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The Enticing Ambience of Vir Unis

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Vir Unis (aka John Strate-Hootman) is one of the hot new synthesists to surface during the late Nineties. Starting with the collaborations "Body Electric" (on Projekt) and "Blood Machine" (on Greenhouse Music) with Steve Roach, and "Imaginarium" (on Mirage) with Ma Ja Le, Unis then proceeded to turn ears with his extremely ambient solo releases "The Drift Inside" and "Aeonian Glow" (both on Greenhouse Music).

While Unis excels at dreamy ambience, he also possesses a rhythmic side that livens some of his releases with intricately engaging tempos, among them "Body Electric", "Blood Machine" and some of the following...

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VIR UNIS: Dreamers at the Edge of Decaying Light (CDR on In the Bubble Music)

Here's the deal: this 73 minute CDR was originally a private release available (for the ridiculously affordable price of $4.00) to those who subscribe to the free digital Vir Unis Newsletter (to subscribe, go here). Once copies of this limited edition private release are gone, a "real" release is potentially planned in the near future.

The material found on this CDR was recorded between 1988 and 2001. It is all otherwise unreleased and consists of beatless ambient music, including a live version of "Chasing Down the Dragon".

Tones drift in a timeless zone, elongated into haunting textures that stimulate the backbrain with their melodic, fluid nature. The blend of environmental sounds with passive electronics is tinged with the ghostly airs of winsome wood flutes, slowly lifting the soundscape from the forest and into the sky. Aloft, the harmonies exert their sedate vitality, wafting on delicate sonic breezes and drifting through cloudbanks of stately profile.

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VIR UNIS: Pulse N Atmo (CD on Groove Unlimited)

This 71 minute release from 2001 reflects a demonstratively more rhythmic and far stranger sonic persona for Vir Unis than he has displayed on his other releases.

This music is highly rhythmic, intensely electronic, and predominately extraterrestrial in pitch and timbre. Utilizing synthesized sounds as percussives, the melodies are infused with a drastic amount of pep, applied in engaging and notably catchy riffs. Underlying these rapid-fire tempos are clouds of energized ambience, shimmering like the slow-motion pulsations of a pre-explosive supernova. All this coalesces with drive and verve unfound in most contemporary electronic music.

Comparisons of a fusion of Stockhausen and Cluster are not unwarranted.

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VIR UNIS & JAMES JOHNSON: Perimeter (double CDR on Zero Music)

While best known for his excursions into extreme ambience, Vir Unis harbors dynamic tendencies that brilliantly shine in this collaboration with ambient synthesist James Johnson. This fusion of talent results in a total of 135 minutes of thoroughly engaging electronic music on this double CDR from 2001.

Employing such "instruments" as radiowave mutations, fractalizations, sequence and rhythm manipulations, and subtle knob movements, this music exhibits all the trademark aspects of pure ambient soundscapes...except that these aspects are enhanced by an injection of groove elements that invigorate the atmospherics.

The result are auralscapes that are alive with repressed agitation churning beneath an ambient surface, generating an agreeable degree of tension. Rhythms emerge to propel the music with their unearthly timbres and resonance. Before the listener realizes it, the soundscape has mutated into a calmly rippling fog of glimmering tuneage, thoroughly enticing and softly commanding.

There are passages in which the E-perc becomes quite demonstrative, striving to dominate the placid electronic clouds...forcing the ambience to display more captivating authority to keep up.

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VIR UNIS: Lumen (CD on In the Bubble Music)

This 2002 release is a three-inch CD that features 21 minutes of ambient music.

Gurgling water heralds in a vaporous ambience punctuated by the languidly bent strains of a Zbow guitar that is in no hurry to define a melody. The harmony winds along with the liquid sounds, unhurriedly following the course of the sonic stream. Clouds of sighing flute-like tonalities rise from the flow like sibilant steam, clearing away the murky air of reality and inviting in the luxurious light. Relaxation pinnacles with the advent of swirling electronics that bestow a denser presence to the passive calm. As illumination crests through the restful soundscape, the substantiality grows more prominent, gathering power with an unplayed modicum of command. The increase of density is barely perceptible, as the textural whole swells into a lusher version of its earlier resonance. When the peak fades, its crescendo is virtually invisible.

This release features additional atmospherics contributed by Steve Roach.

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VIR UNIS & CHRISTOPHER SHORT: The Yellow House (CD on In the Bubble Music)

This 74 minute CDR from 2002 features a collaboration between Vir Unis and Christopher Short (from Ma Ja Le).

Ambient guitar strains wind through elongated electronic textures, generating an arid mood that glistens under a nocturnal sky of infinite expanse. Sedate guitar strumming interweaves with astral Ebow tones, often indistinguishable from wholly synthetic sounds. Twinkling electronics achieve star-like quality, transforming that night sky into a vibrant-but-passive panorama. There are passages in which the soft guitar exhibits more body, almost straying into steel guitar territory with forlorn chords that resound with emotional longing. These passages feature more abstract electronics punctuating the dronish backdrop, injecting environmental airs that ground the aerial ascent with earthly reminders.

The pace is unhurried and relaxing, ambient and quietly invigorating. There is a constant sense of expansion to this atmospheric music, spurring the listener to sympathetic symbiosis with all things within and beyond their surroundings, carrying the audience to levels of potentially higher consciousness.

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