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Dazzling Electronics: Nekropolis, Smoke & Mirrors, Andy Pickford & Paul Nagle, Max van Richter

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NEKROPOLIS: Anubis Dance (CD on Nekropolis Records)

This release from 2003 offers 77 minutes of dynamic electronic music recorded back in 1997.

Nekropolis is German synthesist Peter Frohmader. Aiding him on some tracks are: Pit Holzapfel (on trombone) and Holger Roder (on drums).

A powerful Arabesque flair colors much of this tuneage, evoking dark tunnels hidden from mankind for eons, eager to burst from exile and darken the light of day with ominous portends.

There is a strong percussive presence to this music. In fact, several conventional instruments (guitar, piano, ethnic strings, horns) share the sonic stage with the bevy of nimble synthesizers, creating a lush sound that exhibits monstrously tasty proportions. While the E-perc pounds out exotic rhythms, grand piano lends an earthy quality that is enormously dramatic. Heavenly choirs emerge, only to be swamped by the frenzied beats and complex synthesizer riffs. There is an urgency to this music, as if the melodies are impatient after being confined so long in subterranean residence. Unearthly sounds abound, chittering and buzzing from all corners to embellish the tuneage with their haunting resonance.

There is scarce atmospheric quality to this music. The busy melodies are vibrant and authoritative, demanding attention and commanding your loyalty with their appealing intensity. One might say that the crescendos outnumber the developing phases of the music. Often, the complexity of the pieces proves overwhelming, leaving the audience exhausted...but begging for more.

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SMOKE & MIRRORS: The Perfume of Creosote: Desert Exotica Part 1 (CD on Aural Fixation Records)

This CD offers 78 minutes of energized electronic music.

Smoke & Mirrors is: Michael Ely and Spider Taylor.

While sultry electronics are present in this music, versatile percussion and astral guitar provide an affluent backbone to the aridly evocative melodies. These percussives range from serpentine bongos to full drumkit to steel rhythms, providing engaging tempos to the cosmic harmonies. The velocity of the beats are unfrenzied, but far from languid, conveying considerable verve with their intricate patterns.

The guitar is equally adaptable, resounding one moment with wailing interstellar sensibilities, crooning the next with tender chords that border on romantic expressions. Grand sustains spiral into majestic heavens, caressing each distantly twinkling star with their emphatic cries; while soft chords are utilized to generate a rich outdoor flair that mixes a dust bowl lament with a hint of tribal predilection.

Delicate piano and electronic keyboards filter through the mix like rare waterways, saturating the music with their precious moisture. There are even a few orchestral touches that lend the flow even greater nobility.

Use of digeridoo and sandy flutes enhance the tuneage, reinforcing the desert motif while injecting an atmospheric edge that elevates the audience to lofty cloudbanks of seductive disposition.

The numerous tracks are often short, but not too brief that each piece sounds truncated or rushed. These dreamy compositions brim with pleasant sentiments that include subtle but infectious riffs intended to uplift and entertain.

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ANDY PICKFORD & PAUL NAGLE: S.T.D.M: Ramayana (CD on Neu Harmony)

This 72 minute CD from 2002 was recorded live at the Jodrell Bank Planetarium in England in May 2002.

It begins with a glittering waterfall of crystalline electronics, spilling over the audience and readying you for an interstellar voyage. Deeper tonalities emerge, resonating with heavenly demeanor, generating a congenial cloudbank that welcomes the listener to its gently hissing embrace. Cyclic keyboards enter the mix, establishing rhythms with non-percussive sounds. Gradually, non-cyclic keyboards rise from the glistening sonic pool to delineate more forceful expressions, lending the pleasant flow a commanding presence. All these elements commence an aerial dance that unifies them into a dynamic melody that is packed with drama and appeal.

Periodically, this upward drive abates to pause in atmospheric regions, examining the sonic qualities of breathtaking nebulas, following the gaseous streamers as these cosmic mists expand with the languid grandeur of galactic properties. These rest-stops along the journey inevitably lead back to energetic passages that are rich with entertaining verve, sparkling with fire that rivals the starlight surrounding the audience. Rapid-fire keyboards emulate this stellar twinkling, as if each distant star pulses with cohesive patterns designed to mesmerize and energize.

Although possessing some Berlin School traits, this music displays a healthy, modern quality that carries a distinctly unique style...surging pulsations that conspire to create electronic tempos of often-frantic pace, interweaving riffs that coalesce into mighty panoramas of sound rich with astral undertones.

For more on Paul Nagle's music, go here.

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MAX VAN RICHTER: Resurrection (CD on Neu Harmony)

This CD from 2002 features 64 minutes of ambitiously dark electronic music.

According to legend, Max van Richter was a founding member of a European EM band called Arcane. In the late Seventies, van Richter met a reputedly mysterious death.

Behind the curtain, Arcane never existed. All the music found on the band's pair of superb albums ("Gather Darkness" and "Future Wrecks", both released on Neu Harmony) and van Richter's solo release are the braincandy of Paul Lawler.

Suitably, the tuneage on "Resurrection" is dark and ominous, an electronic soundtrack for some tortured nightmare trapped in an abandoned haunted house. Efforts have been made to capture the vibrant flair of the formative stages of the classic Berlin School sound, in numerous instances employing sounds that were in popular use during that electronic heyday, but the results often tend to be slicker than old recordings, employing technologies and sentiments that are distinctly modern.

Majestic keyboards achieve stratospheric altitudes that are rich with dramatic tension. Percussives resound with greatness amid pools of snickering lesser rhythms, generating a remarkably lush sonic tapestry. Electronic textures exist as a backdrop for these grand melodies, slithering between the strenuous riffs and epic chords like a supportive ocean. The synthesized strains of space guitar wail and screech throughout the compositions, empowering the music with emphatic passion and even a little strife. Ghostly noises conspire with grand piano to form a disturbing fusion of spectral ether and funereal earth.

There is a compelling sense of rebirth lurking amid this eerie music, evoking the presence of van Richter's lost soul struggling against cosmic odds to reclaim his flesh and continue the sonic legacy hinted at by his mythic existence. The result is a selection of melodic tuneage that is both exhausting and invigorating, parting the dark clouds it has established to writhe with inspirational triumph in a realm of dazzling radiance.

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