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ALIEN PLANETSCAPES: Better Than Television (cassette single on Galactus Music, 191-32 116 Ave., St. Albans, NY 11412) (4.00 post.paid).

This highly recommended cassette single sports a pair of excellent space jazz compositions. Instruments: horns, guitar, percussion, growling bass and a host of synthesizers. This pair of slowbuild-to-epic pieces clock in at five and seven minutes, making them remarkable in their short nature. AP usually truck on for a long time per song. This time the pieces are compressed, focused into prime fuel for late night relaxation. Travel without leaving your body.

ALIEN PLANETSCAPES: Radio Special Volume VIII (90 minute cassette tape on Audiofile Tapes, 209-25 18 Avenue., Bayside, NY 11360, USA).

Featuring heavy doses of AP's peculiar fusion of the likes of Hawkwind, John Coltrane, and Amon Duul II. Very recommended to trance jazz heads.

ALIEN PLANETSCAPES: Sampler #6 (90 minute cassette tape on Galactus Music, 191-32 116th Ave., St Albans, NY 11412) (9.00 post.paid).

Who's in the mood for dreamy space rock in the vein of early Ash Ra Tempel or Hawkwind? Or maybe you're in the mood for astral jazz in the vein of coltrane or "Bitch's Brew" Miles Davis? Well, look no further--Alien Planetscapes is the solid answer to these sonic needs, delivering both genres with the same music.

Meshing fusion guitar with percussion and a variety of horns and reeds in a soup of synthi touches (ah, to be honest, no one instrument dominates, it's more like that perfect blend that master jazz ensembles possess after years of gigging)...long instrumental songs (a total of three on this 90 minute tape)...and a driving sense of "let's cook" that infuses the music with a modern ancestral quality. Live and ambient recording methods abound.

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ALIEN SEX FIEND: Inferno (CD on Cleopatra Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

I must admit to ignorance concerning ASF's previous work. I was aware of them by reputation alone (a name as cool as that is hard to overlook), and was intrigued when I heard their latest LP was the soundtrack to a CD ROM game. So, keep this in mind--I enjoyed this outing, but cannot compare this with any of their other sonic picnics.

The music is suitably electronic for a computer game--a thick mix of strange noises and mechanized spacey sounds and hard fluid percussion. No vocals, although various pieces do contain spoken bits (ala game instructions and comments). Tasty and inspired stuff, presented in sections--first the Good (heroic passages and the stuff you hear when you're winning the game), and the Bad (the nasty bad guy themes and the stuff you hear when you're getting blown to nuclei in the game), and the Mixes (featuring 3 longer remixes).

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ALPHANE MOON: The Echoing Grove (50 minute cassette tape on Audiofile Tapes, 209-25 18 Avenue., Bayside, NY 11360, USA) (available for 8.50 post.paid).

A modern mix of emotional guitar weirdness in the vein of early Ash Ra Tempel achieved with delicate echo guitar reverberating throughout sonic sculptures of glorious ambient guitar effects. Often trance producing, this music breathes with a peaceful strength and a cosmic wisdom.

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THE AMBUSH: The Ambush (CD on Harthouse Records in Germany).

A lot of techno musicians operate under a variety of different names, making it difficult to follow any specific one of them. Oliver Lieb (aka Spicelab) is one such; Lieb is the Ambush.

This release is mainly E-perc oriented, but touches of vocal effects and some keyboards produce an incredibly hard edged tribal experience. Don't expect an album of drum solos--this stuff is rich with melody and intricacy. A superb application of composition results in extremely enticing tuneage. This album also features a guest appearance by Harold Grosskopf (an old German rocker of percussive renown).

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AMOEBA: Watchful (CD on Lektronic Soundscapes, PO Box 15867, Durham, NC 27704).

Amoeba is a collaboration between Rick Davies and ambient pioneer Robert Rich. The result is a very sinuous merger of atmospheric, gothic and psychedelia.

Start with a very sparse electronic air...add a hint of tribal percussion...begin dreamy echo-phased vocals...inject shimmering astral guitar. A variety of other instruments have cameos: steel drums, flute, cello, sax. Do not expect this music to lull you, for it has a sneaky edge that creeps out when you least expect. I am simultaneously reminded of Steve Roach, Peter Blegvad, Michael Brook and Dead Can Dance. Imagine lounge lizard music for Mensa.

Very recommended.

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ANUBIAN LIGHTS: The Eternal Sky (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Anubian Lights is a collab group made up of Nik Turner, Del Dettmar and Simon House (all early Hawkwind cohorts) and some members of Pressurehed.

Sounds intriguing, eh? You bet it does--it sounds great!

This CD is a superb blend of space trance and Egyptian tunage with slick percussives and synthi drones and drifting flute and ascending violin and sinuous guitar. The compositions (which are for the most part of an instrumental natura) are gripping with a cosmic drama, evoking intriguing rhythms of the Nile as perceived from orbit.

Recommended? Hell yes--this CD is this an absolute must-have pickl

ANUBIAN LlGHTS: The Jackal and Nine EP (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

This is an EP and it's 55 minutes long. (I love modern times.) I'm also quite enamoured of Anubian Lights. Their "The Eternal Sky" album (also on Hypnotic Records} is a true trance gem.

Anubian Lights is a collaboration project between Nik Turner, Del Dettmar, Simon House, Len del Rio and more. The sound of this collaboration is a brilliant crossbreed of ancestral Egyptian and modern trance music. Factor in the strong catchy melodies and slick execution and you have a sound that enthralls and uplifts. The songs are epic with cosmic grandeur. Although mostly electronic in makeup, percussion is very evident, along with stunning appearances by guitar, flute and voice.

On this EP you get: two remixes of "Jackal and Nine", a remix of "Pulse of the Nile", a live version of "Soul Herder", and three non-LP space tracks.

Maximum recommendation.

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APHEX TWIN: Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (CD on RSS Records in Belgium, CD on Sire Records in USA).

This stuff is being touted as primo techno (Is true.), and Mike Edwards from Jesus Jones has gone so far as to say in an interview in the British music press that the future of music is in the hands of such bands as Aphex Twin (If true, I couldn't be happier), but AT's music actually sounds very much like the old German electronic music of the late '70s/early '80s--say Asmus Tietchens' early Sky Records releases. Very strong on rhythm and cool drifting aural backdrops. Aphex Twin is actually Richard D. James, who has material out under a variety of names, including Polygon Window.

Alas, the sequel double CD "Selected Ambient Works, Volume 2" (on Sire Records in USA) was a major letdown, being a blase collection of atonal simplistics.

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THE APIARY: Descent (CD on The Foundry, PO Box 8284, Berkeley, CA 94707-8284 USA) ($10 post.paid, $15 outside USA).

This 74 minute CD consists of very calming music, breathing electronic sighs and gurgling waters and sweeping keyboard tones amidst found sounds hauntingly rustling in the drifting melodic mix. The presence of soft percussion is extremely unobtrusive, a peaceful tribal rhythm for the synthetic journey. But often, beneath the ambience, there lurks a subtle shadow seething to escape, restrained only by the overall solemnity of the soundscape.

Very recommended if you're in the mood for Robert Rich or Cluster.

You can visit The Foundry's WebSite at: http://www.foundrysite.com

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AQUALITE: Aquaplant (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Aqualite is a collaboration project by members of Xylon and Lights of Euphoria. You get 65 minutes of durably catchy techno with a fondness for deep bass and multilayered rhythmatics. The melodies are fast and pulsing in the vein of Juno Reactor, full of lots of nice E-hooks and clever sounds.

AQUALITE VS. XYLON: Night Before Launch (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

This 76 minute duel/collaboration results in a curious blend of mellow trance and mega-hyper dance BPMs. There is a very appealing palate of electronically generated sounds utilized in a series of melodies full of intriguing hooks. Add a satisfying touch of funk.

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ARCANE DEVICE: Trout (CD on Silent Records, 540 Alabama St., Suite 315, San Fransisco, CA 94110, USA).

This CD is unbelievably great. David Myers' mutant manipulation of feedback yet again deals forth a collection of the strangest noises, coaxed into very eerie melodies of a highly intense trance nature.

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ASHRA: Sauce Hollandaise (CD on Serie Poeme, marketed by Manikin Records, Postbox 450274, D-12172 Berlin, Germany).

Let's take one of Germany's legendary rock bands, get them to reform and do a tour. Let's take the Holland gig and release it as a 75 minute CD, Ashra's first ever official live release). What would it be like?

Aspect 1: Manuel Gottsching's ricochet guitar looping with sequenced tumbles. Truly, Gottsching's distinctive style transforms the electric guitar into an instrument of liquid grace, chords unfurling like an earthbound aurora borealis diving towards the heavens in lavish cavorting streamers of sound.

Aspect 2: Counterpoint Gottsching's style with Lutz Ulbrich's guitar mastery, lush rhythms rolling like a tidal wave of bright sand writhing with the ascending sonic borealis.

Aspect 3: The astounding live drumming of renowned European percussionist, Harold Grosskopf, adding undulating tempos to the photon dance.

Aspect 4: As if there was any room in the mix--add a multitude of keyboards, with samples and electronics by new member Steve Baltes.

The clincher: cohesion, the brilliant meshing of these splendid aspects, harnessed in three epic pieces ("Echo Waves", "Twelve Samples", and "Niemand Iacht ruckwarts") that lift and drive the spirit with cosmic tonalities and ultra-sinuous rhythms.

Ecstatically recommended.

For more info: www.ashra.com 

ASHRA: Walkin' the Desert (CD on Navigator Records in Germany).

This CD does not immediately dive into the ricocheting guitar layers that gave Ashra its reputation as one of the European electronic mainstays of the Seventies. This time Ashra (Manuel Gottsching and Lutz Ulbrich) experiment with the complexity of the concentrated use of certain instruments per song, as in using only two keyboards for one song, only six voices for another, or only 12 samples for another. The powerful result is a startling, yet faintly familiar sound made up of layers of arid keyboards, charming crystalline sequences and finally, the resounding bent-sustain guitar notes that Ashra fans have grown to worship.

Historically, the music reworks Ashra's June 4, 1988 concert for the Berlin "E88" festivities. The concert's extensive spoken-word portions have been omitted to make the music more suitable for release. Gottsching and Ulbrich have retained the gig's liveliness by avoiding the use of studio facilities in reworking the music. The melodies are vibrant and surging while tinged with an atmosphere of leisure and large open spaces.

More than simply satisfying, this release is a breathtaking growth for the band, expanding the group's root talent into new regions.

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ASTRALASIA: Axis Mundi (CD on Magick Eye Records in UK)

I've raved about ASTRALASIA before--l absolutely love everything I've found by the band. And now this new album truly leaves me breathless! Better than ever, Astralasia's ethnic take on ambient techno has transcended to a strata of stronger rhythms and ever more sinuous melodies. Pulsing lights and crashing gongs and arabic keyboard and soaring violin and spiralling tonalities... Some female vocals are present, but this is mostly an instrumental album. Where some electronic music shows its soul via emotional sweeps, this music is full of confidence and wonderment.

ASTRALASIA: High Plains Drifter (CD EP on Magick Eye Records in UK).

This EP by Astralasia provides the usual dose of hyperspeed E-perc, swooping synthis, and pulsing rhythmic sample dubbing. Decent fastlane techno. The notable aspect here is that this 33 minute EP features three non-LP songs.

ASTRALASIA: Mother Durga (CD EP on Magic Eye Records in UK, PO Box 1690, Maidenhead Berks, SL6 2YF, UK).

Hot stuff! 25 minutes, made up of 2 mixes of the title track and two more tasty tunes, one being a wonderful live cover version of Arthur Brown's "TimeCaptives"--a space music classic.

Pleasent techno with some bite, ASTRALASIA blend traditional techno and electronic themes with traditional ethnic flavor and cosmic sweep. Cyclic sequences become a vast ocean swimming with sinuous multiple e-perc and sparse vocals. The rhythms are rapid, the compositions are slick. So far, every release I've found by this band has proven to be hot and dynamite.

ASTRALASIA: Pitched Up at the Edge of Reality (CD on Magick Eye Records in UK).

Generally a techno fusion band, this release is of particular amusing interest for the band's use of samples of old 70's prog rock like Magma and Tonto's Expanding Head Band. Musically, the album is solid, delivering empassioned instrumental songs bursting with powerful keyboards, ethnic and electronic percussion.

ASTRALASIA: 7 X 7 (CD EP on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

Astralasian EPs are always fun and packed with zip. This one is 50 minutes long and sports seven dynamic remixes, most of them of the title track from Astralasia's "Seven Pointed Star" LP (also on Hypnotic Records): one peppy radio edit, a cosmic mix by Salt Tank, a zooming excursion mix by Black Hole, a Seven Pointed Sitar trippy version by Nelson Dilation/Euphonic, a dreamily gurgling Astral dub, the original LP version, and A Salt Tank remix of "Alien Love Song" (a non-LP track which can be found on Astralasia's "Alien Love Song" EP CD (UK import on Magick Eye Records). An extreme dose of wildly recommended E-dance craziness.

ASTRALASIA: The Space Between (CD on Magick Eye Records in UK).

Between albums there lies a region usually defined by sporadic (if any) remix EPs. But Astralasia (with Swordfish at the sonic helm) has never played the game that way. Oh, they have their share of remix EPS, but they also pound out a large selection of EPs featuring wholly non-LP tracks, creating a seemingly never-ending river of excellent and mind-quenching techno music thick with a world of influences and a thrilling sense of catchy-tune composition.

This time Swordfish has produced a remix album of older material, modernized and mutated into cavorting new sonic lifeforms. The selection of source songs stretches through their voluminous output, going all the way back to 1993. Not solidly aligned to any other album, this release typifies "The Space Between." As a result, there are few surprises, but lots of uptempo fun abounds.

ASTRALASIA: Whatever Happened to Utopia? (CD on Magick Eye Records in UK).

What a glorious thing is Astralasia's music! This band has evolved into a tight mature techno group who deserve attention for their blend of electronic and ethnic tones. The music is urgent while hypnotic, dramatic while soft, and outright powerhouse with the electronics.

Some copies of this CD come with a 20 minute long bonus EP. Add that to the 70 minutes on the main disc and you're getting more than anybody's money's worth.

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AUTECHRE: Chiastic Slide (CD on Warp Records in UK).

Machines having fun. Obtuse and uncompromising as ever, Autechre's latest album

features nine of the most crisp non-organic melodies you will ever hear. Klacks, rumbling relays, tittering computers, swooshing...the pieces that make up the music on this 70 minute CD are wholly synthetic to the extreme. These noises pull together to form some highly rhythmic electronic tunes that walk a strange line between harsh industrial and ambient trance. Imagine taking the sound of angry Aphex Twin and rechanneling that rage into a melody.

Don't forget "Envane", Autechre's CD EP companion to this album, which contains 35 more minutes of this weirdling music. It is also a UK import on Warp Records.

Sonic abuse that even the weak hearted can enjoy. Just don't expect them to understand it.

AUTECHRE: Incunabula (on Warp Records in the UK).

This is a dose of ambient rave with a byte more bite to it. The electronic edge is heavier, the rhythms are more direct. (Note: bears little to ne resemblence with later harshly electronic Autechre releases.)

AUTECHRE: Tri Repete (double CD on Wax Trax Records in USA).

Quirky electro dance music with an industrial shade... What makes this 72 minute album any different from a dozen other electronic releases?

The mechanoid quality of their electronics is absolute. Humanity? These sounds are cold and aggressively dispassionate. What Autechre do with these strange noises and shivery rhythms is what lifts this music out of the usual techno fare. Their compositional sense with these unnatural sounds is sheer brilliance in action.

Imagine the music of Cluster done by a harsh band from Saturn, then step up the beat and make it disquieting. You have an inkling of what Autechre can sound like. You're either going to love this music for ita differences or be completely unsympathetic to its utter alien charm.

This USA release contains a bonus 76 minute disc which collects Autechre's "Anvi1 Vapre" and "Garbage" EPs. More cold intensity with hidden melodic overtones.

Highly Recommended.

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