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Ambient: Darshan Ambient, Sam Rosenthal, Bruno Sanfilippo & Max Corbacho

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DARSHAN AMBIENT: Dream in Blue (CD on Lotuspike)

This release from 2011 offers 60 minutes of ambience with cool jazz seasoning.

Darshan Ambient is Michael Allison.

Cooling jazz influences abound on this album, injecting a comfortable oomph to the ambience.

Besides electronics and keyboards, Allison employs an assortment of conventional instruments (percussives, bass, horns, guitar) to achieve a cafe flavor in this music.

The electronics are soft and tend to lurk in the mix, allowing the other instruments to express each song's temperament. Piano and organ contributions are more prominent.

The rhythms are pleasant and relaxed, providing a gentle locomotion to the tunes.

Smoky basslines inject a murky undercurrent that excellently suits these mildly bouncy tunes. Just as the application of electric guitar lends a smooth touch of fusion to the bluesy melodies.

The inclusion of horns completes the jazz template, as their mournful resonance unfurls a sense of pensive contemplation.

By now it's pretty obvious that this album stands with one foot firmly planted in traditional jazz roots (specifically the milestone works of Miles Davis and John Coltrane); which is not to say that this music owes any derivations to those classic musicians, but instead Allison seeks to pay homage to the influences these greats bestowed on him (and the world) with their own music. His own compositions reflect a studied introspection with one eye peeked open, aware of one's surroundings but striving to momentarily separate self from one's environment and dwell for a period in that realm of infinite potential located inside the skull.

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SAM ROSENTHAL: The Passage (CD on Projekt)

This release from 2011 offers 55 minutes of atmospheric ambience.

Rosenthal (founder of Black Tape for a Blue Girl) plays electronics and processing. He is joined by Vicki Richards, who contributes violin and processing.

The title track started out in 1999 as the closing track for the Blacktape CD As One Aflame Laid Bare by Desire. Over a decade later Rosenthal revived the composition during his work on the score for Ananda Nidra, a guided meditation release by Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson. It is presented here, remixed and reworked into a 44 minute piece, minus its vocal track.

Waves of tenuous tones establish themselves with careful dormancy, gradually evolving substance as the piece unfurls. Ethereal drones are delivered in a pendulum of movement that approximates the mystic breath of reality. A dedicated level of serenity is maintained throughout, so pure that the music's constant evolution becomes difficult to discern. The vaporous environs conjured by these sighing texturals is tempered by auxiliary threads which, while skillfully submerged in the flow, transform that progression into a vivid state of emotional focus. Eventually these new layers muster enough prominence to guide the composition into territories closer to the veil that separates reality from imagination.

While extremely minimal in definition, this music possesses an enormous psychological impact, isolating the listener from the heyday of the real world and delivering them to a realm of pure introspection.

The title piece merges seamlessly with "Rae," a new composition that excellently compliments the rest of the ambience. Processed strings become more obvious, coalescing into swirls of nebulous sound in tandem with rising peaks of languid electronics. The tuneage's pulse-rate escalates (while still remaining lethargic), producing hints of invigoration as the listener is transported back to reality.

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This release from 2011 offers 59 minutes of environmental ambience.

Environmental source sounds flavor this electronic look at the world around us shorn of any signs of intrusive industrialization.

While both musicians are known for their extremely minimal ambient compositions, this release displays a more pronounced sonic presence. Here, the electronics sparkle and twinkle as if approximating glorious sunlight bathing the landscape.

Field recordings (birds, insects, leaves chittering in the wind) play a vital role in this music, not just as embellishment but functioning as a full-fledged contributor to the composition, guiding the musicians in their pursuit of capturing the mood of a pleasant vale full of lush vegetation and the numerous lifeforms that make their homes there. These environment sounds blend perfectly with the glittering electronics, setting the tone as well as the mood conveyed by the final gestalt.

After a while, deeper pulsations creep into the mix, heralding a phase in which an earthier temperament comes into play. Signs of daytime life dwindle to be replaced by nocturnal sounds. A serenity settles into the auralscape. There are pinnacles here, marking moments of dark beauty.

Eventually daybreak comes, bringing with it an awakening that is smoothly communicated to the audience through crisp harmonic ascensions.

This soundscape superbly captures the sonic breath and flow of a pastoral environment, not just because of the field recordings used to enhance the music, but more directly accountable to the musicians' attention to evoking the disposition of nature in its purest form. Each synthetic tonality rings with a holistic demeanor, a softness that allows the harmonic presence to seep into the listener's psyche.

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