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The Ethereal Ilbient Electronic Music of Saul Stokes

One of the things that sets Saul Stokesí music apart from most electronic recordings is that he plays equipment designed and built by himself instead of relying on preset gear. This bestows his compositions with a unique quality. Another distinction would be his style of using distinctly odd sounds to produce music that is essentially quite ethereal in nature.

While generally codified as contemporary electronic music, Stokesí compositions feature a distinctly ilbient edge in the frequently glitchy nature exhibited by some of his unique sounds.

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SAUL STOKES: Fields (CD on Binary)

This CD from 2003 offers 68 minutes of quirkily dreamy electronic music.

Quirky electronics describe haunting melodies which are given a certain pep by cleverly applied e-perc.

The first track employs a selection of sounds that defy classification, evoking highly unearthly origins with their blooping cadence. Yet the result has definite humanity as the curious layers unify to produce an alluring melody. Severely artificial percussion serves to adjoin another aspect more than just injecting a tempo to the already pulsating flow.

The next piece applies a cafe flair to the quirky electronics, stepping down the weirdness and adopting a languid pace for the ticking rhythms and the swaying keyboards. The resultant intimacy actually makes this a very accessible composition. Squealing chords coexist with romantic airs and sedate tempos, establishing a celestial dreaminess that strives to stimulate the brain from within.

The third track explores the application of radiant sounds, each note vibrating gently and approximating an attractive glow. The basic melody has a sashaying demeanor, swinging like a pendulum through the secondary chords--which possess their own luminescence. Crafted with a sharp edge to their beats, the percussion seems almost out of place amid the rest of these tenderly oscillating light sources.

Next we have a composition that buries primitive tribal hints underneath clog-like rhythms, while the main melody pursues a distinctly modern mode with keyboard sounds that have been processed to lose a portion of their resonance. The introduction of chords that sound like underwater slide guitar notes mirrors that strangeness, giving the song a certain alien mien.

The next track combines textural atmospherics with eccentric embellishments reminiscent of the truncated utterances of a bagpipe. Muffled rhythms and slightly more strident beats cavort around these sounds, seemingly intent on remaining aloof to the rest of it all. Eventually, these aspects slide into a cohesion that is quite pleasant.

Hesitant squeals herald an accumulating fog of tonalities in the next piece. This sonic haze achieves slow definition, rising first in volume, then allowing other sounds, many too subtle to readily notice, to enter the mix until the vapors seethe with restrained puissance. A haunting melody emerges from this harmonic field, bringing with it bouncy percussion and twanging electronics that convert the drifting morass into an inspirational ascent into the light.

The final piece takes full advantage of this well-lit realm, delivering a tune that transforms gloomy notes into sparkling chords. Fuzzy beats adhere to a plodding tempo that only strengthens the rising tide of glittering electronics with its drastic counterpoint. Ultimately, the rhythms cast off their morose attitude and resound with a sweet promise. Now, the twinkling notes adopt a spectral air, perpetuating the overall contrast between themselves and the dominant rhythms. The introduction of nimble diodes serves to lend weight to the crisper side of things, resulting in an escalation of hope and sprightly cadence for the songís endearing conclusion.

Generally dreamy, these tunes possess a striking quirkiness that sets them apart from any conventional ambience.

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SAUL STOKES: Vast (CD on The Foundry)

This release 2006 features 62 minutes of gently animated electronic music.

While Stokes is the sole performer on this album, he based one track on particular atmospherics created by Subradial.

Crystalline electronics, sourced from unconventional sounds, flourish to generate engaging tuneage laced with politely energetic e-perc.

The electronics are sprightly, while their application is often comfortably languid. Eccentric cycles are created and then teased into self-contained variations which expand the ongoing melodies. With several of these riffs going at once, the layers interlace to produce phasing enhancement, expanding the melodies into new ones.

The percussion is prevalent but hardly overt. The rhythms exist in a submerged vantage that puts them in a position of equality to the musicís main gist. Their locomotion is perceived, but restrained to function as another layer in the musical flow.

Contrary to the implications inherent in the albumís title, this music tends to be focused on more immediate circumstances. The tunes resonate within reach, expressing personal melodies and frequently restricting their cadence to small measurements.

While this music exhibits an ethereal quality, the style in which it was fashioned violates that ambient model. The spry rhythms serve to further divorce the songs from their vaporous roots, resulting in compositions that lull and animate in equal ratios.

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SAUL STOKES: Villa Galaxia (CD on Binary)

This CD 2008 offers 56 minutes of bouncy electronic music.

Haunting electronics combine with percussion to generate tuneage of a relaxing nature tinged with an edge of peppy vitality. Stokesí style of using unconventional sound is in high fashion with this release, offering the listener a wide variety of strangeness harnessed to produce songs that reach beyond that weirdness to deliver pleasantly bouncy melodies.

Diversely squeaky sounds are delivered in rapid-fire succession and then molded into melodies of strikingly peaceful disposition. This contrast holds much appeal: generating appealing tuneage from a selection of quirky sounds. Using keyboards and looping techniques, Stokes produces sinuous riffs that glisten like alien honey.

The electronics are utilized more as frontal threads with minimal textural foundations, relying on layering these lead tracks to accomplish fluid cohesion. Generally guided by keyboards, the notes are conventionally delivered in a melodic structure.

The percussion used on this album exhibits a strange organic quality despite its obvious artificial generation. The beats are often muted as if swaddled in an electrified gauze. Again, Stokesí self-made gear produces source sounds that are highly different, resulting in the tempos defying normal classification--again, a major reason for their esoteric allure.

The presence of processed guitar adds a delightful edge to a few tracks, their buzzy chords settling nicely into the mix.

A bevy of odd sounds propel the music, but their application repudiates their oddness. These compositions achieve a remarkable accessibility with their dreamy intentions and lively execution.

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VIR UNIS & SAUL STOKES: Thermal Transfer (CD on Binary)

This CD 2002 offers 68 minutes of flowing electronic music.

In this collaboration, Stokes is responsible for hand-forged electronics, sampling and rhythms, while Vir Unis handles synthesizers, treatments, grooves and manipulations.

Textural layers play a more prominent role here than in the above releases, serving as ethereal foundations for lively electronics and compressed rhythms.

The main electronics are softer too, existing as surging sweeps which are embellished by additional sounds. Rotary noises often surface and ebb, as if striving to break through and infect the tunes with more agility. A pronounced liquid quality renders the songs with a softness that attributes them a remote demeanor. This soothing mien is also found in a variety of the sounds, like the fuzzed nature of numerous pulsations (an effect that stands in direct inverse to energetic crispness of those sounds). This coexistence of sharp and soft imbues the tunes with a distinctly entrancing appeal. Suppressing hyperactive chords in this way results in a slushy resonance, one that is highly attractive in its basic novelty.

The rhythms tend to be rather frantic, yet they are muffled so that the tempos flow instead of propel. The beats are highly synthetic, and are often actually non-impact sounds utilized in a rapid succession. Meanwhile, viable impacts sound more like slaps than hits.

These compositions pursue a lovely blend of ambience and animation, crafting melodies that flow in a relaxed manner while laced with prominently agile layers.

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