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Ambient: Alio Die & Mathias Grassow, Melusone, Principle of Silence

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ALIO DIE & MATHIAS GRASSOW: Expanding Horizon (double CD on Relapse Records)

This release from 2003 features 147 minutes of gentle soundscapes.

Assisting Alio Die and Mathias Grassow on these recordings are: Klaus Wiese on different Indian string-instruments, and Carsten Agthe on percussion.

Environmental sounds merge with electronic textures to produce soundscapes that combine technology and nature into a gestalt of contrasting unity. While ambient tones flow through increasing skies, soft, metallic percussives generate a mechanical presence that flavors the holistic sound with modern seasoning. This relaxed combination creates an uncharacteristic (but soothing) realm of complacent cooperation between nature and artificiality. Organic crickets chirp in chorus with cybernetic creatures, exchanging insectoid communications in attempts to eradicate the dividing boundaries between life and circuitry, establishing a pact that transcends their inherent idiosyncrasies. Swirling water adds an earthly embellishment, again contrasted by ethereally ringing electronic whispers. Ethnic strings inject a wavering touch of nirvana to the placidity.

These dissimilarities are the foundation for this mellow tuneage. fusing diverse polarities together to form an ambience that appeals to both sides of the equation. By uniting the artificial with nature, the musicians have expanded the known universe to encompass a new zone where man and robot can peacefully coexist.

While possessing a softly harmonic presence, the overall effect of the compositions is one of sedation, rendering all distractions invalid and assimilating these incongruities into a pleasantly homogenous coalition. More than simply negating the stress of civilized existence, this music seems to absorb such tensions into itself, coating all jarring elements with a liquid tranquillity and transforming such things into parts of the even-keeled sonic climate.

The result is the transformation of our world into a vast cathedral of nature, where birds and glorious sunlight intermingle with normally-harsh technology and man's desire for inner concord.

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MELUSINE: The Aqua Path (CD on N-Heptane Studio)

This CD from 2003 offers 61 minutes of tranquil, water-oriented tuneage.

Melusine is: Kate Durkes with Jeremy Shaw.

Delicate electronics establish sedate soundscapes of floating tonalities punctuated by fragile chords. Minimal structure is applied, allowing the music to flow in all directions simultaneously, thereby immersing the listener in a liquid environment of polymerized creation. One track employs crystalline bells to simulate rain amid flutish keyboards and synthesized cello. Another piece mixes passive piano with tenuous vocals to describe an undisturbed oceanic surface. While another track utilizes acoustic guitar and electronic pitches to define an aquatic serenity that gradually accretes a demonstrative presence. A gentle rainfall provides an amiable backdrop in one track for hesitant piano and breathy mellotron embellishment, excellently capturing a lazy afternoon shower.

The melodies on this release are soft and powerfully unintrusive. Rhythms appear only in a few tracks, and those beats are quite ephemeral in their feathery nature. Vocals are featured twice and function both times to express new age sentiments.

A translucent mood of being immersed in various stages of water is integral to this ambient music.

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PRINCIPLE OF SILENCE: Live (CD on Principle of Silence)

This release from 2003 features 47 minutes of ambient classic music, and includes a video track.

Principle of Silence is a collaboration between two Belgian composers: ambient soundscapist vidnaObmana and classical musician Joris De Backer.

This concert happened at Theobaldus Chapel in Brecht, Belgium, on the winter solstice of December 21, 2002.

Obmana's ethereal flutes and atmospheric electronics receive an unexpected boost from Backer's acoustic double bass, flavoring the drifting textural flow with a melancholy chamber music timbre. These languid quasi-cello drones and classically plucked strings provide a striking contrast for the ambient tonalities and softly pitched woodwinds. While the electronic fog generates an eerie sentiment, the sawing bass grounds these aerial filaments with their recital demeanor, casting the entire collaboration into a retro sound that plunges much farther back into musical history and then takes a sidestep from mankind's timeline into a past century that featured delicately crafted electronics (way before the discovery of electricity). Somber percussives enhance this unconventional fusion, attributing a non-tribal edge to the tunes.

This mixture of barely audible instruments conspire in beautiful tandem. The gaseous electronics are excellently deepened by the resonant attic-quality of the standing bass' elegant bow strokes. Meanwhile, the haunting mood of the sedately fingered stout-strings are transported from a classical chamber to cimmerian depths by the hazy steam of synthetic textures. Sighing flutes attribute a forlorn-yet-pastoral sentiment to the languid mix.

All this music was improvised live. The result of these impromptu compositions dabbles at the periphery of silence. Tenuous harmonies combine to produce waves of pensive sound that elaborate the properties of tranquillity in heretofore unexplored ways.

The CD contains an 11 minute video of the last track ("The Fall"), shot by Patrick Ceuppens which captures the music's haunting disposition, showing the musicians performing in a candle-lit cathedral. Very moody, and equally staid.

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