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Relaxing with the Electronic Music of Don Slepian

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Don Slepian combines the talents of a composer, a computer programmer, and an electronics designer into a unique gestalt to produce a remarkably calming music that appeals to both classical and modern sensibilities.

Best known for his electronic music releases in the Eighties, Slepian has reemerged in the new millennium with a series of self-produced CDs that recall his most memorable past compositions along with a solid dose of new material.

The greatest appeal of Slepian's euphony is its purity, displaying little trace of influences that dominate most modern electronic music.

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DON SLEPIAN: Sea of Bliss (CD on Don Slepian Music)

The half-hour long title track of this release was originally recorded back in the early Eighties. Presented with two new tracks, this CD release features a total of 70 minutes of delicate electronic music.

This music is geared for meditation and relaxation, with strong melodic features in an atmospheric mode. While aerial tonalities soar overhead, a cloud of pleasantly twinkling electronic snowflakes descend, sparkling the mood with their cheerful gleaming. The ambient foundation is further enhanced by somber piano strains that deliver an earthy pivot for the transcendental voyage.

While the general sentiment is maintained by drifting atmospheric elements, traces of restrained command lurk beyond the blissful tones. The sonic flow deviates from a cyclic repetition with carefully applied diversions that are often barely noticeable until the listener discovers themselves swept away to a new vantage in the comfortable tide of sedate music.

The new material featured here sports a decidedly fanciful temperament, but not enough to disturb the crystalline course of the affable melodies. There are passages of Brian Eno ambience flavored with the soft essence of Philip Glass, driving the music almost into ECM slow jazz territory.

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DON SLEPIAN: Electronic Music from the Rainbow Isle (CD on Don Slepian Music)

This 65 minute CD is a collection of material spanning the Seventies and Eighties. Slepian expands his instruments here with the addition of flutes, guitar, and alto recorder to his bevy of synthesizers and acoustic piano.

The music here is more lively, almost celebratory as Slepian explores Hawaiian ethnic sensibilities in his traditional electronic music. Rhythms are present, but of a non-percussive nature, achieved by applied keyboards (except for guest drums on two tracks). Some tracks revel in an interplay of acoustic guitar and wavering flutes, conjuring sparkling nocturnal environments of fragile sentimentality. Electronics are still the dominant sound though, be they mellotron or analog sequencer or Korg or Yamaha or ARP.

The synthetic sound of this music is flavored with the distinct aura of an outdoor lounge performance with the stars spinning and dancing along with the expanding delicacy of Slepian's nimble keyboards. The compositions are soothing, yet still capable of bubbling with delightful incentive.

Amid all this calculated ambience, a few pieces (like "Another Electric Tuesday" or "Evolution") display grittier, more electronically boisterous qualities that add an alien intensity to the deeply human melodies.

One of the nice aspects of Slepian's music is its uniqueness, derived without similarity to the standard templates of the electronic genre.

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DON SLEPIAN: Introspection (CD on Don Slepian Music)

This 63 minute CD was released in 2000. It features tracks recorded during the Eighties, interspersed with portions of the "Retrospective Suite" which were recorded in late 1999.

From this CD's title, one can assume that the music herein is of ambient nature, intended to facilitate meditation and reflection. And one would be correct.

These tracks exhibit delicate and ethereal moods. Even when the music adopts a peppier attitude, there are no ragged edges or extreme passages. Slepian has a way of infusing an uptempo quality on his sedate compositions without allowing the overall effect to disrupt the passive flow of things.

Instrumentation is basically electronic, which can (and does) include the sound of other instruments to achieve a dreamy mood. The predominant sound is keyboards, though, from grand piano to fanciful mellotron to darkly toned synthesizers.

There is a strong classical style inherent in this music, often tempered with a whimsical playfulness when the pieces are not involved in their introspective intentions. This classical structure replaces the sequenced cycles so prevalent in most electronic music. Slepian's ambience is not derived from stretching sonic textures into endless soundscapes, instead the notes are progressions of the melody, not unlike the tinkling of keys in a quiet dinner club.

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