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RAPOON: Darker by Light (CD on Soleilmoon Recording, PO Box 83296, Portland, OR 97283).

A dose of drifting ambience with an almost subliminal hint of an industrial edge. Darker than their "The Kirghiz Light" release, the ambience on this release carries a subdued sense of dark tension. Very moody stuff.

RAPOON: The Fires of the Borderlands (CD on Relapse Records, PO Box 251, Millersville, PA 17551 USA).

Echoing loops twirl with shuddering frequencies peppered by softshake rattling and shushing waves. Although unaggressive, this music is quite dense and bass-heavy.  Rapoon (aka Robin Storey from Zoviet France) is industrial ambient music, atmospheres from the dark side where invisible flames flicker across harsh but sedate auralscapes.

RAPOON: The Kirghiz Light (double CD on Staalplat Records in the Netherlands, USA address: PO Box 83296, Portland, OR 97283).

Rapoon is Robin Storey (from the industrial minimalist band Zoviet France). The music is ethereal electronics mixed with soft tribal percussives. The pieces are sparse and passive--very dreamy with a calming sky of lazy cycles through which simplistic tonal structures drift like amorphous clouds. The result is quite melodic with extreme ambience.

These 140 minutes of quality sonics are definitely of appeal to fans of Steve Roach.

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SIMON RAYMONDE: Blame Someone Else (UK import on Bella Union Records).    This solo LP by Raymonde (from Cocteau Twins) has a slow start but soon develops some intriguing backbone. The music is a stealthy blend of soft rock and dreamy ambience with breathy vocals, sinuous lazy percussion, ghostly guitar, somber piano, various sneaky background effects, and cameo vocals by Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser. There is a definite Cocteau Twins flavor to the music, but the sound also dwells in the turf of the Euro-Romantic. The album ends with a wonderful uptempo ambient instrumental piece of superior quality.   

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RAZED IN BLACK: Overflow (CD EP on Cleopatra Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).

You like Nine Inch Nails and Leaether Strip and FLA, and you're looking for more stuff in that vein. Might I suggest Razed in Black? This 35 minute EP is a tasty dose of high energy industrial thrash with a unique touch of equal play between rapid electronics and gnash guitar. Tasty tunes of slick execution. High ratio of electro percussion too, punctuated by growl vocals.

Nice touch: the EP features remixes by Leaetrher Strip, Brain Leizure and Implant.

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RELOAD: A Collection of Short Stories (CD on Infonet Records in UK).

Strong agro techno with loads of razor metallic E-perc and sharp electronic hooks, this one has a definite sense of grit teeth to it. Highly recommended.

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R-ESCAPE-R: Chapter One (CD on Hypnotic Records, 13428 Maxella Ave, Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 USA).     Serpentine keyboards and undulating electronics are guided by ricochet E-perc peppered with energetic bongos into uptempo trance music wherein periodic voices direct the listener to a point of disconnected brain. With catchy tuneage, R-Escape-R lure you into their journey "far away from the bad ways of this world", depositing you in a peppy, cheerful sonic search for understanding. Whether voodoo-landing on Venus or space waltzing with the navigator, this music on this 65 minute CD has the precise level of funk needed to make the dance interesting.   

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THE RESIDENTS: Hunters (CD on Milan Music in USA).

Imagine a world so cool that the Residents do the music for a nature series on the Discovery channel on cable. Too weird for you? Well, it's the world you live in. No lie! No jive!

All instrumental and tastier than chocolate...hard rhythms and truly weird keyboard carousels and electronic noises...ahhh! And, as you'd expect from the series title, there's a strong sense of the predator to the music: hunting, stalking, chasing, catching, devouring...the music is constantly moving with a dangerous edge.

Highly recommended. And a word to those who go stalking this CD: it seems most stores are hiding it in their TV/movie soundtrack sections. Happy hunting.

THE RESIDENTS: Live at the Fillmore (double CD on Ralph America, 109 Minna Street #391, San Francisco, CA 94105 USA).

The Residents live, captured at the Fillmore in San Francisco on Halloween in 1997--just ten minutes shy of two hours of tasty selections from "The Gingerbread Man", "Freak Show", "Bad Day on the Midway", and includes a live version of "Disfigured Night", a performance piece the Residents did for German TV in the summer of 1997. And don't stop there--it also features the encores: "Hello Skinny" and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World".

A dynamite performance: weird vocals, haunting melodies, disturbing subject matter...whether it's bayou deformities or disfigured monkeys on a quest for self, it's everything that has maintained the Residents as America's strangest band.

The CD packaging shows off the many elaborate costumes and sets used in this live show.

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REVERBERATION: Blue Stereo Music (CD on Taang! Records, 706 Pismo Ct., San Diego, CA 92109 USA).

Here you have rich alternative folk rock with dreamy vocals. Powerful guitars apply a Hawaiian edge with steel slides while acoustic overlays chase the ululating drums, creating a lazy rhythm. A thick bass adds a subtle foundation. There's a hint of piercing synthi and often horns in hidden accompaniment. Soothing music.

Imagine a more sedate Oasis with the sensibilities of Peter Blegvad (why--that'd sound a lot like a blues saturated Syd Barrett!). Often quite psychedelic.

This 64 minute CD features a strangely surging cover of Brian Eno's "The Big Ship".

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REVOLTING COCKS: Crackin' Up (CD EP on Sire Records in USA).

This is a good kickass agro music. Good remix too, but the real treat is the version of "Gila Copter" with a different Timothy Leary rap going on from the one on the "Linger Ficken' Good" album. It's amazing how perfectly Leary's vocal quality fits with the brutal quasi-electronic agro rock pastiche going on in the song.

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RHOMB: Hidden Topographies (CD on The Foundry, PO Box 8284, Berkeley, CA 94707-8284 USA) ($10 post.paid, $15 outside USA).

This one features 57 minutes of extremely minimalist electronic music, simplistic in composure: soft electronics gurgling, delicate keyboards, tapping clicks, deep bass tones ringing like a muffled gong. The results are pleasant auralscapes just this side of melodic. The pieces do possess a peculiar charm for their minimalism. Unobtrusive yet intriguing, the music slowly drifts through a cold and distant unearthly place.

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

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ROBERT RICH: Propagation (CD on Fathom Records, PO Box 31321, San Francisco, CA 94131 USA).

This 57 minute release evolves Rich's calming style of ambient electronic music into a more lively (yet still ambient overall) mode. Added to the breathing flute-driven atmospherics are soft ethnic percussives, sinuous bass and steel guitar strains. This produces a more rhythmic quality to the drifting etherlike soundscapes, allowing the melodies to bluster and prance about the majestic sky.

ROBERT RICH & ALIO DIE: Fissures (CD on Fathom Records, a division of Hearts of Space Records, PO Box 31321, San Francisco, CA 94131 USA).

This collaboration is a nice blending of Rich's geological soundscapes with the rough soundscapes of Alio Die (aka Stefano Musso), resulting in a tasty balance of nature and synthetics. This ambient electronic music is thick with winsome flutes, but is also smooth with wide tones, layered synthetic textures, and the softness of distant tribal percussion. Some of the pieces have steel guitar adding a mild heat to the mix. The pieces on this 62 minute CD are softly melodic, seeping lazily like liquid through ancient stone formations.

ROBERT RICH & B. LUSTMORD: Stalker (CD on Fathom Records, PO Box 31321, San Francisco, CA 94131 USA).

Visit a dark place...underwater and desolate, a 68 minute auralscape of slow tones and ominous sounds softly seething with a tension that is subtle, flowing with the ambient electronics to pool in one's consciousness and growl with a distant thunder overtoned with whirling insects and breathless ghosts.

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STEVE ROACH: Artifacts (CD on Fortuna Records).

Roach's pensive, almost ambient electronics are up to razor potential for this long excursion into spiritual origins. Add a fair mixture of aboriginal instruments and the music is so dry that you can taste the acrid dust of ancient stone as it is molded into immense altars before man walked the earth. Very tasty stuff.

STEVE ROACH: The Magnificent Void (CD on Fathom Records, PO Box 31321, San Francisco, CA 94131 USA).

If you're in the mood for long slowburn electronics of an extremely ambient nature, drifting tones and awesome areas of sound that convey a powerful region of perception wrought with a subtle grandeur and calming atmosphere--then this 70 minute CD is an excellent choice.

STEVE ROACH & ROGER KING: Dust to Dust (CD on Projekt, Box 166155, Chicago, IL 60616 USA) (E-mail: catalog@projekt.com).

Roach's delicate electronics are often shot through with an arid ghostliness, whether the tone be tribal or space. This time, Roach has redirected his sound with a strong guitar tinge. This addition produces a fundamentally American desert edge to the music here, thick with a haunted dry heat.

On this superb 61 minute CD, Roach's electronics are soft, droning and breathy--never intrusive or overt. King's guitarwork fits perfectly, oozing to coat the electronics with a translucent oily sound. Comprised of soft strumming and acoustic twang, King's guitar evokes flatlands that stretch on forever, a plain broken by curious stone/sound formations and sturdy cacti. Add some distant bass and nearly audible percussion, and the dust bowl is complete. Yet this wasteland is rich with hidden mystery and a grandeur that is unmoved by human attention. Very recommended.

(Label WebSite: www.projekt.com).
(Roach WebSite: www.steveroach.com).

STEVE ROACH & VIDNA OBMANA: Well of Souls (double CD on Projekt, Box 1591, Garden Grove, CA 926421, USA).

Here, we have a strong and gripping collaboration between two dominant electronic ambient masters. The music is extremely sedate and brooding with atmospheric electronics and aboriginal percussive and wind instruments. This album takes the concept of tribal ambient to new levels, exploring ancestral rhythms and nocturnal trances with a vibrant modern quality. Each piece has a long fade in and out, strongly creating the sense of the music swelling from another dimension to envelope you where you sit.

Two hours and fourteen minutes long, and every second is highly recommended.

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HANS-JOACHIM ROEDELIUS: Theatre Works (CD on Multimood Records in Sweden).

Roedelius (who is one-half of the legendary German electronic band Cluster) has had a solo career for many many years. Alas, his solo work tends to be less electronic and more keyboard easy listening fare. "Theatre Works" is a departure from that trend, with modern classical overtones and a modulated sense of drama. But the real surprise here lies with two of the tracks which are unreleased performances by Harmonia and Brian Eno--truth!

Astute audiophile historians will recall the two remarkable collaboration albums by Cluster & Eno ("Cluster & Eno" and "After the Heat") which heavily influenced the evolution and maturing of the ambient music of the 80s. It seems that the collaboration originally began with a jam session between Eno and Harmonia in 1975 (Harmonia was: Roedelius & Moebius from Cluster, and Michael Rother from Neu). Later Eno returned and worked with Roedelius and Moebius as Cluster, leaving this earlier session unreleased--until now!

"Theatre Works" contains two tracks from this Harmonia & Eno lesion--a total of 20 minutes of cool synthetic sound atingle with' slowbuild and strangeness. Note: these two tracks do not appear on the HARMONIA '76 CD ( on Rykodisc in USA) which featured the rest of these sessions.

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