest release, and despite its rather upbeat-sounding title, is O'Hearn at his minor-chord based best. Constance Demby may have invented the Space Bass, but Patrick O'Hearn has perfected it. I use the term "rubbery" to describe the sound of O'Hearn's bass playing. The notes emanating from his instrument seem to "bounce" from one to another rather than reverberate from being attacked. The track, "Facing the Sun" highlights this technique superbly. The piece begins with energetic percussion, forming a looping backdrop of rhythm. After about a minute, the bass layer appears, the notes climbing and falling in an allegro of bottom lines. Layer upon layer arrive, until the piece is alive with feeling and passion. If ambient music can be foot-stompin' kickass, this is it. Other pieces feature a more sedate bass, providing the foundation for building structures of sound. The title track is a case in point. Bass lines flow languidly while percussion provides the energy. Guitar and keyboards are restful, yet the tempo is insistent and edgy.

Joining O'Hearn on this album is old friend and Group 87 partner Peter Maunu on guitar. Together, the two craft an aural travelogue of the planet, with all its warts, a Beautiful World.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions.



Wachuma's Wave

by Byron Metcalf

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The sacred meets the profane - well, Steve Roach's electronics aren't exactly profane(!), but Byron Metcalf's various frame drums and clay pots, and Mark Seelig's delicate Bansuri flutes and haunting overtone singing certainly approach a sacred space. The inclusion of sacred chants and whispered prayers enhance the spiritual ambience of this collaborative work.

Actually, Roach limits himself to mostly warm pads and drones as an underpinning for Metcalf and Seeling's extrapolations. The trio are augmented the track "Deep Time Dreaming" by a multi-voice harmonic choir that evokes David Hyke's ethereal vocalizations. Nan Henderson contributes icy singing bowl timbres to "Last Remants of Reality" and "Gone...Beyond", while the ever-prolific Roach adds a bit of didgeridoo to "Dance of the Heart Voyagers".

All of these tones and timbres sort of meld into one lush wall of ambience. It's hard to tell at times where the electronics leave off and the reverb-laced overtone choirs begin. There is a certain darkness to the whole project, emphasized by lots of low frequencies and throbbing percussion, but then the flutes emerge from the ether with a plaintive, hopeful vibe and the demons are exorcized.

If you're a fan of overtone singing, then this is a good disk to check out. Likewise if you are a fan of dark, yet hopeful ambience.

Reviewed by Allen Welty-Green for Ambient Visions



The Way Beyond

by Jim Cole

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Jim Cole is an overtone singer, stylistically influenced by the chants of Tibetan Buddhist monks, the works of David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir, and by singing to his daughters at bedtime. The main characteristic of overtone singing is multiphonics, the ability to emphasize the overtone series of a note so that it sounds like the singer is singing several notes at once. The Way Beyond consists of several pieces created by Cole acting essentially as his own orchestra through the miracle of another “multi”, multitracking.

Cole's technique as a singer is solid enough that the reviewer can concentrate on the music he produces with it, which is uniformly excellent. The recording begins with some overdubbed Tamboura-like textures and simple, short melodies sung in a variety of registers. The recording is drenched in reverb, which adds to the sensation of vastness that the listener feels. As the music expands, Cole sustains tones longer and begins to slide around the notes to nice effect. Gradually, as the music continues, Cole takes us to spaces not normally visited by conventional means. He is able to produce fugal or contrapuntal improvisations that sound very modal and harmonious yet completely different from normal western harmony. As a result, the music seems to transport us to a shimmering, yet stable place. Meanwhile, the drones over which he is improvising continue to shift and build, a very orchestral effect. At times they fade or even disappear completely, always to return to great effect.

Like the Tibetan monks, the drones will, on rare occasion here sound as though they are being transmitted from another dimension. There is nothing familiar, including tonal familiarity, in these moments. But they are paced well, and always used in service of the ultimate goal. And Cole remembers to bring us back to earth, where we can relax and engage in some very profitable “deep listening”.

The range of technique Cole uses on this release is quite admirable. From deep bass multiphonic drones that appear to go on endlessly, to whistling sounds, to sounds that seem like they are coming from an instrument, to high falsetto, it all springs forth in service of his creation. Improvisation appears to be the basis for many of the pieces, and Cole appears long practiced in this area as well. He can shape the improvisations to become a musical whole. This release is excellent and I recommend it to anyone interested in a deep listening experience that will take them places that I , for one, had never traversed. 

Reviewed by Mark Morton for Ambient Visions




by vidnaObmana  

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Fans of dark, somber, ambient EM will not be disappointed by vidnaObmana's release, Spore. Filled with vidnaObmana's trademark "cavernous" sound, the nine tracks on this CD are eerie, tense, droning, and ethereal. The album begins with the track titled, "Through the Collective Pain," which slowly fades into consciousness, reverberating and thrumming its way into the forefront. "The Humanity Underneath" begins with a subdued screeching, building in intensity, weaving an agonizing path through the consciousness, then diminishing to its climax, with a relief felt much like that at the conclusion of an amusement park thrill ride.

"Skin Strip" is a pulsing, eerie blend of throbbing beats, murmured voices, dark electronics, and hypnotic trance effects. Other cuts, with titles such as "The Nihilist," "Creep-Isolation Trip," and "Resonant Gore" provide not-so-subtle clues as to the nature of the music on this CD. "Abrasive" is the word used by vidnaObmana to describe the feel of his electronic music, and it is a word that fits. With over 35 CDs to his credit, vidnaObmana (the name means 'optical illusion') has carved out a name for himself in the world of dark ambient EM. He has collaborated with other notable names in the field, such as Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Alio Die, Brannan Lane, and is thus a "heavyweight" in this field.

This is not music for everyone, or for anytime. It can confound, confuse, irritate and frustrate. It can set one's nerves on edge, yet it can also be eerily soothing at the same time. It can take one into mental neighborhoods where traveling alone would be ill-advised. Spore is a CD that should have a warning label affixed to it. But if you're a vidnaObmana fan, you already knew that.

Reviewed by Fred Puhan for Ambient Visions.


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