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Ambient: Philippe Emmanuel Gueble, Numina, Ben Fleury Steiner, Robert Scott Thompson, Spiralight Collection

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PHILIPPE EMMANUEL GUEBLE: Fire & Remembrance (CD on Underwater Music)

This release from 2004 offers 47 minutes of soothing ambience.

Delicate soundscapes comprised of hesitant keyboards blend with atmospheric textures to achieve a dreamy disposition that seduces the listener into a peaceful state, detached from the outer world, but still in touch with reality. Calming electronic embellishments surface to lend a glistening quality to the tunes. Harmonics are elongated until they seem without beginning or end, approximating an expansive sky of majestic clouds. Drifting tonalities breathe and recede like smoke. Distance is curtailed until even the farthest star seems within physical reach.

Sincere acoustic guitar contributes an earthy humanity to one of these ethereal compositions.

While another piece employs hesitant piano notes in a soup of mildly discordant elements to hint at serenity amidst everyday life.

In another track, harsh machinery is harnessed and subdued to provide an edgy tension to the pieces. Carefully placed notes of a twinkling demeanor counter this tamed darkness.

Overall, however, the pieces exemplify a fragility that evokes introspection.

Trained by Robert Fripp and Pandit Pran Nath, Gueble strives beyond strictly minimalist sensibilities in manufacturing his ambient compositions.

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NUMINA: Eye of the Nautilus (CD on Hypnos Recordings)

This release from 2005 features 74 minutes of delicate ambience.

Numina is Jesse Sola. Joining him on one track is New Zealand synthesist Rudy Adrian.

Extremely soft soundscapes that evoke clear skies and limitless expanses. Airy tones unfurl with steadfast ease, establishing placid drones that possess a subtle ring to their sound. Synthetic textures are generated, then made flexible so as to bend and weave through an atmospheric medium.

The music's calm is quite infectious, creating ethereal bonds between the soundscapes and the audience, unifying them until they are synonymous.

Percussives are employed in a few tracks to ascribe lazy rhythms that remain delightfully unobtrusive. Fuzzy e-perc is mixed in with these natural tempos, giving the beats an unearthly quality. Shunning tribal influences, these rhythms convey a thoroughly modern demeanor not unlike a nocturnal film sequence wandering through a deserted urban setting.

While most ambient music is designed to point the audience toward introspection, this music craftily urges the listeners' focus outwards, bring them more in tune with the universe at large.

There's a definite majesty to this music, a quiet elegance that is surprisingly more demonstrative than the elements that comprise the lilting tuneage. Excellent application of less to simulate more.

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BEN FLEURY STEINER: Ghosts of Modernity (CD on Umbra)

This CD from 2005 features 68 minutes of piercing ambience.

Inspired by the writings of Martin Heidegger, Hopi philosophy, and the film "A Man Called Horse", Steiner employs modern synthesizers, guitars, samples and field recordings to create soundscapes that seek to address whether technology can coexist with personal spirituality.

Glassy tones ring from the high heavens, penetrating a mist of auxiliary tonalities peppered with liquid noises. Shakers deliver striking punctuations to this ambient realm, evoking arid climates amid the otherwise fluid ambience. While the glass tone remains resilient and unrelenting, environmental recordings emerge to circle this pivotal sound, elucidating the high altitude sonics with earthy elements.

Sounds of distinctly technological origin mix with tribal chants and dripping rain, generating connections between science and the soul. This contrast is more than a query at the heart of the composer, it defines a conflict within the music itself. Harsh electronics drift in conjunction with breezy natural aspects, displaying their polarity. Yet, Steiner achieves a satisfying fusion of these different temperaments, producing soundscapes that glorify both without showing partiality to either.

Through this simultaneous compression of parity, Steiner reveals that perception is the root of difference and the road to similarity.

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ROBERT SCOTT THOMPSON: At the Still Point of the Turning World (CD on Hypnos Recordings)

This release from 2005 features 69 minutes of airy ambience.

Sparse soundscapes designed to instill serenity. Atmospheric textures float with delicate determination, transporting the audience to impossible heights. Cellos and violins are utilized to achieve a classical mien amid the synthetic fabric. Traditional piano plays a vital role, vitalizing the flow with solitary notes of distinctly fluid properties. Later, liquid sounds provide refreshing moisture to one of the CD's longer tracks.

Some pieces feature denser tones, but they do not disrupt the dreamlike quality of the music. A sense of drama is achieved that hints at momentous turns imminent in the psyche of the listener.

The structure is one of swaying tonalities, generating lush harmonics that make the most of their minimal attributes. Overlapping and intertwining these textures imbues the tuneage with a deceptive sense of motion. By sustaining a chord for a seeming eternity, Thompson creates a mellow foundation that is then augmented and embellished by other tenuous sonics.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: Ambienism (CD on Spiralight Recordings)

This release from 2004 features 74 minutes of electronic music. Despite the CD's title, the first four tracks are too energetic to be considered "ambient." Previously unreleased pieces are noted with *.

Featured on this collection are:

Zero One: percussion-laden electronics with a spacey edge;

*Mystical Sun: lively techno with lots of bubbling synths and driving rhythms;

*Bluetech: pleasant, peppy, expansive, engaging;

Magic Sound Fabric: luxurious excursion into sparkling realms of crisply melodic tuneage:

(From this point on, the tracks are all ambient.)

Alpha Wave Movement: drifting clouds of pensive resonance peppered with shooting stars and soothing tempos;

*Richard Bone: relaxing blend of electronic textures and soft percussion, laced with crystalline tones and synthetic bass;

*Dino Pacifici: heavenly examination that charts the passage of clouds;

*Alpha Wave Movement: (recorded live in studio with no overdubs) delicate tonalities wafting in bell-like breezes;

Cyberchump: tranquil and airy with fragile keyboards amid atmospheric textures and lazy bass notes.

Overall, a pleasing selection that gives the listener a sense of each performer's style.

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