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New Electronic Music

There are always new releases.

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BROEKHUIS/SCHÖNWÄLDER/KELLER/BRAUN: Vier-Drei-Zwei (432) (triple CD on Manikin Records)

Schönwälder and Keller enjoy collaborating, with each other...and others too. They like playing live electronic music, generally cut in the old Berlin School of Electronics, with a bent for the dramatic drone. To be honest, fans of such music will go absolutely crazy for this triple CD release (which comes in a tasty slipcase box).

CD 1: Detlef Keller & Mario Schönwälder: The Reason Why... ...Live at the Jodrell Bank.

This 74 minute CD features an outstanding live gig performed in the shadow of a bank of radio telescopes. The degree of cohesion in this improvised electronic music is amazing.

Slowbuilding textures rise from atmospheric depths to entwine the audience with tentacles of shimmering synthesizers. These undulating sequences expand, rising to soar overhead with shuddering waves of sonic power. Once elevated, the melody grows dramatic with ricocheting notes and somber loops. Shriller sounds emerge to mesmerize the listener, caressing the auditory canals with their searing riffs.

CD 2: Bernd Braun/Bas Broekhais/Detlef Keller/Mario Schönwälder: Project

This 70 minute CD features tracks collected from various live gigs in 1999 and 2000 at the CEOS Festival in Cologne, the E-Live Festival in Nijimegen, the 1st SpaceTranceTronicNight in Berlin, and even in a 100 year old barn in the German countryside. Here, synthesists Keller and Schönwälder are joined by Broekhuis on drums and guitarist Braun (aka Arcanum).

The presence of real drums lends an earthier edge to the spaceage voyage, while the guitar injects a bluesy touch that generates a very human connection to the dense electronic soundscapes.

CD 3: Bas Broekhuis/Detlef Keller/Mario Schönwälder: Drei.

This 53 minute CD continues the selection of live tracks from CD 2 without the guitar stylings of Braun. There are two tracks (26 minutes each): one from a 2000 concert in Bologna, the other from a 1999 performance in Cologne.

This music is quite energetic, with driving sequences and building percussive riffs. There is an urgency present here that produces tension in the listener. As each cyclic wave passes, the mix becomes thicker with accreting riffs and accelerating variations.

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EAT STATIC: In the Nude! (CD on Mesmobeat)

This 74 minute CD offers some tasty techno tuneage by British techno maestros Merv Pepler, Joie Hinton, and Steve Everitt.

Stripping away the band's fascination for alien abductions, the music found here is a curious blend of modern and fanciful swing and Latin tuneage. These new elements are converted to digital pulses and filtered through the talented guidance of the Eat Static technicians, producing lively techno music that stretches beyond normal rave airs.

Rapid E-perc swamps the listener, tempered with playful electronics and engaging keyboard riffs. Despite its density, this music features numerous niches which summarily spill forth a bevy of clever breaks and snickering charm.

From the infectiously harsh gurgling of "Epidemic" to the campy threat of "Monstro" to the smirking portrait of modern sexuality portrayed in the title track, Eat Static's sense of humor dominates. Their music is urgent, yet amusing, playing to the thin veneer that separates popular culture and the onrush of modern technology.

While maintaining a strong and steady flow of appealing BPMs, these songs sport solid melodies that equally invigorate and sedate. The listener's frontal lobes are assaulted by intricate rhythms, while the subconscious is sublimated with surging waves that do not cease once the music has finished.

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FANGER & KERSTEN: Splashdown (CD on Manikin Records)

Thomas Fanger and Michael Kersten (aka Mind-Flux) return with a 74 minute electronic outing that brings the listener far into the nether regions of alien space to bathe in galactic melodies and vibrant tempos. Make no mistake, this is not an ambient space journey. The velocity might be dreamy, but the intent is invigorating and passionate.

Pulsating electronics cavort with sweeping pitches and surging tones, producing quite an astral tapestry for the snappy E-perc that agitates these waters with their rhythmic insistence.

For "water" is the theme on this CD. Alien waters (in "Alien Waters"), dark waters (in "Scary Waters"), and mystical waters (in the epic 22 minute track "Watersign"). Swirling and cascading at the mercy of cosmic tides, an aquatic flair is generally present in the mix.

As one keyboard loops an appealing riff, another is enhancing the tune with a serpentine melody that will fuse with the earlier patterns, creating lusher textures that crackle with stellar fission. All the while, the E-perc urges the mesh toward dancefloor territory.

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OZRIC TENTACLES : The Hidden Step (CD on Stretchy Records)

This 2000 release is Ozric Tentacles' debut outing on their own label. It features 48 minutes of the type of sonic brilliance that one has come to expect of the band.

Searing guitar pyrotechnics eagerly duel with squealing electronics and thundering percussives, resulting in a sonic unity that transcends normal spacerock, breaking through to musical dimensions as yet undiscovered by mere mortals. Bass rumblings underpin these dynamic rhythms, with ethereal flute cries swimming through the mix.

While the guitar is rendered with nimble and capable fingers, similar esthetics are applied to the swarming keyboard mists and the bubbling electronic whirlwinds. Growl meets spiral amid a pool of arid cool as the music soars on energetic riffs.

If one is to go by this CD's packaging and the song titles, one might expect this music to possess strong Egyptian influences with winds of change reaching from the peaks of ancient pyramids, unfurling across the desert. Well, these ethnic influences are there, but they are deeply saturated with the Ozric sensibility: powerfully fusing power chords and dreamy passages into harmonies that strive constantly for higher altitudes.

After an initial beginning of typically wondrous Ozric tuneage, the music kicks into Arabic mode, blending open market airs with modern melodies, producing a sinuous hybrid of old and new. The emphasis is, of course, on the new and an ecstatic euphoria.

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SHAMALL: The Book Genesis (double CD on 2L Productions)

Shamall (aka Norbert Krueler) produces a particularly dynamic and dramatic form of electronic music. This 2001 release features 148 minutes of such energetic sonic ecstasy.

Synthesizers and keyboards abound in this music, but they are not alone: drums, guitar, and bass are present in overt fashion. While versatile electronics cavort and whirl, keyboards organize these cosmic airs into demonstrative riffs of vigorous and nimble-fingered chords. Powerful melodies are generated, pulsing to escape and soar into the heavens. Drums inject a rhythmic factor that assertively commands the mix with engaging and complex tempos. Wild guitar pyrotechnics flare and blaze, inciting the listener to teeth-grinding appreciation. Then the guitar goes all spacerock and distant, resounding across desert plains of fused crystal configurations with the emotional pitch of stadium solos. Geological basslines rumble beneath these passionate exaltations.

Shamall belts out intriguing melodies by the hundreds, each riff a glorious and memorable experience. The compositions are masterful: grand and epic, frenzied with elaboration and dense with crescendos. Imagine a vanguard of electronic music crashing headlong into a wall-of-rock'n'roll with astounding results.

This release is a sort of concept album, chronicling the birth and evolution of electronic music, displaying how alternative rock and jazz influences have been grafted onto modern electronics, elevating the artificial sound with passion and forceful rhythm. The second disc delves into Shamall's application of these influential roots.

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SURFACE 10: In Vitro Tide (CD on DiN)

Surface 10 is Dean De Benedictis, a Californian synthesist.

This long-awaited follow-up to Surface 10's debut release in 1996 is actually a 74 minute collection of material recorded between 1995 and 1998. It is all remixed in 1999 though. Hey, regardless of the music's technical origins, this CD packs an astounding sonic wallop.

The selection commences with an agitated tranquillity that builds to an explosive war of vicious electronics (appropriately titled "This Will Sting"), thrashing each other with devious intent and engaging rhythms.

This is followed by a nest of staccato beats that wobble into a melody of robotic quality. The E-perc is crafted in a particularly vibratory manner that is quite gurgling.

This leads to "Service 10 Rendered", one of the CD's longer compositions at 13 minutes. Here, erratic BPMs duel with chugging electronics and chattering weirdness, producing a seething pit of entwined melodies. The use of sampled vocal snippets from old sci-fi movies and television shows lends a human desperation to the electronic conflict. And through it all, a central theme dogs the maelstrom.

Then we have another E-perc versus delicate electronic waves pastiche, this one far more melodic than earlier pieces.

Then things get even grittier with tortured guitar strains and ricocheting meteors.

With "Littt", the pace kicks back for a dreamier stretch. Electronic patterns cycle in a languid pool, sending out variational riffs like liquid ripples. A submerged beat gradually surfaces to pulsate like a breathing ball of fire, ascending into the sky as it gives off further crackling arcs of energy.

The next piece starts simple and peaceful, but it grows strange and surging quickly enough.

"It Utters in Stealth" is the CD's third longest track at 10 and a half minutes. It is also the darkest track, unleashing a haunted house of moods to frolic like enervated ghosts amid the shuddering central melody. Sounds unnaturally akin to faux horns cry out, to be answered by a waking darkness of syncopated chaos.

The CD concludes with "Defrag Harvest Nocturn", the CD's second longest track. Here, weirdness collides with melodic purpose, generating a fusion of twitching pulses with sweeping electronic majesty. E-perc swarms attack the mix, pummeling the recoiling harmonies, who respond by unfurling new variations of the beat. This continues to occur until things are so dense that the only safe escape is a slow one, winding down by degrees to ease the listener back into their corporeal world.

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VIDNA OBMANA: Subterranean Collective (double CD on Projekt)

Vidna Obmana is a Belgian synthesist of international renown.

The material contained on this 144 minute-long double CD release is collected from a series of Obmana's releases from the early Nineties ("Echoing Delight", "Parallel Flaming", and "Spiritual Bonding"). Accompanying him on several tracks are: Djen Ajaken Shean, Steve Roach, Robert Rich, and Alio Die.

This music represents the atmospheric side of contemporary electronic music. Although percussive elements are involved, the music never strays into energetic territory, maintaining a ghostly (or spiritual) edge through the distant sound of erratic tribal rhythms. The gist of the melodies consist of ambient tonalities and sweeping waves of unearthly sounds (some sourced from human voices, but processed so intensely as to defy identification).

Take these brooding soundscapes and the languid rhythmic presence, and extend them into mesmerizing durations laced with understated evolutionary forces. The transformation of these melodies is a very subtle thing, achieved in full view but hidden by their simplicity. As a result of this sonic cunning, the listener finds themselves revitalized without their knowledge.

But do not expect tedious ambience, for Obmana has a knack of imbuing the most intangible harmonies with the ability to burrow into the brain and trigger pleasant synapses. His musical calm is equally a melodic force.

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