Starting in 2000, electronic musicians with a fondness for the music of Tangerine Dream have gathered once a year to socialize and jam, exploring the combinations of their diverse talents. Recordings of these festivals have been released by European EM labels, culminating in the formation of a USA label, Ricochet Dream, to continue this earnest and delightful tradition.
FREE SYSTEM PROJEKT & DAVE BREWER: Okefenokee Dreams (CD on Groove Unlimited)
In April 2000, the first Okefenokee gathering of Tangerine Dream fans took place to spawn the celebration of electronic swamp music. This sound derives its deepest roots in Tangerine Dream's "Stratosfear" release from 1976. For many Americans, this was their first exposure to T-Dream's music, brought about by the band's Encore tour of North America in 1976.
Far more than just American audiences were heavily influenced by this sequencer-heavy haunting sound; this style survives today, flourishing in many international corners of the globe.
During the gathering, Dutchman Marcel Engels and American Dave Brewer gave a live concert to bear testimony to the evolution of this electronic swamp legacy. This CD features 72 minutes of their dreamy performance.
Expect delicate keyboard loops, accreting toward critical mass amid clouds of drifting ambience. Dense application of heavenly mellotrons generate a truly retro air to the swamp. Enter some surging sequencers and you have entered electronic heaven.
There is no need for E-perc in this tuneage, for the synthesizer rhythms are profuse enough to thrill any electronic audiophile into ecstasy.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Okefenokee Dreams 2001 (CD on Neu Harmony/ Quantum Records)
This 2002 release features 68 minutes of improvised electronic music cut in homage of the mode created by Tangerine Dream during the late Seventies in their classic track "3AM at the Border of the Marsh from Okenfenokee". In remembrance of this distinctive turning point in the history of electronic music, a gathering festival was held in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia on April 20-24, 2001. The music on this CD is culled from those performances.
The artists featured on this jam session are: Marcel Engels (aka Free System Projekt), John Christian and Peter Ruzcynski (from Airsculpture), Dave Brewer, and Bill Fox.
This music is thoroughly engaging, a chorus of synthesizers and digital samplers directed toward creating modern testaments to a swampy sound that few dare to emulate. Keyboards generate lush textures, which are overlaid by more active riffs that spiral from watery depths to break into the humid light and sparkle with vibrant sequences. A variety of environmental sounds are employed (along with some spoke phrases) to enhance this electronic surgence. Patterns are generated, cycled with relentless dedication, then tweaked by auxiliary riffs which inspire ecstasy to even the uninitiated.
Deep synthetics run in tandem with flutish keyboards, creating a balance that evokes verdant vegetation under crystal twilight. While these musicians strive to push the electronic envelope, the end result is invariably devouted to conjuring this exotic misty mood.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Ricochet Gathering, Mojave 2003 (double CD on Ricochet Dream)
This release from 2004 offers 159 minutes of superb retro electronics, recorded live April 25-29, 2003, in the Mojave Desert in California.
Contributing musicians this time are: Wolfram Spyra, Free System Projekt, Airsculpture, Star Sounds Orchestra, Paul Lawler (aka Arcane), Dave Brewer, Bill Fox, and Volker Koenig.
Drawing inspiration from Tangerine Dream's "White Eagle" release, musicians gathered to pool their modern talents for a glorious collaborative celebration.
Dreamy textures powerfully unfurl with growling undercurrents designed to establish an alluvial foundation for more aerial expressions. Rapidly triggered keys generate engaging riffs that goad the harmonic flow into a melodic presence of almost overwhelming proportion. Energy and forceful resonance ensue, running like a sonic locomotive with firm resolve. Alternate keyboard patterns arise and entwine like mating swans in flight. Crescendos crash with satisfying pinnacles, invigorating the listen for more to come.
While some of the compositions shun traditional percussion, rhythms are generally present in the rapid-fire execution of sharper notes, a style forged by T-Dream during the early Eighties. There are pieces, though, that inject e-perc to serve as driving tempos.
Among these is the track "Linda's Ghost," which bears the distinction of being the release's most shining moment. In fact, this piece could well rank as one of Electronic Music's most memorable compositions. Gradually amassing strength through a pensive opening of echoing drums and crystalline notes, the piece gains vigor and velocity until it explodes with authority that demands attention. Sidereal riffs slither into the mix, overwhelming everything and goading the percussives to even more demonstrative presence. The pace continues to accelerate while coalescing into tighter beats and more compelling melodies. Things get increasingly more frenetic and intense with each passing moment, until the piece literally goes nova with a burst of emphatic baby-screams and enthrallingly snappy beats. The music becomes commanding with vivid allure, propelling the listener to fantastic imaginary heights. The constant barrage of peak after sonic peak will leave you exhausted but usting for more.
So rewarding is this music that continuous playing cannot dim its dauntless verve and appeal.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Ricochet Gathering, Poland 2004 (4 CD set on Ricochet Dream)
This limited edition set from 2005 features a grand total of 5 hours and 7 minutes chronicling jam sessions and concerts from the Ricochet Gathering in Poland on September 5-11, 2004.
The performers in attendance were: Steve Jolliffe, Jozef Skrzek, Marek Bilinski & Band, Star Sounds Orchestra, Mario Schonwalder, Detlef Keller, Bas Broekhuis, Sunya Beat (Harold Grosskopf, Steve Baltes, Axel Heilhecker), Wolfram Spyra, Ololiuqui, Jens Zygar, Paul Lawler (aka Arcane), Volker Konig, Remote Spaces Project, Dave Brewer, Jaroslaw Degorski, Conrad Gibbons, and Bill Fox.
Disc 1: at the Lodge: 76 minutes--formative improvs as the various attendees get a feel for performing together. Remarkably coherent stuff. Often highly rhythmic, these dense musical panoramas display a sense of epic construction that is thoroughly satisfying and entrancing. Included is a 7 minute piece from a Polish TV promo of the event.
Disc 2: Szalas Muflon VIP Improv: 78 minutes--the notables perform in an informal setting. Tight and flowing, this music exemplifies the vibrant cohesion produced when seasoned synthesists allow spontaneity to guide their creativity. Besides a brief and moody intro piece, these tracks are quite long, affording the tuneage amply opportunity for slow-burn accretion reaching passionate pinnacles of delight.
Disc 3: Concert September 10, 2004: 77 minutes--actual concert performances. Arcane (with Bill Fox) play a dark T-Dream approximation for 27 minutes. Sunya Beat produce compelling rhythmic EM with astral guitar for 18 minutes. Wrapping up the disc are Marek Bilinski and his band with a 31 minute set featuring a verisimilitude of aggressive passages, pastoral expressions, and gritty space rock.
Disc 4: Concert September 11, 2004 76 minutes--more concert performances, this time shorter excerpts from a variety of performers including Star Sounds Orchestra, Dave Brewer/Jaroslaw Degorski/Conrad Gibbons, Remote Spaces Project, Ololiuqui, Steve Jolliffe, finishing up with a tasty treat by Schonwalder, Keller, Broekhuis, Spyra and Fox.
All told, a dazzling auditory extravaganza that documents a congress of international EM luminaries at work and at play.
Interview with VIC REK
Q: As the organizer of these international gatherings, could you outline the intention behind them?
A: The definition of the Ricochet Gathering should lend some insight: a unique yearly event held in exotic places for the purpose of having electronic music fans and musicians live their private dream. Each event is tied to the EM pioneers Tangerine Dream with a Theme and allows fans and musicians to live in a communal setting for a few days to inspire/create/enjoy electronic music! All music created at this event is live, unrehearsed, and improvised - and captured in one take.
Q: Putting aside the hellish task of assembling top notch talents from all over the globe, has it met with your expectations?
A: My expectations have been exceeded since many musicians willingly wanted to be part of such a unique concept and others actually contacted me if they could join the RG community. Each year the musician list grows and some new musicians join us, a few depart, but are always welcome back. But yes, each musician/group has their unique requirements, so this is why it takes about a year to plan for one such event.
Q: And the responses of those who attended and performed?
A: This is somewhat documented on the Ricochet Dream website and fan/musician links. But the fact is the most musicians always want to return next year. One issue now is how to organize the improvisations, because if all musicians played at one it would be chaos.
Q: Audience attendance at these gatherings has been on an invitation only basis, right? Does this lack of an audience help or hinder the performers?
A: Actually, this is not invitation only. Any fan is invited, but the group is usually limited to 20-35 non-musician fans. There are costs involved for the fans so this keeps attendance down. In Poland we tried to do a concert in a 101 year old theater to expose fans to our music, but the improvisations were limited to a group of about 25. This year in Gomera we will do the same, have a small fan base, but play a few concerts open to the public; this way we keep the event communal, but give it some exposure.
Q: So, what lies ahead for future gatherings? A rendezvous in Alpha Centauri?
A: Well, this year we are at Gomera Island, Spain, in the Canaries from October 11-18. I always hold back and announce the next year's Ricochet Gathering at this year's Gathering. This will be the sixth one. My plan is to have ten and then one final finale in Berlin in 2011. But this is always subject to change.
For more information on the Ricochet Dream Gatherings and releases, check out their
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