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Ambient: Alio Die/Jack or Jive, Mikronesia, Off the Sky, Craig Padilla/Zero Ohms

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ALIO DIE & JACK OR JIVE: Mei-Jyu (CD on Projekt)

This CD from 2005 offers 71 minutes of introspective ambience.

While Alio Die (aka Stephano Musso) performs zither, drones and loops, environmental sounds and treatments, tubes, and radio from Milan, Italy, Jack or Jive contributes voice, keyboards, flute and piano from Hyogo, Japan.

Comfortable structures of fragile disposition unfurl to surround the listener. Delicate zither strumming and sighing flutes blend with dreamy voices to achieve an extremely pastoral sedation. Electronic tones tinge a filmy layer of environmental samples, providing a vaporous milieu for the other instruments to express themselves. Those expressions are soft and tranquilizing, drifting like peaceful clouds through a sky punctuated by the whispery female vocals that become the nucleus for each track.

This release's title is derived from the Zen practice, wherein meijyu resides in the palm of one's hand, a precious crystal, that teaches that man can shine from within.

This quest for unity of soul and environment is the core of this music. Each piece is designed to limit the listener to their immediate location, ultimately plunging perceptions inwards until access to externality is discovered deep in the relaxed psyche.

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MIKRONESIA: Tissue Paper Ghosts (CD on Gears of Sand)

This CD from 2005 offers 41 minutes of edgy ambience.

Harsh sounds are harnessed and forced into the subservient service of ambient structure. Grinding diodes croon with suppressed vigor, resulting in a form of subjugated sedation that is hardly conducive for meditation, but exhibits pacifying demeanor nonetheless. Looping voices are mangled and utilized with ethereal effect. Pinging keyboard notes punctuate an electronic fog that hums and breathes with melancholic influence. When coherent chords finally appear, they are swiftly swamped by a seething pool of chaotic vocal consistency. Beats and chugging electronics hint at a melody that seems to gradually consume itself.

There is no overall quality to this music other than unpredictable expression. Far from unpleasant, the tunes possess a strange attraction that turns its own eccentricity on itself until an engaging charm is generated out of these unconventional aspects. Mikronesia display a versatility with converting chaos into order while retaining an edge of discord that exudes its own appeal.

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OFF THE SKY: Gently Down the Stream (CD on Data Obscura)

This CD from 2005 offers 62 minutes of idiosyncratic ambience.

Off the Sky is Jason Corder, with contributions from Lina Tharsing on vocals, Matt Yarrington on trumpet, and Clint Colburn and Andrew English on percussion samples.

Sonic manipulations thrive in this music, as Corder coaxes sounds into unnatural but soothing conditions through electronic tinkering. Languid textures provide an ephemeral foundation that mimics lazy atmospheric currents, carrying the audience to rarefied altitudes with their frail buoyancy.

This ambience becomes peppered with minute weirdness that conspires to achieve a quirky but dreamy flow that is simultaneously liquid and airy. Chittering noises lurk at the periphery of the compositions, lending an edgy flavor that does not disturb the overall pleasant nature of the tunes. A constant dedication to tranquillity remains steadfast, despite the curious elements that regularly augment the resonant bearing.

Rhythms are present but subdued, adopting auxiliary positions and merging with the textural flow to produce a lush calm. Keyboards produce fragile chords that blur into sustained tones. Although melodies are present, these compositions rely more on harmonic presence to define themselves.

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CRAIG PADILLA & ZERO OHMS: Path of Least Resistance (CD on Lotuspike)

This CD from 2005 offers 62 minutes of sedate ambience.

While Craig Padilla plays synthesizers, sequencers and samplers, Zero Ohms (aka Richard Roberts) provides wind-synth, flutes (of the conventional and Native American variety), bansuri, tinwhistle and field recordings.

Soothing textures mix with woodwinds and waft on synthetically generated breezes. These atmospheric conditions are tempered with sighing tonalities that nicely embellish the easygoing resonance, lending slowly rising hills and sloping escarpments to the sonic terrain. Tenuous effects timidly emerge to season the flow, then return to their obscure hiding places, allowing the foundational ambience to continue.

Dimensions seem to lose their definition during music like this, as electronic tapestries muffle time and space, generating deceptive measurements intended to baffle close examination. The audience is forced to surrender to the sonority, becoming one with the timeless sensibilities.

Extant diversions are gradual and subtle in most of these ambient compositions, tastefully impressing themselves on the harmonics and often injecting soft drama to the music's ethereal presence.

A few tracks do exhibit some authority, though, as substance manifests in the form of tenderly demonstrative riffs amid fluttering crystalline tones. A heavenly mien is produced that cannot be considered overt, but certainly possesses adequate body to elevate it from the rest of the album's calm personality.

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