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Electronics: Airsculpture, Embrase, Fanger & Schönwälder, Frank Klare

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AIRSCULPTURE: TranceAtlantic (double CD on Neu Harmony)

This release from 2005 offers 130 minutes of improvised electronic music culled from the band's Gatherings concert and the Star's End radio performance, both in Philadelphia on April 17, 2004.

AirSculpture is: Adrian Beasley, John Christian, and Peter Ruczynski.

On disc 1, a piano solo leads to a realm sprinkled with softly twinkling diodes while a gentle tapestry of undulating riffs is craftily generated, saturating the air with heavenly textures. Progression from sequence to sequence is unhurried, exploring subtle variations before moving on. Despite the overall serenity, this music exhibits a strong undercurrent of power, the type of vigor that sneakily seeps into the brain and infuses every synapse with charged potency. As chords enter looping structures, auxiliary cycles enter the flow, again creeping in like sonic spies whose presence is ultimately noticed only when they've achieved a state of dominance. Synthetic beats ooze into the mix with equal guile, providing the ethereal mix with rarefied rhythms. Ah, but the subtlety is as cunning as the music's delicate force, rising to an authority that is impossible to ignore.

The second long track explores an experimental electronic chaos, soft but steadily gaining weight, not unlike a nebula crammed with random radio pulses. Pitches cry out and recede, swamped by the next sampling of audacious agitation. Halfway through the piece, melodic elements emerge with a gritty density. The music adopts an urgency, pitting insistent keyboard riffs against synthetic effects that attain their own melodic substance. The mix continues to build, accruing intensity and passion that burns brightly like the onrushing advance wave of an exploding star.

The final track (a short one) embodies this prior verve, pummeling the audience with enthusiastic cycles that are almost exhausting to experience.

The structure on disc 2 is similar to that of disc 1 (piano intro, two long tracks with a short finale), but the music is wholly different, possibly more striking. The piano lasts much longer and flows into electronics of more liquid disposition. After a passage of fluid cycling, the music adopts more oomph with elevated force and denser layering. Strangeness merges with sinuous harmonics, delivering a spacier resonance, a deeper emotional expression of vast expanses wraught with haunting character. Ominous sounds blend with sampled weirdness, evoking a particularly eerie voyage from outer space to inner space.

The second disc's second track dives right into melodic tuneage in which synthetic percussion plays a vital (if understated) role. The music advances with a steadfast increase in rich complexity. No matter how high the serpentine drones lift the listener, their feet remain firmly planted on familiar soil, stretching the audience's psyche into an elastic conduit between earth and heaven.

The final track steps down to ponderous levels with a heartbeat pulse embellished by pattering keyboards that drift on a swaying breeze of the mind. The piece's airy essence is flavored with incidents of suppressed grandeur.

Airsculpture have earned a strong reputation for their long-form slow-building electronic performances. This double CD excellently perpetuates that notoriety.

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EMBRASE: Dreamworld (CD on Groove Unlimited)

This release from 2005 offers 79 minutes of electronic music that is rich with splendor.

Embrase is Marc Bras, with Harold van der Heijden providing drums on two tracks.

A classical demeanor permeates this music, imbuing each track with momentous majesty. Flutish keyboards mingle with twinkling notes and shuddering synthesized orchestral approximations. Decisive percussion furthers this majestic flair, as bass impacts and knickering beats inject a processional air to the tuneage. Sparkling notes describe a phantom realm that combines technology with a pastoral sense, never letting either aspect domination and resulting in a delicious homogeny of these elements.

Dynamic structure and urgent melodies are profusely evident throughout this music. While cyclic textures are utilized, the compositions rely on intricate riffs that prance about on the textural foundation, luxuriously attracting attention with each passing moment. Climactic percussion provides emphatic elevation for the already soaring melodies. Sweeping electronic embellishment often lightens the tuneage, inaugurating verdant valleys from which the music can plunge skyward with expansive resplendence.

While steeped in Berlin School roots, this music forges bravely ahead, establishing a fresh sound that is fertile with splendor and vigor. Epic compositions dominate each track, delivering satisfying riffs and monumental passages that will lift even the glummest spirit.

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FANGER & SCHÖNWÄLDER: Analog Overdose (CD on on Manikin Records)

This release from 2006 offers 80 minutes of relentless electronic music.

This is the fifth release in the "Analog Overdose" series, and Thomas Fanger and Mario Schönwälder are joined by Lutz Ulbrich (from Ashra) on guitar on three of the eight tracks.

Fanger and Schönwälder excel at creating elaborate recordings that employ slow-burn accretion to achieve languid structures of liquid sound, compositions (often generated via live improvisation) that utilize ambient stretches as routes to epic passages of emotional passion. With this release, the guys have sidestepped those long intros, diving right into the pinnacle meat.

Lively patterns are swiftly established, then embellished into sparkling EM gems replete with vigorous pulsations and softly thumping beats. A delightful array of keyboard riffs constitute the majority of these cycles, twinkling chords that chug alongside dreamily vibrant tonalities. Sweeping textures dip out of the sky, peppered with energetic loops of luxurious disposition.

The trio of pieces featuring Ulbrich display even more animation as his space guitar slides into the mix with exhilarating results. While the electronics set up a ricochet chorus, the slippery guitar provides a mercurial counterpoint which undulates with creative abandon, producing ecstatic consequences. Sonic satisfaction runs high in these tracks.

While a few of the pieces employ slow-building preambles, the pay off is diligent and rewarding as the steadfast structures merge and combine into lavish edifices of heavenly scope.

The last track on the CD is a 24 minute piece recorded live in Berlin at Petrus Church on March 30, 2001. Here, the prologue delivers the audience into a panorama of thrilling pulsations seasoned with urgent resonance and pittering electronic rhythms. Auxiliary riffs effortlessly slide into the mix, increasing the density with elaborately fashioned variations of incredible beauty.

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FRANK KLARE: Moods (CD on Groove Unlimited)

This release from 2006 offers 78 minutes of scientifically based electronic music.

This music is based on the theory that different frequencies can alter the listener's state of mind, alpha inducing relaxation, beta generating stimulation, and theta initiating deep meditation. The CD's three long tracks explore these relationships between sound and cerebral response. The "Alpha" composition was made specifically for a scientific group studying these relationships.

Densely layered ethereal tonalities dominate the "Alpha" track (which is 32 minutes long), streaming with apparent infinite determination. Auxiliary textures are employed to give the harmonic flow textural body. Dramatic punctuations occur deep with the piece, accruing stamina as the music progresses and injecting a sense of ascension. Two-thirds of the way through the piece, the flows grow softer so as not to disturb the accomplished sedation.

The textural backdrop of the "Beta" track features an assortment of electronic effects to liven things during this 36 minute selection. Pulsations surface, squea and disappear with regularity. Bongo beats enter the agitated mix, providing a lazy rhythm that propels without disruptive significance. Melodies nibble at the flow while temporary sounds continue to rise and fade. As the piece progressed, the bongos swell with vigor and volume, injecting a sense of urgency. Choppy keyboards assist that sense of vitality. Complex patterns emerge gradually, bestowing substance on the harmonic flavor of the track. A lull toward the end proves false as everything rises again for a demonstrative coda.

With a duration of only 10 minutes, the "Theta" composition utilizes astral sighs and bubbling diodes to achieve a mesmerizing efect. Periodic presences of deeper consistency generate expanses of mental calm that swell and contract according to a celestial pulsation.

While sparse in melody, this music explores the viable therapeutic value of electronic music.

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