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Electronics: Dave Brewer, Gert Emmens, Ramp

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DAVE BREWER: Harmonic Resonance (CD on Dave Brewer Music, distributed by Ricochet Dream)

This release from 2004 features 52 minutes of retro electronic music.

Classical style piano blends with contemporary electronics, creating a rewarding counterpoint of tradition and futurism. Much of the electronics are keyboard driven, giving the compositions a lively edge with nimble-fingered riffs that are constantly expanding on themes and pursuing deeply pensive melodies. Ethereal textures are present, providing atmospheric backdrops for the evocative keyboards.

Percussion lends a suitable propulsion to the music. Sometimes the rhythms are urgent, goading the flow along to dramatic pinnacles. Other times, the drums are subtle and temperate, seasoning tunes with gently tenuous beats. The patter of bongos delivers a congenial undercurrent that livens a few tracks.

Stratospheric tonalities waft with pastoral demeanor amid nests of layered keyboards that establish interweaving threads of harmonic vigor. High-end pastiches commingle with deeper bass patterns, achieving a tasty blend of sky and earth.

The compositions tend to be reserved and serious, often expressing a mood that is a shade more vibrant than normal new age material.

There are strong Tangerine Dream influences running through these tunes, which Brewer has coaxed into a delicate yet powerful modern motif.

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GERT EMMENS: When Darkness Falls upon the Earth (CD on Groove Unlimited)

This release from 2005 features 75 minutes of moody electronic music.

This CD features a theme, a tale if you will, involving the collision of an asteroid with the Earth. Yet, despite this gloomy subject, the music is hardly fatalistic or desolate. Emmens takes a dire mood and elevates it with awestruck grandeur, applying gripping melodies whose drama transcends the standard disaster panorama. Much of the majestic tuneage is concerned with mortal survival in the face of overwhelming odds.

Epic harmonics are teased with pensive keyboards, producing a dramatic flair that is enthralling and hopeful. Demonstrative percussion provides a spectacular dignity, with the noble rhythms injecting power as well as pep to the heroic music.

As each track unfolds, the mood rises from tenuous harmonics into full-blown epic resplendence. While maintaining a comfortable relaxed nature, the tunes accrete greatness with each passing moment, conveying the incredible power contained in a simple lump of space debris, transforming that igneous state into unbridled force as the object interacts with our atmosphere. And then, when the catastrophe has occurred, the music generates a stolid courage as mankind faces the challenge of a darkened tomorrow. Perseverance and empowered optimism are the dominant dispositions communicated by this superb soundtrack.

The cover graphics by Pablo Magne superbly capture the notion of a gigantic object plummeting through the atmosphere, colliding with the ground and darkening the sky for untold millennia with volcanic ejecta.

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RAMP: Oughtibridge (CD on Doombient Music)

This release from 2005 features 77 minutes of dark electronic music recorded live at the Jodrel Bank Radio Observatory in England on June 23, 2001.

Ramp is: Frank Makowski and Stephen Parsick.

For several years, Ramp has been delighting audiences with their particular brand of dark atmospheric electronic compositions, forging a genre the band has entitled "doombient". This release only proves the timeless quality of their endeavors.

Ominous tonalities waft into being, growling with barely restrained power and grinding like monstrous machinery bigger than any conventional planet. These tension-laden textures unfurl lazily, unhurried in their goal of darkening the sky. Harmonics swell, bearing menacing overtones that tickle the audience's fear-factor with gentle caress. Outright fear is not the ambition here, just a subtle coaxing of tenuous dread.

Gradually, basstones emerge, pulsating rapidly and achieving a portentous rhythm. Faint percussive sounds filter into the mix, tempos born deep in the global-scaled machinery and steadily rising through the murky tones to establish shuddering tempos. Electronics swarm to smother these engaging beats, spreading their shadowy demeanor throughout the tuneage.

As the rhythms grow more defined, keyboards generate new textures that swim like oil through the vaporous sonic terrain. The music achieves an alarming density that threatens to overwhelm the listener--only to be suppressed by the appearance of crystalline melodies designed to calm and soothe. It's no surprise that these light-hearted passages last only temporarily, swamped by the rising tide of murky doombience. Illumination vanishes, and a pall of uneasiness conquers the mix again.

Nor should it come as any shock how thoroughly enjoyable this dark music is. A refreshing alternative in a field that has become overly obsessed with retro styles.

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