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Ambient: Elf Machine vs Foy, Vasco Martins, Robert Rich

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ELF MACHINE vs FOY: 10,000 Headless Buddhas (CDR on Atmoworks)

This CDR from 2003 features 69 minutes of extremely minimal yet rhythmic ambience.

The notion of a duel between two ambient musicians is rather bewildering. Consider this dual effort a "collaboration", for there's no strife involved in the result--only an entertaining dose of minimal ambience.

These two eclectic ambient bands collide here, producing a soothing excursion into atmospheric soundscapes. The music is comprised of languid textures adrift in a misty realm with pulsating tonalities supplying rhythmic backing. Often these tempos consist of hissing diodes triggered in a pattern to approximate rhythms; other times the beats are more conventional, albeit muted. The pace and fluctuations of these electronic rhythms can become quite engaging as they pitter away at the edge of audibility, intent more on subliminal effect than conscious hearing.

This rhythmic presence is as soft as a summer breeze, while the ambient electronics serve as an even more subtle foundation. Their blending produces soundscapes that float with chittering demeanor, hovering just at the edge of peripheral perception. Sedation is keynote here, with the beats tempered in such a way as to induce complimentary mesmerism.

Overall, the melodies are gentle and comfortably satisfying.

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VASCO MARTINS: Apeiron (CDR on Syngate)

This release from 2003 offers 50 minutes of pleasant ambience.

Recorded live on the Cape Verde Islands back in 1999, this music features Martins on electronic keyboards, accompanied by Micau Chante on percussion and conch shell.

Soothing tonalities wash upon a virgin beach, heralding the advent of an atmospheric mood. Rising like a mythical creature from the sea, the music remains sedate and calming with flowing textures that bring the serenity of clouds to ground. Gentle percussives add a touch of body to the drifting harmonics while never propelling the music into a rhythmic state. Delicate keyboards maintain a luminous but mellow presence throughout.

Lavish use of minimal melody achieves a breezy feeling, tickled by the periodic punctuation of drums and the outcry of a blown conch shell, resounding like a distant horn announcing the arrival of dawn spirits.

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ROBERT RICH: Calling Down the Sky (CD on Soundscape Productions)

This release from 2004 features 74 minutes of ambient music that studies the climate.

While touring the USA in the summer of 2003, Robert Rich found heavy weather dogging his concerts, from tornadoes to floods. During a private performance before 26 friends in Denver on July 26, Rich decided to pay sonic tribute to these extreme meteorological conditions, creating a bond between music and sky. This recording documents that concert.

Blending soothing electronic textures and slide guitar effects, Rich conjures an atmospheric soundscape that examines the languid and the turgid sides of weather. Expect a profusion of cloud-formations generated by eternal sustains swaying with almost imperceptible variance. Tension accumulates throughout these improvised compositions, as cyclic electronics swirl with the promise of thunderheads, as deeper tonalities agitate those tenuous sonic currents to increased activity. The eerie resonance of vaporous flutes emerges like a rising tide of warmth, displacing the chilling altitudes and evoking an arid strata of air that hangs heavy with shamanic influence. A hint of mechanical sounds grinds in the distance, reminding the audience of mankind's role as a passive remote observer to the wrath of the sky. These artificial embellishments gradually adopt more fluid traits, becoming the advent of rainfall, complete with jubilant birds welcoming the imminent shower. Gradually, humanity plays a more integral role in the music, with treated choirs praying to the wind and subtle bells and chimes dancing solemnly in the breeze.

As the concert draws to a close, previous elements converge: atmospheric tones and pattering mechanical rhythms and ethereal guitar and environmental samples--all conspiring to accomplish a recognition of the incredible potency of the sky, humbling the audience in the face of powers that rule our globe.

With this recording, Rich expands his capacity to that of a weather wizard, summoning pleasant climates and warding off storms with his ambient music.

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