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Ambient music by a Foundry project, Jonathan Hughes, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Antonio Testa & Alio Die

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: 360 Degrees (CD on the Foundry)

Conceived and organized by Michael Bentley (aka eM), this 51 minute CD from 2002 is a concept release in which the various electronic musicians contribute an instrumental soundtrack for a science fiction tale (in which a space traveler encounters "something" in the void) told via text on the CD's insert card.

Included in this project are: Rhomb, eM, Jonathan Hughes, High Skies, Mark van Hoen & Seofon, Sketch, Thermal, and Kim Cascone.

Although decidedly "ambient" these tracks display a tad more substance (sometimes even discernible rhythms) than most passive soundscapes. Delicate melodies lurk among these textural compositions, as crackling tones and drifting atmospherics conspire to generate a mysterious sonic environment for the listener. The music throbs with cosmic qualities: chirping radio emissions, oozing radiation fields and the languid drone of interstellar particles as they tumble in the great vacuum. Minimalist abstractions evolve structure, ascension achieves escape velocity, and atonal noise abounds with vague harmonics, frequently applying smooth beats to invigorate the astral soundtrack.

This Foundry project is quite entertaining, excellently capturing the limitless void, elucidating this galactic panorama with unaggressive drama and electronic suspense as the strange tale unfolds.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: Lost and Found, a Foundry Anthology (double CD on the Foundry)

This release from 2002 was compiled to document artists on the Foundry label: past, present, and future.

On this double CD, you will find material by: the Apiary, M.Bentley, eM, Jonathan Hughes, Mollusk, Rhomb, Dean Santomieri, and Seofon (with Steve Roach and Vidna Obmana). The first CD features 68 minutes of tracks from older Foundry releases by these artists. The second CD features 65 minutes of material from current and future Foundry releases (in conjunction with the Hypnos label), including a few remixes and previously unreleased tracks by some of these artists.

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JONATHAN HUGHES: Trillium (CD on the Foundry)

This 52 minute release from 2002 features dense ambience, with each track constituting an experiment in 3/4 signature.

As stated in the CD package: "Trillium is neither a radioactive isotope, nor a newly discovered planet--it is a three-pedaled flower in the lily family." Understanding this distinction is quite helpful in appreciating Hughes' music, for the gradual expansion of his electronic textures adopts familiar qualities once the audience can connect the drones and pulsations with a blossoming life force. The dreamy ambience parallels growth, patiently grinding toward maturity with each cyclic loop and ringing tonality. Glitchy and static sounds are compressed into elongated structures that waft in an unheard breeze. More conventional synthesizer noises are employed to glue everything together, patching seams between earth and sky. Huge plants spring to tower in the synthetic sunlight, bending to quasi-atonal stimuli.

Having released several CDs under the name Subspace, Hughes makes his debut solo recording with this abstract release, capturing the lifespan of a simple flower with a mixture of harsh sounds washed in a glittering downpour of fluid electronics.

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HANS-JOACHIM ROEDELIUS: Self Portrait VIII: Introspection (CD on Horizon Music)

This 62 minute CD from 2002 features a tasteful dose of relaxing electronic music by Roedelius. This man is legendary for his contributions to the electronic genre for his work as a co-member of Cluster.

Contemplative keyboards meld with languid tonalities, producing music that is passive with a touch of stimulating agitation. Crunching environmental sounds drift throughout, lending an edginess that maintains a nonaggressive presence. Delicate keyboards and soothing piano dominate the forefront of these instrumental tunes. The melodies are sedate and minimal, yet they glow with emotion and verve, expressing moods that captivate with their mellow delivery.

While peaceful, this music does not pursue atmospheric qualities. Instead, Roedelius chooses to express harmonies that are rich with substance, but comprised of crystalline structure and fragile density. Even the more energetic pieces maintain a pastoral beauty, as superbly exemplified in the track "Trailing Along" with its lush E-perc and quasi-accordion and artificial cello strains, achieving a peppy tempo that remains cheerful yet pensive.

The introspection aspect of this music is one that instills an outgrowth of thought, releasing private contemplation so that such private ruminations float free in the air for all to experience.

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ANTONIO TESTA & ALIO DIE: Prayer for the Forest (CD on GreenHouse Music)

This 2002 release features 54 minutes of environmental ambient music generated by Antonio Testa and Alio Die (aka Stefano Musso).

Combining Testa's percussion and flute with Musso's electronic textures and drones, this collaboration successfully seeks to capture the heart of the green and convey it in atmospheric soundscapes. Wrought with softly tribal rhythms, synthetic ambience fills the air, creating sonic images of great trees swaying overhead, blocking the sky with their spread leafery. Electronic winds trickle through the shrubbery, sending each frond and clump of hanging moss twirling to tell their tales. Sedate peace and organic coexistence dominate this music, brooding without remorse or condemnation. The forest breathes and opens a pathway for the entranced audience, welcoming and full of grandeur. Holistic ambience unfurls its languid tongues, enticing with fogged tendrils and stately with unobtrusive harmonics. This passive tuneage stirs the soul, reaching deep into mankind's racial memory, recalling a time when man and forest shared the same hopes and dreams.

Evoking woodland spirits with electronic instruments, this music is a modern testament to the reverence deserved by the plant world.

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