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The Ministry of Inside Things

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Philadelphia's electronic music scene has a long history and a strong following. And one of the best things to emerge from this scene is the Ministry of Inside Things, who has brought new life to the Berlin School style of electronic music with their dreamy melodies punctuated by searing space guitar.

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THE MINISTRY OF INSIDE THINGS: Live at the ICA, Philadelphia, PA, March 20, 1998 (CDR on Synkronos Music)

This release features 59 minutes of dreamy electronic music.

At this point in time, the Ministry of Inside Things was: Chuck van Zyl and Peter Gulch on synthesizers, and Art Cohen on guitar.

Incredible guitar wails in your face, a veritable assault team of cosmic riffs that blazes like the heart of a stellar furnace. Synthesizers growl with gutteral temperament--they also twinkle with chromium sparkle and sweep like a swarm of busy insects. They also behave like traditional Berlin School instruments: generating lush textures and dazzling sequences that evoke strange wildernesses and dreamy nebulas. Frequently, nickering E-perc goads the flow to higher velocities. And the guitar keep resurfacing, screaming in a voice capable of piercing dimensions and stripping atoms of their quantum charge.

While the synthesizers generate liquid helium melodies of silvery distinction, the guitar establishes a molten fury that attributes radiance to everything in its path. Punctuating these extended crescendos are passages of haunting electronic delicacy, vaporous marshes of somber quietude that provide the audience with the opportunity to catch their breath and ground themselves before the next stratospheric spiral commences.

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THE MINISTRY OF INSIDE THINGS: Live at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, September 16, 1998 (CDR on Synkronos Music)

This release offers 66 minutes of low-key electronic music.

At this point in time, the Ministry of Inside Things was: Chuck van Zyl and Peter Gulch on synthesizers, and Art Cohen on guitar.

This performance starts with a more sedate piece that intermingles delicate synthesizer textures with atmospheric guitar tonalities, exploring relaxing minimalism and unrhythmic structure.

Following this are a few tracks that employ the opposite approach: tender E-perc pattering establish an appealing foundation for some superbly stellar guitarwork. In pursuance of tasty chords, the guitar launches from a stately beginning to rareified altitudes with echoing strains that are thoroughly delightful.

Things inside the ministry return to a tranquil disposition for the 27 minute epic track "Outer Limits". Soft E-perc that starts out in a Steve Reich fashion and builds to sultry rhythms underneath a stretch of luxurious guitar cut in the self-looping style of Manuel Göottsching (from Ashra). Meanwhile, the gentle beats have vanished, and tenuous electronic textures are gathering.

Soon, these ambient fogs emerge to set the tone for the remainder of the performance. At least, until the final track, whereat the space guitar returns for some blinding sustains. Overall, a more restrained set than the March '98 concert, but still quite entertaining, displaying a dreamier side of the band.

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THE MINISTRY OF INSIDE THINGS: Live on Emusic, July 12, 2001 (CDR on Synkronos Music)

This CDR features 66 minutes of engaging electronic music.

Currently, the Ministry of Inside Things consists of Chuck van Zyl on synthesizers, and Art Cohen on guitar.

Again, the concert has atmospheric beginnings highly reminescent of passage through a serene nebula.

Emerging from these interstellar gases comes a cyclic keyboard sequence that evokes classic Tangerine Dream, complete with slowburning heavenly drone. This electronic surf builds into a crystalline ballet, an excellently suitable stage for the guitar's appearance. As one might hope, the guitar swiftly generates a molten presence as it belts out spacey sustains of dazzling proportion.

The track "Contour Adjustment" displays a different attitude, exploring almost atonal experimentation with floating tonalities that collide and gently clash.

Following this, the music takes a more cohesive but extremely ambient turn for a few tracks...with softly bonging bell-tones and drifting textures.

But things revert to a driving insistence as the keyboards loop into slow-building cycle of dramatic sensibilities, and the guitar returns to a spacerock growl, resounding like an angry dinosaur screaming in the distance. While the keyboard loop increases in velocity, becoming more demonstrative with each pass, the wailing guitar stimulates the audience's imagination with a rapid succession of tantalizing riffs. Wandering in and out of this ecstatic mix are pulsation-tempos that devolve into cybernetic bloops for an emphatic conclusion of "Function Four" (one of the band's more memorable tunes).

The concert ends with "Grateful", a piece that employs more traditional guitar in a jazz mode, with a synthi whisper in the background generating a soothing mood. The notes are carefully plucked, pleasantly characterized, and highly romantic in timbre.

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