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Ambient Electronics: David Miles Huber, Overload, Kent Sparling, VidnaObmana

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DAVID MILES HUBER: Tranquility Base (CDR on 51BPM)

This release from 2002 features 72 minutes of calming ambience.

The strumming of a staid harp accompanies soothing electronic atmosphere, welcoming the listener to Tranquillity Base. Itís not just a station on the moon, itís a sonic state of mind. Calm, serene, and intentionally minimal--designed to elicit a sedative effect. Toy-like keyboards establish themselves as an ingress to a pleasant vista of passive demeanor, paving the way for softly ticking cybernetic beats and solemn bass pulsations that blend with a heavenly texture that drifts overhead. That texture thickens, lowering itself until the audience becomes immersed in the vaporous harmonics. This tranquil mood saturates everything, drowning all tension and stress.

More conventional percussion emerges, muffled by airiness, tempering the sonic flow with a languid rhythm that promotes lethargy, driving consciousness inward. Tender keyboard notes attribute subliminal substance to the lazy movement. Every sound is conspiring to subdue agitation, while the overall patterns regularly surge ever-so-slightly, lifting cognizance to a state of awareness of this inner perspective.

Those muffled beats return, adopting a unsteady cadence like drunken bongos played far in the distance. Xylophone notes enter the minimal mix, clonging in a relaxed tempo that intertwines with the remote bongos. Tonalities striving for a flutish presence drift in and out, their passage punctuated by mildly jarring, metallic beats.

Approximated shakers alternate with NASA transmissions, heralding a final approach to the core of the tranquil voyage.

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OVERLOAD: The Sonic Intoxicant (CD on Neuropop Records)

This release from 2004 offers 65 minutes of ambience with strong roots in neuroscience.

Overload is: composer Lance T. Massey and neuroscientist Seth S. Horowitz.

This music is a union of neuroscience, psychology and sound, producing a sonic gestalt that is crafted to achieve biochemical stimulation inside the brain, intentionally triggering emotional responses through neurosensory algorithms.

Languid tonalities unfurl with a shuddering undercurrent laced with unearthly sounds and treated voices and delicate tintinnabulation. A mild form of E-perc is utilized to inject erratic rhythms to the flow, often manifesting as chittering diodes or a dense throbbing punctuated by cybernetic whip-cracks Subliminal pulsations embody long passages frequented by atonal embellishments. The voices are muted and wrapped in synthetic cotton that transforms words into muffled expressions.

More harmonic than melodic, this music caresses the mind with peaceful ambience. The three tracks ("Focus", "Eros", and "Vertigo Tour") strive to elicit specific emotional responses in the human brain.

The result is a form of musique concrete designed to be used as an emotional tool more than as a background soundscape.

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KENT SPARLING: Leaf Spring (CD on Purling Records)

This CD from 2003 features 61 minutes of experimental ambience.

Joining Sparling on this recording is Jeffrey Foster.

This music is a hybrid of electronic and environmental sounds, each source set up to modify each other in a random sequence.

Atmospheric tones drift in conjunction with surging cybernetic noises. Shifting waves flow along, carrying the audience through peaceful sonic territories littered with remote rainfall, crackling trees, and other natural events. The electronics act as a vehicle, taking the listener on a voyage through seasonal conditions that interact with the synthetic soundscapes. On several tracks, lazy guitars wander through the mix, lending a humanizing presence. In other pieces, a Rhodes piano adds flavor to the electronics.

Generally, this music exhibits a staid quality, unfurling like the surface of a summer pond occasionally disturbed by ripples. The tunes are congenial and complacent, inspiring introspection tinged with an awareness of the surrounding environment.

Another aspect of this music is that the ten tracks on the CD feature two mixes of each of the five compositions. Among these mixes, the differences are often invisible, other times drastically obvious.

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VIDNA OBMANA: An Opera for Four Fusion Works, Act 2: Phrasing the Air (CD on Hypnos Recordings)

This release from 2003 offers 62 minutes of quasi-classical ambience.

Accompanying Vidna Obmana's electronics, guitars, bowed strings and infinite recycling on this recording is Bill Fox on soprano saxophone.

Taking the concept of "drone" to new levels, this music has an eternally expansive sound. The tonalities and textures flow like unbridled liquid; unfettered by gravity or inertia, they seek to fill space with their pensive disposition. The air transforms into a roiling essence, ethereal yet substantial in its shadowy presence. It's as if thought has spilled out of the mind to take on vaporous form.

Ebow guitars and bowed strings generate the impression of an orchestral mien, distant and ghostly in its definition. Emulating a buzzsaw whose growl has been elongated until it loses its aggressive outcry and adopts a more passive euphony, these treated strings become a fundamental element that unifies man and atmosphere.

Predominant amid these soundscapes is Fox's saxophone. Treated to become a seamless horizon of sound, the horn's call forms impressive cloudbanks of moaning resonance. This sonic overcast blocks all light and silence, shrouding the landscape with serene moods that evoke an eternal dusk. Pulsing notes are contorted and folded back onto themselves, creating a pastiche of eerie quality.

This music offers a dense ambience that embodies dark demeanor with celestial optimism. It achieves this state with classical instruments swimming in a pool of electronic treatments. The electronics are actually secondary to the traditional instruments, used to transform rather than immerse.

Enthralling and pleasantly imperious.

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