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Electronic Ambience

It is a general misnomer that outer space is empty. In fact, the interstellar vacuum is crowded with loose hydrogen particles, awash in a dense and surging radiation bath, produced by countless celestial anomalies and churned by even more profuse solar winds.

Ambient music similarly suffers from this general misconception. Ambience is not empty, it is an unintrusive environment that borders on silence...but it is anything but silent.

Peacefully calm, ambient music requires the interaction of a human consciousness to attribute substance to these filaments of atmospheric sound. Depending on the mental process of the listener, ambient music can evoke earthly sobriety or galactic solemnity.

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EXUVIAE: Echoes in the Emptiness (CD on Greenhouse Music)

This 73 minute release examines the textural identity of what memories sound like while they drift between moments of remembrance.

While ethereal tonalities unfurl to stream across the inner sky, deeper (but still airy) tones rise like a mist evaporating from the cerebellum, adding density to the ambience. Cycles commence acceleration and shimmering sheets of soft brilliance approach from beyond peripheral memory.

Atmospheric electronics and processed guitars blend into unified waves of sound that flow into expansions of mammoth proportions, filling the mental universe with their calming effect. Mesmerized, the listener moves without motion, searching through synapses triggered by the psychosomatic response of pulsations stretched to the point of infinity.

This music is not unlike colored oils spilled in water. The swirls appear to cavort with lazy abandon, while actually adhering to strict fluidic properties. The resultant spirals and mergers generate a vast field of possibilities while never really adopting clear definition.

Whether urging the listener to "Awaken Within" or guiding the audience to an "Otherplace", these soundscapes unlock potentialities within the mind, opening realms of peaceful consciousness which seem to stretch out forever.

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MAITREYA: From the Mothership (CD on Council of Nine)

There is a subtle industrial quality in the expression of ambience on this 1999 release. Although never straying into unpleasant or angry terrain, it possesses an intensity that wanders through its 61 minutes of music, elusive but hiding on the dwindling side of each sound.

The general mood of this music is one of space travel. From this vantage point aboard the mothership, the listener is moved in languid passage past glittering nebulas and seething stellar masses and shadowy planets hanging in the distance.

Blending soft harmonics with cosmic abstract forms, Maitreya produces an atmosphere of soft electronics with a touch of hard technology, like a starship charging its hyperdrive while sitting on the tarmac. There are melodic passages, but they rarely remain in prominence for long, sinking back into the tonal drift of interstellar space.

Spliced in which these galactic airs are environmental samples (lapping waters, chirping birds, gurgling infants). These hints of an earthly existence haunt this ambience like memories of a homeworld left behind long ago.

By the end of this CD, one is left with the elusive impression that some connection has been drawn between the miracle of human birth and the mystery of travel to other worlds.

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BRIAN PARNHAM: The Broken Silence (CD on Floating Point Records)

Generating dense but atmospheric soundscapes, Brian Parnham mixes synthesizers, electronic processing, and didjeridu (an Australian aboriginal wind instrument consisting of a long hollow tube which produces a deep yet ethereal tone) in his creation of ambient electronic music on this 53 minute release from 2000.

The structure of the music is quasi-melodic, achieved by overlapping sonic textures in waves which conjure drifting motion and easy passage. These airs are given pensive moods and expansive aspects with the slow introduction of heavenly tonalities and chittering, barely-noticeable effects.

These waves of sound, themselves quite peaceful and relaxing, achieve an unfurling that is hidden in the creeping nature of the melodic evolution of the elements. This unfurling produces quite an inspirational effect, as the sonic mood carries the listener into contemplative regions.

The listener's consciousness finds itself expanding in direct ratio to the music's intangible growth. Or the music can be utilized as a comfortable, unintrusive background ambience to facilitate concentration.

The very nature of this music allows its effect to vary depending on the outlook of the listener. It could be metaphysical or astrophysical.

Besides possessing a soft presence of tribal percussive, the last of the three compositions employs a variety of shortwave ambience and other source materials recorded as the clocks (and computers) traveled from 1999 to 2000 on New Year's Eve. There is a particular sense of apprehension to this final auralscape, excellently capturing humanity's uncertainty (and fascination) with the unknown nature of the future.

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ROBERT RICH: Trances/Drones (double CD on Release Records)

This release by ambient maestro Robert Rich is actually a collection of tracks from a trio of cassette tape releases from 1983 (which that have been rare collector's items for many years). Available now in this double CD edition, a previously unreleased live track (also from 1983) has been added to produce a total of 142 minutes of blissful atmospheric soundscapes.

This material constitutes the formative stages of Rich's Sleep Concerts. Comprised of delicate electronics, ethereal bamboo pipes, and lap steel guitar tonalities, the resultant atmospherics are peaceful and intended to induce contemplative states of consciousness. The sonic flow is quite the antithesis of everyday stress, lulling the listener with textural drones.

His use of rain and frogs and electric cicadas infuses the mental sedation with an earthly quality that turns the meditation inwards.

The aspect that elevates this music above most ambience is Rich's masterfully subtle compositional savvy. He has a knack of injecting just a hint of anticipation to the serene flow, whispers of some divine revelation floating just beyond audible reach.

It is no surprise that these recordings were made toward the end of Rich's psychology studies at Stanford University. This music possesses a definite link to lucid dream research; such connections are clearly evident in the responses experienced by humans exposed to these comfortably relaxing soundscapes.

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