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Indie Electronics: Catherine Duc, the Jingle Kings, Miles MacMillan, Dan Pound, Sensitive Chaos

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CATHERINE DUC: Visions and Dreams (CD on Catherine Duc Music)

This release from 2005 features 42 minutes of pleasant tuneage.

Blending aspects of ambient, Celtic, and Worldbeat, Australian musician Duc produces a sinuous sound that stirs the heart as it stimulates the soul and feet.

Electronics are hardly the primary instrument here, as Duc performs a wide variety of traditional instruments. Her delicate electronics waft with airy disposition, often adopting a flutish resonance that enhances the music's recurrent Celtic sound. Real flutes, classical harps and fanciful strings further strengthen these roots. Meanwhile, piano chords steer other tracks into conventional terrain, where a sense of fragile majesty is accomplished with acoustic guitar accompaniment. At other times, bouncy harpsichord is employed to achieve a pastoral flair. While other tracks prosper from quasi violin strains that establish a romantic mood.

Durable percussion provides swaying rhythms that give the serene songs some oomph.

Generally, Duc's multi-instrumental delivery produces music of soft and earthy sentiments. Her compositions are tranquil and possess heart that communicates without lyrical content. Engaging melodies are keynote here, spurning flash and pomp and going for sonic sincerity.

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THE JINGLE KINGS: Utopia Dr. (CD on Jingle Kings Music)

This release from 2006 features 49 minutes of uplifting electronic music.

The Jingle Kings is Jeffrey Bridges.

Dramatic piano and versatile electronics combine to generate a lavish series of tunes that capture the desolation and promise of a stretch of urban landscape. While the classical piano evokes an earnest humanity, the swaying electronics provide an airy contrast that is both dire and optimistic, depending on the intention of the melody. For both moods are represented here, although the darker tunes do seem to hint at positive outcomes lurking behind the forlorn ordeals of life.

Sighing keyboards contribute pensive atmospherics, while more stately chords coax the listener closer to the tunes. A symphonic flair surfaces every once in a while, infusing the songs with a rigorous idealism.

Some percussion is employed, but rarely to drive the tuneage into any rhythmic frenzy. The tempos are deliberate and graceful, matching the frequently heavenly quality exhibited by the music. There are a few instances, though, where gripping beats erupt, accompanied by guitar and bass to achieve a more conventional sound.

Jingles actually contribute little to this music. The melodies are mature and expansive, striving to stimulate the soul with rich emotion. As the CD progresses, though, the tunes adopt more body and drama, but the intention remains clearly one of serious deliverance instead of escapism.

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MILES MACMILLAN: Futureworld (CD on Miles MacMillan Music)

This release from 2006 features 36 minutes of rhythmic electronic music.

Sprightly e-perc provides brisk locomotion for this tuneage. Shimmering electronic strains flock with bouncy determination, describing fanciful riffs that sway and swoop with entertaining verve. Keyboards guide the melodies into quasi-techno modes, meshing with the energetic rhythms in a highly vivacious manner.

The electronics are generally crystalline and often bell-like. Bass tones are submerged in this sparkling palette, allowing the music to freely vibrate in a high-end terrain that produces a celestial air. The chords twinkle with the vibrancy of starlight unhindered by muffling atmospheres. At times, the percussion penetrates with decisive authority, dominated passages of lilting tuneage.

The compositions blend techno sensibilities with contemporary EM, resulting in buoyant songs of equal appeal to both genres. MacMillan's tuneage evokes a realm of routine space flight and moonbases, a positive future unfettered by strife or dispute.

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DAN POUND: Heat Waves (CD on Dan Pound Music)

This release from 2006 features 53 minutes of compelling music.

It takes inventive guts to combine didjeridoo with metallic percussion, but Pound has the skill to pull it off with tasty flair. Lighthearted electronics generate a strange backdrop for this contrast, punctuated by more tender rhythms and brief outbursts of vocal elation.

Subsequent tracks continue to reflect this predilection for mixing modern sounds with ancient timbres. Haunting electronics drift in tandem with primitive chants. Snappy tempos are dogged by breathy didjeridoo textures while guttural mutterings summon piercing tones into prominence. Ethnic percussives pitter with lively agitation while drones of ominous character surge into an enveloping cloud.

The percussives provide a sharply modern edge for the tribal disposition produced by the moody electronics. The constant presence of didjeridoo and shamanistic chants enhances these primitive aspects, which are in turn violated by the futuristic flair created by the synthesizers' crisp wailings and shuddering pulsations.

The rhythms are softly dynamic and suitably stimulating when mixed with the eerie soundscapes that are produced by the coexistence of tribal instruments and technological machinery.

Pound's eccentric approach of fusing old and new styles is satisfying and highly engaging. His compositions establish thrilling intersections between exotic yesterdays and mysterious tomorrows.

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SENSITIVE CHAOS: Leak (CD on Subsequent Records)

This release from 2006 features 53 minutes of pleasant electronic music.

Sensitive Chaos is Jim Combs, who is joined on two tracks by Brian Good on saxophone.

The first track is a lazy voyage of minimal keyboards that resonate in a delicate fog. Gradually, auxiliary sounds enter the mix: hesitant percussion and xylophonic notes and distant sax. As the piece progresses, mass is slowly accreted, but the density remains relatively sparse. A distinctly soft jazz flair is achieved.

With the second track, ponging leads into a stately dreamstate in which mild e-perc lends a modicum of oomph, and lilting electronics provide a pleasant tapestry for the tune to evolve into a tasty composition. Bass tones enter, adding some body to the crystalline nature of the piece.

The next song explores a nocturnal milieu with atmospheric ambience punctuated by hissing stars and sedate sax. Emerging from remote vistas, tasty rhythms provide a serene beat to the open expanse. The studied escalation is not hurried, nor do things ever grow corpulent. This relaxed progression from minimal to ambient is quite rewarding.

The fourth piece adopts a stratospheric perspective, drifting through high altitudes and looking down on a tranquil landscape. Mildly energetic riffs and soft tempos unfurl in a layer of airy textures. As is apparent by now, Combs' style of gradual evolution produces a pleasing development that culminates with a vaporous dissolution after a peaceful pinnacle has been accomplished.

The next piece is very brief and noticeably crisper than the rest of the compositions. There's no slowbuild here, it's right into a nest of lively twinkling notes and sweeping chords...and then it's done.

The last track combines the sharpness of the previous piece with the overall patient accretion exhibited throughout this release. The melodies quickly establish themselves, then meander through progressions designed to calmly stimulate the mind.

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