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Electronics: Vic Hennegan, Mark Jenkins, John Lyell, Synthetic Block

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VIC HENNEGAN: Solace Dance (CD on Alien Tribes Music)

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

Energy runs high in this music, really high. The electronics are dynamic and lively, and vigorous percussion only adds to that catchy vigor. Nimble-fingered keyboards belt out hyperactive riffs of sparkling demeanor replete with vibrant peripheral effects. Liquid textures flow with vital elegance, providing a sinuous backdrop for the spry melodies. There's even a few instances of very funky guitar hiding in the pulsating electronic density.

The percussion is complex and insistent, generating rhythms of massive charm. Surging electronics blend with the beats in sultry manner, achieving a fusion that is delightful to behold. Rather than battering the listener, these tempos lift the audience on wings of stratospheric splendor designed for elevation and mental clarity.

Four of the seven tracks feature female vocals, which vocal effects are prominent in the other pieces. These vocal threads are often utilized as a non-verbal instrument, embellishing the mix with spiraling garnish.

A glorious sense of jubilation dominates these compositions. The tunes are peppy and catchy, the performance exactingly crisp and thoroughly rewarding. Hennegan has a remarkable ability to craft tuneage that combines contemporary EM and techno music which is guaranteed to strongly satisfy patrons of the dancefloor as well as the lounge chair set.

Exuberantly recommended.

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MARK JENKINS: This Island Earth (limited edition CD on Ricochet Dream)

This CD from 2006 offers 67 minutes of dramatic electronic music.

Joining Jenkins are Ed Aceto for opening synth sounds on one track, and Terry Furber and Scott Watkins (both from Orbital Decay) on synths, sequencer and guitar on one track.

This music displays a technical and continental versatility, with four tracks featuring bulky synthesizers played live at the 2002 Alfa Centauri Festival in Holland, four tracks exploring the flexibility of computer based recordings in a London studio (one of which employs material recorded live at Electro-Music 2006 in Philadelphia), and three tracks recorded entirely on a compact laptop in New Jersey in 2006.

The music is presented in three sections:

The first set ("New Jersey Shore") embodies dreamy electronics infused with significant pep. While the tunes sway with an airy disposition, they are heavily seasoned by bouncy riffs and hyperactive keyboards. Percussion is not needed in this section, for the electronics are delivered with such an emphatic pace as to approximate rhythms.

The next section is a sort of new soundtrack for the classic sci-fi movie "This Island Earth," utilizing various dialog snippets from the film to cue the dramatic music. Shrill tonalities accompany surging pulsations, generating a forceful dose of appealing EM. Sampling is employed to produce auxiliary instruments, like rousing horn sections which inject even more tension to the tunes, and a dense symphonic finale. Vivacious percussion provides even more locomotion. But fear not, there are also moody pieces to capture the film's melodrama. Mixing a ponderous sense of awe with feverish electronics, Jenkins produces a lavish anxiety that bristles with energized thrills.

The final set ("The Graveyard of Dreams") is from the 2002 Alfa Centauri Festival. Sparkling yet serious, this set exemplifies contemporary electronic music with heavenly strains laced with stately e-perc. These pieces build in verve, accreting layers of keyboard riffs until the music throbs with eloquent vitality.

Regardless of the setting or his gear, Jenkins' music brims with inventive compositions and lively performance. His ability to deliver engrossing tuneage at a breathless pace is astounding and thoroughly satisfying.

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JOHN LYELL: Dimensions (CD on Light Year Productions)

This release from 2006 offers 56 minutes of tranquil electronic music.

Sighing atmospheric tonalities are laced with more vibrant keyboard expressions. Tones rise and writhe, while auxiliary textures seep into the mix like passing clouds. Patterns of astral disposition appear and coalesce, lending density to the feathery tuneage. Waves of rarefied sound wash over the listener, establishing an interstellar realm of great scope and infinite promise. These drones are lighthearted, designed to subtly invigorate rather than lull.

Livelier chords chitter and surge and swoop with a touch of dynamic verve amid the generally pensive soundscapes. While these embellishments remain generally submissive to the serene structure, they do serve to imbue the tunes with a delicate potency that is quite charismatic and rewarding.

While melody plays a solid role in this music, the overall mode is one of shimmering harmonic flows seasoned by sedate chords. One might classify this music as contemplative if it weren't for the distinct sense of curious exploration evoked by the compositions, a sense of yearning for more knowledge that drips from each successive sweep of the expansive tonalities.

This CD is crisply mastered by ambient pioneer Robert Rich.

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SYNTHETIC BLOCK: Means of Ascent (CD on Gears of Sand)

This CD from 2006 features 67 minutes of ambient electronics.

Synthetic Block is Jonathan Block.

There are only three tracks on this release, and the title track is 41 minutes long, which affords Block ample opportunity to explore a long-form compositional format.

This epic piece begins with a pensive passage of bass-heavy drones from which stately harmonies gradually rise with comfortable ease. Piano notes embellish this eloquent ascension, generating a soft drama that is laced with tinkling chimes. This atmospheric mood becomes a steadfast backdrop for textures of gentle construction that seep into the flow. The music maintains an introspective demeanor, layering ambient cloud strata until the tune is dense with vaporous substance. Only during its last section does the piece exhibit any force with lazy tempos and pulsating electronic threads. A calm disposition remains, though, as these more demonstrative elements fall into an easygoing procession along with the ambient foundation. Delicate keyboards establish a sedate melody for the finale.

Framing this long track are two shorter pieces (11 and 15 minutes respectively). The first one exemplifies a soft pep with bopping synthetic bongos and languidly airy tonalities seasoned by melodious keyboards that provide a tasty nucleus for this tune. In the second piece, crystalline chords achieve a buoyancy which is given a fair degree of vitality by crisp e-perc. Grittier electronics provide an uplifting boost that marches toward a gripping coda.

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