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Electronic Music: Cyber Zen Sound Engine & Matt Borghi, Mark Dwane, Fanger & Schönwälder, Rainbow Serpent, Son-Dha, Syndromeda

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CYBER ZEN SOUND ENGINE & MATT BORGHI: The Intercepted Transmissions (CD on N-Light-N Records)

This release from 2001 features 55 minutes of thrilling electronic music that fuses ambience with a likable liveliness.

Peaceful tonalities and infinite atmospherics are frequently disturbed by more commanding electronics that surge to delight the listener with engaging melodies that are still rich with hypnotic qualities. The presence of piano lends the music an earthy appeal, drawing the spirit back from extraterrestrial realms. Despite the unique properties of each song, this ethereal zone remains a wondrous constant, not unlike the experience of examining a multifaceted jewel of breathtaking beauty. The delicate electronics are versatile from track to track, exposing the audience to a profusion of vividly created other worlds. Some percussive elements are utilized, but their tempos are subdued, almost muffled by the dense ambience. A plethora of sounds and instruments are sampled and mutated into uncharacteristic applications. Crescendos become muted and relegated to the background, while fragile tones become swollen with momentous grandeur. Atonal passages are infused with harmonious qualities, swimming into intricate tapestries to form undulating patterns. Often, a machine presence whirs at the periphery of the music, unwilling to intrude upon the contemplative serenity but remaining to add a subliminal edginess.

Employing a variety of styles and modes, this music remains calm and unhurried, stimulating inspiration more than meditation.

Wherever these "transmissions" were intended must be a strange and exotic realm. Humanity can only benefit from having "intercepted" them.

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MARK DWANE: Planetary Mysteries (CD on Trondant/Orbian Music)

Armed with his MIDI and electro-acoustic guitars, Dwane continues to explore the mysterious cosmos with such instrumental tracks as "Forbidden Archeology", "Underwater Stargates", and "Hyperdimensional".

With an ambient basis of drifting atmospherics drenched with astral sensibilities, Dwane adds sedate percussives and sultry baselines to enhance his unearthly guitar. The latter instrument acts as an interface for a plethora of sounds, eerily and pensively creating a wondrous skyscape of dreamy melodies that capture even the shallowest imagination. But fear not, the presence of guitar can be heard in its traditional format too, with delicate chords wafting through the electronic mists, adding a touch of western mystery to the cosmic enigmas.

The versatility of Dwane's music is exhibited in the arabesque strains in "Under the Sphinx" and the lazily-funky rhythms in "Geoglyphs". The common element throughout this tuneage is a sense-of-wonder directed at the unknowable dilemmas that permeate space and time. Avoiding typical "spacey noises", Dwane generates a celestial mood with airy tones and sustains that echo forever in the listener's mind.

This music possesses the distinction of fusing ambience with a degree of pep that refuses to conquer the mix, preferring instead to nudge the tempo into lively-but-dreamlike passages. The result is an engaging sonic experience that entertains while stimulating the intellect.

Three of the songs on this 48 minute CD from 2001, feature lush vocals supplied by Michelle Nader.

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FANGER & SCHÖNWÄLDER: Analog Overdose (CD on Manikin Records)

It's no secret that Mario Schönwälder enjoys collaborating with other electronic musicians. Here, he fuses his spacey sounds with Thomas Fanger (from Fanger & Kersten, aka Mind-Flux). They are joined on three tracks by Lutz Ulbrich (whose guitarwork is known to those who follow Ashra).

This 80 minute CD from 2001 comes in a special metal canister. The title track is a 24 minute track recorded live in Berlin at Petrus Church on March 30, 2001.

As one might expect from this CD's title, this music is heavily analog, deeply sequenced, and crafted in the style that has emerged from the Berlin School of electronics practiced in the Seventies by Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream.

Tracks commence in sedate regions, slowly accreting melodic layers until the music is dense and almost hyperactive with ricocheting rhythms. Keyboard riffs are looped into complex structures of artificial sound, phasing with auxiliary riffs to create even more intricate harmonies. The presence of snappy E-perc injects a liveliness to this otherwise mesmerizing tuneage, attributing a distinct chillage to the music and generating a strong bridge between contemporary European electronics and the hip-hop sensibilities that permeate raves on a global scale.

For all its synthetic nature, though, this music oozes humanity and emotional content, sweeping the listener into inner realms where anything is possible.

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RAINBOW SERPENT: Voices of the First Day (CD on Manikin Records)

This 63 minute CD from 2001 is the latest release by Rainbow Serpent (aka Frank Specht and Gerd Wienekamp) featuring a tasty dose of liquidly dynamic electronic music.

From its initial piano strains awash with digital riffs, this music immediately captures the attention--not with any overt brashness, but with urgently styled melodics that sweep the listener far into the ancient past to sonically witness the birth of the cosmos. Alternate keyboard riffs cascade into the mix, creating density and power with each subsequent cycle. Soft E-perc adds the appropriate propulsion, infusing the quantum harmonies with rugged power and smooth rhythms. Passages of interstellar ambience are agitated into pleasing tuneage that exudes majesty and stately tempo. Although the music rarely strays into monumental territory, there is a grandness that is impossible to ignore: engaging and inspiring.

Rainbow Serpent's compositional talent is a major attraction. This music moves beyond Berlin School roots, evolving a distinctly unique take on contemporary electronics with swift breaks and thrilling melodies.

Song titles such as "Long Distance Light", "Echoes from Shooting Stars", and "Descent to the Black Sun" are almost unnecessary, as the spaciness of the music conveys itself with super clarity. Rainbow Serpent even utilize radio noise on one track, sourced from recordings made by the Cassini spacecraft of the planet Jupiter. Curiously, this interplanetary sampling is buried amid a horde of hyper electronic percussions that vibrate the listener from any sedate lethargy generated by the dreaminess of the music.

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SON-DHA: Red Sector A Speeds Up Alio Die (CD on Release Records)

Son-Dha is a unique collaboration between Red Sector A (aka Andrea Bellucci) and Alio Die (aka Stefano Musso). Both of these individuals are renowned for their reputations in the field of experimental electronics, but here they display an entirely new aspect of that synthetic command, injecting a hip-hop edge to the chill-out mood.

With languid E-perc and playful electronic blooping, these melodies are rich with uptempo hypnotics. Eerie drones, layers of textures, and found-sound recordings collide with snappy rhythms and lively riffs in a seething pool full of surprise and delight. Metallics share the same instant with astral airs. Drifting atmospherics intertwine with dynamic pulsations. Flowing waters merge with locomotive drumming. Catchy rhythms are immersed in breathing clouds.

Sounds contradictory, doesn't it? Well, this music is a testament to contrast, blending ethnic percussives with synthetic harshness, mixing soundscapes with techno groove elements. Yet this fusion is neither aggressive nor passive, but a pure conglomeration of these extremes. The result is strange but compelling, and entirely entertaining.

This 56 minute CD from 2001 fuses elements of ethno-ambience with the hyperactive sensibilities of Drum & Bass to produce a curious sound that will simultaneously appeal to fans of Robert Rich and Aphex Twin.

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SYNDROMEDA: In Touch with the Stars (CD on Neu Harmony /Groove Unlimited)

Syndromeda is Danny Budts, out of Belgium.

Here's 71 minutes, recorded live at the Jodrell Bank Planetarium in England on May 5, 2001.

It begins with ominous tones, growling out of the empty darkness, buffeted by the stellar wind that surges relentlessly between stars. Auxiliary chords appear, spiraling around the growl and tightening the mesh until the sounds have melted together into a weaving and wavering pattern. A cosmic gurgle heralds the emergence of a sequenced melody. The tune descends from the heavens, unfolding with cyclic keyboards and sweeping electronics until the audience is captivated. Diodes release shrill cries into the air, accompanied by pulsating bass tones. The keyboards begin to delineate patterns, harmonious and full of tense anticipation. Threads of hesitant E-perc awaken a bevy of more demonstrative riffs. If this is only the first ten minutes, what wonderment lies ahead?

An escalation of velocity as the music grow passionately agitated. A thunder of pulse-pounding synthetic percussives as the rhythm takes charge. An intricate interweaving of symphonic keyboards as melodies expand, overlapping until the air vibrates with their lavish power.

Syndromeda delivers a profusion of fervor in their music, packing earnest energy into sinuous tuneage with every compounding moment. The electronics are irrepressible, and the enormous-sounding percussion only increases the intensity.

You'd think all this would drain the listener, leaving an exhausted brain between the ears...but not so. The experience has quite the opposite effect: pumping energy and a near-cosmic awareness into the psyche, expanding consciousness and revitalizing the biological vessel that makes us human. There are realms where earth and the cosmos meet, and you'll hear Snydromeda's compositions playing there.

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