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Peaceful electronics: Richard Pinhas, Remanence, Robert Rich & Ian Boddy, Steve Roach & Jeffrey Fayman, The Gatherings Concerts, Okeefenokee Dreams 2001

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RICHARD PINHAS: Event and Repetitions (CD on Cuneiform Records)

This 77 minute release from 2002 sees Pinhas again exploring ambient guitarscapes that literally defy classification as expressions of the stringed instrument.

Amazingly, all these tracks were performed live on guitar direct to digital recorder. The otherworldliness stems from Pinhas' masterful manipulations.

While some passages are recognizably products of the guitar, these sounds are swiftly treated, processed, looped and mutated into lush textures that swarm through the air like liquid molasses. Growling tones lap like a sweet surf against the audience's attention, tickling the psyche with stimulations felt primarily by the subconscious. Languid textures undulate, agitated by whirlwinds of compressed chords that swirl into expanding spiral configurations, ever-widening ripples that capture and carry with delicate caress. This sonic architecture intentionally bewilders, dazzling with astral sentiments deeply rooted in soil and sweat, hypnotizing with overlapping waves of demonstrative strangeness. Epic sweeps along the entire neck of the guitar add authoritative declaration, generating dramatic punctuation to the seething atmospherics.

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REMANENCE: Lamkhyer (3-inch CD EP on mPATH Records)

Remanence is Brian McWilliams and John Phipps. This 3-inch CD EP from 2002 features 20 minutes of dreamy electronics that serves a prelude and subtext to the band's upcoming "A Strange Constellation of Events" full-length CD release (meaning that only one of the EP's three tracks will be on the album).

Expect stately ambience conspiring with sedate drumming and sweeping tonalities to produce an ethereal landscape of mists encountered on a hillside climb. Deeply resounding electronics swell and recede, punctuating the mix with their ominous presence. Rattles shimmer unseen in the vapors, adding an eerie flavor to the sighing harmonics.

The music's mood is a somber one, but richly tinged with anticipation. Blending Steve Roach influences with classical sensibilities, Remanence achieves a calm that evokes majestic panoramas as witnessed from high altitude vantage points.

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This 59 minute CD from 2002 pairs two electronic greats to produce a collaboration of significant proportion. Blending Rich's adventurish atmospherics with Boddy's growling density, this music shimmers with interstellar dazzle.

Ethereal electronics swim in a cosmic pool stirred by mechanoid percussion and agitated by subliminally wailing guitar. Tonalities pulsate overhead, opening the sky for passage to remote vistas. Emerging from this ambience, expansive electronics generate a vibrant environment of unearthly sounds, punctuated by eternally sustained steel guitar strains that flow like a gaseous strata. Caught in this astral stream, the audience is conveyed through an aching region that laments without despair. This music creates a tangible isolation, immersing the listener in a sonic medium that acts as a buffer between the self and fellow beings.

Lushly melodic, this music exhibits Rich's signature ambience livened by Boddy's vibratory style. A sense of wonder abounds in this tuneage, evoking outposts situated in far and desolate environments, cold and crisp and sparkling on airless frontiers. The overall tone is one of separation from civilization, an exile to fields of frozen methane. From this vantage, the listener can stare out into the unexplored void, mystified and amazed by galactic puzzles, or glimpse back at the vast distance separating the individual from their own species. Solitude such as this can be experienced even in the midst of busy crowds; communication with others becomes a memory, an interaction made important by its very impossibility.

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STEVE ROACH & JEFFREY FAYMAN: Trance Spirits (CD on Projekt)

This 74 minute CD from 2002 features a brooding collaboration between ambient legend Roach and soundtrack artist Fayman. Added to this interaction are Robert Fripp (contributing guitar soundscapes on three of the CD's seven tracks) and Momodou Kah (providing a tribal percussive presence).

Expect dense trance music here: expansive regions of atmospheric drones punctuated by tribal percussion and astral tonalities. The drumming is softly relegated to the midground where it provides a constant propulsion for the drifting aural presence. Those sonic clouds roil and ooze with haunting moods that envelope the audience, lifting them from the earth and elevating them into realms that exist only in the mind.

The electronic textures are quite ethereal, existing in multilayers and generating a twinkling atmosphere of gentle sound. Harmonic interplay of these dronish elements produces a wondrous melodic sense of transcendental concentration, creating an environment for the conscious to wander freely, unfettered by physicality. Awe and sedation are in store for those who get lost in those realms.

The percussion introduces a backbone to the music, providing meandering rhythms as guidance through the ethereal mists. These softly resounding tempos never dominate the tuneage, satisfied to remain in their support position.

Fripp's guitar is pretty excellently hidden amid this soundscape. First off, his guitarscapes mutate traditional guitar into a versatile instrument of heavenly grace and soft-spoken voice. Much of his string-manipulations are indistinguishable from ambient electronics, allowing his contributions here to blend into the holistic clouds, adding spice without disrupting the sonic mood.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: The Gatherings (CD on Synkronos Music)

The Gatherings are a series of electronic music concerts held in Philadelphia in loose conjunction with the WXPN radio show "Star's End", which focuses on dreamy electronic music. This thoroughly engaging 67 minute CD collects tracks culled from some of these performances by:

The Ministry of Inside Things (aka Chuck van Zyl from Xisle and Peter Gulch from Nightcrawlers) offer a sonic journey into realms inspired by the Berlin School of electronics, evoking the lilting strains of heavily sequenced riffs in a drifting manner.

Bionaut (aka Christopher Green and Paul Eggleston) deliver a somber piece that blends ambient tones with more jarring sounds to produce a dreamlike passage into the depths of consciousness.

Ben Neill's track escalates the pace with lively textures and persnickety percussives. Pulsating quasi-trumpets fuse a jazziness with the ambient flow.

Steve Roach contributes a 17 minute section from a 1996 gig (in support of his "On This Planet" CD). Typically masterful with relaxing tones and softly emerging tribal instruments, this music captures the mood of passing through regions of limitless clouds.

Robert Rich's track is a 15 minute performance (from 1996) of an ancient (1991) composition, modernized with contemporary sensibilities and digital technology. The music is lush and sedately structured, achieving great power through minimal expression.

Kevin Bartlett employs delicate percussives and ethereal electronics to produce tense ambience that enters a passage of romantically acoustic guitar.

Jeff Greinke contributes a track that uses treated voices to enhance an eerie soundscape of elongated tonalities and softly growling synthesizers.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: Okefenokee Dreams 2001 (CD on Neu Harmony/ Quantum Records,)

This 2002 release features 68 minutes of improvised electronic music cut in homage of the mode created by Tangerine Dream during the late Seventies in their classic track "3AM at the Border of the Marsh from Okenfenokee". In remembrance of this distinctive turning point in the history of electronic music, the Okenfenokee Gathering festival is held annually in Georgia. The music on this CD is culled from those performances.

The artists featured on this jam session are: Marcel Engels (aka Free System Projekt), John Christian and Peter Ruzcynski (from Airsculpture), Dave Brewer, and Bill Fox.

The music is thoroughly engaging, a chorus of synthesizers and digital samplers directed toward creating modern testaments to a swampy sound that few dare to emulate. Keyboards generate lush textures, which are overlaid by more active riffs that spiral from watery depths to break into the humid light and sparkle with vibrant sequences. A variety of environmental sounds are employed (along with some spoke phrases) to enhance this electronic surgence. Patterns are generated, cycled with relentless dedication, then tweaked by sidereal riffs which inspire ecstasy to even the uninitiated.

Deep synthetics run in tandem with flutish keyboards, creating a balance that evokes verdant vegetation under crystal twilight. While these musicians strive to push the electronic envelope, the end result is invariably determined to conjure this exotic misty mood.

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